Food labels can be tricky to decipher if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Learn more about the food that goes into your mouth by reading the Nutrition Facts Label on the back of products. The knowledge gained by making yourself aware of the nutritional content can alter the way you view your food choices. Build your label reading skills by following these simple steps:
1. The first item to read on the food label is the Serving Size and the number of Servings per Container. Most people head straight to the calories, fat or sugar and bypass the most critical part of the Nutrition Facts Label. The serving size amount impacts the number of calories and all the other nutrients listed on the label.
2. Review the Calorie content to understand how much energy you get from a serving. Calories are key to managing a healthy weight. Most people are consuming too many calories and not enough nutrients. Keep in mind that the number of servings you eat affects your total calorie intake.
3. Choose low-fat foods for a healthy heart. Look for foods with less than 3 grams of Total Fat per serving. Limit those “bad fats” by keeping Saturated Fat to 1 gram or less per serving and avoiding all Trans Fat.
4. Reduce your Sodium intake by choosing products with less than 140 mg per serving. Most Americans needs to keep their daily sodium levels between 1,500-2,300 mg per day. 6. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Keep in mind that all carbohydrates break down into sugar by digestion so don’t be fooled by “sugar free” claims. Sugar-free foods are NOT necessarily carbohydrate free.
5. Fiber is your friend! Look for whole grain products with 3g of dietary fiber or more per serving. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber.
6. For the Percent Daily Value (%DV), think of it simply as 20% is high and 5% is low. Aim to find foods high in vitamins and minerals by looking for ones with a % Daily Value more than 20%. Keep total fat, cholesterol and sodium on the lower end to reduce your risk for chronic diseases.
Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.