FOCUS on Healthy Food Choices
Alabama has a growing epidemic of childhood obesity and other related diseases. A healthy lifestyle is the springboard to success in school and beyond. Extensive evidence indicates that healthy students perform better academically and adapt better socially.
Working to impact the areas of cardiovascular fitness, knowledge, and behavior of health and wellness is a non-profit organization called HEAL United- Healthy Eating Active Living. The mission of HEAL is to improve children’s health and transform health culture through education and practice of healthy lifestyle behaviors.
How to Choose Healthy Foods
Choosing healthy foods as you grocery shop is a major step in decreasing obesity and other related diseases. Choosing healthy foods can be overwhelming, but we’ve got a few tips to help you make the best decisions.
When looking for the store’s best options, knowing what the nutrition food labels mean will be helpful. When looking at a label, the nutrition facts are for one serving size rather than the whole container or package. The daily value is also included, meaning that the percentage of the nutrients listed is the amount you will receive based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Now, let’s talk about three factors of the food label: fat, sodium, and sugar.
Total fat content is listed in grams with saturated fat, and trans-fat is included below. Our bodies need fat for energy! But limiting the saturated and trans fats will help keep the heart-healthy. Look at the percentage to see how much of the daily value is provided by one serving of that particular food. It is recommended that adults get 20-30% of their daily calories from fat (about 44-77 g). Practice following these guidelines for healthy blood and heart.
Many packaged foods contain added salt, which contains sodium. These can include canned meat, vegetables, sauces, soups, frozen meals, chips, crackers, and nuts. Salt acts as a preservative, increasing the shelf life of foods stored in packages. Our bodies need sodium from the salt to regulate fluids, muscle contraction, and nerve function. However, more than 2,300 mg a day could raise blood pressure. Food labels include the percentage of that daily value to know how much is provided by one serving of a particular food.
Towards the bottom of the food label, right above the protein, is the sugar content. Recently, food labels have changed to include the amount of added sugars. Often frozen, canned, or dried fruit will have added sugars. Dessert foods, granola bars, cereal, juice, and yogurts also may have added sugars. It can be hard to detect the sweet taste in some of these foods, so learning to look at the nutrition food label and the percent of daily value will help regulate sugar intake. It is recommended to limit added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories. Following these recommendations may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (high sugar in the blood).
For more information:
Sue C. Jones, M.Ed.