A Quick and Easy Guide to Label Reading

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October 27, 2020

Quick Tips:

·  Check out what percentage of calories comes from fat. If it’s more than 35%, it’s too high. Less than a third is good.

·  Look at ingredients, which are listed in order of quantity from most to least. If sugar is in the top three, it’s a sugary, caloric food.

·  What kind of fat is used? Aim for more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and low amounts of saturated and trans fats. Trans fats will be listed under fat. Hydrogenated oils are code words for trans fat, so check out the ingredients list and limit products with hydrogenated fats.

·  Check out the amount of sodium. If a food has more than 300 milligrams per serving, it’s high. Daily consumption should be less than 2,300 milligrams (and ideally closer to 1500-2000mg).

·  Look at fiber (listed under the total carbohydrate section of the label). Many people look at grams of sugar, but that includes natural sugars (an apple has 15 grams of sugar). It’s smarter to look at the fiber. If it has a lot of added sugar, most likely, it won’t have a lot of fiber.

The Full Breakdown:

Serving Size and Servings Per Container: The amount determined by the food manufacturer to be a normal serving size; all nutritional information is based on that amount. Most food packages contain more than one serving, so be aware!

Calories: The amount of energy provided by a food. Quick calorie per serving guide: 40 calories is low, 100 calories is moderate, 400 calories or more is high.

Calories from Fat: How many of those calories come from fat.  Aim for no more than 30-35% of your daily calories to be from fat.

Percent Daily Values: What percent of each recommended daily nutrient a serving contains (based on 2,000 calories a day). Optimum daily totals should add up to 100%.

Total Fat: Amount of overall fat per serving. Keep your total fat intake between 20-35% of your calories.

Saturated Fat and Trans Fat: The amount of “bad” fats. Less than 10% of total calories should come from saturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats (Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated): “Better” fats – vegetable oils, nuts, and fish.

Cholesterol: The liver manufactures cholesterol; foods add more. Too much increases the risk of heart attack and stroke from atherosclerosis. Keep daily intake of cholesterol under 300 mg.

Sodium: Salt – which can increase blood pressure. Look for foods that have less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Keep total daily intake of sodium under 2,300 mg.

Total Carbohydrate: The total of dietary fiber, sugar and other carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should make up approximately 50% of your total diet.

Dietary Fiber: Calorie-free fiber or roughage that helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. Foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving are considered good sources. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber per day.

Sugars: Added sugar provides empty calories (as opposed to natural sugars in fruit and vegetables). Limit foods with more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

Protein: The building material for muscles, skin and the immune system; used for energy once fats and carbohydrates are depleted.

Vitamin A and Vitamin C: Vitamin A is necessary for healthy vision and gene transmission. Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant; needed for synthesis of collagen (structural component of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone).

Calcium and Iron: Calcium builds strong bones and teeth and is needed for blood vessel constriction and relaxation, nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and the secretion of hormones. Iron transports oxygen in the blood.

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