by Ronny Marie Tucker
How can you watch what you eat if you don’t understand what you are eating? With numbers, percentages, and words you cannot pronounce, the food label can come across as a challenge. Well, it doesn’t have to be! From top to bottom you can now understand what is important when trying to lose weight.
Serving Size – Not every item is one serving. Many items contain more than one serving, especially soft drinks or sports drinks. A 20 oz. Gatorade has 2.5 servings. Pop tarts contain two per package, yet a serving is only one. One over-sized muffin is really three servings. Remember, additional servings bring additional calories and everything else!
Calories – The bottom line to losing weight is to burn more calories than you take in. It doesn’t matter how you consume the calories because in the end it’s all about numbers. However, consuming 1500 calories worth of donuts, cookies, and ice cream will have a different impact on your body than 1500 calories of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.
Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium – Try to keep these numbers as low as possible. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generally five percent or less is considered “low” and 20 percent or more is “high.” Too many of any in this trio may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.
Fiber and Protein – Both of these nutrients are considered “fillers” because they help to keep you full. Fiber also helps keep you “regular” and makes it easier for food to pass through your system. Protein helps to repair your body, especially muscle tissue. Fiber and protein are an essential part of your diet so strive to consume items with more than five percent of these nutrients.
Carbohydrates and Sugar – Carbohydrates provide your body with energy. Your liver breaks down carbohydrates into blood sugar to supply your energy. By consuming naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and milk, with a moderate amount of carbohydrates (at least 300 grams based on a 2000 calorie diet), there is really no need to consume added sugars. For example, nutrients ending in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey are all examples of added sugars. The American Heart Association suggests no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily for the average American woman, and nine teaspoons for the average American man. That’s not a lot!
Vitamins – You can rarely consume too many vitamins through food or drink consumption. If your doctor recommends an increase of a specific vitamin such as vitamin C, try consuming orange juice as opposed to taking the pill.
Now that you have a general idea of reading food labels, practice, practice, practice! The more you read labels, the more you will understand them and are able to quickly decide what to buy.
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