Sign in    |   Join

Top 10 Tips for Reading Food Labels

If you want to ensure that you're eating a well-balanced diet and consuming the ideal amount of calories per day, reading food labels is of the utmost importance. But just how do you use all of that information that appears on the back of packaging? These 10 tips will help you decipher the label and use the information it contains to your benefit.
1. Nutrition labels are based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day. You may need more or fewer calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, which would mean that your recommended daily amounts of nutrients, fat and carbs would be different than the percentages shown on the labels; however, you can still use the labels as a guide. If you would like a complete profile of your own daily requirements, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian.
2. Start with the serving size, which is at the very top of the label. Packaging will tell you how much one serving of a food is. Often times, there is more than one serving in a package.
3. The calorie information appears beneath the serving information on the label. Your calorie consumption determines whether you gain or lose weight. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to consume your daily recommended number of calories on a daily basis. You can download a smartphone app to help you track your calorie count throughout the day.
4. Fat information appears next on the label. Trans fats are the worst type of fat, so be wary of products with high fat content that comes mostly from trans-fat. Saturated fat is also less desirable than unsaturated, healthy fats, which are not listed on food labels. The most ideal foods are those with 0 grams of saturated and trans fats and less than 20 percent total fat.
5. Foods that contain 20 percent of your daily cholesterol or sodium should be avoided. A food is considered low in sodium or cholesterol if its daily value percentage is 5 or less. Most adults should eat a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day; however, if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may want you to consume less. Consult him or her for individualized advice.
6. Dietary fiber is essential to a healthy digestive system. Look for foods that contain at least 3 to 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of fiber. Strive to get 100 percent of your daily requirement of dietary fiber every day.
7. Foods that are high in sugar but not high in dietary fiber are likely full of empty calories. If you're diabetic, you'll need to pay close attention to this information and to the number of carbs in your food. A dietitian or your doctor can provide you with guidelines for how many carbs you should be eating per day.
8. The amount of Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron are listed on the nutrition label. You should aim to get 100 percent of your daily recommended amounts of these four key nutrients to ensure good health. Foods that provide 20 percent of the daily requirement or more are considered excellent sources of the nutrient.
9. Read the ingredients along with the nutritional information.
Choose foods that contain whole food ingredients as opposed to those that contain long lists of chemicals. Avoid caloric, non-nutritious ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and enriched flour.
10. Do side-by-side comparisons. When you're shopping, spend time actually comparing the nutrition labels side by side. You'll be shocked at the big differences between foods on the market. Even foods like yogurt come in "healthy" and "less healthy" versions. While it may mean that shopping trips are lengthier to begin with, soon you'll know which products are the best to grab off the shelves. You can also spend time researching the nutritional content of the various brands of products that you need to buy before you leave the house by using a variety of Internet sites.
Keep in mind that nutritional labels don't list every vitamin and mineral that your body requires. Add as much variety to your diet as possible. By eating many different types of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and grains, you can ensure that you're getting a wide array of nutrients.
  Searching for a topic?


Receive Email Updates