Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label



What Is A Nutrition Facts Label?

1. Learn to Read Labels
To lose weight it is essential to pay attention to food labels. Counting calories
is impossible without this skill. You should know how to find a food's caloric
content and its serving size. Comparing labels among different foods and
beverages is crucial for making the healthier choices required to lose weight

Serving Sizes
Serving size is the first item listed on a nutrition label. Serving sizes are
standardized, recommended snack or meal size portions. Depending on the
type of food, the serving size may be indicated by cup measure or number,
such as one cup of cereal or one slice of bread. Some foods, like salad
dressing, can be represented by small measures like tablespoons. This
information is followed by the metric amount (e.g., grams) the serving contains.
Serving size is the most important part of the food label. It is integral to using
the additional information on the label to lose weight. Whether you count
calories, fat grams, or carbs, it is impossible to accurately track them without
knowing and measuring serving sizes.
The following items are indicated on all food labels:

Percent Daily Value
Sometimes referred to is DV, the Percent Daily Value displays the amount of
nutrients found in each serving of the food such as calories, fat, cholesterol,
sodium and vitamins. These values are set by the Food and Drug
For example, a food that has 13g of fat per serving would state a 20 percent
daily value on the label (Daily Values).

Calories and Percent Fat Calories
The calories in a serving are displayed directly under the portion sizes. The
number of calories you actually take in is determined by the number of
servings you eat.
The FDA considers a food with 40 calories or less per serving to be low
calorie; 100 calories per serving, moderate; and 400 calories or more per
servings is a high calorie food (How to Understand).

The food label assumes that the typical adult needs 2,000 calories a day to
maintain his/her weight. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, with men
requiring more daily calories than women to maintain their weight.

It is recommended that your diet provides no more than 30 percent of total
calories from fat (Choose a Diet). For a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 600
calories of your day’s food intake should comprise of fat.

A food’s fat and saturated fat content is displayed next. Starting in 2003, the
FDA added trans fat to the label and it became required in 2006. Some
manufacturers also include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats on
Fat is listed in grams. Too much fat leads to overweight and obesity, however
our bodies need some fat in order to function. For a 2,000 calorie diet, it means
eating no more than 65 grams of fat each day.

Saturated and trans fat are known as “bad fats” because they raise cholesterol
and can lead to health risks such as heart disease.

Unsaturated fat is a “good fat” that is healthy because it will not raise your
cholesterol level. An example of a good fat is olive oil.

Cholesterol is listed under fats. It is a fatty substance found in animal products
such as meat and dairy products. Cholesterol is a major factor in the risk of
heart disease and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends
that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams
(Limiting Fats).
Carbohydrates -- often referred to as carbs -- are listed next. Carbohydrate is
an energy source used for bodily functions for everything from just walking to
intense, prolonged exercise.
Carbohydrates from whole grain sources such as brown rice are preferable to
those contained in refined carbohydrates such as white bread because of the
way the body processes them.

Unless you're following a low-carbohydrate diet, it is acceptable to eat up to
300 grams of carbohydrate each day.

Protein is used by the body to build cells and maintain muscle and other
tissues. In the average American’s diet, it is mostly derived from meat, poultry,
fish, and/or eggs. Dairy foods, beans and nuts also contain protein.
Protein does not have a recommended daily value indicated on the food label.
Protein needs are actually variable depending on your weight and activity

Using Food Labels in the Real World
The key part of using food labels is they provide instant portion control. The
only way you can use food labels effectively is to measure and eat portions
based on the recommended servings sizes.
The good news is, in time, assessing the serving size of your favorite foods
will become second nature.

At first, measuring food servings will seem tedious, but it will not always be
that way. Within a matter of weeks, you will learn to eyeball servings and
practice automatic portion control.

Once you assess your caloric needs, food labels will help you identify areas in
which you can cut back painlessly and lose weight.

For example, when you see your favorite yogurt contains 160 calories per
serving, it will be much easier to identify one that contains 100 calories if you
always check the nutrition label. If you eat yogurt every day, this one change
can cut over 400 calories from your diet each week!

Remember ... every 3,500 calories cut or burned equals one pound lost. A little
light reading on the packages of your favorite foods could be the start to
making it happen.


*Broken* said...

I always read the labels, sometimes I spend hours at the sumermarket trying to find something I can eat...
I had found a snack that was 78 cals but when I checked the portions it had 1and a half :S Goodbye snack xD
Really interesting information, thanks for sharing.

mags said...

mightyfine. some labels can be tricky. I usually just look at serving size, calories per serving, and fat content. sometimes sugars and sodium and such.

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