Understanding how to read a nutrition label can be really helpful in making decisions on what to eat and whether that food item is good for you. I will go ahead and say if you are buying fresh produce that doesn't have a food label, then rock on. That's awesome!
But most other food has a nutrition label of some kind. Here are some pointers on how to read it to give you confidence.
Focus on the macronutrients
Macronutrients are protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Every nutrition label has these listed. Some nutrition labels go into more detail, listing the types of fat or where the carbohydrates come from, specifically from sugar. You want to see less carbohydrate and no trans fats on the food label. A higher protein content is great because that means you will get full and stay full longer.
All the other stuff on the label is less important. Any vitamins and minerals are a bonus because those are calorie free micronutrients.
Check the serving size
Knowing the serving size is crucial. Many of the foods we love come packaged in some way, but the nutrition label says what an actual serving size is within that package. For example, one bottle of gatorade actually has more than 1 serving in it. One serving size of Oreos is only 2 cookies. One serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons (I dare you to actually measure it) instead of a heaping spoonful. Getting the actual serving size can make the difference between hundreds of calories.
Look for a short ingredients list
If you see a super long ingredients list, especially if there are names that you couldn't pronounce without practicing a few times, then you probably do not want to have the food often. Shorter ingredients lists means less processed, less preservatives, and less filler.
Use these tips to really understand what you are buying with confidence!