Reading and Understanding Food Labels
The nutrition facts found on food labels contain plenty of information, but unless you understand how to read the label, you may be presented with information that doesn't mean very much to you.
UNDERSTANDING TERMS ON LABELS
Serving size: Each label must identify the size of a serving. The nutritional information listed on a label is based on one serving of the food. Note that the serving listed on a package may not be the same as the size of your serving.
Amount per serving: Each package identifies the quantities of nutrients and food constituents from one serving. From this information, you can find the calorie value of the food in addition to how much fat (saturated or trans), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein per serving.
Percent daily value: This indicates how much of a specific nutrient a serving of food contains in comparison to an average 2,000-calorie diet.
Ingredient list: A list of the ingredients in a food in descending order of predominance and weight.
Compare Carbohydrate Grams to Grams of Sugar
There are several parts to the carbohydrate section of the nutrition label. Total carbohydrates represent the amount of carbohydrate grams found in a food. Beneath the total carbohydrates line are other listings: fiber, sugars, and sometimes sugar alcohols. These values are part of the total carbohydrate.
By comparing the calories from fat to the total calories in a food, you can identify foods that have lots of hidden fat. A typical hot dog has 110 total calories and 90 calories from fat. This means that 82 percent of the calories in the hot dog come from fat! Making this determination before buying a food can help you make healthier choices. Look for foods with 30 percent or less of its calories from fat.
When you look at the grams of sugars in a product, be sure to compare it to the grams of total carbohydrate. For example, if a cup of cereal has 32 grams total carbohydrate and 16 grams of sugars, that means 50 percent of the carbohydrate in the cereal comes from sugars. Try to choose foods with 30 percent or less grams of sugars.
Fiber grams are also part of the total carbohydrate. Remember that fiber helps to slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream. Choose foods that contain 4 or more grams of fiber per serving.