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We’ve all heard the term “counting calories.” However, calories aren’t the only thing to pay attention to on food labels when looking to lose weight or eat healthy.  Here are some things you can check food labels for to help you limit the “bad” things in your diet.

1. Serving Size vs. Servings Per Container

If you look at the label on any food or drink item, you will see both the serving size and servings per container listed.
The nutritional information listed on a food label usually refers to one serving size-so if an item has 8 grams of sugar, but the box contains four servings, then there are actually 32 grams of sugar in the entire box. You should only eat one serving size at a time.

2. Calories

A calorie is a unit of energy that measures how much energy a food provides to the body. Calorie intake depends on several factors, including your weight, height, gender and physical activity. However, most dieticians advise that you stay around 2,000 calories a day. To achieve or maintain a healthy body weight, balance the number of calories you eat and drink with the number of calories you burn.
The more important calorie value to pay attention to is “calories from fat.”  Adults should consume no more than 30 percent of calories that come from fat over the course of the day. That means that if you are eating 2,000 calories per day, no more than 600 of these should come from fat.

3. Sodium

When eating packaged foods, it’s common to find high levels of sodium. It’s important to be aware of how much sodium, or salt, you are eating, because diets high in sodium contribute to increased blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease. You can keep your sodium levels lower by limiting the amount of packaged foods you eat, and by dining out less, since restaurant foods tend to have much higher sodium levels than foods prepared from scratch at home. A good way to understand sodium is to read the Daily Value percentage on the food label. Foods with a 5% DV of sodium are considered low sodium; foods with a 20% DV or more of sodium are considered high sodium.

4. Fats

Eating too much total fat (especially saturated fat and trans fat), can lead to a wide range of health challenges. When choosing foods that are labeled “fat-free” and “low-fat,” be aware that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free. Sometimes, to make a food tastier, extra sugars are added, which adds extra calories. Be sure to check the calories per serving too.

5. Sugar

Foods with added sugars may provide calories, but few essential nutrients. So, look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list, and make sure added sugars are not one of the first few ingredients. 


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