Are you confused when you look at a food label? Sure you can read it, but do you really know what all those numbers mean? Food labels can give us a wealth of information so we can eat the right foods and be healthy! Let Truestar show you how to read and understand a food label. This week we will focus on how to read the nutrition facts table and ingredients list.
Next week, we will bring you Part 2: Health-Related Claims on Food Packages.
Nutrition Facts Table
The nutrition facts table is a standardized table found on prepackaged foods. The label allows you to find information regarding the products calorie count and its percentage amounts of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.
Here are some guidelines to help you read a nutrition facts label:
1. Nutrition Facts Title: The nutrition facts title on a label tells you that the nutrition information is approved by regulatory boards such as Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration.
2. Serving Size: All of the information on the nutrition facts table is based on the serving size that is stated at the top of the table. The serving size may or may not be the recommended serving size; it could just be the size the manufacturer has chosen for the nutrition information. Always check the serving size. If you eat double the amount, then double the nutrient and caloric values.
3. Calories: This will tell you how many calories each serving will contain. If you are overweight, cutting back on 500 calories each day will result in a weight loss of 1 pound per week (3500 calories equals 1 pound).
4. Daily Value: The daily values percentages are based on reference standards. Daily values are listed for people who eat 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. If you eat more, your personal daily value may be higher than what's listed on the label. If you eat less, your personal daily value may be lower. If the percentage of your daily value is 5 or less, this is considered low. If the percentage of your daily value is 20 or more, this is considered high. For fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, choose foods with a low percentage daily value. For dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, your daily value should reach 100% for each source.
5. Total fat: Try to aim low and choose foods with a low, total fat content. If a product says 3 grams or less, it is considered low-fat. If it says ½ gram or less, it is considered no-fat.
6. Saturated Fat: This is the bad fat that can cause havoc to our hearts by raising cholesterol levels. Choose foods low in saturated fats.
Trans Fats: Trans fats are bad fats that can increase your risk for heart disease. Beginning January 1, 2006, food manufacturers will have to list trans fats on the nutrition label. Choose foods with the lower combined amount of saturated fat and trans fat. For more information on fats, see: Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
7. Cholesterol: Cholesterol in food can raise your risk for heart disease. Aim for a total cholesterol intake of less than 300 mg per day.
8. Sodium: Sodium (salt) can cause high blood pressure and water retention. Try to pick food products with less than 300 mg of sodium. Total daily intake should be no more than 2400 to 3000 mg per day.
9. Total Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates (sugars) provide energy for our bodies to function properly. However, too much of the wrong types of carbohydrates can contribute to many health problems and weight gain. When trying to reduce the amount of carbohydrate in your diet, keep total carbohydrates (sugars) low per serving. Aim for less than 6 to 9 grams of total carbohydrates per serving.
10. Dietary Fiber: Load up on it! Both soluble fiber (found in oats, pectin) and insoluble fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains) can help reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer and other medical conditions, as well as aid with weight loss and satiety. Look for foods containing a good source of fiber (at least 3 grams or more per serving) such as fruits, whole grains and legumes.
11. Protein: Protein can help with weight loss and muscle building. Look for foods rich in lean protein.
12. Vitamins and Minerals: Aim for 100% of each per day through a combination of different foods.
When reading a nutrition label, it is always important to know the ingredients in the product. The ingredients are listed by weight from most to least. For example, if the product lists sugar as the first ingredient, the individual product contains more sugar than any other ingredient. The ingredients list is also important for people who have food allergies so they can avoid any ingredients that may harm their health
The Many Names of Sugar .When trying to reduce your intake of sugars, make sure that you are not fooled by the ingredient label. Sugar has many names and if any of these names are listed as one of the first few ingredients on the product, stay away! Other names for added sugars include: brown sugar, confectioners sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, levulose, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, starch, sucrose, sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, malitol, xylitol).
The Many Names of Fat .. Fat can also be listed in different ways on an ingredient label. Hydrogenated safflower oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, palm oil, canola oil, margarine, butter, walnut oil, grape seed oil, almond oil, tallow, suet, and lard are some of the forms of fat that might appear on an ingredient list.
Truestar meal plans incorporate all of the healthiest foods and ingredients to create delicious recipes for you to enjoy! Other components of the Truestar plan including exercise, vitamins, sleep and attitude all work together to achieve optimal health!