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The Nutrition Facts Label - Your Healthy Eating Tool

So, how many calories are you eating each day? How much fat? Gettin’ enough vitamins, calcium, and iron? The Nutrition Facts label is the way you can tell. Here’s a crash course.

Top of Label The top of the label tells you the size of one serving, and how many servings are in the package.

What matters here?
Check the size of a serving. Is the portion you choose actually two, three, or four servings? Then double, triple, or quadruple the calories, vitamins, etc. you see on the rest of the label.
Second section This section is about calories, and calories from fat.

What matters here?
Regularly eating more calories than the body uses leads to having extra body weight to lug around. A rule of thumb for choosing foods—40 calories per serving means the food is low in calories, 100 calories/serving is moderate, and 400 or more is high.
label 3

Next come nutrients that Americans typically eat plenty (or too much!) of.

What matters here? A healthy eating style limits fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt). The % Daily Value column is your "cheat sheet." If the column shows 5% or less, the food is low in fat, or cholesterol, or sodium. If the column shows 20% or more, the food is high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium.

label 4

This part lets you zero in on key nutrients we all need.
First is fiber. Then look below the black bar for vitamins, and two things that young people really need—calcium (for bones) and iron (for muscles and blood).

What matters here? Are the foods you eat delivering 100% of the fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron you need? Remember that foods without labels (like fresh fruits and veggies) count too!

label 5

Last, the footnote.

What matters here? The footnote provides a handy daily cheat sheet on how much you should be aiming for overall in terms of fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt) , carbohydrates, and fiber. This part of the label is the same on every food. (To make it easy for you, most kids aged 9-13 need about 2,000 calories per day.

 

 

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A calorie is a way to measure the energy that comes from food. Like all living things, people need energy to grow, develop, and keep our bodies running. We get this energy from food and drinks.

So, should you "count calories?" Nah. It's easiest to just follow a healthy eating style and pay attention to your body. A tip: To help balance the calories that you eat with the calories you "spend," get movin' with some physical activity for 60 minutes every day, or most every day.

Fat is a part of some foods. Picture the white, waxy stuff around a steak or on a chicken breast. Or, think of the grease that French fries leave on your fingers. That's fat. Eating some fat is important for energy and to digest some vitamins. So why limit it? Because when we eat more than we need, our bodies store it as extra weight. And, long term, all that fat can clog arteries (blood vessels) and cause diseases.

Cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-awl) is a waxy, fatlike substance that exists in the bodies of humans and animals. The body only needs a very small amount of it to help with things like producing some hormones and stomach acids. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood stream, little bits of it stick to the walls of blood vessels. This clogs them up, which eventually can lead to disease.

SALT. The biggest problems with eating too much salt, or "sodium," are pretty long-term—like high blood pressure and heart disease. But, if you've got your mind on your own healthy eating style now, it's a great time to start sniffing out the salt in your diet. There's lots of it in prepackaged foods like macaroni and cheese.

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