Look at What You're Really Eating

FDA Nutrition Label

Are you making a down-payment on your next set of fat cells? If you don't know, it may be time to start reading the product label before you buy. 

A recent survey suggests that fewer than 50% of Americans read the labels found on food products. In fact, most of us would be hard pressed to describe what's on a Nutrition Facts Label or how to use the information to make smarter choices. The following label-building skills can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website and can help you make informed food choices that will contribute to a healthy diet:

1) At the top of the Nutrition Facts Label, you will see the serving size, number of servings per container and the number of calories as well as the calories derived from fat. Since serving sizes vary for each product, this is a vital piece of information that is often overlooked by consumers who are only searching for calories. NOTE: If there is more than one serving in a package, the amounts listed (including calories) have to be multiplied by the number of servings consumed.

2) The middle of a product's label contains important information about the product's nutrients and specifies an amount per serving. The nutrients listed first include those that you may want to limit the amount you consume, such as trans fat, cholesterol or sodium. The remaining list includes nutrients that you want to consume, such as dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. NOTE: Generally speaking, you want to limit your consumption of nutrients your body doesn't need and increase the consumption of nutrients that your body does need.

3) When space permits, there is a %DV table included on food labels that relate to the percentage of Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie intake (your Daily Value may be higher or lower based on your calorie needs). This generic information doesn't change from one product to another as it is based on recommended dietary advice for all Americans. It does suggest whether you should eat "less than" the amount indicated. If not, you should consume "at least" that much. NOTE: The %DV is for a serving of this product only. You must add the values from all foods consumed throughout the day to determine if you consumed less or more than recommended amounts of a given nutrient.

Managing your weight and eating healthier starts with knowing the facts about what you are putting in your body. You may have been falsely led to believe that certain foods are taboo while others are heralded as dietary saviors. This is not a healthy approach to weight management and can making planning meals a real ordeal. Plus, no dietician is going to agree that eating large quantities of one food is sensible or sustainable. Even people with so-called "healthy" diets (such as vegetarians) can still be consuming too much sodium in their diet or too little calcium.

So read the label and don't be fooled by clever product packaging with "Healthy" words in the product's name.


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