We live in a fantastic time in a country that requires those who sell us food to tell us what’s in it. They leave it up to us to decide if it is healthy though.
Most packaged food must have nutritional facts clearly and plainly posted on their labels. We’ve shown you one in this figure. As you can see there is a lot of information on these Nutrition Facts labels.
Follow these rules with Labels
Start at the top with the serving size. Each of these labels will tell you how much constitute a serving size. This is very important, since a bag of chips can have many servings. So the first thing you should do is to calculate how many servings your bag of chips contains.
The next item is the number of calories per serving, which needs to be considered in light of what your specific caloric intake is calculated to be. If this is a nonessential food item like a snack, you must make a decision as to whether it is worth eating as it may represent a sizeable portion of your total daily calories.
The next set of line items relate to the fat content. It not only provides the total fat per serving, it also breaks out the relative amounts of saturated fat and Trans Fat. (see Good Fats Bad Fats) Cholesterol is also identified. We should not consume more than 250mg of Cholesterol in a day.
Moving down, the next line item is sodium content. This indicates how much salt is contained in a serving. Table salt is Sodium Chloride. It’s the sodium content that is most important though. Take a look at the example, which is for a bag of chips. There are 1485 milligrams of sodium per serving in this bag. When you consider that you are only supposed to consume about 1,500 milligrams in an entire day, you are eating almost all of your daily allotment of sodium and all of your carbohydrates in one bag of these chips. And we wonder why we’re heavy and have high blood pressure.
Next you will see carbohydrates itemized. Remember, you are counting carbohydrates so these have to be subtracted from your daily amount.
Finally at the bottom you will see a line for protein. It doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the protein, just the total amount per serving. Use this to help you identify whether you are taking in adequate protein.
Make use of these labels. Always read them. They will greatly help you make good food choices. One more point. In addition to the Nutrition Facts, there will be a list of all the ingredients in the specific food choice you are considering. I have a rule. If there are more than a few ingredients, I don’t choose the item. Look for words that you understand. There are many preservatives and other supplemental items in our packaged food today. I like to keep my selections simple. The more ingredients in a label, the smaller the print. One of my other rules is if I have to put on my glasses to read the ingredients, I don’t eat it.
An additional item that I like to check is the ratio of carbohydrate to protein per serving. Since we usually have to ingest about 4 times as much carbohydrate grams in a day as we do protein grams, you should try to choose foods that have about that ratio of carbohydrate to protein. Unless you are very physically active, try to maintain this ratio. The chips in the example have 7 times as much carbohydrate as protein. Not a good choice.
Don’t choose food items with many ingredients (try to keep to less than five) and don’t choose food items with ingredients that you cannot understand, they are probably not anything you want to eat.