One of the most complicated tasks when going to buy groceries at the store is reading the food label that tells you exactly what is in the item you are looking at. It may be frustrating, but I am here to help and guide you in the process of reading labels and ingredients. Nutrition is an important part of your overall well-being. You want to make sure you are allowing yourself access to important vitamins and minerals, as well as the right amount of calories every day of your life. Reading food labels at the store is the first step towards receiving healthy nutrition. We are looking for foods that are nutrient dense. Nutrient dense means that a food item has a lot of good vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, etc. with the smallest amount of calories possible. Let’s look at some nutrition labels and begin learning what they are really saying.

This is the label for Cheerios. This label is also the general nutrition label layout for all types of food.  We see the % Daily Value under the calories before the rest of the nutrients. This Daily Value is based on someone who intakes 2000 calories per day. These percentages can fluctuate depending on how many calories you consume. Let’s look at some key nutrients that you want to check when you are selecting food.

First thing you want to look at is how many calories the food contains. We see here that Cheerios has 100 calories and 140 calories with skim milk. This is the amount of calories in ONE serving size. We see the serving size at the top under the “Nutrition Facts” label. For Cheerios, the serving size is 1 cup. It is important to remember that if we eat more than the serving size we are actually consuming more calories than we see on the nutrition facts label.

Another thing I want to draw attention to is the fat column and the columns it has beneath it.  Looking at the label it tells us that Cheerios has 2 grams of fat. Under that, the fat is broken down into several different types of fats. We want to limit our saturated fat and our trans fat while making sure we get adequate amounts of monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats are good for us because they help us lower our cholesterol which ultimately can protect our heart and keep it healthy. Items such as Sodium and Sugars should also be taken into account when we are looking for a healthy meal option. We want those nutrients to be as low as possible to maintain an overall healthy body state.

Nutrition labels also tell us about what types of vitamins and minerals are found in the item you have chosen. As I mentioned before we want to look for foods that are nutrient dense in vitamins and minerals.

To wrap up, here are a few things you should remember when looking at nutrition labels:

  • • Pay attention to how many calories are in a serving and what exactly a serving size is.
  • • Don’t forget to look at the amounts of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals the food item contains. Nutrient dense foods are preferred.
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