Decode Nutrition Facts Like a Pro
Do you ever feel like you are cluelessly wandering down the grocery aisles being assaulted by hundreds of claims of "low fat", "less sodium", or things like "heart smart". It seems every package makes some kind of claim to help it edge out the competition. I suppose it is necessary since some foods would never sell if their packaging depicted an actual description of what it contains!
The key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle (I don't like that four letter word that starts with a d and usually describes how we eat) is knowing what we are eating! If we don't know what is going in then how can we balance it all and expect the best results from our bodies?
I wanted to share this little explanation with you to help you know what all those numbers mean and how they affect your life. Print it out and keep it for a grocery store cheat sheet if you'd like.
1. Title: Every food item you purchase at the grocery store should have this section titled "Nutrition Facts". For restaurants you can generally ask so see their information or you can view it on their websites and go prepared!
2. Serving Size: This simply tells you what the manufacturer considers to be an appropriate serving and that is the amount they have measured by. If your favorite cereal bowl is huge and you eat double the serving amount, then account for it by doubling the amounts.
3. Calories: Counting calories is the place most of us start when we want to lose weight. This number can really help you follow good guidelines for healthy intake. A 5'4", 138-lb. active woman needs about 2,200 calories each day. A 5'10", 174-lb. active man needs about 2,900. How about you?
4. Daily Value: Drowning in numbers yet? Let the Daily Value be your guide. This is your little cheat sheet! Daily Values are listed for people who eat 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. If you eat more, your personal daily value may be higher than what's listed on the label. If you eat less, your personal daily value may be lower. For fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, choose foods with a low % Daily Value. For total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, your daily value goal is to reach 100% of each.
5. Total Fat: Aim low: Most of us need to cut back on fat so pay attentions to this number because too much fat may contribute to heart disease and cancer, among other things. Try to limit your "calories from fat". For a healthy heart, choose foods with a big difference between the total number of calories and the number of calories from fat.
6. Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is part of the total fat in food, but it is listed separately because it's the key player in raising blood cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Aim for low numbers here!
7. Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a sneaky second cousin to fat and it can lead to heart disease so it is important to monitor how much you are consuming. A good goal is to eat less than 300 mg each day.
8. Sodium: You know this guy, most of us call him "salt", but either way, it may add up to high blood pressure in some people. So, keep your sodium intake low -- 2,400 to 3,000 mg or less each day.
9. Total Carbohydrate: When you cut down on fat, you can eat more carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are in foods like bread, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Choose these often! They give you nutrients and energy. The less processed, the better!
10. Dietary Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans and peas are all good sources of fiber and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Make sure you are getting enough each day.
11. Protein: Most Americans get more protein than they need and much of that comes from animal protein. But, where there is animal protein, there is also fat and cholesterol. You can get plenty of good, lean protein by eating small servings of lean meat, fish and poultry. Use skim or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Try vegetable proteins like beans, grains and cereals rather than fatty meat proteins as much as possible.
12. Vitamins & Minerals: Your goal here is 100% of each for the day. Don't count on one food to do it all. Let a combination of foods add up to a healthy lifestyle!
Don't forget that when you put your recipes in Cook'n it will figure this nutritional information for you! Once you can see how your favorite recipes stack up, you can start making alterations to give you more (or less) of what you need!