READING NUTRITIONAL LABELS

AN IMPORTANT STEP IN WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS

Research has shown that when you log the foods that you eat, patients have a greater chance of keeping off all the weight that they have lost. However, if you have never paid attention to the content of the foods that you eat, how are you to know which foods are best to include in the diet that you have chosen? The easiest way is learning to read nutritional labels. Understanding nutritional labels will allow you to make the best choices in your diet on a daily basis. The following is a short tutorial on reading nutritional labels provided by www.move.va.gov.

1. SERVING SIZE & SERVINGS PER CONTAINER

While we are used to saying “portion” or “helping,” a food’s “serving size” is the term used on the label. All of the facts on the label are based on the serving size. Be sure to look at the number of servings in the container. Even small containers may contain more than one serving. If you eat the entire container, then you must multiply the nutritional values (like calories) by the number of servings in the container. Knowing the serving size on the label allows you to accurately log your food (i.e., “Have you had a cup or a ½ cup of the food?”).

2. AMOUNT OF CALORIES

The calories listed are for one serving of food. This helps especially if you are on a calorie restricted diet. “Calories from Fat” tells you how many fat calories are in one serving. Products that are “fat free” are not always “calorie free!”

3. PERCENT DAILY VALUES (DV)

These percentages tell you how the nutrients in one serving of food contribute to your total daily diet. Choose foods that have a higher percentage of nutrients than you need. TIP: 5% DV or less is low, 20% or more is high.

4. LIMIT THESE NUTRIENTS

Eating too much fat, cholesterol or sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even some cancers. You need to LIMIT these nutrients.

5. GET ENOUGH OF THESE NUTRIENTS

We often don’t get enough of certain nutrients, like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, or fiber.

• Look for choices that have at least 1 gram of fiber.
• Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber daily. (This is heart healthy AND can help with constipation.”
• Compare the number of grams (g) of sugar to the number given to Total Carbohydrate. Unless the food has natural sugar, like fruit or milk, these sugars are added.