Monday, February 01, 2010

Eating Healthy

There are many people now a day who don't know how to read a food label. I don't think I really understood it myself before I had taken Nutrition in college. I found this article on Livestrong.com that I thought would help a lot of people, just for the sake of learning to read the labels. It's called Reading Food Labels. Here's the article so you can read it for yourself or if you want to show other people. I have added a few of my own comments in a different color so you know who wrote what. I also bolded a few areas so people would really read that particular area. 

Reading Food Labels

"There was a time when food labels did not feature a Nutrition Facts box. Before 1990 all that was required was a listing of ingredients on a label. The only way to know if something might be healthy or not was that the ingredients were listed in order of amount by weight. This is still the case so that when you see that the first ingredient is sugar you know that there is more sugar by weight any of the other ingredients.

Now, of course, consumers have a lot more info. It can still be a bit of a challenge if you don't know much about nutrition. Here is a guide to what's on a label.

Start by breaking the Nutrition Facts box down into sections.

The first section (in blue) contains the serving size and the number of servings in that package. This is the place that can easily trick you because a lot of smaller packages are really a single serving but the manufacturer will list this as two or three servings. Some cynics might believe that this is done to trick people into thinking that there is less in a package than they might otherwise believe. [Which I believe to be true. Check the serving size!]
A good example is a bottle of juice. You're going to drink the whole bottle, right? Looking at the Nutrition Facts there are 120 calories listed but if you don't notice that there are actually two servings, you won't realize that there are actually 240 calories.

The red section shows the number of calories. Simple enough but always be suspect and look back at the number of servings per container. This section also tells you how many of those calories are from fat. In this case it's pretty high--almost half. This works as a good guide about whether what you are getting ready to eat has too much fat.

This third section is the one that is the most important. It shows you how much fat cholesterol and sodium are in the package. There is also a breakdown of the fats by type--Saturated and Trans Fats. Note if food contains Trans Fats. Put those back on the shelf. You want a food or ingredient with zero (0) Trans Fats.

The white section has similar information on carbs and protein. One key in this section is to focus on the amount of sugars. While a lot of foods are high in natural sugars--fruit, juices and the like--it's a good idea to limit the amount of sugar.

The green sections show both fiber and vitamins and minerals.

The purple section is the best for you to use as a guide. It is where you can find the easiest of information. This section is the Percent Daily Value--that is the percentage of fat, cholesterol and sodium that you should have in a day. In this example the food has 18 percent of the total fat you should have for the day (this is based on a 2,000 calorie diet).

It is recommended to use the 20 / 5 rule when glancing at a package. If the fat, sodium or cholesterol are under 5 percent that is good and over 20 percent you should consider carefully.

The opposite is true for carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Less than 5 percent is bad and the higher the better.

Less than 5 Percent More than 20 Percent
Fat Good Bad
Sodium Good Bad
Cholesterol Good Bad
Carbohydrates Bad Good
Fiber Bad Good
Vitamins A & C Bad Good
Calcium, Iron Bad Good

Lastly, the orange section gives a guide about the amount of each nutrient that is advised for at 2,000 (and sometimes a 2,500) calorie diet. Use this as a guide and remember that for most people 2,000 calories is more than they actually need."

Another thing the article failed to mention was how much fiber in an item will help you know if it is whole grain. If you read the label a lot of time it will say that it has enriched flour. Well you obviously want to avoid that. You need good fiber so you can body can be regular. A rule of thumb to know if something is fairly good for you is to think for every 100 calories you should have 2 grams of fiber. If it doesn't then don't get it.

The number one best way to record how much you are taking in is a food journal. It will help with weight loss. Because once you reach your number of calories for the day then you might want to reconsider eating that bowl of ice cream right before bed. When I was using my ipod, there was a livestrong app and also a sparkpeople app that you can download and record how much you eat in a day. They tell you by your weight how much of each you need. All you do is enter in the food that you had, and it will calculate the amount of calories. Here are the sites SparkPeople and Livestrong. Just sign up and create and account. They also have a lot of awesome articles on weight loss, and meal plans if you are having a hard time coming up with good nutritional things to eat.

I hope this article helped. If you have any questions about anything I'm able to help. I am not a nutritionist in any way, but I want to be able to help people who don't know how to read food labels.

1 comment:

  1. This is super helpful and informative - thanks Tedi!!