Diet: Food Labels

By Daphene Baines

If you are a person concerned with Christian health and diet, it is important to know how to read food labels.  Below is some vital information regarding reading food labels. 

1.  Food Products Vary in Sizes.  Many people eat in order to be satisfied but are not aware of how many calories they are actually eating.

According to Nancy Hellmach of USA Today (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com) “a nationally representative online survey of 1,024 people shows…. 63% can't accurately estimate the number, 25% won't even venture a guess and only 12% can nail it.”

Part of the reason for the underestimation of calories is people don’t realize that serving sizes varies.  The food label will help you see the serving size and estimate how many calories you eat.

For example, if the serving size for cereal is one cup and you eat two cups that is two servings. This is important because eating two cups, instead of one, means you must double the amount of calories listed on the food label.

2.  General Guide to Calories.  The General Guide to Calories provides a general reference for calories, when you look at a food label. This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The calorie section of the label can help you manage your weight (i.e., gain, lose, or maintain.).  Forty calories is low, 100 calories is moderate and 400 calories or more is high. 

Remember that eating too many calories per day is linked to being overweight and obese. Nancy Hellmach writes that "Adult calorie requirements can range from 1,400 to 1,600 a day for a small sedentary woman to 4,000 or more calories a day for a highly trained endurance athlete." 

She also mentions the idea of “calorie consciousness,” as opposed to “calorie counting.”  In other words, if a person wants to avoid eating more than their daily calorie requirement, they must be aware of how many calories they are eating. Being concerned with your Christian health will lead you to read the food label to see how many calories you are eating.

3.  Limit your fats.   Christian health should be concerned with limiting fats.  Reading the food label will help you see how much fat is in each serving. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, and  trans fat may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.

This article is not endorsing becoming a slave to tracking fat, but it is endorsing becoming aware of the fats that you eat.  Ideally, a person’s fat intake should fall between 20-30% of their total calorie intake.

Reading the food label will help you become aware of the amount and type of fat in the food product.  All fats are not bad and should not be limited from your diet.  Trans fat and saturated fats should probably be eaten the least. 

Other fats such as monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, which includes the essential fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acid, should make up the majority of the fats in your diet. Information in this article is based on the article Food Labeling (http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/default.htm)

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