Eating healthy can be a challenge, especially when it comes to understanding food labels. With so much information packed into a small space, it can be overwhelming to decipher what it all means. However, taking the time to understand food labels can help you make informed decisions about the food you eat and lead to better nutrition.
Reading the Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts label is required on most packaged foods and provides important information about the food’s nutrient content. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:
- Serving size: This is the amount of food that the label’s information is based on. Pay attention to the serving size to ensure you are not consuming more than you intend.
- Calories: This tells you how many calories are in one serving of the food. Keep in mind that the number of servings you eat will determine the total number of calories you consume.
- Macronutrients: These are the nutrients your body needs in large amounts, including fat, carbohydrates, and protein. The label will tell you how much of each is in one serving of the food.
- Micronutrients: These are the nutrients your body needs in smaller amounts, including vitamins and minerals. The label will tell you how much of each is in one serving of the food.
- Percent Daily Value (%DV): This tells you how much of a nutrient is in one serving of the food compared to how much you need for the day. Aim for foods with a higher %DV of nutrients you need more of, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Understanding Ingredient Lists
The ingredient list can also provide valuable information about the food you are about to eat. Here are some tips for understanding ingredient lists:
- Order: Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, with the heaviest ingredient listed first. Pay attention to the first few ingredients, as they make up the bulk of the food.
- Hidden sugar: Sugar can be listed under many different names, such as high fructose corn syrup, molasses, or cane sugar. Be on the lookout for these and other hidden sources of sugar.
- Artificial ingredients: Look for artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives on the ingredient list and try to avoid them when possible.
By taking the time to read and understand food labels, you can make more informed decisions about the food you eat. This can lead to better nutrition and a healthier lifestyle. Remember to pay attention to serving sizes, macronutrients, micronutrients, %DV, and ingredient lists when making your food choices.