Reading a Nutrition Label

Sep 22, 2017 | Healthy Living

Learning how to read a food label can help you manage your calorie, sodium, carb, and fat intake. On a whole, it is a great tool to help you make healthier and more informed eating choices.

  1. Start with the serving information at the top of the label.
  • This will tell you the size of a single serving and how many total servings there are in the package or container.
  • The nutritional information on the rest of the label applies to one serving.
  1. Next, check the total number of calories per serving.
  • Pay attention to the calories per serving and how many servings you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package.
  • Calories on a nutrition label are frequently the first stop on the label. But keep in mind that a higher-calorie food might be worth eating if it also contains a lot of nutrients.
  1. Then move onto the listing for fats.
  • Based on a 2,000 calorie diet per day, no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat should be consumed.
  • Try to choose foods with relatively more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, and less saturated and trans fat.
  1. Shift down to sodium next. Like trans and saturated fats this is a nutrient that you’ll want to consume in limited amounts.
  • In some people, sodium can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden on your heart.
  • Sodium also isn’t just found in basic table salt. It can be found in large quantities in processed foods. Good ways to avoid excess salt intake include eating pizza with more vegetables than meat or cheese, fresh skinless poultry, and lower-sodium soups.
  • It’s recommended that adults consume no more than 2,000mg of sodium daily.
  1. Now let’s focus on dietary fiber.
  • Eating a diet high in dietary fiber promotes healthy bowel function.
  • Additionally, a fiber rich diet may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • The American Heart Association recommends at least 25mg of fiber a day.
  1. No daily reference value has been established for sugars because no recommendations have been made for the total amount to eat in a day. Keep in mind, the sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit and milk) as well as, those added to a food or drink.
  • Consuming too much added sugar in your diet can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, and contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Added sugars are those that are not naturally occurring in foods and add calories without contributing nutrients. Common added sugars include corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates and high-fructose corn syrup.
  1. A % Daily Value (DV) is required to be listed if a claim is made for protein, such as “high in protein”. Otherwise you’re not likely to find a % DV for protein on a label.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that 10 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. For adult women that’s about 46 grams of protein a day, and 56 grams for adult men.
  1. Many Americans don’t get enough Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron or Calcium in their diets. Getting enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions.
  • Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. It can also help the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly. Vitamin A can be found in animal products like eggs, milk and fish, as well as in fruits and vegetables including oranges and apricots and spinach and carrots. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help boost the immune system, and help prevent damage to our bodies from pollutants and other toxic substances. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges and grapefruits, and peppers, tomatoes and spinach.
  • Calcium is a mineral that is needed by the body for strong bones, normal pulse rate, blood clotting, and the transmission of nerve impulses. Fortified foods like milk, orange juice and margarine are good sources of calcium. It can also be found in collard greens, spinach and many beans.
  • Iron is crucial in distributing oxygen around to different tissues in the body. Red meat, chicken, soybeans, spinach and strawberries are just a few great sources of iron.
  1. Dietary Values (DV) are recommended levels of intakes. DVs in the footnote are based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet. % of Dietary Values (%DV) are based on the Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients for a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

Resources

“How to Read a Food Label.” Health.com. Health Media Ventures, Inc., 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.

“Nutrient Facts – MyFoodDiary.” Nutrient Facts – MyFoodDiary. MyFoodDiary, 2003. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.

Pinkowish, Mary Desmond. “How to Read Nutrition Facts Labels.” Real Simple. Real Simple, 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.

“Understanding Food Nutrition Labels.” Understanding Food Nutrition Labels. American Heart Association, 15 May 2015. eb. 05 Nov. 2015.

“U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 09 Apr. 2015. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.

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