Eating healthy is essential to staying well when living with HIV. Choosing healthy foods by reading food labels can be confusing. The following information may help you make sense of food labels so that it's easier to make healthy choices.
Serving Size: The amount of food that equals one serving is written in cups or ounces (oz) and also in metric, such as grams (g) or milliliters (mL). A few serving size hints: 1,000 milligrams (mg) = 1 gram (g), 1 ounce (oz) = 28 grams, and 1 fluid ounce (fl oz) = 30 milliliters (mL).
Servings per Container: A package can contain multiple servings. Because we typically eat more than one serving, consider the servings per container when planning meals or snacks.
Amount per Serving: All of the nutrient information is based on one serving. Note: This is not the amount of the entire package, but just for one serving. On the food label to the right, for example, one serving is less than a cup. If you ate the whole box in one sitting, you would be eating 30 g of fat.
Calories: For some foods, the label will list the calories in the food and add the calories in another food usually eaten with it. For example, total calories for cereal will be for just the cereal as well as for the cereal with milk.
Calories From Fat: To get the percent of calories that are from fat, divide the calories from fat by total calories per serving and multiply by 100. Only eat a small amount of any food that has more than 30% of calories from fat.
% Daily Value: The percentage tells you how much of your daily needs are met by one serving of the food or beverage. This number is an estimate of how the food meets the daily requirement for each nutrient based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Total Fat: Any food that has 10 grams of fat or more (per serving) should be avoided or eaten in small amounts. Low fat means less than or equal to 3 grams of total fat per serving.
Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is one part of the total fat in a food. You should not eat more than 10 to 15 grams of saturated fat per day.
Cholesterol: The amount of cholesterol you eat and drink each day should be less than 300 milligrams (mg). Low cholesterol means 20 mg or less per serving.
Sodium: The recommended daily amount for sodium (salt) is 2,400 mg. The average person eats far more than the recommended amount, so try not to consume more than 4,000 mg per day. Low sodium means less than or equal to 140 mg of sodium per serving.
Total Carbohydrate: While the daily value for carbohydrates is 300 grams, it is okay to exceed this limit. However, people with diabetes or elevated blood sugar need to control the amount they eat.
Dietary Fiber: Adults should consume about 25 grams of fiber each day. A good source of fiber has 2.5 to 5 grams of fiber per serving and a high-fiber food will have at least 5 grams per serving.
Sugars: Like dietary fiber, sugars are another type of carbohydrate in food and this amount is part of total carbohydrates.
Protein: Protein is the essential nutrient for building and maintaining muscle. Most individuals with HIV/AIDS should consume at least 100 grams of protein per day.
Vitamins and Minerals: The percentage-based numbers help you decide which foods or drinks are the best sources of nutrients, such as calcium, fiber, vitamin A or Vitamin C.
When it comes to shopping wisely, do not be intimidated by food labels. By understanding the information a food label provides, you can evaluate the product based on your nutritional needs.