Food Labels & What You Need To Know

Our health is not just dependent on food and exercise. There are many factors at play when we look at overall health and well being. Things like family history, awareness, age, social forces, access to fresh and local produce, access to nearby parks and sidewalks, and so on. Because each and every person is unique, there is not a 'one size fits all' equation that leads to lasting health and wellness. But one thing we all have in common is food. Every human being requires food as an energy source to live.

The conversation around food (what to eat, what not to eat, and what to eat only in moderation) can become overwhelming to many. In today's world, we are bombarded with a staggering amount of information about food. The loudest of these voices tells us we must diet to lose that extra weight we have wanted gone for so long. But researchers have found that nearly 80% of people who diet, end up gaining all the weight back (and then some) once the diet is over. Although the 'quick fix' is a tempting seller, diets are not the path to maintaining a healthier weight.

How Can We Simplify Food?

The answer lies in our choices; making the best decision we can with the information we have. In terms of our food choices, we are offered all the information we need right on the Nutrition Label. The problem is that the information on the rest of the package can lead us astray. Food claims like "Fat Free", "Sugar Free", "Low Calorie", and "All Natural" make us think these foods must be healthy. If we just read the front, we won't get the whole story.

How To Read The Package

Food claims are not entirely useless. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate what packaged foods can make claims about. But, be sure to inform yourself about what each of them mean. Then, flip to the Nutrition Label to learn what's in the food your purchasing.

How To Read The Nutrition Label

First, how large are the serving sizes? If you will eat 1 serving, you can then look to the number of calories, grams of fat, cholesterol, sugar, protein, and fiber. If you will eat more than 1 serving, make sure to multiply the numbers listed by how many serving you will eat. The general rule of thumb is to limit fat, carbohydrates, and sodium and make sure you get plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron.

Using Percent Daily Value

Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5% DV of fat provides 5% of the total fat that that person should eat per day.

  • Low is 5 percent or less. Aim low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • High is 20 percent or more. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Remember, our food choices start in the grocery isle. And we can control whether we feel overwhelmed or empowered to make the right decisions. When shopping for food, take the extra time to educate yourself on what you are purchasing and what you will be making available for you are your family to eat!

Interested in learning more about food labels? Read our blog "The SCOOP on FATS" below: