Reading Nutrition Labels with Health in Mind
Fig. 1. FDA New Nutrition Label
Nutrition is important to consider because the food you put in your body is a huge contributor to your overall health. Nutrition labels are meant to help you understand what you’re consuming, but with all the information included on one label, it becomes confusing to determine what’s most important to consider when looking at the label. Of course, the entire label is useful, but on a quick grocery trip, here are some things you can consider.
For calories, it is important to remember that there is a 2,000 calorie limit. When shopping for food, it is important to look at the calories depending on your needs. If you are not getting enough to eat everyday, you may want to look at higher calorie foods, and if you find yourself over-eating, looking at foods with lower calorie values may help in decreasing your caloric intake with 40 calories being a low calorie amount, 100 being a moderate calorie amount, and 400 or more being a high calorie amount food item.
Total fat, sodium, and cholesterol are nutrients that should be limited. When looking at the nutritional label, there is a “% Daily Value” section that shows what percent of each category you are getting from a serving of the food item. For a quick rule of thumb, a low % daily value is less than 5%, 10% being a higher source, and 20% or more being the highest % daily value. Since total fat, sodium, and cholesterol are nutrients that you want to consume less of, consider opting for foods that have lower % daily values. Remember, for canned food items, there are often products labeled “low sodium” that you can choose over the higher sodium items.
3. Added Sugars, Total Fat, and Cholesterol
Added sugars and cholesterol are also something to be cautious of, so it is important to look at % daily values for these as well.
For total fat, it is important to look at trans fat and saturated fat values. These fats are the fats that you can consider limiting.
Why should you care?
These features of nutrition labels should be kept in the back of your mind when shopping because many of these nutrients are contributors to a majority of the most prevalent chronic diseases today, including hypertension, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and more. Through mindfully grocery shopping, you can begin to prevent chronic disease in yourself and your family or slow progression of chronic disease.
FDA. “New Nutrition Label.” Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. https://www.fda.gov/food/ food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label.