Understanding Food Labels

Program helps people decipher nutrition information

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FRIDAY, April 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A program to help consumers learn to interpret nutrition information on food labels and apply that knowledge to their personal daily requirements has been developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign experts.

The "See it, Do it, Teach it" program is designed to instill more confidence in people when it comes to understanding nutrition labels and using that information in planning their meals.

"One of the goals of the project was to help particularly teenaged girls and menopausal women understand how they can get the daily requirement for calcium in their diet in order to help prevent osteoporosis," Karen Chapman-Novakofski, an associate professor and nutritionist at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

She said food labels can be divided into two parts. The first part is what you should limit, such as total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and, perhaps, total carbohydrates. The second part is what you should try to get enough of in your diet, such as calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.

The "See it, Do it, Teach it" program has three sections. First, people are taught how to read nutrition labels on packaged food items using a government guide. Next, participants do simple math based on the food labels to learn how the nutrition label information relates to their own daily intake of calories and nutrients.

In third section, participants "teach" others in the class about the nutritional information of a food product.

The program was tested in an eight-week study. The results will be published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers healthy eating tips.

SOURCE: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, news release, April 2004

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