Decoding Nutrition Labels
No on requires a degree in nutrition to decode the nutrition facts panel. Here’s what you need to know to read the nutrition labels the next time you’re out grocery shopping.
A typical nutrition facts label has 5 parts:
Serving size and servings per container
The top of the label always provides information on the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container or packet. One packet may contain more than one serving. So if you eat 2 servings, multiply the calories and nutrients by 2; when you eat only ½ a serving then the calories and nutrients are halved.
When you’re comparing the labels between brands, make sure you take into consideration the serving size.
This section of the label provides the total calories and the calories from fat, per serving of the food. Calories tell you how much energy you get from eating a serving of that food item. The next section lists the nutrients.
Nutrients to limit
Consuming high amounts of fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.
Nutrients to Cache
Dietary fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins are nutrients that you need every day. For example, calcium keeps the bones and teeth strong and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, fiber ensures good bowel movement and protects us from colon cancer. So make sure you get enough of these nutrients to stay healthy and keep diseases at bay.
Quick guide to % Daily Value
The footnote of the label mentions the percent daily value (% DV). Daily values refer to the amount of each nutrient recommended for individuals to eat every day. There are 2 aspects to remember here:
a. If a nutrient has 5% of the daily value or less, then the food item is low in that nutrient.
b. If a nutrient has 20% or more of the daily value, then the food item is high in that nutrient.
When you’re comparing nutrients between brands, percent daily value makes your life easy. You can make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day.