Reading Labels: Understanding Fiber, Fat, Carbohydrates, Etc.

Reading Labels: Understanding Fiber, Fat, Carbohydrates, Etc.

Since 1994, food manufacturers have required the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include food labels on all packaged food items. Labels can be a tremendous help in controlling our diets—but only if we understand them. Here is a primer to use as you browse the labels in your panty and at the grocery:

Serving Size – The serving size is listed at the top of the label. This is an important part of meal planning and also where many people go wrong. To get the total number of carbs, calories, etc., in an item, simply multiply the listed units by the number of servings. You may be surprised at how many items you assume are only 1 serving that are actually 2 or 3. The smaller the item, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

Calories – Calories are the units of energy within a food item. When you eat, your body converts calories into energy, uses what it can, and then stores the rest in the form of fat. On labels, you”ll find separate numbers for calories and calories from fat. The fat calorie number refers to the number of calories derived from fat. The higher this number, the more fat in the product. For example, a can of diced tomatoes may have 30 calories (units of energy) and 0 calories from fat, making this a product your body can use efficiently. However, a prepackaged children”s snack may have 130 calories with 40 calories from fat, making the processed food item a less efficient source of body fuel.

Daily Percent Values (% DV) – These tell you what portion of the recommended amounts of