Making Sense of Nutrition Labels
What you need to know when making healthful food choices is right on the nutrition facts label.
- Serving Size This is the first thing you see on a label, but often overlooked. Every bit of data that follows is based on a single serving. Even individually wrapped foods may contain two or three servings.
- Calories For most women, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends about 2,000 calories a day. For snacks, stick to foods with fewer than 200 calories per serving.
- Fats Watch for saturated and trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower the good stuff. Buy foods with no more than 3 grams per serving of saturated fat and 0 g per serving of trans fat.
- Sodium To keep your blood pressure in check, take in no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Stick to snack foods with no more than 500 mg per serving. At meals, a bit more salt is fine.
- Dietary Fiber In the grocery aisles, look for 3 g to 5 g of dietary fiber per serving for breads and other grain products. You'll need at least that much to get the 25 g to 35 g of dietary fiber you need daily.
- Sugars There's no real agreement on how much sugar is too much. Best advice: Limit foods with lots of added sugars. To do that, you'll have to read the ingredients list.
- Ingredients In general, a shorter list is better. Shorter typically means fewer artificial ingredients (except where a product has numerous added vitamins). On longer lists, look at the top three to five ingredients to tell the true tale about what you are eating -- manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order of weight.