Do you know what was in the cereal your children devoured this morning? What about the granola bar you packed as a snack for them? When you shop for groceries for your children, do you pay any attention to the nutritional labels? If so, do you know what to look for? Nutritional food labels can be tricky, and many parents don't truly understand what items should be embraced and what should be avoided. Below are the six main things that you, as a parent, need to know about nutritional food labels.
Serving size – Today, our portion size, or the amount of food we actually put on our plates, is about two to three times as big as a serving size should be. Be sure to check this information on the labels to ensure you are giving your children the appropriate amount.
Percent daily value – These percentages let you know how much of a certain nutrient is contained in the food. A percentage between 10% and 19% is the best value, as long as it is from real-food, as opposed to synthetic nutrient added back.. Using these percentages can help you choose foods for your children that are rich in important nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and D.
Fats – The amount of fat in a food can be misleading, as some fats are “good” for us and some are “bad’, especially if they come from hydrogenated vegetable oils. Steer away from overly processed vegetable oils like canola and soy and embrace fats from cold water fish, unprocessed egg yolks, seeds, nuts, olive, coconut and avocados. These good fats are needed for proper vitamin and mineral absorption and the dry weight of your brain is 60% fat (good fats).
Calories – Calories convert into energy, so ensuring your children get enough calories, or energy, every day is vital to ensure healthy growth and development.
Protein – Protein makes up much of your children's body; thus, in order for their bodies to grow optimally, you need to ensure your children are getting protein in their daily diets.
Sugar – Sugar can be a sneaky thing. Many parents do not realize just how much sugar is in a granola bar or serving of cereal. Sugar, as you may know, can lead to many health problems, including obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Also, remember that the amount of sugar listed on a nutritional label is the amount in just one serving of that food and most kids eat more than a single serving.
Nutritional facts on food labels can often be confusing and misinterpreted. However, as a parent, it is essential you understand the important facts on these labels. The six main things to understand are serving size, percent daily value, fats, calories, protein, and sugar. Next time you go to the grocery store to buy food for your children, pay close attention to the nutritional labels on the food. Pick foods that are high in nutrients, good fats, and protein and low in bad fats and sugars.
Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label: What Parents Need to Know. Healthy Children.org. June 2016.
Food Labels. Kids Health. 2017. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/food-labels.html