In the grocery store, you have many choices in front of you. The question is: how do you make a healthy choice?

One way is to use the nutrition facts food label located on all pre-packaged products. The food label includes information about serving size, calories, types of fat, carbohydrate and fiber.

Let’s start by looking at the serving size. All information on the nutrition facts label is based on the serving size. For example, one slice of wheat bread, eight ounces of milk, one half-cup of cooked rice, or one tablespoon of olive oil, or two taco shells. Compare this serving size to what you actually eat. For example, if you eat a half serving, cut all the figures in half to see how much of each nutrient you’re getting.

Now let’s look at calories. It shows you how many calories are in that food. If you are trying to limit how many calories you eat, this information can help.

Now let’s look at carbohydrate. You need to eat carbohydrate everyday. The best carbs provide fiber, so look at the number of grams of fiber per serving. Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber everyday.

“I’ll go through periods of days when I have oatmeal every morning, before I shy away and go on to something else. At least I know I’m getting in at least one shot of fiber, with that being the main substance of my meal.”

Also, look at the total fat, saturated fat and trans fat per serving. Saturated fat and trans fat are the kinds that increase your risk of heart disease, so everyone should limit their intake.

Information on cholesterol, sodium and protein are also included and may be helpful in controlling your blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

Keep in mind that the percentages given are based on someone who needs 2,000 calories a day. Talk to your healthcare provider about how many calories you should eat each day.

Now let’s see how we can use labels to make healthier choices. Here we have whole milk and 1% milk. Which one would you choose? Take a look at the food label for each. Comparing calories and total fat, we find that 1% milk is the healthier choice.

Another popular dairy product is ice cream. Compare regular ice cream to a real fruit smoothie made with yogurt. The smoothie has less calories and fat, not to mention the benefit of real fruit.

Familiarize yourself with the nutrition facts food label. It’s a source of valuable information that can help you choose the best foods for you.

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