One of the most important things you can do for your own nutrition is to know what you’re eating. In recent years, food labels have become much more user friendly and you really can know exactly what you’re putting in your body.
Your relationship with food is very important. What you eat can help to give you energy, improve your immunity, and allow you to combat many diseases. But it can also do the opposite – leave you feeling weak and even cause disease.
But if you’ve never given your food much thought, reading food labels can be intimidating. There’s a lot of information there. Deciding which information is important and which isn’t can be challenging. Once you know the basics, though, you’ll read those labels with confidence.
Be Smart about Serving Size
Begin with looking at the serving size on the label. Sometimes people miss this part of the label and then have an inaccurate idea of what’s actually in the food. For example, if you have a can of soup and the label says it’s 2 servings, that means that the information on the label would be doubled if you ate the whole can.
Labels have gotten better in the recent past. For example, a can of soda used to be 1.5 or 2 servings. But now when you look at the label, one can of soda is a whole serving because most people will drink the entire thing. A 20 oz bottle, though, is more than 2 servings.
Once you know the serving size, you’re ready to move on to looking at the quality of the food you’re eating. The most obvious information you can get from your food label is about the breakdown of calories.
The label will tell you how many calories are in each serving. Calories are the measurement for how much energy it takes down to break down the food. The higher the calories, the longer it will take to break it down.
Your metabolism is the measure of how much energy you burn over a period of time. While we often think of exercising as burning calories, the effect of exercise is small compared to the total calories you burn.
When your heart beats, you breathe in and out, your body breaks down nutrients and makes new blood cells you’re burning calories. That’s why you need an average of around 2,000 calories in a day.
There are three basic biomolecules that your food can give you: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Food labels tell you exactly how much of each you’re getting in a serving of food. The label also tells you how many grams of that food you need in a typical diet.
Depending on the label, the following are the major categories you’ll find:
*· Total calories per serving
*· Grams of carbohydrates
*· Grams of fat
*· Milligrams of sodium