Posts Tagged ‘nutrition tips’

Understanding Nutrition Facts Labels

Nutrition LabelCalories? Fat? Sodium? Carbohydrates? What do you look for on a nutrition facts label? Food labels tell you a lot about what’s in the foods you choose to eat. But they can be hard to decipher. Follow these simple steps to help you make the best food choices for what your body needs.

Step 1: What’s the serving size?
One of the most important pieces of information is also the most ignored! How many times have you eaten an entire package, thinking it’s one serving, just to turn it around and see that it’s actually two servings! That means you have to double all the numbers on the label. Instead of 150 calories, you ate 300. Instead of 7 grams of fat, you ate 14, and so on. Always check the serving size before portioning out your food.

Step 2: How many calories?
This section is helpful to look at if you are working on losing, gaining or maintaining weight. “Calories” listed on the left side are the number of calories for one serving. “Calories from Fat” tell you how many calories come from the fat in the food for one serving. Balance how many calories you eat with how many calories your body uses to maintain weight. Eat more calories than you burn to gain and less calories than you burn to lose.

Step 3: Nutrients to Limit
Choose foods with lower numbers of the following nutrients: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Eating too much of these nutrients may increase your risk for heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.

Step 4: Get More of these Nutrients
Most Americans don’t get enough fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron from the foods they eat. Eating more of these nutrients may improve your health and help reduce the risk for some diseases and health conditions.

Step 5: What are Percent (%) Daily Values?
The percentages listed on the right side of the label tell you whether the food gives you a lot or a little of that nutrient. Five percent (5%) or less gives you a “low” amount of that nutrient. Twenty percent (20%) or more gives you a “high” amount of those nutrients.

Renew Your Weight Loss Goals for 2013

Exercise Fitness Weight LossThe new year is an exciting time. As 2012 comes to the end, it is the perfect time to renew your commitment to the goals you want to achieve.  Set yourself up for success by following these tips for setting achievable goals.

Tip 1: Set SMART goals

SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time-bound

Tip 2: Set a Lifetime Goal

The best goal you can set would be a lifetime goal. Why? Because it is a goal that you can always improve on, and it shapes the way all your other goals are attained. Set a goal that you want to achieve, not what others feel you should accomplish.

Tip 3: Set small goals

Setting smaller, achievable goals will help you reach your main goal by achieving  smaller milestones along the way. By setting smaller goals, you allow yourself to specialize and focus in one area at a time. It is easier to stay motivated when you are accomplishing many small goals rather than falling short on one large, unrealistic goal. Stay positive, smaller goals add up over time.

Tip 4: Reward Yourself

Once you complete a goal, take time to enjoy your accomplishments!  A reward should be something for yourself that you enjoy and deserve. It can be tangible or intangible such a buying a new shirt or going for a walk to clear your mind. These rewards will give you motivation to continue setting new attainable goals since you know there is something at the finish line.  Never reward yourself with food.

Pump Up the Variety of Your Protein

Protein Sources“Get Your Plate in Shape” by filling it with a variety of foods from each food group in the appropriate portions.  An essential part of your plate is protein-rich foods.  Protein allows our muscles to move, maintains fluid balance, transports nutrients in our blood and regulates our immune systems. Most Americans eat plenty of protein each day, but we may not be consuming it from the right sources or in enough variety. Most adults and older children need 5-7 ounces of protein each day.  Read on for more information about protein-rich foods.

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs:   Animal products are excellent sources of complete proteins and essential vitamins and minerals such as iron and B vitamins.  When eating these foods, make sure they are lower in fat because they can be high in bad saturated fat.  Lower-fat sources of meat and poultry include chicken with no skin, ground beef ≥90% lean, and lean cuts of beef (sirloin side, top sirloin, top round, eye of round, and bottom round steaks all have ≤2 g saturated fat per 3.5 oz).  Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, and halibut not only have protein but also heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.  Try to include these fish on your plate at least 2 times per week.

Beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and grains:  Beans and peas are an excellent substitute for animal products and are a good source of fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, and zinc.  Aim to buy dry or frozen beans and peas instead of canned to reduce the sodium in your diet.  Nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein and essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, and phosphorus.  Try to include a variety of unsalted nuts and seeds each day.  With all the research linking the nutrients found in nuts/seeds and good overall health, you could say “a small handful of nuts and seeds a day might keep the doctor away!”  And finally, many grains are an excellent source of protein.  Be adventurous and try a different healthy grain each week to increase your total intake.  Examples of protein packed grains are quinoa, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, oats, millet, rye, durum wheat, teff, and spelt.

Mindless versus Mindful Eating

Mindfull vs. Mindless Eating HabitsOvereating often occurs because we are not aware of how the environment around us affected our eating and what the quantities of food we consume are. Brian Wansink, PhD, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, has written a book called Mindless Eating, in which he describes research studies that reveal how little awareness we often have about our eating and what influences it. Amazingly, even his students, who were PhD candidates in nutritional science, were unaware of how their environment influenced their eating. These are some of his findings:

  • The average overweight person underestimated his or her calorie intake by 30-40% (versus 20% for normal-weight people). The more they ate the greater percentage they were off in their estimates.
  • People ate 53% more popcorn if given a large container versus a small one, even though it was stale and they had just eaten.
  • Even PhD students in nutritional science ate 31% more ice cream at a party if their bowls were big rather than small.
  • When a candy dish at their desk at work was transparent, people ate 71% more candy versus if the dish was opaque, even with the same amount of candy in the dish.
  • If Hershey’s kisses were within reach at a secretary’s desk, he/she ate nine per day on the average, versus four if the candy was six feet away.
  • The more people are around us, the more we tend to eat; if we have 7 or more friends around us, we eat double the food than when alone.

Living in the United States, which has the highest obesity rate of any large country; it is easy to become overweight just following what others in our culture do. Our biggest weapon in being “counter-culture” is awareness: knowing what is in the food that we eat and how much of it we are eating. Wansink’s findings have some clear implications for people who want to lose weight:

  • Think of times when you tend to be least aware. Often these times occur when people are in social situations, when they are served food by another person, and/or when they are tired, bored or stressed. Come up with a plan for controlling eating in these situations.
  • Consider filling out a food diary during difficult times to make you aware of your eating habits and the number of calories you consume.
  • Think of how you can make a 100-calorie change in your eating or exercise per day. Examples would be: to cut out one can of a sugared beverage per day; skip one dessert per day, walk for 15 minutes daily; regularly take stairs rather than elevators, park further away from stores or other destinations, and/or walk while talking on a cell or portable phone.
  • Preplan how much you will eat during parties and social occasions and how you will control your food intake. An example would be to fill up one plate during a buffet, consume a preset number of chips at a Mexican restaurant, or decide to eat half a portion at a restaurant and to ask for a box before you start eating. Consider alternative activities with friends besides those associated with overeating.
  • Control your environment so as to make problem foods less available. Shop from a list and when not hungry so that problem foods are not in the house. Put any such foods in the back of the panty or refrigerator and store them in small containers.  (Many people find it helpful to put pre-measured meals or snacks aside.) Resolve never to take a big box or container in front of you and eat from it. Keep seconds away from reach and serving containers off the table.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. For many people, their use saves many pounds each year.

Reference: Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Mindless Eating. Bantam Dell Publishers, New York, 2006.