Nutrition labels are meant to be informative, but more often than not they can be difficult to understand. I’d like to think that I’m intelligent, but ask me to read the nutrition label on a box of popcorn, and my brain is reduced to the mental equivalent of garbanzo beans.
Nevertheless, being aware of what you’re putting in your body (and how much) is important. So buckle up! We’re going for a ride to Labeltown (it’s like Funkytown, only more educational).
Break it down
- Serving size – the first thing you want to look at is the serving size, and how many servings are in the container. I used to think that the serving size for Oreos was “one package.” Turns out it’s two cookies. Clearly you can see my discrepancy.
- Caloric Content – trying to watch your weight? Watch your calories! Essentially, this part of the label tells you how much energy you’re taking in. It also tells you how much of that energy is coming from fat.
- The Nutrients – this part of the label clues you in on macro-nutrients (fat and protein), vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The left side of the column lists the nutrient (e.g. Iron, total fat, fiber), and the right side of the columns lists the percentage of the recommended daily value (%DV) for that nutrient.
Generally speaking, most Americans consume too much of the following nutrients:
- Total fat
- Saturated fat
We want to work on getting more of these:
- Mono and polyunsaturated fat
- Vitamins A and C
One thing to keep in mind when talking about Daily Value percentages is these percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. So, if you’re daily calorie budget is 1,500, the percentages will be higher for you.
So there you have it! The nutrition label, decoded. Now, if anyone can tell me why un-popped popcorn is listed on a nutrition label…that would solve one of life’s mysteries for me.