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By Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.

One of the most important skills you can master is being able to read a food label in order to figure out exactly what you are getting from your foods.

Serving Size and Servings per Container:

Pay attention to this closely. Many people assume that small packages of cookies or crackers, or medium-sized beverage containers are single servings. But this may not be the case. An “official” serving of a beverage is 240ml, but many drinks are packaged in 480ml. containers or larger. All the nutrition facts on the label are for one serving. If you drink a 480ml. beverage, you will be drinking twice the number of calories on the nutrition facts panel, since you’ll be taking in two servings. You will need to double all the information on the label to determine exactly what you are taking in.

Calories, Fat, Carbohydrate and Protein:

As with all the other nutrients, these are the amounts per serving. In the example to the left, one cup of Chunky, Cheesy, Rich and Creamy Broccoli Soup has 250 calories. But if you consume the whole package (two servings), you will have taken in 500 calories. In addition to the total fat per serving, the label also tells you the calories from fat, so you can do a quick calculation in your head of what percentage of calories you are eating from fat. In the example, there are 135 calories from fat out of a total of 250 calories. You can see right away that more than half the calories in the soup come from fat. The label also tells you how much of the fat is saturated fat or trans fat.

“Total Carbohydrate” tells you, again, how much carbohydrate per serving. Keep in mind that this includes natural sources, such as the natural sugars in milk or fruit, so it’s not always easy to tell from the line labeled “Sugars” where the sugar is coming from without looking at the ingredients list. If a cereal has little added sugar–but contains raisins–the sugar content may look high, but it’s just from the natural fruit sugar.

Look at the ingredients list for sugar: sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, brown rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, maltodextrin, molasses, raw sugar, turbinado sugar and sucrose are all added sugars. Sometimes food manufacturers use a number of sweeteners in a product–each in small amounts–so the ingredients are “sprinkled” throughout the ingredients list, but taken together they can sometimes add up significantly.

Fiber and sugars are part of the total carbohydrate count. A food with 5 grams or more of fiber per serving is a good source of fiber.

% Daily Value:

Daily Values are standard values developed by the Food and Drug Administration for use on food labels. They are standards used to compare the amount of a nutrient in a food to the amount that is recommended per day, but is based on a 2,000 calorie diet that may not apply to everyone. Even if you know that you don’t require that many calories, you can still look at these values to see if a particular food is high or low in a nutrient that you are interested in. In the example above, one serving of the soup provides 30 percent of the Daily Value for calcium, which is quite a bit. But it also has 25 percent of the Daily Value for fat–that means that one-fourth of the recommended fat for the day is packed into 1 cup of soup–that’s a lot of fat per serving!

  • Here are some things to visualize when you are looking at a food label:

Every 5 grams of fat is a teaspoon of fat (or a pat of butter). In the example above, each cup serving of soup has 15 grams of fat–that’s three teaspoons (or one tablespoon), or three pats of butter per serving! If you consume the whole can (two servings), then you are consuming six pats of butter!

  • Every 4 grams of sugar is a teaspoon. The soup above has very little sugar–only 2 grams per serving, or about a half a teaspoon. But a 480ml. bottle of sweetened tea might have 30 grams per serving (and remember, the bottle is two servings of 240ml each). If you drink the whole bottle, you’ll be drinking 60 grams of sugar–that’s 15 teaspoons, or five tablespoons, or just under 1/3 cup!



By Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.

The issue of dietary fat is probably one of the most confusing to people. Should you eat as little as possible? More of the “good” fats? The answer lies somewhere in between. Ideally, you want to eat only the amount that you need to add flavor to foods, and of the fats you eat, you want to select the healthiest ones. All fats, regardless of their source, are about 120 calories a tablespoon, so most people can’t (and shouldn’t) eat them freely. Here are some things to remember:

  • Fats are categorized as saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, depending on the predominant fatty acid they contain.
  • Generally speaking, saturated fats (found in animal products like meats, cheese and ice cream as well as hydrogenated vegetable oils) tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. The process of hydrogenating oils, which makes them harder at room temperature, produces trans-fatty acids– which also raise blood cholesterol and should be avoided.
  • Polyunsaturated fats can be “good” or “bad,” depending on whether they are primarily Omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory) or Omega-3 fats (which are anti-inflammatory).
  • The richest source of Omega-6 fats in the American diet is corn oil; the richest sources of Omega-3 fats in the American diet are fish, flaxseed and vegetables.
  • While small amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are called “essential,” meaning our bodies can’t make them, the amounts required are very small and can be met from plant products, which have a good balance of the two fats.
  • Our diet is typically overloaded with Omega-6 fatty acids, with inadequate amounts of Omega-3. This imbalance, with too many “bad” fats relative to “good” fats, promotes the inflammatory process which is believed to be at the root of asthma, heart disease and many common forms of cancer.
  • Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocado, have neutral effects on cholesterol and do not promote cancer. These fats are “healthy” fats and can be eaten in moderation.
  • Olive oil is a healthy oil for cooking; if the flavor is too strong for you, you can purchase “light” olive oils which have the same calories as regular olive oil, but are lighter in flavor.

To reduce overall fat intake:

  • Try using pan sprays when you sauté foods or you can sauté in wine or broth.
  • Use nonfat or reduced-fat versions of high-fat items, such as dairy products, spreads and dressings.
  • If you are watching calories, keep in mind that low-fat or fat-free versions of baked goods often have the same amount of calories as the full-fat version. In many cases, fat is replaced with sugar which drives up the calories.
  • Avoid fatty meats such as steaks, high-fat ground meats, chops and sausages. Eat more poultry breast, fish, shellfish, egg whites, nonfat dairy products and soy products for protein, which have much less fat than red meats.
  • Avoid farmed salmon, if possible. Farmed salmon is fattier than wild salmon, but the extra fat it contains is not the “good” fat. Despite myths to the contrary, shellfish is not high in cholesterol, and is an excellent source of protein that is very low in fat.
  • Flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, onions, garlic, chilies and other seasonings rather than relying on heavy sauces, gravies and butter.


  • When you eat out, try to make smart choices. Keep sauces and gravies to a minimum, and order meats, fish or poultry grilled, broiled, poached, steamed, roasted or baked. Some people skip the starchy part of the meal, especially if it’s likely to be fatty, and order double vegetables instead.
  • Order salad dressing on the side so you can control how much you eat. Restaurants often drench the greens in high-fat dressings.
  • Try fresh fruit or sorbet for dessert rather than pastries and ice cream.



By Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H.


Of the many types of fatty acids, two that seem to be making all the headlines these days are the Omega-3s and Omega-6s. These names simply describe the chemical structure of fats, but you only need to remember the Omega-3s tend to reduce inflammation in the body, while the Omega-6s tend to promote inflammation in the body. This is the most basic way to describe these two fatty acids. The Omega-3s are found in fish, flaxseed and borage oil, while the Omega-6s are found in corn and wheat. Nutritional anthropologists believe that the diet of ancient women and men was relatively balanced between these two fats. Both are important, and a healthy ratio between the two determines health.

The Omega-3s are also found in ocean plants like seaweed algae. The fish eat the Omega 3-rich algae; the fish store the healthy fats; we eat the fish; and we store the healthy fats. Again, the phrase “you are what you eat” could never be more factual. The Omega-3s are also found in grass, which many animals naturally live on. Cows naturally eat the grass in the fields as they graze, they store the good fats, and we, in turn, get beef that is high in the good fats.

The change in the food supply has dramatically changed this process. Now most cows in the United States are corn fed to fatten them up faster for food production. This process is not what nature intended. So once again, we find a disruption of nature’s delicate balance.


By Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H.

For many of us, one of the main goals of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is learning how to eat less. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a realistic idea of what constitutes a serving. In an era of jumbo meals, super-sizing and free refills, overgenerous portions of food and beverages have become the norm. In addition, eating habits that you learned from a young age–that it’s okay to have seconds, that you should clean your plate, that dessert always follows a meal–can be difficult to break. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. You can train your body to feel full with less, just as it has become accustomed to needing more. Try these suggestions:

  • Serve meals already dished onto plates instead of placing serving bowls on the table. This allows you to think twice before having a second portion.
  • Try using a smaller plate or festive party bowl to make the food seem like more.
  • Eat slowly and savor each bite. When you eat too fast, your brain doesn’t get the signal that you’re full until too late and you’ve already overeaten.
  • Eat foods that are healthy and low in calories first. You can eat a lot of these foods without taking in a lot of calories. When at a party–hit the vegetable trays first.
  • When eating, focus on your meal and your company. Watching television, reading or working while you eat can distract you. Before you know it, you’ve eaten much more than you wanted to.
  • Stop eating as soon as you begin to feel full. Don’t feel as if you need to clean your plate.
  • Designate one area of the house to eat meals, such as the kitchen table, and sit to eat your meals.
  • If you’re still hungry after you’ve finished what’s on your plate, wait 20 minutes, mingle with other guests, and then if you are still hungry, nibble on something low in calories, such as fresh vegetables or fruit.
  • When ordering at a restaurant, request a take-home container. When you receive your meal, put part of it in the container. Or ask that one-half of your meal be put into a container before the meal is served. Portion sizes in restaurants can be two to three times the amount you need.



One medium-size fruit (size of a tennis ball, your fist or a light bulb). Suggestions:

    • Wake up with an orange for breakfast
    • Add a sweet crunch to your lunch with an apple
    • A pear is a quick and easy dessert


  • cup cooked, frozen or canned vegetables or fruit (smaller than a can of tuna fish). Suggestions:
    • Grab some baby carrots for a snack
    • Order pizza with mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli or spinach–that’s more than one serving
    • Place sliced, canned peaches or berries on low-fat ice cream


1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (a handful of greens counts as one serving). Suggestions:

    • Add a handful of baby spinach to your sandwich wrap
    • Have a mixed green salad with a slice of veggie-topped pizza for lunch
    • Keep washed greens in the fridge for a quick salad snack


  • cup cooked dry peas or beans (think smaller than a can of tuna fish again). Suggestions:
    • Add canned or frozen beans to vegetable soup
    • Make a salad with a variety of lima, red kidney or green beans, diced onions and Italian dressing
    • Toss pinto and garbanzo beans into a green salad


QUICK TIP: When dining out, here’s a new way of looking at those garnishes that make your plates so beautiful: Eat them. Try that orange slice and especially that green parsley. Not only is parsley nature’s best remedy to fresh breath, it’s naturally nutritious as well.

Independent Herbalife Distributor