If you want to know exactly what you are eating when you take a bite of your next meal, you will want to pay close attention to the nutrition label. This is one way to start taking control over your diet and embark on a lifestyle consumed by healthy eating. It is also a great way to ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need every day.
A nutrition label is required to provide detailed and specific information related to the nutritional content of food. For example, the Food and Drug Administration requires that nearly every packaged food and beverage in the United States contain a label describing such content as fat, sugar, and sodium.
If you want to eat healthier, learning to read a nutrition label is a great way to help you to that goal. It is important to control your nutritional intake in certain areas while consuming enough of others. Continue reading to learn more about nutrition labels and the helpful information that they are designed to provide.
What Information is Provided on a Nutrition Label?
A variety of nutritional components in the food you are looking at will be listed on the nutrition label. While this might differ a bit from one food or beverage to another, the total calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates should be clearly listed on the label.
Some changes have recently been made that are designed to make the nutrition labels even clearer and easier to read. Many of these changes involve the information that is to be provided on the label and how it comes across to the consumer. Those include the following:
- Calories and serving size – New regulations require the listing of calories and servings per container be more noticeable than other components on the label. This is accomplished by using a larger print type for these two pieces of information.
- Added sugars – In addition to the long-standing category of ‘total sugars’, another category called ‘added sugars’ is now included on all nutrition labels.
- Calories from fat has been removed – Older nutrition labels used to contain this category, but it has since been removed. This is because the type of fat is now proven to be more important to one’s diet than the amount of fat actually is.
- Required nutrients update – Vitamins A and C are no longer required to be listed on the nutrition label. However, these both can be listed voluntarily, and many companies have chosen to do so. In addition, Vitamin D and potassium are now expected to be included on the nutrition label.
- Updated serving sizes – It is now expected that nutrition labels display updated serving sizes. These are meant to be more reflective of how much the average person actually eats. Servings sizes should not try to inform people how much they should eat.
- Changed how calories and nutrients are shown – The calories and nutrients in a single serving are now to be displayed along with the total amount for the whole package. This is supposed to be more indicative of how much a person would typically eat in one sitting.
Understanding the information that is on the label is vital to being able to make informed decisions about what you eat. That is why the information provided on nutrition labels is constantly being reviewed. The FDA wants to ensure that individuals have access to the knowledge they need to eat better and healthier.
People who have certain underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol need to monitor what they eat. Nutrition labels are a great way to do that, so it is important to have the information displayed on all packaging.
5 Things Listed on a Nutrition Label to Look at When Watching Your Weight
Five of the more important items to look for on a nutrition label are: Serving size, calories, sugar, carbohydrates, and total fat. If you are watching your weight, then it is especially important that you know what is contained in all of the food and beverages you consume daily.
Because you cannot always tell what is in your food, nutrition labels have become increasingly important. Getting the calories wrong can make it nearly impossible to shed the unwanted pounds you are trying to get rid of. Thankfully, labels are becoming easier to read and contain the information you should rely on the most.
Many people find it difficult to determine what exactly the nutrition label is trying to tell them. When you get a package of food, it is not always designed for you to eat the entire package in one sitting. Of course, some meals are designed exactly for that. So, how do you tell the difference? It is all about the serving size.
You will want to start by looking at how many serving sizes are contained in the package. If it is more than one (which will be the case in most situations), you must multiply that number by the component you are measuring. For example, if one serving size is 100 calories and there are ten servings in the package, then eating the entire package would cost you 1,000 calories.
This is why serving size is so important. If you think that a particular food is healthy for you and will help to contribute to your weight loss goals, it is important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. You may find that you can eat very little of the food before you end up consuming way too many calories and fat.
If you look carefully, the label will tell you this. Thankfully, nutrition labels have become much clearer with this information. In addition, you should find the serving size and the total number of servings clearly indicated on the label. This will allow you to do some quick math to determine if it is in your best interest to eat or drink the product in question.
If your goal is to lose weight, you are probably well aware that the number of calories you consume every day is important. Since you really have no way of knowing how many calories a particular food or beverage has, you will need to depend on the nutrition label to give you the information that you need.
Knowing how many calories are in the food and beverages you consume helps you make an informed decision. You become in control of deciding whether or not eating or drinking a particular item is in your best interest. Without the information on the nutrition label, this power would be taken away from you.
Since there are several different types of sugar in food and beverages, nutrition labels now have a line that indicates total sugars. This makes it much easier to determine the total amount of sugar in one serving of the food item or drink. This is good information to know if you want to lose weight.
When considering all sugars, this begins with a count of all sugar that is naturally present in the food. Added to that is sugar that is included during the processing of the food or beverage. The combination of the two tells you how many total sugars are in a serving.
When you look at a nutrition label, you will find the total number of carbohydrates in the food or beverage listed there. This is a combination of the following:
- Complex carbohydrates
This is important information to know from a health perspective because each of these three components affects a person’s blood glucose in one way or the other. Beyond that, carbohydrates can also impact your ability to lose weight under specific diets. This is why you will want to read the label closely to know what you are about to eat or drink.
In the United States, the total number of carbohydrates in a given food item is typically listed in grams. You will want to look at this on the label to better understand the carbohydrate count contained in a package. This is particularly important for people who have diabetes, as their daily intake of carbohydrates tends to be restricted.
Many people want to stay away from eating fat, but some fat levels are beneficial to the human body. The key is to know what levels to stay within and which types of fat are more acceptable than others. This is why fat content is one of the required components to be included on a nutrition label.
If you are actively trying to lose weight, you will want to limit your total intake of fat each day. Many foods are labeled low fat for this reason, as it is a marketing technique designed to attract the attention of those who are trying to ensure that they do not gain extra pounds. To be considered low fat, a serving must contain three or fewer grams of fat.
However, that does not tell the entire story. Again, it depends on which type of fat one is referring to. There is also saturated fat and trans fat that you need to be concerned with. Both of these are listed on nutrition labels.
Saturated fat impacts the health of your heart. If you need to eat foods low in saturated fat, you will want to look for items that have less than one gram per serving. Too much trans fat can clog the arteries of the heart. If that is concerning to you, you will want to look on the label and make sure there are 0 grams of trans fat per serving.
How Accurate are Nutrition Labels?
The information contained on a nutrition label should not be considered 100% accurate. This is because the FDA permits a leeway of as much as 20 percent one direction or the other when talking about the nutritional component of a food or beverage. So, the stated value could be different than the actual.
This is helpful information to know because a beverage you are looking at that has 50 calories per serving could have as much as 60 calories. On the flip side, it could have as little as 40 calories per serving. So if you keep in mind that the actual numbers could fluctuate just a bit, the nutritional label is still a great way to know what you are eating and drinking.
Now that you know more about nutrition labels, it is time to put this knowledge to use. Determine the type of packaged foods and beverages you can do without and which contain nutritional components that can support your diet. Eating healthy requires a change in approach, which begins with knowing what is actually in your food.