Food labeling is an important requirement for most prepared foods. For fruits, vegetables, fish and other raw produce, food labeling is voluntary. Nevertheless, it is important to know how to read and interpret such labels. Nutrition facts labels are usually found at the back of the food and it is there for a reason. Here is now a quick guide to reading nutrition facts labels you can use.
The most common format of a nutrition facts label has different sections. The top section contains the serving size and the number of servings per container. It is not then enough to know the serving size itself since it depends on the number of servings per container. You would still have to multiply the serving size with the the number of servings you see in the container to know how much is the real nutrient content of the food.
The second section contains the total amount of calories and the calories from fat. For a quick guide to reading nutrition facts in this section, remember that a serving with less than or equal to 40 calories is considered low. Those with 100 calories are moderate while those with 400 calories or more are considered high.
The next section contains the nutrients that should be limited. These nutrients include total fat (saturated and trans fat), cholesterol and sodium. The succeeding section, on the other hand, contains the nutrients that should be consumed more as these are the nutrients that are commonly insufficient in our diet. It includes fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrient facts label indicates their corresponding % Daily Value (%DV) so this is how you’re going to interpret it in a simple way: Remember that all with %DV of less than or equal to 5% is considered low in that particular nutrient while all with 20% DV or more contains a relatively high amount of a particular nutrient. For example, a macaroni & cheese you bought has %25 DV of total fat but has 0% DV of dietary fiber. We can interpret this as having a high amount of total fat and a low amount of dietary fiber. Since it contains more of the nutrient that should be limited, it is advised that you should minimize its consumption. If you want to add the %DV of all the foods you’ve eaten for the day, keep in mind that the goal is to keep it below 100%.
Lastly, there is the footnote section where you can find the approximate %DVs for specific nutrients. Some nutrition facts labels contain this section. Some do not.
Now, the next time you see a food label, why not try to interpret it by using this quick guide to reading nutrition facts labels?