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Video:How to Read Nutrition Labels

with Lynn Reynolds

Nutrition labels can be difficult to decipher if you don't know what the various numbers and percentages mean. Here are some tips on how to read nutrition labels so that you know exactly what is in the food you eat.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Read Nutrition Labels

Hi, I'm Lynn Reynolds for About.com Food. Today I'd like to show you how to read a nutrition label.

You've all seen these -- the labels on packaged food that list the nutrients and ingredients. It actually wasn't until about 20 years ago that food manufacturers to put these on their foods. But, there's a lot of information in there, and it's not always clear what it means. So we're going to break it all down for you.

Think of the label as divided into three sections: serving sizes, nutrient amounts, and vitamins and minerals.

Pay Attention to Serving Size When You Read Nutrition Labels

Let's look at serving size on this bag of potato chips. At the top of the label is "Serving Size," which is one ounce or 15 chips, and the number of servings in the package. Keep in mind that the nutrition facts listed are for the serving size indicated. If your serving size is different, factor this in when using the label.

Calories and Calories From Fat Are Listed on Nutrition Labels

The second section of the label lists nutrients. At the top is Calories and Fats. We'll zoom in here. You can see that the 11-chip serving has 150 calories, that 90 of those calories come from fat, has 10 grams of fat total, and 16% of the FDA recommended daily value for fat. They base this on a 160-lb. man, so if you're larger or smaller, you should take that into consideration.

Let's compare those regular chips with the baked kind. Here you can see that the same amount of baked chips have only 120 calories, only 15 calories from fat, only 2 grams of fat, and only 3% of the FDA amount. Clearly if you're limiting your fat and calories, these are the better choice.

Nutrition Labels Break Down Types of Fats and Other Nutrients

Next, the label shows the types of fats. Let’s look at these two cans of chili. One is regular, the other is lower in fat. The regular chili has 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 0.5 gram trans fat. But the low-fat version has only 0.5 grams saturated fat and no trans fat. Again, very helpful if you're watching your fat intake.

Next are cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fibers, sugars and protein. For good health, it's important to keep your cholesterol, sodium (which is salt) and carbohydrates intake on the low side. You can see that this fruit cocktail is low in all of these.

However, it's also low in fiber (which we need to get plenty of), and it's high in sugars -- 23 grams equals 7-1/2 teaspoons, which is a lot. So you might want to buy this light version, which only has 11 grams, or 2 1/2 teaspoons.

Vitamins and Minerals Are Listed at the End of Nutrition Labels

The bottom section shows vitamins and minerals the FDA has determined we don't get enough of. The FDA percentages listed help you determine how nutrient-rich the food is. Not all foods will have all these nutrients of course, but seeing how much they have can be a good clue as to whether this is a food that's nourishing or maybe just empty calories.

Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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