Confession: I Rarely Read the Nutrition Facts Label

Oof. I think as a dietitian, an assumption is made that all I do is read the nutrition facts label! This could not be farther from the truth!

Now let me back it up a bit.

In the pursuit of becoming a dietitian I really thought my days would be spent reading these labels. And in my own personal life at the time, I was reading nutrition facts panels like it was my job! hehe.

Diet culture tells us we must count every morsel of food that goes into our body. Thus we need to read the nutrition facts panel, right? Wrong. Keep reading to see how and why I don’t use the nutrition facts label.

When I was knee deep into diet culture and my disordered eating patterns, I was constantly reading the nutrition label, i.e just calories. Everything I picked up I would immediately flip over to see what the calories were, I wasn’t even paying attention to what I was eating.

There was a point where I believed I would never be able to not look at something without immediately knowing or reading the calories.

Now not everyone will have this same experience with calories, but I do believe many of my clients have at one point suffered with obsession over the label. Again, it is one of diet cultures very sneaky ways to make you believe you must know the exact calories going into your body in order to control the situation.

Calories are energy, and our energy needs vary every single day. Why do we obsess over these numbers? Because diet culture told us too and it gives us control when we may feel out of control.

If you google “new nutrition facts panel” you will find that they recently changed the panel to be a bit easier to read and to highlight factors important to health crisis such as obesity and heart disease. I applaud them for the change, and understand certain populations need to read the label (see below for more information), but other times reading the label can become obsessive. Nutrition facts panels are also required by law, to inform the consumer what they are consuming. But it does not mean it is required by you to read the panel.

So how did I break my obsession? It took years, many years. But it wasn’t until a few months ago I realized I didn’t even look at the label as I purchased a new to me food. The item just looked good, and I bought it. This is food freedom. This is what I had been working for years and I had achieved it and it felt so good. It is my choice to not read the label, it is not for everyone and that is okay. *There are times when I do read the label, see below!*

I also soon realized that as I was eating intuitively I didn’t need the facts panel, because I was eating off of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction vs. on how many calories were in a product.

Now I will say there are a few times which I encourage you to read the panel.

  1. If you are diabetic you should be watching your carbohydrates. Reading the nutrition facts panel is very important to ensure you are dosing insulin correctly, or eating enough carbs
  2. If heart disease runs in your family or your own personal lipid panel has been increased it would be helpful for you to read the nutrition facts panel

When will I read the nutrition facts panel?

  1. If I personally want to know how much fiber is in something, fiber is beneficial for multiple reasons.
  2. If I am interested in knowing the added sugar in a product, and what type of sugar they are adding.
  3. When a company markets an item as “protein,” I like to see how much protein is in said product as well as what type of protein. (I get frustrated when so many companies label their cereal, pancakes, ect. with protein!)

Do you read the nutrition facts panel?

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