For a long time I would just look up the foods I wanted to eat in a little guide that was provided for me. It was really helpful because I could choose the foods that were deemed "healthy" and I knew that I was making a good choice without having to do much thinking. These types of resources can be very helpful in the intial stages of weight loss, as nutrition can be a very overwhelming science to tackle.
However, without understanding the reasoning behind my healthy choices, I was doing myself no favors. It's kind of like a phenomenon I have discovered with my children. If I just tell them to do something without any explanation as to why, they have a hard time being motivated to do it. But when I explain the WHY (And yes, I am fully aware that I am not obligated to explain the why to my kids! Lol!) behind what I am asking them to do, they are usually much more willing to cooperate.
Becoming educated on the "why" of the foods we should be consuming is not only our responsibility, but it puts us in a position of control rather than one of just following rules because some book "says so." There is a certain freedom in that.
Okay, enough teacher/preacher talk. Grab something with a NFP on it (so you can follow along)and settle in. Here are some practical and easy-to-understand tips for making the most of the NFP :
- Look for items with fewest ingredients and ingredients you can pronounce!
- Look for key words: whole-wheat flour, soy and oats, oil, canola, peanut oil
- Avoid key word: Hydrogenated
- Be aware of the number of servings in a particular food. Sometimes foods come two servings to a single package. Pop Tarts and Little Debbie snacks are examples of this--just avoid those all together though. Cans of tuna and canned fruit are a couple of examples that may trick you.
- Divide the "Calories from Fat" by the total "Calories" and multiply that number by 100. This is the Percentage of Calories from Fat. For the most part you will want this number to be 35% or less. For the most part.
- Compare the calories per serving to the nutrients they offer. Choose the most nutrient-dense foods you can.
- Remember two important percentages: 5% and 20%. 5% is considered low and 20% is considered high.
- For the "good" nutrients (fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron) you want to see the number be 20% or higher.
- For the "not so good" nutrients (fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium) you want to see the number be 5% or lower.
- There are up to 4 subcategories under "Total Fat"
- 20% to 35% of your diet should come from healthy fats (mono-, polyunsaturated)
- Just because a food is labeled "low-fat", "reduced-fat", or "light" does not automatically make it healthy. Check the over-all nutrition of the item by analyzing the NFP. Sugar and calories are often higher in such products.
- Saturated fats are one of the "not so good" nutrients you want to be 5% DV or less in a product. Saturated fat is one of the worst things for your health and it adds up fast. Be AWARE.
- Trans Fat: "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" are RED ALERT words. Do not consume.
- Our body makes enough cholesterol on its own; you don't need more than 300 mg per day.
- Cholesterol is found in organs (which are low-fat, incidentally), meats, poultry, dairy, shellfish, egg yolks
- Foods of Plant origin (read: VEGETABLES!!) contain no cholesterol. Eat in abundance.
- High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and hypertension
- Look for key words: "low sodium" or "sodium free"
- Another nutrient to look for 5%DV or less
- Fiber lowers cholesterol, keeps your gut happy and fills you up!
- Daily goal fiber intake is 21g to 38g
- Whole grains are an awesome choice for fiber.
- Fruits and vegetables also provide a great source of fiber. If you are cutting back on your grains, make sure to up your fruits and/or veggies!
- Added sugars (brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, maltose, sucrose, sugar, or syrup...to name a few) = EMPTY CALORIES. Avoid these.
- Goal is to consume 100% of each of the vitamin and mineral nutrients daily
- By selecting a variety of nutrient-dense foods, you can achieve the proper intake of most vitamins and minerals without needing supplements