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Guidelines to Food Labels

by Grace Sianna

Many people skip the food labels. They just check out the types of foods they are used to and take the brands they love. If that’s your style of grocery shopping, you have no idea what you’re putting in your body. You might be eating the worse chemicals and skipping out on many necessary nutrients. You’d never know. You can’t taste all the ingredients, and you shouldn’t just guess the serving size and calorie counts. The manufacturers are required by law to put food labels on all your foods.

The FDA wants you to be aware of what you’re eating. It will help you make better choices. You don’t have to be following a specific diet to read food labels. They give you all the information that you’d need to know before eating anything. It will keep you from eating too many unnecessary nutrients. Regardless of what you want to tell, it’s most likely already in the food label. It’s important for you to read and understand them.

Nutrition Facts

The nutrition facts are normally the first label that customers check out. They are divided into different sections. The first section has the serving size and number of servings in the package. The second section has the calorie counts per serving. The third section has the nutrients and their percent daily values. The fourth section is a continuation of the percent daily values for vitamins, fibers, and minerals. The fifth section is the footnote.

  • Serving size

Serving size is the first item to look at. Everything else is based on the serving size. The sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare with other foods. All the nutrients are listed to how much you’d get if you eat one serving. If you eat two cups instead of the one cup listed, then you’re getting double the amounts shown for every nutrient. The section also shows the total number of servings in the container if you decide to use it all.

  • Total calories (calories from fat)

Guidelines to Food LabelsThe calories are the amount of energy you’re getting from each serving size. Limiting your calorie counts is important in losing, gaining, and maintaining weight. Remember that the total count goes according to the serving size, so if you eat more than one serving, you have to do the math to figure out how many calories you’re actually consuming. Foods with less than 100 calories per serving are low calories foods while the ones that are higher than 200 calories are high calories foods.

  • Percent daily values of nutrients

The daily values are based on a diet of 2,000 calories. These values you how much of each nutrient that you’re getting. The daily values should be included in a whole day diet plan not just for the meal. For example, if a snack shows 10% fat per serving, it means that you will eat the total amount you need for this nutrient if you eat ten servings. The bold ones, usually saturated fats, and cholesterol are the ones that people tend to overeat. They are written in bold, so people could watch out for them and their percent daily values.

  • Percent daily values of vitamins, fibers, and minerals

The vitamins, fibers, and minerals are at the bottom and less noticeable, but they’re the ones you need to eat more. Foods usually have a small amount of these at a time. You need to look for foods with a high daily value of these nutrients and lower values of the nutrients above. These nutrients will help you to fight diseases and maintain good health.

  •  Footnote

The footnote is not on all foods. It’s an optional part of the nutritional facts that are mainly found in large packages. The values on the footnote are general. They are not related to the food nor the serving size. It’s a general guideline of how much of each nutrient you should be consuming based on the number of calories in your diet.

Ingredients List

The ingredients list shows all the ingredients in processed foods. They are listed from largest to smallest. So, the first ingredient you see is the main one in the food. There’s more of it than anything else. The last ingredient listed is usually only found in traces in the food. This list is important if you have allergies and sensitivity to certain foods. It also tells you exactly what type of chemicals you’re eating. In case you want to avoid a specific food or chemical, this is where you check before you buy.

Product dates

Guidelines to Food LabelsDid you know that certain foods have different dates listed? The date you see on your food package is not always the expiration date. There are three types of dates you can see on food packages – used by, sell by and best if used by. They each mean something different. The “used by” label is the one that affects your health the most. This date is an indication of the time that food is no longer considered good or safe. After this date, the food quality has lessened, and your health may be in danger if you eat it.

The “sell by” date is directed more toward marketing. It’s the date by which the manufacturer wants the store to sell it. That’s when it has peak quality. It’s usually on foods that can spoil like poultry, meat, dairy products, and eggs. If the food is not sold by that date, the store will throw them out because they become a liability. The “best if used by” date is purely for quality purposes. That’s the date that the manufacturer believes its products taste the best. The food won’t be spoiled or a danger to you after this day, but it may not taste as great. Manufacturers prefer that you buy their products while they’re at their peak quality.

The food labels are not decorations. They are printed on food packages for you.

The law requires manufacturers to be transparent about the way they prepare their products, so the customers are always aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. Next time you go shopping, stop for a while to browse the labels of your products. The foods you’ve been eating may surprise you.

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