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What’s black and white but may not be read all over?  It’s a nutrition facts label!  It’s present on nearly every package of food, but not always accounted for.  Let’s take the mystery out of this label and show you all the useful information that it contains.

Let’s breakdown the label.  The number of servings per container is clearly noted at the top.  Next is serving size. This is the amount of food that people are typically thought to eat in one sitting.  Keep in mind, it’s not a recommended or suggested serving size of the product.  Next is total calories per serving and tells you the total calorie content for a serving of the product.  If for instance a person eats a full pint of ice cream with 3 servings all in one sitting, then you have triple the single serving calorie amount!

Next we have cholesterol and sodium, both in milligrams.  Then, total carbohydrate and dietary fiber, both listed in grams. Then we have total sugar and added sugars.  Added sugars refer to the sugar that has been added to the product in the form of sucrose or table sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrine, or other derivatives.  Keep in mind that foods such as dairy and fruit contain natural sugar in the form of lactose and fructose.  These are both naturally present in the foods and have not been added to the product.

Now you’ll see a list of nutrients.  You’ll see protein listed in grams, then a list of vitamins and minerals and their amounts and the percent daily value based on an average 2000 calorie per day diet.  These vitamins and minerals are Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.

For products that have more than one but less than three servings per container, there’s a new dual column label.  Under new revised guidelines for nutrition labels, food products that contain more than one and up to three servings must also list the nutritional information for the entire container.  This new requirement is designed to allow for the fact that food products with three servings or less can potentially be consumed in one sitting.

Dual Column Label

When it comes to the ingredient list, how often is it used?  It’s probably one of the most important components on the nutrition label and should be used as a reference when food is selected for health and fitness goals.  The ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least, so those are clues as to ho much of our fruit breakfast bar is indeed fruit.

The length and composition of the ingredient list can also be a clue if the food product is made from whole foods or is highly processed. In general, the longer the list, the greater the likelihood that the product contains many additives and refined ingredients.

Some products may include various nutrition terms on the label to signify that the product is a good source of a particular nutrient or low in another nutrient.  The FDA maintains strict guidelines on the use of these nutrient terms, so if you see these on food products, you know the product meets the regulatory standards for the term in use.

When it comes to the label, read it, then heat it.  When you’re better informed, you’ll make better choices.

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