Fact - losing weight at menopause is more challenging. One thing that is super important to consider is cutting out processed foods.
Because of this, I am not one to condone lots of packaged foods, as whole foods are obviously the best option. But sometimes whole foods are not an available option - when you’re travelling for instance, and we have to make the best with what we have to hand.
And there are certain packaged foods which are healthier on the 0 - 10 scale, which we may have bought for convenience over making our own, like my muesli I am going to use as an example later in this post. (FYI - I don’t eat it everyday 😉)
So how does the Nutrition Information Table help you to make an informed decision? And why is this important for weight loss?
The Nutrition Information table is on the back or side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, fat, carbs, sodium, sugar, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?
Well essentially, yes! But do you do it? And why should you care?
Here’s a crash course on reading the Nutrition Information table.
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Information table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So it's tricky.
All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.
Here’s an example - A bag of Muesli I have in my cupboard at home
As you can see, right under the Nutrition Information header is the serving size. It is 35g. This means that all the numbers underneath it in the left hand column are based on this amount. The right hand column is for 100g and this is how you can compare two different products.
Now 35g is actually not a lot and using your eye-o-meter to estimate it is NOT a good idea. I am sure you can guess why 😉.
So here’s an experiment to try: Use a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. Put the measuring cup on your scale and measure out 35g. You may be surprised at how small it is!
Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein
Calories are pretty straight forward. Here 35g has 161 calories
Fat is broken down into the different types. That 7.4g of fat is total fat. That includes the items underneath it. Here, 7.4g of total fat includes 2.6g saturated fat, 1.5g polyunsaturated fat, 3.3g monounsaturated fat, and 0g trans fat.
Cholesterol and sodium all measured in mg. For 35g of muesli there are 4.2mg of sodium. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).
Carbohydrate, like fat, is total carbohydrates. It includes the items underneath it like sugar. Here, 35g of muesli contains 16.6g of carbohydrates of which 3g is sugar.
Fibre is also listed, and 35g of muesli contains 3.8g of fibre.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, 35g of muesli contains 5g of protein.
Other things to look out for
Here in New Zealand we don’t regularly see % Daily Value. But you may find some Nutrition tables have them, especially if the product is from overseas.
The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.
One thing to note is that not every nutrient has a %DV. It may be missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This could be because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that countries are looking to change this, so keep you eyes peeled.
Sometimes Vitamins and Minerals are listed as well
When they are they are also straightforward. They could include vitamins such as potassium, calcium, and iron, and possibly vitamins A and C.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Information table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Information table was helpful. You can decide if you’ll use it when it comes to making food decisions, but I find it a great tool to make those decisions informed.
Being able to choose nutritious foods is important, as well as choosing the least processed option. You are always working on a continuum, so having the information to hand to make that choice is super important.
Especially if you’re on a weight loss journey!
If you’re ready to take that journey to the next level I would love to chat with you. You can book in for a Discovery Session with me as my gift to you. Click the button below to secure your time.
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach