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Food Label Reading 101

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PrintThere is one thing that we cannot live without and that is food. Food is supposed to nourish and replenish our bodies with the nutrients that we need. With all the products that we see on the shelves at the store, how do we know what is good or not? Well, let’s have a basic class on reading your food labels.

Servings
One of the most misleading statements on a food label is the serving amount. It gives the amount of calories, and it will state: “2 oz serving.” So when you grab your favorite snack and look at it, you think that you are only getting 100 calories for the whole pack, which is wrong. The bag actually weighs 8 ounces, which means that you are actually going to be eating 400 calories. Make sure that you are reading the serving size is and how many calories are in it. Remember, calories are the amount of energy supplied by food. Not all calories are bad.

Percent Daily Value
Further down the label, you will notice that there is a vitamin or mineral that has a percent amount next to it. It is important to understand that this percentage is based off a 2,000 calorie diet. Every body is different and may not consume 2,000 calories a day. The amount that we need of each vitamin/mineral will depend on our gender, height, weight, age, and activity. Talk to your doctor if you are uncertain about how many calories is right for you and your health goals.

Total Fat
Saturated Fat: Try to limit your intake of saturated fat to 10% of your total calorie intake. It has been found that a diet high in saturated fat can cause heart problems.

Trans Fat: Avoid these as much as possible as they will increase your “bad” cholesterol. Again, be careful reading the amount of servings that come in the product that you are buying. A product can actually claim itself “trans fat free” if there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

Cholesterol and Sodium
Limit your cholesterol intake to approximately 300mg a day, and sodium to 1500mg. Again, these are averages so consult your doctor to find out the amounts right for you.

Total Carbohydrate
The amounts of carbohydrates needed for your body will depend on your glucose tolerability. Even if you are buying a healthy item, make sure that the amount of carbs are not too high, for this will spike your glucose level.

Beneath the label “total carbohydrates” will be sugar and fiber. If those two numbers do not add up to the amount of total carbohydrates listed, it is because it has not labeled starch. Aim for at least 25-35g of fiber each day if you’re a healthy, average person.

Hopefully this helps gives a little insight into those food labels and what those numbers and percentages really mean. Again, if you have questions about your specific dietary needs, contact your doctor. Dr. Jennifer Burns at The Bien-Etre Center is more than happy to answer any questions you have about your health and diet including questions regarding any known or unknown food allergies.