Learn About Nutrition Labels by Award-Winning Top Personal Trainer of Dubai UAE Abhinav Malhotra ABHIFIT


The food we eat impacts our training, strength, performance and muscle growth. Therefore, it is important to manage what we eat and consequently get the most out of our carefully planned diets and rigorous training regimes.

Choice of food items contributes to a healthy diet. Food items come in wrappers or boxes, which have labels printed on them. The purpose of these labels is to make it easier to make quick and informed food choices. Understanding labels is vital to choosing the right packaged foods. Knowledge of reading food labels makes it much easier to compare foods and find the foods that have the nutritional value needed. It would also help you to understand the likely impact the selected food would have on your health and your body-composition when you consume that item.

There are two types of labels; “Supplement Facts” and “Nutrition Facts”. First, we must know how “Supplement Facts” differs from “Nutrition Facts”. Claims for conventional foods focus on effects derived from nutritive value, while claims for dietary supplements may focus on non-nutritive as well as nutritive effects.

Supplement Facts - Understanding Nutrition Labels in Detail by Award-Winning Top Personal Trainer of Dubai UAE Abhinav Malhotra ABHIFIT

Nutrition Facts - Understanding Nutrition Labels by Award-Winning Top Personal Trainer of Dubai UAE Abhinav Malhotra

What Makes a Food a Dietary Supplement in the Eyes of the U.S. FDA?

According to the FDA, a “dietary supplement” is a product, which “is not represented as conventional food and is not represented for use as a sole item of a meal or of the diet” and is “intended to supplement the diet and contains one or more of the following:”

  • a vitamin,
  • a mineral,
  • an herb or other botanical,
  • an amino acid,
  • a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands), or
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent or extract.

How does “Supplement Facts” differ from “Nutrition Facts?”

The major differences between “Supplement Facts” panel and “Nutrition Facts” panel for food are as follows:

  • Sources of a dietary ingredient can be listed in the “Supplement Facts” panel but sources of a dietary ingredient cannot be listed in the “Nutrition Facts” panel.
  • Dietary ingredients without RDIs (recommended daily intake) or DRVs (daily recommended value) must be listed in the “Supplement Facts” panel for dietary supplements, but dietary ingredients are not permitted to be listed in the “Nutrition Facts” panel.
  • “Zero” amounts of nutrients must be listed in the “Nutrition Facts” panel. “Zero” amounts of nutrients cannot be listed in the “Supplement Facts” panel for dietary supplements.

 Moreover, FDA requires manufacturers to list all of a product’s ingredients on the Supplement Facts panel of a dietary supplement product label, along with the amount of each by weight, except when the ingredients are part of a “proprietary blend.” Therefore, it is important to understand what a “Proprietary Blend” is?

Proprietary Blend

A proprietary blend is a collection of ingredients often unique to a particular product and sometimes given a special name on a product’s Supplement Facts panel. A proprietary blend might be listed as a “blend,” “complex,” “matrix” or “proprietary formulation.” The specific amount of each individual ingredient in a proprietary blend does not have to be listed; only the total combined amount in the blend must be given. Ingredients in a proprietary blend should, however, be listed in descending order by weight.

Since the ingredients are listed in order of weight, this gives you an indication of which ingredients make up the bulk of the blend and how much of the beneficial ingredients you want are actually in the products.


Zerocalorie or ‘0g Trans Fats

Zero-calorie or ‘0g Trans Fats’ labels are gaining popularity. The current marketing trends list products as such. When you see the labelzero calories” or “no calories” on certain food product label, you probably take it literally and assume the product in question doesn’t contain calories. But does such a label really mean that there are no calories or Trans fats in the product?

Labels can be deceiving.

  • When the caloric value for a serving of food is less than 5 calories it is allowed by FDA to be listed as zero and meets their definition of calorie-free. According to FDA regulations, for such products, the terms ‘calorie free,’ ‘free of calories,’ ‘no calories,’ ‘zero calories,’ ‘without calories,’ ‘trivial source of calories,’ ‘negligible source of calories,’ or ‘dietary insignificant source of calories’ may be used on the label.
  • Zero transfat means “less than 0.5 grams of transfat per serving.” Thus, if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product may still contain transfat.

Nutrition labels state how many calories are there in a standard amount of the product — a suggested single serving. However, these serving sizes are frequently much smaller than what people consume in one sitting. Many products that are listed as ‘zero calorie’ have very small serving sizes meaning that it is easy to add excess calories by using large portions or consuming overly-frequently. For example, one serving may be half a can of soda, a quarter of a cookie, half a chocolate bar, or a single biscuit. These unrealistic small serving sizes just give the illusion of being calorie-free.

‘Zero calorie’ cooking sprays often list a serving size as being ⅓ of a second per spray (the maximum needed to be able to still round down the calories to zero).

Therefore, it is essential to consider the serving size as well.

Sugar Content – “No Added Sugar”

When you read food labels, keep in mind that the total Sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit and milk) as well as Added Sugars. Naturally occurring sugar in fruits is not a serious health concern unless consumed in large amounts. The AHA suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. There’s no nutritional need or benefit that comes from eating added sugar.

However, “No added sugar” label can be deceptive. Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added. Since not all sugar is “bad”, the key point is to determine what the source (and context) is.

Also, sugar classified as ‘organic’ only refers to the farming methods used to produce it. It does not mean that it’s any less highly processed than other types of sugar or that it is better for you.

For example, as with regular sugar, consuming high amounts of raw cane sugar can contribute to weight gain and may promote the development of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, increased inflammation, body fat accumulation, and insulin resistance.

Enriched – “Less Healthy”

Enriched grains are refined grains that have been fortified with additional nutrients. Many of the vitamins lost in the refining process can be added, but the lost fiber is not replaced. They are actually highly refined and have had the germ and bran removed (the bran and germ contain the natural fiber and nutrients).

Enriched grains having less nutrient value have a greater impact on elevating blood sugar and stimulate insulin more than whole grains will. Manufacturer adds back in synthesized ingredients in an attempt to compensate, however these artificial ingredients may not have the same bio-availability as their natural counterparts.


Reading labels can help you make informed food choices. Packaged foods and drinks—the types that come in cans, boxes, bottles, jars, and bags—have a lot of nutrition and food safety information on their labels or packaging. Your nutritionist will always tell you that single-ingredient foods are usually your best bet, though if and when you delve into the world of packaged goods and the like, pay attention to labels and what you’re putting into your body and keep in mind the famous phrase, “you are what you eat”.


  1. Start with the serving size
  2. Read the total calories and fat
  3. Let the percent daily value be your guide
  4. Know the high and low of daily values
  5. Note the fat, cholesterol and sodium content
  6. Look for the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber content
  7. Know the sugar content
  8. Know the meaning of Catchphrases such as Low calorie, Low cholesterol, Reduced, Good source of …, Calorie free, Fat free/sugar free, Low sodium, High in .., Whole grain, Multi grain, Natural, Zero Transfat, and High Fiber.
  9. Check the ingredient list
  10. Don’t be deceived by Nutrition Labels: Read our next article coming tomorrow on Nutrition Label Catchphrases & Deceptions (you’ll find it in our Blog).

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Many female and male clients have greatly benefited from Abhinav. You can see some of his client transformations here.

You’re welcome to contact Abhinav to achieve your fat loss, muscle & strength gain and figure / physique transformation goals!

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Best Personal Trainer, Nutritionist & Lifestyle Coach in Dubai, UAE Abhinav Malhotra, Team AbhiFit – Client Transformations 8 August 2022
Boosting Immunity through Diet and Exercise - Dubai UAE Best Personal Fitness Trainer Abhinav Malhotra

About Author

Abhinav Malhotra

Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.

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