Food Labels Made Easy

(CARLSBAD, CA) – You’ve seen it before. The person in the grocery store aisle who intently reads the back of each food label. After reading the labels on three of four products, they carefully place some back on the shelf and select just one for purchase. So, what determines the food that makes the cut? Is it calorie count? Is it fat grams? What’s most important on a food label?

If you’re looking to make your diet healthier, there are several key points on the food label that you’ll want to peruse before tossing an item into your grocery cart. And it’s actually easier than you think. Just looking at these seven markers on a food label can save you excess pounds.

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  1. Serving Size – First and foremost, always look for the number of servings in the package. Even small containers of food frequently hold more than one serving. A snack-sized package of trail mix may actually contain 2.5 servings. Frozen dinners often contain multiple servings. You may think that you’re only ingesting 350 calories, but if there are two servings in one package, and you consume the entire package, then you’re actually ingesting 700 calories.
  2. Calories – Look at the number of calories in the “as prepared” column. This holds especially true for packaged rice and pasta dinners. There are macaroni and cheese boxes that list only 260 calories for a one-cup serving, but add the milk, butter, and cheese mix, and you’re up to 410 calories “as prepared.”
  3. Ingredients – As a general rule, Jazzercise Founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett recommends selecting foods with the shortest list of ingredients. The more ingredients that comprise a food, the more likely the food is to be packed with empty calories. And watch out for added sugars in the list of ingredients. High-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, fruit-juice concentrate, and malt are all forms of sugar.
  4. Carbohydrates – All food packages list “total carbohydrates,” which is the sum of starches, fiber, and sugars in the product. Look at the subsections of carbohydrates to determine how much of these carbs are fiber versus sugar. The National Institute of Health recommends 25 grams of fiber each day, so choose foods that pack at least two grams of fiber per serving.
  5. Fat – Not all fats are created equal. Total fat, listed on each food label, means the sum of all fatty acids, including saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. Food manufacturers are required to itemize the amount of saturated and trans fats in the product. These fats have been linked to heart disease and some forms of cancer. Meanwhile, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, typically found in fish, nuts, and olive oil, can actually help lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol.
  6. Daily Values – The Daily Value is based upon a 2,000 calorie diet. If the food label lists 28% sodium, that means by eating one serving of that food, you have ingested 28% of the total amount of sodium which you should consume for one day, assuming you eat 2,000 calories per day. Remember that values for vitamins and minerals are the amounts you should aim for, whereas the values for fats and cholesterol are the limits you should maintain.
  7. “Excellent Source” – The Food & Drug Administration regulates how manufacturers can describe food products. “Excellent source” means that a product has at least 20% of the daily value of that item. “Good source” means that the product has at least 10% of the daily value.
Posted: 2/10/2008 9:04:45 AM by Jazzercise | with 0 comments

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