Ok, so you're coming to understand macronutrients and what protein, fats and carbs are. But how on earth do you breakdown a food label and get the information you need from it?
Firstly, the numbers we read need to start making some sense. In order to do this, we have to understand the caloric value of each macronutrient and what the number refers to on a food label. Calories, or kilojoules, are the energy within any given food. All foods are made up of three macronutrients and have a corresponding caloric value per gram. For instance, a gram of protein, amounts to 4 calories. A gram of carbs, equates to 4 calories, whilst a gram of fat however, is worth 9 calories. In turn, the amount of grams of each of these macronutrients end up creating the total calorie count of the food you are eating. In the table below, we use a simple example of how to calculate the caloric value of a food source that has an even amount of weight (6 grams) of each macronutrient. In order to find the total value of energy of the food source, the individual results of each macronutrient are added together.
What the numbers mean
When we look at food labels, we need to recognise that the numbers used are the grams worth of nutrient, rather than the WEIGHT of a nutrient. The best way to read the label is from the TOP. Under "Nutrition Facts" you will see a serving size. The serving size, is the entire WEIGHT of the food for that serving. Be cautious here also of serving per container. Sometimes, with things like chocolate bars, and protein bars, the entire bar may appear as one serving, but it is actually 2, meaning you would be doubling the intake of what you think you are eating.
The next step, is to view the calories. That is the overall calorie count for the serving size. The next step is to look at the Protein, Fats and Carbs of the serving size. If you look below, the amount of fat in this serving size is 12gm. Let's say you have a total amount of 55gm of fats to eat for the day, you know from this label that this meal has around 1/5 of your daily fat content in it. If you wanted to calculate how many calories come from fats, you would simply multiple 12 by 9. The same can then be done for proteins and carbs. In this case, let's say you have 150gm of protein to eat during the day and this is the first thing you eat for the day – this meal has 5gm of protein – you would have a remaining 145gm of protein left for the rest of the day. If we look at the carb count here – it is 31gm of carbs. In comparison to protein and fats, that is a large portion of the meal coming from a carb source. To calculate it, we would multiply 4 by 31. This results in a 124calories of the total 250calories coming from carbohydrates.