People read food labels for various different reasons, but whether they’re looking for potential allergens or aiming to make better diet choices, many consumers would like to know how they can use this information more effectively. We’ve put together a brief guide to help to make it easier to read food labels in order to make faster, more informed decisions when consuming packaged food.
At the top of most food labels, you’ll usually find information regarding the number of servings that the container holds and the size of each serving. Serving sizes are usually standardized so that consumers can compare the nutritional value of similar foods, so they are usually measured in both cups and grams. It’s important to note that serving sizes are not a recommendation of how much you should consume per serving, but a reflection of how much the average person eats or drinks.
All of the nutritional information on the food label will be in reference to the size of the serving shown, so it’s important to make note of this when looking at how many calories or grams of fat and sugar it contains.
Calories measure how much energy you will be given by a single serving of the packaged food. For example, if one serving of lasagne contains 280 calories, if you ate the entire package, you would be consuming 4 servings, which would total 1,120 calories.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, it’s important for you to make sure that you are not consuming more calories through food and drink than your body uses for fuel. Generally, it’s recommended for the average person to consume around 2,000 calories per day, but this will vary depending on your level of physical activity, weight, height, sex, and age.
In order to support your personal dietary requirements, it’s important to look closely at the nutrients listed on the food label to ensure that you are controlling your nutrient intake. It’s generally recommended for you to reduce your intake of sugars, sodium, and saturated fat to reduce your risk of developing health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
On your nutrition label, Total Sugars are the sugars that are naturally present in nutritious foods such as fruit and milk, while Added Sugars represent the sugars that are added during food processing, as well as sweeteners and sugars from concentrated vegetable and fruit juices.
Carbohydrates are found in starches, fibers, and sugars and are used as fuel for the muscles and the central nervous system. Carbohydrates also prevent protein from being used as a source of energy in order to enable the metabolism of fat.
Having a small amount of fat in your diet is essential in order to remain healthy and balanced. Fat can also help the body to absorb vitamins E, D, and A, which is essential for the function of the kidneys, lungs, and heart.
Protein can be found in grains, vegetables, animal protein, fish, and eggs and is used by the body to repair and build tissue, as well as to make blood, skin, muscles, and bones.
Sodium is often added during manufacturing but can occur naturally in some foods. It is used by the body to control blood volume and blood pressure, and it is also an essential nutrient for the proper function of your nerves and muscles.
Most Americans do not meet the recommended daily amount of potassium, iron, calcium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D, so it’s important to increase your intake of these nutrients.