Nutrition Labels

Reading nutrition labels is yet another key to healthy eating. Hence the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) requires that all food packages contain a standard listing known as Nutrition Facts, providing the following information:

  • Serving size
  • Number of servings in each package
  • Number of calories per serving (including how many calories from fat)
  • Quantities (in grams or milligrams) for each nutrient (fats, carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals) contained in one serving
  • Recommended daily values for fats, cholesterol, and sodium (maximum intakes) and for carbohydrates and dietary fiber (minimum intakes)

Once we know the serving sizes and how many we should have each day, we just need to read some labels and compare products and brands to see our best choices for getting a balanced boomer diet.

Key Points in Reading Nutrition Labels

  • Compare the serving size of the product to the quantity you would normally consume. For example, if you were to eat two servings of the product shown above, you would consume double the quantities of everything listed on the label, i.e., 500 calories (220 calories from fat), 24 grams of fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of sugars and 10 grams of protein (double each of the % Daily Values as well).
  • Based on a diet of 2000 calories/day, 40 calories would be considered low, 100 calories would be moderate and 400 calories or more would be high.
  • Limit total fat intake to 20-35% of total calories per day (can approach 35% if most are “good” fats, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils containing polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids; lean, low-fat or fat-free meats, poultry, dry beans and dairy products are preferable).
  • Limit the intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of calories consumed per day.
  • Avoid trans fatty acids found in fried foods, commercial baked goods (such as donuts, cookies and crackers), in processed foods, and in margarine.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.
  • Limit sodium intake to 2300 mg or less per day.
  • Limit carbohydrate intake to 15% of total calorie intake per day.
  • Men 50+ should consume at least 30 grams of fiber daily (women 50+ should consume at least 21 grams).
  • Avoid added sugars.
  • Men 50+ should consume 56 grams of protein daily (women 50+ should consume 46 grams).
  • Pay particular attention to the % values listed for vitamins, calcium and minerals to be certain you are getting enough each day.
  • Read the list of ingredients at the bottom of the label (listed in descending order of quantities) and avoid such things as:
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - a manufactured sugar found to promote hunger cravings and spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Hydrogenated fat – contains fatty acids which increase cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
  • Aspartame – an artificial sweetener that may promote cravings for high calorie foods and carbohydrates.
  • White sugar, aka refined sugars – intensively processed to remove all vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber, but high in calories; studies link refined sugars to hyperactivity, attention disorders, mental disorders, hypoglycemia and a weakened immune system.
  • White flour – intensively processed to extend shelf life but loses virtually all nutritional content, yet high in calories; also spikes blood sugar levels that lead to food cravings.

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