Tips for Reading Food Labels

July 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm Leave a comment

Food labels may help you make healthy food choices, but they can be confusing. Here are some quick tips for reading food labels:

  • Check Serving Size and Calories: All the information on a food label is based on the serving size. Be careful — one serving may be much smaller than you think. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients, including the percent Daily Values (DVs).
  • Percent DV: This number tells you whether a food is high or low in nutrients. Foods that have more than 20 percent DV of a nutrient are high. Foods that have 5 percent DV or less are low.
  • Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is not healthy for your heart. Compare labels on similar foods and try to choose foods that have 5 percent DV or less for saturated fat. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of your total daily calories.
  • Trans Fat: Trans fat is not healthy for your heart either. When reading food labels, add together the grams of trans fat and saturated fat, and choose foods with the lowest combined amount.
  • Cholesterol: Keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible.
  • Sodium (Salt): Salt contains sodium and research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Fiber: Choose foods that are rich in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Sugar: Try to choose foods with little or no added sugar, such as low-sugar cereals.
  • Calcium: Choose foods that are high in calcium. Foods that are high in calcium have at least 20 percent DV.

TIP: Many food labels say “low-fat,” “reduced fat,” or “light.” These claims do not always mean the food is low in calories, however. Remember, fat-free does not mean calorie-free, and calories do count!

* For more information on reading food labels, visit: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/labelman

 Source: The Weight Control Information Network

Entry filed under: Managing your health, Nutrition.

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