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How to read the Nutrition Facts Label

31 January, 2012

If you’re following our meal plans, you don’t need to worry about counting calories, fat, carbohydrates, or anything else. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods, in order to make the right choices at the grocery store.

Useful tips:

  1. Serving Size:
    This is the 1st thing you want to look at. Indeed, some manufacturers purposely provide the information for serving sizes that are smaller than what most people would eat, to make their product look better. Serving size is shown in cups, pieces, slices, etc. followed by the metric amount (for example, grams).
  2. Calories:
    This tells you how much energy you get from eating one serving of the product.
  3. %DV:
    The column on the right-hand side of the label lists the percentage of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient, assuming 2,000 calories a day. Your own recommended DV may be higher or lower, depending on your calorie needs.

  4. Fat:
    This shows the amount of total fat in grams per serving, with two sub-categories for the saturated and trans fats, which are both bad. You may also check the ingredient list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, which indicate the presence of trans fat.
  5. Cholesterol:
    This one has no DV because cholesterol should be reduced to a minimum. There is, however, a consensus that dietary cholesterol should be limited to 300 mg/day for the general population.
  6. Sodium:
    Health Canada’s DV is 2,300 mg.
  7. Carbohydrate:
    This shows the amount of total carbs in grams per serving, with sub-categories for fibre and sugars. Getting plenty of fibre is very important, so pay close attention to this part of the label. Concerning sugars, be aware that this includes both the sugars that occur naturally in foods, like fructose and lactose, as well as added sugars (corn syrup, dextrose, and honey, to name a few). Look at the ingredients list to check for these added sugars — and avoid products where they appear close to the top of the list.
  8. Protein:
    Total grams per serving.
  9. Vitamins and Minerals:
    Manufacturers are required to list the %DV for Vitamins A and C, Calcium and Iron. Listing other vitamins and minerals is up to them.
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Author

Cinzia Cuneo

Cinzia Cuneo, founder of SOSCuisine.com, never wanted to neglect the quality of her food. She shares her special expertise to make good food quickly and without complications!

Cinzia Cuneo

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