Knowing what’s in your food will help you make the right choices

When first looking at a nutrition label, the serving size should be the first place to look.

The serving size will tell you how much of the particular food or beverage the rest of the nutrition label will be describing.  If you eat anymore than the serving size, you will have to take into account the additional calories and other nutrients you will be taking in.

The fat content is divided into saturated fat, trans fat, and unsaturated fat.  Saturated fat and trans fat should be limited since such fats have been shown to raise cholesterol levels, while unsaturated fat, which can be poly- or mono-unsaturated fats, are healthy fats that provide potential health benefits.  Any fats, however, should be limited to some extent. 

Daily sodium intake should be limited to about 2300 milligrams or less per day according to the USDA, therefore try to choose products that contain 300 milligrams or less per serving and avoid adding salt to foods during meals.

When looking at the total carbohydrate, it is important to look at the total fiber and total sugars to figure out the quality of the carbohydrates in the food or beverage.  Daily fiber intake should be on average 25 grams or more, while daily sugar intake should be as low as possible.  Therefore, look for products that contain at least 2 grams of fiber per serving and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Look for foods and beverages that offer as many vitamins and minerals as possible.  Calcium and vitamin D are especially important for bone health, while iron is important for immune system health.