eople look at food labels for a variety of reasons. But whatever the reason, many consumers would like to know how to use this information more effectively and easily. The following label-reading skills are intended to make it easier for you to use the Nutrition Facts labels to make quick, informed food decisions to help you choose a healthy diet.

Reading the nutrition label can help you learn more about the food you eat, maintain a healthy weight, and lower your cancer risk. Knowing more about the food you're eating is one way to maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of lowering your cancer risk. Obesity has been linked to several kinds of cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. One way to learn more about the food you eat is to read the nutrition label. The FDA  requires most foods to feature nutrition labels that include how much food is inside the package and what nutrients and ingredients make up that food.

1. Watch for Serving Sizes

Nutrition labels state how many calories and nutrients are in a standard amount of the product often a suggested single serving. However, these serving sizes are frequently much smaller than what people consume in one sitting. For example, one serving maybe half a can of soda, a quarter of a cookie, half a chocolate bar, or a single biscuit. 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 scheme, 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. Serving sizes listed on packaging may be misleading and unrealistic. Manufacturers often list a much smaller amount than what most people consume in one sitting.

2 - Check total calories per serving and container.

Pay attention to the calories per serving and how many calories you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients.

The next section of information on a nutrition label is about the amounts of specific nutrients in the product.

3 - Limit certain nutrients.

Check key nutrients and understand what you’re looking for. Not all fats are bad , and total sugars can include both natural and added sugars. Limit the amounts of added sugars , saturated fat  and sodium you eat, and avoid trans fat. When choosing among different brands or similar products, compare labels and choose foods with less of these nutrients when possible..

4 - See what are the good nutrients.

Make sure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs, such as calcium, choline, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E.*

5 - Understand % Daily Value.

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. If you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV (5 percent or less). If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), choose foods with a higher % DV (20 percent or more).

Here are more tips for getting as much health information as possible from the Nutrition Facts label:

  • Remember that the information shown in the label is based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day. You may need less or more than 2,000 calories depending upon your age, gender, activity level, and whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
  • When the Nutrition Facts label says a food contains “0 g” of trans fat, but includes “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, it means the food contains some trans fat, but less than 0.5 grams per serving. So, if you eat more than one serving, you could end up eating too much trans fat.

Sources: Heart.com. FDA.gov, Healthline.com

February 16, 2021
How To Read Nutrition Labels, Truths & Myths

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