- Nutrition information is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. If a serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, then you must double the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients to get an accurate estimate of how much you’ve eaten. If you’ve eaten a smaller portion than what is on the label, calculate accordingly.
- Pay special attention to the amount of sugars (including carbohydrates) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods.
- Check out the quality of fats in a serving. Trans fats are labeled because they are known to contribute to “bad cholesterol,” which contributes to heart disease. Choose foods that are low in omega-6 fatty acids and high in Omega 3-fatty acids. Some foods, like nuts and avocado, have high fat content, but the source of fat is actually good for the body.
- Be aware that “0” does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!
- In addition to understanding the nutrition label, take a look at the list of ingredients. If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it’s likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:
- Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products
- GMO – genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives
- Xanthan gum
- Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)
- Soy and cottonseed oil
- Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine)
- MSG – monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)
- Food allergens – if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten
Do you read food labels? Share in the comments below!
David Katz, M.D. “Nutrition Detectives: Teaching Kids to Make Healthy Choices.” http://www.davidkatzmd.com/nutritiondetectives.aspx
Pizzorno, J.E. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Fourth edition. St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Publishing: 2014.
United States Department of Agriculture. “Nutrition Facts Label.” Updated August 2006. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/printablematerials/NutritionFactsLabel.pdf
United States Food and Drug Administration. “How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.” Updated November 2004. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm