How best to use the nutrition facts label
April 30, 2013 1:16PM
Updated: June 2, 2013 6:04AM
Ever check out the label on food packages when you’re at the store?
Perhaps you do it because for you food safety means, at least in part, limiting calories or sodium or fat. Or maybe you do it because you want to make healthy food choices for your family. Whatever the reason, you are able to do it thanks to the Nutrition Facts label regulation of 1993.
For the last 20 years, the FDA rules for the Nutrition Facts label have made it easier for consumers to compare products and make better informed choices. And the number of consumers who say they utilize the labels continues to grow, with an increase from 44 to 54 percent between 2002 and 2008. If you’re one of them, here are a few tips to help you use the labels more effectively.
Check the serving size and number of servings. All Nutrition Facts labels are based on one serving but many packages contain more. So, if you eat two servings, the calories, fat and nutrients are doubled. Serving size is the key to the rest of the information on the Nutrition Facts Label. The nutrition information about the food — like the calories, sodium, and fiber — is based upon one serving.
Calories count, so pay attention to the amount. Low-fat or fat-free doesn’t necessarily mean calorie-free.
Know your fats and reduce sodium for your health. Foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol help reduce the risk of heart disease. Limiting sodium helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Read the label to see how much sodium is in the food you are choosing. 5% DV or less is low in sodium. 20% DV or more is high in sodium. When you are deciding between two foods, compare the amount of sodium. Look for cereals, crackers, pasta sauces, canned vegetables, and other packaged foods that are lower in sodium.