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Helping Your Clients Decode the Nutrition Facts Label

What is included on a nutrition label?Most packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. As a professional Nutrition Coach, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist, or even a Certified Personal Fitness Chef, coaching your clients on how to understand and use the Nutrition Facts label can help them make healthier eating choices and identify nutrient-dense foods for a healthy diet.

Are your clients overwhelmed by all those grams, percentages, and hard-to-pronounce words on the ingredient list? They are not alone.  A few key details are all you will need to help a client decide if a food aligns with their healthy eating goals.

Serving size

The serving size listed at the top affects the calories and all the nutrient amounts below. If you tend to eat more than the listed serving size in a single sitting, make sure you do the math to get the right info.


As of June 2018, manufacturers are no longer allowed to put trans fats in their products. But foods produced prior to that date are still permitted on store shelves until January 2020. Don’t be fooled by a label that lists 0 grams (g) trans fat. Because of a labeling loophole, a product can contain up to 0.5g trans fat per serving and say it has none. Check the ingredient list: If it includes partially hydrogenated oil, then there is trans fat in there. Shortening is another source of trans fat.


For many people, this is the first and most important stop on the label. But a higher-calorie food might be worth eating if it also contains lots of nutrients.

Vitamins and minerals

The Daily Value is the amount of each nutrient that’s considered sufficient for most healthy adults. A food that contains anywhere from 10% to 19% of the DV is considered a good source of a nutrient.


Excess sodium can raise your blood pressure, which increases heart disease risk. A high amount of sodium on a nutrition label may be a sign of more highly-processed food. Plus, most of us are eating too much sodium. The Daily Value is 2,300 mg, which is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt; and the American Heart Association recommends a limit of just 1,500 mg for most adults. But the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day.


On many nutrition labels, the number of sugars doesn’t distinguish between naturally-occurring sugars (like lactose in milk and fructose in fruit) and added sugar (like high-fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup). To figure out how much added sugar is in the product, your clients will need to look at the ingredients. Fortunately, that’s changing. By January 1, 2021, all manufacturers must switch to a new nutrition label that specifically lists grams of added sugar.

Added Sugar

If added sugar isn’t listed in the nutrition facts, you can look for it in the ingredients list, where it often hides under sneaky aliases. Scan for the words “sweetener,” as in corn sweetener; and “syrup,” as in brown rice syrup or malt syrup. Also watch for words ending in “ose,” like “glucose.” If added sugar is one of the first two ingredients in a product, your client may want to think twice about bringing it home.

Whole Grains

To ID heart-healthy and fiber-rich whole grains, look for the word “whole” before the name of any grain, as in whole wheat. Popcorn, oatmeal, and quinoa are also considered whole grains. If you see the word “enriched” before a grain, it’s a sign that the grain has been refined, meaning it has been stripped of the germ and bran, which contain most of the grain’s nutrients including fiber.


Look for at least 3g of fiber per serving in any product that contains grains, including bread, crackers, pasta, and even some soups.

What’s Next?

Remind your clients that the information shown on the label is based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day. Your clients may need less or more than 2,000 calories depending upon their age, gender, activity level, and whether they are trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight

If you want to help clients with food, diet, weight management and improving the results of their fitness routines, the Fitness Nutrition Coach course is for you. You will learn about optimal nutrition, including proven techniques for increasing energy, optimal health and decreased dependence on medications. Instantly increase your job and career opportunities with this popular professional credential.

Become a Lifestyle Weight Management Specialist.  Help your clients achieve their weight loss or weight management goals using the latest proven strategies.

You can become a Certified Personal Fitness Chef and expand your current personal chef business, or add a new profit center for your fitness or wellness business. Many personal chefs cook and coach people in groups to help more people and earn more money per hour. Some chefs provide weekly meal prep service for health-minded customers and athletes.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

NESTA coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

That’s it for now.

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What is included on a nutrition label?