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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. But labels can appear cryptic to those that haven't learned how to read them. But don't worry, with a little know how you'll be reading labels like a pro.

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. 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.

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
  • 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. Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

    Vitamins and Minerals

    After carbs and fat, a nutrition label includes dietary fiber, vitamin and mineral percentages. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions. And eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help.

    You can use the nutrition label not only to help limit those nutrients you want to cut back on but also to increase those nutrients you need to consume in greater amounts.