The Food Label is an easy tool to use when food shopping for one simple reason, it is on just about every type of food that you can purchase (except fruits and fish, which the nutrient information is supposed to be posted by your supermarket). The food label lists the items that when one is in the pursuit of weight loss, weight gain, simple nutrition knowledge or even fun facts for playing Jeopardy! all are available at your fingertips. For example, it is mandated that each food manufacturer tell you, the consumer just how many calories you will ingest by having one serving of that food. The example down below is taken from a Macaroni and cheese item, it is apparent that this "mac-n-cheese" is 250 calories (less than the typical meal replacement shake, but also containing inferior nutrition). There are a few simple items that one should know from the food label and this knowledge should be used for the following purposes: food shopping, counting calories and monitoring macronutrients (fat, carbs and protein) and for getting an idea just what a serving size is supposed to be. One cannot really say just which piece of information supplied by the food label is the most important, but here are the ones to key in on when food shopping (being supermarket savvy) for body building and health promoting foods:
Calories -- this number is the calories per serving
Calories from Fat -- this is just how many fat calories you will eat per serving.
Percent fat -- this is on the label to make it easy to know if you are eating a low-fat food (one < 30% fat)
Saturated fat -- this is the type of fat that is solid at room temperature (e.g. butter) and it is linked to heart disease. Some is good more may not be better. Look for foods where the saturated fat content is no more than 1/3 of the total fat content.
Trans-fat -- this heart disease promoting type of fat is now listed on the food label (law as of 2005), the common goal is to eat none of it!
Carbohydrate -- this number is the total amount of carbs listed as grams per serving.
Sugars -- this diddy is how many sugar grams are in a serving. RULE OF THUMB, unless you are eating the food as a post-workout "replensher", aim for 7 grams or less of sugar per serving
Dietary Fiber -- fiber is healthy for both regularity and helping to keep cholesterol in check. Since we should be eating 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories ingested, choose foods that always have some fiber
Protein -- in Latin, we use the word "proteos or protios" (depending upon whose spelling you prefer) -- the word literally means "of first order or highest importance". Even in ancient Greco-Roman times the "paidotribes" and "healers" knew that we should be making protein a stable of every meal. Thus, when looking at a food label -- always aim to get some protein in each food.