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How to Read a Recipe's Nutritional Value

Por Claudia M. González, MS, RD, LD/N* -
How to Read a Recipe's Nutritional Value

Many times we rely on cookbooks to prepare healthy dishes for our family, but we don't always take the time to understand the nutrition analysis of each of the ingredients.

To help you select recipes, let’s look at the following example:

Strawberry Smoothie
Four 6-oz servings

8 ounces plain fat-free yogurt
¼ cup skim milk
1 tablespoon Equal or other sweetener
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup ice

Nutritional value

  • Calories 79
  • Calories from fat 3%
  • Total fat < 1g
  • Saturated fat < 1g
  • Carbohydrates  15 g
  • Protein  5 g
  • Cholesterol  1 mg
  • Sodium  54 mg
  • Fiber  2 g

This recipe's nutrition analysis is comparable to the nutrition label which appears on most food products in the supermarket. You'll also find information on the Percent Daily Values on the label. These values are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day for most women and a diet of 2,500 calories for most men:

Calories 2000  2500
Total fat less than 65g 80 g
Saturated fat less than 20 g  25 g
Cholesterol less than 300 mg  300 mg
Sodium less than 2,400 mg 2,400 mg
Potassium less than 3,500 mg 3,500 mg
Total carbohydrates  300 g  375 g
Fiber  25 g  30 g
Calories per gram:
Fat 9
Carbohydrates 4
Protein 4
This information helps us figure out the nutritional value of a recipe and assess how healthy it is. Below we use the example of a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet recommended for women.

In the case of a 6-oz strawberry smoothie, this is a low-calorie drink, since it only provides 79 of the 2,000 daily calories. Total fat should not exceed 65 grams a day and the smoothie has less than one gram of fat, an insignificant quantity.

The saturated fat content, the "bad" fat, is also under one gram, compared to the 20 grams a day allowed. Sodium only represents 2.25% of the 2,400 milligrams allowed. The amount of cholesterol is negligible in this case, since it's only 0.333% of the 300 milligrams (or less) of the daily recommended allowance.

The carbohydrate content (15g) is 5% of the recommended amount (300). This means you would have 285 additional grams of carbohydrates to consume during the rest of the day. Finally, although this is a fruit smoothie, the amount of fiber is not very significant, but it provides at least 2 of the 25 grams we should try to take in a day.

The next time you decide to prepare a recipe out of a cookbook, take the time to evaluate whether it’s really a healthy dish or if it's better to turn the page until you find a recipe that's healthier for you.



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