"Heart healthy!" "Low fat!" Confused on how to read a nutrition label? Well, you have come to the right place!
Why should you read a label anyway? For starters, it helps you determine the nutritional content of the product. It is also helpful for those with food allergies or intolerances. Reading the nutrition label helps you to see how the food fits into your overall diet.
One of the first things you want to look at when reading a nutrition label is the serving size. Many people consume over the amount suggested. You want to note the size of a single serving and how many servings are in the product. If you are doubling the serving size, you will need to double everything listed on the food label. For example, 20g of carbohydrates would then be 40g of carbohydrates.
As you look further down the label, you will see calories, calories from fat, total fat (includes saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats), cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates (includes fiber, sugars, and other carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, and minerals. To the right of these nutrients, you will see "% Daily Value." This is shown to see how the food fits into your overall diet. If a product says it has 5% of the daily value, it is considered a low source. 10% of the daily value is a good source and 20% or more of the daily value, it is considered a high source.
"Other carbohydrates" refers to the amount of starch in the product. Some products do not list "other carbohydrates." This number is found by subtracting both sugar and fiber from the total carbohydrates.
In general, you want to keep cholesterol, sodium, fat (trans and saturated), and added sugars low. Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least. If sugar is one of the first 4 ingredients, toss the product aside and opt for something else. Sugars add calories with little to no nutritional value. You want to focus on foods that offer high amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Labeling Terms and Tips
-"No" or "Zero" trans fat means that a product must have less than .5g per serving of trans fat.
-When a product says "lean" it means that total fat must be less than 10g and saturated fat must be less than 4.5g.
-A product that says "calorie free" has less than 5 calories per serving.
-"Low calorie" means that the product has less than 40 calories per serving.
-Fruit drink usually just has a lot of added sugar, little to no real fruit, and no fiber. Skip it and opt for a piece of fruit instead.
-"Sugar-free" or "fat-free" does not mean the product is low calorie or that has a high nutrient value. Most of the fat-free products just substitute sugar to make the product palatable.
Hopefully, this has helped you to see that reading a nutrition label is not as hard as it may seem. Just a few final tips: the fewer ingredients, the better and if you can't pronounce most of the ingredients, you might want to opt for something else.