2013-02-28 / Columns

Everyday Extension

Pay attention to food labels during American Heart Month
By Acacia Stuckle Extension Agent, Emmons and Kidder Counties acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu • 701-254-4811

When you purchase a bottle of soda or juice, do you look to see how many servings it has before consuming the entire bottle? When you grab a bag of chips do you look to see how much sodium it has before you have it for a snack? Sometimes even food products that appear to be healthy can be deceiving.

If you are interested in health, all the information you need to make wise choices is on the food label. Nutrition Facts labels have been on food products since 1994. During February, American Heart Month, pause and read Nutrition Facts labels as you make choices.

Try this activity to better understand food labels. It’s even a great way to teach your children how to make healthy purchases. You will need a food package and a plate, bowl or measuring cup:

1. Find the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. You’ll see the serving size in household measures (such as cups) and weight in grams. You also will note the number of servings per container. Sometimes the serving size is less than you may think. For example, 1 ounce (28 grams) of crackers (six crackers) is a common serving size. Measure or count out a serving of your food. Everything else on the label refers to that amount of food.

2. Determine the number of calories. The amount indicated is not the amount for the entire container. The serving in front of you has that many calories. Note the calories from fat. In my cracker example, 40 of the 120 calories per six crackers come from fat.

3. Notice the first group of nutrients, which are fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Try to limit these nutrients. Too much of these can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and/or high blood pressure.

4. Note the column heading “Percent Daily Value” (abbreviated %DV). If the food in front of you has 20 percent or more of any particular nutrient, it is considered “high” in that nutrient. If it has five percent or less, it is considered “low” in that nutrient.

5. Compare the amount of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and the minerals, calcium and iron. We need to get enough of these nutrients, but, unfortunately, many Americans shortchange themselves. These nutrients also carry a “percent daily value.” Try to reach 100 percent of what you need.

6. Notice the “footnote” at the bottom of the label. This gives the goal amounts determined by public health experts.

Here’s a tasty snack with heart-healthy soluble fiber from beans. Read the labels on the ingredients when you choose them at the store.

Chili Bean Dip
1 16-ounce can pinto
beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese

Mash beans in a bowl or use a food processor. Add onion, chili powder and the cheese, reserving a bit of cheese to sprinkle on top. Place in a microwave-safe container. Warm the mixture in a microwave oven for 30-second intervals until cheese is melted. Serve with raw vegetables, whole-grain crackers or baked tortilla chips.

Makes about eight servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 10 g of carbohydrate and 2 g of fiber.

Please contact me with any questions at 254-4811 or email acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu.

Don’t forget to “Like” NDSU Extension Service – Emmons County on Facebook!

(Source: Julie Garden- Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

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