Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t trust a food product by its fancy front label. Instead, what you need to know about the foods that you are consuming can be found on the Nutrition Facts label, generally located on the backside of a product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all packaged foods and beverages to have a Nutrition Facts label, making it easier for you to compare foods for the healthier choice and be aware of exactly what you are putting in your body.
Healthy eating begins with reading, and that doesn’t mean skimming the amount of calories that are packed into a product. When purchasing foods or drinks at a grocery store, the trick is to read the entire Nutrition Facts label because it will allow you to see how a product’s nutrients can affect your body. Knowing how to read a food label is especially important if you have a health condition – such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol – and need to follow a special diet.
Most Nutrition Facts labels look the same and are equipped with information regarding the serving sizes, caloric intake, fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and proteins. Always read the label from top to bottom, beginning with the serving size, so that you can base the information given off of a specific amount of food or drink.
Serving sizes are listed in standard measurements such as tablespoons, cups or pieces, which make them easier to read and compare. The label includes both the serving size as well as the servings per container. Look at the servings per container to calculate the calories and nutrients in the entire package. Use the serving size to calculate how many servings you are consuming. If you consume double the amount of serving sizes, the amount of calories and other nutrients double as well. A mistake is often made when people confuse the serving size with the servings per container, fooling them into believing they are consuming fewer calories.
The amount of calories is listed by the amount of food or drink per serving. Nutrition Facts labels reveal the number of calories as well as the number of calories that come from fat. You can use the amount of calories from fat to compare items for the healthiest choice. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a general reference for calories in a single serving of food is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Their guide to calories reveals that 40 calories is low, 100 calories is moderate and 400 calories or more is high. Keep these numbers in mind when you are picking out an afternoon snack, especially if you are interested in managing your weight.
Nutrition Facts labels include a list of nutrients, such as the amount of total fats, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and vitamins that are in one serving. This section of the label can help you track whether you’re getting all of the nutrients you need in a day. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should limit the amount of fats, cholesterol and sodium you consume because they can increase your risk of heart disease, cancers and high blood pressures. But, you can consume more dietary fibers, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron because these nutrients can improve your health significantly.
Percent Daily Value
The percent daily value, located on the right side of the label, reveals how much of a specific nutrient one serving of the product has as a percentage of how much you should eat during an entire day. Once again, these percentages are recommended on a 2,000 calorie daily diet. Note that a 5%DV is considered low, while a 20%DV or more is considered high. By keeping these numbers in mind, you can look at the percent daily value of various nutrients and consider whether they are too low or too high for your daily intake.
Found at the bottom of the label, the footnote is there to remind you that the percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet. If the package is big enough, the footnote will also include recommended dietary advice for everyone. In other words, it will tell you the number of nutrients you should consume on a 2,000 and 2,500 daily diet. The footnote is the same on all products because it is a set list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Research & Community Education