Grocery shopping – shudder. If you’re like me, you want to be in and out, quick and easy! While we may want shopping to go fast, something everyone should be taking their time with is reading what their buying. Nutrition labels provide key information on the nutrients and ingredients within the food and beverages we take home. Knowing how to read nutrition labels will only benefit your health more!
Serving Size – Most of the time the amount of each nutrient is per a single serving, so pay attention to how many servings are in that container. You don’t want to intake double or triple the amount you thought you were getting!
Calories and Calories from Fat – The number shown for calories tells you the amount of energy in that food item. The calories in a food can come from fat, protein, or carbohydrate. It’s good to look at this in relevance to whether you want to gain, lose, or maintain your weight. Health experts say Total Fat intake should be 20%-30% of your total daily calories. So, if you consume 2,000 calories each day, no more than 600 of those calories should come from fat.
Total Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium – Health experts recommend limiting these nutrients as much as possible, as it may increase your risk for certain chronic diseases. The Daily Value guide recommends a goal of consuming less than 2,400 mg of sodium, less than 65g of fat, and less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. This is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. It’s best to ask your doctor what your recommended daily intake of calories should be, depending on your activity level.
Dietary Fibers, Vitamins, Calcium, Iron – Health experts say the average American doesn’t eat enough of these nutrients and they’re important to have a balanced nutritional diet to keep your body at it’s healthiest! The Daily Value Guide recommends getting at least 25g of dietary fiber, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
% Daily Value and Guide – The %DV percentages will show to the right of each nutrient. If the item is big enough, it often has a Daily Value Guide posted on the bottom to compare it with recommended daily intake goals. In the example picture, to the right of Total Fat you’ll see that a single serving of this food makes up 18% of the total allowance of fat intake for your day, which means you still have 82% fat intake allowance left.
Protein, Sugars, Total Carbohydrates – Total Carbohydrates are your main source of energy, and are broken up into 2 parts – grams of dietary fiber and grams of sugar (additive and/or natural sugars). Note: Getting all your carbs from sugars is something to avoid! Women should be getting about 25 grams of dietary fiber a day, and men about 38 grams. A rule of thumb for protein intake is getting .37 grams per pound of the person consuming it. So if a person weighs 140 lbs, they should be getting at least 51.8 grams of protein per day. Protein keeps bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood healthy, so it’s very important to be consuming enough, especially those who have a more athletic lifestyle!
Another part of the label to look at is the ingredient list! This section is most helpful if you or someone you shop for has an allergy to a certain ingredient, or if you want to watch out for other ingredients like those pesky sugar additives and their numerous scientific names!
How ever you feel about shopping, we all need to remember our health should be a priority. We only get one body to take care of, so make it count!