Weight Loss Program, Part 7: Grocery Shopping & Modifying Recipes - Continued

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Dining Out, Label Reading

Read the following pages/chapters in your text, Dieting For Dummies this week: Chapters 14-16, pages 165-197, Chapter 24, pages 263-286

Part 7 continued.......

Reading food labels

In 1994, The Food and Drug Administration mandated that all food manufacturers must include nutrition labeling information on their products. They made this ruling to allow consumers to make more health-conscious choices at the supermarket. However, like many other things the government does, food labels can be tricky and difficult to understand. Refer to the label posted here, and let's review all of the information that you are likely to find listed:

Serving size/Servings per container - Pay very close attention to what the manufacturer calls "one serving." The nutrition information you see listed is based on a serving size, not the whole container. If the serving size is ½ cup, and you eat a whole cup, then the number of calories, fat, and everything else listed is doubled.

Total calories - Again, this number depends on the calories you will get in one serving, not the whole container. The total calories per serving come from the total amount of carbohydrate and/or protein and/or fat in the product. You can also determine total calories in the following way:

(Grams of fat x 9) + (Grams of carbohydrate x 4) + (Grams of protein x 4) = total calories.

Calories from fat - The number of total calories that come from fat. In our label's case, 30 out of 90 calories per serving come from fat. You can calculate the percentage of calories from fat by dividing total calories by fat calories. In this product's case it's about 33% of calories from fat (90/30). Use this as a guideline only. Not everything that you eat must have 30% or fewer calories from fat. You should balance higher fat foods with lower fat foods throughout the day in order to achieve an approximate daily intake of 30% or less calories from fat.

Total fat - Total fat is listed in grams. Total fat equals: (Grams of saturated fat + grams of polyunsaturated fat + grams of monounsaturated fat)

Fat has 9 calories per gram. You can always determine fat calories by multiplying grams of fat x 9. If you follow an 1800-calorie diet, and you want 30% or fewer calories from fat, then you should take in no more than 540 calories (1800 x 30%) from fat each day. To determine the grams, divide the fat calories by 9. This equals 60 grams of fat (540/9) per day or less.

Oranges, grapefruit, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, guava, kiwi, tangerines, apricots

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard), green peppers, red peppers

Another general hint - the deeper the color, especially green, yellow and orange, the more nutritious.

Saturated fat - The label also lists this in grams per serving. Listing the amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats a product contains is not required, although some manufacturers voluntarily list these values also. Keep your saturated fat intake to less than 1/3 of your total fat intake. If you limit fat to 60 grams a day, you want no more than 20 grams of it to come from saturated fat. The other 40 grams should optimally come from 30 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 10 grams of polyunsaturated fat. The higher the percentage from monounsaturates and the lower the percentage from saturates, the better.

Cholesterol - Cholesterol is listed in another unit of measurement called milligrams. Although cholesterol alone in food is not a big culprit in raising cholesterol levels in the body, you should still limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) daily.

Sodium - Sodium is also listed in milligrams. The jury is still out on whether a high-sodium diet is harmful to your health (for those with normal blood pressure), but you should probably limit it anyway until the information becomes clearer. Strive to keep your sodium intake each day to less than 2,400 milligrams, especially if you already have high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, edema or fluid retention problems.

Total carbohydrate - The value listed for total carbohydrate equals: (grams of sugar + grams of fiber + grams of complex carbohydrate (usually not listed). For example, the label states that each serving has 13 grams of carbohydrate. Six of the 13 grams come from the fiber and sugar (3 grams each respectively) in the product. The other 7 grams are from complex carbohydrates.

Dietary fiber - The more the product has, the better. This is especially true for dieters since fiber can keep you feeling full. Strive for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day.

Sugars - Sugars, which are listed in grams, include naturally present sugars, such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruits, and those added to foods, such as table sugar, corn syrup, honey, and dextrose. To get an idea of how much sugar a product contains, remember that a sugar packet is four grams of sugar. Typically, anything on a list of ingredients that ends in "ose" is a sugar source.

Protein - Protein is also listed in grams. The recommended daily allowance for protein is .8 grams per kilogram (kilograms = pounds/2.2). On average, most women need 50-60 grams of protein a day, and men should have 60-70 grams a day. In America, we eat more than enough protein. Most estimates say we actually take in more than twice the recommended amount. Excess protein in the diet above and beyond your daily calorie needs simply means excess calories that get stored as fat.

Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron - These are all important vitamins and minerals, so the more a product contains, the better. Next to these values percentages are listed. These refer to the percent daily value of the vitamin or mineral you get in one serving of the product. If the food provides less than 10% of the daily value for the nutrient, then it is not a good source of that nutrient.

Percent Daily Values - Also known as daily reference values, they are simply recommended guidelines to follow for an average diet. The values are based on the assumption that the average person takes in about 2,000 calories a day. However, your specific daily values can and probably do vary from these figures. Here's what the listed recommended daily values are for someone eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet:

Total fat - Daily value is less than 65 grams a day (or less than 30% of calories)

Saturated fat - Daily value is less than 20 grams a day (or less than 1/3 of total fat intake)

Cholesterol - Daily value is less than 300 milligrams a day

Total carbohydrate - Daily value is 300 grams (or 60% of total calories)

Fiber - Daily value is 25 grams

Sodium - Daily value is 2,400 milligrams
If you refer to the label, next to the total fat content, it states that the percent daily value is 5%. The product provides 3 grams of fat per serving and the daily value recommendation for fat is 65 grams or less. Therefore, you are getting 5% of the daily value for fat in one serving of this product (3 divided by 65 = about 5%). The same mathematics apply when you see percent daily values listed for the other nutrients.

Ingredients. Food ingredients appear in the order of greatest quantity to smallest quantity. You should always take a good look at the food's primary sources of calories. For example, if you see lard or sugar as the first ingredients, chances are the product is probably not very healthy. On the other hand, whole-wheat flour or skim milk listed as the first ingredients may indicate a healthier choice.

More label terminology. The FDA also regulates the following terms. By law if you see these terms listed on a food label, the product must comply with the following criteria:

Free. This term means that a product contains no amount of, or only trivial amounts of, one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories. For example, "calorie-free" means fewer than five calories per serving, and "sugar-free" and "fat-free" both mean less than 0.5 g per serving.

What does "low" mean on a food label?

Low-fat: 3 g or less per serving
Low-saturated fat: 1 g or less per serving
Low-sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
Very low sodium: 35 mg or less per serving
Low-cholesterol: 20 mg of cholesterol or less and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving
Low-calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
Lean and extra lean. These terms describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood, and game meats.
Lean: less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving.
Extra lean: less than 5 g fat, less than 2 g saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving.
High. This term indicates the food contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient per serving.
Good source. This term means that one serving of a food contains 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
Reduced. At least 25% less of a particular nutrient than what you would find in the normal product. For instance, a reduced sodium soup would contain 25% less sodium than the regular soup.
Light. This expression can mean two things:

Contains one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the usual food product. But, if the food derives 50 percent or more of its calories from fat, the food must contain 50 percent less fat.

The sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has 50 percent less salt.

Note: Be wary of certain foods such as "light" olive oil as this simply refers to its color, not to a reduced calorie or fat content.

Dining out - what you can choose when dieting

Eating out can pose a special problem for dieters. High-calorie menu choices can be tempting, portion sizes enormous, and the way the food is prepared is often a mystery. Also, since dining out costs more than eating in, you have the constant temptation to clean your plate in order to feel you get your money's worth. Learning to dine out and still meet your diet goals is critical since dining out of the house is becoming more and more the norm. The following pointers will keep you on track when you eat away from home.

1.   Treat yourself but make food and exercise adjustments

Sometimes dining out can be such a special treat that you don't want to have to worry so much about following your diet for that one meal. If this is the case, be sure to really lighten up earlier in the day or throughout the week, and increase your exercise for the week as well. Creating a balance is important, and being able to fit in treats and special occasions is what it's all about.

2.   Make your eating out selections before your go

Plan ahead - try to have an idea of what's on the menu beforehand. Make your selections before you go. Call ahead and ask the staff how they prepare certain dishes, and whether they honor special requests.

Decide ahead of time what you will and will not have. For instance, if you really want a glass of wine with your dinner, then choose to forego an appetizer or dessert or have only ¾ of your entree. Compromise.

3.   Search for filling, low calorie options as appetizers

Start with a broth-based soup. Soup can really be very filling, and it is generally very low in calories. Spicy foods can also be very filling and trigger satisfaction before non-spicy foods will.

4.   Don't arrive starving hungry - all the planning will go out the window

Don't go to dinner famished. You will be too tempted to forego the way you planned to eat. Have a salad or some high fiber vegetable sticks before you leave.

5.   Be mindful of what a real portion size is, and not a restaurant portion

Mind your portions. Most dining establishments do not serve normal portion sizes. Pay attention to your hunger. Order what you want, but don't gorge yourself. Stop eating when you feel satisfied and comfortable. Ask for a take-home bag for the leftovers.

6.   Eating out is about more than the food

You also pay for someone to clean up after you, serve you, prepare your meal, and provide a pleasant atmosphere. Really enjoy the experience itself, and do not feel that you waste your money if you do not clean your plate or indulge in the free bread or tortilla chips.

7.   Likely high fat/high calorie menu items

Some words or items on a menu are signals that a food is likely high in fat and/or calories such as: fried, alfredo, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, buttery, rich, au gratin, hollandaise, carbonara, peanut sauce, cheesy, bacon, prime rib, stuffed, parmigiana, feast, combo, grande, jumbo, king size, super size, supreme, buffet. If you dine out infrequently, or if your diet is moderately low in fat as a rule, then you can order these things on occasion. In general, if you're going to order a high-calorie, high-fat entree, try to eat only half. Also order a healthy accompaniment as well, such as a vegetable salad with a small amount of oil and vinegar dressing or low-fat dressing.

8.   Likely lighter/low calorie menu items

Some words, on the other hand, connote lower-calorie, lighter selections: steamed, baked, grilled, broiled, poached, fresh, kiddie, petite, appetizer, small, lunch portion, healthy, vegetarian, whole grain, roasted, marinara, wine sauce, broth

9.   Take care when food has sauces/dressings

Use the fork-dip method with sauces and salad dressings. Order your sauces and dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the sauce and then spear your vegetables or the item that goes with the sauce. This way, you still get the flavor of the sauce, but you cut down tremendously on the amount you use.

Next: Activities for Part 7

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