Healthy nutrition starts with knowing and understanding what exactly you put into your body every day. Unless you’re a farmer and grow all of the food you eat in your backyard, you’ll need to understand how to read a nutrition label. Here are six tips to comprehending a typical nutrition label. Remember: knowledge is power!
1. Pay attention to serving sizes
The information printed below the serving size on a food label is useless unless you know how many servings are in the package. For example: VitaminWater posts 50 calories on its 20-ounce bottles. However, each bottle contains 2.5 servings. So, one bottle actually has 120 calories, not 50, as the label might lead you to believe. In some locations, legislation now requires that the numbers on the nutrition label reflect the full amount of food in the packaging. But it’s good to check anyway.
2. Percentage of what?
On the right side of each line of a nutrition label, you will find the “percent daily value” lists for each item on the label. These percentages are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Any percentage below five percent is considered low, so you should want to see numbers lower than five percent on lines such as fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Any number above 20 percent is considered high. Look for high numbers next to nutrients such as protein, calcium and vitamins.
3. Check out calories
If your goal is weight loss, the only way to achieve it is to burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis for an extended period of time. Keep track of the number of calories you ingest in a day and try to burn more calories than you eat. And remember to check those sneaky serving sizes so you are not unwittingly doubling the number of calories you are eating.
4. Fat and all his friends
The next lines on a nutrition label will generally show “total fat,” “saturated fat,” “trans fat,” “cholesterol” and “sodium.” While it is never a good idea to have too much of any of these items, pay special attention to saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. Attempt to eat foods that contain less than five percent of the daily value of these items.
5. To eat carbs or not to eat carbs?
The Atkins diet really gave carbohydrates and grains a bad name. Let’s not forget that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition guidelines, we should be eating six servings of grains every day! However, you do need to make sure that you are eating the healthy kind of grains. Generally speaking, it is much better to eat whole grains rather than processed or refined grains. But, there’s no need to cut out carbs completely.
6. What’s in it?
Finally, there is the question of what is actually in your food. Luckily, you have a whole list provided for you at the bottom of the nutrition label, right under the nutrition facts. Although this may be hard in practice, try to eat only foods with ingredients that you recognize, can pronounce, and sound like something you actually want to eat. Remember, you want your food to be delicious! Items such as “high fructose corn syrup,” “thiamine mononitrate,” “dough conditioners,” and “partially hydrogenated soybean oil” are best avoided.
Published On: November 06, 2012