Posts tagged reading food labels

The Dangers of Food Labels and FitBits

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Food labels can be extremely helpful as a guide to help you be more conscious of what you are putting into your body. But a study I read recently hinted they are not that great for calorie counting.

 

The study (the very fancily titled, "The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy, commercially prepared foods") found that certain foods had 8% more calories than the label said. The worst offenders were restaurants that had 18% more calories than reported.

 

FitBits, like reading food labels, are awesome. They really do motivate people to move more. Many a night my wife has held up bed time because she is marching in place while brushing her teeth to get to the elusive 10,000th step.

 

But they are not as accurate when it comes to calorie burn. Studies show that FitBits overestimate calorie burn by 10-15%.

 

Both of these seem like marginal percentages, but if you are trying to track your calories it can make a big difference. If your caloric intake is 15% off and you think you are burning 15% (FYI-Treadmills and ellipticals are not accurate either on calorie burn) more than you think, that could be a reason you are not losing weight.

 

Let's say you are on a 2000 calorie plan. You have tracked every little thing accurately, but the 15% food label difference adds 300 calories to your day. You workout and instead of burning 600 calories, you and up burning 500 instead. You have an extra 400 calories per day right there.

 

An extra 400 calories a day will add 41.7 pounds of fat to your body per year. This is a bit of an extreme example, but my main point is that accurately tracking calories consumed and calories burned is tough with a dietitian's help.

 

So what is the solution? I will cover that in my next blog.

4 Things to look for on food labels

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You will hear a lot of people (myself included) talk about the importance of reading your food labels. But what exactly are you supposed to be reading?

 

I suggest you look at 4 main things:

 

1. Serving per container

The label has servings per serving, not always what is in the whole container. For example, if you get a can of chicken and rice soup that is around 10 oz, once you add the water it is considered 2.5 servings.

The worst part is the salt in those things. One serving has 34% of the recommended amount of salt you're supposed to have in a day. A whole day! So if you eat that can of soup you just ate 85% of your daily salt intake.

Look at the amount of calories and sugar in a bottle of Mt. Dew some time, it's crazy.

Mountain-Dew-Mega-Mouth-Can

2. Don't be fooled by names

All Natural means absolutely thing nutritional wise and anything that says all natural is not regulated by the FDA. Organic actually means something, all natural does not. How about Multigrain, Enriched, 7 Grain, or Nutrigrain? Also nothing.

Real, whole foods do not need things added it is already in there. Eggo Nutri-grain pancakes say they are made with whole wheat and whole grain, but if you look at the ingredients it is mainly made of white flour and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Have you ever given your child Gerber Graduates Fruit Juice Snacks? My son loved these things as a kid, now I know why. They are made of HFCS and sugar. Whoops.

gerbers

3. The first shall make you fat

The ingredients are listed from the most to the least amount. So if nothing else look at the first three ingredients. If it has something you are trying to avoid it will be right there.

Something tricky that food manufacturers (usually the cereal makers) do is combine all the grains that are included together as one, so sugar won't be the first ingredient. Look at your cereal and if it has something like grains(corn, wheat, oats) sugar is usually the very next thing.

On a side note in case you are curious what a gram of sugar looks like. 4-5 grams of sugar is equal to one level teaspoon of sugar.

 

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4. Other names for sugar When you see -ose it means sugar. Maltose, dextrose, sucrose are all sugars. Or corn syrup, HFCS, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup also are all sugar.

Compare plain yogurt to fruit yogurt. Plain has 10 grams of sugar, while fruit has 44 grams (about 10 teaspoons!) of sugar. The 10 grams in the plain comes from the naturally occurring lactose that is in milk.

The main thing to take home is that you should always know what you are putting into your body. And if you are a parent it is double important to know what you're putting in your kids' bodies. Learn from my mistakes.

At the very least, give the foods you are eating a quick glance and you it will be an eye opening experience for you. You may dislike me now because I ruined some of your favorite foods, but you will be much healthier in the long run.

For parents of teenagers

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If you are a parent of a teenager, first of all my condolences for what you are going through. I coached middle school football for 7 years and it was a very unique experience.

Mood swings, hormone changes, breaking down in tears at strange times. It actually did a great job of preparing me for what I'm doing now. Kidding! But not really...

I'm joking around, but if you have a teenager there is something serious you need to know. If your teen is overweight now, there is a good chance he or she will become overweight for the rest of their life.

Studies have shown that overweight teens have a 50-80% greater chance of becoming overweight adults.

It makes sense if you start thinking about why most teens are overweight. They have developed poor nutrition and exercise habits over the years and they take those habits into adulthood.

It is your job as a parent to prepare your child for life and that includes teaching them how to lead a healthy lifestyle. You can't do that, if you aren't living it yourself.

I know you would do anything for your children. So this is your chance to give your child something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

-Teach them about reading food labels.

-Let them know the dangers of processed food, fast food, and sodas.

-Help them find active hobbies that they enjoy.

-Teach them how to cook and prepare healthy, delicious meals on a budget for when they leave your house (hopefully).

-Help them discover that exercise is not confined to a treadmill and weight machines.

There are a hundred things you can teach them, but the main thing is to teach them something! If you don't know these things, there is no better way to learn than teaching.

Educate yourself or get help, but make sure you do something because this is a very important topic that is often overlooked. Today is always the right day to start and now is always the right time.

PS-if you have younger kids, it is never too early to start teaching them.

4 Ways To Read Food Labels

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Your first test to see if you read food labels.

You may be thinking "Other than left to right, what other way is there to read?" I commend your wise acreness, but you need to pay attention. An easy way to start getting healthier is reading food labels. What you might think is healthy, is not always the case. Here are four tips on reading food labels. Serving per container The label has servings per serving, not always what is in the whole container. Like if you get a can of chicken and rice soup that is around 10 oz, once you add the water it is considered 2.5 servings. The worst part is the salt in those things. One serving has 34% of the recommended amount of salt you're supposed to have in a day. A whole day! So if you eat that can of soup you just ate 85% of your daily salt intake. Look at the amount of calories and sugar in a bottle of Mt. Dew some time, it's crazy. Don't be fooled by names All Natural means absolutely thing nutritional wise and anything that says all natural is not regulated by the FDA. Organic actually means something, all natural does not. How about Multigrain Enriched, 7 Grain, or Nutrigrain? Also nothing.Real, whole foods do not need things added it is already in there. Eggo Nutri-grain pancakes say they are made with whole wheat and whole grain, but if you look at the ingredients it is mainly made of white flour (those bad white carbs) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). How about for the little guys? Gerber Graduates Fruit Juice Snacks. My son loved these things as a kid, now I know why. They are made of HFCS and sugar. Whoops. The first shall make you fat The ingredients are listed from the most to the least amount. So if nothing else look at the first three ingredients. If it has something you are trying to avoid it will be right there. Something tricky that food manufacturers (usually the cereal makers) do is combine all the grains that are included together as one so sugar won't be the first ingredient. Look at your cereal and if it has something like grains(corn, wheat, oats) sugar is usually the very next thing. On a side note in case you are curious how much these grams of sugar actually are. 4-5 grams of sugar is equal to one level teaspoon of sugar. Other names for sugar When you see -ose is means sugar. Maltose, dextrose, sucrose are all sugars. Or corn syrup, HFCS, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup also are all sugar. Compare plain yogurt to fruit yogurt. Plain has 10 grams of sugar, while fruit has 44 grams (about 10 teaspoons!) of sugar. The 10 grams in the plain comes from the naturally occurring lactose that is in milk. The main thing to take home is that you should always know what you are putting into your body and if you are a parent it is double important to know what you're putting in your kids' bodies. If you don't want to delve into all this, at the very least look at the calories you are taking in.
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