How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label
By Brittany Russell |
A major part of everyday healthy eating and ensuring that we are ingesting the correct amount of calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, etc., is properly reading a Nutrition Fact Label. The following are details to keep in mind every time you gaze at a product’s label before you choose to buy.
Start at the Top:
• Serving Size should be listed in standard measurements – cups, ounces or pieces of items – to allow for easy comparison between similar foods. Serving sizes on Nutrition Facts Labels are loosely based on the amount of a product normally eaten in one sitting or reference amounts. Be sure to compare the listed serving size with how much you actually eat – if the serving size is 10 crackers, but you’ve eaten 20, then you need to double the calories, fat and so forth.
• Servings Per Container helps you calculate calories and nutrients in an entire package; for instance, if there are 9 servings, then you can multiply calories and nutrients by 9 to get a total for the whole box.
• Calories equal the amount of energy in the serving size of the particular food. In order to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than what you burn off each day (basal metabolic rate). To maintain your current weight, you need to take in an equal number of calories to what you burn off each day.
• The Nutrients portion of a label always lists, as mandated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Too much or too little of these nutrients have the greatest impact on your health. Limit all types of fat, cholesterol and sodium, and get more dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.
• The Percent Daily Value (%DV) indicates how much of a specific nutrient one serving of food contains compared with recommendations for an entire day. Used as a general frame of reference, the %DV is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. The foot note, typically at the very bottom of a label, reminds the consumer of this fact. If space allows, the label may include recommended amounts of certain nutrients based on a 2,000 and a 2,500 calorie diet.
Variations on the traditional label are allowed by the FDA. For example, food for children under 2-years-old may not list information pertaining to the content of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, cholesterol or calories from fat. Exceptions also exist for smaller packages with less label room.
The FDA has extensive information regarding nutrition fact labels, package labeling and other food label facts pertinent to our health. Accurately reading the nutrition fact label is a very important starting point.