Labeling on Food Packages

My commitment to giving my children fewer pre-packaged snacks this summer has gotten me thinking a lot about food labels and the impact they have on our food choices.  I have done a better job of providing my children snacks that do not have a label on them at all – like fresh fruits and vegetables.  But, it is hard to avoid foods in packages.  For example, we are eating nuts that come packaged in a bag, cheese that I have cut into cubes from a large block, yogurt from a plastic container, and cereal from a box.  All of these packages have labels and all of the labels can impact my food choices.

Some labels are pretty plain – basically telling me what is in the food I am buying.  Like my block of mild cheddar cheese.  Other labels are more complicated – using claims like light, sugar-free, lowfat, reduced sodium, and more.  My container of yogurt has a couple of these claims.  Still others are very complicated – using claims such as made with whole grains, healthy, or natural.  A box of cereal may have some claims like these.  Are these claims giving me information about the nutrition of the food, are they a marketing tactic to get me to buy the food, or is it a combination of both?  I think it is a combination of both, and I know I want to make the best choices for my family.

For a starting point, we have some information about food package labeling and claims here on our website.  If you want to know more about food label claims, here is an article that I found very helpful.  For me, the bottom line is this – no matter what the food package looks like on the front, turn it over and read what is on the back or the side.  Read the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredients list to find out what is in the food and inform your decision about whether or not you want to buy the food for yourself or your family.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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How to Find the Fiber

This past month we’ve been talking all about fiber! Christine and Justine shared about the health benefits of fiber and how we can include high fiber foods in our meals and snacks. Today I’m going to share with you how to find high fiber foods using the food label.

The Nutrition Facts Label is found on food and beverage packages and is a helpful tool for increasing the amount of dietary fiber you eat. It shows the amount in grams (g) and the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of dietary fiber in one serving of the food. You can see on this label for brown rice that there are 2g of dietary fiber in ½ cup (or 2/3 cup after it is cooked). That is 8% DV. A good tip to remember is that:

  • 5% DV or less of dietary fiber per serving is low
  • 20% DV or more of dietary fiber per serving is high

When comparing foods, choose foods with a higher %DV of dietary fiber.

Another place to look is the ingredient list. Look for whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, rolled oats, whole grain corn, quinoa, barley, or bulgur. The ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label are listed by weight, so the ingredients that make up more of the product are listed first. Look for products that have whole grain ingredients at the top of the list.

To get more fiber:

Choose: Instead of:
Whole-wheat bread White bread
Whole-wheat pasta Regular pasta
Brown rice White rice
Oatmeal Sugary cereal
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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