The nutrition facts label is found on the majority of food items sold in stores. It gives information about the nutrients found in the food item. Your body needs these nutrients, in proper amounts, in order to stay healthy.
1. Serving Size: serving size is listed in an amount of food (ex: one cup, 2 cookies, etc). Serving size helps you to determine how much you are eating. For example, if you ate 10 pretzels and the serving size was 5 pretzels, you have consumed 2 servings. A bottle of soda is tricky like this – often the calories listed on the label are for less than the whole bottle!
2. Calories: The number of calories in a single serving of the food is listed on the left of the nutrition facts label. This number tells you the amount of energy in the food; energy can be from fat, protein and/or carbohydrate. It is important to pay attention to calories because if one consumes too many calories than the body needs, one gains weight.
3. Limit these nutrients: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Your body does need fat, but it is more important to consume mono or poly-unsaturated fat over saturated fat. Saturated and trans fat have been shown to increase risk of chronic diseases including heart disease. Your body has the ability to make cholesterol for its use, so it is not needed from the diet in large amounts. Thus, limit your intake of cholesterol. Sodium has the ability to raise blood pressure and offset fluid balance, so intakes of excess sodium should be limited.
4. Get enough of these nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and fiber. These nutrients have many important functions in the body, I will go into detail of these nutrients in later blog posts.
5. Quick Guide to % Daily Value: This is based on a 2000 kcal diet. 5% DV or less is considered low – look for this percentage next to fat, cholesterol, and sodium. 20% or more is considered high – look for this percentage next to fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Each individual has individual nutritional needs. Use the nutrition facts label as a reference only, not as a dietary guide. Please see a registered dietitian to determine your exact needs.