The Nutrition Facts labels can be very useful in helping you make healthy choices and lose weight. I’m going to teach you how to read a food label so you can look for the good stuff and what to avoid.
How to Read the Food Label
Start by understanding what each fact on the Nutrition Facts food labels means:
- Serving size. This information, found at the top of the label, is particularly important when you’re trying to lose weight because all of the nutrition information (calories, fats, cholesterol, etc.) relates to that serving size, whether it be a measurement, like one cup of soup, or number of items, like 10 crackers. The number of servings tells you how many are in each container.
- Calories and calories from fat. You need to pay attention to this number if you want to lose weight. You need to burn more calories than you eat every day. You also want to keep the number of calories from fat that you eat each day under 35 percent of your total calories.
- Fats. Fats are calorie-dense, so you should try to choose foods that are lower in fat, especially if you are trying to lose weight. The label also lists the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in each serving. You want to choose foods that are low in saturated and extremely low in trans fats, as they can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol
- Cholesterol. You should limit your cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day if you’re healthy, and less than 200 milligrams per day if you have heart disease
- Sodium. Sodium (salt) can cause high blood pressure, so it is helpful to keep your daily sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams per day.
- Carbohydrates. The food label lists total carbohydrates, but also shows the amount of carbohydrate that comes from either dietary fiber or sugar. Subtract the amount of fiber and sugar from the total carbohydrates to get an idea of how many complex carbohydrates are in each serving. Dietary fiber is good for you, aiding in your digestion and lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes while increasing your feeling of fullness. Sugars, on the other hand, burn quickly and can raise your blood glucose levels, so you should keep an eye on how much is in what you’re eating.
- Protein. Proteins burn slowly and are essential for building tissue and muscle. Look at the number of protein grams in each serving and the percentage of daily protein it provides,
- Pay attention to the “Daily Value” percentages. You need to eat a certain amount of unsaturated fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins each day to stay healthy. You also need to limit your daily intake of unhealthy ingredients like saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. Each nutrient listed on the Nutrition Facts food label comes with a percentage that shows you how much of the recommended daily allowance is contained in a single serving of that food. This is very important because it gives you an idea of how valuable your food is, If you see all zeros there, the food you’re eating may taste good, but may not have much value to you.