Saturday, August 18, 2012

Learn to Read Labels- A to Z Weight-Loss Tips for Long-Term Success - Tip L

Learn to Read Labels! 

 Know what you are eating and how many calories you are consuming. This is critical for weight loss and eating healthfully. Let's take a quick look at the Nutrition Facts labels. 

Start here:

Serving Size:      The nutrition label always lists a serving size, which is a standard amount of food, such as 1 cup of mac 'n' cheese, 6 crackers, or 3 cookies.  The rest of the nutrition facts label tells you how much of each listed nutrient is in that serving size of food.


Servings per Container or Package: The label also tells you how many servings are contained in that package of food. If there are 2 servings in a box of mac 'n' cheese and each serving is 1 cup, then eating the whole box would mean you ate 2 cups. You would then have to multiply all the listed nutrients by 2 in order to know the amount of Calories, grams of fat, grams of carbs, and other nutrients you just ate. Math is necessary when learning to read and use food labels. 

 Check calories:

In the label above, a serving size is one cup which has 250 Calories. Therefore, if you eat only 1 cup, you will consume 250 Calories. However, if you eat the entire container (2 servings per container), you will consume 500 Calories. Keep this in mind, especially if you drink those large flavored drinks like Sobe, Arizona Ice tea, Gatorade, 20 oz sodas, etc. These large containers generally have more than one serving per container. If you drink the entire bottle, you need to multiply the Calories listed on the label by the number of servings in the bottle. You can see the calories really add up quickly! Pay attention to the Calories per serving and the number of servings you are eating or drinking.  


%DV (%Daily Value): 

This is probably the most confusing part of the Nutrition Facts Label, and I am not a big fan of this. I am hoping they change this in the next revision. It is based on someone eating 2000 Calories per day, but many people need to eat less and some, such as athletes, need to eat much more than 2000 Calories. Nevertheless, here's a quick guide if you want to use these.

  • If the %DV is 20% or higher for a certain nutrient, the food item is considered a HIGH source of that nutrient. Example above: the amount of SODIUM is labeled as 20%, therefore one serving of this food item is a HIGH source of sodium.

  • If the %DV is 5% or lower for a certain nutrient, the food item is considered a LOW source of that nutrient. Example above: the amount of IRON is labeled as 4%, therefore one serving of this food item is a LOW source of iron.



    Total fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, and sodium are nutrients that many people need to limit in their diets. Looking at the example above, this food item is too high in Sodium (%DV of 20%), a nutrient that we need to limit. Someone who is limiting sodium in their diet should steer clear of this food item.


    Fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, and Vitamins A  and C are nutrients many Americans do not get enough of, so they are emphasized on the Nutrition Facts Label.  Looking at the example above, this food item is too low in iron (%DV of 4%), a nutrient that we need to be sure to consume in adequate amounts. Someone who is looking to increase iron intake should seek out a better source of iron.

    If you would like more detailed information, please click the link below to the FDA website. 

    How to Understand and Use Nutrition Facts Labels


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