Nutrition Labels: Help Yourself Make Better Food Choices
Nutrition labels aren't very intuitive. A lot of information is jam-packed onto a tiny label, so don't feel bad if you have trouble understanding them. Learning to "speak" nutrition label may seem like a painstaking task, but understanding what you are eating may help you lose weight and keep it off.
Since nutrition labels became a requirement for most food packaging, there has been a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. So, let's brush up on your nutrition label literacy.
A few label sections to take note of include:
The top of a nutrition label tells the serving size of the product is. The rest of of the label gives nutrition information for this serving—not the whole package. Be sure to read this to truly understand what's considered one portion. The serving size may not be obvious even with pre-portioned items.
Nutrition labels typically have the amount of calories directly under the serving size. Calories are typically broken up into two parts: overall calories and calories that come from fat. It is important to look at the serving size and the calories together to get a sense of how many calories you're taking in.
The nutrient section of a label is divided into two parts. The top portion of the nutrient section indicates how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar and protein a product has. A good rule of thumb is to avoid an excess of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—the lower the better when it comes to these nutrients. Beneath this information is the vitamin and mineral nutrient breakdown.
Percent of Daily Value (%DV)
The %DVs are recommendations for how much of key nutrients to eat on a 2000 calorie diet. Even if you're not eating 2000 calories each day, you can use %DVs as a frame of reference. Use them to compare similar products and see if a product is high or low in something. For example, you may want to avoid an item that is 75% of your daily value of fat.
Learning to read nutrition labels may be important for people looking to improve their health and to lose weight. Nutrition facts help consumers make informed food choices that may help them maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.