Understanding Labels: What Makes a Healthy Drink

The beverage aisle of supermarkets shows you how many supposedly healthy drinks are out in the market. While there are no rules on what makes one drink healthier than another, nutritional labels serve as excellent guides that make you better informed in deciding if a drink is appropriate for your eating plan or for any health condition you have. Promises of health benefits all look good in the packaging, but nothing compares to understanding what goes into your drink.

Serving Size

All the numbers in the label are based on a standard measurement of the drink, called its serving size. You must compare how much you actually drink against the published size of each serving, because not all containers are equivalent to exactly one serving. For example, say a serving of a drink equivalent to 250 mL has 5 g of fat. If you consume a 500 mL bottle of the drink, then you already took in two servings and 10 g of fat in just one sitting.


Calories reflect the energy content of one serving. Your body normally consumes a certain number of calories per day, dictated by your metabolism and activity level. You must consume sufficient calories through the food and drink you consume to power these processes. Taking note of calorie content is an important part of understanding labels, because any calories in excess of your body’s requirements will be stored as fat. Again, do not forget to check your actual consumption against the serving size.


Following the total calorie content is a rundown of all the drink’s nutrients and their respective amounts per serving. The list will tell you if the drink is providing you with too much or too little of a nutrient, or maybe none at all.

As a guide, you would like to avoid drinks with plenty of sugar, trans and saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium because these put you at risk for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and dyslipidemia. Healthy drinks with plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals are generally beneficial.

Percent Daily Value

The percent daily value compares the amount of a nutrient in a serving to a daily intake recommended to maintain good health. For instance, a serving containing 5 g of fat represents about 7 percent of the recommended 65 g that should be consumed daily.

These percentages are not set in stone, but are based on a typical 2,000 calorie per day diet. Percent daily values of nutrients will change depending on your total caloric requirements. If you are a hefty and muscular adult who needs up to 2,500 calories per day, you will need more servings of the drink to give you the same percent daily values as an average man. On the other hand, if you were a petite lady, you will probably need less.

Since not all drinks that promise good health actually deliver the goods, make it a habit to look up nutritional labels in the packaging before purchasing. Remember that a healthy drinker is first a smart drinker.


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