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Deconstructing the Nutrition Facts Label

There has been lots of chatter about food labels since First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled sweeping proposed changes to the little white box affixed to most grocery store products. The Food and Drug Administration has unveiled two potential designs which will highlight calories, added sugars and serving sizes.

When explaining the reason for the changes, the First Lady said that the current version is not that easy to use for the average consumer. “Unless you have a thesaurus, a calculator, a microscope or a degree in nutrition—you are out of luck.” It may take two or three years for consumers to see these changes in the store so here are five tips on how to get useful information from your current Nutrition Facts labels.

1. Start with the Serving Size
Once you have a clear sense of what the listed serving size, think about how much you might eat in one setting and change the rest of the numbers to determine the actual calorie and nutrient amounts you will ingest.

2. Calories
When you have calculated the actual number of calories you might consume in a serving, think about how that fits in with the rest of the calories you will take in that day as well as how many calories you might burn through physical activity.

3. Foods to Limit
In general you want low numbers when it comes to fats (especially saturated and trans fat), cholesterol, sugar and sodium.

4. Foods to Love
Foods that are high in fiber and protein are smarter choices because they will leave you feeling fuller while providing energy. The minerals and vitamins help round out a healthy diet by protecting against disease while helping to maintain metabolism.

5. Keep it in Perspective
The % DV (Daily Value) is the percent of each nutrient in a single serving in terms of the daily recommended amount, based upon consuming 2000 calories daily. Without this clue the rest of the numbers might not help that much as it can be hard to remember the recommendations on the average amounts a person should consume.

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