How to Read Nutrition Labels

by Michelle on April 10, 2018

Making healthier choices about the foods you eat requires more than discipline.  Fresh foods are of course the main part of a healthy diet, but when you do use packaged items it’s important to know how to read the nutrition labels on those items to ensure you’re making healthy choices.  Hopefully, the information below can make understanding things a bit easier.

 

 

  • Serving Size:  This shows the size of the serving the nutrition fact pertains to as well as how many of those serving are in the item.  Both the Standard unit of measure (United States) and the Metric unit of measure (international) are usually listed.

 

 

 

  • Calories:  These are the total calories per serving size.  This number isn’t the total calories in the item itself but the calories in each serving…so be careful to know how many servings there are in the item and multiply this number by the number of servings to get the total calories in the package.  The calories from Fat are often listed here as well; be sure to avoid Trans Fat.

 

 

 

  • Nutrients to Limit:  This is where things like Total Fat (separated into types of fat), Cholesterol, Sodium (salt), And Total Carbohydrates (separated into Dietary Fiber-see note below-and Sugars).  These items are things that many people need to pay close attention to and limit in their diets and the further separation in the Fat and Carbohydrate categories is valuable information to properly account for these items.  In particular, Diabetics need to not only look at the Total Carbohydrates but also what part of those carbs are Dietary Fiber and Sugar.

 

 

NOTE:  Dietary Fiber is a healthy and important part of daily nutrition and it needs to be in higher amounts than most people end up getting.  It’s listed in this section only because it plays a role in the Total Carbohydrate count.

 

 

  • Beneficial Nutrients:  Make sure to get enough of these items…Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.  These important vitamins and minerals are crucial to health and we need them each and every day.  Many packaged items aren’t healthy but these days there is more of a focus on packaged “healthy” items for an ever-growing educated and health-conscious public.

 

 

 

  • % Daily Value:  The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. As a guide, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV (5% or less). If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), seek foods with a higher % DV (20% or more).

 

 

Remember that the information shown in these panels is based on 2,000 calories a day. You may need to consume less or more than 2,000 calories depending on your personal situation so adjust accordingly.  Also, when the label says “0g trans fat” but the list of ingredients includes “partially hydrogenated oil” it means the food DOES contain trans fat…but it’s less than 0.5 grams per serving. So, if you eat more than one serving size you ARE getting trans fat…proportionate to the Nutrition Information listed.  Use the Nutrition Facts label as the valuable tool it is to keep track of what packaged foods you’re eating so as to not derail your efforts. Remember…fresh is always best, but if a “healthy” packaged food is on your radar review the label and ingredients to make an educated choice.

 

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