Making it Easier to Understand Nutrition Labels

Food and Healthcare Press Releases Thursday August 10, 2017 09:29
Bangkok--16 Aug--Francom Asia
The Nutrition Facts label can provide you with lots of useful information—as long as you know how to read it correctly.

Reading nutrition labels can be a challenge, because it always seems confusing and complicated. Oftentimes, you are discouraged by numbers, percentages and terms that don't really make sense to you. Understanding a nutrition label is like unlocking a code that could allow you to make quick, informed choices, improve your diet and give you a longer, healthier life.

Susan Bowerman, Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife, a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics explains the information found in food packages. She says that getting familiar with the serving size is the first step in decoding the nutrition Facts Label. "The nutrition food label can provide you with lots of useful information, provided you know how to read it correctly," she explains, and provides us with three steps to make ensure you have the right nutritional information on what you are about to eat.

Nutrition Facts Label Step 1: Portion Size
Many people assume, often incorrectly, that small packages of cookies, crackers or chips, or moderately sized beverage containers are single servings. But that isn't always the case.

The current official serving size of a soft drink is about 250mL. But many drinks come in much larger cans and bottles, and they might contain two or more servings. So, if you drink a bottle of green tea, you'll be drinking two servings. And that means you'll need to double all the information on the nutrition facts panel (like the calories and the sugar content, for instance) to figure out how much you've taken in.

Similarly, for labeling purposes, a serving of potato chips is 30 grams, which is only about 15 chips. But if you're eating out of a large bag, chances are you're eating several servings. So, be mindful that you could easily finish a whole bag without realizing that it actually contains multiple servings!

Nutrition Facts Label Step 2: Nutrients, Cholesterol and Fiber

Labeling for protein, fat and carbohydrate content is also provided on a per-serving basis. Same goes for sugar, fiber, cholesterol and sodium. As with the example above, you need to know how many servings you're consuming so you can estimate your intake of these nutrients accurately.

Keep in mind that the total carbohydrate that's listed includes all forms of carbohydrate - starch, sugar and fiber. Below that number you'll find separate listings for fiber and sugar. The listing for sugar lumps together both added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars (like the natural sugar in milk or fruit). So, it's not always easy to tell where the sugar is coming from without looking at the actual ingredients list.

Here's an interesting example that shows the importance of information on labels. You might feel like a little snack before lunchtime, which is still a couple of hours away. An average sized apple has only 13.6 grams of sugar, according to the Thai Ministry of Public Health website . Another good option might be a serving of Herbalife Nutritional Protein Drink Mix with 9 grams of sugar because it is delicious, nutritious and can satisfy your hunger. You can get into the habit of checking the sugar content of your food to make sure you are aware of the nutrition facts.

Here's some great news for health-conscious consumers. There is a move in the U.S. to change the Nutrition Facts label to make reading easier. Starting July 26, 2018, all labels should include a separate line for "added sugars" to distinguish them from the naturally occurring ones. Hopefully, Thailand will soon adopt this measure as well.

Nutrition Facts Label Step 3: % Daily Value

The other thing you'll see on the label is a column with "% Daily Value." Daily Values are standard recommended levels of intake for various nutrients that are established by the Thai Food and Drug Administration for use on food labels. The information in this column tells you what percentage of the intake for each nutrient is found in one serving, compared with the daily recommended level. Keep in mind that these values are based on a 2000 calorie diet, which means they may not apply to everyone. But even if a 2000 calorie diet doesn't apply to you, you can easily use the % Daily Value to calculate the nutrients that you will get from eating a particular food.

According to Susan, the bottom line is this: Nutrition Facts labels can really help to guide you to make better choices—as long as you are able to compare the amounts of food you are actually eating to the serving sizes that are listed on the package. Her advice is to practice, practice, and practice. Know the difference between a portion and a serving. It could help you a lot when you are on a diet or need to control your daily nutrition intake. Some may find it useful to weigh and measure foods to avoid the excess calories.

It feels great to be able to make quick, informed choices that will help you develop lifelong eating habits. Now that you have unlocked this secret, share it with your family and friends so you can all eat well, and live long and happy!

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