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Going to the supermarket can become a real challenge when you’re trying to lose weight or simply looking for healthy food. Shelves are packed with lots of options, each stating to be the best… but, how to choose the food products which best suit our needs? In this article we’re going to give you some tips that will help you make wiser decisions for your grocery shopping.

What are Food Nutrition Labels?

Food labels are the panels found on a package of food and which contains a variety of information about the nutritional content inside a package of food. By law, all food manufacturers are required to provide them, and they can help us to:

  • Compare between food products more easily.
  • Find out the nutritional value of the foods you usually consume.
  • Better manage your special dietary needs (e.g. low sodium, low-carb, or low-sugar diets).
  • Increase or decrease your intake of a particular nutrient (for example, increase fiber, decrease saturated fat)

Decoding Food Labels

Food labels are broken up into sections to make it easy for you to read and understand the nutrition found on a particular food item. Here are the 5 very easy steps from the American Heart Association that will help you understand the information in your food labels:

1. Check the serving size

This will tell you the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container (package). A good idea is to compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat. If you eat the serving size shown on the “Nutrition Facts Table” you will get the number of calories and nutrients that are listed.

2. Check out the calories

Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving of a packaged food. You should pay attention to the calories per serving and how many servings you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients.

3. Check the Percent Daily Value (% Daily Value)

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient per serving, based on the daily recommended amount. It can help you determine if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.

The %DV is very useful when you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), or if you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber). And it can also be used to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day.

4. Get less of these nutrients

The nutrients listed first are the ones Americans generally eat in adequate amounts, or even too much, and which should be eaten moderately or even avoided:

  • Total fat (especially saturated fat and/or trans fat)
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

5. Get more of these nutrients

These are the nutrients most Americans don’t get enough, and which can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.

  • Calcium
  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium*
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

*Note: The listing of potassium is optional on the Nutrition Facts Label.

Some extra (and useful) facts

  • Food labels are based on a 2,000-calories diet a day. We consume less or more than that depending on our age, gender, activity level, and whether we’re trying to lose, gain or maintain our weight.
  • Many food packages contain more than one serving, so if you’re eating the whole package, you should multiply the information by the number of servings contained in it.
  • Being familiar with %DV, can help you to compare foods and decide which is the better choice for you. Be sure to check for the particular nutrients you want more of or less of.

If you still don’t know which foods are best for you, our therapists at Forma Vital will provide you with professional advice according to your dietary needs. #DecideItNow, and we will help you choose your food wisely.