A food label is supposed to provide you with useful information about the nutrition, additives and other content of a given food item. Yet most food labels appear to do the exact opposite.
Not knowing what a food label says or how to interpret the data it presents can leave you confused and a little hopeless about your grocery day choices.
How Do I Read A Food Label?
First things first. The nutrition information on a food label corresponds to a particular serving size, meaning any specified amounts of fat and sugar occur in each serving size. The serving size usually occurs at the very top of the label. Knowing this allows you to incorporate diverse foods into a restricted diet, say, if you're watching sugar intake or avoiding trans fat. And speaking of trans fat...
What Is Trans Fat?
Simply put, any partially hydrogenated oil is a trans fat. A labeling loophole allows food manufacturers to claim their product has zero trans fat so long as there is less than half a gram of trans fat per serving. You'll find partially hydrogenated oil listed among the ingredients, typically located at the bottom of the food label.
What About Vitamins And Minerals?
Food labels all follow a particular format with little variation. You'll find the serving size and servings per container at the very top and total calories next to the number of calories from fat per serving (remember the serving size).
Then, line by line, you'll see total fat content, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar, protein and lastly any vitamins and minerals present.
What Are Percentages Of Daily Values?
There is a percentage to the right of each line under Nutrition Facts. This percentage relates to the amounts of key nutrients the Food and Drug Administration recommends where a 2,000 calorie diet is the model.
For example, 15 grams of carbohydrates account for four percent of the daily value of a 2,000 calorie diet.
How Do I Know What Percentages Of Daily Values Are Good/Bad?
Generally, all of the things at the top of a food label are those you should try to get the least of. Food labels usually break down as such: fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Try to get more of those nutrients listed below, namely vitamins, minerals and fiber.
How Are Ingredients Organized On A Food Label?
Food producers list ingredients according to amounts, beginning with the most to the least. If sugar is the first ingredient, then the product is laden with sugar. Use this in conjunction with the Nutrition Facts to uncover any product's nutritional value.
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