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         Diet Buddy - Monday, September 25, 2006

Hi there Buddies:

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and are enjoying 
what's left of these summer days.  Fall is quickly 
approaching and that means shorter daylight hours and more 
time spent indoors.  We'll also be more inclined to just 
sit back, relax, and watch those "new shows" that are on 
our TV screens, and with all that sitting comes that extra 
weight. This is the perfect time to remember that diet 
plan you've let slip or maybe change gears and start a new 

OK, you've finally motivated yourself enough to start that 
new plan and are off doing some grocery shopping looking 
for just the right type of foods, when you get completely 
confused by what looks like a food label stating inform-
ation you're not quite sure about.

What is a serving size?  Does this contain too many 
calories?  How much fiber are we suppose to consume a day?
What are carbohydrates?  And then there's that dreaded fat 
we're trying to get rid of.  Have you ever wondered what 
all these items really mean and whether we need a special 
class to understand it all?

Not to worry, thanks to these nutrition labels on most food 
packages, it's easy to follow a nutritious diet without 
becoming confused about what they say and mean.  Today 
let's take a look at what those food labels mean and how 
they can make a difference in the various types of foods 
we choose to purchase at the store. 

"The key to healthful and enjoyable eating is to make 
informed food choices that are right for you, and labels 
can help you do that, says Bettye Nowlin, R.D.., a spokes-
woman for the American Diabetic Association.  The 
simplified lables highlight the information most consumers 
require when assessing a food product.

Reading food labels can improve your diet by helping you 
make more sensible food choices at the grocery store.  You 
can also buy with confidence knowing that foods claiming 
to be low in cholesterol or fat have met standards set by 
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What to look for:

*  Serving size

*  Total carbohydrate

*  Dietary fiber

*  Calories

*  Total fat

*  Saturated fat

Always check the serving size first: the information on 
the label refers to this specific serving size but your 
packages may have more than one serving.  If you eat more 
or less than the specified serving, you need to adjust the 

For example, the serving size for spaghetti is usually 2 
ounces (1 cup).  If you, like many people, eat 2 cups at a 
meal, you have to count this as two servings.  This not 
only affects total calories, but also the grams of 
carbohydrate and fat that you just ate.

Check the total carbohydrate next.  It is listed in bold 
letters that stand out.  If you are counting carbohydrate 
grams, count this amount against your goal for your meal 
or snack.

Sugar, other carbohydrates, and dietary fiber are part of 
the total carbohydrate listed on the label.  Since 
carbohydrates turn into sugar, the total grams of 
carbohydrate affect your blood glucose not only the grams 
of sugar in the particular food item.

Dietary fiber is listed just below total carbohydrates.  
Look for whole-grain foods that are high in fiber.  In 
addition to checking for the word "whole" in the 
ingredients, also look for at least 3 to 4 grams of 
dietary fiber.

The calorie information tells you the number of calories 
in one serving.  Adjust the number of calories if you eat 
smaller or larger servings.

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Check the total fat in one serving.  Pay particular 
attention to the amount of saturated fat in one serving.  
Choose foods that are low in saturated fat.

For example, drink skim milk rather than whole milk.  The 
former only has a trace of saturated fat while whole milk 
has 5 grams of saturated fat per serving.  Similarily, 3 
ounces of fish has less than 1 gram of saturated fat while 
3 ounces of hamburger has more than 5 grams.

It is important to know that if a food item has less than 
0.5 mg of saturated fat, the manufacturer is allowed to 
say that there is no saturated fat.  This is especially 
important to know if you are eating more than one serving 
at a time because you may be getting a lot more saturated 
fat than you realize.

For example, if you eat two servings of a food item that 
says "0.0 mg of saturated fat," you may be eating as much 
as 0.8 mg of saturated fat.

As of January 2006, the Food and Drug Administration will 
require that trans fats in a food are listed on the food 
labels.  Trans fats are a type of fat created from a 
process called hydrogenation in which liquid oils are 
transformed into solid fats.  These fats raise the LDL-
cholesterol (bad) and lower the HDL-cholesterol (good).  
They are mostly found in processed foods like snack foods 
and desserts. 

When they are included on the label, trans fats will be 
listed under total fat.  Trans fats are measured in grams.  
Look for foods that are low in trans fats (1 gram or less).

The % Daily Value is listed on the label as a guide. These 
values are based on a 2000-calorie diet with precentages 
for calories, fat, carbohydrates and saturated fat. 

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Helpful Tips to keep in mind: by Amanda Ursell, Nutritionist

-  Always check the number of servings in a pack.  
   Fat and other nutrients are given per serving.  You need 
   to know how many servings there are in a product to 
   gauge how many calories for example, you are getting in 
   total.  An individually wrapped muffin may have 100 
   calories per serving, which sounds good.  On closer 
   inspection the muffin could however be supplying 4 
   servings, which means that if you eat the whole thing, 
   you are eating 400 calories in total.

-  Don't rely on nutrition claims such as "low fat" to tell 
   you the whole story about the product.  Look at the 
   whole picture by checking the nutrition facts box and 
   ingredients list.  A "low fat" cookie can still be high 
   in sugar and have plenty of calories.

-  Be aware that labels are like mini-advertisements for 
   the food or drink.  While they have to be legal and 
   honest, they are there to persuade you to buy them and 
   can be confusing.  If you are in any doubt whether a 
   product is good for you, leave it on the shelf.

-  Don't be swayed by terms like 'naturally better' or 
   'nature's way.'  Take a step back, because they don't 
   really mean anything.  Concentrate on the facts (which 
   appear in the nutrition facts panel) rather than wooly, 
   meaningless hype.

-  Try not to be influenced by cozy pictures, bright 
   colors and funky names on labels.  They can really 
   press your emotional buttons and end up in your cart 
   because they look good.  NOT because they are good.

Learning to read labels takes some time, but can be a 
very beneficial tool regarding your food choices that you 
take home.  Next time you're at your favorite store take 
the time to turn that box of cookies around and see just 
how good they really are for you, and your diet.

Did You Know ???

That reading labels lets you know what ingredients you're 
actually paying for in a package.  The first ingredient 
listed is the one which occurs in the greatest amount and 
the last ingredient will contain the least amount.

Have a great week everyone !!!

Have any suggestions for a Diet Buddy topic? Let me know.
E-mail me at bottom link or stop by our new Diet Buddy 
Forum to discuss your personal diet stories at:

Disclaimer:  Since I am not a medical professional any 
statements in this column are strictly based on research I 
have done and should not be misconstrued as medical advice.

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