The nutrition label is on almost every package of food. Numbers and percentages for calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium and more are listed on the label. What does it all mean to the consumer? How can we use the information on the label to make informed food choices?
Comparing similar products is easy when you read the label. Nonfat milk and 2% milk each have about 30% of your daily calcium per a one-cup serving but differ in calories and fat. Nonfat milk has fewer calories than 2% milk and no fat. Two-percent milk is higher in calories than nonfat milk and can have up to 15% of your daily value in fat. You can cut calories and fat in your cooking if you use nonfat milk.
Are you watching your sodium intake? Sodium is added to many foods to add flavor or to preserve them. If you are looking to decrease your sodium intake, make sure you read the nutrition label on any food you purchase. The label lists the sodium per serving size in milligrams and includes the percentage of daily value per a 2,000-calorie diet.
Reading the label is not only about limiting your intake of different nutrients but can also be used to increase your intake. If you need to add vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron to your diet, the percentage of daily value is listed near the bottom of the label. Use the label to choose products higher in the nutrients you need.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed changes to the nutrition label. These would be the first changes in twenty years and are meant to reflect the changes in how people eat and drink today. One important change is the serving size, which would be based on “what people actually eat, not on what they should be eating.”
Develop the habit of reading the nutrition label when you are choosing food products. It may add a few minutes to your shopping trip, but the knowledge you gain will put you in charge of your health.
Cindy Sue Blair is an Oasis Facilitator for Exerstart, Active Start and Active Living Every Day classes and a certified ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is also a Culinary Instructor and Event Volunteer for Operation Food Search. She believes tasty, healthy food and fun exercise are keys to the good life. Her journey from couch potato to healthy living advocate unleashed her passion for fitness, nutrition, and personal growth. Stop by www.facebook.com/WellnessWithCindy and say hi!