The Norman Transcript

January 26, 2014

How to navigate through nutrition facts

By Lisa Baldock
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Q: I lead a very busy lifestyle and am constantly on the go. For this reason, I try to bring snacks with me and eat when I can.

I look at Nutrition Fact Labels as often as possible to help me decide which food choices are the healthiest, but sometimes I don’t even know what to look for.

Is there an easy way for me to navigate this information?

A: I think it is great that you are health conscious and eager to choose the best foods to fuel your body with. Nutrition Fact Labels (NFL) contain a lot of information and I see why this may be confusing.

Here are a few tips and key things to look for when reading an NFL:

· Start at the top where it says “Serving Size” and “Servings per Container.” This information is unique to each product and dictates the number of calories and other nutrient amounts listed on the label. In the sample label, one serving equals 1 cup; however, there are two servings per container. Therefore, if you consume the whole package the amount of calories and other nutrients will be doubled.

· The amount of calories is a measure of how much energy the food provides. A general guide to navigate calories based on a 2,000-calorie diet is as follows: 40 is low, 100 is moderate and 400 or more is high.

· The nutrients in this label are separated into two groups: “Limit these Nutrients” in yellow and “Get enough of these Nutrients” in blue. You will see “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat” listed below “Total Fat.” These two items are indented, meaning that their values are included in the “Total Fat” category. Eating too much of these nutrients in yellow may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases and, therefore, should be limited.

· The nutrients in blue are ones that Americans typically do not get enough of in their diets. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions. As with fats, the dietary fiber and sugar amounts are indented, meaning that they are included in the total carbohydrate amount. The leftover amount of carbohydrate is considered starch.

· The percents listed on the right side of the label for each nutrient represent the “Percent Daily Value.” This number is based on the Daily Value (DV) recommendations for key nutrients based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The percent DV column does not add up vertically to equal 100 percent. Instead, each value is based on 100 percent of the daily requirements for that specific nutrient according to a 2,000-calorie diet. This helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. A guide to percent DV is: 5 percent or less is low, and 20 percent or more is high.

Nutrition Fact Labels are a great resource to use to help you compare different food products and make the healthier choice. They not only help you focus on nutrients you want to cut back on, but also on those you should try to increase.

The 5 percent-or-less guide for percent Daily Value should be used for the nutrients you want to limit (e.g. fat, cholesterol, and sodium), whereas the 20 percent or more should be applied to those nutrients you want to increase, like fiber and calcium.

This makes it easy to make comparisons between different products. Just remember to check the serving sizes of each product to make sure they are similar before comparing numbers.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Residents interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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