Knowing what you’re putting into your body is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But, have you ever found yourself puzzled in the grocery aisle, struggling to decipher what food labels actually mean? You’re not alone.
This article aims to demystify the labyrinth of food labels and help you make informed choices at the grocery store.
WHAT IS ON A FOOD LABEL?
The Nutrition Facts label is the most important part of a food label. It provides information about the calories, nutrients, and ingredients in the food. The label is divided into several sections:
1. SERVING SIZE
This is the amount of food that is considered one serving. The serving size is important because it is used to calculate the calories and nutrients in the food.
2. TOTAL FAT
This is the total amount of fat in one serving of food. Fat is divided into saturated fat, trans fat, and unsaturated fat.
This is the amount of cholesterol in one serving of the food.
This is the amount of sodium in one serving of the food.
5. TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES
This is the total amount of carbohydrates in one serving of the food. Carbohydrates are divided into sugars, dietary fiber, and starch.
This is the amount of protein in one serving of the food.
7. PERCENT DAILY VALUE (%DV)
This shows how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. A %DV of 5% or less is low, and 20% or more is high. This can help you understand if a food product is high or low in certain nutrients.
8. INGREDIENTS LIST
Finally, don’t forget to check the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order of their weight in the food, so the first few ingredients make up the bulk of the food. Be wary of long lists of unfamiliar ingredients, and look out for sources of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium.
This section may include information about other nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and potassium.
HOW TO READ A FOOD LABEL
The first step to reading a food label is to find the serving size. The serving size is usually listed at the top of the label. Once you know the serving size, you can look at the calories and nutrients in one serving.
The next step is to compare the calories and nutrients in one serving to your daily needs. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are a set of guidelines that can help you determine your daily needs for calories and nutrients. You can find the DRIs on the website of the National Institutes of Health.
Finally, use the information on the food label to make informed choices about the foods you eat. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to choose foods that are low in calories. If you are trying to increase your intake of certain nutrients, you may want to choose foods that are high in those nutrients.
TIPS FOR READING FOOD LABELS
- Pay attention to the serving size. The serving size is often smaller than you think.
- Compare the calories and nutrients in one serving to your daily needs.
- Use the information on the label to make informed choices about the foods you eat.
- Don’t be fooled by marketing claims. Just because a food is labeled as “healthy” doesn’t mean it is.
Food labels can be a helpful tool for making informed choices about the foods you eat. However, it is important to know how to read a food label and to understand the information that is provided.
By following the tips in this guide, you can learn how to use food labels to make the best choices for your health.