Be a Food Label Detective
The best place to start when learning about a food is to investigate the nutrition facts label. First, identify how much of the food a serving provides. Be careful! Sometimes what appears to be a "typical serving" is in fact two or three servings per container.
The Ingredient List
Another important place to hunt for key information of packaged food is on the list of ingredients:
- Here you can find out if a loaf of bread or breakfast cereal is made with 100% whole grains or enriched flour.
- If you see "partially hydrogenated oils" in this list, there are actually Trans fats in the food, even if the nutrition label shows "0 grams" Trans Fat.
- You might also detect "hidden sugars" being added to your foods under different names. Manufacturers use sugar in a variety of forms in their products. It's important to learn to recognize them in the ingredient list. These are sugars and syrups which are added to foods or beverages during processing. They don't include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk and whole fruits. Foods that contain most of the added sugars in American diets are grain-based desserts (e.g. cookies, snack cakes, etc.), dairy desserts (e.g. ice cream and popsicles) and ready-to-eat cereals.
The Nutrition Facts Label
The information in this panel will help you decide if this is a food that's right for you. Whether you're generally healthy or working to improve your numbers, all foods can be enjoyed in moderation! Knowing where your limits are keeps you on track for success. Be sure to note that the % Daily Value is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and you may need to adjust these figures to match your caloric needs.