Reading Nutrition Labels for Kids Part 1 (HPC: E12)

Wish your kids understood what was in the food they eat? Here’s a tutorial from the voice of healthy kids cooking, elementary teacher and mom of 4. Grab your kids to watch this video which was made just for them!

They’ll learn:

  • How to read an ingredients list including those pesky parentheses
  • What a calorie is and why we ignore them
  • The difference between fat, carbohydrates, and protein calories
  • How to remember all the different kinds of fat, which ones we should eat and avoid (careful, you might learn something too!)
  • Which ingredient is always bad for us, and all the sneaky ways it hides
  • A quick guide to the brand new labels that split out added sugars, and how to interpret those

Take notes and remember what you learn! Print the worksheet out for your kids here.

Reading Nutrition Labels Video Time Stamps

  • 0:50: The first thing to understand is that the ingredients are listed in the order of the amount that they are in the recipe. For example, if tomato puree is the first ingredient on a tomato sauce jar, that means there’s more tomato puree than anything else in the sauce.

If you see sugar in the beginning of the ingredient list, that is something you should put back on the shelf. -Mrs. Kimball

  • 1:48: Sometimes an ingredient has other ingredients! For example, if you buy chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chips are an ingredient themselves and they are made up of other ingredients. When that happens, the ingredients are in parenthesis.

Ingredient label from a tomato sauce jar.

  • In this case, the tomato puree has three ingredients. Citric acid is a tiny ingredient inside the tomato puree. Even though citric acid is in front of onions, that doesn’t mean there’s more of it. There’s just more tomato puree than onions.

FREE: Reading Nutrition Labels Worksheet

  • 3:11: Do you know what a calorie is? It’s a unit of energy. Everything we do with our bodies is fueled by the energy we get from calories. There are different kinds of calories: fat, carbs and protein.  Different types of foods have different calorie measurements.
  • 4:02: The number of calories is the first big number on most nutrition labels, so that makes it seem really important. But it isn’t that big of a deal! Your body uses different types of calories in different ways and the number isn’t the most important thing.
  • 4:27: The type of fat you’re putting in your body really matters. Labels usually show total fat, saturated fat and trans fat.
  • 4:48: Saturated fat can be good or bad. It’s important to know the source. S=Saturated=Sometimes, Source important.
  • 4:54: Trans fat is always terrible for you! T=Trans=Terrible! You always want to look for 0 grams of trans fat. Trans fat is made by humans in labs and your body doesn’t really know what to do with it.
  • 5:43: Unsaturated fat is divided into monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.  Monounsaturated fats are always good for you.  M=Mono=for Me! Polyunsaturated fat is not as bad as trans fat, but it’s still not great for you. P=Poly=Problem. If there’s some polyunsaturated fat, but more monounsaturated fat then that’s ok.
  • 7:17: We want Mono to be the Most cause it’s good for Me. Poly can be a Problem so we want to Pare it down. With Saturated fat we want to See the Source.

Easy ways to remember the types of fat

  • 7:33: So what are some good sources of fat? Extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter, palm shortening, avocados or avocado oil, coconut oil, beef tallow or bacon grease.
  • 8:07: There are lots of inflammatory fats on ingredient labels. The more processing we do to get an oil, the worse it is for your body. We call these industrial oils. Some examples are corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil and vegetable oil.
  • 9:07: Safflower and Sunflower oils are ok sometimes. They are better than the industrial oils mentioned above, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your fat intake.
  • 10:11: Sugar is always bad for you! There are many different sources of sugar and again, the more processed it is, the worse it is for your body.
  • 10:39: When reading the ingredient labels, you want to pay attention to where the sugar is coming from. Here are some of the words you might see on a label: sugar, anything with the word “syrup” in it like high fructose corn syrup or rice syrup, honey, any word ending in -ose like dextrose, maltose, fructose, the word “juice,” the word “cane” and the word “fruit.” All these words mean added sugar.
  • 11:32: It’s recommended that kids eat no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. That’s six teaspoons. Just half a can of soda is 5 teaspoons of sugar! That’s almost all your added sugar for the day in one drink, and who only drinks half a can?!
  • 12:22: We’re getting new labels that show the total sugar and the added sugar separately. Companies are not required to use these labels until 2020 or 2021, but some companies are already doing this so keep an eye out for it!

Nutrition labels of kind bars versus pasta sauce

  • 13:01: Here’s an example: In the KIND bars on the left, there’s 5 grams of total sugar and 4 grams of that is from an added sweetener. In the pasta sauce on the right there’s 6 grams of sugar, but 0 grams of added sugar. There’s no added sweetener, so all the sugar is naturally occurring in  the tomatoes.

Get Your Kids in the Kitchen with a Free Lesson

  • 14:26: When looking at the sugar, also look at the fiber. We want there to be some fiber when there’s sugar. Fruit juice may have a lot of sugar and no fiber. Whole fruit on the other hand will have some fiber.

Eating raisins is better than eating straight white sugar, like in a piece of candy. -Mrs. Kimball

Be sure to check out part 2 to see how food packaging might try to trick you and don’t forget to download your worksheet.

Reading Nutrition Labels for Kids Part 1

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