“You are what you eat,” goes the old saying. Aisle after aisle in your local supermarket reminds you of the benefits their food products can offer. In all its colorful glory, the packaging speaks of missing nutrients and minerals in your diet that only a packet or a can of food can resolve for you.
The fine print of information hidden in the nutrition labels can be confusing and time-consuming. Understanding them is essential, especially when shopping for an older loved one who may have dietary restrictions in response to an existing or increased risk of a health issue.
Here are five things to look for in a nutrition label when shopping for an older adult.
1. The Serving Size
You can find this information right below the nutrition facts on a product. It tells you how many servings are there in the particular package. The size information is measured either in cups or pieces, along with the weight in grams (g) or milliliters (ml).
What does this indicate? One serving means the amount of food a person has in one sitting. The portion size may vary from person to person based on their dietary needs and preferences. If it’s a teenager or a physically active adult, even two portions in a single sitting would be considered normal. However, on average, a single serving of a product would be within the ideal or required calorie range for a healthy older adult. So, if a package says two servings, then opt for just half of the box in a meal.
2. The Number of Calories
The calorie information is usually listed right next to the serving size. This number indicates the amount of energy you will receive to expend in your daily activities from eating a particular food—for example, 100 calories per serving. Remember, more calories do not mean more energy. Once the body reaches its maximum energy requirement, the additional calories get deposited in your body as fat. So, if you’ve already had a healthy meal of chicken, rice, and veggies, try, and limit the serving of that delicious pumpkin pie to preferably half a serving.
3. The Nutrients Included
This information makes up for the bulk of the Nutrition Label on a product. It lists out all the nutrients available in that particular product. However, not all nutrients listed are alike in their nutritional value. For instance, you will notice ingredients like Sodium, Sugar, and Saturated Fats that are best when avoided in large quantities in your diet. It would help if you looked for the essential labels such as iron, potassium, magnesium, fiber, Calcium, Vitamin D, etc.
4. The Percent Daily Value (%DV)
The percentage figure alongside each nutrient indicates the ratio of nutrients included in the product per serving, weight, or volume. It also informs you about the proportion of nutrients contained with respect to the total daily recommended amount.
For example, if the label says 5% next to Calcium, the Calcium in one serving of the product is only 5% of the total amount of Calcium recommended in your daily diet. Again, this does not mean you take more food or calories to meet your absolute Calcium requirement for the day. Instead, try and include a variety of fruits, grains, vegetables, and lean meat in your diet, split into different meals to get well-rounded nutrition.
5. The Ingredients List
This section of the Nutrition Label lists all the ingredients included in the making of the product. It consists of the main components of the product and additional items used to increase the product’s shelf life, including emulsifiers, preservatives, etc.
It is always a good practice to go through the ingredients list to ensure it doesn’t include any food item that may be incompatible with your health requirements, even in trace amounts.
In addition to the above points, look out for the labels that brands or products may use to appeal to a particular audience group. For example, weight watchers are often marketed with sugar-free, low fat, light, or extra fiber tags to indicate more nutrition and fewer unwanted calories. These labels can sometimes be misleading. In such instances, always read the nutrition fact to confirm if the advertised benefit matches the ingredients and the amount listed.
At Affinity Senior Care, our caregivers help promote good nutrition through healthy meal prep services and grocery shopping. A good diet can boost immunity, keep weight in check, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, bone loss, infectious disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. A balanced diet coupled with daily exercise helps seniors maintain independence.
If you are looking for additional support to meet the changing needs of your family member, please reach out to us at: www.affinityseniorhelp.com or call Affinity at 248-363-8430.