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Nutrition and Diet (cont.)

Food Labels

The next time that you are about to decide what to eat remember that "it's what's inside that counts." You can take a look inside by reading what is on the outside, or the food label. The food label, or nutrition facts label, is your best source of information for what you are feeding your body. Before you can use it, you have to know how to read it, so let's "digest" the food label.

The food label provides information about

  • serving size,
  • calories,
  • calories from fat,
  • total fat,
  • saturated fat,
  • monounsaturated fat,
  • polyunsaturated fat,
  • trans fat,
  • cholesterol,
  • sodium,
  • total carbohydrates,
  • dietary fiber,
  • sugars,
  • protein,
  • vitamins, and
  • minerals.

The most important thing to read on the food label is the very first line. The serving size that is listed is what all of the rest of the information is based upon. For example, if you were looking at a label for cookies and the serving size was two cookies, all of the nutrition information on the label would be based on the consumption of two cookies. When you consume more than two cookies, you need to increase the numbers based on how many servings you consume. For example, if there are 100 calories in two cookies, and you consume six cookies, you would be consuming 300 calories.

The information listed below the serving size is listed in grams and percentages. You will learn how to interpret the grams for each nutrient later on in the article. In an attempt to help people determine if the food will reach their nutritional needs, the FDA developed a set of generic standards called Daily Values. You will only find Daily Values listed on food labels. The standard DRIs could not be used because they vary by gender and age, so they are too specific for a food label. The limitation of the Daily Values is that they are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. This means that the percentages are only relevant to someone who is consuming 2,000 calories. For everyone else, these percentages will either be too high or too low. For this reason, it's best to focus on grams and ingredients.

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