Nutrition & Health OnLine: Weight Loss Corner
Weight Loss Corner
Reading Labels
By Bethany Roberts
"I want to eat healthy but I just don't have the time or the knowledge to pick the right foods." Does this sound familiar? I hear it all the time from people who are frustrated by the confusing messages they get from the media and food merchandisers. Eating healthy can be relatively painless once you understand a few simple lessons and the place to start is understanding the information on the back of labels.
A lot of products will try to trick you into thinking they are healthy when in reality they are not. Have you seen all those labels proclaiming "low fat"? The problem is most of the foods that make this claim are measuring the fat content by weight and not by calories. Take for example 2% milk. Did you know that the fat content of 2% milk is actually about 33%? The reason it is called 2% is because by weight 2% milk is only 2% fat. But percentage of calories is what is most important and when 2% milk is measured in this manner it is revealed that fat accounts for 33% of calories. Foods that contain over 30% fat should be avoided if you are serious about losing weight.
The way to avoid being duped by product manufacturers and make bad food choices it to understand the information on the backs of the labels. The place to start your education is in your own pantry. Take out a few of your favorites and examine the back of the labels where it says "Nutrition Facts." Figure 1 shows the Nutrition Facts part of the label from a can of Campbell's Chunky Clam Chowder. To figure out how much fat this product contains divide the number of fat calories by the total number of calories. The fat content of this product is about 54%. Next take a look at how much saturated fat is present. The label shows that there are 7 grams of saturated fat out of a total of 18 grams. Saturated fat is the worst kind of fat so an ideal food choice will have none. The last thing to look at is the sugar content. Only 1 gram of sugar out of 26 total carbohydrates which is good. High sugar amounts in foods cause a lot of different problems and definitely do not help in losing weight. The overall analysis of Campbell's Chunky Clam Chowder is that it would not be a good meal choice because it contains way too much fat.
Now take a look at figure 2, which is a label from a can of water packed Starkist Tuna. Check to see how much fat is in the Starkist Tuna by dividing the fat calories by the total calories. The calculation comes out to about 8%. Next check the saturated fat amount which is 0 and the amount of sugar which is also 0. The final analysis of the Starkist Tuna is that is makes a great meal because it is low in total fat, saturated fat and sugar.
Hopefully the above examples give you a pretty good idea of what to look for when reading a label. Try to choose foods that are low in total fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Examine your favorite foods from your own pantry and see how they measure up. I am willing to bet that a lot of them have way too much fat and sugar.
I know by now a lot of you are saying that: "I realize that tuna is a much healthier meal choice but I would much rather eat the can of Chunky Clam Chowder because it tastes better." The key to eating healthier is to find foods that are good for you and then prepare them in a way that makes them desirable to eat. I am going to leave you this time with a recipe for a tuna burger. When it is made properly it really is delicious. Give it a try and see for yourself. It is a great example of what can be done to spice up a normally bland food. If you are serious about weight loss you need to start reading your labels to identify the healthy foods. Once identified you can use your imagination to come up with a spectacular way to prepare the meal. Let me know if you come up with any great recipes of your own.
  • 1 Can Tuna in water
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1/4 Cup Buckwheat Pancake mix
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Onions
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder(or other spice)
Form into 2 patties and Fry or Grill
Serve on a Whole Wheat Bun

See Fat Blocker

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