Tips for Reading Food Labels

By Angela Sidlo/ Certified Health Coach and Co-op Board Member

Angela Sidlo for webMost packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. Here are some tips for reading the label and making smart food choices:

Check servings and calories. Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually eating.  That bowl of chips you ate while watching the ball game could have been as much as 4 servings worth!  That means 4 times the calories too.

Make your calories count.  Look at the calories on the label and compare them with the nutrients they offer.  Tip: When you look at a food’s nutrition label, first check the calories, and then check the nutrients to decide whether the food is worth eating.
reading nutrition label for web
Eat less sugar.  Read the ingredient list, if sugars are one of the first few ingredients, put it back on the shelf. 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon.  The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends for men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons), women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).  Tip: names for added sugars (caloric sweeteners) include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.

Know your fats.  Look for foods low in saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol, for heart health.  Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.  My favorite good oils list includes olive, avocado, sesame, sunflower and organic canola oils.  Tip: goods fats should be in the range of 20% to 35% of the total calories you eat.

Reduce sodium (salt); increase potassium.  Research shows that eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, the equivalent of about 3/4 teaspoon, reduces the risk of high blood pressure.  To meet the daily potassium recommendation of at least 4,700 milligrams, consume fruits and vegetables that are sources of potassium including: sweet potatoes, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, prune juice, and bananas.  These counteract some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure.  When choosing salt, get himalayan or sea salt as they are high in trace minerals as well.

Use the % Daily Value (% DV) column: 5% DV or less is low, and 20% DV or more is high.

Keep these low: saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.

Get enough of these: potassium and fiber, vitamins A, C, and D, calcium, and iron.
Check the calories: 400 or more calories per serving of a single food item is high.

To learn more about Angela Sidlo or to get in touch, check out her web site.

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