Food labels. How often do you look at the ingredients and the nutrition list located at the back of the food packaging? I suppose you never did or even if you did, you have no idea what it all means. For whatever reasons people look at food labels, understanding the figures and descriptions is beneficial to your health.

Overview

The information on the nutritional fact list varies from each food and beverage product; on the top or main section contains specific product details, including serving size, calories and nutrients information. The bottom section contains the Daily Value based on a 2,000 and 2,500 calories diet and the list of ingredients.

The following Nutrition Fact Label is coloured to further aid you in understanding but do take note that the food products you purchase will not be coloured.

Sample Label For Veggie Straws/Chip (One Bag)

Photo adapted from Source

1. Serving Size

Always starts with the serving information given at the top of the list, which informs you the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per package. The “Serving Size” section is standardized in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by metric or imperial system.

Pay attention to the serving size and how many servings can you get from a package. Based on the bag of veggie chips, 1 serving size equals to 38 straws (pieces). Finishing up the entire bag would meant that you consume 20 servings size, which equals to 760 straws (pieces).

 

2. Calories (and Calories from Fat)

Calories are given per serving and how many calories in one serving is actually from fat. Following the sample label, consuming one serving of veggie chips gives 130 calories, and 60 calories comes from fat. How many calories would you consume if you finished up the whole bag of veggie straws? A whooping 2,600, from which 1,200 comes from fats!

General Guildline to Calories

  • 40 Calories is Low
  • 100 Calories is Moderate
  • 400 Calories or above is High

Typically, a snack should only be around 100 calories. Try to limit yourself to one or two snack portions a day as eating too many calories may lead to weight gain and obesity. The calorie section on the label can help you to better manage the calorie intake for the day.

 

The next two sections provide information about the amount of specific nutrients in the product.

3. Limit These Nutrients

The nutrients listed first are generally the ones with the highest amount and least healthiest for your body. Consuming too much fats (especially saturated and trans fats), cholesterol or sodium lead to higher risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. Consume them in moderate and not go overboard.

 

4. Get Enough of These

Eating enough of these nutrients is beneficial for many health reasons, such as reducing the risk of some diseases and conditions. For example, not consuming enough calcium may lead to osteoporosis while the lack of dietary fibre may lead to constipation. Generally, a healthy diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables and grains.

 

5. Footnote

The * right next to ‘% Daily Value’ refers to the footnote, which are based on a 2,000 calories diet. The footnote remains unchanged in most food products as they are the recommended dietary advice based on the average American.

The amount listed in the footnote are the Daily Value (DV) or recommended levels of intakes of each nutrients. Based on the calories diet (2,000 or 2,500) the DV in some nutrients may vary but the cholesterol and sodium remains the same.

 

6. Quick Guide To % Daily Value

The % DV tells you the percentage of each nutrients in a single serving, in accordance to the daily recommended intake. As a guide, consume lesser nutrient from #3 (cholesterol, fats and sodium, etc), preferably lower than 5% DV and consume a minimum amount of nutrients from #4 (fibre, etc), preferably higher than 20% DV.

 

7. Ingredients List

Whether you have a diet restriction or an allergy, it is advisable to look at the ingredients list to know what exactly you putting into your body. Ingredients are listed according to descending order of weight (from the most to the least). A good tip to different whether the food product is ‘unhealthy’ is to look for ingredients that you can’t pronounce or have no clue what it is. Based on the veggie straws, Potassium Chloride is a substitution for salt with other functional roles, including microbial management, protein modification, flavor enhancement that impacts the taste, texture, and shelf life of food products. The rest of the ingredients are generally unprocessed.

Learning how to read and understand them makes it easier to make quick, informed and healthier food choices. Remember that the nutritional fact list is based on a 2,000 calories diet. Depending on your gender, age and activity level, you may need to consume less or more of the recommended dietary advice.

 

Featured image: Source