Reading the nutrition facts label on any foods you purchase is important to ensuring that the foods you consume contain the necessary nutrients that your body needs. But looking at all the numbers may be a little confusing or intimidating. Understanding how to read nutrition facts is quite easy though and can help you evaluate whether or not you feel this product is healthy and belongs in your diet. Because the Food and Drug Administration regulates the content of food labels, it is easy to compare different products.
To read the nutrition label:
- Start at the top and look at the size of a serving and how many servings the package contains. Many people are surprised at how small a serving portion is. Knowing how many portions you are consuming helps you manage your calories and is essential if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
- Next, look at the total calories per serving. If you eat two servings, you will need to double this number.
- The next section is the nutrients section and shows how much of each specific nutrient this item contains. The first nutrients are fat, cholesterol and sodium. These are nutrients that should be limited. Trans fats should always be zero as a part of a healthy diet.
- Further down is the fiber and vitamin content. Be sure to get enough of these nutrients.
- The section on the right shows the percentage of the daily recommended allowance. This calculation is based on a 2,000 calorie diet so you need to adjust this percentage if you have special health concerns. The general guideline is below 5% is low and above 20% is high.
In addition to reading the nutrition facts label, you should also read the ingredients. Ideally, you should be able to pronounce each ingredient and know exactly what it is. Manufacturers have gotten clever and come up with different names for basically the same ingredient. Sugar, for example, is listed under several different names. Ingredients are listed in the order contained in the product. For example, if the main ingredient is black beans, that is the first item listed. If sugar or a manufactured chemical is listed in the top few ingredients, put it back! A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t know what it is, you don’t want to put it into your body.
The only foods you will find in the store without nutrition labels are in the produce section. These foods contain only one ingredient and are healthy and unprocessed. Loading up your shopping cart with these foods is the way to go!
Do you read food labels? What do you look for on the label and why?
Join us for our January Real Food Challenge! Participants are encouraged to eat real, unprocessed foods for the month. We’ll have free recipes and meal plans and a community to encourage and support you throughout the month. There may even be a giveaway or two! Like us on Facebook and join our challenge group.