Is Your Diet SAD? Take a Closer Look at What You’re Eating

What’s on your plate today? If your food choices look anything like the Standard American Diet, it’s pretty S.A.D.

About 88% of adults don’t eat enough fruit, and 90% don’t eat enough vegetables.1

So what are people eating? Pizza, burgers, fries, desserts, processed foods, and too much alcohol.

Sure, it’s fast and convenient. But when most of your meals come from a box, drive-thru or restaurant, there;s a good chance you’re eating too many calories and missing out on essential nutrients your body needs for best health.

Been there, done that? If your eating habits need work, you’re not alone. For example:

  • Sodium. 9 out of 10 adults consume 3,400 mg of sodium per day. But health experts recommend less than 2,300 mg.
  • Sugary drinks. 5 in 10 adults gulp down a sugary drink every day (soda, energy drink, coffee loaded with sugar and cream)

The SAD truth about poor eating habits

So what happens if your eating habits are S.A.D. for months, or maybe even years?

The occasional fast food meal, sugary drink, or dessert isn’t that big of a deal. However, research shows that over time, poor eating habits increase the risk for health problems like:2

  • Obesity. An estimated 73.6 percent of all adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
  • Heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease claims the lives of an estimated 697,000 people a year, even though it’s largely preventable with diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Stroke. Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke when blood flow to the brain is blocked. 1 out 6 who experience a stroke die.
  • Type 2 diabetes. About 37 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes. Another 96 million have prediabetes, and most don’t even know it. Left unchecked, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, poor circulation, vision loss, kidney disease, heart disease, and other health problems. But research shows it’s preventable and reversible with a plant-based diet.3
  • Certain types of cancer. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for 13 different types of cancer.

A Fresh Way to Improve Your Health

If you want to improve your health, lower your risk for disease and feel better, try this fresh approach:

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Why? The S.A.D. diet doesn’t include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. A few pizza toppings or tomato, pickle, and lettuce on a burger aren’t enough.

Instead, here’s what an adult’s fruit and vegetable intake should look like for best health:

  • Fruits:1.5 to 2 cups per day
  • Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups per day

It’s not as hard as you might think. Include fruits and vegetables with every meal and enjoy as a snack. For example:

  • Have a banana for breakfast.
  • Enjoy Greek yogurt with berries as a snack.
  • Eat a leafy-green salad for lunch or dinner.
  • Half your plate should include fruits and vegetables at every meal.

When most of your food comes from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, you’ll be healthier and feel better (instead of S.A.D.)

The New Rules of Grilling: 4 Tips to Make Healthier Food

Grilled Vegetable

You might be thinking about firing up the grill for a backyard barbecue or picnic. But don’t get the briquettes or propane burner flaming hot just yet.

Munching your way through char-grilled meat or fish isn’t the best way to go.

Why? Grilling beef, pork, fish, and poultry at high temperatures can cause an unhealthy reaction in the meat. It’s a recipe for heterocyclic amines (HCAs) linked to cancer.

Here’s what happens:

  • The fat drop. When fat drops down during grilling and burns, it goes back into the food.
  • Char time. This is how food gets charred during grilling.
  • The danger zone. It’s also how HCAs are formed.

But that doesn’t mean you have to forget about summer-season grilling.

Here are 4 ways to make grilling healthier:

1. Use a grill in the oven
If you want to grill something, use a grill in the oven where you can grill from above. Grilling from above helps prevent charring and HCAs.

2. Choose plant-based burgers
Use a barbecue grill. But instead of meat, try grilling plant-based burgers such as black-bean burgers or garden burgers. These are less likely to form harmful HCAs from grilling than meats.

3. Grill fruits and vegetables
Here’s another barbecue-friendly option. Make kebabs with your favorites fruits or veggies like:Grilled Vegetable

  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Potato wedges
  • Egg plant
  • Mushrooms
  • Pineapple chunks.
  • Or grill corn on the cob wrapped in foil.

Fruits and vegetables don’t form HCAs. Just cook at a moderate temperature and avoid burning or blackening of food.

4. Season foods with herbs and spices (instead of sauces high in calories)
Or marinate foods before grilling. Research shows this can help prevent HCAs from forming.

Discover the benefits of grilling at home
If you’ve been thinking about eating at home more often, give healthy grilling a try.

Research shows that cooking at home can help you eat healthier foods, control calories, lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.

You hungry? Fire up the grill. Turn down the heat. Cook your food a little longer, and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

8 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Wake up. Get kids ready for school, fight rush-hour traffic, and get to work. Grab a quick bite to eat. Do it in reverse in the afternoon. And crash on the couch with some sweet treats or salty snacks at the end of the day.

That ever look like a typical day for you?

It’s a recipe for weight gain. And if you’ve gained a few pounds this way, you’re not alone. About 72 percent of all adults areWeight Loss sign overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1

So how do you tip the scale in the right direction, lose weight, and keep it off?

FYI…It’s not fad diets, crazy workouts, skipping meals, or gimmicky pills or exercise equipment.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, healthy lifestyle habits will help you tip the scale in the right direction.

Here are 8 things you can do to manage your weight:

1. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can help you lose weight and keep it off.2

So what does a healthy breakfast look like? It’s not a couple donuts washed down with a soda or sugary-coffee drinks. For a healthy breakfast, start your day off with something like:

  • 1 or 2 pieces of fresh fruit
  • A serving of whole grains (e.g., 1/2 C steel-cut oats or 1 piece of whole-wheat toast)
  • A glass of milk, soymilk, black coffee, or 100% fruit juice
  • One serving of healthy fats (e.g., small handful of almonds)
  • And a healthy protein, like eggs or egg whites

2. Eat fiber-rich foods

If you’re looking for a simple way to lose weight, eat more fiber-rich foods.3

Most adults eat 15 grams of fiber per day. But the Institute of Medicine recommends:

  • Women get 25 grams of fiber per day
  • Men get 38 grams of fiber per day

Foods high in fiber include salads, soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals.

3. Drink more water

How much water do you drink per day? If you don’t know, there’s a good chance you’re not drinking enough. Drinking water can help:4

  • Control calories
  • Curb hunger
  • Help you manage your weight
  • Prevent dehydration
  • Support muscle function for exercise
  • .6 Here’s another way to look at it. A typical bottle of soda contains 250 calories. A glass of water…zero calories.

4. Slow down at meal time

That’s a nice way of saying, “Chew your food.” Take a bite. Put your fork down. And chew slowly.5

This gives your body time to send signals to your brain that you feel full. You’ll eat fewer calories and have time to enjoy a conversation at the table, too.

5. Keep a food diary

Use the mobile app or keep track of what you eat in an old-school journal. It forces you to be more mindful of your food choices. In one recent study, people who kept a daily food journal for 6 months lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.6

6. Get your Zzzs

Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night. People who cut sleep short are more likely to gain weight. Why? Lack of sleep alters levels of hormones (ghrelin and leptin) linked to hunger and cravings. And if you stay up late, you’ll have more time for snacking.

7. Be more active If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, be more active. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Here are some easy ways to be more active:

  • Go for a walk
  • Ride a bike
  • Take a fitness class
  • Workout at the gym
  • Choose a fitness video and follow along at home
  • Use the exercise equipment you have at home (e.g., cycle, treadmill, weights)

8. Give yourself a break

If your diet isn’t perfect or you miss a workout, it’s not that big of a deal. There’s a tendency to think “all is lost” and go back to old habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Give a nod to where you went wrong (stress, vacation, longer work hours), and just pick up where you left off with healthy diet and exercise habits.

If you’re looking for the magic bullet to weight loss, there isn’t one. But you can lose weight and keep it off with these healthy lifestyle habits.

4 Foods for a Heart-Healthy Diet

Smart food choices can help prevent heart disease

Thump-thump…Thump-thump. Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day. And if you want to keep it that way, paying attention to what you eat can make a big difference.

If you’re thinking about improving your diet to keep your heart healthy, start by answering these two questions:

  1. How often do you eat French fries, red meats, pizza, pastries, and processed foods?
  2. How often do you have sugary drinks?

If you eat a lot of these foods, you’re at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other health problems. These conditions can damage your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and death. Consider this:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It claims the lives of about 659,000 people a year.1
  • Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack.2 Some recover. Some require surgery and long-term therapy. And many don’t survive.
  • About half of all adults in the U.S have some form of heart disease.3 But it’s largely preventable with healthy lifestyle habits, starting with your diet.

Eat heart-healthy foods

Choosing the right foods can help prevent heart disease. If you already have heart disease, or you’re at risk, improving your diet can help, too. And it’s easy.

Research shows eating more plant-based foods and less junk food can improve heart health.4

Ready to give your heart some love to keep the beat? Eat more of these heart-healthy foods:

1. Fruits and vegetables

At meal time, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Brightly-colored fruits, berries, and leafy-green vegetables are best. They have high levels of antioxidants that can help prevent plaque build-up in your arteries.

Eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food can help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

  • Aim for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

2. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain healthy, unsaturated fat. This kind of fat helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can protect your heart from disease.

Nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that can improve the health of your arteries and reduce the risk for blood clots.

  • A handful of nuts (about 1½ ounces) per day can help keep your heart healthy.

3. Legumes
Or if you prefer…”Beans, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you….”

Beans or legumes like black beans, kidney beans, and peas, contain the highest amount of fiber of any food group.

High-fiber foods can lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for diabetes, and curb hunger to avoid weight gain.

  • Women need at least 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for best health.5
  • Men need at least 38 grams per day.

4. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain bran, fiber, and other nutrients that help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides (or fat) in the blood. This is good for heart health.

  • Eat at least 3 servings of whole grains per day.

A variety of grains is best, especially ones high in water-soluble fiber. Try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain cereal, breads, and pastas
  • Quinoa

Eating a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce your risk for heart disease. Other lifestyle habits to improve heart health include regular exercise, a healthy weight, stress management and limiting alcohol and tobacco.

If you’re not used to eating for heart health, start small with a healthy snack. Gradually add more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains to your eating plan. Then keep it up to keep the beat.

6 Steps to Build Healthier-Eating Habits

Healthy Eating Habit

Eat healthier. Chances are pretty good you’ve heard the advice before.

Maybe you’ve even given a few things a try to improve your diet. Then went back to your old ways. You know…ice cream, soda, pizza, treats. That ever happen?

If you want to improve your eating habits, it’s usually not a cold-turkey, overnight success. It takes a little work, a little patience and practice.

But the more you do it, the easier it gets to make better food choices. Ready to build better eating habits you’ll actually stick with?

Here are some things you can do:

1. Read nutrition labels

 It’s pretty simple. Pick up a package, and check the label. You don’t have to be a food scientist to understand it.

Just two pieces of information on the label can help you make better food choices:

  • Calories
  • Serving size

Other nutrition label data to check out:

  • Sugar
  • Sodium
  • Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Ingredients

Research shows that people who read food labels have better success with weight loss and weight management.1

Can’t find a food label? You can find nutrition data for most foods online, including restaurant meals..

2. Keep a food journal

Write down everything you eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks.

Sounds like a lot of work, right?

Here’s the thing…research shows that keeping a food journal helps you be more aware of what you’re eating. And it helps you make better food choices.

In fact, one study found that people who kept track of their food choices, even without following a particular diet, lost 6 pounds in three months.2

You can write down what you eat. Or use a smartphone app to make it even easier to keep track of what you eat, count calories, and even record your weight.

3. Eat fresh

Does your diet look a little SAD? If it does, you’re not alone.

The Standard American Diet menu looks like this: Pizza, burgers, fries, sugary drinks, fried food, processed meals, treats and snacks.

And if you want to develop healthy eating habits, you need to work on replacing SAD foods with more fresh foods like:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Legumes

Take a closer look at the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or the Mediterranean Diet, and you’ll find they’re a lot in common.

Eating more fresh and unprocessed foods can also help prevent chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and hypertension.

4. Drink more water

Here’s another great way to improve your diet by making a simple switch.

Drink more water.3 Aim for about 8 glasses or 64 ounces per day. More if you’re really active or live in a hot climate.

If that sounds hard, just start small. Drink a glass of water when you wake up. Have a glass of water with meals. And carry a water bottle with you during the day.

Drinking water helps you stay hydrated, improve digestion, control calories, and feel better.

5. Plan meals & cook at home more often

It’s just about dinner time, and you realize you don’t have anything prepared…again.

Next stop…the drive-thru. That ever happen?

There’s a couple problems with going out to eat frequently.

  • It can get expensive.
  • But more importantly, most restaurant meals are high in fat, sugar, and empty calories.

So try this…plan meals a week in advance, go grocery shopping, and cook at home more often. You can even prepare meals ahead of time for your busy days, and store in the fridge or freezer.

Research shows that people who cook at home more than five times a week tend to:4

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Eat fewer calories
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Have a normal Body Mass Index

6. Eat healthier snacks

Pass the potato chips, cheese dip, soda and cookies. That sound like a typical watch-the-game or binge-watch activity?

Here’s another way to develop healthy eating habits. Take a good look at your go-to snacks. What’s healthy? What’s not? And what can you do to improve?

  • Try fresh-cut veggies instead of chips.
  • Have a cheese stick instead of a candybar.
  • Drink a glass of water, or even a fruit smoothie, instead of a soda.
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of a bowl of ice cream
  • Look for simple swaps you can make to eat healthier snacks.

You’ll cut calories, improve your health, and develop healthy habits for life.

Boost Your Immune System: 25 Foods for Better Health

Young and happy woman eating healthy salad

What do you get when you combine cold and flu season with a global pandemic?

More sick people. More coughing and sneezing, fevers, sore throats, stuffy noses, aches and pains.

Sounds pretty bad, right? It doesn’t have to be.

Cold and flu season and COVID-19 concerns can also serve as a reminder to boost your immune system by eating healthy foods.

Does your diet look anything like this?

    • Pizza
    • Burgers
    • Fried foods
    • Pastries
    • Ice cream
    • Sugary drinks

It’s the typical American diet, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.1

The problem: Eating this way is a recipe for weight gain, chronic disease, and inflammation that can weaken your immune system.

Research shows eating processed foods high in fat, sugar, and calories (but low in nutritional value), may raise the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other health problems.2

The solution: You can boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve your health, by making better food choices.

25 nutrient-dense foods to boost your immune system
Want to boost your immune system, improve your diet, and your health?

Keep it simple. Eat less processed foods and more fresh foods. Nutrient-dense foods that can help boost your immune system include foods high in:

Vitamin A
Your body needs vitamin A to support digestion and healthy lungs (which is important if you get a cold, flu, or even the cornavirus).
Foods high in vitamin A include:

    1. Broccoli
    2. Colored bell peppers
    3. Spinach
    4. Sweet potatoes
    5. Carrots

Vitamin C
Does taking mega-doses of vitamin C help your immune system fight cold and flu symptoms or speed recovery?

One recent study suggests that the best way to lower the severity, duration, and frequency of colds is eating foods high vitamin C consistently.3 Vitamin C helps the body develop antibodies to support the immune system.
Foods high in vitamin C include:

    1. Oranges
    2. Grapefruit
    3. Strawberries
    4. Tomatoes
    5. Kiwi

Vitamin E
Your body produces free radicals as a normal part of metabolism (the process of turning food into energy). However, free radicals can damage cells, increase the risk for chronic diseases and certain types of cancer, and advance the aging process.

Is there anything you can do about it? Research suggests that eating foods high in vitamin E help produce antioxidants that fight free radicals and oxidative stress to support the immune system.4

Foods high in vitamin E include:

    1. Olive oil
    2. Nuts
    3. Seeds
    4. Avocado
    5. Leafy-green vegetables

When you get sick, zinc is one of the first nutrients the body recruits to fight infection and keep your immune system in check.5

Only about 12 percent of adults in the U.S. are zinc deficient. But as you age, zinc absorption decreases. About 40 percent of the elderly are zinc deficient. Are you getting enough zinc in your diet to support your immune system?

Foods high in zinc include:

    1. Black beans
    2. Lean beef
    3. Chicken
    4. Turkey
    5. Salmon

You might think protein is just for bodybuilders to bulk up and build muscle. But you need protein, too.

Amino acids in protein help produce cells your immune system uses  to fight pathogens to prevent disease. It’s also important for healing and recovery.6

Foods high in protein include:

    1. Eggs
    2. Peas
    3. Soy products
    4. Tuna
    5. Poultry and lean meats

There’s more than one way to boost your immune system. Getting adequate sleep, and managing stress in healthy ways can help. And so can eating more nutrient dense foods. Now is always the best time to start.

Restaurant-Meal Rescue: 6 Tips for Eating Healthier

How often do you go out to eat?

If you’re not sure, try coming up with a list of what you’ve eaten for the past week…breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

If your diet looks anything like the typical American’s, you probably hit fast food, the drive-thru, or a sit-down restaurant at least once in the past week.

Sometimes it just makes sense to go out to eat. You know…you’re wrapping up the work day when you realize you haven’t been grocery shopping in a while. A group of friends organize an impromptu night out. You’re short on time. You forget to pack your lunch. Or maybe you’ve got a date or special celebration.

There’s nothing wrong with going out to eat once in a while. But before you place your next order, there’s a few things you need to know:

Munch on this dining-out data

6 tips for eating healthier at restaurants

 So how do you navigate the restaurant experience without destroying your diet? Here’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends:

  1. Drink water. It’s usually free and contains zero calories, unlike sugary drinks or alcohol that contain 200 calories or more.
  2. Order a salad. Choose vinaigrette dressing over creamy dressings. And load up on leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and other vegetables. It’s low in calories, high in nutrients, and will help you feel full.
  3. Go halfsies. Ask for a to-go box when you place your order. When you food arrives save half your meal for tomorrow. If you’re dining out with someone else, split the meal…and the bill.
  4. Skip the buffet. Why? It’s hard to judge portion sizes. It’s easy to go back for seconds, thirds, and desserts. And it’s a recipe for eating too many calories.
  5. Get nutritional information. Chain restaurants are required to publish nutritional information for everything on the menu. Most chain restaurants also publish this information online. How many calories are in that meal? Find out before you order. The average adult only needs about 1,500 to 2,500 calories per day.
  6. Track your food. Use an app like My Fitness Pal to keep track of calories and macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs). Set a daily calorie goal to help you with weight management. And upload your data to the FitLyfe platform with Apple Health.

Eat This, Not That: 5 Simple Swaps for Healthier Snacks

Choose healthy snacks to improve your health

You hungry? Maybe it’s time for a snack.

If you’re about to scarf down a candy bar, hit the drive-thru, raid the refrigerator or stroll through the nearest quickie mart for snacks, stop right there.

It’s time for a little eat-this-not-that conversation.

Snacks can make or break your diet

A recent study found that eating highly-processed snacks is a recipe for weight gain and other health problems. No surprise, right?

Most adults don’t eat healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables. Survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:

  • Only 12 percent of adults eat enough fruit per day (1.5 to 2 cups)
  • Only 9 percent of adults each enough vegetables per day (2 to 3 cups)

Choosing healthier snacks can help you manage your weight and lower your risk for chronic disease. If you’re not eating enough healthy snacks, what are you going to do about it?

Tip: Track your food choices and calories with a mobile app. Use the FitLyfe platform to view your progress, make healthier meal and snack choices, manage your weight, and improve your health.

Time for a snack: Choose, but choose wisely

What are your go-to snacks when you get a craving? If its chips, cookies, candy bars, soda, pastries, and fast food, you’ve got some work to do.

Research shows that people who eat a lot of these snacks tend to eat at least 500 calories more per day than people who eat healthier snacks. That might not sound like much, so consider this:

  • 3,500 calories – That’s how many extra calories you’d consume eating 500 extra calories of snack foods a day for a week. For example, a candy bar and a soda is about 500 calories.
  • 1 pound of fat – is about 3,500 calories. If you’re eating regular meals plus less-than-healthy snacks, you’re probably eating more calories than you need. Without more exercise and better food choices, you’ll gain weight.
  • 11 hours – Or 660 minutes. That’s about how much brisk walking you’d need to do to burn 3,500 calories or one pound of fat. Chances are pretty good you don’t have time for 11 hours of exercise a week, right?
Create a healthy-snack habit

When you get a craving for a snack, your brain typically wants four things sweet, salty, crunchy, and fatty.

If you’re used to eating junk food, that’s probably what you’ll go for. It’s why sugary snacks, chips, and desserts taste so good.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. (No, you don’t have survive on kale, rice cakes, and water,) With a little practice, you can satisfy those cravings and create a healthy-snack habit. Plan ahead and stock up on healthy snacks. When a craving strikes at work, in the middle of the night, or when you’re on the go, have a plan to grab healthy snacks instead of high-calorie snacks.

Check out these five simple swaps for healthier snacks:

1. Sweet

Eat this: One banana, a cup of strawberries, medium apple, or dried fruit
Not that: Candy bars, milkshakes, pies, and pastries

2. Crunchy

Eat this: Celery sticks with a tablespoon of peanut butter, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, or carrots
Not that: Potato chips, pretzels, trail mix loaded with candy

3. Salty

Eat this: Whole-grain crackers with hummus, air-popped popcorn seasoned with olive oil and a dash of salt
Not that: Canned soup, processed meals, deli meats, fast food

4. Fatty

Eat this: Hard-boiled egg, string cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt, fish, or nuts
Not that: Pastries, desserts, creamy sauces, ice cream

5. Low-calorie drinks

Drink this: Water, fruit/vegetable smoothie, non-fat milk or soymilk, low-sodium tomato juice
Not that: Soda, energy drinks, alcohol, coffee with added sugar and cream

If you want to improve your diet and your health, eat healthy snacks. You might need to give yourself a little time to retrain your brain to enjoy healthy snacks, but you can do it. Start with one healthy-snack swap a day, then keep improving your diet.

Read Food Labels: 8 Things to Know About the Food You Eat

Learn how to improve your diet and your health by reading food labels

You’re on your way to the grocery store armed with your shopping list. You’ve got meal plans in mind for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a few snacks.

But are your food choices healthy? Before you drop stuff into your shopping basket, take a minute to read each food label.

Why? It’s a simple way to help you improve your diet and your health. In recent study, researchers found that people who read food labels are healthier and have better success with weight management

Ready to go shopping? Click here to view the FDAs recommendations or read on.
Below provides a good snapshot of what to look for on the food label:

1. Ingredients

Check the list of ingredients on the food label. The list is organized by amount from largest to smallest. Two unhealthy culprits to watch out for…high-fructose corn syrup and refined grains. If the food is highly processed, the ingredients list will likely include chemicals, food colors, and additives. Fewer ingredients usually means the food is healthier or less processed.

2. Serving Size

How much is a serving size? You might be surprised by how small a serving size actually is. Check the food label, and measDiature it out if you have to. Besides the eye-ball test, weighing, or measuring your food, your hand can help you estimate serving size. For example:

  • A fist or cupped hand = 1 cup, or a serving size of cereal, yogurt, rice, or milk
  • A thumb = 1 ounce, or a serving size of cheese
  • A thumb tip = 1 teaspoon, or a serving size of peanut butter or mayonaise
  • A handful = 1 to 2 ounces, or a serving size of nuts, chips, or pretzels
  • A palm = 3 to 4 ounces, or serving size of meat for an adult
  • A tennis ball = 1/2 cup or serving size of fruits or vegetables
3. Calories

If want to manage your weight, knowing how many calories you’re consuming per day can help. Here’s what the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends for adults:

Women: 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day
Men: 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day

If you’re not used to keeping track of calories, this might not mean a lot to you. Here’s another way to look at it. A typical fast food meal with a burger, fries and soda contains about 1,000 calories or more. Eating more calories than you need is a recipe for weight gain and other health problems. Check calories per serving size and keep track directly in the FitLyfe Platform or in a synced smart device. To access the nutrition tracker in the FitLyfe Platform by clicking on “View My Progress” from the personal goal widget on the home page. Then click on the nutrition link. After entering your daily intake the system will provide a breakdown of calories, carbs, fat, protein, sodium, sugar and fiber. In addition, you can easily track water consumption on this same page and you will have a comprehensive snapshot of your daily intake.

Tip: Use your smart watch, fitness tracking device, or mobile app to keep track of how many calories you burn per day. Most apps will automatically adjust caloric intake requirement when you also track exercise.

4. Percent Daily Value

Ever noticed this number on a food labels. It’s in the right column on a food label. And it shows you the recommended Percent Daily Value for each nutrient a serving provides. Each value is based on 2,000 calories a day. Pay attention to:

  • Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol: Aim to keep Percent Daily Value below 5 percent.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Aim to keep Percent Daily Value above 20 percent.
5. Sodium

How much sodium do you consumer per day? It’s on the food label. Fast food, processed meats, and canned soups are all high in sodium. The average adult consumes about 3,500 mg of sodium per day. But health experts recommend less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day to manage blood pressure and improve heart health.

Tip: Check your blood pressure. Normal is less than 120/80. Compare it to the last time you had your blood pressure checked. You can also track blood pressure in your synced smart device.

6. Sugar

If you eat a lot of processed and packaged foods and snacks, chances are pretty good you’re eating too much sugar. It’s added to all kinds of foods like drinks, cereals, sauces, granola bars, and more.

Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and other chronic diseases. Read food labels to limit the amount of sugar you consume.

How much sugar is safe? The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • Men: No more than 36 grams of sugar per day
  • Women: No more than 20 grams of sugar per day

Tip: Are you at risk for diabetes? Check your blood glucose scores from your last biometric screening in the FitLyfe Platform. According to the American Diabetes Association an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 or a blood sugar > 126 is considered at risk for developing Diabetes.

7. Fiber

Some packaged foods can be a good source of fiber. Eating fiber-rich foods helps control blood sugar levels, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, and support weight management. Examples include:

  • Whole-grain breads and cereals
  • Brown rice or quinoa
  • Beans or legumes
  • Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber

Read food labels and aim to eat more fiber based on the following guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Women: 25 grams of fiber per day
  • Men: 38 grams of fiber per day
8. Before you buy, pay attention to these food packaging labels

If you’re thinking about buying healthier food, you might think grabbing organic or natural food might be good enough. But these branding messages might not be as healthy as you think. Here’s what you need to know.

Natural: Ever seen a food label branded with words like Natural, All-natural, or Made with Natural Ingredients? It’s a clever way to make you think you’re buying healthier food, but it may not be true. No government or industry standards exist that define natural.

Organic: Packages labeled Organic, must follow guidelines created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It means the food is made with 95 percent organic ingredients without synthetic ingredients or growth hormones, chemicals and pesticides, or antibiotics. If the label says Made with Organic Ingredients, it must by at least 70 percent organic.

Whole Grains: Just because a package says Contains Whole Grains, doesn’t mean it’s a healthy food. Based on standards created the Whole Grains Council, 51 percent of grain in a food must be whole grains (not refined grains) to be labeled a whole-grain food. Here’s an easy way to check. One serving of a whole-grain food should contain 8 g of fiber or more.

Ready to go shopping and improve your diet?

Take a minute to read food labels. It’s a good habit to help you make better food choices, manage calories, and improve your health.