NUTRITION LABELS 101
Posted on July 1, 2015
Nutrition labels are on just about every food item except for meats. Look to the label for important information in these categories:
Manufacturers refer to the serving size that they analyzed, not how much you should eat. Sometimes you think that you’re eating one serving, but the manufacturer may have analyzed four, five or ten servings. Use common sense on serving size.
Amount of Calories
If you see a serving size that has, say, 200, 300, or 500 calories, and you are just having a little snack, that’s your first clue that it’s not a great food.
There are three places to look.
- Percent of calories from fat. This value is listed near the top of the nutrition label. The American Heart Association recommends that you choose foods that have 30% fat calories or less for one serving.
- Total Fat. You want that number to be as low as possible.
- Saturated Fat. This is the type of fat that can raise your cholesterol. You want that number to be as close to zero as possible. Trans Fatty Acids are also listed in this section. Trans Fatty Acids can also raise your cholesterol. Also in this section, you may see a listing for mono-unsaturated fat. This is the heart healthy type of fat. You want to choose a food that has more monounsaturated fat than the other types of fat.
Most people could get by on 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day. If you eat mostly fresh food and less processed food, you’re easily doing that. If you buy everything processed, you’re well above the limit and that can affect your blood pressure.
If you have high triglycerides, or “free fats,” that is caused by excess sugar and carbohydrate. Sugar intake isn’t just table sugar. There are many different kinds of sugars that are carbohydrates.
Fiber has no calories. We don’t absorb it. If you need to lose weight, keep your blood sugar down or lower your cholesterol, fiber is your best friend. It also decreases your risk for cancer, eliminates constipation, and reduces hemorrhoids. The more fiber the better!
Ingredients are listed from most to least on the nutrition label. You want the healthy stuff listed as the first couple of ingredients and the not so healthy stuff listed at the bottom of the ingredient list.