St. E. Healthy Headlines: What’s in a nutrition label on foods you purchase? A step toward healthier eating – NKyTribune

Most packaged foods sold in the United States include a nutrition label, which details nutrients in the food and recommended serving sizes. Understanding food labels and their importance can help you make better choices in the foods you purchase.

Beth Hils, MEd, RD, LD Dietitian at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, says understanding the information on these labels is the first step in helping you become a savvy shopper and healthier eater.

What’s the Purpose of a Nutrition Label?

Learn to read food labels — for your good health. (St. E. Healthy Headlines photo)

A nutrition label provides guidelines for serving size and nutrient information for packaged foods. “The label helps people choose food for a healthy diet,” explains Beth.

Depending on your nutritional needs, eating a smaller or bigger serving size of certain foods may make sense. Working with your primary care provider or a dietitian can help you better understand your daily nutrition needs, so you can use the information on nutritional labels to fuel your healthy eating.

If you have a chronic health condition – such as heart disease – your doctor may have recommended that you follow a heart-healthy diet. Understanding and reading food nutritional labels can help you do this – read about the Food and Heart Connection. Closely reading food labels is also important if you track the foods you eat daily. Learn more about Food Journaling.

How to Read a Nutrition Label

By quickly reviewing a nutrition label, you can gather key data about the contents of a food or drink. You’ll see the number of calories, grams of fats, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and more. Look at the serving size and the number of servings per package to make sure you know how much you’re consuming.

Improvements to Food Labels

“There have been recent improvements in nutrition labels,” explains Beth. These include:

• Updated serving sizes: The information provided is based on the serving size. Serving sizes have been updated to reflect current average portion sizes.

• Unhealthy fats and cholesterol: The label calls out unhealthy fats (such as saturated fats) vs. healthy fats, as well as cholesterol.

• Added sugars: Carbohydrates now separate out the amount of added sugar, so you can avoid added sugars in a food.

• Sodium: Sodium (salt) recommendations have been updated and are now in line with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations.

Understanding Percent Daily Values

You may have noticed that food labels contain the disclaimer: “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.”

Have you ever wondered what this exactly means? Look at one of the data points on a nutrition label, such as total fats. Next to it, you’ll see a percentage. This represents the proportion of the total daily fat that this food contains for a person eating 2,000 calories daily. This caloric intake is an average amount for an adult – and yours may be higher or lower. Consider using the 5/20 rule when reading labels: 5% DV (daily value) or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low and 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.

If your calorie needs are different than 2,000 calories per day, your percent daily values will differ from those shown on the nutrition label. Ask your dietitian about calculating your daily values in grams of protein, fat and carbohydrates in relation to your calorie needs.

Get on Track Today with Healthy Eating

If you’re unsure about how much or what types of foods you should be eating each day, start by speaking with your St. Elizabeth Primary Care Provider. They may be able to provide you with guidance, or they may refer you to a dietitian who can create a customized food plan based on your personal needs.