Break it Down: Reading and Understanding Food Labels
It’s time to understand those numbers you’re reading and to stop being tricked into thinking what you’re eating is healthier than it really is.
People look at the nutrition facts on their food for all different reasons. Regardless of your reasoning behind it, it’s important that you’re getting the gist of the nutrition facts printed on the packaging of your food. Here at VPX Sports, we’re pretty conscious of what we’re eating, so we’re here to share a bit of knowledge in regards to understanding food labels.
1. Start with the Serving Size
– Packages of food typically contain more than one serving. This means you’ll have to always remember an important rule: multiply the rest of the numbers on the label by how many servings there are in a package to get the most accurate number of the calories and nutrients in each container.
– You need to compare your actual portion size to the serving size on the container. For example, if the serving size on a package of rice says 1/2 cup, but you know you typically eat 1 cup of rice with your meal, you need to multiply the other nutrition facts on the label by 2 to figure out how much you will be consuming.
2. Calories & Calories from Fat
– The number of calories shows you how much energy you’re getting from your food.
– Always remember the multiplication rule we mentioned in Step 1 of understanding food labels. If you double the serving size of what you’re eating, never forget to double the rest of the calories and nutrients.
– 100 calories is a moderate amount of calories to consume in a serving; however, a huge breakthrough in health and nutrition lately is to stop counting calories and start counting macronutrients (fats, carbs, protein, sugars, etc).
3. Avoid the Bad Fats & Sugars
– Limit your consumption of saturated fat and try your best to avoid trans fat.
– Health and fitness experts at VPX Sports suggest keeping your saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and sodium intake to a minimum to keep a balanced diet.
– Fun fact: If you exercise regularly, consume enough of potassium and drink plenty of water in a day, your sodium intake will not affect you as much as if you didn’t exercise or drink enough water.
– Added sugars are full of calories and not-so-full of nutrients.
4. Get More Vitamins
– Once you get better at understanding food labels, you can use them to increase some nutrients instead of continually looking at cutting!
– You can eat more fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and more to maintain good health.
5. Percent Daily Values
– This is the footnote at the end of the nutrition label.
– The %DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
– If you want to consume less of a nutrient, such as saturated fat or sodium, choose foods with a lower %DV (5 percent or lower).
– If you want to consume higher amount of a nutrient, such as fiber, look for a %DV of 20 or more.
– The %DV makes it easy for comparing and understanding food labels.
6. Reading the Ingredients
– Foods with more than one ingredient have a list of ingredients on the food label.
– Ingredients are listed in descending order of what’s in the food by weight, so the ingredient with the largest amount is listed first, and so on.
– Look for foods with a short ingredient list, and foods that contain ingredients that you understand and can pronounce.
– Lengthy ingredient lists are usually a sign that the food has unnecessary extras and artificial preservatives.