Tips for Health

Nutrition: how to read a nutrition label

By on March 31, 2012 in Dieting, Health with 0 Comments

What is a nutrition label?

The nutrition label helps you determine the amount of calories and nutrients in a serving of food. This information helps you determine whether you are eating a healthy and balanced diet.

The label, which is included on every packaged food product, has a list of the amount of:

  • Fats
  • Total fat
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total Carbohydrate
  • Vegetable fiber
  • Sugars
  • Protein
  • Vitamins and minerals

What is a serving?

Ration (“service size”) is the first part of the information listed on the label. One serving is the amount of food you typically eat in one serving. Is listed as a general household measurement, such as pieces, cups or ounces, for example, 7 potato chips or 1/2 cup of cereal.

The ration is an important part of a healthy diet. Eating oversized portions, or to use too, can contribute to weight gain, since with increasing the portion size you eat more calories.

It is important to compare the portions indicated on the container with the amount of that food you eat regularly. For example, the label may indicate a serving as seven (7) potato chips or 30 grams (1 ounce) cake. If you usually eat twice that amount, you’re also eating double the calories and nutrients.

What is the percent daily value?

A healthy person should eat a certain amount of fats, carbohydrates (especially fiber), protein and vitamins and minerals. Certain ingredients, such as saturated fats and trans fats are considered unhealthy and should only be eaten in small amounts. The nutrition label provides a list of percentages (known as Percent Daily Value or% DV) that tell the amount of a nutrient that a serving of food contains in relation to the amount of that nutrient you should consume daily.

One serving of food with 5% or less of the daily value is considered low. One serving of food with 20% or more of the daily value is considered high.

Percent Daily Value is based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories.You will need to adjust the percentages if you eat more or less than 2000 calories per day. For more information on calorie allowances, read our brochure on how to determine caloric needs.

What ingredients should I limit in my diet?

  • Saturated fat. Saturated fats can increase your risk of heart disease and having high cholesterol. A medium sized adult should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
  • Trans fats. Trans fats also increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should get 0 grams of trans fat per day. When reading a nutrition label remember that companies are allowed to list “0 grams trans fat” if the food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. This means your food may contain trans fat even if the nutrition label says “0 grams trans fat per serving.” Always check the content of trans fats in the ingredient list, it can be listed as “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fats are usually found in commercially prepared baked goods, fried products, in foods consumed in small bites (“snacks” or snacks) and margarine.
  • Cholesterol. You should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day and less than 200 milligrams a day if you have heart disease. For more information read our booklet on cholesterol.

What ingredients should I get more of in my diet?

  • Fiber. The fiber helps your body digest the food you eat, and can help lower your risk for diabetes or heart disease. It is considered that a food has a high amount of fiber if it contains 5 grams or more fiber per serving. Men 50 years of age or younger should get at least 38 grams of fiber daily, while women 50 years of age or younger should get at least 25 grams of fiber per day. Fiber is found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for the words “whole grain” on the package and the list of ingredients.
  • Vitamins and minerals. The nutrition label has recorded the amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.You should try to get more of these nutrients in your daily diet as well as other vitamins and minerals that are not listed on the label.

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