Reading those food labels can look a little overwhelming when trying to decide what to buy. Do you know what ingredients you should be looking for or how much you need? Understanding all that information on a food label can be quite confusing.
Selecting healthy foods are important. Good nutrition depends upon planning healthy menus which requires reading and understanding the food labels. Food labels can give guidance to choosing calorie conscious menu ideas. So with all that information, how do you know what to buy?
It’s a little disappointing when you are sitting there, enjoying that chocolate chip cookie and you just happen to pick up the package and find that little cookie contains over 200 calories and that a serving is just one cookie.
Even if you don’t want to know what’s in your food, the facts cannot be ignored forever. Most people are grateful for any information they can get about their foods because they really do want to eat healthier foods.
Before food labels became mandatory, people mainly focused on the vitamins that are in foods. Now, consumers are more worried about the damage we are doing to our bodies with the foods we eat and the multitude of diseases we are thrusting upon ourselves because of either our ignorance or the way we ignore what the food labels are all telling us.
Food labels use the Recommended Daily Value as the standard guide for intake of calories, usually 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. The percentage of daily value is listed on the label for each nutrient and shows how much of that nutrient is contained in a serving of the food in the container. For example a Daily Value (%DV) of 13% of dietary fiber means that the food you are looking at provides 13% of your dietary fiber allowance for the whole day.
The same works with fat content or calorie content. You can tell by reading the label if a food contains calories from fat after fat calories or if it contains trans or saturated fats, if it does, you may want to avoid that particular food item.
Be careful when you are reading labels that you pay attention and understand what are the recommended serving sizes, what the government says is a serving may not necessarily be what you would consider a serving. If you plan to eat more than ½ cup of that food and the serving size on the food label is only ½ cup, then you will have to factor in the additional amounts of the fats, calories or sodium, etc. before purchasing.
When a food says “diet” or “lite” on the label, that doesn’t necessarily mean it contains fewer calories or fat. This is another great time to stop and read the label.
Another thing you want to be aware of when reading food labels is that the closer to the top of the ingredients list an item is, the more of it is in the food. For instance, if a label lists ingredients in this order: (water, oil, sugar, flour, salt, apples, cinnamon), you will then know that this particular food contains more water than any of the other ingredients because it is listed first.