Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reading Nutrition Labels

Today, manufacturers are required to provide Ingredient Lists and Nutrition Fact Labels on any packaged food. These labels are your tools in helping you make healthier food choices. Be- coming savvy about how to read these labels will help you to make better decisions about foods you buy and prepare.
How to Read the Ingredients List
The Ingredients List will provide you with information on what foods, spices, and possible chemicals make up the food. Ingredients listed on food labels are listed in order by weight. The largest ingredient in the food is listed first and the one in the least amount is listed last. You want to avoid any foods that have fat, oils and sugars (or any derivatives of these ingredients) listed first. Further, if you never heard of the ingredient or can’t pronounce it, there is a good chance it is a chemical or an unnatural ingredient. Whole foods are best and you should be able to recognize all or most of the ingredients. Below are some examples of ingredients you don’t want listed first on a package label.

How to Read the Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts label provides you with more detailed nutritional information about the food or product. Here you will understand how different foods and products stack up against one another so that you can choose healthier options.

1. Serving Size: The serving size tells you what is a recommended serving size of the food.  Here are some tips to consider:

    * If you aren’t used to measuring or weighing your food, measure your portions until you become comfortable with standard portion sizes.
    * If you eat more or less than the recommended serving size, the rest of the information on the label needs to be adjusted to reflect the amount you are consuming. (E.g., if you have 2 times the serving, all nutritional values must be multiplied by 2)
    * When comparing foods, ensure you are comparing based on equal portion sizes

2. Calories: Calories provides you with a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of the food. Remember that the number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you actually eat.  For instance, if you have two servings of a food, you will have to double the calories listed per serving size to know how many calories you have consumed.  A good gauge to understand if something is high in calories is listed below:

    * 40 Calories is low
    * 100 Calories is moderate
    * 400 Calories or more is high

3. Calories from Fat: Fat Calories tells you how many calories of the food are specifically fat calories. Each gram of fat is worth 9 calories. No more than 30% of your calories for the day should come from fat. A good rule of thumb is to eat a maximum of 3 grams of fat or 30 fat calories per 100 calories of food.

4a. Total Fat: Total fat explains how much of both good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsatu- rated fats) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats) are in the food.

    * Optimally, you should have no more than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories
    * When comparing products/foods, be sure to compare the same serving sizes and 

       then look at the amounts of total fat, saturated fat and calories in a serving of each 
       product. Choose the one with the least amount of each.

4b. Saturated Fat: A ‘bad fat,’ saturated fat is found in foods including butter, margarine, fats from meat and pork, full-fat dairy products, eggs, palm and coconut oils and many fast foods. It is best to avoid or limit foods that have saturated fat. Your daily intake should be no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake (less than 1 gram per 100 calories).

4c. Trans Fat: Also a ‘bad fat,’ Trans Fats are created during cooking and/or processing. These fats are often found in commercially baked products. These fats should be eliminated from your diet. 5a. Cholesterol: A combined number telling you how much of both good (HDLs) and bad cholesterol (LDLs) are in the serving.

    * It is best to eat no more than 300mg per day

    * When comparing products/foods, first ensure you are comparing the same amount 
       for a serving size and then look at the amounts of cholesterol in each and choose 
       the one with the least amount

5b. Sodium: The amount of sodium in the serving.

    * It is best to eat no more than 2,400mg per day.

    * When comparing products/foods, first ensure you are comparing the same amount 
       for a serving size and then look at the amounts of sodium in each and choose the 
       one with the least amount.

6a. Carbohydrates: The total amount of carbohydrates in the food. It includes simple carbs and sugars, complex carbs and fiber. When foods contain carbohydrates, it is best if those carbo-hydrates contain some amount of fiber (see dietary fiber).

6b. Dietary Fiber: How much fiber is in a serving of the food. It is found mostly in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.

    * Try to eat between 20 and 35 grams per day
    * The higher the fiber content of a product, the lower the sugar content in the food

6c. Sugars: The number of grams of carbohydrates per serving specifically made up of sugar. It is best to have this number low. When looking at total carbohydrates, the closer the sugar gram value is to the total carbohydrate gram value, the less fiber you have in the food, meaning the less satiated you will feel.

7. Protein: How many grams of protein are in a serving. It is always good to maintain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats in a meal. If this food doesn’t contain proteins, try to combine it with another food that has protein.

8. % Daily Values: Tells you what percentage of your recommended daily allowance is provided by the serving of food. Note however, It is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Generally, a value of 5% is considered low and a value of 20% is considered high. If you consume other than 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy body weight understand that these percentages may be different. Regardless, it is a good way to compare other products.

9. Vitamins and Minerals: How much of recommended vitamins and minerals are in the serving. You should aim to reach 100% for all required vitamins and minerals. To ensure you are getting your required daily intake, take a multivitamin.

10. Recommended Amounts: The recommended daily amount for each nutrient for both a 2,000 calorie diet and a 2,500 calorie diet. If you need to consume more or less calories than 2,000 or 2,500 day to maintain a healthy body weight, the recommended amounts for fat, carbohydrates and protein will change.

11. Calories per Gram: This shows the caloric weight of each macronutrient – Fats, Carbohy-drates and Protein. It is best to choose foods that are well balanced, containing all nutrients.



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  2. This is what we must do when we are in the groceries and buying. This is very important. We can monitor what we eat by this habit.
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