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Theresa’s Ten Rules For Label Reading

I think the best way to have a healthy body is to feed it well, with high nutrient food in the amounts that the body needs.  And abstinence often needs to be a process of learning and growth.  So, when you read a food label, put your focus on the nutrients it contains, as well as on avoiding your binge/drug/addictive foods.  Look for the nutrients your body needs. Look for real foods, rather than refined and overprocessed. Look for shorter ingredient lists, with contents you understand. Look to add the proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber the body needs, and let your decisions focus on getting enough high nutrient foods into your body. That will make it easier to keep the other stuff out.

  1. Always question the claims on the front of the box.

The manufacturer put on the front of the box, the ideas he wants you to believe about the product. What looks like a health claim may be just a marketer’s viewpoint.

  1. Always read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list.

We discussed how to evaluate a label last week; but when you do this, keep your priorities in mind. It may be scary to terrifying to think about setting sugar and flour aside, “forever”.  But do you want to buy a ketchup whose first ingredient is water or high fructose corn syrup? I’d rather have more tomatoes in my ketchup! So, start with the easy stuff, and work on the rest.  Beware of the names. Tapioca starch, and any other “starch” is still flour. Find products you enjoy that do not set off your cravings.

  1. Check the serving size.

Though the government standardized most serving sizes years ago, many products still post unrealistically small sizes. Check that the serving size is related to your food plan serving size.

  1. Check the number of servings per package. Is that realistic?

An eight-ounce yogurt container, which calls for a six ounce serving size? What am I to do with the last two ounces of yogurt in the bottom of the container?

And the “100 calories” posted on that 20-ounce bottle of cola? Hardly, It’s 250 calories per bottle because the bottle contains 2 ½ servings. And how do you know when you have drunk 8 oz. and need to stop? And what do you do with the leftover 12 oz.? Let it go flat?

  1. Check the calories from fat.

The food plans I write are specific about the amount of fat to be added to your meals. Make sure the percent of calories from fat are a minimum of 30% of the total calories, and eat all the fat servings on your meal plan. Fats are needed to make many essential body hormones. Sixty seven percent of the weight of your brain is fat, and fat must line every nerve in your body.

  1. Check the types of fat.

But there are three kinds of fat, saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. We want less saturated and more of the unsaturated. One easy ballpark answer is that the unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) should total twice the saturated!  Limit the amount of saturated fats to no more than 1/3 of the total fats, with no unique fats in the ingredient list.  Polyunsaturated fats (like safflower, soybean, corn, and sesame) and monosaturated fats (such as olive and canola) are better for us. The best fats for us are liquid at room temperature and come from plants!

  1. Check the sodium.

Don’t bother with the percentage of Daily Value (DV) of sodium. Don’t bother with Daily Value percentages, period. They’re based on government standards, which are generally not as healthful as we want. Instead, look at the number of milligrams of sodium the serving contains. A great rule of thumb: Limit the sodium in milligrams to no more than the number of calories in each serving. Your daily goal: less than 2,000 mg of sodium. That is the best recommendation, according to most nutrition authorities. Or consider what part of your day’s intake this food will be. Can you still maintain 2000 mg sodium?

  1. You need protein.

Each and every body needs protein for health, structure, and function of the muscles and organs. The general recommendation for protein is 0.8 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. But it has been my observation over the years that food addicts do better with more protein than that, so I usually suggest 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on body size, muscle mass, and exercise. An ounce of beef, lamb, pork, veal, or chicken usually has 5 to 7 grams of protein. White fish needs 1 ½ ounces, and dark fish 1 ounce to provide 5 to 7 grams of protein.

If you are vegetarian, you may want to use Greek yogurt or Skyr, the Icelandic yogurt, hemp hearts, chickpeas or other beans, peas, or lentils, or tofu or tempeh to get your protein needs. And believe it or not a cup of cooked spinach has 5 to 6 grams of protein!  More on this is coming in another blog.

  1. Check the sugar.

Your best bet: Look at the ingredient list. Avoid foods with added, refined caloric sweeteners in the first five ingredients. Because ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, the lower down the label you find added sugars, the better. The fewer the better. For a list of names for sugars and sugar analogs, just call the office.

  1. Focus on creating a healthy eating pattern.

The body needs to be fed every 3 to 5 hours while awake.  Eat enough food at the meal so that you are satisfied at the end of the meal and not hungry until 10 minutes before the next meal.  Choose whole foods and real foods, as close as you can get them, to the way Higher Power and Mother Nature planned them.  Enjoy nourishing your body well.




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