How to Read a Food Label for Better Health

What you eat strongly influences your health and longevity.  Since much of our food is packaged, it’s important to read nutritional labels to get the healthiest food for you and your family.  Sometimes, though, reading food labels can be a bit confusing.  Here are a few tips to help make you more food label savvy when shopping for the week’s groceries.

food labelsStart by looking at the label located on the side or bottom of a food item. The nutritional facts featured are typically:

Serving Size: Many people overlook the serving size when purchasing and consuming a food item. The food label only lists nutritional information for one serving. You need to look at the serving size to determine the amount of fat and calories in the whole package. For example, a box of crackers may come with 2.5 servings, which means if the fat content is 6 grams, multiply that by 2.5.

Calories: Despite all the talk about carbs and fat, calories are what count for weight control. So the first thing to look for on a label is the number of calories per serving. The FDA’s new Make Your Calories Count program aims to make calorie information on labels easier to find by putting it in larger, bolder type.

Sodium: You’ll be surprised just how much sodium is in some foods – not good for people with high blood pressure. Just one or two foods can meet or even surpass a complete daily allowance of salt. Check your prescribed salt limit and shop accordingly. Keep in mind that 2,300 mg of salt is less than 1 teaspoon, and almost twice the recommended daily limit. Buy less processed foods to cut down on the salt.

Sugar: This is a type of carbohydrate that occurs naturally in food or is added to most processed foods. It comes under many different names (corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, etc.). If you’re diabetic, find out the amount of sugar and carbohydrates for you to safely consume in a day. To help control calories, choose foods with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.

Dietary Fiber: You need at least 25 grams daily. A food that contains 5 grams per serving is considered high in fiber. Most fiber comes from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. So, instead of eating a candy bar for a snack, consider eating a high fiber oat or cereal bar. Just watch out for the added sugar.

Ingredient List: Manufacturers must list all of the ingredients contained in the product. The first ingredient listed is the most prevalent. This tells you the total composition and is important for people who have food allergies.

If you have a food allergy or other condition, it is important to take precaution when eating certain foods. Another thing you can do is wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace in case you eat something that reacts with your body. In the event of a severe reaction, a medical alert bracelet or necklace provides medical personnel with your medical information to facilitate treatment. Visit American Medical ID today to view the many colors and styles available. Remember, in an emergency, when you might not be able to speak for yourself, a medical ID bracelet or necklace speaks for you.

As American Medical ID's Marketing Specialist, Shannon manages company social media channels and print marketing. Shannon is a Texas Native and attended the University of Texas at San Antonio where she majored in Marketing. She enjoys traveling the world, going to the lake with her family and spending time with her adorable Shih Tzu, Teddy!

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