It’s not, as they say, ‘Rocket Science’, but it can be confusing if you are not familiar with the terms on a food label. Important facts about what you are putting in your mouth and what you are feeding your family are lurking in those labels.
Often the front packaging of food products has a variety of words that are meant to convince you that you are making a healthy choice. The backs of the packaging actually contain the facts that lie behind finding the truth about what you are eating.
Today’s article is a guide to discerning what you are purchasing.
So, the next time you go shopping, take some extra time to familiarize yourself with the labels on the foods you commonly buy and while you’re at it, teach your kids how to read the packaging as well.
Shop smart and ENJOY life the healthy way!
The team at Wise-About-Weight
1. Serving sizes are standardized units of measure to make it easier to compare similar foods; they are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount, e.g., the number of grams.
2. The size of the serving on the food package influences the number of calories and all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label.
SERVINGS PER CONTAINER
1. Pay attention to the serving size, especially how many servings there are in the food package.
2. Beware of containers that appear to be packaged as single serving food, but actually contain two or more servings.
3. Ask yourself, “How many servings am I consuming?”
EX. If a label says one serving equals ½ cup, and you eat the whole package, you are eating 2 cups. That quadruples the calories and other nutrient numbers, including the %Daily Values as shown in the sample label.
1. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of the food.
2. The calorie section of the label can help you manage your weight.
3. Remember: the number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you actually eat (your portion amount).
4. The General Guide to Calories provides a general reference for calories when you look at a Nutrition Facts label. This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
1. The total fat is the number of fat grams contained in one serving of the food.
2. Fat is an important nutrient that your body uses, but you don’t want to eat too much.
3. The different kinds of fat, such as saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat, will be listed separately on the label.
4. It is recommended to consume less than 30% of total fat and less than 7% of saturated fat as a percentage of total caloric intake.
EX. If there are 90 calories in one serving, how many calories from fat are there in ONE serving? The answer: 30 calories, which means almost one-third the calories in a single serving come from fat. What if you ate the whole package content? Then, you would consume two servings, or 180 calories, and 60 would come from fat.
CHOLESTEROL and SODIUM
1. These numbers tell you how much cholesterol and sodium (salt) are in a single serving of the food.
2. Cholesterol and sodium are usually measured in milligrams.
3. It is recommended to consume less than 300mg of cholesterol (<200mg if you have high cholesterol) and less than 2400mg of sodium daily.
1. This number tells you how many carbohydrate grams are in one serving of food.
2. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. 3. This total is broken down into grams of sugar, starch and dietary fiber.
1. This number tells you how much protein you get from a single serving of the food.
2. Your body needs protein to build and repair essential parts of the body, such as muscles, blood, and organs.
3. Protein is often measured in grams.
VITAMIN A and VITAMIN C
1. These list the amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C, two especially important vitamins, in a serving of the food.
2. Each amount is given as a percent daily value.
3. Other vitamins may be listed on some labels.
4. Vitamin A provides important nutrients for the eyes, skin, and for normal growth.
5. Vitamin C is essential for a number of metabolic functions. Insufficient vitamin C can cause scurvy.
CALCIUM and IRON
1. These list the percentages of calcium and iron, two important minerals, that are in a serving of the food.
2. Each amount is given as a percent daily value and other minerals may be listed on the label.
3. In addition to being critical for strong bones, calcium helps your heart, muscles and nerves function properly.
4. Iron is essential to help the blood carry oxygen.
THE PERCENT DAILY VALUE (%DV)
1. The % Daily Values (%DVs) is based on the Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients but only for a 2,000 calorie daily diet.
2. The %DV helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. Note: a few nutrients, like trans fat, do not have a %DV.
3. 5%DV or less is low: For nutrients you want to limit such as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium
4. 20%DV or more is high: For nutrients you need more of such as dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium , and Iron
1. All ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. 2. Those in the largest amounts are first.
3. Words for sugar: Terms ending in “ose” mean sugar—fructose, glucose, maltose.
4. Other terms that indicate sugar include corn syrup, honey, molasses, dextrin, maple syrup.
5. Words for salt: MSG or monosodium glutamate, NaCl, baking soda, sodium, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce.