After dinner one night last week, my daughter opened the freezer and pulled out a box of mini ice cream bars for dessert. We turned the box over to check the nutrition facts and we were surprised to find that the serving size listed was 3 bars. Nutrition fact labels provide all sorts of interesting information about the food we eat, including the amount of added sugars, ingredients, sodium, and types of fat. Do you check the nutrition facts panel when purchasing foods? What do you look for on a label?
The top of the label includes serving size information. The serving size on the label represents the amount people typically eat. This is not a recommendation for how much you should eat. Measuring serving sizes (using measuring cups, or counting out the portion), can be a useful exercise when getting used to amounts and deciding how much is right for your particular diet.
The next section of the label provides information about key nutrients like fats, sodium, fiber, and carbohydrates. Fats, sodium and added sugars (listed under carbohydrates) are foods that we want less of in our foods. Fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium, are nutrients that we want more of in our diets. Aim for foods that have 3g of fiber or more to meet your daily need in this area.
Using the percent daily value column can also be helpful in deciding if a food item will fit into your diet. If a food has 5% or less of the daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet, this is considered to be low. If an item has 20% or more it is considered high. An item that has 5% of your total fat intake in a day, and 20% of the fiber you need, would be giving you more of what you want, and a reasonable amount of fats. We do need some fat in our diet, so cutting it out completely is not recommended.
Check out some labels in your kitchen or the next time you are at the store. Compare items to find more of what you are looking for to have a healthy, balanced diet. For more information on label reading, check out fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition.