Know Your Nutrition Label Facts

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Practice makes perfect when it comes to picking out healthy foods at the grocery store. Your first step is understanding how to read Nutrition Labels — the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

Choose foods with plenty of protein, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, potassium, fiber and vitamins.

The bad

Look for low (less than 10 percent) calories, calories from saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.

The ugly

Avoid foods with trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and many chronic illnesses.

The sweet

Sugar should be limited. In some cases, artificial sweeteners are used to replace added sugars and some even find that they can reduce intake of sugar using them. Try buying plain and unflavored products and add the flavor yourself, e.g., start with plain oatmeal and add a few nuts and berries for a healthy breakfast.

Serving size

Pay close attention to serving size and servings per container and remember that the nutrition data on the label is based on one serving. For example, if a candy bar has two servings, the nutrition information is for only half the bar! You need to double the numbers to understand how much fat and calories you’re getting from the whole bar.

The salty

Sodium can be hard to monitor, and if you’re eating frozen and canned foods, it’s probably adding up quickly. A low-sodium food has less than 140mg per serving. Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure. Salt keeps excess fluid in your body, which can add to the burden on the heart. Remember that nutrition labels also contain an ingredients list. Trust your instincts! If you don’t know what it is, it may not be good for you. Real food has real ingredients you can recognize. A good rule of thumb is to try and buy food with less than seven ingredients.

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