Have you ever found yourself standing in a grocery store aisle confused, unsure, and a little lost as you read over the many words and numbers on nutrition facts labels? You may be trying to determine whether one food is healthier for you than another but you don’t know what to look for. It is normal to feel overwhelmed in this situation and unsure which route to go. Luckily, there are a few simple strategies that can help you work through the confusion to identify which packaged foods are the best choices for your health!
Check Out the Ingredients List
A shorter ingredient list is usually easier to decipher! This is a good rule of thumb when comparing multiple items at a grocery store. An item with a longer list of ingredients will usually have more additives than one with fewer ingredients. In addition, a longer list is more likely to contain ingredients you have never heard of before that your body may not adequately respond to.
Check the Serving Size
The top of a nutrition facts label describes a standard serving size and how many servings a package contains. This number is very important when looking at different nutrition facts label as you want to be sure to use this number as your base when you interpret the rest of the numbers on the label. For example, a package of crackers may only have 75 calories per serving but if that package has 2-3 servings, you are consuming 187-225 calories. This is something you want to be mindful of when deciding how much of a specific food item you will enjoy!
Use the Percent Daily Values
The percent daily value is the average amount of nutrients that a person needs based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Since every person is different with their own specific needs, these percentages you see on labels are only an estimate for you to use and don’t have to be followed exactly. For example, when looking at a label, five percent daily value of a specific nutrient means that the specific nutrient provides five percent of the total nutrient that a person who is eating 2,000 calories a day should intake. When looking at different nutrients on a label, you want to aim for things such as saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol and sodium to be fewer than five percent or less of the daily value. Since these things can cause increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes you want to aim for a low percent daily value when looking at them. Fiber, minerals and vitamins are things that you can aim for higher percent daily values- around twenty percent. These things can help our digestion work smoothly and are required for different functions within our bodies.
Nutrition facts labels may be very overwhelming to read and understand when trying to choose the best food item. However, there are ways to break it down and make it easier to understand. The next time you are choosing between two food items at a store and are unsure which one you should go with, remember that these tips can help guide you to the better choice!