When picking out the foods we want to eat, many people will check the nutritional label to determine what is in the food they are thinking about buying. However, most will only consider how many calories it has on the label. Many people do not know the full extent of the information they can glean from carefully reading the nutritional labels on anything in the grocery store. While there are countless ways you can look at the labels, particularly with the varying dietary restrictions around these days, we have compiled a few of the most universally important things to watch out for on all nutritional labels.
Size of Serving
If something you are looking at says it is worth 100 calories, it looks like a great choice. Unfortunately, this may not always be right, since the nutritional labels rarely ever start the total number of calories in the whole product. Instead, they state the calories for a specific serving size. For instance, a typical can of soup often has a nutritional label marked for only half of its contents. This means those 100 calories would actually turn out to be 200 if you ate the whole can. This is why you should always make a point of looking at the serving size. This way, you will have a more realistic view of the food. Compare the serving size on the product with what you would normally eat. If the calories in the cereal, for instance, say they are for 1/3 of a cup, consider if you would actually eat this amount.
Regardless of your dietary requirements, reading the list of ingredients on the nutritional label is always an important thing for you to do. Vegetarians, for instance, may discover hidden ingredients they should be avoiding, such as gelatin. Those who are lactose-intolerant, may actually find lactose in surprising places. Even if you have no dietary restrictions such as those, reading the list of ingredients can still yield good information. While not all obscure ingredients may be bad for you, many people benefit from only choosing foods where they know every ingredient on the list.
Did you know you are probably eating more salt than is healthy for you? Look at the sodium content on the nutritional labels, it might surprise you. Most people only need roughly 1500 milligrams each day, though some guidelines say you could go up to 2300 milligrams. So what happens if the frozen pizza you are looking at has 900 milligrams of sodium for just three slices? Consuming too much sodium, especially over an extended period of time, can cause significant health problems, including high blood pressure. Read the sodium content on all labels to help mitigate this, and choose low sodium alternatives where possible.
When you are looking at all the elements on the nutritional label, whether this is calcium, iron, potassium, et cetera, you will often see a percentage listed next to it. This is an indicator of how much of the nutrient you should consume in a day. If the percentage is in the double digits, particularly if it is over 20%, the food is considered rich in that particular nutrient. Note you should watch your consumption of many of those nutrients in order to maintain a healthy diet. Iron, it is important to note, is one of the nutrients you should not consume too much of. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is quite safe to consume a lot of, since you will pee the excess out of your body.