Food labels can be found on the back of just about any packaged food or drink. Food nutrition labels are a great way to keep count of calories, but did you know that they can help you keep track of all the nutrients in your food too? Nutrition labels provide you with in-depth information, such as serving sizes and the amount of sodium, fat and fiber in your food. It is a good idea, especially during your medical weight loss* program in North Carolina to regularly read and understand the nutritional information concerning your food. By doing so when you shop, plan your meals and cook, this practice can help you become aware of what you are truly eating, and promote a well-balanced diet during your weight loss* journey.
How to Read Food Labels
There are several things you will want to take into account when looking over a food nutrition label:
- Start with the serving size. The information regarding the calories and nutrients is based on one serving size, but many packages will contain more than one serving. Be aware of the serving size and of how many servings you are actually consuming.
- Count the calories. Below the serving size you’ll find the amount of calories per serving and the calories from fat in one serving. Just because a product is advertised as low-fat doesn’t necessarily mean that it is lower in calories. Different brands may also produce different calorie counts.
- Figure out the fats. Underneath the calories you will see the total fat amount, cholesterol and sodium amounts. These are the nutrients you want to limit, especially anything that may be high in saturated or trans fats.
- Calculate the carbs. Fibers and sugars are both types of carbohydrates that are listed on the nutrition label. Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber. You’ll want to check the ingredients and choose foods that are made with whole grains, avoiding ones with added sugars. This will ensure that you are consuming good carbs rather than harmful ones.
- Process the protein. When looking at the amount of protein and choosing food for protein content, make sure that those choices are lower in fats.
- Know your good nutrients. Towards the bottom of most nutrition labels you will find the vitamins and minerals that are also included. These are nutrients you want to include more of in your diet. Look for foods with high percentages of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium or iron.
Percent Daily Value
Another thing to understand about nutrition labels is that they calculate the percent daily value based on a 2,000-2,500/day calorie diet. The percent daily value helps you link the nutrients in a serving of food to their contribution to your total daily diet. With this you can determine if a food is low or high in a specific nutrient—generally, 5% or less is low, and 20% or more is high. This is helpful because if you eat something that is low in dietary fiber early on in the day, you can make it a point to aim for something that is higher in dietary fiber later. Usually there is no percent daily value for sugar or trans fats, but these are still things you want to look for and limit for a healthy diet.
Food Labels for Weight Loss*
Once you’ve figured out how to decipher nutrition food labels, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. If you’re working towards a weight loss* goal, comprehensively reading nutrition labels before you buy can be a great aid in reaching that goal. Doing so will encourage you to make food choices that aren’t just low in calories, but high in the nutrients that you need to stay healthy to promote long-term weight management.