Today, we are bombarded with articles about the health benefits of certain foods, but do you know what you’re eating? While high sugar, fat, and calorie content do not mean a food is necessarily unhealthy, it does mean that you should be aware of the nutritional content of foods, including food components that offer health benefits.

Check the expiration date

Have you ever bought food at the grocery store and come home with something that was not what you expected? Or maybe you realized you did not put the date on your food? Well, maybe you should! Did you know that you can check the expiration on the food you buy? And the longer the expiration, the less healthy it is? So be sure to check the expiration date before you eat that food!

Emphasize fiber

Eating healthfully and getting enough fiber isn’t always easy. There isn’t a fiber supplement you can take. You have to work to eat more fiber, and that can be difficult for those with specific dietary restrictions. But you can increase your fiber intake by eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as choosing low-fiber foods wisely.

Take a look at the sugar content

The sugar content in most things we eat is much higher than we previously thought. Sugar can be found in nearly all of our processed foods, and that number is continuously rising. To combat the negative impact that too much sugar can have on our health, we should take a close look at the sugar content in the food we buy, eat, and consume regularly. Identifying high sugar foods is the first step to reducing our sugar intake.

Take a peek at how long the ingredient list is

Simply check the label before you buy. The longer an ingredient list is, the unhealthier it is. An ingredient list typically starts with one or two ingredients, like sugar, then goes to more descriptive ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and dextrose.

Check for “100%.”

Check for “100%” on food products. A product that uses “100%” fresh, wholesome ingredients can be one of the best choices you can make for your family. Consumers are being bombarded with advertising for products that claim to be healthy, but that may not be so. If you look at a label carefully, you will see words such as “natural” and “all-natural.” These words are regulated, meaning the FDA regulates their use. However, “fresh” and “wholesome” are not regulated, so companies are allowed to add anything they want.

Understand the ingredient list

Too often, we gloss over the ingredient label when eating food. We pick up a box of cereal, put it in our morning cup of coffee, and pour it into a glass or mug. Looking down, we swipe the spoon around the top of the cereal to grab what we need, maybe grab a handful of milk. We have no idea what is really in the cereal or what chemicals went into making the milk. One of the most important things you can do when you are shopping for food is to read the label. Food labels give you information like calories, fat, fiber, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, sodium, and more. Reading the ingredient list on food products is one of the best ways to educate yourself about food. Knowing what is in your food is the first step to making healthy changes.

The nutrition label on food is your best friend and worst enemy. It’s your best friend because knowing all the vitamins and minerals you’re eating is extremely helpful. It’s good to know that you’re getting all the calcium you need. But it’s also your enemy because sometimes the nutrition label can mislead you if you’re not aware of all the components it lists.