The Spoonable 6th Edition: Bite Sized Wellness Tips from a Registered Dietitian
Get your (Nutrition) Facts Straight!
by Danica Crouse, RDN, LD
When you are looking to make changes to your diet and opt for healthier foods, you are often directed to review the nutrition facts label. Without much context, this little box could be confusing and even misleading. Let's take a look at the facts to better understand how to read food labels.
Starting at the top of the label, you'll want to check out the serving size (usually in units such as cups or pieces) and number of servings per container. These serving sizes are not standardized and are not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink. The serving size can vary even among similar products. If you choose to eat more or less than one (suggested) serving of something, go for it! You'll just have to account for the adjusted intake of the nutrients listed below. The serving size for a Sweet Nothings smoothie is one container, so sharing is optional (but we bet you won't want to!).
Understanding % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. If you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV (5 percent or less). If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), choose foods with a higher % DV (20 percent or more).The information shown in the label is based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day, but individual needs can vary greatly. Caloric needs will depend on your age, gender, activity level, and weight management goals. It's important to not get too caught up in the %DV as it may not always be applicable to YOUR specific needs.Small Steps for Big Impact
Fat: Fat is broken down into Total Fat, Saturated Fat and Trans Fat. Some labels elaborate further and include the breakdown of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. What you need to know: trans fats should be avoided and saturated fat should be consumed in moderation as eating too much of these can be linked to adverse health effects. Fat accounts for more calories than carbs and protein, so as the fat content increases, so will the total calories. Sweet Nothings smoothies contain 2-5 grams of total fat per serving which come from plant-based, healthy fat sources like cashews, peanuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.
Carbohydrates: Here you will see Total Carbohydrates, Fiber, Total Sugar, and Added Sugar content. Total Sugar includes all naturally occurring sugar as well as sugars that are added during processing. Added sugars are now required to be labeled (in grams) and they should be consumed in moderation. What you need to know: Sugar is a type of carbohydrate and is included in the total carbohydrate number on the label. Sweet Nothing smoothies contain no added sugar!All of the sugar present is naturally occurring from fruits which means they also provide a good source of fiber (2-3 grams per serving).
Protein: Protein content is one of the few items that does not require a % Daily Value for adults or children over the age of 4 as protein intake is not considered a public health concern. % Daily Value is required if an item claims it is "High Protein" or if the intended market is infants and children under 4 years old. Protein is listed in grams on the label and individual protein needs vary from person to person. Sweet Nothings smoothies contain 1-2 grams of protein per serving which contributes to the balanced nutritional profile making it a satisfying snack or treat.
Cholesterol: Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages keeping intake as low as possible. The %DV for cholesterol is 300 milligrams (mg) per day.
Sodium: The sodium content is displayed in milligrams (mg) and includes naturally occurring sodium from the ingredients as well as added salt. The %DV for sodium is based on 2,300 mg per day. Some individuals may need or tolerate more or less sodium in their diet, but more often it is best to choose foods that are lower in sodium for general health.
Others: Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and Potassium content are required to be included on the Nutrition Facts label. These nutrients have been identified as ones that most Americans generally don't get enough of. Other vitamins or minerals may be listed out if a food is fortified or contains higher amounts of certain nutrients.
Use the nutrition label as a tool to find foods that contain more of the nutrients you want and less of the nutrients you don't want in order to support your dietary needs and health goals.