How to Read Nutrition Labels and Why You Need to!

What’s really in the food you eat?  Go down the aisle at any store and you see some consumers reading nutrition labels. They want to know how to read nutrition labels easily and effectively so they know what they are eating.  If you want to eat a healthy diet then you need to make informed food choices.  You need to learn to read nutrition labels effectively, it’s a must!

 

Learning to read nutrition labels

 

The upper section tells you specific information so you can know the serving size, calories, and nutrients.

 

The Serving Size

The serving size part on the label is the first place you should start to read nutrition labels.  It makes it easy to compare foods so you can make informed choices.  Showing you the size and number of servings in the package followed by the amount.  It is a big part of how many calories and nutrients are in the serving. This is one of the most important parts of Nutrition Labels, often we get mislead by focusing the calorie amount.  Sometimes we get caught up looking at the good vs bad content and we miss the fact that often an innocent looking product is in fact 4 times the amount of what the nutrition label is telling us.

Calories

If you read nutrition labels you know that the calorie section will help you manage your weight.  Whether your goal is to gain, maintain, or lose weight you should start with the calorie section of the food label.  Calories are energy and you can get an idea of how much you get from a serving.  You should try to meet the recommended number of intakes without eating more calories than you need.  Every human being is different from another, to find out how many calories your body is burning consult a wellness coach that can measure you with a clinical body composition scale. Weight and fat gain and Obesity comes from eating more calories than you burn.

 

 Nutrients

As you read nutrition labels, pay close attention to the nutrient section.  It shows you the main nutrients that may impact your health.  This section is separated into two parts so you can cut back on or eat more of the nutrients you need to.

 

  • Limit These Nutrients

In our fast paced world we grab a bite to eat and rush off to do our tasks.  Often we get too many of the nutrients we should avoid.  This section deals with Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium.  Eating too much fats will increase your risk of chronic disease such as high blood pressure, and heart disease.  It is recommended that you eat as little as possible of saturated and trans fats.  Trans fats and saturated fats have been linked with high blood pressure and raising bad cholesterol levels.  They raise your risk of heart disease.  You should limit or avoid these fats in your nutrition.  This helps you keep your cholesterol within healthy ranges.

  • Get Enough of These

This section shows the amount of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.  Most of us don’t get enough of most of these in our daily meals. These important nutrients can help improve your health and lower the risk of some conditions.  They help from bone support, healthy bowels, to reducing cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

 

Footnote on the Bottom

The bottom part you see when you read nutrition labels contains a footnote.  It gives you the recommended information on important nutrients, fats, sodium and fiber.  The asterisk (*) symbol after % of Daily Value, this references the footnote at the bottom when you read nutrition labels.  It tells you the %DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.  The footnote statement must be on all food labels.  It stays the same no matter the product and you can only see the full footnote on large packages.

 

 The Percent Daily Value (%DV)

Most of us don’t have any idea how many calories we eat in a day.  The Daily Value percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie diet and will help you determine how much nutrients a serving of food has.  The food label has the calculations for you so you don’t need to know math. Each ingredient is based on 100% of the daily requirements so you can know what you need to eat.    Using the Daily Value lets you compare similar products to see which is better for you.  It also lets you check claims like nonfat, reduced fat, etc.

 

Calcium

Calcium is stored in our bones and teeth and needed for vascular, muscle, and nerve functions.  It is recommended that you get 100% DV, so you should check the %DV for calcium on the label.   This is something you don’t want to guess at, you want to make sure you are getting the calcium you need.

 

Sugars

There isn’t an established total amount of sugars you should eat in a day but you want to check the labels for added sugars.  Many sugars are found naturally in foods and drinks and if there are any it will be found in the first few lines.  When you are looking at the label if you see corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, or dextrose then you know it has added sugar.

Let’s Look Into The Basics

 

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How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label, FDA, http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm