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This is how you should read the Nutrition Label

The Basics of the 'Nutrition Facts' Panel

Here is a quick guide to understanding the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Nutrition Label Facts

There are four important things you need to know about the 'Nutrition Facts ' panel in any packaged food. Read on...

1. Start with the Serving Size

  • Look here for both the serving size (the amount for one serving) and the number of servings in the package.

  • Compare your portion size (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed on the panel. If the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide

Use per cent Daily Values (DV) to help evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:

  • Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5 per cent DV of fat provides 5 per cent of the total fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat.

  • Percent DV are for the entire day, not just one meal or snack

  • You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients, you may need more or less than100 per cent DV.

The High and Low of Daily Values

  • 5 per cent or less is low. Aim low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.

  • 20 per cent or more is high. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Limit Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium

3. Total Calories and Fat

  • Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight.

4. Nutrition Terms

Here are some of the most common claims seen on food packages and what they mean:

  • Low calorie: Less than 40 calories

  • Low cholesterol: Less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 gm or less of saturated fat per serving

  • Reduced: 25 per cent less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product

  • Good source of: Provides at least 10 per cent of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving

  • Calorie-free: Less than five calories per serving

  • Fat-free/sugar-free: Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving

  • Low sodium: Less than 140 mg of sodium per serving

  • High in: Provides 20 per cent or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving

  • High fibre: Five or more grams of fibre per serving

  • Lean (meat, poultry, seafood): Ten grams of fat or less, 4 ½ grams of saturated fat and less than 95 mg cholesterol per 90 gms serving

  • Light:1/3 fewer calories or ½ the fat of the usual food

  • Healthy (individual food item): Low fat, low saturated fat, less than 480 mg sodium, less than 95 mg cholesterol and at least 10 per cent of the Daily Value of vitamins A and C, iron, protein, calcium and fibre.

The FDA also sets standards for health-related claims on food labels to help consumers identify foods that are rich in nutrients and may help to reduce their risk for certain diseases. For example, health claims may highlight the link between calcium and osteoporosis, fibre and calcium, heart disease and fat or high blood pressure and sodium.

5. Nutrition Facts

  • Total fat includes saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat. Limit to 100 per cent DV or less per day.

  • Saturated fat and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

  • High levels of sodium can add up to high blood pressure.

  • Remember to aim for a low percentage DV of these nutrients.

Get Enough Vitamins, Minerals and Fiber

  • Eat more fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron to maintain good health and help reduce your risk of certain health problems such as osteoporosis and anaemia.

  • Choose more fruits and vegetables to get more of these nutrients.

  • Remember to aim high for the percentage DV of these nutrients.

  • Eating less fat, cholesterol and sodium may help reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

  • Additional Nutrients You know about fat and calories, but it is important to also know the additional nutrients on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

  • Protein Eat moderate portions of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, plus beans, peanut butter and nuts.

  • Carbohydrates There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fibre. Eat whole-grain bread, cereals, millets, rice and pasta plus fruits and vegetables.

  • Sugars Simple carbohydrates or sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit juice (fructose) or come from refined sources such as table sugar (sucrose) or corn syrup.

6. Check the Ingredient List

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities, those who wish to avoid pork or shellfish or limit added sugars or people who prefer vegetarian eating.

To conclude, be vary of the choice of foods that’s you buy from your store. Just don’t get carried away with health claims, low fat and low sugar terminologies. When in doubt, consult a dietician.

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