How to read food labels

How to read food labels with Annie House RD Botsford HospitalThose nutrition food labels — you’ve seen them on almost every prepared food item in the grocery store.  They’ve been mandated since 1990 and they’re meant to give you the information you need to make smart, healthy food choices.  But sometimes they can be confusing and even downright misleading.

So Annie House, a Botsford Hospital registered dietitian, sat down with the Farmington Hills/Farmington Commission on Children, Youth and Families to explain those sometimes daunting nutrition food labels.

Tips to interpret & better understand food labels

Annie advises us to pay attention to the number of servings per container.  This is important because you have to multiply all the other numbers on the label by this number if you eat the whole container.  So if a food label says there are 45 calories in a serving, but the package includes 2.5 “servings per container,” that really means if you eat the whole container you’re really getting 45 calories multiplied by 2.5, which is 112.5 calories!

Annie also points out that the foods we should be eating the most don’t have food labels on them!  These include items found on the perimeter of the grocery store such as fruits, vegetables and fresh meats.  Annie says “the closer you can get to nature with these foods is better” because they don’t have additives in them.  Although most of these foods don’t have nutrition labels, they are packed with nutrition!  So try to include more of these in your diet and you’ll be making a big first step to healthier eating.

You can see the full video interview here.  Annie’s interview is about 25 minutes long but if you’ve ever found yourself confused by food labels, it’s worth watching the whole thing. You will learn:

  • Why food labels are important
  • What will you find on the food label
  • How to be an educated consumer
  • The first thing you should look at on the label
  • What a calorie is
  • Why labels are sometimes misleading
  • What each of the items on the label mean, such as total fat, saturated fat, % Daily Value
  • What are good fats and what are bad fats
  • The key to carbohydrates
  • What protein is and what the best types of protein to eat are
  • What ingredients to look for and avoid
  • Code words for sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Identify possible allergens
  • Finding nutritious options at restaurants

If you’d like to learn more about nutrition, healthy eating or even eating to prevent or control diabetes, browse the Botsford Hospital events calendar.  We have many workshops, demonstrations and classes to help you take a step toward better nutrition!

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