What makes a food healthy? Is it the calorie content, the grams of fat or the amount of fiber? When you are making changes to your diet after weight loss surgery, this might become a question you ask yourself every time you shop for groceries.
To buy healthy foods, you’ll take all nutrition facts into account, as well as other criteria. This can seem like a lot to learn when you are trying to lose weight. However, once you know what you are looking for, finding healthy foods isn’t difficult at all.
Taking Advantage of Food Labels
On the side or back panel of every box, bag and bottle of food and drink sold in the United States, there is a grid providing the nutritional value of the contents of that package. This is the nutrition label, and as you make changes to your diet after weight loss surgery, it can become a huge help to you.
The nutrition label is essentially a cheat-sheet for healthy eating. You don’t need to recall the calorie counts of your favorite foods, or to remember how much protein, fat or carbohydrates are in every side item and snack you come across. Nutrition labels make all of this information accessible to you all the time. Once you know how to read a food label, and what information you are looking for on it, you can start making healthier food choices.
How to Read a Food Label:
- Start at the top: When you are trying to lose weight, the top of the food label will give you some of the most pressing information, including the calorie contents and portion size. Never assume that one package is one portion. All calories and nutrients listed are per portion.
- Limit negative nutrients: Total fat, cholesterol and sodium are the top three nutrients listed on a food label, just under the calories.
- Focus on protein: Protein is crucial after weight loss surgery. Try to eat foods that are high in protein content at every meal.
- Assess carbohydrates: Most foods heavy in carbohydrates are also heavy in calories, and this means you may grow full very quickly when eating these foods after surgery. Make sure there are plenty of beneficial nutrients present, too.
- Go for vitamins and minerals: The third portion of the nutrition label will list any vitamins and minerals that are present in the item, such as vitamin A or C, or calcium. Vitamins and minerals like these play a healthy role in your diet, improving the strength of your bones, your immune system and your heart.
As you read food labels, you’ll notice percentages on the right hand side. These are daily values, and they indicate how much of a particular nutrient you are having in one serving in relation to how much you should have in the course of a day.
These values are based on 2,000-calorie diets, so they will not be correct for you after weight loss surgery. Use them as a general guide. Greater than 20 percent indicates a high level of that nutrient, while anything less than five percent is considered low.