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Reading Food LabelsFood labels contain all kinds of information that can help you make smarter food choices. By reading the information, you will be able to choose foods that provide you with adequate nutrients like fiber, calcium, and protein. You are also able to avoid foods that are high in fats, calories, and sodium. The food label is broken down into several components. These elements provide information on the levels of nutrients, serving size, ingredient listing, and other factors associated with the food product.
The serving size tells you how large a serving of the food product is, how many servings are contained in the package, and the calorie amount per serving. Using this information and following it can help you keep your food portions under control.
- Total fat
The total fat of the food product is stated in grams and it also provides the percent daily value (DV) on the food label. It is then broken down into the types of fats the food product contains.
- Saturated fat – “Bad fats”, such as animal fats
- Trans fat – “Bad fats”, from hydrogenated oils
- Unsaturated fat – “Good fat”
The amount of carbohydrates, listed on the label in grams and percent DV, that you eat is an important part of your diet. Carbohydrates should come from whole grains breads, whole wheat pastas, and brown rice, rather than sugary or starchy foods.
- Dietary fiber
The amount of fiber in the food product is listed in grams and percent DV on the food label. A diet high in fiber is important in preventing digestive problems. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The cholesterol of the food product is listed in mg, as well as the percent DV. The lower the number is, the better.
The sodium amount is also listed in mg and percent DV. Look for foods with less than 140 mg of sodium, or that are labeled “low in sodium”.
The protein amount is listed in grams and percent DV. Protein comes from meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and beans.
- Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins and minerals are listed on the label by name and by percent DV. This can include calcium, vitamin C, Iron, vitamin A, and others.
The ingredients of the food product are listed on the bottom of the food label. It is useful if you or a family member has food allergies, and for finding hidden ingredients that are high in sugar or trans fats. The ingredients are listed on the label in order of amount in the food product.