If you're confused about eating the right foods, then reading a nutritional label can be like learning a new language. Reading labels can
be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the terms and tactics of the current food industry.
Today will cover the following subjects
How to read a label
Avoiding False Claims
Tips on what to Watch out For
How to read a Nutritional label
Step 1: Start with the Serving Size
Look here for both the serving size (the amount people typically eat at one time) and the number of servings in the package.
Step 2: Compare the Total Calorie
s to Your Individual Needs
Find out how many calories are in a single serving and compare it to your total calorie allowance for the day. For general nutrition advice, 2,000 calories per day are used, but your individual needs may be higher or
lower depending on several factors, including your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level.
Step 3: Let the Percent Daily Values Be a Guide
Use the percent Daily Values (DV) to help evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan. Percent DV is for the entire day, not just one meal or snack. Daily Values are average levels of nutrients based on a person who eats 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5% DV of fat provides 5% of the total fat that a person who needs 2,000 calories a day should eat.
Step 4: Check Out the Nutrition Terms
Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
Low cholesterol: 20 milligrams or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.
Reduced: At least 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.
Good source of: Provides at least 10 to 19% of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.
Excellent source of: Provides at least 20% or more of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.
Calorie-free: Less than five calories per serving.
Fat-free/sugar-free: Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving.
Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.
High in: Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.
Step 5: Choose Low in Saturated Fat, Added Sugars, and Sodium
Eating less saturated fat, added sugars and sodium may help reduce your risk for chronic disease.
Saturated fat and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Eating too much-added sugars makes it difficult to meet nutrient needs within your calorie requirement.
High levels of sodium can add up to high blood pressure.
Remember to aim for a low percentage DV of these.
Avoiding False Claims
My biggest tip to you on any food product is to avoid the claims on the front of the package. Things like low-fat, fat-free, Whole grain,
etc. The companies love putting these ridiculous health claims on the front to lure you in.
Research shows that adding health claims to front labels makes people believe a product is healthier than the same product that doesn’t list health claims thus affecting consumer choices. Manufacturers are often dishonest in the way they use these labels. They tend to use health claims that are misleading and
in some cases downright false.
Health claims on packaged food are designed to catch your attention and convince you that the product is healthy.
Here are some of the most common claims — and what they mean:
Light. Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat. Some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead — like sugar.
Multigrain. This sounds very healthy but only means that a product contains more than one type of grain. These are most likely refined grains — unless the product is marked as whole grain.
Natural. This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything natural. It simply indicates that at one point the manufacturer worked with a natural source like apples or rice.
Organic. This label says very li
ttle about whether a product is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar.
No added sugar. Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.
Low-calorie. Low-calorie products have to have one-third fewer calories than the brand’s original product. Yet, one brand’s low-calorie version may have similar calories as another brand’s original.
Low-fat. This label usually means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be very careful and read the ingredients list.
Low-carb. Recently, low-carb diets have been linked to improved health. Processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually still processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat foods.
Made with whole grains. The product may contain very few whole grains. Check the ingredients list — if whole grains aren’t in the first three ingredients, the amount is negligible.
Fortified or enriched. This means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk. Yet, just because something is fortified doesn’t make it health
Gluten-free. Gluten-Free doesn’t mean healthy. The product simply doesn’t contain wheat, rye, or barley. Many gluten-free foods are highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.
Fruit-flavored. Many processed foods have a name that refers to a natural flavor, such as strawberry yogurt. However, the product may not contain any fruit — only chemicals designed to taste like fruit.
Zero trans fat. This phrase means “less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.” Thus, if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product may still contain small amounts.
Despite these cautionary words, many truly healthy foods are organic, whole grain, or natural. Still, just because a label makes certain claims, doesn’t guarantee that it’s healthy.
Tips On what to watch out for
Now moving on I want to go over some useful tips that will help you spot a bad food product right away. To start you want to study the ingredients list. If this takes you more than 10 seconds to read it's probable not a
Product ingredients are listed by quantity from highest to lowest amount. This means that the first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most. A good rule of thumb is to scan the first three ingredients, as they make up the largest part of what you’re eating. If the first ingredients include refined grains, a type of sugar, or hydrogenated oils, you can assume that the product is unhealthy. Instead, try choosing items that have whole foods listed as the first three ingredients.
In addition, an ingredient list that is longer than two to three lines suggests that the product is highly processed.
One thing I know many people never do is check the serving size. Serving sizes are much smaller than most Americans eat typically. In doing so, manufacturers try to deceive consumers into thinking that the food has fewer calories and less sugar.
Many people are unaware of this serving size s
cheme, assuming that the entire container is a single serving, when in truth it may consist of two, three, or more servings. If you’re interested in knowing the nutritional value of what you’re eating, you need to multiply the serving given on the back by the number of servings you consumed.
Now that you understand how to read a food label, how to avoid false claims, and have tips on what to watch out for, you are now
more equipped to make the healthier decision daily on your food choices.
Cited References: Bjarnadottir, A. (2020, August 19). How to read food labels without being tricked. Healthline. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-read-food-labels#misleading-claims Klemm, C. S. (n.d.). The basics of the nutrition
facts label. EatRight. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/the-basics-of-the-nutrition-facts-label