Reading a Nutrition Facts Label

Hello again ladies!

Promise this is the only time out of this whole intervention that I will be posting twice in one day.

Now that we have gone over all the background information we needed to understand how the study works we can start with the week 1 curriculum!

So without further ado,

Let’s begin with reading a nutrition facts label…

Have you ever looked at a nutrition label and felt somewhat confused?  Let’s admit it…nutrition labels are not pretty and can feel technical when reading them.  However, knowing what nutrients you are putting into your body gives you the power of knowledge.  No more will you be tricked into thinking a food item is healthy due to its ~fancy~ packaging because you will be able to identify what it truly is composed of.

Let’s look at this example from the FDA (the nutrition labels look a little different now, but all the basics that we will cover today are still important to understand for the current nutrition labels):

 

nutrition label

(FDA-Nutrition Label)

#1-Serving Size1

serving size

When it comes to nutrition labels serving sizes are provided in units such as cups or pieces. These “familiar” units are followed by a metric unit such as the number of grams.  Make sure to pay attention to the serving sizes and the number of servings in a package because caloric content and all the other nutrition information on the label is referring to one individual serving.  In the sample label pictured above, we can see that one serving is equal to 1 cup of macaroni and cheese, however, the package contains 2 servings.  Therefore, if a person ate the entire package they would be consuming double the calories and other nutrients listed on the label.

example of double servings

#2-Calories1

calories

From the sample label, we can see that the macaroni and cheese contains 250 calories per serving.  Calories from fat have been taken out from the new nutrition labels.

But what are calories? Calories are simply a measurement of how much energy a food product contains.  In the US most people consume more daily energy (calories) than their bodies needs and as a result weight gain occurs.  Being aware of your daily caloric needs and daily caloric consumption can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Daily caloric needs are very individual to each person and vary on things such as age, gender, and physical activity levels.

If you are interested to know what your daily caloric needs are you can follow this  helpful link(note this tool does not provide exact numbers, but estimates of your daily needs, for precise numbers you should contact your healthcare provider):

American Diabetes Association.  How many calories do I need?. May 2015.  Internet: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/weight-loss/food-choices/how-many-calories-do-i-need.html (accessed 26 June 2017)

3 & 4 – Nutrients1

#3- Those to limit

those to limit

The nutrients listed in this section (saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium) are generally those that most Americans consume adequately or even excessively.  Consuming more than the recommended amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium is linked to an increased risk for heart disease, certain types cancers, and high blood pressure.  Health experts recommend keeping the consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol as minimal as possible.

Rich sources of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol mainly come from animal foods and include foods such as butter, shortening, or beef fat3.

According to the CDC, in the US 77% of sodium consumption comes from processed foods (like canned goods) and restaurant food vs. 5% comes from home prepared meals4.

For additional information on what processed food are  follow this helpful link5:

Michigan State University Extension.  What is a processed food? November 2014.  Internet: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/what_is_a_processed_food (accessed 26 June 2017).

#4-Those to increase1

those to increase

Most Americans do not consume their daily needs for dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.  Adequately consuming these nutrients can help improve health and reduce the risk of diseases like osteoporosis (calcium), heart disease (fiber), and improve bowel functions (fiber). Vitamin A and Vitamin C percentages are no longer required on the new nutrition labels. However, potassium has been added to the list of nutrients required to be on the nutrition fact label.

Rich sources of Vitamin A include fish, fortified cereals, carrots, broccoli, and cantaloupe6.

Rich sources of Vitamin C include fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries7.

Rich sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, and broccoli8

Rich sources of iron include lean meats and seafood, nuts, beans, vegetables (like tomatoes and potato skin) and fortified grain products9.

#5-Footnote1

footnote

The * used after the heading % DV (daily values) refers to the footnote in the lower part of the label.  This footnote informs you that this % DV are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The % DV represents a percentage (from 0-100%) of a specific nutrient in a specific food product based on a 2,000 calorie diet.  They are there to help you see if a food product contains either a high or low amounts of a particular nutrient. DVs are the recommendations of how many grams or milligrams of a specific nutrient you should consume daily, again based on a 2,000 calorie diet. For example, the recommended DV for saturated fat is to eat less than 20g per day. If you were to eat one portion of the macaroni and cheese example you would consume 3g of the total 25g or 15% of the 100% recommended for one day.  For the new food labels, the footnote is changing to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice”.

DVSthose to limit

For the nutrients in the “eat less than” section it is recommended that you stay below the 100% DV each day.  For example, the DV for saturated fat is 20g which is equal to 100% of the DV for this nutrient.  Therefore, you should ideally consume less than 20g or 100% of saturated fat per day.  Again, if you were to eat one serving size of macaroni and cheese you would be consuming 3g or 15% DV.  Therefore, for the rest of the day, you should consume NO MORE THAN 62g or 75% of saturated fat.

those to increase

For the nutrients in the “eat at least” section, it is recommended that you minimally consume 100% of the DV each day.  Referring back to the macaroni and cheese and example, if you ate one serving you would be getting none of your dietary fiber, therefore you still have to meet 100% of this nutrient with other foods throughout the day.

A helpful guide to identify if a food product is high or low in a particular nutrient is to think about %DV in this way:

  • 5% DV or less is low
  • 20% or more is high

I know this seems like a lot to take in! But the more you practice reading nutrition labels the easier it will become and the more power you will have over not being influenced by deceitful marketing and for selecting truly healthy products for you and your family.

Happy reading! 📖

P.S. If you are interested in the changes that have been made to the new Food Labels please feel free to text me or email me and I will post on the Facebook page what the new Food Labels look like and a little summary of some of the changes that have been made.

References

  1. S. Food & Drug Administration. How to understand and use the nutrition facts label. February 2017.  Internet: https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm ( accessed 23 June 2017).
  2. American Diabetes Association. How many calories do I need?.  May 2015.  Internet: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/weight-loss/food-choices/how-many-calories-do-i-need.html (accessed 26 June 2017)
  3. Choose MyPlate. How are oils different from solid Fats? October 2016. Internet: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/oils-fats (accessed 23 June 2017).
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sodium and food sources. March 2017. Internet: https:// https://www.cdc.gov/salt/food.htm (accessed 23 June 2017).
  5. Michigan State University Extension. What is a processed food? November 2014.  Internet: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/what_is_a_processed_food (accessed 26 June 2017).
  6. National Institute of Health. Vitamin A. August 2016. Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#h3 (accessed 23 June 2017).
  7. National Institute of Health. Vitamin C. February 2016. Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/#h4 (accessed 23 June 2017).
  8. National Institute of Health. Calcium. November 2016. Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#h3 (accessed 23 June 2017)
  9. National Institute of Health. Iron. February 2016. Internet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h3 (accessed 23 June 2017)
  10. Header: Fitness. 9 Nutrition Label Mistakes Most of us make. Internet: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/nutrition/nutrition-label/ (accessed 12 July 2017).

2 thoughts on “Reading a Nutrition Facts Label

  1. Hey Fabi! Great post. The link to the American Diabetes Assoc. website to find out how many calories you need per day did not work. Do you happen to have another one?

    Like

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