Reading Nutrition Labels

Introduction

Understanding how to read a nutrition label is very important for anyone dealing with a chronic kidney disease. The following article will teach you the basics of reading nutrition labels and enable you to make quick and easy choices that will contribute to your diet.

  • Sections 1-4 and 6 can vary with each product or package of food and provides product-specific information (serving size, calories, and nutrient information).
  • Section 5 contains a footnote with the %DVs (Daily Values) for a 2000 and 2500 calorie diet. The footnote provides a recommended dietary information for important nutrients. The footnote is not required and does not change from product to product.

1. The Serving Size

  • When looking over a nutrition label you’re going to want to start by looking at the serving size, and the amount of servings per package.
  •  Serving sizes are standardized to make reading nutrition labels easier, and to compare one product to another.
  • Serving sizes are provided in your basic units, such as cups or pieces, followed by a metric amount like the number of grams.

2.  Calories (and Calories from Fat)

Remember: The number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you actually eat (your portion amount). For the example in the diagram, if you were to eat 1 serving, it would be 250 calories. If you were to eat 2 servings, it would be 500 calories.

  • Keep in mind that the number of calories that is says on the label is NOT the number of calories in the whole package! This is the number of calories per serving.
  • Calories are used to measure how much energy you are getting from a specific food.
  • Most Americans eat too many calories per day, and misread or disregard nutrition labels.
  • The calorie section of the label can help you manage your weight (i.e., gain, lose, or maintain.)

In the diagram above, the label shows 250 calories in one serving of this macaroni and cheese, 110 calories which are coming from fat. If you were to eat 2 servings you would eat 500 calories, 220 calories coming from fat.

General Guide to Calories

  • 40 Calories is low
  • 100 Calories is moderate
  • 400 Calories or more is high

This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

3. Nutrients to Limit

  • In this example it shows 470mg of sodium. This means that there are 470mg of sodium per serving, not the package.
  • Since in this example there are 2 servings per container, this means there is 940mg of sodium in the entire package.
  • CKD patients should stay clear of these nutrients!!!
  • Eating too much of these nutrients can increase your risk of chronic diseases, cancers and high blood pressure.

Important: Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet, especially for CKD patients!

4. Get Enough of These Nutrients

  • This section is for the good nutrients! Make sure to get enough of these in your diet. Keep in mind that as a CKD patient you may be told to limit, or increase some of these nutrients.
  • Dietary fiber is found in this section, and can be beneficial to people dealing with CKD.
  • Some CKD patients will need to limit or increase calcium in their diet.

Benefits of Dietary Fiber in a CKD diet:

  • Keeps GI (gastrointestinal) function healthy
  • Adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation
  • Prevents diverticulosis (pockets inside the colon)
  • Helps increase water in stool for easier bowel movements
  • Promotes regularity
  • Prevents hemorrhoids
  • Helps control blood sugar and cholesterol

Remember: You can use the Nutrition Facts label not only to help limit those nutrients you want to cut back on but also to increase those nutrients you need to consume in greater amounts.

5. Understanding the Footnote

Note: The * in this section of the label. It refers to the Footnote in the lower part of the label, which tells you “%DVs (daily values) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet”. This statement must be on all food labels.

  • DVs are recommended levels of intakes. DVs in the footnote are based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet.
  • This footnote does not change from product to product, it simply shows the recommended dietary advice for all Americans and is not required on a nutrition label.
  • The amounts circled in red are the Daily Values (DV) for each nutrient listed and are based on public health experts’ advice.

6. Understanding %DV

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. As a guide, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV — 5 percent or less. If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), seek foods with a higher % DV — 20 percent or more.

Sources