Understanding Food Labels

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July 17, 2013 by thehealthyheartcenter

Nutrition labels on your food may be confusing. After all there are a bunch of numbers and words that if you don’t know their purpose could really throw you off. It’s hard to look at the whole thing without taking up too much time at the grocery store. However, it is incredibly important for you and your children to know what is in the food their eating. By looking at labels you can have greater knowledge to help you decide what goes into your household pantry and what shouldn’t make the cut.

Below is an example of a food label that simplifies how to properly use it. It may look like a lot to remember at first but once you start using it such strategies become a habit. Try looking and comparing labels you already have in the house before hitting the store.

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You should always start from top to bottom, looking at the serving size and amount of calories per serving size first. The nutrients you want to limit are listed first making it easy to discover unhealthy foods. When comparing two of a similar product, looking at these nutrients (fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium) can tell you which product you may want to bring into your home.

Percent Daily Value (%DV) can be very confusing to people. It is based on an individual’s diet, who should be consuming about 2000kcal a day. Because everyone’s calorie needs are different even when considering certain nutrients it is best to just use %DV as a guide to comparing the content in different products. Just remember that a 5% DV or less is low content while 20% or more is high. For example, on the label below it shows a good source of calcium and potassium with them both having a 20% DV.

The footnote should be the same on every label. It is just telling you how many grams of each nutrient are recommended for someone consuming a 2000 kcal diet. When comparing nutrition labels disregard this section and just focus on top and on the ingredients.

You may not recognize some nutrients but the video below has easy simple tips to use when reading an ingredient list. You don’t have to be a nutrition guru in order to read nutrition food labels and use them when buying your food.

Everyone should know what’s in their food and be able to make informed decisions in the grocery store.

For more information on how to use a food label to better your health check out a video at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccYsiM3lMvg

Sources: Myvega.com (video), www.health.gov (photo)

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Authors

Dr. Wali Gauvin

Kendra Fink RD CPT

Jessica Griffin: Intern

Julianna Yi: Intern

Marielle Mangano: Intern

Jackie Page: Intern

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