Are you carb-conscious? Tracking your sodium intake? Are you simply interested in what you are putting into your body? The nutrition label is a great place to start when you want to be more mindful of the foods and beverages that you are consuming.
Look to the nutrition label on a food product for information on the serving sizes, calories, ingredients and nutritional value of the food. The nutrition label is a black-and-white notation that is printed on the back or bottom of a product that you are buying. It is federally mandated that the nutritional content of packaged foods be accessible to consumers – so check it out!
WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR?
Know your nutrients! Nutrition labels break down the macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in packaged foods. Pay attention to the content of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium in foods – consuming too much of these can contribute to heart disease, arterial blockage and other heart-related issues. For example, consuming high amounts of sodium can cause high blood pressure. It is recommended to not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. However, most Americans consume double that amount!
Scan for sugar! Consuming foods with high amounts of sugar can increase your risk of developing diabetes. Check the sugar content on your nutrition label to monitor your sugar intake. Look for products that have high amounts of dietary fiber and low amounts of sugar, especially added sugars! To keep a balanced diet, whole-grain foods should be the primary source of carbohydrates in your diet.
Check the ingredients! Nutrition labels list out the ingredients in packaged foods. There are also specific allergy warnings printed on nutrition labels that are associated with the product’s ingredients. If you have food sensitivities, allergies or preferences, the allergy warning is a quick place to look.
Note the serving size! It is important to note that products in a single package could actually contain multiple servings. Nutrition labels present the nutritional content for a single serving. To calculate the nutritional content for an entire package, you need to multiply the nutritional content by the number of servings in the container. For example, to calculate the sugar content in a packaged item that has three servings, you multiply the amount of sugar times three! Nutrition labels list the amount of each macronutrient contained in a single serving of their product. The nutrition labels report these nutrient contents as a percentage of recommended daily values. The percentages are calculated based on the standard 2,000-calorie diet. If you are following a diet with a different calorie count, then you will calculate different daily values for your micronutrients.
MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES
Make informed decisions about what you put in your body, because the food you eat impacts your energy level and your long-term health. Aim to consume 100 percent of the daily value of each nutrient. Meeting your nutrition goals can lower your risk of dietary deficiencies and chronic diseases, like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Your dietary habits are important for your health! Visit your doctor to check your important health indicators to be sure you are making good dietary decisions for your health. ￼
Aaron Stonelake is the nutritionist for the Kern County Public Health Services Department. For more on health resources and programs, go to www.kernpublichealth.com.