What is that label on the back of food products and what is it telling you? How can you utilize this information and better understand it?
The nutrition label is placed on the back of food to give you an overview of the product that you are about to consume and what it contains. In recent years the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made some changes to the nutrition label to make it easier for consumers to read.
1. Serving size- Packages are now labeled for servings Americans actually consume and individually packaged items will be labeled as one serving instead of two.
2. Font- The font size of the calories in the serving which has now been increased to be easier to
spot on the label.
3. Fat- Previously it showed total calories from fat. This has now been removed as the focus has
shifted to the types of fat consumed in the diet.
4. Added sugars- Added sugars have recently been added to the nutrition label to show the
difference between the natural sugars that are in the product versus what has been added to
5. Essential nutrients-Essential nutrients have also been updated to include Vitamin D and Calcium as well as their percent daily value (shown as %DV on the label).
It is best to read the nutrition label from top to bottom. Starting at the top the nutrition label typically
consists of information such as serving size, how many servings are in that particular container and
calories per serving. Looking at this first, you can determine how many servings and calories you will
consume based on the amount from that package you eat.
The next section of the nutrition label includes sections for total fat, cholesterol, sodium, total
carbohydrates and protein. Total fat gets broken down into different types of fat such as saturated fat
and trans fat. These two types of fat you should try to limit in your diet along with high amounts of
cholesterol and sodium as they can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and even
some cancers. Total carbohydrate gets broken down into dietary fiber, sugar and added sugar. It is also recommended to avoid high amounts of sugar in your diet.
All of these sections typically are listed in grams and then there is a number followed by %. The %
number represents its daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This same layout follows the remainder of the nutrition label.
In the next section of a nutrition label it would break down items such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and even Iron. This also shows the %DV for each of these items.
Here are some additional tips when reading a nutrition label:
Remember that the nutrition label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high.
Make sure to get enough potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C, and D, calcium and iron in your diet.
400 calories or more per serving is considered high.