Read The Label – Calories Per Serving Or Per Package?

Posted 03/19/2013 | By HealthCorps

When you grab a bag or package of food, do you look at the nutrition breakdown label to see how many calories are in a serving of the food?  Or do you assume the calories posted are for the entire package??  If you examine the label carefully, it will typically tell you calories per serving and it will also tell you separately, the number of servings in the entire container.  Unfortunately, most people don’t read the label carefully and assume the calories posted are for “the whole package.”  You assume the whole package is a few hundred calories, when in fact it is well over a thousand calories.  That mistake can mean gaining extra pounds on a regular basis.

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has spent quite a bit of time performing online interviews to better understand the kinds of nutrition label guidelines they need to enforce, so that consumers will fully understand how many calories they’re eating.  The FDA also consulted with experts in the field of nutrition, to better understand how the nutrition information can be formatted into a more simple, easy-to-understand label .  One suggestion is a traffic light signal format, with a green light for lower calorie, lower fat, lower sugar content and red light to signal the need to seriously investigate the calories per portion, fat, salt and sugar amounts.  One problem with a system like this is the fact that some foods, like nuts, may be high in calories and fat and warrant a red signal, while also offering quality protein and healthy fats, which warrants a green signal.

The FDA is continuing to work on a universal nutrition label format, but for right now consumers watching their weight or seeking the healthiest food options need to dissect the information on the current nutrition label and track:

  • Calories per serving
  • Number of servings in the entire package
  • Total calories per container or package
  • Percentage of salt per serving
  • Percentage of protein per serving
  • Percentage of added sugars per serving
  • Percentage and types of fats per serving
  • Quality of the ingredients, which requires you to refer separately to the list of ingredients.
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