When looking at the Percent Daily Values what are we really looking at?
You will notice they are based on a 2,000 kcal per day intake, so if you don’t eat exactly 2000 kcal every day, they are really not relevant to you (or me either for that matter).
But let’s say I actually DO eat 2000 kcal a day, what does that mean?
According to this food label (and the government) I should be eating;
~ 310 grams of carbohydrates (1240 calories or 62% )
~ 67 grams of fat (603 calories or 30%)
and the left over (there is no established daily protein value from the protein-phobic government) adds up to
~ 39 grams of protein (157 calories or 8%)
How’s that working for you America?
Sitting here doing these calculations I am shaking my head, reminded once again why we have an obesity epidemic in this country.
Not because carbohydrates are bad, because they are not.
But the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates we eat have everything to do with our body composition, weight, and health.
So how much fat, protein and carbohydrate should we eat?
What is “enough”?
That question applies to many things in life, but in this case we are talking vitamins and minerals.
Did you know that RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowance) that are on food labels are based on the minimum amount required to prevent disease in a normally healthy body?
In other words if you don’t want to get scurvy, take the RDA of Vitamin C.
But what happens when you exercise? What happens when you are stressed out? What happens when you are sick?
Studies show that you need more than the RDA to thrive, not just survive under those circumstances.
And despite what you may have heard, taking a good multivitamin does more than line the manufacturers pockets. All those vitamins, minerals – phytonutrients – are important to make sure all the chemical processes in your body work and that you remain healthy.
I am not a pill pusher. No supplement is going to overcome poor eating. But I do recommend you take a good whole food multivitamin every day.
Ahh Protein, the macro nutrient everyone seems to love to hate!
As a nutrition coach my recommendation is that you eat between 3/4 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. People in hard training may need more, but this is a great start. Your body needs this to build and maintain muscle, hormone production, and about a bajillion other things to just plain keep things working right.
I currently weigh 175 pounds, so my target is about 150 grams a day. That is about 600 calories, the rest of which is made up in carbohydrates and fat. It really isn’t that much, just like anything else we need to build the skill of eating more protein and make it a habit.
The magic happens when we create our meals around protein, not add it as an afterthought. So many times we build our meals around carbohydrates, and toss a little protein on if we think about it. Almost impossible to get enough that way.
I have created a handy Meal Planning Chart based on something I saw in “Fat Loss Happens on Monday” by Josh Hillis and Dan John. Grab your copy and let me know what you think!
In the past I used “bad” language when describing some food choices.
No, I didn’t swear about it.
Language as in – “x is a good food” and “y is a bad food”.
In reality food does not have morals, it is not “good” or “bad”.
And what I learned is that it really is not helpful to me personally or people I talk nutrition with to think of it that way.
You know it’s true. Calling something a “bad food” usually just makes us want more of it. In reality there is no single food that we eat (or don’t eat) that by itself is going to make us gain or lose weight. It’s a bunch of decision made over and over again that lead to one of those results, and studies have shown over and over that when we do eat what is “forbidden” we eat more of it than if we think of it like we do any other food.
I admit it took me a long time to get comfortable with this. But now it is actually easier to make good choices, because I am not constantly thinking about food and what I do or don’t get to eat.
Now you know that I am not saying that all food is equal. Eating a bunch of junk all the time is not going to help you lose fat, get lean and look and feel better.
What I am saying is I needed to change my mind about how I thought about food, so I didn’t obsess and stress about it all the time.
Would that help you too?
This is where the primary focus should be, because when it comes to fat loss and our overall health, sugar is the killer.
Carbohydrate and sugar is really where it’s at when it comes to controlling our blood sugar, insulin, and body fat. It is SO easy to eat a lot of carbohydrate, and sugar is in just about everything. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a maximum of 150 calories a day from sugar for men and 100 calories per day for women. Doesn’t sound like much, but that is still 9 and 6 teaspoons of sugar per day respectively. Consider that 12 ounces of most soda has 33 grams (or about 8 teaspoons) of sugar, and you can see it adds up fast.
For some great perspective on how much sugar is in the foods we commonly eat, check out http://SugarStacks.com – it’s eye opening!
And it’s not all about sugar either. There are a lot of non-nutritive carbohydrates packed into most cereals, crackers, pastas and even “nutrition bars”.
A good rule of thumb when eating foods containing carbohydrates is each serving should have less than 10 grams of sugar and more than 3 grams of fiber. This will help keep your sugar and insulin from going nuts – just don’t eat 2 or 3 servings at a time – it adds up!
Until next time, keep on reading!
"Just tell me what to do!"
"If you give me a meal plan I'll follow it."
"If I just had a few more recipes that would help."
Those are all things I have heard many times as a nutrition coach.
And I get it. You just want help getting back on track, and you want to make it as easy as possible.
But what if being told what to do actually hurts you in the long run?
Have you ever gone on a "diet" or done a 6 or 8 week challenge and made really good progress? Me too. But what happens after the challenge is over or you get bored of the diet?
Things just go back to the way they were. We do what we are used to doing. We revert back to our habits.
Which is exactly why we want to create new habits, rather than just relying on being told what to do.
Let's say you are struggling with dinners right now. Work is crazy, the kids have you running all over the place, it's just easier to go through the drive-through.
Which has resulted in you gaining 10 pounds over the last year.
So how can we tackle that?
Well, which of these 3 would help you the most getting control of dinner?
You get to choose the one you focus on, and then we follow through to make sure you have what you need to successfully create a new habit. You can also scale the habit in order to create success. If you choose "planning" as your new habit, how many dinner meals a week can you plan? 2, 3, all 7? The number doesn't matter, what does matter is that you are confident you can do it, because success breeds more success.
And when it becomes your habit to plan your meals, you won't find yourself in the emergency drive-through situation anymore. In fact it will seem weird to even consider the drive-through.
That's how lasting change is made.
When it becomes your first instinct to make the best right choice, eating becomes guilt-free and a lot easier.
And who doesn't want that?
Working our way down our food label, the next thing on the list is to Check Calories.
I am not an advocate of counting calories every day for the rest of your life, but you do need a general idea of how much food you are really eating.
An apple and a blueberry muffin are about the same size, but that doesn’t mean they provide the same amount of calories (or nutrition for that matter).
You will also notice that the “Calories from Fat” are stuck on there.
Valid information I suppose, but it doesn’t really tell the whole picture, and just why do we still think we have to pick on fats anyway? 🙂
I’d rather see the “Calories from Sugar” put up there, as that is much more damaging in most cases!
And remember our lesson on Serving Sizes from last week. If you eat the whole container of whatever this food label represents, you will actually be consuming 500 calories, not 250.
Remember: # of Servings + Calories per serving = Total Calories
Don’t let this throw you off, or you could be eating a lot more than you think!
I have a cool gift to share with you from our partners over at Precision Nutrition.
It’s called the Encyclopedia of Food, and it’s really cool. It combines recipes, nutrition info and beautiful photos of beautiful food. They will also send you a free recipe book and keep you up to date when new foods are added if you would like.
You’re Welcome! 🙂
Take a look at the food label below.
Go ahead, I’ll wait. 🙂
See where it says “Start Here”?
Don’t miss that, because if you are anything like me that is NOT the first thing you look at. My tendency is to look at how many grams of carbs and sugar, then I might take a look at the fat content.
Which is fine, unless I NEVER check the “Start Here” section. Because that is where the label tells me two key facts:
1) Serving Size. This is important because the number of grams of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the label below are PER SERVING.
2) Servings Per Container: This is what sneaks up and bites you sometimes. If you just look at the calories, you might think that number is the calories in the whole container. For instance you pick up that pint of decadent ice cream and look at the calories. “Only 300” you think to yourself, “That’s not so bad.” Until after you down the whole thing only to realize later there are FOUR serving per container and you just ate enough fat and sugar for a whole week.
Some foods are less obvious than others. We know if we pick up a carton of oatmeal or boxed cereal there are multiple servings per container. But things like the aforementioned pint of ice cream, or bottle of soda or sports drink usually contain multiple servings.
So always make sure you “Start Here”.
Until next time!
One of the most important habits to develop when it comes to making great food choices is reading food labels.
Like most of our habits, reading food labels is a skill that takes much practice.
Many manufacturers do whatever they can to hide, obfuscate, and maybe even mislead (within the confines of the law of course) what you are really eating.
Here’s some examples:
Some fat-free labeled foods may be 50%, 60%, or in some cases 100% fat and they say “fat-free” on the label!
A can of “fat-free” cooking spray. It usually says on the front of the container, “for calorie free and fat free cooking.” If you turn the can around and examine the FDA regulated nutrition label, you’d find that there are zero calories per serving, zero calories from fat. The question becomes, if there aren’t any calories . . . what in the world is in that can? That’s when you look at that tiny print on the ingredients panel. You’ll find that the only significant ingredient in that can is vegetable oil, corn oil, or canola oil, foods that get 100% of their calories from fat! Yes, the fat free cooking spray is 100% fat!
HERE’S HOW – . The law says, “if there’s less than half a gram (.5 g) of fat in a serving (remember those words, “in a serving”) a food can be labeled fat free. The catch is, nobody regulates what the food companies refer to as a serving size.
If you go back to the tiny print on that spray can, you’ll find that a serving is equal to two-tenths (2/10) of a gram. Is there less than half a gram of fat in a serving? Of course. There’s less than half a gram of anything in a serving that’s .2 grams in its entirety. This loophole allows the cooking sprays, pure fat, to be labeled fat free.
The same is true of the fat free butter spreads, the fat free butter substitutes, and the fat free liquid butter for popcorn.
Is less than 0.5g of fat gonna kill you? No, but you need to be aware this stuff goes on all the time. (And who uses 1 serving size most of the time anyway?)
SUGAR by Any Other Name
Some foods don’t use the word “sugar” even though they have as much sugar as a chocolate chip cookie. They fail to include the actual word sugar on the ingredient list but instead USE glucose, fructose, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, dextrose, etc. – which are all names for, you guessed it. Sugar.
Then there are the sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, malitol, and glycerol which by law do not have to be listed as sugars on the nutrient panel. A snack bar might say “Sugar Free” and list glycerol (or glycerine) on its ingredient panel. Sugar alcohols do affect blood sugar and can spike insulin levels limiting fat release and leading to greater accumulation of bodyfat.
There is also a difference between the “Nutrition Fact” label and the “Ingredient List”
For instance a product could have “sugars” in the nutrition label but no sugar in the ingredient list. This would indicate there is no added sugar to the product. This is a best case scenario, but you don’t want to crazy on any sugars, natural or not.
Of course as mentioned above, you have to watch out, because “organic cane juice” is a little more obtuse than putting “organic white sugar” on the label.
So before you put that item in your cart, turn it around and look at the label.
Yes at first it will take some time, but it’s not like you will have to do it for the same item next time you shop.
How many items do you purchase in the typical grocery shopping day?
Some you won’t have to worry about at all – fruits and veggies don’t have labels at all, and I am pretty sure you can figure out that double fudge chocolate swirled cake bites don’t belong in the cart – no matter what’s on that label.
So sharpen you label reading skills – your body will love you for it!