How To Read Nutrition Labels the Right Way

| How-To

Do you ever think to yourself when reading a nutrition label, “What does this word even mean?”

How do you read a nutrition label? And how do you read it the right way? With words like Castoreum, L-cysteine and Isinglass, it’s no wonder people become confused when reading labels. Don’t worry, we'll let you know what those ingredients consist of later in the blog; you’re going to be surprised to say the least.

Serving Size

First things first, always check the serving size information at the top of the label. You'll want to know the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container. That will lead you to how many calories you’ll be consuming with every serving.


Next up–nutrients. Nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health, providing us with energy, the building blocks for repair, growth, and substances. They are the building blocks to our nourishment. So when it comes to staying proactive in sustenance, be sure to stay proactive in reading up on label nutrients.

According to our friends at

“Check key nutrients and understand what you’re looking for. Not all fats are bad, and total sugars can include both natural and added sugars. Limit the amounts of added sugars, saturated fat and sodium you eat, and avoid trans fat. When choosing among different brands or similar products, compare labels and choose foods with less of these nutrients when possible.”

Make sure you’re always getting the proper nutrients and their benefits. Be sure to understand the % Daily Value. It tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. Based off a 2,000 calorie diet (consult your doctor if you want to find out what calorie intake works best for you), using the Daily Value system and picking products high in nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals and low in substances like saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, you can be sure you'll fill your plate with tasty goodness that still aims to keep you fit and firm.


Managing life with a food allergy can be difficult and time consuming if you don't know what to look for on a nutrition label. That's why it's best for you to read packaged food labels every time you buy food. This is true even if you have purchased the food hundreds of times. Ingredients and manufacturing processes can change without warning. Make it a habit to carefully read labels to ensure you avoid any potentially harmful allergens.

Oh, and those ingredients mentioned at the top of the blog?

  • Castoreum extract is an ingredient commonly used as ice cream flavoring. It comes from castor sacks of male and female beavers.
  • L-cysteine is an amino acid used in the baking industry as dough conditioner. It is most often derived from human hair because that’s the cheapest source of L-cysteine.
  • Isinglass is a gelatin-like substance made from the swim bladder of fish. It is added to unfiltered and unpasteurized beer to help remove any unwanted yeast and solid particles.

Continue to read nutrition labels on containers and packages–because understanding what's in the foods you eat helps you make healthier choices. To learn more about nutrition and what to look for (and what not to look for) visit our Nutrition Services page or schedule an appointment with our Nutrition Service Professionals by calling (812) 522-0718.

Erin Rammel

About the Author

Erin L. Rammel FNP-C

Erin Rammel is a nurse practitioner with Schneck Internal Medicine.