Cathy Agan | 5/14/2013 11:45:06 PM
You have probably looked at the Nutrition Facts Label on a food package at some point. Maybe you checked the calories, fat, or sodium content of a food. Perhaps you wanted to know the serving size. Possibly you looked at the label and were confused as to what all of the numbers meant. If you know how to read the Nutrition Facts Label and are familiar with the information found there, you may find you want to use it often to ensure you’re eating a healthful diet.
You can use the label as you plan meals, shop, and cook. The label makes it easier to compare one product to another for nutrient content. Keep in mind that the Nutrition Facts Label is based on one serving, but the package may contain more than one serving. Look at the serving size. If you double the servings you eat, you will double the calories and nutrients. Serving sizes can vary among brands so check to see if the serving size is the same before comparing the nutrients.
If you are counting calories, the Nutrition Facts Label can be your best guide for the number of calories per serving and the calories from fat in each serving. Go to the Nutrition Facts Label rather than just relying on claims on the front of the package. Just because a product says it is fat-free, does not mean it is calorie-free. Some lower fat items may have as many calories as the full-fat versions.
The label will tell you the nutrient content of the food per serving and also gives you the Percent Daily Value (% DV) for certain nutrients. The % DV is a general guide to help you compare nutrients in a serving of food to their contribution to your total daily diet. It can help you know if a food is high or low in a nutrient. You can use the 5 and 20 Rule which states that 5% or less is low, while 20% or more is high. The % DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. You may need more or less in a day, but the % DV is a helpful guide for most people in general.
The Nutrition Facts Label is a great tool to help you limit your intake of fat, sodium, sugars, and cholesterol. It can also be used to find products that are rich in nutrients needed for good health. Choose products with higher Percent Daily Values for nutrients you need, such as vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, fiber, and iron.
To help reduce your risk of heart disease, look to the label to choose foods that are lowest in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Trans fat increases your risk of heart disease so choose products that contain as little of it as possible. Replace saturated and trans fats with more heart healthful fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Limiting sodium can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
The Nutrition Facts Label is a tool available to help us make healthful choices related to foods. You can use it along with the ingredient list to make comparisons. Using the Nutrition Facts Label can help you get the most nutrition for your calories. The next time you pick up a food package check out the label to see what you are getting.