Learning to decode nutrition labels is essential if you want to start eating healthy. Many foods that are consumed today are processed and packaged, so it’s important to make sure that if you decide to eat these foods, that you choose foods that contain the nutrients that your body needs. It’s also important to ensure that they don’t have unhealthy additives and other ingredients that you don’t want in your diet. However, you won’t be able to know this information if you do not know how to read nutrition labels. What does serving size mean? Does “calorie-free” really mean no calories? What is saturated fat? Here are some easy ways to help you decode nutrition labels.
1. Know the Serving Size
The information listed on the nutrition label usually refers to a single serving of that particular food. The first thing you need to do in order to decode a nutrition label is to find out the serving size of that food. This is because most packaged foods contain more than a single serving. For instance, say a serving size of ice cream is one cup and each serving size contains 24 grams of fat. If the label says that the container has two servings then this means you will be eating two cups of ice cream with 48 grams of fat.
2. Understand Calories
If you are trying to lose weight or avoid weight gain then you should take note of the calories listed on the label. Again, nutrition labels only show the number of calories in a single serving size, not necessarily the entire container. There are now many foods that contain “low-calorie” labels, but how true are these claims? When you see a “calorie-free” label, this means that each serving size of the food contains less than 5 calories. “Low-calorie” usually means less than 40 calories per serving. However, if you are buying a main dish like chicken breast or turkey burger, low-calorie may mean 120 calories per serving or less. Items with “reduced-calorie” labels mean that the food contains 25% fewer calories than its regular counterpart.
3. Avoid Saturated Fat
Saturated fat gets a listing of its own in nutrition facts. This is because excessive saturated fat in your diet can be detrimental to your health. Not only will this type of fat make you gain weight, but it can also lead to serious health conditions like heart disease. As much as possible, opt for foods that contain zero saturated fat. These foods are usually labeled “saturated fat-free”. “Low saturated fat” means that each serving size of the food contains no more than a gram of saturated fat. “Reduced saturated fat” means the food has 25% less saturated fats than what it would normally contain.
4. Avoid Cholesterol
Aside from saturated fat, cholesterol is another unhealthy substance that you should learn to avoid in your diet. “Cholesterol-free” foods mean that each serving contains no more than two milligrams of cholesterol. On the other hand, when a food is labeled “low-cholesterol”, it means that each serving has about twenty milligrams of cholesterol or less.