What is a nutrition label? In December 2005, major food companies introduced a new nutrition label on all their food packages. The most common part of the new nutrition label happens to be the Nutritional Facts Table. How to read nutrition labels and knowing exactly what they mean.
The table offers information such as the Trans-fat, Sodium, fat, cholesterol, saturated fat, protein, fibre, carbohydrate, sugars, iron, Vitamin A, Calcium and Vitamin C. How do you read a nutrition label? And what is the meaning of the words that we always see on nutrition labels? Here is all the information.
Understanding Nutrition Labels – 5 Simple Steps You Need To Know:
- Step 1: Check the Serving Size
One of the primary tip when looking to learn how to read nutrition labels is Check the serving size on the particular package and compare the same to the amount that you would wish to eat. If you find out that you eat the serving size specified on the ‘Nutrition Facts Table’, you will obviously get the amount of nutrients and calories that are listed.
- Step 2: Look at the Calories
Calories will tell you the amount of energy obtained from a single serving of a particular packaged food.
- Step 3: Check the per cent Daily Value (% Daily Value)
Percent daily value is an important fact when looking to learn how to read nutrition labels. The per cent daily value puts the nutrients on a scale of 0% to 100%. The scale informs you if there is a lot or a little of nutrient in a serving of packaged food. You should use the percentage to compare the nutrient content in varying foods.
What then is little or more?
- Little means a DV of 5% or less
- A lot means a DV of 15% or more
- Step 4: Try to get more of these Nutrients
You should look for more of Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin C and Calcium. These nutrients are beneficial to the body are it would be better if you obtained more of the same.
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- Step 5: Try to Obtain Less of these Nutrients
Some nutrients are not good for our bodies, especially when in large quantities. Such nutrients include Sodium, Saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat and fats.
Use Nutrition Facts to:
- Compare products at ease
- Know the nutrition value of foods
- Manage special diets like those with low sodium
- Decrease or increase intake of a particular nutrient such as saturated fat or fibre.
Step 1: The Serving Size: Information on both packages are about one burger.
Step 2: Calories: Each burger contains 350 calories, while each chicken burger had 210 calories.
Step 3: Check the % Daily Value: Scan your numbers and compare to see which burger is lower or higher with a specific nutrient.
Step 4: The nutrients you want to get more: At around 30%, beef burger has lots of iron
Step 5: The nutrients you want les of: The saturated fat and fat content are higher in a beef burger. Despite that, chicken burger contains over two times the amount of sodium present in the beef burger.
The Bottom Line
If you intend to get an iron rich food, then you better choose the beef burger. However, should you be looking for a low-fat option that is high in sodium, then the chicken burger is your best bet.
What about the Nutrition Claims?
Nutrition claims provide information on the amount of a nutrient in food such as fat or fibre. Despite the fact that nutritional claims are optional, they have to meet government regulations before they appear on a particular package.
Examples of Common Claims:
1. ‘Source of Fibre’
‘Source of Fibre’ means that the food has at least 2 grams of fibre I the food amount specified in that ‘Nutrition Facts Table.’ ‘High Source Fibre’ means that at least 5 grams of fibre are present, while ‘Very high source of fibre’ means that atleast 7 grams of fibre are present.
2. ‘Low Fat’
‘Low Fat’ means that the specific food contains less than 3 grams of fat in the specific amount of food specified in that ‘Nutritional Facts Table.’
3. ‘Cholesterol Free’
The term ‘Cholesterol Free’ means that a product has very minimal amounts of cholesterol, below 2 mg of cholesterol in the food amount specified in that ‘Nutrition Facts Table.’ The claim also means that the product is low in both trans fats and saturated fats.
The claim ‘Sodium Free’ means that the food amount specified in the ‘Nutrition Facts Table’ has below 5 mg of sodium.
5. Reduced in Calories
Any food item marked as ‘Reduced in Calories’ means that it contains at least 25% less calories (energy) than the food which its being compared to. In a majority of the times, comparison is with the regular version of the same food.
The terminology ‘Light’ is only allowed in foods that are ‘Reduced in Calories’ (Energy) or ‘Reduced in Fat’. ‘Light’ is also used to describe the ‘sensory characteristics of a food’ like light coloured or light tasting.
The Unknown Facts about Nutrition Labels
- ‘Sugar Free’ is not always the Best
Sometimes, ‘Sugar Free’ is just a marketing claim. This could mean ‘refined sugar free’, which means that the food could still be having natural sweeteners like molasses, dates or honey, or worse still, syrups.
- If You Can’t Read It, Why Eat It?
If a specific ingredient sounds complex, or sounds like a vocabulary from a chemistry class, the best bet is that it has been added as a food preservative or sweetener.
- Calories are not the Only Measure of Nutrition
Sounds strange? Yes, calories matter in the loss of weight, but they are not the ‘end all be all.’ If you select calorically dense-foods keep you full for longer, you save yourself from mid-day binges. The amount of calories you should eat will differ on product and diet, but remember there are some ‘rules of the thumb’: snacks should be between 130 to 250 calories while meals should be between 300 to 600 calories.
- Some Fats are Friendly
Fats are important to our diets and not all fats should be eaten with caution. Although saturated fats have not been proved to cause heart diseases, fats still have the ability to change cholesterol levels and cause inflammation. Polyunsaturated fats are regarded as good, but there are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3s(healthy) and omega-6s (unhealthy)
As you can see how to read nutrition labels shouldn’t be difficult if follow the above tips. Remember knowing how to read food labels can help you reach your goal especially when looking to have a great diet.