March is National Nutrition Month. What better way to celebrate it then by learning about how to read a food label. Have you ever wondered what the term “low fat” or “calorie free” actually means? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administers strict guidelines on how foods must be labelled. The food label may seem complicated when looking at it but once you understand what you are looking for and what you are reading, you will be on a track to picking out healthier foods.
Here are a few label terms that are important to know:
Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving size
Reduced: At least 20% or less of the specific nutrient or calories than the usual product would have
Calorie free: Less than 5 calories per serving
Fat free or sugar free: Less than a ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving
Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
High in: Provides 20% or more of the daily value in a specific nutrient per serving
On the actually nutrition label, you will see that on the top it says serving size. The serving size is the amount of food that the nutrition label is based on. For example if a cup of soup says a serving size is half a cup then the nutrients listed are based on half a cup. Underneath the serving size, it will list servings per container. This is how many servings are actually in a container. If you eat the whole container of the food product then you want to multiply all the nutrients/calories by the servings per container number to get the total intake.
Underneath the serving size and servings per container, the label will list the amount of calories that the serving contains as well as the fat, cholesterol, vitamins, and minerals. It will give you the amount as well as a percentage.
The percent daily value or the %DV is the percentage of your total daily nutrient requirement that the particular nutrient gives you. For example if the %DV for sodium is 35% then you are consuming about 35% of your daily intake of sodium in that one food item.
Last but not least, make sure you take a look at the ingredient list on the bottom of the label. It is listed in order of abundance from greatest to least. If sugar is the first ingredient listed, then it is the most abundant ingredient in the food item.
With these tips, you should be on the right path to being able to read these labels with ease. Remember practice makes perfect!
Blog post by Krista Post.