Eating right can be challenging. One way to make healthy eating easier is to be a label reader. Label reading can be tricky; there is a lot to look at. On the front of a package, you will find the health claims that the company wants you to be the most aware of. However, for all of the nutrition information, you need to turn the package over and read the nutrition label.
When reading a label, start at the top. The first information you will see is the serving size. This may be the most important fact on the label, since the rest of the information is based off of this serving size. Servings per container will tell you how many servings you can expect from the total package.
Calorie, fat grams and carbohydrate grams are important to pay attention to. Saturated fat should be as low as possible. It is the saturated fat in foods that can raise your cholesterol, not the cholesterol in foods. Try to get at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, which not only helps decrease your cholesterol, but helps decrease your risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and certain cancers. Each person has a different nutrient needs for the day, so it is best to meet with a registered dietitian to find out your daily allowances. An easy way to know if you are eating too much of one nutrient or not enough of another is to use the Daily Value.
The Daily Values are the recommended intake of nutrients based on a 2000 calorie diet. Any percentage that is 20% or more means that it is a significant source of that nutrient. So, if you were looking at fiber, 20% or more is a good thing, but if you were looking at sodium, 20% or more is not so good. Any nutrient that is 5% or less, means that it is not a significant source of that nutrient. We want to see less than 5% in fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.
There is a lot more information that you can get off a food label. The above information will get you started. To learn more, call to schedule an appointment with me in the Syracuse CNY Healing Arts Center.
Heather Neely, RD, CDN
CNY Healing Arts Center