Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nutrition Labels 101

A lot of hoopla is put on the use of nutrition labels, but the prevailing fact is that most people don’t know how to use the information on these labels. We're going to talk about the basics today.

What’s on a nutrition label?

    1. Serving Sizes
    2. Calories
    3. Nutrients
    4. Footnote
    5. % Daily Values
Where to begin?

  1. Start at the top and begin with the serving size. Far too many people overlook the serving size and assume that whatever amount they eat or drink contains the nutritional value listed on the label. For example: sodas such as Coca Cola or Mountain Dew that come in 20 oz bottles can be misleading.

One would expect that a bottle would be 1 serving. Not so – the recommended serving size on the label is 8 fluid ounces making one bottle equal to 2.5 servings. A consumer gets more than two times the calories, sodium, and sugar listed on the label. Luckily for consumers these labels have been recently been updated to be more accurate by including both the recommended serving values and the total bottle values as most consumers are more likely to consume the entire bottle.

  • Take into consideration your serving size. Also notice how many servings are in a container. 

And continuing down the label….

  1. Check out the calories. Calories are a measure of how much energy a serving of food provides. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Americans get more calories than they need without meeting the goals for nutrients they do need. Generally speaking:
·         40 calories is low

·         100 calories is moderate

·         400 calories or more is high

Watching calories can help in weight goals whether someone is looking to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain their weight.

  • According to the FDA, eating too many calories per day is linked to obesity. 
The nutrients: What should you cut back on and what should you increase?

  1. Beneath calories is a list of nutrients that the item contains. Focus on Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium first. These are nutrients that people for the most part get way too much of. These should be limited, but not eliminated. In moderation they do contribute to the body’s overall health.
  2. Next focus on dietary fiber, vitamins such as A,B,C, etc, calcium, and iron. These are the nutrients that Americans just don’t get enough of. Eating enough of these nutrients contribute to overall health and can help prevent some diseases.

What about the footnote?

  1. While the nutrients, calories, and serving sizes will vary from label to label, the footnote will not. It contains information on the recommended daily amounts of nutrients for everyone.

%Daily Values – What’s the deal?

  1. An entire blog post or even a book could be written about the specifics of how the %Daily Values are calculated and how they relate to diet. For most consumer purposes, consider two thoughts:

1.      Any nutrient less than 5% Daily value is low

2.      Any nutrient greater than 20% is high

For nutrients that someone wants to limit, low is good. For nutrients one wants to increase, high is good.

The Food and Drug Administration has some pretty interesting information that goes more in depth here.

Source: Food and Drug Administration

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