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November 2, 2012

In the adventure of eating local foods I have found I have greatly decreased processed foods from my diet. While preparing whole foods for meals takes more time in the kitchen, it takes less time at the grocery store.

I avoid reading in the supermarket aisles.

I’m not talking about the magazines……..I’m talking about labels!

The Nutrition Facts label, required by the Food and Drug Administration on most packaged foods and beverages, provides detailed information about a food’s nutrient content, such as the amount of fat, sodium and fiber it has.

Knowing how to read food labels is especially important if you have health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and need to follow a special diet. It also makes it easier to compare similar foods to see which is a healthier choice. The more practice you get reading food labels, the better you can become in using them as a tool to plan your healthy, balanced diet.

Sample Label for Macaroni & Cheese
 #1. Start Here with the serving size. Title and Serving Size Information section of label, with number of servings.
 #2. Calories from Fat. Calorie section of label, showing number of calories per serving and calories from fat.
 #3. Limit These Nutrients: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Total Fat, Saturated Fat Cholesterol, Sodium with Total Carbohydrate section of label, with quantities and % daily values.  #6. Quick Guide to %DV.
 #4. Get Enough of These Nutrients: Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. Remaining Carbohydrates, including Dietary Fiber and Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron section of label with % daily values, and quantities for fiber, sugar and protein. #6. Quick Guide to %DV: 5% or less is Low / 20% or more is High.
 #5. The Footnote, or Lower part of the Nutrition Facts Label. Footnote section of label, indicating quantities of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, and dietary fiber for 2000 and 2500 calorie diets.

image of circle 1 The Serving Size: Knowing the amount of food that is healthy for you is the first step. The nutritional information given on the label is based on this portion size.

Circle 2 Calories (and Calories from Fat): Calories is a way to analyze the amount of energy a food provides. The issue about obesity is not only that we are consuming too much food, but we are not using the energy it provides, so it converts to fat. If we moved more, exercised more, the food we consume is used more efficiently.

circle 3circle 4 The Nutrients: How Much?: Basically, the label provides information about the unhealthy part of the food being described and its healthy component.

circle 5 Understanding the Footnote on the Bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label: This area provides information regarding the amount of average daily nutrition the food provides.

circle 6 The Percent Daily Value (%DV): This percentage tells you how much of your nutritional needs are provided, based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet.  Like most people, you may not know how many calories you consume in a day. But you can still use the %DV as a frame of reference whether or not you consume more or less than 2,000 calories.

This information has been provided by the FDA and more information is available here.

Comparing the preparation of a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and a homemade recipe is interesting. Being able to chose and control the components of the recipe is a big factor to nutritional health.  Here is the nutritional comparison:
One piece of information that is not currently offered but is up for a vote Tuesday in California’s Proposition 37 is if the food contains any genetically modified organisms. Part of much of our food since the mid 1990s, increasing health concerns have resulted in a fierce battle about adding the presence of GMOs to the Food Nutrition Label. It has been a pretty epic David versus Goliath battle with concerned consumers and farm advocate groups, some food manufacturers and health organizations against the major corporations that develop the GMO seeds and the food corporations who manufacture products using those crops. While Tuesday’s decision will essentially affect only food sold in California, it is presumed that because the market there is so large, manufacturers will end up labeling nationally.

Personally, I hope it passes. It is one more piece of information that will help me decide to include a food item sold in the supermarket on my family’s table. Until then, and even after, whole foods will continue to have a growing role in the food we put into our bodies.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2012 8:06 am

    Great post! The idea of being self sufficient starts with the basics. Learn how to cook from scratch, learn how to preserve by dehydration, canning and freezing then tell others how to do it!

    • November 3, 2012 5:45 am

      I am beginning to think the hardest hurdle is to get people to make that switch to cooking from fast food or microwaving their dinners. If they would start with one or two suppers a week, they would start to feel better and have more energy. When someone said they had no time to cook I asked if they watched tv the rest of the night and they shamefully said yes…everyone who sits on the couch watching tv for hours can take 30 minutes to prepare a better meal. But I know I’m singing to the choir here.

      • November 3, 2012 8:01 am

        Amen! Ha ha! You’re right. My sons have all started cooking at home now and call to tell me what they’re making. Jacob has bad kidneys so has to be carefdull what he eats. He used to eat out all the time but now is doing the at home veggy thing. My son who lives near me here in florida does all the cooking now. He’s a real redneck, he even cooked up a bobcat that he had to shoot when it got into his chicken coop. He would fit in perfectly in the hills of WV. He’s very self sufficient.

  2. November 2, 2012 2:00 pm

    It’s amazing how little I buy at the super market these days. Except for paper towels and toilet paper, I generally avoid most of the aisles in the middle (where the cereals and other processed foods are).

    • November 3, 2012 5:43 am

      I understand fully…I shop at the Wild Ramp Market and then head over to the supermarket to pick up toiletries and household items.

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