Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nutritional Labels

As health minded vegans, we should be reading labels. When you look at a nutritional label do you know what you are reading? Or is it so confusing you just avoid it all together?

Nutritional labels are standard across North America, which means once you learn how to read them, it won't take you much time or effort to continue.

Right under the title of Nutrition Facts is the serving size. Here is where you start. Is this how much you usually eat? Some cerels only have 3/4 cup for a serving, which is certainly not how much I, nor anyone in my family eats. Double it for sure. So read the rest of the label with that in mind. Sure it may say only 3 grams of fat per serving but if that is for only 5 potato chips, how much fat are you getting in a couple handfuls of 15 chips? Yup 9 grams!.

Next we have calories and then fat. Total fat is important, but so is saturated fat and trans fats. You want to avoid too much saturated fat, and any trans fat if possible. Cholesterol should be 0 if you are vegan.

Sodium is next. Keep this under 20% of the Daily Value.

Now we get to Carbohydrates. Don't get too confused here. Sugar plus starch plus fiber is the total carbs. Just basic math. We want high fiber at least 3 to 5 grams per serving is good. You will notice there is no daily percentage for sugar, because the government doesn't have a number for this one. Sugars on the label are not just added sugars, they are also God's natural sugars, so don't be alarmed if the product is otherwise healthy. We need about 300 to 350 grams of total carbs per day. Depending on age and activity.

Protein comes after carbs. This is pretty self-explanatory.

The next section are the vitamins. There are only a few that are usually listed here. Vitamin A, C, Calcium, and Iron are the basic ones. Remember the percentage is based on a 2000 calorie diet for the average adult, unless otherwise stated on the label.

So, that's a quick run down on nutritional labels. Be sure to bring your calculator the next time you go shopping.

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