Part of living a healthy lifestyle is being aware of what you’re putting in your body. Do you know how to read Nutritional Facts correctly? By properly reading labels you can avoid extra calories, unwanted fat, sodium and cholesterol.
In this article, we continue on the importance of understanding food labels. To catch up on this thread, check out Food Labels: Part One in case you’re behind, and come right back. We’ll give you a minute.
Good? Ok, let’s move on!
How much am I eating?
The first line of information in your Nutrition Facts is “Serving Size”. The serving size is measured in standardized sizes, like cups or pieces (the metric amount is listed in parenthesis). It’s very important to pay attention to the serving size, because your definition of a portion can be very different than the products definition. Let’s use crackers for an example. Some products list 15 crackers as a serving size, while others only count 8.
Below the serving size is the “Servings Per Container”. Often times people can over look this line, so be weary. For example, a can of soup has one cup per serving, but has two servings per container. So remember to count your calories accordingly. On a plus note, I use this line to help figure out how many people I can feed per container.
What is this food doing to and for my body?
When reading the information provided from calories through protein, it’s important to remember that the amount listed is per serving size (not container size). As you read this section you’ll notice that off on the right side you have a percentage figure.
These are percentages of Daily Values based on an average 2,000 calorie a day diet. Your own personal calorie needs may be higher or lower, so it’s important to know how many calories a day you should be consuming.
Calories provide a measure of how much energy you’ll get from a serving. If you’re watching your waist line, then you’ll want to especially watch the “Calories from Fat” amount.
Total Fat tells you exactly how much fat your food contains. You’ll notice this category is broken down further into Monounsaturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Saturated Fat, and Trans Fat. This is important to look at because not all fat is bad.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fat (found in avocados, walnuts, and salmon) can help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Saturated and Trans Fats are the nasty bad fats.
The next two lines are Cholesterol and Sodium. You’ll want to make sure you have low counts in both of these categories.
Total Carbohydrates tells us how many carbs are in our foods. Your carbs are broken down into Dietary Fiber, Sugars, and Sugar Alcohols. Remember that not all carbs are bad for you.
Dietary Fiber is a must and the more you eat the better (it makes you feel fuller longer, and help clean out your intestines). The amount of sugar being added to our food is reaching a scary high level, so be sure to monitor this amount.
Sugar Alcohol doesn’t impact your glycemic index the same as sugar (Splenda is an example of a sugar alcohol), so if you’re a diabetic you want to make sure you are getting your sugar count from here.
Then there is Protein. The more protein you eat, the happier your body will be.
Lastly, you’ll find the percentages of the vitamins and minerals. Most people aren’t getting enough of their daily required nutrients, so try and enjoy foods with higher % in this category.