When shopping at the grocery store, many of us look at a product’s nutrition label to see how healthy a food is. This is a good gauge only if you understand how to properly read and interpret this information. There is more to the nutrition facts than just calories and fat, and this guide will help explain that.

 

Nutrition Facts

 

Serving Size and Calories
• “Serving Size” tells you what one portion is. All nutritional information is based on one serving size.
• “Servings Per Container” lets you know how many servings are in one box. This example has two 3-oz. servings.
• “Calories” tells you how many calories are in one serving. Multiply this by the number of servings to calculate the number of calories in the entire container.

Fat
There is a common misconception that all fat is bad. This is not true, and some types of fat are actually good for you.
• “Unsaturated Fat” is the good kind of fat. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are good. Peanut butter and avocados are high in these types of fat.
• “Saturated Fat” is not so good. This type of fat primarily comes from meat, poultry, and dairy products.
• “Trans Fat” is the worst kind of fat. Most trans fats are made from processing oils. Eating too much trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease.

Sodium
The recommended amount of sodium for adults is 2,300 milligrams per day. Consuming too much sodium can cause high blood pressure. Frozen foods can contain upwards of 1,000 grams of sodium per serving.

Carbohydrates
Like fat, there are good kinds of carbohydrates and bad kinds. The “Total Carbohydrates” number doesn’t mean a lot by itself, so look at the values below it.
• “Fiber” is a good type of carbohydrate that contributes to digestive health. Aim to consume 25-30 grams of fiber every day.
• “Sugar”, as you can probably guess, is not good. Look for sugars on the ingredients list under the names sugar, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or anything that ends in -ose (glucose, fructose, etc.)
• “Complex Carbohydrates” is the last type of carbohydrate. Also known as starch, this type of carb is usually found in breads and grains. Calculate the number of complex carbohydrates by subtracting sugar and fiber from the total carbohydrates number.

Protein
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle, hair, nails, bones, and organs. Aim to get at least .5 grams of protein for every pound you weigh. Athletes and other active people may require more than this.

Percent Daily Values
Daily values are the recommended levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories per day. If you consume more or less calories than this, you will need to adjust these numbers to reflect that. A general rule of thumb is that 5% or less of a value is considered low, 20% or more is considered high.

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