Nutrition: Healthy Eating (cont.)

Use the Nutrition Facts Label

To make smart food choices quickly and easily, compare the Nutrition Facts labels on products. Look at the percent Daily Value (%DV) column. The general rule of thumb is that 5 percent or less of the Daily Value is considered low and 20 percent or more is high.

Keep saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium low, while keeping fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C high. Be sure to look at the serving size and the number of servings per package. The serving size affects calories, amounts of each nutrient, and the percentage of Daily Value.

The %DV is based on a 2,000-calorie diet, but recommended calorie intake differs for individuals based on age, gender, and activity level. Some people need less than 2,000 calories a day. You can use the %DV as a frame of reference whether or not you consume more or less than 2,000 calories. The %DV makes it easy to compare the nutrients in each food product to see which ones are higher or lower. When comparing products, just make sure the serving sizes are similar, especially the weight (grams, milligrams, or ounces) of each product.

Control Portion Sizes

Understanding the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label is important for controlling portions, Moore says. "Someone may have a large bottled drink, assuming it's one serving," she says. "But if you look at the label, it's actually two servings. And if you consume two servings of a product, you have to multiply all the numbers by two." When the servings go up, so do the calories, fat, sugar, and salt.

Moore also suggests dishing out a smaller amount on your plate or using smaller plates. "If you put more food in front of you, you'll eat it because it's there," she says. According to the ADA, an average serving size of meat looks like a deck of cards. An average serving size of pasta or rice is about the size of a tennis ball. Here are some other ways to limit portions: Split a meal or dessert with a friend at a restaurant, get a doggie bag for half of your meal, get in the habit of having one helping, and ask for salad dressing, butter, and sauces on the side so you can control how much you use.

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