Tag Archives: nutrition

Reading Lables

Food labels can be difficult to understand and are at times misleading so it is important to be able decipher the nutrition facts and label claims to make sure you are getting the best nutrition from your food.

Common Misleading Labels

Multi-grain:  The term multi-grain is often used to describe breads or crackers that are made from multiple types of grain, this does not necessarily mean that they are whole-grains. The common misconception is that the terms multi-grain and whole-grain are interchangeable but they do not mean the same thing. Whole-grain means that all of the parts of the grain kernel are used making them a good source of fiber, vitamin B and minerals. Just because bread is multi-grain does not mean that they use whole-grains. To check if a bread or cracker that is multi-grain also uses whole-grains, look at the ingredients list and look for the first few ingredients to be “whole-oats,” “whole-wheat” or a similar type of “whole-grain.”

Zero trans fats: Trans-fats are fats that are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, a process used to keep the food from spoiling. The reason why is not exactly understood, but studies show that adding hydrogen to the oil increases cholesterol levels more than other fats when consumed. It actually raises your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lowers your “good” cholesterol (HDL) which increases your risk for heart disease. On the nutrition facts label, companies are allowed to claim that a product has 0g trans-fat if it less than 0.5g trans-fat per serving. So to know if a product really contains trans-fats you need to look at the ingredients list. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” listed, the product contains trans-fats. “Fully” or “completely” hydrogenated oils are okay, unlike partially hydrogenated oils, the process to make these does not result in trans-fats.

Reduced or low fat: Reduced or low fat products can be very deceiving and are not always the better option. If a product claims to be reduced in fat that means that there is 25% less fat than the original product. If it is low fat that means there are less than 3g of fat per serving. The problem with low fat and reduced fat products is that there is often an increase in sodium and sugar to make up for missing fat. So make sure to read the rest of the nutrition facts and ingredients to see what the better option is. One product that it might be better to buy the full fat version of is peanut butter.

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The Bitter Truth about SUGAR

The Facts

The Recommended consumption of added sugar per day:

  • 6 tsp. (25 g) for women
  • 9 tsp. (37.5 g) for men
  • Average actual consumption: 22.2 tsp. (88.8 g)

The average American consumes about 3 to 4 times the recommended amount added sugar per day! Over the course of the year that comes out to be about 84 lbs. of sugar per person.

THAT’S A LOT OF SUGAR! But since we’re not just sitting around eating spoonfuls of sugar, where is it all coming from? You may be surprised to learn that sugar can be very sneaky and finds many ways to be added to the foods and beverages that we consume daily.

Naturally Occurring Sugar vs. Added Sugar

Appropriately, natural sugars are sugars that are found naturally in foods like fresh fruits, veggies and dairy products. While added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).

For natural sugars there are no specific guidelines or recommendations for amount to consume each day, but USDA does make recommendations for the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dairy that we should consume each day. If you follow those guidelines you will not have to worry about consuming too much natural sugar.

The Not So Sweet News about Sugar

Most of us, if not all of us, love a little sugar now and then. A little sugar here and there is okay but when we get too much it starts to become a problem. Sugar is very high in calories but has little nutritional value. Eating to0 many foods that contain a lot of added sugars can set the stage for potential health problems, such as: 

  • Poor nutrition- filling up on nutrient lacking sweets can cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
  • Weight gain- Sugar sweetened foods are often calorie dense from sugars and fats, making them very appealing and easy to eat more of.
  • Increase triglycerides- Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Tooth decay- All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to proliferate and grow

How to Identify Added Sugars

Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell how much of the sugar listed in the nutrition label of your food is added and how much is natural sugar found in certain ingredients, such as grain, fruit and dairy. The only reliable way to identify added sugar is to look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugar. Here are some of the ways that added sugars will be listed in the ingredients:

  • Fructose
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • Glucose
  • Malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Juice Concentrate  and nectars
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
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Clean Shopping

If you take look in the local grocery stores these days, it’s easy to get pulled into the many rows filled with shelves of boxes, packages and containers of every kind snack imaginable.  These products take center stage in our grocery stores and are the primary target for ads, discounts and coupons making them even more marketable to consumers like you and me. For so long now these products have dominated our shopping lists and have become part of our everyday diets. The problem is that many of these products are what are considered calorie dense foods. Calorie dense foods are things that are very high in calories (like a doughnut or potato chips) but contain very little nutrients like vitamins minerals that are an important part of a healthy diet.

Ignoring these calorie dense foods and opting for more nutrient dense whole foods is what I call clean shopping. I know how challenging this can be when pretty much the entire grocery store is filled with theses types of foods and when we are so use to buy3-017_S1-2_Grocery-List-for-Web_v4_MEDIAing these products. It can be hard to make this switch, but here are a few shopping tips to help you shop clean and slowly wean yourself away from those rows of calorie dense foods and ultimately help you reach a healthier diet and lifestyle.

  1. Make a grocery list- making a grocery list helps so you don’t wander all over the store just buying things on a whim. You are more likely to make healthy, smart choices if you go in prepared with a list and stick to it.
  2.  Shop the edges- Most grocery stores are set up in a similar way. The packaged and processed foods are generally in the middle ap3of the store packed into the rows of shelving. When shopping try and stick mostly to the edges of the store where you will find the fresh produce, poultry and dairy.
  3. Plan meals- Planning meals is also a great way to help you grocery shop. Plan healthy meals for the week and make your shopping list according to those meals. Check out my Healthy eats for great healthy meal ideas.
  4. Read labels If you are going to buy something that is prepackaged make sure you read the nutrition facts. Just because something may say on the cover that it is healthy doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true once you look at the ingredients. Shoot for as few ingredients as possible and make sure they are natural ingredients. Try nutrition_originalkettlecornto keep %fat below 20% and make sure you look at the serving size. A great example of an alternative healthier snack is the kettle corn produced by popcorn Indiana. The only ingredients are popcorn, sugar, canola oil and salt! just the way it should be. For more information on reading and understanding nutrition facts check out these tips from the FDA.
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