Councilman Mike Elam's Blog

Jun 07

[ARCHIVED] Food Nutrition Labels

The original item was published from June 7, 2017 11:08 AM to June 7, 2017 11:09 AM


Nutrition Label sample
As shoppers demand to know more about what’s inside their food products, the Nutrition Facts label provides the perfect place to start their search. A food product label contains information like the product’s ingredients, serving size, number of calories in one serving and in the entire package, and nutrient values. This information helps consumers make smart choices about food purchases.

The ingredients that make up the food item are listed in order by weight. The highest weight ingredients are listed first, and then the others follow in descending order. Reviewing this before purchasing will help guide you to products containing more of what you desire and less of what you don’t. You can also review the ingredient list for unusual sounding words that are typically chemical-based and for alternatives to common ingredients like sugars — which can come in the form of fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, syrups and other added sweeteners.

Serving Size
The first item listed on the nutrition label is the serving size. This indicates the amount contained in one traditional serving and serves as the basis for the nutritional values posted on the package. Serving sizes are listed in familiar units like cups, pieces and metric grams to make comparison easier. Additionally, the nutrition label indicates the number of servings contained in the entire package. Be aware: if your portion size — the amount you actually eat — is larger than the serving size, you will need to increase the calorie counts and other nutritional information accordingly.

“Super-sized” menus and larger plates have helped to increase portion sizes, but this chart will help give you a better understanding of recommended servings and comparable sizes:

Recommended Serving Sizes and Their Comparable Sizes 
Food Product Recommended Serving Size Comparison Size
Cheese 1.5 ounces Your pointer finger
Milk/Yogurt 1 cup Your fist
Cooked vegetables  1 cup A light bulb
Salad greens 2 cups  Two fists
Fresh fruit 1 medium sized piece A tennis ball
Dry cereal 1 cup Your fist
Cooked pasta 1/2 cup A computer mouse 
Lean meat  3 ounces  A deck of cards 
Peanut butter  1 tablespoon Your thumb 

A calorie is a measure of the amount of energy your body gets from a serving of food. It is equal to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. The nutrition label lists the number of calories in one serving and shows the number of calories from fat in the serving. Each individual’s caloric needs will vary, but an average adult female who is moderately active will require around 2,000 calories and a moderately active adult male will require around 2,500 calories.

There is a direct link between eating more calories than you expend and becoming overweight or obese. Obesity is one of the biggest threats to public health, and overeating is a primary reason that more than one-third of adult Americans are considered obese. In order to lose one pound of body fat, you’ll need to reduce your intake by 3,500 calories or increase physical activity.

Nutrient Values
The nutrient section of the label indicates the amount of each nutrient contained in the food product. This listing also includes the Percent Daily Value, which helps to understand how much of that nutrient you should eat in a full daily diet. For example, let’s suppose your food product contains 5 grams of total fat. It’s recommended that a person consuming 2,000 calories per day eat no more than 65 grams of fat, so that particular food product would provide 8 percent of the maximum recommended for the entire day.

As a good rule of thumb, a person should aim to get 100 percent of their Percent Daily Value of dietary fiber, vitamins (especially A and C), calcium and iron most days, as well as to seek out foods that include other vitamins and minerals. Diets that are high in fruits and vegetables, and include moderate portions of lean meats and dairy, will help you to get more of these helpful nutrients.

By using this information on the Nutrition Facts label, you can better evaluate how a food item fits into a healthy diet. Choosing a balanced mix of nutrient-dense foods will help meet the body’s needs, while steering you away from high sugar, high fat and high sodium alternatives.

For help with healthy recipes and food tips, check out the Department of Public Health's WIC Nutrition website and follow our blog for Healthy Eats recipes each month.

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