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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nutrition basics

For my first post in the nutrition series, I am going to go over how to read a nutrition label. This can be confusing for people, and can lead to diet failure. One of the most common mistakes people make when choosing food is that they assume sweets are worse for you than say, a baked potato, or pasta. A carb is a carb (refined white carbs, especially). They all break down the same in your bloodstream, turning to sugar. How fast these break down will depend on the glycemic index of your food, but that we will go over next week. First, we are going to go back to basics.
Here is the line-by-line breakdown. Above you see the calories. You want to make sure to notice how much of your product you are getting for those 90 calories. This example is a half cup. For me, this is the reason I stopped eating breakfast cereal. I never ate the 3/4 cup recommended, so I was really getting twice the amount of everything listed... not good. Measuring out your food may seem like a chore, but once you do it a few times, you get the hang of it all, and can almost eyeball it. So, in this example, lets say it's cereal we are talking about, you get 90 calories in a half of a cup. You are also getting 3 grams of fat. I don't pay much mind to fat content, unless it's saturated fat. It just doesn't mean a lot to me. There are so many kinds of fats, and really, you can see how much 'bad' stuff is in there by the net carb count... so unless you have another medical reason to avoid fats, we're just going to skip this one. Sodium. This one can be a killer if you are trying to reduce bloat, especially. We want to get less than 3100 mgs of sodium per day as women. I try to stay less than 2500. Overly processed snacks like cup o noodles? Forget it. Don't even look. Here's where the good stuff starts. Carbs... we have a love/hate relationship. I love how they taste, but hate my thighs. There is a direct correlation there. First off, lets look at how many carbs we need to get each day to lose weight. I promise next week to go more into depth about how carbs break down in our bodies, but for the sake of keeping this at a readable length (not bore you to death), lets get right into numbers. This is the most comprehensive weight management calculator I have found on the interwebs. For me, I want to consume 1800 calories per day (the minimum recommended while breastfeeding). This breaks down to 199 carbs per day... this is a fair amount... something I can live with. Essentially, this is 3 meals of 50 carbs, and two 25 carb snacks. I can break it up into smaller meals if I wish, which I usually do for breakfast. An example of this for lunch is a sandwich with two slices of wheat bread, and no cheese. Maybe a side salad with hard boiled egg, and vinaigrette dressing. Oh, and did I mention water, water, and more water? Once you figure this for yourself, your life becomes easier. Angels sing, and unicorns will cross your path regularly. Okay, the last part isn't entirely true, but you catch my drift. What is helpful after doing this is keeping a log of everything you eat. This not only helps you to see what you are taking in, but also helps keep you accountable.. you have to write down EVERYTHING you eat. Just a bite of a cookie? Write it down. Just a few spoonfuls of your kids mac and cheese that they didn't finish (I *know* I'm not alone on this), write it down. Got it? Good. What is equally as important as not taking in too many carbs, is taking in enough. So often I see people who starve and deprive themselves. This won't work, because you aren't making a lifestyle change. If you are craving a piece of chocolate, eat it! But I guarantee that if you make better choices and cut out the refined sugars, you will have less of these cravings. Okay, now the fun part that I find a lot of people don't pay much mind to. See that fiber count? If it is higher than 5, you can subtract that from your carb count. For example, if you have 30 carbs, and 7 grams of fiber, your net carbs are only 23. I like to make a game of this, finding items that have as much fiber as possible, so I can eat more without taking in as many carbs. Awesome, right? Protein? Well, protein is awesome because it slows down the breakdown of carbs in your system, making your energy last longer. Protein is great... that might be the title of my next nutrition blog :) Thats all for today... I know it's a lot to digest (pun intended), but this is the first step to realizing your potential and living a healthier lifestyle. If you have any feedback for me, or any specific questions I can help with, please let me know. I want to make this a comprehensive and fun blog :) -C


  1. Yes, love it! Looks like we're on the same page already. :)

    I learned about the cereal evil in my diabetes class when I was pregnant and have not had it since.

  2. I am a serial cereal offender! As I've noted before, I can never just eat one bowl. Given the tiny serving sizes, I probably eat like four servings in a sitting!

    I'm all about fiber these days, absolutely love Fiber One products, especially their granola bars, which I eat when I have a sweet tooth. They may still not be the best nutritionally, but it's better than a cookie!