How Many Calories Is In That?!

With the holidays in full swing can be difficult to stay on a healthy diet. Holiday parties every other weekend, desserts are being dropped off by the neighbors, and – if you are anything like my family and – traditional family meals are on the “not-so-healthy” list. This year instead of trying to avoid the unhealthy food altogether (which, let’s face it, you will probably give in and overindulge anyway) you can use these tips to help you pick a healthier option while you’re doing your regular grocery shopping.

Reading nutrition labels can seem daunting. With all the different numbers of grams and daily percent values, it is hard to know what they all mean.

  1. Start with the serving size information. Located at top of the nutrition fact sheet. This will tell you what a single serving size is and also how many servings a package contains.
  2. Next, look at total calories per serving. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Most of us consume more calories than we need without meeting the recommended intakes for some nutrients. Remember the number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you eat (your portion amount).
  3. Regulate a few nutrients. The American Heart Association recommends limiting these nutrients: Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, consume no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat, as little trans-fat as possible, and no more than 1,500 mg of sodium. Compare a few different brands of the same type of food, if one has lower amounts of sodium pick that one instead!
  4. Search for high percentages of other nutrients. When shopping for food, check labels and find foods that are high in dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins.
  5. Understanding Percent Daily Value. The Percent Daily Value (% DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, regarding the daily recommended amount. In foods like saturated fat and sodium look for a low percent daily value of 5 percent or less. If you want to consume more of a nutrient, like fiber, seek foods with a high percent daily value of 20 percent or more. Keep in mind that the information shown in the fact sheet is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. You may need to consume more or less than 2,000 calories depending on your age, gender, activity level, and fitness goals.
  6. Food manufacturers are tricky. Federal regulations right now allow manufacturers to label a food “0 g” trans-fat if it has less than 0.5 grams per serving. Make sure to check the ingredient list. If it includes “partially hydrogenated oil” then the food contains some trans-fat. So, if you are eating more than one serving, you can quickly reach unhealthy amounts of trans­-fat.

Keeping your pantry stocked with a “healthier” choice will take a little time at first, but in the end, you will have better options on hand for all your holiday cooking!


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