How to Understand Nutrition Facts Labels
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Registered Nutrition Expert Jeannette Jordan discusses the information found on food labels and how you can use them to make healthier food choices.


Jeanetter Jordan: It is very important to read and use nutrition labels simply because the label gives you a quick informed way to make healthy food choice. It tells you what’s in that food and without it you really wouldn’t have any idea. When you look at the label I think the first thing you should look at is, what‘s the serving size. Now, that’s important because in America we have this store that understanding what a portion is and of course we ear on the larger size. So if you’re looking at the label, look at the portion size and then how many servings is in that container because in some instances you may eat the whole container that maybe five servings rather than one. And then the next thing is they have to tell you about the fat, total fats, saturated fat, unsaturated fat and those are the ingredients or the nutrients that we need to use less of. So it will tell you what percentage you should use or percentages in the food and then you can go down and look at the protein, the carbohydrates, and the sugar. And it just gives you a great breakdown of—is this is healthy food choice for me? How much sodium if you’re on sodium restricted diet. If one serving of a food has 500 milligrams of sodium you automatically no that’s too much. I would recommend if you just have a short time and you need to look at that label, look at the serving’s size, how many servings in the container; look at how many calories per serving. Because most of us are trying to manage weight and if there’s 500 calories in one serving you need to know that because maybe you want to eat half of it instead of the whole thing. Also, look at total fat, look at saturated fat because saturated fat increases our risk of heart disease, and look at cholesterol. I would say look at total carbohydrates and especially for diabetics because it’s the total carbohydrate that would determine if the blood sugars being to high or too low all the course the day. So there’s certain things that you automatically look for and it depends on—and if you’re trying to loose weight, if you’re diabetic if you’re trying to control hypertension, this hypotension you want to can on serving size sodium. When you look at the label and you see the daily percentages off lets say what is that mean? Daily percentage of what, actually is that percentages are based on a 2000 calorie diet. That’s what they decided to use. Actually, 5% or less is good. For example, if you’re looking at a label and the daily percentage of fat is only 3% of fat food that’s a good thing. But if it’s something like frankfurter in the daily value or the percentage is 90 that’s not good. So if it’s over 20 it means it’s high; if it’s five or less it means it’s low. So what you want to go for the most part if it’s things like total fats, sodium, saturated fat you want that to be low. If it’s gets down to the calcium or the vitamins, we don’t want that to be high. So if you’re looking at a couple of milk and then calcium is 25% or 30% that’s over the 20 that’s a good thing. When there are no nutrition labels available let’s say for example with produce and you’re in a grocery store. What you will look for is fresh rather than smoked or cured because smoked or cured written on that package means they’ve added more sodium or salt to that item. So you will look for a fresh product if you’re in a restaurant eating of course there’s no labels if you look at. The key thing is moderation because it’s really not so much what you eat all the time as it is how much. And so as long as people are moderate in their portion size and as I say moderate meaning medium to small portions. This is still going to be pretty much be okay. And we encourage people to look for single items rather than casseroles because in casseroles you probably going to have cream and more sodium type foods. And so if you go for like bake salmon and you have broccoli or you have carrots where you can see it separately you tend to do better than a whole lot of fried and casserole type dishes.