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Dissecting Nutrition Labels

A new year. A new you. You’ve decided to start eating healthier in the hopes of shedding a few pounds. In order to do both, you’ve got to know what you’re eating. And for that, you’re going to need to dissect a nutrition label or two. Don’t worry, this won’t be like those dissections in the high school biology lab.

The USDA’s latest “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” shows adult females need anywhere from 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day while adult males need from 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day.

A person needs to burn 3,500 calories a day to lose one pound a day. And you need anywhere between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day if you are doing your routine activities. That rationale means you need to starve yourself the whole day and exercise as much as possible to lose the remaining calories. This is practically not possible.

So, what’s a person to do? Here is a quick rundown for dissecting a food label that might prove helpful.

Serving size – Serving sizes and servings per package are arguably the most important part of a nutrition label, since all nutrition fact information is based on the particular serving size. Make sure you understand how many serving sizes or single portions are in the bag, box, or beverage. You may assume there is only one portion in the package when, in fact, there are two or more.

Think that bag of M&Ms with just 236 calories won’t be too bad to eat? Better look again. That calorie count is for one serving or roughly one-third of the bag. You’re barely going to whet your appetite with just that one serving or make yourself angry. Here’s a better way to break down those M&Ms you crave.

Linda Rankin, a registered dietitian at Idaho State University, shares her best food fact – M&Ms are really football fields. One M&M is approximately three calories and in order to burn off those three calories, you would need to walk or run the length of one football field or 100 yards. What about a peanut M&M? Rankins says you would need to walk or run the length of two football fields to burn the calories from one peanut M&M. For most, you might as well just suit up for the whole game!

That bag of chips or crackers? It’s not a single serving but really four servings. It’s going to take some

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