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Do you know what you are eating? The following information can help you choose a healthy
Nashville, Ark. – If you have cruised the aisles of your favorite grocery store lately,
you may have become overwhelmed by the amount of labeling on food products. As we
navigate through the aisles, we want to make wise decisions on the best, nutritious
foods we give ourselves and our families. However, it’s becoming more of a challenge
especially since so many things come in a box, bag, bottle or carton. Product manufacturers
are great at providing information on the packaging, but is it always the best information?
Don’t be misled by health claims on the packaging. The label may say 100
percent whole grain, heart healthy, gluten-free but is it really? The only way to
know for sure is to read the Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredient list provided
on the product. If there are more than five ingredients in the food, determine whether
you know what the ingredients are, whether you can see them in the food, and whether
you can pronounce their names. If you can’t, it may be reason enough to leave that
product on the shelf.
Are the first ingredients high-quality ingredients, derived from whole
grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds? For example, the first ingredient in whole
wheat bread should be whole wheat. Anything else and it might not be 100 percent whole
wheat bread but brown bread because of flavoring or color that has been added. Another
example is “Made with Real Fruit” on fruit flavored drinks. Sounds nutritious, but
a closer look may reveal the drink only has 10% or less of real fruit. Look for 100%
real fruit, which is usually located in a not so noticeable spot on the label.
Next, look at the serving size. This will determine how much of each nutrient
you’ll be getting in one serving. Remember, if you eat 2 or 3 servings of a food,
you have to double or triple the amounts of fat, calories, etc.! A can of soup may
have up to 4 servings per can, but you may choose to eat the whole can at one time.
If so, you will need to do some calculations.
Many people are concerned about limiting saturated fat in their diet because
it raises cholesterol levels. On the nutrition facts label, look at the amount of
saturated fat. If there are more than 3 grams per serving, you probably should skip
this item. One easy way to determine if a product is high in a certain nutrient is
to look at the % DV. If it is less than 5% on a certain nutrient, then it is low in
that nutrient. If it is above 10%, then it is high in that nutrient. While you may
be focused on keeping everything below the 5%, fiber and vitamins A and C are better
Hidden sugar is another concern. There are tons of forms of sweeteners:
cane sugar, honey, molasses, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup,
alcohol sugar, or any word ending in “ose” all indicate sugar. They all act in the
same way once they get into your system. Sugar has 15 calories in a teaspoon (4 grams).
If a product contains 20 grams of sugar, it offers 5 teaspoons per serving! If you
don’t think that is a lot, just measure out 5 teaspoons and see for yourself. Sometimes
seeing is believing.
2% milk is another item that is misleading. While it is lower in fat than
whole milk, 2% is still considered a high saturated fat product. A better choice is
1%, skim or fat-free milk.
Look at the fiber content in a single serving of food on the Nutrition
Facts Label. If there are 5 grams or more in a serving, that food is considered to
be an “excellent” source of fiber. If there are less than 3 grams per serving, you
may need to look for something else, especially if your doctor has recommended a high
fiber diet. Remember, fiber comes from plant foods. Think whole grains, beans, nuts,
seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Shopping for nutritious foods can be challenging. There is so much information
available through the media, internet, magazines and even on the labels. Learn to
read and understand the information that is given on the product.
For more information on understanding the Nutrition Facts Label, contact
the Howard County Extension Office, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension
Service at 870-845-7500 ext. 9 or visit our office located on the second floor of
the courthouse. I’ll be glad to provide you with a fact sheet outlining the Nutrition
Looking for a delicious light salad to serve? This recipe will be a big
hit when you invite your friends over on a hot summer afternoon. It features fresh
peaches and cucumbers. Both are available at the Farmer’s Market on Friday mornings
here in Nashville.
For the vinaigrette:
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or other fresh herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary)
Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl; or combine ingredients
in a covered mason jar and shake.
For the salad:
Sliced fresh peaches
Crisp cooked smoke bacon, chopped
Rinse lettuce leaves and chop or tear into bite size pieces. Place on
individual salad plates. Sprinkle with diced cucumber and lay sliced fresh peaches
on top. Pour salad dressing on top and sprinkle with chopped bacon. Serve immediately.
By Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff ChairThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince County Extension Agent - Staff Chair U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service 421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.