Nutrition labels are there to guide your food selections. In general, these labels are incredibly useful tools, if you know how to use them right. Learn about common nutrition label tricks and make informed dietary choices for you and your family. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has an informative website that breaks down the nutrition label, as well as information on how to make healthier dietary choices.
Serving size. You really don’t have all the facts if you haven’t noted the serving size on the nutrition facts label. The serving size is at the top of the nutrition label, and it should be at the top of your list when noting the dietary details. The information you see on the label relates to that portion size.
Calories. A bit further down on the label is the amount of calories per serving. Knowing the calories of the food you are eating is important in maintaining a healthy weight. Check with your doctor to find out what calorie range is right for you.
Total fat. The total fat, as well as the saturated and trans fat, appears next on the label. Saturated and trans fat should be kept to a minimum or avoided altogether. Healthy fats such as mono and polyunsaturated fats may actually help manage blood cholesterol levels and can be moderately consumed. In general, no more than 5 percent of your daily dietary intake should be from fat, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Percentage daily values. Another important concept to keep in mind is the percent daily values at the very bottom of the label. This part of the nutrition facts label is there to guide you in the appropriate quantities of each nutrient, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Your caloric needs may vary.
Healthier options. Selecting the best and healthiest foods is easy with the next two sections on the nutrition facts label:
- Limit — The first part of the label, including fat content information, also contains the data on nutrients that should be consumed in limited quantities — less than 5 percent. Sodium, cholesterol, fat and sugars should be monitored and kept to about 5 percent or less.
- Increase — The next part of the label will display the content of nutrients that are generally under consumed. Fiber and protein is also present on the label and are important to include in a healthy diet — at or about 20 percent of your daily diet.