Putting it all Together and Looking to the Future
To demonstrate how someone might use the information on food labels to support their health, let’s look at this example scenario:
Ms. Smith is a 28-year-old new mom who has decided she would like to lose some weight to improve her health. She goes grocery shopping and carefully looks at food labels to make the best choices.
Her first stop is in the bread aisle, where she is comparing different types of bread for sandwiches. She first compares white bread to whole-wheat bread and sees that the whole-wheat bread has an extra 3 grams of fiber per serving, which she knows can help her feel full and make it easier to not over-eat. She then compares two different types of whole-wheat bread and sees that one of them has 50 Calories per slice, while the other has 80 Calories per slice. She chooses to buy the 50-Calorie per slice bread to help her cut back on calories and lose weight.
She then looks at different types of peanut butter. She can see that one kind of peanut butter has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient and 10 grams of sugar per serving, but it is also labeled as “Gluten-Free.” The other one has zero grams of sugar and says nothing about gluten. Since she knows that too much added sugar could be bad for her health, and that gluten isn’t normally found in peanut butter anyways, she chooses the peanut butter with no sugar. When she looks at the serving size, she notices that 1 serving equals 2 Tablespoons, and contains 200 Calories. When she goes home and makes her sandwich, she measures out 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter, so therefore knows that she is eating 100 Calories from the peanut butter.
Ms. Smith compared food labels throughout her grocery shopping trip and is confident that she made nutritious food choices--bread with whole grains, more fiber and fewer calories per slice, and a peanut butter with no added sugar--to help her reach her health goals.
Know Your Serving Size
A great place to start when reading the Nutrition Facts panel is right at the top, with Serving Size. This sets the stage to know what amount of the food or beverage that all of the following information refers to. On the example to the [right], the serving size is 1 cup, so if you actually eat the entire package, a total of 2 cups, for example, you’ll have to multiply all the values on the label by 2. Number of servings per container is helpful if you’re not sure what a cup or an ounce or a tablespoon of a food looks like. Here, since there are 2 servings in the container, you’ll be able to estimate that half of the whole container equals 1 serving.