Reading a nutrition label can be overwhelming especially if you’re unsure of what to look for. Using the nutrition label and the ingredient list can help you decode products. Each line and number on the label mean something helpful. Nutrition labels can be confusing to understand, but they don’t have to be. To make it simpler and easier I’ve broken the label down to give you the 5 best tools on a nutrition label.
The images used are from the FDA a Sample Label for Macaroni and Cheese
The first item listed on a nutrition label is the serving size. A serving size is a standardized amount of food with specific calorie and nutrient content.
Using the label above eating 2 cups instead of 1 cup, would be 2 servings. Increasing the servings by 2 doubles everything on the nutrition label, including the %Daily Values. *%DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and are required on all food labels.
Contrary to popular belief serving size and portion size are different. Portion size is how much food is portioned onto the plate.
Calories are a measure of energy based on a serving of food.
The minimum amount of calories an average adult should consume is 1,200 calories, but most people have higher needs than 1,200 calories.
Fat, Cholesterol + Sodium
Try to limit items like fats, cholesterol, and sodium. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and/or sodium. These items may increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Avoid trans fat this can be disguised as partially hydrogenated oil on ingredient lists. The American Heart Association suggests that no more than 5% to 6% of calories come from saturated fat.
For healthy Americans, no more than 2,300mg of sodium should be consumed daily.
Fiber + Vitamins
Eating more fiber, vitamins, and minerals can improve overall health. The more colorful the plate the more vitamins and minerals it has.
Fiber promotes regular GI function. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain because they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that fiber-rich diets may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Women should aim for 25g fiber daily and men should aim for 38g fiber daily.
Check the ingredient list for unnecessary additives, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and dyes.
Need further assistance? Contact me here for nutrition coaching.