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How To Read A Food Nutrition Label takes the confusion out of food labels by offering a simple approach to understanding information on calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, protein and sodium.

How To Read A Food Nutrition Label

Food Nutrition Labels can be very confusing to read, especially since the formats and terms keep changing.  It doesn't make it simpler to find such labels on foods that have virtually no nutritional value, like candy, ice cream, soda, etc.  Ever seen someone make the healthiest choice by comparing the carbohydrate content of candy bars?  On regular foods, the nutrition label seems so complex, even people who want to be healthy don't read it.  This article provides a simple way to interpret food nutrition labels so you don't need a college degree to know what you're eating.

Calories Per Serving & Serving Size are the most important and easiest to understand.  Everyone knows to watch their calories even if they don't know the actual definition of the word.  Often, people reading the label don't realize the calories and other values are "per serving".  I've had people eat a whole package of healthy widgets and claim, based on the nutrition label, they were only consuming 110 calories.  Trust me when I say, people don't appreciate being told their package contained 6 servings and they just consumed a third of their daily food (660 calories).  So, face the music right there in the store.  Look at the serving size and servings per package.  Because I have diabetes, I have to be very careful of my carbs.  My favorite cracker has a serving size of 29 pieces.  Even though it's the same amount of food, I like them much more than the ones that are 9 or 5 crackers per serving. 

Is It Fat, Carbohydrate Or Protein?  You need all three to live.  To avoid the confusion, we won't get into the DV (Daly Value) of the foods.  What is the DV of Ice Cream, anyway?  Really, does anyone measure and subtract everything they eat each day from their total DV?  If not, the DV is a pretty useless number.  An easy way to use the label to know approximately what you're eating is this:  A regular serving of carbs or proteins on a nutrition label is 15-20g (grams).  A regular serving of fats is 4-5g, or 1/4 that of proteins and carbs.  Now you can look at any food label and see if the food would be considered a fat, carbohydrate or protein.  Most people would classify a candy bar as a carb, but I'm looking at a candy bar label that shows this one has only one serving of carbs and two servings of fat...and nothing much else.  The serving size method also gives you an easy way to check the serving size on the package.  For instance, the serving on a can of kidney beans is 44 grams of carbohydrates.  This is twice the normal serving size for carbs, so you know to eat only half the recommended serving size on the can.  A word on fat:  There are good fats and bad fats but a good rule is to keep total fat low, no matter what the label says about the types of fat underneath. 

Carbohydrates And Fiber can be confusing, too.  Just like fats, there are good ones and bad ones.  Dietary fiber is good for you even though it's a carb.  As a quick rule of thumb, the lower the sugars and higher the fiber, the better the carbs are for you.  

Sodium is necessary for life but not in the amounts we eat.  It adds great flavor but it also adds to your weight and blood pressure.  We'll have a couple articles devoted to this nutrient in the next few weeks.  Until then, a good method to measure sodium content is the 500mg rule.  For the average healthy person, prepared meals (soups, frozen dinners, etc.) with around 500mg of sodium per serving are O.K.  Watch snacks, sauces, spices and dressings...the lower the sodium, the better.

There you go!  You can read a food nutrition label without a calculator and medical dictionary.  Now you can make healthy food choices at a least until they change the labels again.     

A Healthy Life:  Usually, we're seeking something more than just a balanced diet when we choose to eat right.  We want a healthy life...not just a meal.  Such a life requires balance in mind, body and spirit.  You can get help to achieve this balance by the One who designed us...God.  If you want His help to have a healthy life, visit Healing From God.

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