How to Read a Food Label

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how important it is to check food labels while you are grocery shopping. That got me thinking that maybe I should write a blog post on how to actually read a food label. So I enlisted a little help from an intern. Today Catherine is guest blogging for us. Catherine is a dietetic intern at OSU, she has already finished her master’s degree and just has a few weeks of shadowing left before she is completely done. I hope you enjoy her blog post on food labels!

Food Label

  1. Start with the serving size. This tells you how much (grams, cups, ounces, etc) food/beverage there is for the number of calories, fats, protein, and nutrients listed. Paying attention to the serving size and how many servings there are per container is important. Many food packages contain more than one serving, so consuming the entire bag/package may mean eating 3-5 times the calories and nutrients listed on the label.
  2. Check calories. Calories are an indicator of energy. People are different sizes and therefore need different amounts of energy to fuel their body. The average number of calories a person needs per day is approximately 2000. However this ranges for how tall a person is and how much they weigh. A shorter person will need less energy than a tall person, etc. Next to Calories, is ‘calories from fat,’ which is an indication of how many of the total calories, come from fat. In the example listed above, 110 calories come from fat, which is almost 50%. A serving containing less than 40 calories is considered low, around 100 calories is moderate, and greater than 400 calories is high. Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to weight gain and obesity. To find out how many calories you need in a day click on this link
  3. Limit these nutrients. Total fat, cholesterol, and sodium when consumed in high amounts can have negative effects on your health. These in excess are linked to heart disease, and high blood pressure. The recommendation for total fat intake is approximately 20-30% of a person’s diet, so if you need 2000 calories, total calories that come from fat would be about 400-600 calories or 44-66 grams of fat per day.
  4. Get enough of these nutrients. Fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, are important nutrients to maintain good health. Fiber promotes healthy bowel functions and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains that contain soluble fiber, may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  5. The footnote at the bottom of the label explains the Percent Daily Value of the nutrients recommended for all Americans. When this is listed on the food label, it will always be the same and does not change from product to product. These can be used as references (see #6) to see how much the certain food product contributes to meeting those recommendations.
  6. The Percent Daily Value (%DV) helps you determine if a serving is high or low in a nutrient. For example this label shows that one serving of Mac and Cheese contributes to 18% of total fat intake for a person who needs 200 calories. A good guide to %DV is that 5%DV is considered low for all nutrients and greater than 20%DV is considered high for all nutrients.

Remember that the nutrition label can help you limit the nutrients you want to cut back on but can also help you increase the nutrients you want to consume in greater amounts.

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Gifts From Your Kitchen

We recently held two workshops at our office called “Gifts From Your Kitchen”. We had a great turn out and I hope that everyone had as much fun as we did putting it on. I wanted to share some great  points from the workshop that I think everyone can use this Holiday season.

Did you know that every year American’s spend on average between $600-$1200 on presents. This is simply money spent on presents and does not include extra holiday expenses. It’s easy to see how the Holiday times can be tight on anyone’s budget. Making gifts at home can give you the opportunity to show you care for others without pushing your budget past it’s limit. Of course you can give homemade gifts to anyone but I think the people they are especially great for are teachers, bus drivers, hair dressers, co-workers, etc. The extra people in your life that you are grateful for but are not as close as relatives.

The most important thing to remember when making gifts from your kitchen is food safety. Always start with clean utensils and a clean work space. If using jars make sure to always clean them out before putting food in them. You do not have to use just canning jars, there are great jars in a variety of sizes at many hobby stores. Just make sure the sticker on the bottoms says “Food Safe”. Also, use fresh ingredients. How long have those ingredients already been sitting in your pantry? If your recipient does not use them for 6 more months the gift may not be a fresh quality.

Another great tip is to plan ahead. If you know ahead of time what ingredients and how much you will be needing you can start collecting coupons for those items. Also many hobby stores put items like ribbon, jars, and various Christmas items on sale 50% off before the holiday season. Taking advantage of these sale’s can cut your cost drastically.

Lastly, be aware of any special dietary needs your recipient may have. Are they diabetic, have a food allergy, or a gluten intolerance? These are all needs you want to be aware of before making your homemade gift. If you can make substitutions for those ingredients that are harmful. For instance you can substitute sugar with Splenda or Sweet-in-Low if you know the recipient is diabetic. If you are unsure try making a gift that is not food like a sugar scrub or milk bath.

If you have more questions or need more tips feel free to call our office and ask! (713-1125) We also have one last session of Gifts From Your Kitchen being offered at Northwest Library on December 21, 2012. You can check out their website for more information.

The (short) Scoop on Orzo

As I was preparing recipes for my Healthy Cooking with Herbs & Spices class later this month I came across a recipe for Parmesan Basil Orzo. I thought it sounded great so I added it to the recipe list. I soon realized though that many people in this area have no idea what orzo is.  This is not very surprising since most Oklahoman’s (including myself) like to stick to our traditional meat, potatoes, green beans, and corn diet. So what is orzo? A rice? A grain? A vegetable?

Actually orzo is a pasta! Just by the looks of orzo though I can tell how one would easily be confused. The word orzo actually means “barley” in Italian because of it’s close resemblance to the grain. Orzo is frequently used in soups but has recently become more popular in side dish and salad recipes. It is versatile and easy to change up by adding basic ingredients like herbs, cheese, or olive oils. One serving of orzo contains around 200 calories, but just like any pasta how much you “dress it up” really effects the calorie content. Another great thing about orzo is there are no special instructions or tutorials needed when it comes to cooking it. You can prepare orzo just like you would any other pasta, by boiling it in water.

Many of us get weary of trying new foods, we like to stick to what we know, the tried and true recipes. However branching out and trying new foods can be fun and exciting. I think orzo is a great place to start when trying new foods. So add some orzo to your next bowl of soup, or eat it as a side dish with your next meal.

HERE is a link to some great orzo recipes to get you started!