How To Read The Nutrition Label On A Food Package
What is a nutrition label?
Nutrition facts help you determine the amount of calories and nutrients in a serving. Nutrients include fat, sugar, protein, vitamins and minerals. This information tells you whether you are eating a healthy and balanced diet.
Labels of nutrition ingredients, found on each type of packaged food, list the content of the following:
Total whole fat
The total amount of flour
Vitamins and minerals
The following is an example of a nutrition label:
What is a serving?
Servings are the first information listed on the label. A serving is equal to a certain amount of food in a daily meal. It is usually listed using common kitchen tools or calculations, such as pieces, cups or ounces (grams, or milliliters) (eg 7 chips or ½ cup cereals).
Rations are an important part of a healthy diet. Eating a large serving can make you gain weight because eating larger portions means you eat more calories
Be sure to compare the serving size on the package and the amount of food you normally eat.
For example, a 7-piece serving of french fries or an ounce (approximately 28 grams) of bread on a label is included. If you usually eat twice that amount, you're eating twice the calories and nutrients on the label.
What is the daily nutritional value?
A healthy person needs to eat a certain amount of fat, carbohydrates (especially fiber), protein, vitamins and minerals every day. Some ingredients, such as saturated and trans fat, are considered unhealthy and should only be consumed in very small amounts. The nutrition label provides a list of percentages (called the Daily Nutrition Value) that compare the amount of nutrients in a serving of food to the amount of nutrients you need to eat each day.
A serving of food is considered low if it contains 5% or less of the daily nutritional value. A serving of food is considered high if it contains 20% or more of the daily nutritional value
The daily nutritional value is calculated based on a 2000 calorie diet per day.
You need to adjust the percentage if you eat less or more than 2000 calories per day. For more information on calorie intake, please read our fact sheet on calorie determination.
What ingredients should be restricted to my diet?
Saturated fat: Saturated fats may increase the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. An average adult should not eat more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
Trans fats: Trans fats also increase the risk of heart disease. Ideally, absolutely do not eat trans fats. When reading a nutrition label, keep in mind that if the food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, manufacturers are allowed to list the trans fat as "0 grams".
This means your food may contain a certain amount of trans fat, even if the nutrition label says "0 grams" per serving! Always check trans fat in ingredients. Trans fats can be listed as "hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil". Trans fats are commonly used in baked goods, fried foods, snack cakes and margarine.
Cholesterol: You should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily (and if you have heart disease, eat less than 200 milligrams). For more information, read the article about Cholesterol.
What ingredients should I eat in my diet?
Fiber: Fiber helps the body digest food and helps reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. A food is considered high in fiber if it contains 5 grams or more of fiber per serving. Men 50 and younger should eat a minimum of 38 grams of fiber daily, while women 50 and younger should eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber daily.
Fiber is found in foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for products with a "whole grain" label on the packaging and a list of ingredients on the nutrition label.
Vitamins and minerals: The nutrition label lists vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. You should try to get plenty of these ingredients in your daily diet, as well as other vitamins and minerals not listed on the label. You can find more information in the article Vitamins and minerals here.
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