Have you ever looked at the nutrition label of a food and didn’t know what you were looking at? Food labels are surprisingly easy to read and an important tool on monitoring your health and nutrition. Here are some of key tips in reading food labels:
Serving Size: This should be your first step when reading a label. In the sample label, the serving size states that four crackers is equal to one serving size. This means that the calories, fat, and other nutritional information on the label will all be expressed for the amount of four crackers. If you know you are eating eight crackers, you would double the nutritional values. It is crucial to remember the number of servings you are eating will determine the actual nutrition you gain.
Calories/Calories from Fat: On our sample label, there are seventy calories in one serving and twenty-five calories from fat. This means that over 25% of the calories in one serving of crackers are from fat. Again, this is a time where it is important to pay attention to the serving size. This is critical to remember in order to monitor your diet.
Daily Value: The percentage values are based off of a 2,000 calorie daily diet. Although you may not know if you are eating exactly 2,000 calories in a day, according to the FDA it can still be used as a convenient reference to see if a food is a superior or bad source of vitamins and minerals.
Nutrients: The fats, cholesterols, and sodium listed on food labels are nutrients that you should try to limit. Pay attention to the percentage under the daily value, and the number of servings you are eating in order to track your daily percent allotted. Nutrients such as fibers and vitamins including A, C, Calcium, and Iron are examples of what you should be ingesting more of to improve health. Paying attention to these nutrients is a useful method to obtain good and bad sources of nutrients in your diet.
Other Tips: If a food says it is sugar free or fat free, that doesn’t necessarily mean it contains no sugar or fat. According to the American Heart Association, this means it must contain less or equal to 0.5 grams of sugar or fat to be considered fat or sugar “free”. Additionally, pay attention to the ingredients listed on the food label. Ingredients are listed in order of weight from heaviest to lightest as are used.
For further information on Food Labels, go to http://www.fda.gov/food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/NFLPM/ucm274593.htm