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Do you know how to tell if your bread really is a good source of fiber, or if the snack you’re consuming is trans-fat free? Being aware of the Nutrition Facts on the food you consume can make a huge difference in the success of your diet and your overall health!

Here are five things you should pay attention to when looking at food labels:

1) Serving Size - With so many restaurants serving larger-than-life portions, many people have an inaccurate view of how big single servings often are. For instance, a single serving of breakfast cereal is about one cup, but many people tend to eat double or even triple that amount. They don’t realize that they are also consuming double or triple the calories. Pay attention to the serving size on a product’s Nutrition Facts to help control your calorie intake!

2) Calories - It’s nice to be able to glance at the calorie level for the serving size you eat and know if it meets some basic guidelines. Healthy snacks should generally be 100-200 calories, while meals should be around 300-500 calories. Calculate the number of calories you consume and see where you can afford to cut back. Decreasing your total calorie intake by 500 or more per day will put you on that healthy weight loss track.

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3) 100% Whole Grain - Whole grains such as wheat surpass refined grains for their healthy qualities like increased dietary fiber, nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins. When you reach for a loaf of wheat bread at the supermarket, are you sure you’re getting all the benefits of whole grains? Check the package label for the words “whole” or “whole-grain.” Phrases like “stoned wheat,” “cracked wheat” and “wheat flour” don’t guarantee the presence of whole grain. Look at the ingredients list. “Whole Wheat” should be one of the first ingredients. If it’s not and you also see phrases such as “Enriched Flour,” your food is not in fact 100% whole grain.

4) Fiber - Choosing foods with more fiber will help you to feel full on fewer calories. Good fiber source products contain 2.5-5 grams of fiber and high fiber products contain more than 5 grams of fiber. Sometimes a label will specify soluble and insoluble fiber content. Both types are important as soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and insoluble fiber helps to clean out the intestinal tract.

5) Trans-Fats - Trans-fats are created by a process that solidifies liquid oils for the purpose of increasing shelf life. Until the FDA gets all products containing unhealthy trans-fatty acids to be labeled, you might have difficulty trying to decipher which foods do and don’t contain them! Look at the ingredients list. If you see phrases like “partially hydrogenated,” your food contains trans-fats. Many common processed snacks like cookies, chips, and doughnuts often contain partially hydrogenated oils in them! Research has shown that trans-fats promote heart disease and obesity, among other health problems, so try to restrict your intake of them.

These five tips are some of the most common things to be aware of any time you wander the aisles of your grocery store! Always pay attention to Nutrition Facts labels and ingredients lists to ensure you are getting the most for your healthy diet!

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