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Reading Food Labels

Everyone gets excited about a label this time of year, such as “Whose name is on that package that just came in the mail”?; “Whose name is on the gift under the tree”?, etc. Running to the mailbox to find red and green envelopes from far-away friends becomes a daily adventure. We seem to always be looking at a label. Unfortunately we don’t spend as much time looking at important labels in the kitchen. A fun way to educate your kids (and yourself) over the holidays would be to spend some time reading labels. Often we think we’re making healthy choices, only to learn that our portions were out of control!  Here are a few examples:
We all know that popcorn is a healthy option and when we glance at the label, we may see that it has 100 calories. Most of us can throw on a movie and down a whole bag of popcorn while we’re watching it. Guess, what? That bag had 2.5 servings in it. Yep, that’s 250 calories!  Not the worst treat you can choose but a lot more than we thought we were eating!foodlabel

  • A great lunch on a cold day is a can of soup, which is low in calories, right? Most cans of soup contain at least two servings and, although low in fat, may have a lot of sodium.
  • Light ice cream is a great addition to holiday desserts and so we tend to have a generous portion because, after-all, it only has 70 calories. Guess what, an average serving size is ONE HALF cup of lightly packed ice cream.

So while your kids are out of school, make them expert label readers! When you/they go to grab that snack, have you/them measure out a portion (literally, get out measuring cups and measure). Ask them to compare foods and recommend the best choice for a snack or lunch. These are great ways for kids to discover important skills like portion control and healthy options. It doesn’t have to be about strict calorie counting but about gaining an awareness of what a good portion or good choice might be!

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