Interpreting food nutritional values from product lables can sometimes seem daunting, but here's some tips to simplify the task ...
by Dime Alexi, a registered nurse and a free-lance writer whose specialties include health issues
The most important part of the product packaging is the food nutritional values, which are listed either on the side or the back panel. Think of food nutrition labels as similar in function to the nutritional supplements information found on your favorite vitamin and mineral supplements. Both will provide information that greatly assists in making healthier food choices.
On the label itself, you can read the serving size, servings per container and calories per serving information. This information is important since you want to avoid overeating the food item, thus, overshooting your planned caloric intake.
Most individuals, however, will fail to understand the footnotes on the food nutrition label. You will see the footnotes below the asterisk sign at the bottom of the label, which lists down the key nutrients present in the food product. Such an oversight is disadvantageous to nutritional plans as the food nutritional values will be incomplete without information on the micronutrients and macronutrients contained within each serving.
So, how is the footnote used? Basically, you can determine how much you can eat of the food product with your planned daily caloric intake in mind. This is the so-called percentage daily values (%DV), which is based on how little or how much of the key micronutrients you must eat depending on the number of calories you eat. For a normal individual with no weight loss or weight gain agenda, the recommended amount is 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day.
You can better understand the food nutritional values when you have knowledge of the many lingos used on the package. Usually, these label lingos are found on the front panel in attractive fonts with the main aim of encouraging consumers to purchase the product over its competitors. The premise is that consumers will be persuaded with words like low-fat, non-fat, low sodium, low calories, sugar-free and no preservatives added, to name a few, all of which are part of a healthier diet.
Although the US Food and Drug Administration regulate the use of these terms, you will be in a better position to determine if the food, indeed, fits into your nutritional plan. Just to name a few of these common terms and their meanings in terms of food nutritional values:
These terms will take time to learn before finally making sense of the health claims. Still, when you have learned the value of food nutritional values, you have also learned the value of eating right. And that is the start of a better, healthier and happier mind and body.
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