But Is This Healthy?
Fat grams, sugar grams, and dietary fiber – oh my!
Read on if you’ve ever felt foggy and more confused after picking up a package at the grocery store, while asking yourself, but is this product healthy or not?
Here are some top tips you can use to understand the facts and determine with greater and greater ease whether you have a healthy pick in your hands.
Never Trust the Front of a Package:
For one, the front of a box is not there to give you the facts. The front of a package is there for marketing the product. It’s meant to stand out and make a product seem enticing to us as consumers. It is a selling tool and essentially, an advertisement.
For a number of products, part of its function is aimed at getting you thinking, “Mmm, that looks delicious, and maybe it is good for me too?”
If a product looks appealing and you are considering it as an option, once you pick it up, make sure to turn the product over to check out the nutrition facts on the back.
Here’s what you will find that’s important.
Read the Nutrition Facts Labels:
Determine Calories from Fat:
The goal, for a product to be considered healthy, is for the calories from fat to not exceed 20% of the total calories.
This determination comes from factoring in the recommended fat intake from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR).
How do we figure out how many calories come from fat when looking at the nutrition facts?
This involves a little math, and as you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier.
To determine this number, multiply the “Total Fat” grams by 9 (or 10 to round up and make it even easier). The reason is, there are about 9 calories in 1 gram of fat. We convert fat grams to calories so we can compare the fat calories to the total calories. We want to compare calories to calories, so we need to convert the grams to calories.
Once we know the fat calories we can compare that number to the total calories on the label.
Let’s use the Nutrition Facts picture below to see this in action. Take the 12 grams of fat in the picture and multiple that by 10 (calories per 1 gram), giving us 120 calories from fat. This step converts “grams” into “calories” which allows us to compare it to the total calories.
Now we want to compare calories from fat (the 120 we just calculated) to the total “Calories” of 250 so we can know what percentage of this food is coming from fat.
Divide calories from fat (120) / into total calories (250), for this example. This equals .48 (or 48%). This product has about 50% of its calories coming from fat calories.
So, this item does not look like the healthiest choice.
But, that’s not all we want to look at, so let’s review two more important parts of the label.
Know the Sodium Content:
For sodium, the goal is a 1:1 ratio of calories to sodium (if there are 125 calories per serving, the amount of sodium should not exceed 125mg of sodium. Most soups, pasta sauces, and canned goods have three to ten times more mgs. of a sodium to calorie ratio.
In this item pictured above, the calories are 250 and the sodium is 210mg. In terms of sodium, this product is considered within range.
Now, let’s pop out of the nutrition facts, down to the ingredient list so we can find out what is actually in this food in terms of actual ingredients.
Review the Ingredient List:
Probably the easiest (and certainly the part with no math involved!) is reviewing the actual ingredients in the item.
You want to see foods you can identify as whole foods. This means foods that are closest to their original whole food source. Think about the difference between an apple, versus applesauce, versus apple juice. Or olives versus olive oil.
And ask: Can I recognize this ingredient as a food?
Here are some specific details to look for:
Look for Unprocessed Grains: You want to see words like: “rolled,” “whole,” “cracked,” or “stone ground” before the word “wheat”. This indicates that you will be eating more of a whole grain.
Hidden Sugars: Words like “cane,” “juice,” “molasses,” “syrup,” “barley malt,” “nectar,” “fructose” and other words that end in “-ose” are all hidden words for sugar additives. You want to see as few of these as possible. The higher the item is on the list, the larger the amount of it in the product.
Oils: Oils are 100% fat and many processed foods have not just one, but multiple oils. If you find oils listed, especially towards the top of the list, consider finding an alternative.
Take these guidelines with you on your next trip to the grocery store as you are walking down the aisles and see if it makes it easier to fill up your cart with healthy foods. The ideal is that all three of these are within the suggested ranges, but even starting to familiarize yourself with what is available and compare packages can go a long way over time towards helping your find healthy alternatives.
Of course, if you want a sure bet you are making healthy choices, start in produce! Add to your cart all the delicious foods with no labels including fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains (like rice, oatmeal, and quinoa) and starchy veggies (like potatoes and yams).
Would you like some additional support? You are not alone, and change takes time! It’s a practice and often it can be of great benefit to reach out for support from a coach, friend, or mentor.
If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support. Give us a call.
If you are Whole Health Plan member and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.
You can explore our website to learn more about us as well. https://www.wfmmedical.com/