What are you looking for on your Nutrition Label?
Nutritional labels are pretty straightforward.* One of the most important aspects of the nutrition label is the serving size. If you just glance at the daily values and number of calories, you might think there were only 250 calories in the macaroni and cheese you were eating. However, for this item, the serving size that is the basis of the numbers and percentages listed, is just 1 cup. Some manufacturers try to fool you into thinking you are eating fewer calories by making serving sizes almost impossibly small. One certain, famous blue box of mac’n’cheese lists their calories in half cup servings. Not many people are likely to eat a half-cup! The same goes for cookies. The package might say just 50 calories, but that could be from just one cookie. It’s important to know the size of the serving you are eating in order to keep track of your calorie consumption.
Below is an example of how the values double, when eating the whole package of this particular mac’n’cheese. As you can see, you quickly consume 500 calories, 220 of which are from fat! Ouch. Not only that, you are now up to almost half the daily allowance for salt, as well as 10g of sugar. On the other hand, other than calcium, you would not be consuming much real nutrition, in the form of vitamins and minerals, at all.
One of the most important things to look out for on your nutritional labels is the salt, or sodium, content. To quote the CDC, “Sodium intake from processed and restaurant foods contributes to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Decreasing sodium intake to within recommended limits could prevent thousands of deaths annually.” They put it so well, what more can I say? There are over 400,000 deaths each year associated with high blood pressure. It’s true; biologically we require a certain amount of sodium. However, the discrepancy between our daily requirement and the average intake is titanic in proportions. The minimum amount of sodium we need daily is just 180-500 mg. As a nation we consume, on average, 3426 mg a day! The maximum recommended daily amount is 2400 mg. With all the processed foods we eat, keeping it to even this number can be a real challenge. Consider another quote, “Other benefits of reduced sodium intake are reduced risk of gastro-esophageal cancer, reduced left ventricular (heart) mass and preserved bone mass.” With statements like these from the CDC, hopefully readers will think twice about the sodium content of things they order or purchase. You might also want to rethink that extra sprinkle from the saltshaker on the table.
Even low-fat, low-sugar, and low-sodium items can have much more than you would guess. Even low-sodium soya sauce can have over 500mg per teaspoon. And low-fat options often make up for this loss of flavor with added sugar. The only solution is to be a savvy consumer and READ READ READ. Be aware, live educated, make better choices.
*However, if necessary, there are online resources that can visually guide you through the labels, if you have never looked at a label closely before.