Monday, March 14, 2011

Labels, Labels, Labels!

    Now that you know how to shop for those unrefined ingredients, let's talk labels for those items that have been processed, canned, boxed, or bagged.   Whether you are watching what you eat for weight loss or just optimal nutrition, it is important that you understand the monitoring system. Although it may be easy to choose the variety of foods you enjoy, the labeling system might have you confused and overwhelmed.
What exactly do all of those numbers on a food label mean?   Well, I'll tell you:

The Serving Size
When you look at the Nutrition Facts, the place to begin is the top... serving size and the number of servings in the package. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods.
The serving size on the food package influences the number of calories and nutrient amounts listed on the label.  Paying attention to the serving size is especially important if you are watching your weight.

Calories (and Calories from Fat)
Calories are a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of food.  The calories on the label can help you manage your weight by monitoring your daily caloric intake.  You will also see how many of those calories come from fat.  ie -  the7.2 ounce serving has 70 calories, 5 of which come from fat.
    General Rules:
    40 Calories is low
    100 Calories is moderate
    400 Calories or more is high
A  standard diet is based on a 2,000 calories.

Fats are listed as "Total Fat" and also broken down so you can see how much is saturated fat, this is the kind you want to limit.

Unfortunately, the label doesn't distinguish between natural sugars, artificial, and added sugar. 

Total Fat:  Aim low... Most people need to cut back on fat! Too much fat can contribute to heart disease and cancer. For a healthy heart, choose foods with a big difference between the total number of calories and the number of calories from fat.

Saturated Fat:  This is part of the total fat in food. It is listed separately because it's the biggest component in high cholesterol. Eat less!

Cholesterol: Too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease.  Eat less than 300 mg each day.

Sodium:  (salt)  Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.  Keep your sodium intake low -- 2,400 to 3,000 mg or less each day.

Total Carbohydrate: When you cut down on fat, you can eat more carbs. Carbohydrates are in foods like bread, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.  They give you nutrients and energy.

Dietary Fiber:  Eat lots!  That goes for both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans and peas are all good sources and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Protein: Most Americans get more protein than they need. Where there is animal protein, there is also fat and cholesterol. 3 ounces of lean meat, fish and poultry is ideal. Use skim or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Try vegetable proteins like beans and grains.

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 winning score.

Daily Value: Let the Daily Value be your guide. 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 Percent. For total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, your daily value goal is to reach 100% of each.
Ingredients:  these are listed in order of quantity from largest to smallest. The less the ingredients, the better!  If you can't pronounce the ingredients, put it back.
Now you know how to read a label.  Good luck and good marketing.

Chef Heather

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