Understanding Food Labels
Eating healthfully is a major component of Harris Teeter’s yourwellness for families program. We encourage you to control portions and eat foods that are high in fiber but low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar. How can you be sure the foods you choose for yourself and your family meet these healthy guidelines? By reading food labels! this allows you to better understand what is actually in the food you’re eating.
Reading a Food Label
The food label provides important nutrition information about the contents in the package. often you will find it under the title "Nutrition Facts". a lot of information is included on the label, which is helpful, but it can also be confusing. research has shown that the two most confusing areas of the food label are serving size and servings per container. It's important to understand this information when trying to enjoy a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight.
This is perhaps the most important part of the food label and one that everyone should be familiar with. The serving size refers to the amount normally considered to be one serving. This can be much smaller than what is typically eaten at one time. The serving size on the package may be ½ cup, when you really eat 1 or more cups of that food. If this is the case, you are consuming at least twice the calories, fat, sugar and sodium!
Servings Per Container
Always check the number of servings in a container. It is often more than one, even for something that seems like only one serving to you. Bottled beverages and small bags of chips often contain two to three servings. If you finish the entire bottle or bag, you will consume two to three times the number of calories, fat, sugar and sodium you thought you were.
This lists the amount of salt in a given serving of food (just one serving!). Processed and packaged foods often contain large amounts of sodium. aim to eat no more than 2,000 mg of salt per day. this will be hard to do if your diet contains too many packaged foods. that’s one more reason to eat fresh fruits and vegetables!
It is particularly important to read labels when trying to eat a high fiber diet. What you will notice is that most (but not all) packaged foods are relatively low in fiber - another important reason to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. When choosing packaged foods like cereals, crackers and bread products, look for options that offer the most fiber.
Next time you are shopping, check out the food labels of some of your family’s favorite items. You may find a surprisingly high amount of sugar in what you think of as “healthy” foods. If that is the case, compare labels and look for similar products that contain less sugar.
View our Understanding Food Labels video with our Registered Dietician, Beth Avery