All About Food Labels
Sample Nutrition Facts
Here is a sample Nutrition Facts label (for Ritz Crackers):
Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid), soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, salt, leavening (baking soda, calcium phosphate), high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavor, cornstarch.
Serving Size: 5 Crackers (16g)
Servings Per Container: About 28
Amount per Serving
Calories: 80 Calories From Fat: 40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat: 4.5g 7%
Saturated Fat: 1g 5%
Trans Fat: 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg 0%
Sodium: 135 mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate:10g 3%
Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%
Vitamin A: 0% Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 0% Iron: 0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower, depending on your calorie needs.
Avoiding Marketing Hype
As you get used to reading food labels, you'll realize that some manufacturers try to fool consumers.
Some packages say "all natural." But if the products are high in sugar or saturated fat, "all natural" means nothing! The FDA has no definition for natural so it is up to the manufacturer. If a food label says "low-fat," read the Nutrition Facts to see if it's really a healthy choice. Many times, a low-fat food is still high in sugar or low in nutrition.
Boosting Key Nutrients
It's important to choose foods that are nutrient-rich or have a high nutrient density. That means food with:
- Substantial levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber
- Limited saturated and trans fats
- Low levels of sodium, and sugar
Limit these nutrients: Saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugars. Eating too many of these may increase your risk of heart disease and leave you with less energy. Aim for more healthy mono- or polyunsaturated fats.
Get plenty of these nutrients: fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron. Eating plenty of these nutrients can boost your immune function and overall health. Fiber is important to promote healthy bowel function, while calcium and Vitamin D build strong bones and prevent fractures. Vitamin A and C are important for staying well.
By reading the Nutrition Facts, you can be sure you're getting the nutrients you need each day. For instance, if a food has 30% of the Daily Value of calcium, you know you will need to eat a few more food sources of calcium (like milk, cheese, and yogurt) to reach 100% daily value of calcium for the day. If a food provides 20% of the Daily Value of protein, you'll need to make other protein selections during the day to ensure 100% of the Daily Value of protein.