Depending on where you live around the world, every nation has some kind of nutrition facts panel on their food packages. The content may vary but the principle is to make consumers aware of what is in the package and to compare products. In some countries, what appears on the label is strictly regulated by the government and the health regulatory bodies, while others might not be. Nevertheless, it is important to know how to read food labels so you can select the foods that meet your body’s needs.
Serving Size – is the amount of food you need to eat to get the calories and nutrients displayed in the nutrition facts panel. It is usually, but not always, consistent with the amount we eat at one sitting, but it may be different from the recommended servings.
% Daily Value – is based on recommendations for a healthy diet and usually based on a reference standard 2000 calorie diet. This column tells you if there is a little or a lot of a nutrient in one serving size of that product. The percent Daily Value (% DV) makes comparing products easier because it puts all nutrients on the same scale.
Make sure to double check your serving size to that of the labels’ when counting calories and nutrients. (For example: if you are eating one cup of this product, then since the nutrients labelled here are based on 1/3rd cup, multiply all the nutrients’ and calorie amounts by 3 to know how much you are actually getting)
How to decide which food to get:
Look at the percent Daily Value (% DV) column next to the nutrients and pick the food which is higher in the nutrients you need. A percent daily value of 15 or higher indicates a high source of the nutrient in your food, and a nutrient with 5 percent or less has a low source.
Nutrients that should be higher (> 15% DV):
Nutrients that should be lower (< 5% DV):
Ingredient List – ingredients are listed by weight from highest to lowest. So the first ingredient in the list is the largest quantity in the product. When choosing grain products, for example, look for the word “whole” (whole rice or whole wheat) as the first ingredient.
Nutrition Claims – such as “Low Sodium”, “Fat-free”, “Good Source of Calcium”, are claims that manufacturers make and may or may not be regulated by the government. Make sure you read the nutrition facts panel to decide for yourself.