Food Labels: Fat, Cholesterol, Calories, and Sugar

  • Food labels are the “nutrition facts”, or the content of what is in our foods, broken down into categories of fats, calories, sugar, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals are the most common.
  • The reason that it is so important to know this information is so that we are able to monitor what goes into our bodies.

Calories

Calories are typically the first item that is represented on a food label. The calories listed are based on a single serving and explain the amount of caloric energy. When you consume more calories than your body needs, it is stored in fat.


Protein

These are the building blocks of the body. They are made of many chains of Amino Acids. Essential Amino Acids must be supplied in the foods we eat because our bodies do not naturally produce them. If more than enough protein is consumed, then it is just excreted through the urine

Amino acids are the building blocks of our body, and protein is a crucial component of any balanced diet. Protein contributes to a feeling of fullness during mealtime and helps to repair tissue and muscle (after exercise, for example). It is needed to help the body refuel and repair itself after exercise.


Carbohydrates

A carbohydrate is a broad category and includes anything from bread products to fruit and vegetables, and is the body’s main source for energy. Carbohydrates are good, and necessary for energy, however, if eaten in excess, can lead to obesity.There are two types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple Carbohydrates

    • Fruit, cookies, and candy, or other sugary foods.
    • These are used for quick energy
  • Complex Carbohydrates

    • Vegetables, potatoes, rice, and pasta
    • Take longer to digest and give out energy slower.

Cholesterol

This is a waxy, fat-like substance. Your liver can make all the cholesterol that you need, so it doesn’t even need to be a part of your diet. Extra calories can build up in your arteries (the tunnel for blood flow) and can result in heart failure and disease.


Sodium

This is found in table salt and is usually used to preserve foods (such as canned food). Sodium helps to maintain water balance in your body. However, too much salt can lead to Hypertension and High Blood Pressure.


Fat

Fat is an essential nutrient needed in your diet. Fats are responsible for storing energy in your body, although, fat is only needed in small amounts. Fat helps to protect and cushion your bones and organs. However, eating too much fat can lead to a stroke or heart attack.There are three types of fats:

  • Saturated fat (raises the LDL – low density lipids = “bad” cholesterol)

    • Triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids
    • Solid at room temperature
    • Examples include:
      • Coconut oil, butter, ground beef, cashew nuts, and soybean oil.
  • Unsaturated fat (raises the HDL – high density lipids = “good” cholesterol)

    • A fatty acid with at least one double bond
    • Liquid at room temperature
    • Polyunsaturated (many bonds) and monounsaturated (one single bond)
    • Examples include:
      • Fish, as well as shellfish, whole grain wheat, natural peanut butter, walnuts, avocados, sesame and sunflower seeds, and flax seed.
  • Trans fats (significantly raises LDL levels in the blood; to the point of being harmful to normal blood flow)

    • Contains one or more double bond and is formed through a process called hydrogenation. This chemically allows hydrogen into the bond.
    • Solid at room temperature
    • Choose items that are “0g Trans fats”, and do not eat them often.
    • Examples include:
      • Crisco, French fries, doughnuts, cookies, some muffins, pies, and cakes.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

The reason that breakfast is so important is not just because someone said so. Eating within an hour of waking up in the morning will jump-start your metabolism, and get you going for the rest of the day. It also prepares you for the other meals that you will consume later on, such as snack, lunch and dinner. So, turn off the alarm, get up and get your morning fix!

  • Even though morning may leave you sprinting for the door, take the time to eat a well-balanced breakfast, which can help you make healthier snacking choices throughout the day.
  • If you have time, eat a balanced breakfast at home before leaving for work, or the office.
  • If you tend to sleep in and skip breakfast, keep some healthy items in the office instead of stopping for a doughnut or fast-food sandwich.
  • Foods like instant oatmeal with walnuts and fruit, peanut butter on whole wheat toast, or cottage cheese and fruit are easy to store and easy to prepare.
  • Think fiber and protein – something that will keep you full for longer.

Sensible Snacking

Junk-food Fix-in’s

  • Look for chips and crackers that are baked, not fried, to limit fat. Also try to find whole grain chips for increased fiber.
  • If you’re deciding between two types of snack chips, look for those with nutritional advantages such as chips made with heart-healthier oils like sunflower and olive oil. These are high in the good, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Plan Ahead

  • Preparation is the key to healthy workplace snacking and integral to making successful food choices.
  • You know you are going to get hungry, so plan for it.
  • Pack a snack even if you aren’t already packing your lunch.
  • We can get into trouble when we wait to look for something to eat when we’re already hungry.

Sweets are not so sweet

Occasionally, sugar treats are fine, but be mindful not to indulge on a regular basis. Sugar and other sweeteners are loaded with calories and contribute to tooth decay as well as offer no real nutritional value.


Eat your veggies

Eating a variety of vegetables is a great way to boost your nutritional status. Enjoy all of them, but focus on those with a dark, rich color, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.


Fruit is a natural sweet treat

Unlike processed sweets, fruit is nature’s way of satisfying your sweet tooth in a healthy, wholesome way. Enjoy fresh, frozen or dried fruits on a daily basis. Be sure to avoid those that have added sugars.


Eating a Balanced Diet

A successful weight loss journey requires some basic knowledge about food and how to plan our eating activities.  Understanding the basics of food will help you make the right choice for what to eat and drink and what to avoid. 

A balanced diet is eating a variety of foods with a variety of colors, making sure to eat from every category of food from the food guide pyramid.

 

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