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How to Read Nutrition Labels

Feb 6, 2012

Reading nutrition labels can be a trickier task than one might think. I am sure we all know that a nutrition fact label is the information on the ingredients that are put into the food, and that those labels are required by Food and Drug Administration. But, did you know that the calories listed on that box of crackers are not the calories for the whole box, but for one serving size of probably 12 crackers? I am going to break down the nutrition label in this blog and share some secrets, that are a need to know about the labels that are put on the front of packages.

Let's start at the top of the nutrition label, where it shows serving size. This shows the servings per container and helps to calculate calories and nutrients in the entire package. According to Mayoclinic.com, it is important to keep in mind that you must check the serving size against how much you actually eat. If one serving equals 16 chips and you eat 32 chips, that doubles your calories, fats and other nutrient intake. Just like the serving size, the calories listed are just the calories for ONE serving, NOT for the entire contents. Moving on down the the label, we come to the list of nutrients. All food labels have to list at least the total fats, saturated fats, trans. fat, cholesterol, sodium, dietary fiber, total carbs, sugars, proteins, vitamins A and C, calcium and the iron that are in one serving size. The unhealthy nutrients are total fats, sat and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugars. Look for items that have little to none of these unhealthy nutrients. At the very bottom of the label, you will notice the percent daily value listed. This is based off of a 2,000 calorie diet. This number is just a general reference number for consumers. Calorie and nutrient intake varies for each person depending on your needs. Underneath the label, is where the ingredient list is placed. The ingredients are always listed in order from greatest amount to least amount. So, if sugar appears before fruit in the ingredient list for fruit juice, then this product is filled with more sugar than fruit and should be left on the shelf! A good tip to remember when food shopping, is that if there is a long list of ingredients that can not be pronounced, do not buy it. All that long, hard to read list means, is that that particular item of food is highly processed and filled with unnecessary chemicals. Now that we have covered the back of the box, let's move to the front of the box. Webmd.com, wants consumers to be aware that the manufacturers of the food items you are buying, are allowed to put whatever labels they want to on the front of packages. DO NOT believe the front label on a box, only the nutrition label will give you the truth about the product. Here are some red flags to be aware of: Fortified, enriched, added, fruit juice and natural. If the product does not say 100%, then you can trust that it will be filled with chemicals and lack any true beneficial nutrients. So, next time you read a nutrition label, do not let the manufacturers trick you into buying their unhealthy products!

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