nutritional information

Nutritional information seems to be everywhere these days. The secret to feeding your family (and yourself) a healthful diet of healthy food is to read the labels. The United States Food & Drug Administration has laid out strict guidelines for nutritional labeling of all food products.

The nutrition label will tell you all you need to know to choose real health foods. But with new FDA guidelines mandating more detailed info on the labels of every product you buy, it could quickly become a case of overload very quickly.

To get you started, here are a few facts (and myths) about some of the more common, “healthy” snack foods you see nearly every day:

Yogurt: This can be either very good or very bad for you, depending on several factors. Real yogurt has two ingredients: milk (whole, skim or low fat) and live yogurt cultures. That's healthy food - calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, protein.

However, much of the yogurt at the grocery store is loaded with various kinds of hidden sugars. Flavors like key lime pie, kiwi-raspberry, strawberry-banana, etc., usually means that heavy doses of sugar were added to generate that particular flavor. Many times, the actual "fruit" is of poor quality fruit and was too damaged or over-ripe to sell for raw produce.

The solution? Buy plain, fat-free, sugarless yogurt, and add your own nuts, berries or fresh fruits to it. In this manner you have complete control over how healthy you wish your yogurt to be.

Granola bars: The first granola bars were identical to normal granola except for shape. Instead of a loose, breakfast cereal consistency, granola bars were pressed into a bar shape and baked into that shape. These granola bars often contain dried fruit, as normal granola.

Granola bars have now evolved into expensive candy bars containing chocolate chips and gooey caramel. Whole wheat flour is bleached and denuded of its flavorful kernels.

Finally, here are some things to keep in mind when reading nutrition labels for health foods:

* In the ingredient's portion of the nutrition label, ingredients are listed in order by amount. The ingredient that's listed first is the main ingredient, followed by the next largest amount, etc.

* The nutrition facts label must list each of the required nutrients even if the food provides 0% of the recommended daily value. * The nutrition facts label must list what portion of the food's calories is derived from fat, from sugar, from protein and from carbohydrates. It will also break down the fat into saturated and unsaturated fat.

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