When you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, reading food labels properly is an essential skill. Reading a food label not only tells you how many calories you are consuming when you eat a particular food, but it can also provide you with useful information about the food’s nutritional value. According to the American Heart Association, following the steps below will help you to understand and utilize the information found on nutrition labels.
1. Determine the serving size.
At the top of the nutrition label, you will find the food’s serving size, as well as the number of servings contained in each package. Use this information to calculate the approximate number of servings you are consuming at one time.
2. Calculate the calories consumed.
Under the serving size, you will find the number of total calories and calories from fat in each serving. Multiply each of these values by the number of servings you will consume to determine your intake of calories and calories from fat. For example, if a product has 100 total calories and 50 calories from fat per serving, 2 servings will contain 200 total calories and 100 calories from fat.
3. Evaluate fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Your daily intake of fat, cholesterol, and sodium should be limited. Calculate how much of each of these nutrients you will be consuming based on the information provided by the label. The label lists the total amount of each nutrient per serving, as well as the percentage of your daily recommended intake contained in each serving. For example, if the label reads “Total Fat 9g; 9%,” one serving of the food in question contains 9 grams of fat, which is 9 percent of your daily recommended fat intake.
4. Evaluate fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron.
You must consume a sufficient amount of fiber, vitamins, calcium and iron each day. Calculate how much of each of these nutrients your food contains based on the label’s information. As with fat, cholesterol, and sodium, total amounts and percentages of daily recommended intake are listed for each nutrient.
Keep in mind that all percentages listed on a nutrition label are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your age, weight, height, physical activity, and other characteristics, your recommended calorie intake may be lower or higher. To learn more about nutrition, weight loss, and other related topics, contact the Central Ohio Nutrition Center.