Have you off lately realized that you have been exhausted more often because of the current lifestyle you live? Are you one of those who are ready to make changes in the daily regime we follow in order to live healthier? If you are, join the club of “Healthy Living wannabes!” I’ve been a member of this club for a long- long time and have off lately realized that the decision to live healthy is really a tough one. Once I did make that decision, having a work out regime and eating healthy not only cost me all my effort and will power, it involved tons and tons of sacrifice!

I often found myself struggling to have the self-control in office parties and in casual hang outs with friends when I had to choose salads over oily curries, roti’s (bread) over rice and skip desserts totally. Soon I found myself forcing myself to work out and when I’d be grocery shopping-I’d be looking at the fruit section or for fat free products, comparing calories and confused what to buy? If this sounds familiar to you then do read on.  You may find this article useful and it might aid you in your daily choice of healthy living!

What I noticed is that in the daily struggle of diet control, I was compromising with the actual nutrients in my diet. Like I was ignoring the important vitamins, minerals, proteins and even carbohydrates that was required for my diet. I was told by a friend to check the food label while purchasing that would make me aware of what I’m consuming. Here are a few things which I found to be extremely useful and hope you would like to consider while you go grocery shopping too.

Understanding food labels:

Food labels can be found at the back of the food item which contains a variety of information about the nutritional value of the food item. There is a lot of information which is standard on most food labels which includes serving size, number of calories, grams of fat, included nutrients, and a list of ingredients. It would also have information related to nutrition amount, official addresses of the producer and distributor. You would get nutritional facts mentioned here which would be mentioned in form of daily value percentiles, calories or grams. It is from here you get to know what nutrients and the amount of calories you would obtain on consuming the product.

What should I look for?

1. Percent Daily Value (% DV) : The % DV is a tool to help you see if a specific amount of food has a little or a lot of a nutrient.(i.e. Fat, saturated and trans fats (combined), sodium, carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins etc ).In order to simplify reading labels the values are mentioned in terms of Daily Value (DV) percent so that you get to see the percent of nutrients you will get on consumption of the edible product. Please note, Daily value (DV) is not the amount required by you daily, it is the amount of nutrients you will get daily if you consume the food item you purchase. There are a couple of things you might want to watch out for while reading these labels.

2. Serving size mentioned on the food label: The general information on the label is for the serving size mentioned and not for the whole packet. So if you are purchasing a 250 gms noodles packet and the serving size mentioned on the label is 100gms, the nutrient value would be for a 100 gms meal size. You would have to calculate the overall fat, proteins and vitamins for the packet in case you choose to consume the packet at once.

3.Total calories: 40 calories per serving is low in calories. 100 calories per serving is moderate in calories and 400 calories or more per serving is high in calories. Also please keep in mind that based on your Body Mass Index (BMI), you have to have a minimum intake of calories daily. So choose accordingly to you daily requirement and try not to be under nourished.

4. List of ingredients: Always check the list of ingredients and then make your decision. Here again its worth mentioning that we do need a basic amount of carbohydrate level, essential fats and proteins in our daily diet. One should look at the grams of total carbohydrate, rather than the grams of sugar. The amount you need daily again would vary based on your age and BMI.

5.Manufacturing and Expiry: Always check the date of manufacture and expiry date or date best before consumption. Also check for how long you can store the product with you in case you don’t want to immediately consume the product.

Calculating calories:

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It’s easy to calculate the calories given on the packet if the information on the label is mentioned in gms if we know the amount of calories a nutrient has. The table mentioned here might be helpful to aid this calculation.

For example; if you are purchase 500gms of wafers where in the label mentions 11gms of carbohydrates for a serving size of 100 gms, you can calculate the calories:

  •  11*4 =44 calories for 100 gms of the wafers.
  • So for 500gms of wafers you would be consuming calories five times the serving portion i.e. 44*5=220 calories.

If you want to know more about nutrient intake;the following link has a lot of useful information on this subject: http://www.nutristrategy.com/nutrition/calories.htm

Food labels and Decision Making:

The healthy choices you make would largely be based on what you consume. If you want to lose weight, then along with overall calories you would have to check the fat level in the product you take. If you have cardiac issues, please look into the salt content along with the fat content mentioned per serving.

A healthy lifestyle comes for healthy choices and strategy you make. Not only will you benefit in knowing what you are eating, but it helps you to compare prices of the products based on the nutrients you require. You also get to know whom to address your concern and complaints in case you have some dissatisfaction regarding the product.

Being aware of what you purchase and consume may be a tough choice, but it definitely is the wiser one.

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