Healthy Eating: Understanding Food Labels

Understanding food labels is essential knowledge for eating healthily and for making sure that the proper nutrients are available in the food we consume every day. Nearly every packaged food item purchasable in the United States is labeled with the nutritional value by the Food and Drug administration. A few key elements exist to help us understand the nutrition on these labels. The 5/20 rule determines whether or not a food has a good source of a specific nutrient. If a food has 5 percent or less of a certain nutrient, then that specific food is not considered a good source of the nutrient.

If a food has 20 or more percent of a certain nutrient, then it is considered a decent source of the nutrient. The rule doesn’t only apply to healthy nutrients, however. It also applies to undesirable nutrients. If there is an undesirable nutrient written on the food label, it is considered better if the unhealthy nutrient is under 5 percent, instead of 20 percent. For an in depth understanding of a food label, there are six helpful steps involved. The first step is analyzing the serving size.

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The size of the serving on the food package influences the number of calories and nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. If a package of chips had a serving size label of one cup and a total of two servings per bag, all of the nutritional information would double if you ate the entire bag. The second step is checking the amount of calories. The number of servings determines the number of calories you eat. Calories are essential to generating energy; however someone who wants to lose weight should consider lowering their caloric intake.

Step three and four consist of limiting unhealthy nutrients and eating healthier nutrients. Nutrients to limit are saturated fat, Trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Nutrients to consume more of consist of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. Step five of understanding food labels is “understanding the footnote at the bottom of the label”. Generally the percent daily value is based on a 2,000 a day calorie diet. However, not everyone is on a 2,000 a day calorie diet. It is important to calculate the percent value according to your own personal diet. Step six is the percent daily value.

The percent daily value already does the math to calculate how much of a nutrient is present in the food via percentage. In order to understand a healthy percentage of a nutrient listed on the label, simply apply the aforementioned 5/20 rule. One of the food items located in my pantry is Planters Cashews Halves and Pieces. Each serving equals about 50 pieces of cashews. There are 14 servings per container. Each serving consists of 160 calories and 110 calories from fat. There are nine grams of carbohydrates, under one gram of dietary fiber, and five grams of protein.

Another food item in my pantry is Rice a Roni. There are 230 calories and ten calories from fat. There are 50 grams of carbohydrates, two grams of dietary fiber and seven grams of protein. The last item in my pantry is a can of corn. It has 60 calories and ten calories from fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, three grams of fiber, and two grams of protein. Calculating the nutrients in food is simple. Sticking to a consistent diet is not as hard as it seems once you really consider the good or harm that eating certain foods can do to the body.

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Healthy Eating: Understanding Food Labels. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from