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Reading Nutritional Labels

Tracking calories is important for good nutrition and overall health. Calorie tracking starts at the grocery store with nutrition labels. Unfortunately, reading a nutrition label is not as easy as it may sound. Labels, albeit informative, can be cryptic to those that haven't learned how to read them. Don't worry, we'll try to shed some light on the elusive nutrition label with the tips below:

Start at the Top with Serving Size

It is important to take note of the size of a single serving, as well as how many servings are in a package. You may be surprised to see what a single serving size actually looks like.

Total Calories

This number can be found below the serving size and dictates how many calories can be found in each serving. Usually, for a 2,000 calorie/day diet:

  • 40 calories per serving is considered low
  • 100 calories per serving is considered moderate
  • 400 calories or more is considered high
  • Nutrition labels are typically based on 2,000 calorie-a-day diets, but your daily allotment of calories will vary depending on your age, gender and weight loss goals.

    Sodium, Cholesterol, Fats and Carbs

    Below the total calorie count on a nutrition label, lies a short list of things to limit: sodium, fat, carbs and cholesterol. Typical diet plans recommend that you consume no more than 56-78 grams of fat per day including saturated fat of 16 grams or less, trans fat of 2 grams or less, and 300 mg cholesterol or less for a 2,000 calorie a day diet.

    Vitamins and Minerals

    After carbs and fat, a nutrition label should include dietary fiber, vitamin and mineral percentages. To maintain a healthy diet, the typical amount recommended is 100 percent of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients per day. The percentages (%DV) are based on the daily recommended amount that you need to consume for a 2,000 calorie a day diet.