Nutrition labels can be complicated, and ingredients that are beneficial for some consumers may be harmful to others. Seniors and people with existing medical conditions should always discuss their diets with their physicians, asking if there are specific foods they should avoid or seek out. In addition, the following three tips, courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, can help consumers understand nutrition labels and make sound choices.
1. Read the serving size information.
Serving size information on nutrition labels indicates both the recommended serving size and the number of servings contained in the package. The AND recommends that consumers compare the portion size they actually eat to the serving size listed on the label. Some people may consume more than one serving size per meal, and that can affect just how much of each ingredient, including ingredients like sodium that can be harmful if consumed in excess, a person is eating.
2. Pay attention to calorie count.
Nutrition labels contain calorie counts, which can help people maintain healthy weights. Being at a healthy weight has been linked to a reduced risk for various conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Nutrition labels list calories per serving, so people trying limit their calorie intake to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight should pay particular attention to this information.
3. Let percent daily values guide you.
The AND notes that percent daily values, which are listed as “DV” on food labels, help consumers determine how particular foods fit into their daily meal plans. These values are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, though some people may need more or fewer calories than that. In addition, some people may need more than the 100 per cent recommended daily value of a given nutrient. Consumers should discuss their specific needs regarding calorie and nutrient intake with their physicians. For those advised to heed the daily values recommendations, ingredients that are listed at 5 per cent DV or less are considered low, while those that are 20 percent DV or higher are considered high. The AND recommends aiming low for ingredients like sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, while high in vitamins, minerals and fibre can be beneficial.
More information about nutrition labels can be found at www.eatingright.org.