Nutrition Facts Label and What You Need to Know

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Nutrition Facts LabelThe Nutrition Facts Panel and the Ingredients List is the only place manufacturer’s HAVE to tell the TRUTH and it is typically found on the back of the package. Manufacturers can tell you whatever they want on the front of a package to get the consumer to purchase their products.

The more we know the better we can make healthier choices for us and our families. We can change the type of food that takes up residence on our shelves.
Nutrition Facts Label

Photo courtesy: http://www.fda.gov/

1. Serving Size: When looking at the Nutrition Facts Label (NFL) the first thing you will see is the Serving Size, how many Servings are in the Container and it will also include the weight in grams.

2. The Calories is the amount for 1 serving.
Based on a 2000 calorie diet, the General Guide to Calories according to the FDA:

  • 40 Calories is low
  • 100 Calories is moderate
  • 400 Calories or more is high

On this particular food label, 110 of those 250 Calories from Fat. (this is probably not a great thing to eat)

3. The Nutrients listed next are the ones you want to limit. Eating too much Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium may increase certain diseases, cancers or give you high blood pressure.
If you will notice all these nutrients are pretty high if you look at the percentage of the Daily Value (DV) 18% of the calories are from Fat alone and if you notice the Sodium is 20%.

“The FDA wanted consumers to be able to compare the amounts of saturated fat and sodium to the maximum amounts recommended for a day’s intake–the Daily Values. Because the allowable limits would vary according to the number of calories consumed, the FDA needed benchmarks for average calorie consumption, even though calorie requirements vary according to body size and other individual characteristics. From USDA food consumption surveys of that era, the FDA knew that women typically reported consuming 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day, men 2,000 to 3,000, and children 1,800 to 2,500. But stating ranges on food labels would take up too much space and did not seem particularly helpful. The FDA proposed using a single standard of daily calorie intake–2,350 calories per day, based on USDA survey data. The agency requested public comments on this proposal and on alternative figures: 2,000, 2,300, and 2,400 calories per day.” (for more information go to http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/08/why-does-the-fda-recommend-2-000-calories-per-day/243092/)

4. The Nutrients in blue you should be getting “enough” of.
Sugars are calculated using ALL the sugars in the package including sugars added AND sugars from fruit. These sugars are not separated. So be mindful of the Ingredient List (see The Ingredient List) and if the fruit is listed before any added sugars it is mostly sweetened by the fruit.

5. The statement following the asterisk regarding the Percent Daily Values must be on all food labels, but the remaining information may not be for reason of package size not allowing for it. The list under the statement is the same on all food products. It does not change from food to food or manufacturer to manufacturer.

Note that Trans Fat, Sugars and Protein do not list a % DV on the Nutrition Facts Label…
Trans Fat: Experts could not provide a reference value for trans fat not any other information that FDA believes is sufficient to establish a Daily Value or % DV. Scientific reports link trans fat and saturated fat with raising blood LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, both of which increase your risk of coronary heart disease, a leading cause of death in the US.
Important: Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.
Protein: A % DV is required to be listed if a claim is made for protein, such as “high in protein”. Otherwise, unless the food is meant for use by infants and children under 4 years old, none is needed. Current scientific evidence indicates that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children over 4 years of age.

The Ingredient List – FYI’S:

  • The food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance.
  • The ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.
  • Water added in making a food is considered to be an ingredient.
  • “Sugar” instead of the scientific name “sucrose.” should be used
  • Sulfites added to any food or to any ingredient in any food and that has no technical effect in that food are considered to be incidental only if present at less than 10 ppm.
  • When an approved chemical preservative is added to a food, the ingredient list must include both the common or usual name of the preservative and the function of the preservative by including terms, such as “preservative,” “to retard spoilage,” “a mold inhibitor,” “to help protect flavor,” or “to promote color retention.” For example: INGREDIENTS: Dried Bananas, Sugar, Salt, and Ascorbic Acid to Promote Color Retention.

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