Healthy Livingon July 6, 2010Leave a Comment

There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to reading a food label. Learning how to read food labels is like looking at a prescription for your health and your life.  Remember, we are what we eat so we should know what is in the food we are buying, preparing and eating. First,  looking for red-flag ingredients— if a Hall of Shame ingredient is listed among the top five ingredients overall, steer clear! Secondly, if you can not pronounce the word or if it does not sounds like  a derivative of anything you have eaten before, steer clear!

Food Hall of Shame

  1. Sugar
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  3. Enriched Wheat Flour (White Flour)
  4. Saturated Fat
  5. Hydrogenated Oil

Food Hall of Fame:

  1. Olive Oil
  2. Garlic
  3. Tomato Sauce
  4. Spinach
  5. Raw Nuts
  6. Pomegranates

Just about every packaged food made in the U.S. has a food label indicating serving size and other nutritional information. The “Nutrition Facts” food labels are intended to give you information about the specific packaged food in question.  Such as, measurements of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals are calculated for a “typical portion.” But, reading these labels can be confusing because you have to know the rules they are making when the food companies are creating the labels. Below are some explanations of a typical food label.

Serving Size. Serving sizes are based on the amount of food people typically eat, which makes them realistic and easy to compare to similar foods. This may or may not be the serving amount you normally eat. It is important that you pay attention to the serving size, including the number of servings in the package and compare it to how much you actually eat. The size of the serving on the food package influences all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. For example, if a package has 4 servings and you eat the entire package, you quadruple the calories, fat, etc. that you have eaten :(

Calories and Calories From Fat. The number of calories and grams of nutrients are provided for the stated serving size. This is the part of the food label where you will find the amount of fat per serving. Pay close attention! For fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, choose foods with a low % Daily Value.

Nutrients. This section lists the daily amount of each nutrient in the food package. These daily values are the reference numbers that are set by the government and are based on current nutrition recommendations. Some labels list daily values for both 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets.

% Daily Value” shows how a food fits into a 2,000 calorie/day diet. For diets other than 2,000 calories, divide by 2,000 to determine the % Daily Value for nutrients. For example, if you are following a 1,500 calorie diet, your % Daily Value goal will be based on 75% for each nutrient, not 100%.

Ingredients. Each product should list the ingredients on the label. They are listed from largest to smallest amount (by weight). This means a food contains the largest amount of the first ingredient and the smallest amount of the last ingredient.

Label Claim. Another aspect of food labeling is label claims. Some food labels make claims such as “low cholesterol” or “low fat.” These claims can only be used if a food meets strict government definitions.

I hope this help clear up your uncertainty when reading a food label.

Shopping tips:

  1. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, it requires no label reading.
  2. Do not buy any packaged food that have more than 5 ingredients listed
  3. Do not buy any packaged food containing words you cannot pronounce.
  4. Buy whole, fresh cuts of meat and fish, requires no label reading.
  5. Buy fresh and organic whenever possible, meats, fruits , herbs, beans, grains, yogurt, cheese….

In good health,

Dr Heather

About drheather
I have been practicing alongside my husband, Dr. Ralph S. Cardin, for the past 12 years and have worked in the health care environment for over 29 years. Besides being a passionate practitioner, I am a proud mother of four beautiful boys. I am active in my church and my children’s school and enjoy cooking and exercising.

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