Nutrition labels are, in part, sometimes meant to be a little confusing. Every brand is striving to find ways for you to choose to spend your dollars on them, so sometimes lines do get a bit blurred when it comes to stating the facts. Terms like 'unsweetened' and 'no added sugar' does not mean there's no natural sugar in there - it doesn't mean it is sugar-free. For example, OJ may say 'no added sugar' but there's tons of natural sugar in orange juice, which is still going to raise your blood sugar plenty. On the other hand, sugar-free doesn't mean sweetener-free; maybe there's no sugar inside but there very well might be a natural or artificial sweetener like sucralose hidden in the ingredient list

Our on-staff Registered Dietitian / holistic nutritionist, Lauren, has taken over our blog today to help make nutrition label reading a little less confusing, helping you choose products to fuel you. We often focus on foods when it comes to nutrition label reading, but beverages are important too - check out this video Lauren put together to make it all make more sense 🥰


Be a detective. Sugar has a lot of code names: molasses, brown sugar, different types of syrup, agave, fruit juice, sucrose, the list goes on & on. So as consumers, we're forced to do a little detective work and look beyond just searching for the word 'sugar' on the ingredient list. Especially if the sugar form is included as one of the first 3-5 ingredients on the label, it's likely a pretty good idea to steer clear. The ingredients listed first are the heaviest within that product so if let's say, brown rice syrup (like below) is listed as the first ingredient, quite a lot of that product is sugar so I'd say to grab a different option.

And what about 'sugar-free'? Oftentimes those 'sugar-free' options include a sugar replacement. These aren't necessarily all bad, but likely it's a good idea not to overdo it on them. Some can even cause some pretty significant gastrointestinal discomfort (think: gas/bloating).

Lauren's verdict: If a form of sugar is one of the first few ingredients, skip it. Avoid sugar alcohols (ie sorbitol) if you tend towards gas & bloating. Natural sweeteners like stevia, monkfruit and allulose can be OK here and there. Looking for some real life examples? See below for some of my favorite snack swaps!


Decode 'total carbs'. The carbohydrate section of a nutrition label is a bit of a mystery in itself. The carb section has two subsections: fiber & sugar. Often what we do as consumers is look at sugar and if it's pretty low, we say 'good to go!' but the story is a bit more complicated than that. To truly understand how much of your carbohydrate is sugar, you want to take total carbohydrate, subtract fiber and that number is equivalent to the sugar your body is going to break down.

So using the example here, 45 - 6 = 39gm. That is the total amount of carbohydrate that your body will digest as sugar (not 6gm). That's equivalent to about 2.5 slices of conventional sliced bread.

Lauren's verdict: In bread products, I generally recommend that clients look for at least 2-3gm fiber/serving and less than 8gm sugar/serving, keeping mindful of how high that total carb number is. Including protein, fiber and/or fat into a meal will help slow that blood sugar jump that happens when you eat carbs on their own. 

Lauren's Favorite Swaps:
Bar: Bars are pretty much always either loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes. I love the option of making your own or if you're in a pinch, Elemental Superfoods is a good choice.
YogurtFlavored yogurt is another product you'll almost always find has added sugar so I typically recommend to look for those with less than 10gm sugar/serving. Choose a plain if you can & mash your own fruit and/or sprinkle some cinnamon in for added sweetness!* Specific brands I like are Stonyfield Grass-Fed Greek Yogurt and Maple Hill Creamery. Chobani & Siggi's also have low sugar options.
Crackers: Crackers are often void of nutrition, including fiber, and can be as a result, super quickly digested which isn't great for blood sugar and energy. I like Flackers & Simple Mills also has some good options!
Cereal: One of the trickiest ones out there because cereals can be labeled as 'heart healthy' but not actually be. Three Wishes & Magic Spoon are two yummy lower sugar choices.
Drink: As broken down here, there are still a ton of additives in beverages including high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, as well as artificial & natural sweeteners. I love Sound because it's simply sparkling water + Certified Organic tea, botanicals and fruit extracts. I also am a big fan of Spindrift!


*All of this is general nutrition education, not advice. Consult your healthcare team for the best plan for you.

There’s more to the story.

Follow Along @drinksound