It's no secret that the American diet is problematic. Obesity and diabetes plague the youngest among us. It is vital for me as a mom to start making better choices for myself and my kids.
One way I am going to do this is simply to read the nutritional information on the foods I buy. Here are six extremely important reasons I am starting to read food labels today.
Your portions are out of whack
Whenever I hear someone talk about portion size I automatically excuse myself from being one who eats too much, but the facts don't lie. As a nation we are eating 31 percent more calories than we were 40 years ago. This is disturbing. We need to find balance. The old adage energy in vs. energy out is essential to fixing this dilemma.
The good news: Due to an ingenious program by the Grocery Manufacturers Association called Facts Up Front, we can easily see how many calories are in a food right on the front of the package and the size of the portion necessary to stick to that calorie count. For this busy mom, that makes a world of difference. I can now look at the product on the shelf and know how much I should serve in one meal without picking it up, finding my glasses and reading the information on the back.
You eat too much refined sugar
Did you know the average American eats 132 pounds of sugar in a year? That amounts to an extra 500 calories a day! The sweet stuff has been linked to serious health issues like obesity and depression as well as problems like acne. Sugar can be a sneaky additive to our food, so paying close attention is key.
The good news: We have a goal! The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 for men. Let's start paying attention to the grams of sugar on our labels. When thinking about daily limits, 1 teaspoon equals roughly 4 grams of sugar.
You don't eat enough whole grains
Whole grains are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, upwards of 40 percent of Americans don't touch them at all. I have to admit, I wasn't totally sure what constituted a whole grain, but a quick trip to the Whole Grains Council let me know that we need to be looking for products that contain the entire grain — with the bran, germ and endosperm intact.
The good news: The grains can be processed and still keep their nutritional value, so if you see the terms cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded or cooked you can still benefit from the product. Some key health benefits to look for on a label containing whole grains are B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber.
You eat too much saturated fat
We have been hearing this for years, and yet many of us are still struggling to eat the ideal amount of saturated fats. When checking your food label, be sure that the amount of saturated fats you consume is limited to less than 7 percent of total daily calories.
The good news: Many labels not only show the saturated fat of foods in grams but also show you the percentage of your daily intake! Super easy right?
You're overdoing the salt
The good news: You can be a salt-sleuth! Pay attention to the sodium content in your food (and drinks). The Mayo Clinic recommends keep your intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day (less if you are 51 or older). This one simple change will drastically reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
You'll make your kids sick
As a mom this is probably the number one reason I want to do a better job of knowing what I am feeding my family. Twenty-three percent of teens test positive for prediabetes today (that is up 300 percent in 10 years). I cannot bear to think about my kids being sick, let alone chronically ill. While they are still young, I am responsible to keep them healthy. Armed with new information and resources, this mom is going to do a better job starting today.
The good news: You can start improving the health of your kids today by making healthy choices for yourself and for them.
Although we think the nutrition labeling system is great, we were paid to mention Facts Up Front in this article.
This amazingly simple labeling system should make any diet easier to follow!