We’ve all heard the term, “You are what you eat,” but how often do we really stop and think about what we put in our bodies? The fact is most of us know frighteningly little about what’s in the foods we eat, or, let alone, how much of each nutrient we actually need.
With just a little bit of effort, we can become a lot smarter when it comes to understanding what’s in the foods we eat. How, you ask? By reading food labels. Food labels are on almost every food item we purchase, and even though you may never have looked at one closely, they’re actually fairly simple to understand and packed with valuable information.
The rest of this brochure will explain how you can quickly and easily read a food label—which will enable you to understand not only what’s in the foods you eat, but also how you can make adjustments to your diet to live a longer, healthier life. Remember, you are what you eat, so make it healthy!
You are what you eat. So it pays to make wise choices about the foods you consume. Get the facts on reading food labels.
Here are some quick definitions for the terms you’ll find on food labels.
Although we’ve come a long way from the nineteenth century’s traveling medicine shows selling miracle cures like Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root or rattlesnake oil, today’s marketing claims can be very confusing and even misleading.
Walking through any grocery store, you’ll find all sorts of claims made by food marketers. You’ll see “fat-free,” “low-sodium,” “light,” “nutritious,” and a whole host of other buzzwords. Remember, it’s buyer beware—not all these buzzwords mean exactly what they say, and the labels demand closer inspection. Be sure the “Nutrition Facts” label supports these claims.
Next time you’re navigating the grocery aisles, the following definitions may help you shop wiser and healthier.
Food labels are on practically every food item we buy and eat. And for good reason, too. Reading food labels is one of the most important steps you can take to eating well and living healthy.
Food labels provide important information about the food you’re eating—serving sizes, calories, fat, important nutrients, as well as salt, sugar, and cholesterol. Because of the amount of information packed on food labels, it may seem a little overwhelming at first. But not to worry, the following information will help you read and understand the Nutrition Facts labels on the food you consume. Here’s what you should look for on the Nutrition Facts label.
The % Daily Value is a general guide to help you link nutrients in a serving of food to their contribution to your total daily diet. 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. You can use the % Daily Value to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day. The * is a reminder that the % Daily Value is based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You may need more or less, but the % Daily Value is still a helpful gauge.
Most Americans get plenty of protein, but not always from the healthiest sources. When choosing a food for its protein content, such as meat, poultry, dry beans, milk and milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.
Having a better grasp on the terms used on food labels and packaging means you’ll be able to make wiser decisions when you eat. But here’s a key point to remember: just because foods claim to be low in fat, nutritious, or low in sodium, they may not be low in calories. You’ll only know if you read the label.
US Food and Drug Administrationwww.fda.gov
US Department of Agriculturewww.usda.gov
Academy of Nutrition & Dieteticswww.eatright.org
WELCOA (Wellness Council of America)17002 Marcy Street, Suite 140 Omaha, NE 68118402.827.3590 welcoa.org
©2014 Wellness Council of America 200226
The information contained in this brochure has been carefully reviewed for accuracy. It is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider.
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