How To Read Nutrition Labels

To some, the label on the side or back of a food package is a foreign language. They may understand the words and numbers, but not what they mean to their own life and how they apply in relation to the food product. Often people barely take the time to read and consider the labels at all. The fact is, what is written on the labels can help consumers make better choices on what to feed their families, and promote healthy eating in general.

The nutrition labels are a requirement by the FDA on some packages so that consumers are informed of the nutrient content and nutritional value of the foods they want to eat. It is a good idea to read the label with every food purchase, so that those with certain health conditions or who are on a particular eating plan may organize their meals according to their nutritional needs.

Here is a quick break down of the different categories on the food packages and their significance, to take the confusion out of the given information.

First there is the serving size information, at the top of the box, that basically tells how much each person consuming would eat for a portion to be considered a serving. They are typically measured in cups, but can be in pieces. It also tells how many servings are available per package, which helps with meal planning. Eating one serving give the amounts of the fat, cholesterol, protein, and carbohydrates listed in the next section, and doubling

The next small section provides the amount of calories per serving, as well as the amount of calories from the fat content alone in each serving. What remains is the calories from other nutrients in the food.

The following and largest section is the nutrient section, where the primary nutrients in the food are listed. The measurements are in grams usually. Sub-nutrients, such as trans-fats, saturated fats, fiber and sugar, are listed under their respective nutrient categories, giving an additional breakdown of the nutrient content. Keep in mind that although the trans-fats and saturated fats may have 0g, there may actually be a very minuscule amount of these items in the food.

The most important aspect of a nutrition label is to look at the ingredient list—read the list closely to see what ingredients are included in the product. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to have a smaller list of ingredients, because that means that the product will probably contain less chemicals and additives. Try to stick with products that only contain minimally-processed ingredients and avoid the chemicals, preservatives and additives.

Each person’s caloric needs vary, and one person may need more or less depending on their own individual lifestyle and health concerns. But the nutritional labels on food packages are valuable tools to help make good nutritional choices for each meal.

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