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Since 1994 the nutrition facts label has become standard fare on all packaged foods. It was mandated for most foods sold in the U.S. under provisions from the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which obliged food companies to label the content of all packaged foods. Remember that book, The End of Overeating? This is the book that inspired Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move program? It’s author, Dr. David Kessler, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the early 90’s, and was responsible for developing the nutrition labels that we’ve come t know and expect on the foods we eat.

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The label outlines several important facts, first and foremost – serving size. This is the most likely aspect of the label that will confuse people. Many tend to jump right past the serving size and look only at the calories, or the sodium or the sugar included. As a society people in the U.S. tend to supersize everything. Compared to our grandparents, we eat our food off of bigger plates, and out of bigger packages; and we drink our drinks out of larger glasses. So what we’ve come to expect as a “normal” serving size for even breakfast cereal might likely count as two or two-and-a-half servings.

Calories are listed next. As long as we have the serving size estimated correctly calories are just what they are. When the portion size is confused – the calories consumed can be much greater. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the labels include the percentage of a nutrient available in the food based on the “daily value.”  And this daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Most people in the U.S. have occupations that keep them sedentary for a good part of the day, so their caloric need might be well below 2,000 calories. Still, one can roughly gauge that if she gets 20% of her daily value of protein at breakfast – she’ll want to be looking for the remaining 80% of protein in other meal options.

The Nutrition Information Label will always list total fat, sodium, carbohydrates and protein. Other components such as calories, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A vitamin C, calcium and iron are usually show, but may not show up on the label if they are not present.

Related posts:

http://heartynutrition.net/2013/01/06/whats-in-a-label/

http://heartynutrition.net/2013/01/10/health-claim-labels/

http://heartynutrition.net/2013/01/08/nutrient-claims/

To learn more see:

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/UCM275412.pdf

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/videos/CFSAN/HWM/hwmintro.cfm

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