I hope you all have been successful in making small changes to your diet over the last two weeks or so. To try and help ease you through a diet overhaul, I think we have to have one important task perfected to continue to make good healthy choices. Reading food labels. I know it can be a daunting task thinking about trying to read food labels while you rush to get in and out of the grocery store. However, taking the time to slow down and truly understand what you are going to feed your body is well worth it and like any other task in life, the more you practice the easier it becomes. Depending on the age of your children (if they can read, they should be looking at food labels too) have them help you out. Pick out the two or three food items you are comparing and then decide together which is the best choice.
If you can’t make all the changes to your diet, eating REAL food is a good place to start. Eating REAL means to eat whole foods (in their natural state), lots of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, 100% whole grain breads and crackers, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, natural sweeteners (honey and maple syrup), wild caught seafood and humanely raised meats. Choose foods that are more a product of nature than of industry. A good way to help decide how REAL a food is, is by checking out the food label. It’s best if there are fewer ingredients, you know what all of them are, or if there is no label- like fresh fruits and vegetables.
A quick lesson in label reading should be able to help to guide you along the path to eating more REAL foods.
Work Top to Bottom.
The top of the Nutrition Facts Label is important. That is where you will find the serving size and the number of serving in a container. Be aware that the serving size on the label may be more or less than what you fix yourself or even what is recommended on USDA’s MyPlate website.
- Calories- This will be listed per serving. Be sure to note the serving size and try measuring it out to see how it compares to what you would actually serve yourself. A guide for determine calorie levels is below:
- Low calorie: fewer that 40 calories per serving
- Moderate calorie: 100 calories per serving
- High calorie: more
than 400 calories per serving
- Fat - Both the good and not so good ones. As an athlete, fat is an important part of the diet (for everyone really), so there is no need to be afraid. You just want to make sure that your fat calories come from the good fats (mono and poly unsaturated fats) as opposed to the bad fats (trans and saturated). About 25% of your total calories should come from fats. Plants generally provide the heart healthy fats!
- Saturated and Trans fats; Less is better. These types of fats typically come from high fat animal products and processed foods.
- Mono and Poly-unsaturated
fats; Known as Heart healthy fats, these
are the best sources of fats.
- Sodium - Generally speaking, a low sodium diet benefits
everyone. While you are exercising, you do lose some sodium in sweat and bodily
fluids, however, increasing your sodium intake is not recommended. Shoot for
less than 200 mg per serving of a food item and avoid processed foods.
- Sugar- This includes natural and added sugar. Check the ingredient list to see if sugar was added to the product. You can expect to see sugar naturally in fruits and milk products.
- Fiber- Adults need to aim for 25-30 g fiber per day, kids
can shoot for their age in years plus 5 grams.
- Footnotes - The bottom
of the nutrition facts labels is a box that contains the daily value
percentages. This is based on a
2000-2500 kcal diet – which will not pertain to many people. It can be
beneficial in providing you an idea if a food item is rich in a certain
- Ingredient List - Certainly not least, but at the very bottom is the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So the first ingredients make up the largest amount of the food item. This is where you should look if you have allergies too. To keep eating REAL, this list should be short and you hopefully will be able to pronounce all the items on the list too!
Image source: mensfitness.com