The concept may seem basic to most, but I've been surprised and reminded recently that many people simply don't know how to interpret the Nutrition Facts Label on food items. In light of our country's state of health (particularly in regards to obesity) I believe this is a crucial concept to educate not only ourselves about, but also our friends and family members.
Here's a quick highlight of the nutrition facts label and what's most important to know:
- Start by checking out the serving size and how many total servings are in the container of food you are about to enjoy. So often we don't check this and wind up eating more than we should have.
- Next, look at the "calories" and "calories from fat". This number is per ONE serving. If you eat 2 servings, then you must multiply the calories by 2. As a general reminder, try to keep the "calories from fat" to less than 50% of the calories.
- Look then, at the columns "total fat", "cholesterol" and "sodium". These are the nutrients you want to limit. If you are comparing items, choose the one with the lowest number in each of these categories.
- Alternatively, the next columns to look at are the nutrients you want to get enough of, such as "vitamin A", "vitamin C", "calcium" and "iron". Again, if you are comparing items, choose the one with the highest number in each of these categories.
- The "footnote" is the section that follows, however it does not appear on all foods if the package is too small to include it. It is important to note that the footnote is the SAME on ALL labels and does not change from product to product. The purpose is to show nutrient daily values that are generally recommended for most Americans. This changes according to the number of calories a person eats in a given day.
- Lastly, it is important to look at the "% daily values" (which are based on a 2,000 calorie diet) to give you a gage of whether or not a food is high or low in a certain nutrient. As a quick guideline to %DV: 5% or less is low; while 20% or more is high. Take special note that there are NO %DV's for trans fats, protein or sugars in a product.
For a more complete guide to the nutrition facts label, click here and for another great article on how to read food labels, click here! For those with families, there is a great resource for teaching your kids about it on this website. Education starts with yourself, so take a moment to do a little reading on how you can better understand what you're putting into your body!