Friday, April 12, 2013

Nutrition Facts

To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance nutrition with physical activity. Americans typically consume more calories than are needed, which results in weight gain. Learning to read nutrition labels can help you make smarter choices and meet daily nutritional needs without exceeding your recommended da
ily caloric intake.

A few simple tricks can help you choose healthy foods that will be satisfying. First, decide what is most important to you. Are you trying to lose weight? If so, you will want to pay close attention to serving sizes and the calories. Do you want to reduce your risk of heart disease? If your answer is yes, start decreasing saturated fats and trans fats from your diet.

Serving size is a critical component to keep in mind as you make smarter eating choices. How many servings are contained in each package? It is possible to eat what is your “normal” serving of food, not realizing it is actually two servings.

Next, determine if a food is low, moderate, or high in the calories. Foods that are low in calories per serving contain about 40 calories per serving. A moderate food contains about 100 calories per serving, whereas a food that is high in calories contains at least 400 calories per serving. For example, if you ate three servings of a high calorie food you could be consuming 1,200 calories in one sitting.

It is also important to review the nutrients contained in food. You want to limit some nutrients and maximize others. Fats, cholesterol, and sodium should be limited, so look for a small “% Daily Value” on the nutrition label. These nutrients should have a daily value less than 5%. Try to find foods that are high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. A food is high in nutrients if the daily value is greater than 20%.

Now that you know what to look for on a nutrition fact label, try to choose foods that will contribute to a healthy diet. A healthy diet is one that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean protein, and is low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. Tools such as can help you determine the number of servings you need from each food group.

When grocery shopping, there are several considerations that help when selecting healthy foods. Before you go shopping, create a meal plan for the upcoming week and make a shopping list for these food items. You will be less likely to buy impulse food items, which often tend to be junk food, if you have a list of what food items you need. Also, foods containing less than five ingredients are generally the healthiest and are closest to its most natural state.

Lastly, a good tip to finding healthy food is to stay on the perimeter (walls) of the grocery store. The perimeters of the store generally contain fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products, foods which typically contain fewer than five ingredients.

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