March 29, 2017

How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label

From childhood to adulthood and every stage in between, good nutrition is important. Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain your health, strength, and even reduce the risk of certain diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Jacques Mamigonian, MD, primary care physician at CHI St. Joseph Health in South College Station. While many people recognize the importance of making healthy food choices, nutrition can seem complicated – especially at the grocery store. Having hundreds of food options can make the decision process overwhelming. Luckily, learning how to read the FDA’s Nutrition Facts Label can help you make fast, informed decisions about what foods are right for you and your family.

Focus on the Key Nutritional Elements

All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. feature a Nutrition Facts Label. Each label lists a variety of information, including serving size, calories, grams of fat, ingredients, nutrients, and the approximate daily value (%DV) for each nutrient based on a 2,000-calorie diet. To make quick decisions when choosing between food options, focus on reading the following sections of a nutrition label.

  1. Scan Serving Size

First look to see how big one serving is, and then look at how many servings are in the package. All the nutrition information listed on the label is based on one serving size, which will be listed in a familiar measurement, e.g., pieces or cups. With every food item, ask yourself, “How many servings would I consume in one sitting?” Eating two servings will double the calories and nutrients. Eating three will triple the calories and nutrients, and so on.

Label Reading Tip: Individual packages often contain more than one serving, even small items like a bag of chips or bottle of soda. Before you buy, multiply the nutritional values by a realistic portion for you.

  1. Check Calories

A calorie is a unit of measure for how much energy you will get from one serving of food. Check both the calories and calories from fat on the Nutrition Facts Label. This section is important for weight management, as there is a link between consuming too many calories and obesity. If you eat and drink more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

Use the FDA’s General Guide to Calories:

Calories per Serving Calorie Level
40 Low
100 Moderate
400 or more High


Label Reading Tip:
When reading labels at the store, aim for balance when it comes to calories. If you buy a high-calorie food, balance it by selecting other items that are lower in calories.

  1. Know Your Nutrients

All nutrients are not created equal. You should limit some nutrients and make sure you are getting enough of others. For example, consuming too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium is tied to an increased risk of some chronic diseases. When looking at labels, look for foods with lower levels of these nutrients.
On the other hand, nutrients like dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron may reduce the risk of some diseases. Choose food options rich in these nutrients to ensure you are getting enough.

Label Reading Tip: When comparing between two different brands of similar products, use the nutrients as a benchmark for decision making. For example, opt for the item with lower sodium or higher fiber.

Eat Healthy, Live Healthy

Though nutrition can seem complicated, the Nutrition Facts Label is a tool to help you better understand the nutritional value of packaged food. Scan each label for the serving size, calories, and nutrients. For ideas on healthy meals, see our Healthy Recipes Pinterest board. If you are interested in a dietary consultation or a personalized nutrition plan, make an appointment today with a CHI St. Joseph Health primary care physician. If you are looking to lose weight, check out the HMR Program, offered at CHI St. Joseph Health.

Sources:

FDA – How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Label

 

January 31, 2017

Diet-Friendly Menu Ideas for the Big Game

Hosting a party for the big game may seem stressful when trying to maintain a healthy diet; however, serving foods that taste good and make you feel good is possible. Follow these party menu tips to help simplify healthy eating.

Minimize the calories while maximizing the health benefits.

By serving veggies rather than cheeses, you can cut a ton of unwanted calories. Include vegetables like celery, which has high water content and is great for your skin. Rather than going with a ranch dip, try something healthier, like a low-fat yogurt dip or hummus.

Prepare individual servings.

Portioning snacks not only helps with portion control, it also helps reduce the spread of germs! Try making convenient and easy hummus and veggie cups; it’s easier to follow a serving size when you don’t have the entire container of dip sitting in front of you. Slice carrots, celery and other veggies into spears and place them in a small plastic cup vertically with a single serving of hummus at the bottom. Yum!

Find more fun game day recipes on our Pinterest board!

Have a tasty alternative to alcoholic beverages.

Not only are alcoholic beverages high in calories, they’re also harmful to your body when consumed excessively. Consider serving a beverage that doesn’t contain any alcohol but is still appealing to people, like a fruit punch made with freshly squeezed juices.

Practice safe and healthy food preparation.

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and often. The surfaces on which you prepare your food are also prone to harbor unwanted germs, so wash the cutting boards and other surfaces frequently to avoid cross-contamination. Be sure to cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate promptly after preparation.

Use your doctor as a resource.

The HMR weight management program available at CHI St. Joseph Health focuses on making healthier food choices and consuming more fruits and vegetables as well as increasing physical activity. Your physician can give you healthy eating tips that may work for your particular diet.

Learn more about the HMR weight management program. To make an appointment with your primary care physician, visit SJapptasap.org.

Sources:

CDC – How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight

CDC – Holiday Food Safety Twitter Chat

CDC – Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking

 

January 25, 2017

MatureWell: Medication Management Tips

Adults 65 and older account for over 177,000 emergency room visits due to medication-related problems every year. They are twice as likely as the younger population to experience these complications and are seven times more likely to be hospitalized because of them. That’s why it’s important for maturing adults to manage their medications diligently.

Use your physician and pharmacist as resources.

Ask your physician or pharmacist any questions you may have regarding your prescriptions. Feel free to ask them to write down specific instructions. “You can request larger bottles with larger labels from your pharmacist for easier reading,” said Leena Kodali, M.D., medical director for the MatureWell Lifestyle Center. Make sure to review all the medicines you take with each of your doctors at every appointment, and don’t stop taking prescriptions until your doctor says you can, even if you feel better.

Create a list and set up a system.

Keep a few copies of your medication list at home and on yourself just in case. Record the name of the prescription, how much to take, how often to take it, and how it should be taken, whether it needs to be taken with food, chewed or swallowed whole, etc. Set alarms to remind yourself to take each medication, and check it off your list after taking. A pill organizer may be helpful in keeping track of your doses.

Properly store your medications.

Store each medication in its proper location away from children and pets. This may be in the refrigerator or a cool, dry area. Never store them in the bathroom cabinet; showers often create a warm, humid environment that can break down medications. Keep prescriptions separate in their original bottles or use a pill organizer. Be sure to keep the original bottles and instructions on hand if you decide to use an organizer.

In the event of an overdose, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

The CHI St. Joseph Health MatureWell Lifestyle Center, in collaboration with Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, is a new concept that focuses on the health and wellness of adults 55 and older.

Sources:

CDC – Adults and Older Adult Adverse Drug Events

NIH Senior Health – Managing Your Medicines

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