Many consumers don’t truly look at what they’re eating. They pick up a box of cereal because it says “natural” or “heart-healthy”, but they don’t really understand the nutrition labels. This article will teach you tips and tricks to understand food labels.
The top section of a nutrition label typically gives you serving size, calories, and nutrient information. The bottom part contains daily values (DVs) for 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets. This footnote provides recommended dietary information for important nutrients, such as fats, sodium, and fiber.
When reading a food label, start by looking at the serving size. How many cups or ounces are in a serving? How many servings are there per container? This helps you to understand portion sizes. If you buy a big bag of chips or make pasta with sauce, try to make sure that you’re watching your portion sizes. Recognize that if you eat half of a large bag of chips, it typically contains multiple portions. The size of the serving influences the number of calories and all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. Pay attention to serving sizes, for it can double the calories and nutrient numbers, including %Daily Values.
Next, look at calories and calories from fat. Calories show how much energy you will get from a serving of the grocery. Many people consume more calories than they need, without consuming proper amounts of nutrients. It is important to remember that the number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you eat, or your portion size. A general idea is that 400 calories is quite high, 100 is moderate, and 40 is low. Eating too many calories per day is linked to obesity. General references on nutrition labels are based on 2,000 calorie diets.
Make sure to try to limit Total, Saturated, and Trans fat as well as Cholesterol and Sodium. Eating too much can increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, cancers, and high blood pressure. Health experts will recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible. On the other hand, the bottom of the food labels show Vitamins, Calcium, Iron, and Dietary Fiber, which most Americans do not consume enough of. It is important for us to consume healthy amounts of these because it can reduce risks of diseases and other conditions. For instance, eating enough calcium can prevent osteoporosis. Eating a diet high in dietary fiber can help promote healthy bowel function.
The % Daily Values are based on the Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients but only for a 2,000 calorie daily diet--not 2,500 calories. You, like most people, may not know how many calories you consume in a day. But you can still use the %DV as a frame of reference whether or not you consume more or less than 2,000 calories. The %DV helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. For quick reference, 5%DV is low, while 20% or more is quite high. The %DV also makes it easy for you to compare one product to a similar product as long as the serving sizes are similar.