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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Healthful Snacks for the Chip-and-Dip Crowd

by Ruth Papazian

Some Valuable Information

If you zero in on the Amount Per Serving section of the Nutrition Facts panel, you'll be able to tell at a glance whether a snack food is high in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. "The top part of the food label makes it easy to compare chip A to chip B," says Diekman.

The first line lists the number of calories in the food, and the number of calories from fat. For instance, when choosing a dip, the number of calories from fat is a clue that salsa is much lower in fat than sour cream-and-onion. If you need to watch your sodium intake, you can also compare the sodium content of a serving of baked tortilla chips and baked potato chips before deciding which one to toss into your shopping cart.

In addition to listing the amounts of fat and other nutrients by weight, the Nutrition Facts panel also gives this information as a percentage of the Daily Value. The %Daily Value is based in part on the government's Dietary Guidelines and is meant to show how a serving of a food fits in with current recommendations for a healthful diet. "Many people only look at the number of grams of fat in an individual food, but have no sense of how it fits into the daily diet. The % Daily Value quickly lets you know this as well as whether a food is high or low in a nutrient, such as fat," says Kulakow.

Thus, the %Daily Value enables consumers to go beyond making individual food choices to determine how a particular food affects the overall diet. "For example, if you want a low- or fat-free snack, pretzels are a great choice. But if you eat two servings, you can get as much as 54 percent of the recommended daily sodium intake. Although you're avoiding fat, you're getting a double whammy of salt," Kulakow explains.

Diekman comments, "If you've tried baked tortilla chips and find that you don't like them, you may decide instead to limit the amount of fat you get by dipping your fried tortilla chips into salsa instead of guacamole. The %Daily Value portion of the food label allows you to make choices that meet your dietary needs while still eating the foods you enjoy."

At the bottom of the Nutrition Facts panel, you'll see that %Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Even if you eat more or less than 2,000 calories, the %Daily Value can serve as a useful reference to determine whether a food is high or low in a particular nutrient. "People know they should limit the amount of fat in their diets, but they don't always remember the recommendation to keep fat below 30 percent of caloric intake for the day or, if they do remember, don't know how to calculate the amount of fat they should eat in a day to stay within this limit. With the %Daily Value, however, the label does the math for you," Kulakow says.

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