How to Eat Less Salt, Sugars and Unhealthy Fats

Do you always know what’s in the food you’re eating? If you have been eating too much salt, sugars and unhealthy fats for a long period, you are likely experiencing health problems.

Do you know how to read the food label for the nutrition facts? To eat healthy, you must know what’s behind the numbers and ingredients.

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Foods in a bag or box have many harmful trans fats, sodium and other ingredients that you don’t need. Shop on the perimeter of your supermarket to find most whole, natural foods.

Trans fats are made by food manufacturers through a chemical process called hydrogenation (to increase shelf life). Excess trans fat consumption over time causes inflammation in your body and contributes to risk of heart disease and other medical problems.

Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in whole foods. That means processed foods have loads of sodium added to them. Just read the nutrition facts label carefully.

In a Muscle Works Magazine article, “Tips for Reading Food Labels and Sugar Warnings,” the following tips are given about food labels:

1. Look at more than calories: Many healthy foods (like quinoa) tend to be higher in calories; likewise, a food that’s low in calories may contain a lot of sodium or saturated fat. Read through every part of the label to get the full picture, and then make the decision if you’re going to eat it.

2. Compare apples to apples: You have two boxes of crackers in your hands and quickly see that one contains 220 calories per serving, while the other is only 140. Before you choose the box with fewer calories, double-check to make sure you’re comparing equal serving sizes. Also take a look to see how the nutritional content compares.

3. Read, and reread: There are certain foods you feel confident placing in your cart because you’ve previously read through the labels. Play it safe by checking the label again every month, just to make sure the company hasn’t changed or added ingredients without you knowing.

4. Watch out for sugars: They may say “no sugars” but look at the ingredients, those big words you have a hard time pronouncing may be sugars, whether they are natural or not.

Too much salt and sodium intake is also a big problem for many people. If that’s consistently you, health problems are around the corner.

According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, DASH Eating Plan: Lower Your Blood Pressure, these recommendations are given to lower your salt and sodium intake:

5. Choose low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments when available.

6. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned (low-sodium or no-salt-added) vegetables.

7. Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked, or processed types.

8. Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.

9. Limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham); foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut); and condiments (such as mustard, horseradish, ketchup, and barbecue sauce). Limit even lower sodium versions of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Treat these condiments sparingly as you do table salt.

10. Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.

11. Choose “convenience” foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes such as pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings—these often have a lot of sodium.

12. Rinse canned foods, such as tuna and canned beans, to remove some of the sodium.

13. Use spices instead of salt. In cooking and at the table, flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends. Start by cutting salt in half.

When Eating in a Restaurant:

14. Ask how foods are prepared. Ask that they be prepared without added salt, MSG, or salt-containing ingredients. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate requests.

15. Know the terms that indicate high sodium content: pickled, cured, smoked, soy sauce and broth. Move the salt shaker away. Limit condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, pickles, and sauces with salt-containing ingredients. Choose fruit or vegetables, instead of salty snack foods.

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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