During colder months, the limited availability of fresh produce can lead us to rely more on canned, frozen, and pre-packaged foods. But how can you continue to be health-conscious when choosing pre-packaged products?
De-coding the label
“When reading food labels, I always tell clients to start at the top with the serving size,” says Alicia Buterbaugh, RD, certified diabetes educator with Kettering Health Network. “A lot of people neglect looking at the serving size, which may be different than a person’s portion size. If the serving size is half a cup, and someone eats a full cup, then they need to double the information on the nutritional label.”
Next, look at percent daily values (DV) of certain ingredients. In general, explains Alicia, five percent or less is a low amount of an ingredient, while 20 percent or higher is considered high.
Try to ensure that you consume low amounts—less than 100% of the DV—of these ingredients:
- Fat – Keep saturated fat below 20 grams per day, and trans fat as low as possible.
- Cholesterol – Keep cholesterol intake under 300 milligrams per day.
- Sodium – Keep sodium intake under 2,300 milligrams per day.
Take a look at the nutrients at the bottom of the food label, and choose foods that are higher—20 percent DV or more—in these ingredients:
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, bone strength, and lowers risk of osteoporosis.
- Potassium – Adequate potassium intake can lower blood pressure, regulate water balance, and counteract the effects of sodium.
- Calcium – Calcium is vital to heart, muscle, and nerve function, and helps to build and maintain strong bones.
- Iron – Iron is involved in transporting oxygen throughout the body and maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Fiber – Soluble fiber can help lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and insoluble fiber helps with digestive regularity.
Fresh produce is the best first choice when choosing fruits and vegetables. In the absence of fresh produce, remember:
- When choosing canned products, opt for “unsweetened” fruit, and “no salt added” veggies.
- Watch for frozen vegetables with added sauces, as these can be high in sodium.
- Be careful of frozen dinners, which can be very high in both sodium and fat.
For more guidance in food choices for a healthy lifestyle, contact our Diabetes & Nutrition Center at (937) 401-4588 or visit ketteringhealth.org/diabetes
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