Breaking down what actually is on those food labels and how they can help you to meet your nutrition goals.
As we stroll through the aisle of the grocery store looking at the variety of products that are available to us, it is easy to become overwhelmed by which choices to make and which ingredients or products meet our needs. Before you put that item in your basket, do you make it a point to turn the label around and read over the food nutrition label and ingredient list? I would say that most of us don’t as we assume that our general understanding of what goes in food is above adequate. However, takinging an extra minute or so to read that information on the back can have highly positive effects on the choices you are making for your meals. So let's break down that information on the back and see how we can make some better decisions.
Types of food labels: It is important to note that the FDA has made some recent changes to food labels and the information that companies are required to provide to the consumer. Because of this, you might come across older labels as well as the new ones, so here is a side by side comparison.
Some of the most notable changes are in the larger and bold lettering of the calories and the separation of nutritional information of the per serving and per container amount of food. This allows for us to make an easier comparison of how many actual calories we may be having. You will see this separate “calories per container section” typically on items such as chips, candies, nuts and other bite sized food options. This information will be important to note because you can see if the serving size is actually a realistic portion that you would consume. For example, if a serving size of beef jerky is 200 calories for 2 pieces, are you realistically only going to have 2 pieces of jerky in one sitting? Or is it better to go with an option that is 100 calories for 2 pieces. That way you can enjoy a larger serving without the extra calories.
Other changes that were made to information provided on the labels are that calories from fat are no longer required to be listed; however, total fat and saturated fat are still noted. The new labels also include both total sugars and added sugars. This allows us to see how much sugar may have been added to a product that may already contain natural sugars, which adds unnecessary carbohydrates to your meal. Finally, the amounts of Vitamin A and C have been removed from the label and replaced with Vitamin D and Potassium as it was felt by the FDA that people were achieving adequate amounts of A and C in a normal diet.
So how can each section of information provided on the label help you to make healthier choices? Let's take a look at what is listed.
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