Nutrition Facts Label – Critical Information for your Health

What should I eat? How do I know what food is better for me?  How much should I eat?

These are important questions we ask ourselves every day. 

What tools and information are available to help us in our journey to eat better and be healthier?  One of the most important tools that we have is the Nutrition Facts Label that is on all food that we buy at our grocery stores. 

Despite this label being on all food containers, we often overlook the label and/or don’t understand the information and how important it is to us.  

What are the most important Nutrition Facts that I should be looking for?

There is a lot of information on these labels and it can be both confusing and overwhelming.  Here are three important items to look for and use in your decision-making process.

1.    Serving Size – all of the nutritional information provided is based on the serving size listed on the label.  The food manufacturer decides what the serving size is, and it may differ greatly from how many of us eat the food. 

For example – many breakfast cereals have ¾ cup serving size, peanut butter is 2 tablespoons, and a bag of pecans has 11 pecans as a serving (all of these serving sizes could be easily exceeded in one meal).   Recommendation:  Always make sure you understand the serving size.  You may be making a good decision on the food to choose, but if you are eating 3 servings of that food in one meal, it could be doing more harm than you think.

2.    Ingredients – every food item has the list of ingredients on the label.  And they are in order of the greatest amount first – so the first ingredient listed is the largest single item within the product.  For example – the first ingredient in peanut butter is peanuts, as expected. 

This information will provide you the insight into what you are consuming when eating this product.  Things to look for – artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals/items you don’t know, etc.  In searching for applesauce at the grocery store, I was shocked to find many with high fructose corn syrup as the #2 ingredient. 

Why?  Apples are sweet, so applesauce should be Apples & Water – don’t need the artificial sweetener.   Recommendation:  Read, learn and understand the ingredients within the food you are buying and consuming. Avoid all the various artificial sweeteners and long list of chemicals.  

3.    Sugars – every label will provide the grams of sugar within each serving.   It is recommended that we limit the grams of added sugar to less than 30 grams per day(we still need to be mindful of the naturally occurring sugar levels as well).

Many soft drinks are very high in sugar, some over 60 grams of sugar per container.   You may think a product is low in sugar, but it may actually not be if you are eating 3 servings at your meal.  And be diligent with items you think are healthy – items like Vitamin Water have over 30 grams of sugar per bottle.

Recommendation:  Always look at the grams of sugar per serving on the labels.  This can help you purchase healthier food items, control your daily added sugar, and monitor your serving sizes. 

So What to do next?

The most important thing about the food label  - Use it!!! It is there to give you the information you need to make better decisions – find it, understand it, and use it to benefit you and your family.   If you would like additional information or insight into how food is helping or hurting your journey to improved health, give us a call.  

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