Choosing Foods with MyPyramid and the Nutrition Facts Label

The Food Guide Pyramid helps balance meals and snacks. In the kitchen, you can increase the nutritional value by thinking of individual dishes as mini–food pyramids. At snack time, you can use the Food Guide Pyramid to choose munchies that are a valuable part of your overall daily diet.

For example, although you know that fruits and veggies are good snacks, that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with boring carrot sticks or an apple. The food pyramid says “fruits and vegetables,” not raw fruits and raw vegetables. Yes, a fresh apple’s fine.

But so is a baked apple (100 calories), fragrant with cinnamon and decorated with no-fat sour cream (30–45 calories for two tablespoons). Carrot strips are okay.

So are vegetarian baked beans — yes, baked beans (140 calories plus 26 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of dietary fiber, and 2 grams of fat per ½ cup serving), which are considered both veggies and a member of the high-protein meat/beans group.

As for the Nutrition Facts label, you can use that to eat your cake and have it nutritiously by comparing products to choose the best alternatives.

Here’s a good example: You find yourself irresistibly drawn to double dark chocolate ice cream (lots of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and a whopping 230 calories per ½ cup serving).

But then, just as your hand is opening the freezer door, ready to reach for the ice cream, suddenly . . . out of the corner of your eye, you see the Nutrition Facts panel on the label of the no-fat but equally irresistible chocolate sorbet.

It says, “No fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and only 90 to 130 calories per serving.” When you put the labels side-by-side, do you need to ask which one comes out the winner?