Food Labels

Parents have been chewing the fat with me on how I can make sure their children eat healthy foods. Rather than offer a variety of healthy foods that children may not want to eat if suggested by their parents, this week I thought I'd recommend another approach-teach your child how to read food labels.

Food labels tell you what's inside the food you're eating by listing the nutrients the food contains such as the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates and fiber as well as vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron.

For example, it is recommended that the total calories in the daily diet contain 30% fat, 60% carbohydrate and 10-20% protein and you can keep track of these percentages by adding up the total percentages of these nutrients as listed on the food labels of foods you buy.

Although food labels were designed for a 2000 calorie adult diet, and a child will need less than that based on their age and weight, children can still get important information from food labels-such as how much fat is in the food and how many calories are in a serving, allowing them to compare one food with another. They also tell you how many items in a box such as cookies make up a single serving to get the required amount of nutrients needed and avoid taking in too large a portion that could contain excess sugar and fats.

Knowing about food labels allows your school age child and teen to make some smarter choices as to what they eat-and since they are making those choices by reading the labels, they are more apt to eat what they choose and make healthier choices.

Teach your child to be aware of certain claims on food labels-such as reduced fat-which simply means that a product has 25% less fat than a regular brand-but still contains fat. Even if a food is low in fat, it may still be high in sugar and the label will say that.

Food labels are also useful in listing ingredients that a child may be allergic to, so they are careful not to eat that food.

Hopefully tips like this will make teaching yourself and your child about food labels easy to digest when it comes to everyone enjoying a healthier diet.