Know What You EAT: the Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts food label is an important tool for healthy eating. The food label is especially useful while making food choices in the grocery store. Choose foods that are higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals and that are lower in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. To understand what you are eating, consider that the ingredients are listed in order by weight, from those present in the largest to smallest amounts.
Nutrients on the label are quantified in amounts per serving as well as the percent Daily Value (DV). The Daily Value tells us how much a nutrient in a serving of that food contributes to our daily needs. Refer to the Nutrition Facts label pictured here. On this label, one serving contains 4 grams of dietary fiber, providing 14% DV. The Daily Value for dietary fiber is 25 grams. When selecting whole grain foods, such as breakfast cereals, look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. In addition, check the amount of added sugar. Added sugar occurs during processing of the food and does not include any natural sugars from fruits or dairy. The recommendation for added sugar is to limit it to 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, daily.
When it comes to processed food, reading food labels is the only way to know what you’re eating. Of course, the more fresh, nutrient-dense foods you eat, the less labels you have, which is more desirable for healthy eating. In order to follow these guidelines, make small changes that work for you and that will stick with you over time.