How to Read Nutrition Labels

How_to_Read_Nutrition_LabelsMaking smarter food choices need not take more than a couple of minutes of scanning through labels if you have an understanding of what to look out for. Here are what some common information on nutrition labels really mean.

Serving Size

The serving size is calculated per serving, usually at 228 grams or a cup, so that consumers may compare across different food products. In other words, there could be more than one serving in each package. Your intake of the number of servings will multiply the nutrient numbers accordingly. For example, if for every serving of a pack of cereal there is 50 grams of carbohydrates, you will consumer 150 grams of carbohydrates for three servings of that.

Limit these (Calories, Total Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium etc)

Eating beyond the recommended calories intake in the long run would result in weight gain and even obesity. If you are watching your weight, this would be the category to look out for. Multiply accordingly to the number of servings you will be taking for the absolute value. Especially with US labels, these are indicated in orange. Do not take too much of such "nutrients" for they are no good for you.

Nutrients (Dietary Fibre, Vitamin A, Calcium, Thiamin etc)

On the other hand, go for those labelled in blue like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. A product that scores high on this and low on the orange labelled would be good for you.

Daily Value

Usually listed in percentages, the daily value section relates the percentage of each nutrient as per serving. You will also see that they peg it to the daily recommended amount, often a 2,000 calorie diet. However, you may want to adjust accordingly to your age, health conditions and the like.

For example, if you are warned by your doctor to watch your cholesterol, this would be what you should be looking out for. Although these numbers are not absolute, you will want to lower the percentages of the bad stuff and consume more of the good stuff.

In General

You could also look out for bad ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and avoid products with such listed in its ingredient list. Alternatively, to make it even easier, you could trust products endorsed by the Health Promotion Board with "Low Sugar" or "A Healthier Choice" but not those claimed by the brands themselves.

You might also like: Cutting Back on Salt

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