Understanding the nutrition label is an important part of a healthy lifestyle because it can be empowering as it can help you make decisions based on your personal dietary needs.
We're going to explore the different sections of the nutrition label.
1. Serving size
Serving size refers to the number of servings there are in a package. This should be taken as a suggestion of how much you should consume depending on your personal nutrition goals. You might find that one serving of food might not be enough while others might be too much. It all depends on you and your body. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, doubling up on vegetables while cutting down on servings of dense foods like avocado and peanut butter is a good idea.
Calories are the measure of energy that you are getting from a serving of food. The calories at the top of the label refer to the amount in one serving. Be sure to be mindful of this as some foods contain multiple servings in just one package. According to the standard guidelines, 2000 calories per day is the general recommendation for those looking to maintain a healthy weight. Your needs will depend on your age, activity levels, current weight, and gender.
Nutrients to get more of are Fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.
Eating more fiber contributes to a healthy microbiome and aids in blood sugar regulation and cholesterol levels. Nutritious foods contain vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium which reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases.
Nutrients to get less of are saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
Saturated fats are present in animal products and sodium is used as a preservative which is the reason why it is found in higher amounts in packaged foods. These are nutrients we want to minimize as much as possible.
Total sugars --> Includes both sugars naturally present in products and added sugars.
Added sugars --> Sugars are added throughout the processing of the product.
The label now reflects the amount of added sugars present in a product clearly and without confusion. It is recommended to stay below 25g of added sugars per day. Naturally occurring sugars like ones in fruits, vegetables, and some dairy products are a part of a healthy diet.
4. 5/20 % Rule
5% or less of a nutrient is considered low.
20% or more of a nutrient is considered high.
The 5/20% rule is a practical way to glance at a nutrition label and determine whether or not it fits your personal requirements. As mentioned previously, nutrients to consume more of should be higher or closer to 20%. Nutrients to consume less of should be closer to 5%.
We hope this was helpful and that you feel like you can confidently understand the nutrition label!
Written by: Luciana Perasso, M.S, R.D.N
NextGeneration Nutrition Registered Dietitian
Jessica Mantell M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N.
CEO & Founder of NextGeneration Nutrition
NextGeneration Nutrition believes that better health should be accessible to everyone and that we all are able to improve our health through good nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle change. We do not support setting shame-based goals but encourages embracing our bodies, genetics, and personality. Our philosophy is abandoning the “One Size Fits All” mentality to create a personalized wellness plan based on your biological makeup and your lifestyle.
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