Recently I was teaching my college nutrition students how to read a food label. Given that it is a science-based nutrition course, we were getting more technical than the average label reader usually does. I was afraid that food label reading was going to be too basic for them, so imagine my surprise when they revealed to me how little they know about translating a food label into making smart choices. Granted, the food label does contain a lot of information that can be confusing to the average consumer & requires more “sifting” than one may prefer to do when making food choices. The government is in the process of revising the label, but one never knows how long that process may take. So it was very timely that I came across this article that listed the top 5 items to look at when reading a label. Helpful information – happy reading!
1 and 2. Serving Size & Servings Per Package: Without looking at what a “serving” is supposed to be in the package, everything else on the label is irrelevant. This is the one thing that most consumers completely overlook until they realize that they just ate two, 450-calorie servings of pizza. Oops.
Many packages that appear like they would serve one, may actually have two or more portions. (This is one of the pet peeves of the FDA and IOM have about current packages that they want to change.) Having “servings per package” and “calories per package” boldly present on the front panel would help solve this issue.
3.Calories: That’s obvious. Many of us are overweight and virtually everyone has to be aware of calories, so be sure to look at it before buying. As a general rule, consider that meals should be 450-650 calories and snacks less than 200 calories.
4. Saturated Fat: Try to choose foods that provide low numbers for saturated fat. Most women need no more than 15-17 grams sat fat per day. Full-fat cheese is the number one source in the US diet, followed by pizza so keep that in mind.
5.Sodium: You’ll quickly find out that the less processed a food, the lower the sodium will be. Watching sodium will automatically improve your diet as you’ll be eating more foods that are less processed or naturally fresh and sodium-free.