Taking the Mystery Out of the Food Label
A little detective work will be required, but once you understand the "code" on the Nutrition Facts label, you can make healthier choices for your meals. Equally important, you can teach your children to read the nutrition labels as well, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating. Track down the most nutritious food. Take your child on a grocery trip and ask your little detective to help you by reading the food labels. For example, find cereal with the least sugar, or bread with the most fiber, or cookies that have no trans fats.
Here are some tips to "decode" the nutrition facts label:
1) Your first clue is to check out the serving size and number of calories per serving at the top of the label. Keep in mind that most items have more than one serving per container, so if you consume more than one serving, you'll have to adjust the calories accordingly!
2) Watch the percentages. These will be listed on the right side of the label. The percent Daily Value (DV) helps you determine whether a serving of food is high or low in nutrients. 5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high. Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your needs may be more or less depending on age, gender and level of activity, but these percentages serve as a guide.
3) Keep a lookout for foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol, which may contribute to chronic disease. For a 2,000 calorie daily diet, keep total fat intake to less than 65 grams per day. An individual food item is considered low fat if it has 3 grams or less fat per serving.
4) Monitor your sodium (salt) intake. Sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure if you consume more than a teaspoon (about 2,300 milligrams) per day. Processed foods, such as canned items, often had large amounts of sodium.
5) Avoid foods that are high in added sugars. Be wary of sugar additives, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, maple syrup, and fructose if they are listed as one of the first three ingredients on the label.
6) Get plenty of potassium, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron. These are highly beneficial and help fight off disease.
For more information on nutrition needs, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Be sure to check out the fruit and vegetable video challenge winners!
Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed.
Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
1200-B W. Houston
P.O. Box 518
Sulphur Springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 - phone
903-439-4909 - fax