The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Label
Selecting a product in the supermarket can be as confusing as doing your taxes. There is an abundance of products, new and old, on the grocery shelves. How do we as customers know what to select as the healthiest option. Each product touts its own bells and whistles… a prettier package, a claim of aiding with weight loss or muscle building. Other products claim to help with digestive health or heart health. How can a consumer not be confused as to which product is best for them and their family. Luckily, the FDA has provided you with something that provides all the vital information you need to make an educated decision. This information is contained in something called the Nutrition Facts Label. This label is required on all food products that are packaged. The information is calculated and accurate. With a little knowledge on how to use it, you can make an informed choice on what to buy at the grocery store.
A Nutrition Facts Label tells you a lot about a product in a quick and convenient manner. If you turn to the back of any product you will see a rectangular shaped area with a lot of words and numbers…this is the Nutrition Facts Label. So how do you begin to decipher what it means, what numbers are important, and how does that fit into a healthy diet. The first thing you want to look at is the number of servings per package. Often times we assume that the numbers indicate the nutritional value of the entire package and that is often not the case. Once you figure out how many servings are in a package, you will be able to provide yourself with an appropriate portion.
The next few bits of information you want to look for depend on what type of diet you are following. For example, if you are following a low carbohydrate diet, you should look at the total amount of carbohydrates per serving. A typical low carbohydrate portion should not exceed five grams of carbohydrate per serving, but you can also use that information to keep track of your total carbohydrate intake for the day. If you are looking to reach a certain amount of protein grams per day, that information is also provided on the label. It also tells you how many calories a serving consists of. This can be helpful if you are trying to stay below or above a certain amount of calories per day.
The government sets average daily values of each nutrient. This information is based on a 2000 calorie diet. The percentages you see to the right of the label indicate what percent of the recommended daily value the serving size of that product provides.
One last bit of information that you don’t want to overlook is the ingredient list. Don’t assume that just because a product claims to be “all natural” or “organic” that is a good choice. It is always important to read each and every ingredient that you are planning to put into your body. My best advice is: if you can’t read it or pronounce it, then it shouldn’t go into your body.
As you see, with the nutrition facts label, the ingredient list at your side, and a time and little knowledge, you have everything you need at your fingertips to make a smart and informed decision as a customer.