How to read a food label?
Needless to say, food labels are complicated and even if we try to understand what are we buying, we tend to simply give up and buy it anyway. Measurement units, percentages, and strange ingredients are making it hard for us to have a complete picture of what we are putting in our body. Here, we will help you to break down the FDA’s complicated diagram.
The FDA requires from food manufacturers to include the following on each product: nutritional information, number of calories, nutrients in a given serving, and ingredient lists.
The first thing you might notice is serving size. Serving size is the amount of food that’s eaten in one sitting. Always keep in mind that’s rarely the case since the figure is based on what people ate in 1993. However, thanks to new regulations, in the future we should see more realistic serving sizes.
The next section is the calories. This section explains the amount of energy in a single serving. The label is based on the average daily intake which is 2,000 calories. However, the number of calories you should eat daily depends on your size, age, activity level, and individual goals. Here is where most of us stop reading the label because here is where things get complicated. The FDA requires from all food manufacturers to list saturated fat, total fat, trans fat, sodium, cholesterol, total carbohydrate, sugars, dietary fibers, protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. Many people are sometimes confused with what’s what and what matters, how much you should know from the nutrients list. However, next to each nutrient, you will find two numbers. The first number is the amount of nutrient in grams. The second is the percentage of the daily recommended amount of the given nutrient. For example, if a food label states that the product contains total fat as 10 grams, and daily value as 15% that means that eating the food will put you 15% of the way towards the recommended daily intake for someone who is eating 2,000 calories a day.
Here is how much of each nutrient according to the FDA you should intake if you are eating 2,000 calories a day.
Total fat – 65 grams.
However, you should limit your saturated fat intake to approximately 30 grams, and completely cut out trans fat. Unsaturated fats are good fats and you should not worry about the higher amount of unsaturated fats.
Total carbohydrates – 300 grams.
Carbohydrates include dietary fiber included (recommended intake is 20 grams), natural sugar and added sugars. For women, the FDA recommends consuming 25 grams of added sugar a day and 37 grams for men. So, you want to keep an eye on the added sugars section.
Protein – 50 grams.
This might look like too much but rest assured that most of us get plenty of proteins. Proteins are crucial to building muscles and losing weight.
Sodium – approximately 2,300 milligrams.
The intake of sodium is pretty unclear since some scientists argued that 2,300 is too much while others believe it’s too little. If you worry about sodium intake, you should talk to your doctor.
When it comes to the ingredients list, keep in mind that the first ingredient makes up the greatest portion of the food while the last one takes up the least. The order of listed ingredients can give you a rough estimate of the proportion of each ingredient. It’s important to spot added sugar which comes in the form of many different names. The list of names can be found on the University of California, San Francisco page. If you would like to have more information on which ingredients are unhealthy, we encourage you to speak to your doctor or visit the page for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Another rule? Just because you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or just because we recognize the word it doesn’t mean that the ingredient is healthy.