The best way to know to whether a food is healthy or not is to check its nutritional label. But, what exactly should you be looking for when reading one?
Serving Size & Serving Per Container: Serving sizes are important because the nutritional label is based on the serving size. This can become confusing when you see something has only 100 calories but has 4 servings. This means that the entire package of food is actually 400 calories. Often times, people tend to eat well over the serving size, ignoring it all together. It is extremely important to check the serving size, since it could be the difference between 100 calories and 400 calories.
Calories: Calories counts help you keep track of how many calories you’re consuming as part of your daily intake. According to the FDA, anything with 40 calories or less is considered a low calorie food, 100 calories, a moderate calorie food, and 400 or more calories, a high calorie food.
Calories from fat: exactly as it says, these are the amount of calories that come from fat.
Fat: Generally, too much fat is a bad thing, especially saturated fats and trans fats, so you should always avoid eating foods high in those fats. But, not all fats are bad. Fats like polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are healthy, and can be found in healthy foods such as oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Cholesterol & sodium: Just like fats, foods high in cholesterol and sodium should be either avoided or eaten in moderation.
Total carbohydrates: Popular to contrary belief, carbohydrates are not bad for you. Both dietary fiber and sugar are carbs. Dietary fiber is essential for good health, and helps maintain healthy bowel movements, as well as making you feel fuller faster. Sugar, on the other hand, can be either good or bad, believe it or not. Natural sugars that come naturally from fruits, vegetables or milk is fine, while processed and added sugars are the sugars you should avoid.
Protein, vitamin and minerals: These are important since they are essential for a healthy lifestyle.
DV%: DV% stands for daily value percentage, and is listed next to the nutrition facts. These percentages list how much of that nutrient you are receiving based on the daily recommended amount. These percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which may be either above or below your personal recommended calorie intake. When reading the DV%, remember that 5% or lower is low and 20% or higher is high. For healthy nutrients like dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, you want to look for high DV%. And for unhealthy nutrients like saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol, you want to aim for low DV%.