Unravel the Mystery of Food

Rest easy, it’s not rocket science!

Cruising through the grocery store and weeding through a plethora of food choices, all while attempting to demystify the information on nutrition labels, can be time consuming, frustrating and confusing.

Rest easy, it’s not rocket science! When we start paying attention to a few crucial things on nutrition labels, it can empower us to make better choices and shop smart. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

Serving size. Pay attention to the amount per serving as well as the number of servings per container. According to the American Dietetic Association, a serving size is a standardized amount of food. (Portion size is the amount we decide to consume.)

Nutrient value. The nutritional values listed on the label are based on the serving size. The percentage of nutrients are based on recommendations for a 2000-calorie meal plan.

Calories. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of food. Calories on the label help you manage maintaining weight, losing weight or gaining weight. Aim at 30 percent or fewer total calories from fat. Over-consuming calories is linked to overweight and obesity.

The high and low of daily values. Daily values are listed as percentages based on a 2000-calorie diet. 5 percent or less is low — aim to consume foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Saturated fat and cholesterol are linked to heart disease. High levels of sodium are linked to high blood pressure. 20 percent or higher is high — aim to consume foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating more of these nutrients leads to improved health and also helps reduce risk of certain diseases and health conditions. Consuming enough calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Eating a diet high in dietary fiber promotes healthy bowel function and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Additional nutrients. 

Protein: Daily value percentage of proteins are not required to be listed on the label, as most Americans get enough protein in their diet. Choose to consume moderate portions of lean protein sources such as beans, peanut butter, nuts, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates includes sugars, starches and fiber. Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta, whole fruits and vegetables.

Sugars: Sugars include natural and refined sugars. Choose foods that have natural sugars, such as fruits, milk and milk products. Minimize intake of foods with added sugars, such as soda, candy, cake and other desserts. Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup are other names for sugar.

Ingredient list

Let’s take a look below at the nutrition labels of these two yogurt choices to make sense of the numbers and nutrients.

Note: No added sugars or sweeteners are on the list of ingredients for the plain yogurt, yet there are 4 grams of sugar listed on the label. This is because milk has naturally occurring sugars.

Lastly, always aim to minimize highly processed foods. Choose foods that are minimally processed and with ingredients that you can recognize. Include fruits and vegetables as part of your meals, they have no nutritional labels on them!

By paying attention to a few details, you are now a empowered grocery shopper.

First seen on The Indian SCENE