When you are cruising the grocery store aisles, you probably flip over a few items to scrutinize their nutrition labels. But do you understand what you're looking at? The government is working on updating the label to reflect today's nutritional concerns and include more realistic serving sizes, but until that happens, make informed food choices that contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. Also, remember these helpful tips:
Our Food Labels
1. Nutrition information is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. If a serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, then you must double the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients to get an accurate estimate of how much you've eaten. If you've eaten a smaller portion than what is on the label, calculate accordingly.
2. Pay special attention to the amount of sugars (including carbohydrates) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods.
3. Check out the amount of saturated fat, in one serving. Fats contribute to many chronic health problems. Trans fats are also labeled because they are known to contribute to "bad cholesterol," which contributes to heart disease. Choose foods that are low in these fats. However, some foods, like Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Avocados and nuts, have high fat content, but the source of fat is actually good for the body--it's not a saturated or a trans fat.
4. Be aware that "0" does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!
5. In addition to understanding the nutrition label, take a look at the list of ingredients. If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it's likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:
o Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products
o GMO - genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives
o Xanthan gum
o Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)
o Soy, Canola, and cottonseed oil
o Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine)
o MSG - monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)
o Food allergens - if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten
If you are in a hurry and can't take the time to read labels, be sure to avoid packaged (bag, box, or bottle) foods. Instead, buy fresh foods and "eat a rainbow everyday" (e.g., fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens). Also, choose water, tea, or raw juices with no sugar added.
And, did you know ... in July 2015 the government proposed a new nutrition information panel for food labeling.
Food for Thought. . .
"Variability is the law of life and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease."
- William Osler