Read Label: Make smart food choices

When you are standing in the grocery store with open choices, in one hand a multi-seed crackers with a label “healthy” and in another hand whole wheat crackers. You may think, the eye catching term “healthy” is better than whole wheat crackers. But these healthy crackers might have more sugar listed under nutrition facts (nutrition information panel) than whole wheat cracker!

You should learn how to decipher nutrition labels to choose the best food! When shopping for bread, look for words like whole grain or 100% whole wheat.

FDA reading food labels

Label source: http://www.fda.gov/

  • The ingredients are listed in order from most to least. For example if the ingredients list shows unbleached wheat flour as the first ingredient and whole wheat flour as the third ingredient that indicates that the product has relatively little amount of whole wheat flour.

FDA reading food labels

Label source: http://www.fda.gov/

  • Serving size listed, is based on a single serving. The nutrition facts (nutrition information panel) will give you the size of a single serving and the total number of serving of the product as well. If you eat twice the serving size printed on the label, it means you double the calories, fat, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, cholesterol and sodium. Some labels use the term energy, for calories.
  • Total fat, Total carbohydrate and sodium
    • For a 2,000 calorie diet, limit your saturated fats to 11-13 g. High saturated fats with trans-fat will increase the cholesterol in the blood. The recommended dietary intake of cholesterol is no more than 300 mg / day. Choose the food with mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are considered for heart health benefits. Aim for 15 g of total fat /meal. Fat is a fat! All fats gives the same amount of calories. Eating lot of fats will increase calories intake that eventually leads to weight gain.
  • People think carbohydrate as stodgy! Carbs are our friends, for they are less energy dense than fat. Consuming more calories than we need is what makes us gain weight. Fibers found in whole grain foods keeps you feel full for longer and empties the stomach slowly. Should read the nutrition information panel to understand how much carbohydrate the food is composed of. That means total carbohydrates which includes sugar, complex carbohydrate and fibers. No sugar added doesn’t mean the product is calorie free. The product may still be higher in carbohydrates.  Look for food with Aim for 4-5 grams of fiber per serving (25 grams of fiber/day).
  • Look for foods that has less than 360 mg of sodium per serving. A single serving of soup may contain more than 1,000 mg sodium.

FDA percentage daily value

Label source: http://www.fda.gov/

  • % Daily value gives you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving based on daily recommended amount. Choose food with lower % value of saturated fats (for example 5% or less) and go for 20% or more for vitamins, proteins, calcium and iron.

Make use of the Nutrition Facts (Nutrition Information Panel) to compare similar products. The nutrient facts provide nutrient content per serve and per 100 g.  For example if you want to find bread or breakfast cereal with highest fiber content, use the 100 g column to compare the fiber  in the bread or cereal.

References

http://www.mayoclinic.org/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

http://www.fda.gov/

http://www.webmd.com/