What are some suggestions when reading a food label?
Approach each food label with a few basic questions.
1. How many grams of saturated fat are present per serving? Try to keep it below 2 grams per serving. If this is not possible, compare products and select the one with the least fat.
2. Next, look for the sodium content per serving. Use the rule of thumb: one gram of sodium for each calorie per serving. This may be difficult when buying cheese, pizza, soup and other intrinsically high sodium foods. Here, the compromise rule may be expanded to read: 2 grams of sodium for each calorie per serving. Check different brands and select the one with the least sodium.
3. The fiber content of the food is the next important issue. If fiber is not listed, it means there is no significant fiber in the product. When choosing a cereal for your child (or for yourself) look for one that has 3 grams or more of fiber per serving (but not too high on sodium, saturated fat, or simple sugar). The word, “Whole” as in Whole Grains should appear as the first or second listed whether whole wheat, oats, rye, or another grain.
4. Check the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients labels for the amount of simple sugar. Avoid cereal products that say “Frosted” and be careful when the label reads, “lightly sweetened.” Select cereals that contain no more than 4 grams of added sugar per serving. Remember that juice is 100% sugar and water. The container may say no sugar added, but that does not mean it is without sugar. Fruit “drinks” and sodas should be avoided. Instead choose beverages such as water, herbal or green tea.
5. Finally check for vitamin and mineral content. Specifically look for Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium and Iron.