Buying healthy foods for your family is easier when you know what types of food to shop for in the store. Take a shopping list with you to stay on track. Look at the Nutrition Facts label to find healthy choices. Once you know how to use the Nutrition Facts label, be sure to read them as you shop. Look at the serving size and servings per container of the foods you may buy. Compare the total calories in similar products and choose the lowest calorie items.
Why the Nutrition Facts Label Is Important
Check servings and calories.
Look at the serving size and how many servings the package contains. If you eat one serving, the label clearly outlines the nutrients you get. If you eat two servings, you double the calories and nutrients, including the Percent Daily Value (% DV). The Daily Value is how much of a specific nutrient you need to eat in a day. Percent Daily Value tells you how much of a nutrient is in one serving of food compared to the amount you need each day.
Make your calories count.
Look at the calories on the label and note where the calories are coming from (fat, protein, or carbohydrates). Compare them with nutrients (like vitamins and minerals) to decide whether the food is a healthy choice.
Don’t sugar-coat it.
Sugars add calories with few, if any, nutrients. Look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list and make sure that added sugars are not one of the first few ingredients. Some names for added sugars include sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.
Know your fats.
Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease (5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high). Keep total fat intake between 20% to 35% of calories.
Reduce sodium (salt), increase potassium.
Research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon of salt) per day might reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker. Also, look for foods high in potassium (tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, and orange juice), which cancels out some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure.
You can help your family eat better and balance their energy by learning to choose lower calorie, lower fat alternatives to some of their favorite foods. Use the Nutrition Facts label found on food packages to make smarter food choices.
SOURCE: National Institutes of Health – (www.nhlbi.nih.gov)