If you’re interested in making better food choices for yourself and your family, you will have to start by reading food labels, as understanding this information can significantly improve your health. Whether you’re looking at a box of cereal or a can of vegetables, you will be able to find a nutrition facts label on the package. All the numbers you see may feel overwhelming at first, but taking a few minutes to understand them will make a big difference.
The next time you’re roaming the aisles of your grocery store, focus on the following to determine whether or not you should place that package in your grocery cart:
It is recommended that you eat at least 5-10 grams of viscous fibre each day, and as you increase your fibre intake gradually, you should also increase the amount of water you drink to prevent constipation. Veggies, fruits, whole grains and dried beans are good sources of fibre, so shop for these items.
Always check to see how many servings the package contains. The rest of the nutrition numbers on the label are for a single serving. If you eat two servings, multiply the numbers by two and see if the product still seems as healthy as first represented. This information can sometimes be tricky as serving size is not always standardized so take your time reviewing this section. Serving size is often shown as a standard household measure that would be appropriate for the food, and this can include a tablespoon, piece, cup, slice or jar and will be followed by the metric amount in grams.
Take a look to see how many calories are in one serving and if it is aligned with your health goals. You will have to track your caloric intake and consider whether that serving size is worth all the calories. Focus on products that provide a good calorie-to-serving-size deal and compare this information with your goals to determine whether or not it makes sense. Weight loss is a common goal, as is building muscle, whereas for others, gaining weight may be their goal and understanding calories will allow you to modify your eating patterns so that you can remain on track and achieve your goals.
The total carbohydrates listed on a food label will include sugar, complex carbohydrate and fibre, all of which can affect blood glucose. To understand the food’s carbohydrate count, you will have to look at the total number of carbohydrates in terms of grams.
This number is significant for heart health; foods with one gram or less per serving are considered low in saturated fat. You need to pay attention to this—too much consumption of saturated fats can raise the cholesterol level in your blood, which can increase the possibility of heart disease or stroke. For these reasons, you need to limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet.
It is best to avoid trans-fat to maintain healthy arteries and better overall health. However, shopping for foods with 0 grams of trans fat or oil is not very realistic so do your best to keep it low and try to avoid items with hydrogenated oils as best you can. This can be easier said than done because foods with 0 grams of fat are rare, and some fat is healthy and necessary, so you need to find the right balance.
Most people consume about 3,400 mg of sodium daily, mostly from packaged foods. Adults should consume no more than 2,300 mg per day, which equals about one tablespoon of salt, to avoid cardiovascular disease and hyperextension.
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