BY JAMIE LOBER
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, studies show that when a woman eats healthy, everyone in her household is more likely to eat healthy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists shared that the body needs a balanced supply of nutrients to grow, replace worn-out tissue, and provide energy. They also reported that excess calories can lead to health problems and even obesity, which in turn raises your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. One of the simplest ways to eat healthier is to make an effort to understand and read the nutrition facts label.
The National Institutes of Health suggested that women look for specific things on the food label, including:
- Product dates, including “sell by,” “use by” and “best if used by.”
- Ingredient list, including each ingredient in the product.Consider that they are listed by quantity with the greatest quantity listed first.
- Nutrition facts label, which contains the total number of servings in the product and the food or drink serving size.
- Daily Value, which tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a total daily diet based on 2,000 calories a day.
While the label can be found on most items, there may not be a label on fresh fruits and vegetables or meats. The important thing is that you have a balanced diet that includes protein, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Consider that women have special needs and require fewer calories than men. If you are very active, you may require more calories. Needs largely depend on age and stage in life, such as during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or after menopause. Always beware of labels that mention added sugar, sodium and saturated and trans fats. Terms like fresh, no additives and natural can be misleading because while they sound good, they are often not regulated. Other words that are not always fool-proof include zero trans fat, multi-grain bread, no sugar added or sugar-free, light and fat-free. It is also a good idea to compare brands, as the same product can have varying labels. Try to eat regularly and do not skip breakfast as it is one of the most crucial meals of the day.
Be especially vigilant about the labels on products you give your kids. Marketing targets kids with foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt and low in nutritional value. Cartoon characters and celebrities that your kids like may try to lure them in to buy certain products. Healthy habits start to form at a young age, so you want to do your part to ensure that you aim to prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic illnesses.
Consider the benefits of taking the time to read the label. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at behavioral data and found the average body mass index of women who use nutritional labeling on foods for guidance is on average 1.49 points lower than those who do not, which equates to about 9 pounds. Before making any lifestyle changes, consult with your physician and make sure it is safe. Making the commitment to continue learning about and understanding the nutrition facts label will keep you one step ahead of the game.