Since we talked about some pretty serious stuff yesterday I think it’s best with lighten up the mood with some nutritional news. There’s been a lot of chatter about those pesky nutrition labels we’ve all seen on the side of our food products. What are they all about? Today we’re going to over how to read these labels and understand what’s most important on them. As well we are going to discuss the changes the FDA is planning on making to the labels we’ve grown accustomed to.
To begin go grab a packaged food item in your house! The first thing you should look at is the serving size and serving per container, these two phrases are not usually the same. Instead the serving size is the amount of the container you should eat and the servings per container is how many servings are in the container. Not too bad, right? So, if your serving size is 1 cup you now know that the nutrition facts to follow are for that serving, 1 cup. This bit of information is important for your next step.
Take a look at the calories on your package, the number it says represents the calories for your serving size, not your servings per container. This is where a lot of us get mixed up, but after today you won’t! This number means that if you accidentally ate a whole bag of chips that had 2.5 servings per container you have to then multiply the calories by 2.5. PAUSE It’s getting a little confusing, right? Luckily for us the FDA is taking steps to lessen this confusion of calories per serving in the updated labels they have proposed. “By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.” If the proposal goes through that means that when you finish eating your whole bag of chips just by looking at the label you’ll be able to know how many calories you consumed, no math involved! But until then we will have to do either some measuring or some multiplication.
Next let’s go down to the next section with total fat, cholesterol, sodium, and total carbohydrate. These should be limited in your diet because too much of them can cause damage to our bodies. The DV is the daily value, and this tells you how much of the recommended daily value you’re getting from the one product. So if your label says the DV% of your total fat is 18% you know that 18% of your total fat has been consumed and you only need to consume 82%. However, these values are based on a 2000 calorie diet and most of us are not eating that much in a day. So it’s best to use the DV% as a guide to not over consume your nutrients. Especially these four because they are not always that great for you. But what about good carbs? Not all carbs are bad, and that is the biggest misconception in our society. Unfortunately the FDA is not making changes on this bit of information, instead they are changing “total carbohydrate” to “total carbs”. This really isn’t going to do much for your understanding of carbs, so I found this great link to help you understand which carbs you should be eating.
The next section we should focus on is on the dietary fiber, protein, and the vitamins and minerals. These are very important for us, especially fiber. It is recommended that men get up to 30 grams of fiber per day and women up to 25 grams. Protein is great for our bodies and we can get it from a lot of foods, such as beans, vegetables, legumes, and meat. Vitamins and minerals also play a huge part in our body as cofactors for many key reactions in our body. They help keep things running, developing, and functioning in our bodies, so it’s very important that we include and welcome them into our diet. The FDA even says that eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions!
The last section on labels that most people ignore is the footnote, these just explain to consumers the daily value of nutrient that we should be consuming. Luckily for you I linked you up to the DV chart for all your nutrients! One more thing that gets overlooked in many guides is the ingredient list! The general rule I follow is to look at the servings, calories, and then the ingredients. And, if the ingredients list is more than five items long (especially five I can’t pronounce) I try my best to not eat it. This is just a general rule I follow, granted all rules are meant to be broken, but it really helps you stay away from processed foods and confusing nutrition labels.
Last bit of information, if the proposal gets accepted and the FDA makes the changes to the labels the FDA estimates it will cost the food industry $2 billion to implement these changes, but also forecasts a $20-30 billion public health benefit! If that isn’t motivating enough to encourage our government to make these needed changes, I don’t know what is. Until then, read your labels, eat smart, and eat clean. #nutritionforall