If you made a New Year’s resolution or a goal to change your eating habits, you may find yourself looking at the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages. Learning how to understand the information on the label can help you make healthier choices. The information on the Nutrition Facts Label provides information way beyond how many calories are in a food. You can get information on nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates. You can also learn about the vitamin and mineral content of foods. With changes in the label, you can even learn how many added sugars are in the foods you purchase.
Let’s discuss some tips to help you become an expert label reader. Start at the top by looking at the serving size. The serving size is on which the rest of the information from the label is based. You may be surprised to find that what you may typically eat in one sitting is actually considered more than one serving on the label. If the serving size is one cup, but you actually eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat, and nutrients listed on the label.
You will find percent Daily Values (DV) listed for many of the nutrients identified on the label. This can be a tool to help you easily figure out if the product is high or low in a nutrient. Percent DV are for the whole day not just one meal. They are average levels of nutrients needed for a person eating 2,000 calories per day, which is the average calorie level needed for most people. For example, a food with 10% DV of fat provides 10% of the total fat that a person on a 2,000-calorie diet should eat for the day. You can use the 5 and 20 Rule to help you quickly put the percent Daily Values into practical use. Low is 5 percent or less, while high is 20 percent or more. So, if a food contains 30% DV of fat, it would be high in fat. To find out how many calories you need each day, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to get your personalized plan.
Aim for foods that are low in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium. Eating less of these foods may help reduce your risk for many chronic diseases while lowering your calorie intake. For nutrients that you need for good health, like calcium, choose foods that are high in those nutrients. The label will help you know which foods to choose.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture