Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fast Facts on Food Labels

Find the food label confusing? Join the club - most people do. Despite the wonderful intention with labeling menus, lots of people are lost in making their way through it.

Here's some simple tips to make the most of your food choices -
1. Eat or pass? A recent news tidbit reported that fruit smoothies and diet food resulted in weight gain. Newsflash, really? Eating food (especially without any change in exercise) - results in weight gain. So ask yourself? Do I really really want this (or am I bored or eating because my spouse is..)

2. Is it good nutritious food or filler? Filler (fat) and preservatives (salt) are great as preservatives. That's why you can actually still eat that can or box months after you bought it. What they aren't good for is nutritious calories. Salt and preservatives can artificially turn up flavor and so less actual healthy food can be included in the package. So, why spend $5 on a bean and cheese burrito when half the calories and content is pretty much a stick of lard? Ingredients appear based upon the amount in the item. If beans are first, then that's the primary ingredient. If salt and fats are first, that's what's mostly in the food. Buy food that has the ingredients you want to eat and lists it at the beginning of the ingredients list.

3. High or low? If you have high blood pressure and want to get your BP in the normal target range (120-134/60-80) then you should exclude foods that are high in salt or sodium. That is - check the label. High means more than 20%; low means less than 5 %. Same thing applies to high and low cholesterol or fat. Here's video talking about this.

4. Eat when? Breakfast is important (even if you hate eating when you wake up) since it sets a tone with your body about eating, fasting, starving and overeating. Anyone who wants to lose weight HAS to have something when they get up. Ideally the more you consume when you are active - the less you might gain. That is if you eat a good breakfast and reasonable lunch and a light dinner, you will burn off some of your calories while awake. In contrast if you skip breakfast (and our lunch) and have a huge dinner and lie down a few hours later, it is more likely you will gain weight.

5. How much? This is a tough question as it depends on YOU. Do you want to maintain or lose weight? Do you exercise other than walking. A terrific free tool is available at You can do menu tracking to see how many calories you eat and what you should shoot for.

6. Can't I just diet and then stop? There are lots of sites that will take a lot of your money and promise instant results. Two important principles - if it sounds too good to be true (it probably isn't) and going on drastic diets don't results in long term results, nor help your health. A terrific site to find out myth versus fact on food (and emails you get about various things) is snopes.com

7. When will I see the results of my changed eating habits? You didn't get her in one day or even one year. The extra thick in the middle is something that has gradually increased in most of us, for years. Turning it around in a meaningful and cost effective way means changing how and what you eat; how your taste buds taste food; how we use our bodies (with activity) It also means negotiating with family to make these healthy changes.  Focus on what you want to do with your body - can I go up a flight without being short of breath? can I bend over and tie my shoes easily? How do my close feel on me? Often these early changes of feeling fit and doing more happen before the weight comes off. Here's an interactive menu planner.

Fundamentally, you are worth it!! You need to care for yourself - if not you, then who?? It is likely that many depend upon you, so you need to care for yourself as you care for them. In addition, you are a role model. They will learn healthier eating by your habits.