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How to read a food label

The Nutrition Labeling & Education Act of 1990, which required nutrition labeling for most foods was intended to make it easier for consumers to plan healthy diets. This may seem hard to believe considering how confusing it can be to decipher what is good and what is bad on a food label. In the visual below I've broken down the top five things you should pay attention to when reading a food label.

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how to read food label infographic

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How to read a food label

  1. Take note. If you eat more than the serving size, the nutrients and ingredient quantities will differ from what is listed.
    Image from food label: Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size 1 cup (19g/0.67 oz.)
  2. Limit these
    Saturated and trans fats are linked to high risks of heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. Aim for less than 3 grams of saturated fats and 0 grams of trans fats. Too much sodium is also bad for your heart, so try to keep this quantity below 500 mg per meal.
    Image from food label
    Total fat 0.5 g 1%
    Saturated fat 0g 0%
    Trans fat 0g
    Polyunsaturated fat 0g
    Monounsaturated fat 0g
    Cholesterol 0mg 0%
    Sodium 0mg 0%
  3. Not all carbs created equal
    The total amount of carbohydrates in a serving is a combination of dietary fiber, sugars, sugar alcohol and starch. Instead of only looking at total carbohydrates, try to eat grain-rich foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber and only natural sugars. Aim for 21 to 35 grams of fiber daily.

    Image from food label
    Total carbohydrate 15g 5%
    Dietary fiber 1g 4%
    Sugars 5g 5%
  4. Don't forget your vitamins
    A food or beverage should have 10 to 19 percent of a vitamin or mineral to be considered a good source of this nutrient. Be aware that a food or beverage may be a good source of vitamins or minerals, but that does not necessarily make it a health food.

    Image from food label
    Vitamin A 0%
    Vitamin C 0%
    Calcium 0%
    Iron 2%
  5. You are what you eat
    The ingredients are listed in order of quantity. If you see the word enriched before any grain, it means that it is not a fiber-rich, whole grain. Also, look for words ending in "-ose" like fructose or glucose, which indicates added sugars.

    Image from food label
    Ingredients: milled corn, sugar, malt flavoring, high fructose corn syrup, salt, iron, niacinamide, sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.

Source: Healthy Set Go


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