Nutrition Facts Label Can Guide Your Choices
When buying food for your family – or when helping consumers decide which brand to purchase – the nutrition facts label is your best friend!
Nutrition Facts Label Basic
The information on the nutrition facts label is guided by regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The guidance not only indicates what information must be there it also calls out-
- Where information must appear on the label,
- Which nutrients are listed, and in what order,
- Serving size of the food,
- The font and font size to use,
- How to provide information on various package sizes
You can learn more about each of these points by visiting the FDA website. The American Heart Association has a very simple infographic that clearly shows how to use a nutrition facts label.
The Ingredient List Can Guide Choices
In addition to knowing how to navigate the nutrition facts label, an understanding of the ingredient list is also important. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the main ingredient is listed first, followed by the remaining ingredients. What is important though is that ingredients are listed individually. If sugar and honey are both in a product, they are listed based on the weight they contribute to the product. While that is adhering to the regulations, you need to check the list to see how many sugars are in the product. The same thing applies to all ingredients, so reading the list is important.
One ingredient area that can be a little confusing is the listing of Sugar. The food label requires the listing of Total Carbohydrate – sugar is a carbohydrate – then the listing of Total Sugars, and finally the listing of Added Sugars. This is important because sugar occurs naturally in dairy foods, fruits, and vegetables. Deciding what product you want to buy should be based on quality, flavor and of course cost. Sugar from dairy foods, fruits and vegetables provides a variety of nutrients, so the quality likely is different than if the sugar is just added.
Added sugars are sugars that get added during processing to either provide flavor or add to product quality. Added sugars can be anything from table sugar to fruit juice that is added for flavor or color.
Putting It All together
The Nutrition Facts label is meant to provide the information consumers need to make good nutritious choices for their families. While federal regulations guide what the labels contain, the information provided is core to good nutrition choices. Knowing if a food has a nice balance of key nutrients can help you decide if the food is worth the cost. If a food has limited nutritional value, you can decide to make it an occasional choice.
Understanding the nutrition facts label can make searching through the multitude of brands a simpler step. Knowing how to read health claims on the front of a food product, in combination with using the nutrition facts panel, can make it much easier to choose the right products for your family.
About Connie – Connie is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience communicating in the food and nutrition space. Taking the science of food and nutrition and translating it to simple messages, new products, or exciting menus is her expertise. Making nutrition messages clear, accurate, and engaging aids all consumers.