Reading Food Labels

Learning to read the nutrition facts label on food could be the secret to weight loss with a diet program that you like…

Nutrition Facts Serving Size 1 ounce, Serving per Container about 10

Amount per serving Calories 160, Calories from Fat 63, % Daily Value

Total Fat 7 g 12% Saturated Fat 3g 12%, Cholesterol 10mg 3%, Sodium 150 mg 6%, Total Carbohydrate 11 g 4%, Dietary Fiber 1g 2%, Sugar 5 g Protein 2 g Vitamin A 10% * Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 3% * Iron 2%

Serving Size:

This describes the portion of food that contains the calories, fats, and nutrients listed on the label. Portion size is very important because it specifies the amount of food along with the calories and fat it contains. Each serving size on the label describes how much by weight or volume a serving contains. Some foods have very small servings.

Serving Per Container:

This tells you how many servings are in the package or container. You may want to buy a candy bar whose labels reads 120 calories. You think to yourself “that’s not many calories,” but keep reading. The candy has 2 servings per container which means if you eat the whole thing, you’ll consume 240 not 120 calories unless you eat half of it. Come on now, have you ever tried to eat half a Snicker Bar? Always look for the serving size and servings per container to know the real calorie intake.

A large bag of chips has about 10 servings. Let’s say each serving size is 160 calories and 7 grams of fat, then 1/10 of that bag is your serving size. The bag contains a total of 1600 calories and 70 grams of fat. If you eat the whole bag of chips based on a 2000 calorie diet, you’ve almost eaten a whole day’s worth of calories. If you eat one serving (one-tenth in this case) then you only consume 160 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Fats:

Fat in your diet is essential but should be eaten sparingly for any amount of weight loss. Fats are plentiful in cream sauces, hamburger sauces, salad dressing and desserts because of the high amount of butter and oil. Saturated fat is the really bad stuff. That’s a type of fat that clogs arteries, so pay close attention to saturated fats. Substituting low fat and non-fat mayonnaise and salad dressing is important for reducing your fat intake. A hamburger is not that fattening if the sauce is replaced with low-fat dressing or ketchup and mustard. Each fat gram contains 9 calories. The average American consumes more than 34% of their diet in fats. Your new goal should be 20% fat consumption.

Let us look at an example of a serving of potato chips. Let’s say that a serving contains 7 grams of fat. Multiply the fat grams by 9 so, 7g fat x 9 = 36 calories from fat. The chips contain a total of 160 calories. Divide the “calories from fat” by the total calories and multiply by 100 for the per cent. The formula is:

(fat grams per serving x 9) ÷ (total calories) x 100 = percentage of fat

potato chips example, (7 x 9) ÷ (160) x 100 = 39% fat

The chips are 39% fat. Labels on food packages can be your best friend when trying to select less fatty foods. It’s OK to have high fats food but you should balance your meals with lower fat foods. The trick is to stay within your planned calorie budget.

Fiber:

Fiber is abundant in whole grain products, legumes, fruits, beans and oats. Fiber along with plenty of water helps the colon remove waste from the bowel. The slower the waste products move through the colon, the greater risk of colon and bowel cancer. That’s why fiber is so important in your diet. Foods rich in fiber are also filling and healthy. Bread made from whole wheat grains that have not been processed are a good source of fiber. Buy bread that do not use bleached flour. That’s just another way of saying processed bread which strips out most of the fiber. Look at the fiber content on the label. Bread should contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. Strive for 25 to 30 grams of total fiber intake per day. Remember, it’s on the label.

Sodium:

Salt is the most common source of sodium. Excess sodium may result in high blood pressure. If you are sensitive to sodium, lower your sodium intake. Our body only needs 500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Anything over 2500 mg is probably too much.

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