The Nutrition Facts can be difficult to understand, especially when you don’t know what you are looking for! There are two parts to the Nutrition Facts: the nutrient content/information and the ingredient list.
Let’s first look at the nutrient content:
- Begin by looking at the serving size. The serving size is going to be what the calories, carbohydrates, fat and other nutrients are based off of. For example, say the serving size is 1 cup but you consume 2 cups, you will need to multiple the numbers by 2 to get the actual amount you consumed. Also, it may be helpful for you to also see the number of servings in the package, which is listed near the serving size.
- Depending on your nutrition goals, you may want to take into consideration the calories per serving.
- If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, I recommend looking at total carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are going to make your blood sugars go up, so you want to be aware of your serving sizes.
- If you trying to follow a heart healthy diet, you want to look at sodium, saturated and trans fat. Most Americans should aim at keeping their sodium intake under 2300 mg daily. You want to aim at keeping saturated fat intake to less than 5-6% of overall calories daily. Try to completely avoid trans fat. Trans fat is also known as “hydrogenated oil”. If you see hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list, skip that product and look for a similar product that does not contain trans fat.
- Be mindful of how much added sugar you consume daily. On the new Nutrition Facts, you will see an “added sugar” section. Added sugar is sugar that is not naturally occurring in that product. For example, a natural sugar would be fruit. An added sugar would be strawberries added to yogurt. Strawberries are not naturally occurring in yogurt. For women it is recommended to consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) and for men it is recommended to consume no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.
- If you have ever wondered what the percent means on the right side of the Nutrition Facts, it is based on a person eating 2,000 calories a day. If you see that a nutrient is 5% or less, that would be considered low in that nutrient. Aim for less than 5% in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. High is 20% or more. Aim for high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Lastly, is the ingredient list. Foods that contain more than 1 ingredient must have an ingredient list. Ingredients are listed by those in the largest amounts are listed first. I recommend trying to focus on short ingredient lists!