One of the most lacking skills amongst those attempting to start a healthier diet is the ability to fully understand the many labels found on the packaging of their foods. Lets begin with the most important aspect of the label, the serving size. The serving size is the amount of that particular product used in measuring the contents thereafter. This is where portion control comes into play and a measuring cup and food scale step into first and second place for things needed in every kitchen. Just a bit further down the label, you will see the calories and calories from fat (there are nine calories in every gram of fat). Next, you will see the total fat (in grams) typically followed by two “sub-fats”, saturated and trans fat. Cholesterol and Sodium follow, usually measured in milligrams. Following Fat, you will find total Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are usually broken into two sub categories as well, Dietary Fiber and Sugars. Many experts say since Dietary Fiber is not digestible, it can be subtracted from the total Carbohydrates.

Lastly in this section, you will find protein, measured in grams. All the previously mentioned elements are essential if you are attempting gain, lose, or maintain a certain body fat percentage; as too much of either of those, excluding protein, will lead to fat storage. In the next section you will discover the vitamins (typically Vitamins A, C, D, Iron, and Calcium) and their percent daily values. There is usually also a statement that explains that the percent values listed for this particular food item are based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. The ingredients are also extremely important for those battling certain diseases and/or disorders. Ingredients are listed in order from the most abundant to the least. So, foods with items such as “enriched” or “high-fructose”, should be avoided. Also in most cases, the fewer ingredients a food item contains, the healthier it for you. Hopefully this quick start guide reduces some of the frustrations and confusion commonly found amongst those beginning to read food labels.

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