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May 15, 2013

Food labels help consumers

NORMAN — Whether you notice it, a nutrition facts label is stamped on everything from your package of frozen chicken breasts to that jug of reduced fat milk.

Being able to read and, more importantly, understand the label is a key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Using the nutrition facts label is a quick and easy way to compare foods and beverages and make healthier choices.

The label might look pretty simple and straight forward, but it offers plenty of crucial information, including the number of servings in the package.

Keep in mind the nutritional facts are listed for only a single serving. However, often there are multiple servings per package or beverage.

Of course, calories are printed on the label as well. For anyone trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight, that is an important figure worth careful attention.

To get the total number of calories in a package or beverage, multiply the calories per serving by the total number of servings. Generally, 400 calories or more per serving is high. Something in the 100-calorie range is more moderate.

The nutrition facts label also lists specific nutrients for foods and drinks. It is a good idea to limit saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.

On the other hand, getting enough of other nutrients such as dietary fiber, Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron encourages good health.

The Percent Daily Values (%DV) are recommended daily amounts of certain nutrients based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Monitoring those figures can help track how much of certain nutrients you are eating and drinking.

As a general rule of thumb, if a nutrient is listed as 5%DV or less, that is low. But any nutrient listed as 20%DV or more is high.

For more information on reading and understanding the nutrition facts label, contact the Cleveland County Extension office at 321-4774 or visit choosemyplate.gov.

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