Making wise food choices

Information on the Nutrition Facts food label can help you make wise food choices. For example, if a cereal has a daily value of 20% for fiber, it’s high in fiber. That means it’s a wise choice for fiber. Also, fat-free milk has a daily value of 1% for cholesterol, meaning it's low in cholesterol. That means it’s a wise choice if you’re limiting your intake of cholesterol. Fat-free milk is also low in total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat, meaning it’s a wise choice if you’re limiting all of these fats.

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Here are some tips to help you make wise healthy food choices: 
Check the serving size. Use it as a guide to compare products and make better choices. The serving size information tells you how many servings are in one package.
Nutrition chartLook at the calories per serving. You can use the information about calories to compare foods.
Check the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order by weight. 
  • If you’re trying to avoid foods with a lot of added sugar, limit foods that list added sugars as the first few ingredients. Other names for added sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.
  • If you’re trying to increase your fiber intake, choose foods with a whole grain, such as whole wheat, listed as the first ingredient. Other whole grains are whole oats, oatmeal, whole-grain corn, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum. You can also increase your fiber intake by eating more vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.

How to start changing the way you eat

Sometimes it’s hard to change habits. But making a change step by step can help.
  • Choose one small change you’d like to make: Awareness of a negative behavior is always the first step toward changing it. Once you identify what you’d like to change, keep a diary for 1 or 2 weeks, noting what you do, when, where, and what you’re feeling at the time. If you’d like, enlist the help of friends or family to call attention to your behavior. Sometimes self-observation in itself proves therapeutic: Just the act of keeping a diary can be enough to help you lose weight or kick the smoking habit.
  • Make your idea as specific and realistic as possible. For example, instead of saying, “I will eat more high-fiber food,” say, “I will have an orange three days a week for breakfast.” Some people find it helpful to sign a “contract,” a written agreement in which they make a commitment to change, with their partner, parent, or health educator. Spelling out what they intend to do and why underscores the seriousness of what they’re trying to accomplish.
  • Decide on when you will make this change, choosing a short period of time. For example, set a goal for this week. Once you’ve identified the situation, moods, thoughts, or people that act as cues for a behavior, identify the most powerful ones and develop a plan to avoid them. For instance, if you snack continuously when studying in your room, try working in the library, where food is forbidden.
  • When your idea has become a regular habit, choose something new to try.

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