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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Understanding What You Eat: How to Read Food Labels: Learn about the nutritional data contained on the labels of our foods, presented by Shellese King-Bassette, DDS

Aug 01, 2012 02:13PM ● By Shellese King-Bassette, DDS

While we cannot measure every morsel of food that passes our lips, it is important to understand the nutritional data contained on the labels of our foods. Reading food labels is the simplest way to be armed with the facts. The nutrition facts section on packaged food items will inform you about the proper serving size, nutrients and ingredients it contains. Understanding food labels doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some things to know as you check the labels and evaluate the products in your local market:

Serving Size: This indicates the amount of nutrients eaten. If you strictly adhere to the serving size, you will obtain the same amount of nutrients listed on the package. For example, if a serving size of peanut butter is two tablespoons (32 grams) and you eat exactly two tablespoons, you have just eaten one serving.

Nutrients: This refers to the various nutrients contained in a particular food. Information about fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and any vitamins is listed here. The percent daily values, which are usually based on a 2,000-calorie dietary allowance, are also stated here.

Ingredients: All of the ingredients used to make the food are listed. The first ingredient has the greatest quantity by weight, with the last ingredient having the smallest. A general rule of thumb is the simpler the ingredient list, the better. Foods that contain many chemical ingredients are highly processed and unnatural.

Label Claim: This refers to any nutritional claims of the food item. For instance, a sodium-free food has less than five milligrams of sodium per serving. A low-fat food contains three grams of fat or less per serving.

Get into the habit of reading food labels. You can then begin to make sensible food selections at the grocery store and practice proper portion control at home.

Shellese King-Bassette, DDS, is the co-owner of Mind, Body and Flow, in Chandler. For additional help in understanding food labels and what ingredients to watch out for, contact her at 480-782-6566 or visit

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