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Nutrition Labels: What You Need to Know

Think you’re “eating right” by reading the food label? Think again. We think we’re being healthy by choosing foods that are advertised as low fat, but the labels may not be telling the truth.

When a label says only 15 percent fat, is it 85 percent fat free? The answer is no. What many don’t know is that food companies advertise the percentage of fat by the weight of fat that is in the food, not the actual percentage of fat. We are almost being lied to, yet these labels hold some truth; the weight of fat is accurate, allowing companies to get away with misleading advertising. We think we’re consuming a lot less fat then we actually are, a sad and scary thought.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends not exceeding more than 30 percent of calories in the fat content of your diet. In simpler terms, we shouldn’t exceed more than 30 percent of calories from fat in a day. To see if you are exceeding the recommendation, follow the method below.

Here’s how to beat these tricky labels:

  1. Look at the nutrition label on the back of the food and find the label that says total fat per serving, measured in grams.
  2. Take this number and multiply it by 9, to convert the grams to kcals. 1 gram of fat contains 9 kcal.
  3. Look at the total calories on the label. Take the kcals you just found and divide it by the total number of calories. Then take that number (it should be a decimal) and multiply by 100 to get the percentage!

A little confused? Here’s an example:
A snack package of Wheat Thins has 8 grams of fat and 220 calories in total. Multiply 8 grams by 9. It has 72 kcal (8×9=72). Take 72 (your fat calories) and divide it by 220 (your total calories), equaling .33 (72/220=.33). Lastly, take .33 and multiply it by 100, leaving you with 33 percent of fat calories. That’s above the daily recommended amount in just one serving! Yikes!

So next time you decide to munch on a “healthy” snack, do a little mental math and save yourself the extra fat!

By Aisling Williams

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