Nutrition Food Labels – Part 2
After reading Nutrition Food Labels Part 1, you may have more questions.
What to look for….
Here are a few label reading tips to help you choose healthy foods and beverages, organized by the six categories of information you will find on the food label: 100g Column/Serving Size; Total Fat; Fiber; Sugars; Sodium (salt); and Ingredients.
100g Column and Serving Size
If comparing nutrients in similar food products, use the per 100g column. If calculating how much of a nutrient, or how many calories you will actually eat, use the per serving column. Be sure to check if your portion size is the same as the serving size.
Some labels may list this as the “%DV (% of Recommended Daily Value)” column; others may provide the same information as the “Per 100g” column.
Check how many kJ (calories) per serving to determine how this food item fits within your daily caloric allotment.
Generally choose foods with less than 10g per 100g. For milk, yogurt and ice cream, choose less than 2g per 100g. For cheese, choose less than 15g per 100g. Foods lower in trans fats are desirable.
- Saturated Fat: Less than 3g per 100g is best.
- Ingredients high in saturated fat include: Animal fat/oil, beef fat, butter, chocolate, milk solids, coconut, coconut oil/milk/cream, cream ghee, lard, suet, palm oil, sour cream, vegetable shortening.
Not all labels include fiber. Choose breads and cereals with 3g or more per serving. When checking the ingredient list for high fiber foods, look to see if the first ingredients say ‘whole’ wheat (not just wheat flour).
Try to avoid large amounts of added sugars. If sugar content per 100g is more than 15g, check that sugar (or alternative names of sugar) is not listed in the ingredient list.
Other names for added sugars: Dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple sugar, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, raw sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup.
If you need to count your carbohydrates, focus more on the Total Carbohydrate column than on the sugars column. Remember, 15g of total carbohydrate is equal to one carbohydrate serving. Thus, if the food item described in the nutrition food label says it has 32g total carbohydrate, you than have a little over 2 carbohydrate servings for that food item. The number of total carbohydrate servings per meal varies per person but is usually 2-5. Keep in mind that the more carbohydrate servings per meal, the more calories are consumed.
Choose lower sodium options among similar foods. Food with less than 400mg per 100g are good and less than 120mg are best. The daily recommendation for sodium is 2400mg.
Other names for ingredients that add salt: Baking powder, celery salt, garlic salt, yeast extract, monosodium glutamate (MSG), onion salt, rock salt, sea salt, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate/nitrite, stock cubes, vegetable salt.
Ingredients are listed by weight from greatest to smallest. Use this guideline to check the first three ingredients for items high in saturated fat, sodium (salt) or added sugars.
One last reminder – as mentioned in Part 1, less than 5% DV is considered low and >20% DV is considered high for the individual ingredients per serving for those labels that use the %DV column.
Hopefully, these label reading tips will help you make better food and beverage choices.
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: email@example.com. She will look forward to meeting you!