Read Label: Make smart food choices

When you are standing in the grocery store with open choices, in one hand a multi-seed crackers with a label “healthy” and in another hand whole wheat crackers. You may think, the eye catching term “healthy” is better than whole wheat crackers. But these healthy crackers might have more sugar listed under nutrition facts (nutrition information panel) than whole wheat cracker!

You should learn how to decipher nutrition labels to choose the best food! When shopping for bread, look for words like whole grain or 100% whole wheat.

FDA reading food labels

Label source:

  • The ingredients are listed in order from most to least. For example if the ingredients list shows unbleached wheat flour as the first ingredient and whole wheat flour as the third ingredient that indicates that the product has relatively little amount of whole wheat flour.

FDA reading food labels

Label source:

  • Serving size listed, is based on a single serving. The nutrition facts (nutrition information panel) will give you the size of a single serving and the total number of serving of the product as well. If you eat twice the serving size printed on the label, it means you double the calories, fat, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, cholesterol and sodium. Some labels use the term energy, for calories.
  • Total fat, Total carbohydrate and sodium
    • For a 2,000 calorie diet, limit your saturated fats to 11-13 g. High saturated fats with trans-fat will increase the cholesterol in the blood. The recommended dietary intake of cholesterol is no more than 300 mg / day. Choose the food with mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are considered for heart health benefits. Aim for 15 g of total fat /meal. Fat is a fat! All fats gives the same amount of calories. Eating lot of fats will increase calories intake that eventually leads to weight gain.
  • People think carbohydrate as stodgy! Carbs are our friends, for they are less energy dense than fat. Consuming more calories than we need is what makes us gain weight. Fibers found in whole grain foods keeps you feel full for longer and empties the stomach slowly. Should read the nutrition information panel to understand how much carbohydrate the food is composed of. That means total carbohydrates which includes sugar, complex carbohydrate and fibers. No sugar added doesn’t mean the product is calorie free. The product may still be higher in carbohydrates.  Look for food with Aim for 4-5 grams of fiber per serving (25 grams of fiber/day).
  • Look for foods that has less than 360 mg of sodium per serving. A single serving of soup may contain more than 1,000 mg sodium.

FDA percentage daily value

Label source:

  • % Daily value gives you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving based on daily recommended amount. Choose food with lower % value of saturated fats (for example 5% or less) and go for 20% or more for vitamins, proteins, calcium and iron.

Make use of the Nutrition Facts (Nutrition Information Panel) to compare similar products. The nutrient facts provide nutrient content per serve and per 100 g.  For example if you want to find bread or breakfast cereal with highest fiber content, use the 100 g column to compare the fiber  in the bread or cereal.




DASH-Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension

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DASH is a kind of flexible, harmonious, balanced eating plan towards improving the blood lipid levels, there by preventing the high blood pressure and the cardiovascular disease.

Why prevent hypertension?

When the blood pressure elevates, it puts an extra stress to the heart and blood vessels. If the blood pressure is not controlled and stays high all the time, then you are at a high risk of heart attacks, strokes, and renal (kidney) disease. Many factors can affect blood pressure, like amount of water and sodium in the body, the condition of renal and blood vessels, and the hormone levels. As you grow older your blood vessels become stiffer and this could be one of the reason for high blood pressure.

Trans fats and excess saturated fat will raise your LDL cholesterol level in the arteries. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance and is essential for normal cellular structure and function. But excess amount of this waxy substance can cause clogged or blocked arteries. that puts you at a risk of heart attack and stroke! As the blockages build, the blood flow will be restricted and to overcome this restricted blood flow, the heart has to work harder and must increase the pressure to pump blood efficiently.

The result is hypertension, an elevation in Blood pressure, a silent killer!

Though the body can produce 75% of the body cholesterol, and remaining 25% is achieved through the diet, it is obvious that excess saturated & trans fat will elevate the total cholesterol in the blood if consumed in excess!

It is obvious that smart eating strategies will help to control blood pressure.

Low in saturated fats and trans fats DASH Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein

DASH eating plan is focused on: Incorporating whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils; Emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and fat-free & Low-fat dairy products, and reducing the sodium, sweets, sugary beverages and red meats.

High fiber, low-fat, and low-sodium foods are great help in lowering your blood pressure. Oats, quinoa, barley, amaranth, buckwheat are the whole grains that fits into this category.

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Dash guidelines also suggests having more foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Leafy greens like romaine lettuce, turnip greens, spinach, are high in potassium. Foods high in potassium gives you a better ratio of potassium to sodium that help control the blood pressure.


Studies show that flavonoids rich fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries help prevent hypertension.

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Potatoes are good source of both potassium and magnesium, the two potential minerals that can help to lower blood pressure. Baked potato with yogurt or tomato & onion salsa for great flavor!

Banana too is an excellent source of potassium, that helps

Nitrates, a natural chemical in beets help bring down the blood pressure. Roasted or steamed beets with spinach is an excellent salad to reap the benefit of this heart friendly chemical.

Calcium rich skim-milk is an excellent source of calcium and low in fat, an ideal food for maintaining blood pressure.

Consume less amount of saturated rich products like butter, whole milk, ice cream, and fatty meats.

Stay away from food that are high in sodium like:

Processed foods like smoked meats, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, ham and salami

Anchovies, pickles, and sauerkraut

Soy sauce, tomato sauce, vegetable juice and cheese

Bottled salad dressings

Snack foods like chips, crackers, salted nuts.

Individual with hypertension, should abstain from alcohol that help reduce the risk of stroke.

While cooking, it is healthy to replace salt with other seasonings like pepper, garlic, cilantro, basil, parsley and lemon. Spice blends are high in salt. So, try to avoid the ready to use packaged spice blends.

Read labels to understand the sodium contents of the product like:

Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Citrate, for these chemicals may pose a cancer risk.

Do not purchase food with MSG-Mono sodium glutamate. Mono sodium glutamate, will cause a form of neuro-toxicity. The insidious nature of MSG acts as nerve stimulant that changes the taste buds to taste even the bad food, a real fantastic!

Heart & Stroke Foundation recommends 2,300mg (1tsp/5mL of table salt) sodium a day.

Please click for your guide to lowering blood pressure with DASH

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DASH diet is a great way to enjoy food while naturally lowering blood pressure. A little DASH goes a long way!


See where they are hiding…..

Too much sugar: Obesity!

Too much salt: Speeds up aging process!

Dietary habits in childhood and adolescence are likely to influence eating patterns in later life.

Children are eating too much salt and sugar.

The sweet stuff is absolutely everywhere. For example, there is 13 grams of sugar for every 2 tablespoon of BBQ sauce. Equivalent to 3 sugar packets (5 g).       An 8 oz of soda is loaded with 30-35 g of sugar. Almost 6 -7 packets of sugar! Do you take 6 packets of sugar, for a cup of coffee?  You may opt for zero percent sugar in your yogurt. But what if it comes with 3 teaspoons of sugar?  Better be careful of these sneaky sugar bombs.

Convenience foods like soft drinks, cookies, lollies, cakes are high in sugar contents. So, arm yourself with the knowledge of where these sugars are hiding.


Too much sugar will lead to obesity!

Common Foods Sugar in grams Sugar Packets 5 g
BBQ sauce 13 g Approx 3 packets
Fruit yogurt 19 g Approx 5 packets
Soda 8 oz 29 g Approx 7 packets
10 Gummy worms 44g Approx11 packets
Granola bars 12 g Approx 3 packets
Energy drinks 83 g Approx16 packets

World Health Organisation recommends 5% of your daily calorie from added sugar. That is 25 g of sugar for an average 2000 calorie meal plan. 

American Heart Association recommends for:

An adult women 5 teaspoons (20 g sugar)

An adult Men 9  teaspoons (36 g sugar)

Children 3 teaspoons (12 g sugar)

It is best to save sweets and desserts for special occasions. To satisfy a sugar craving, choose fresh fruits or fruit salad.

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Eating too much salt speeds up the aging process!

Crisps & chips, pizza, pickle, sauces, sausages, smoked fish, salted nuts, some breakfast cereals are the major culprits of high sodium.

I am sure, you are already aware of sodium that raise the blood pressure, which leads to heart attacks and strokes. But a scientist, recently, have linked high sodium to cellular ageing!  Yes, Scientist Dr Haidong Zhu, Georgia Regents University, said that even in young people the high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular ageing!

Teenagers, often opt for convenience foods, high in sodium. People who eat high – sodium food tend to be heavier than those who eat less salt.

Children, preferring salty foods is a learned taste from parents. Children will not prefer salt in first place, if adults could control their sodium intake. Lowering the salt intake will reduce the risk of developing heart and renal disease.

1 teaspoon of salt (6 g) = 2,300 mg of sodium

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For an average healthy adult, American Heart Association recommends;      1,500 mg of sodium or less than 3/4th teaspoon of salt per day.

According to Food Standard Agency UK, for children, daily average maximum salt intake is:

Age 11-14 yrs, need 2300 mg sodium ( 6 g salt) per day

Age 7-10 yrs, need 2000 mg sodium (5 g salt) per day

Age 4-6 yrs, need 1200mg sodium (3g salt) per day

Age 1-3 yrs, need 800mg sodium (2 g salt) per day

Infants under 1 year should not be given salt because their kidneys are not matured

Common foods Sodium
Ketchup 1tbsp 190 mg
Cheese Krafts singles – 1 slice 200mg
Caesar dressing 2 tbsp 380mg
Ramen noodle soup 790mg
French fries 1 regular serving 200 mg
MSG 1 tsp 615 mg

It is obvious that prepacked foods are camouflaged by salt and sugar


Read food labels, before purchasing the food and add less salt & sugar, while cooking.

Choose fresh / natural ingredients over processed foods.

Turn watching television into a cardio workout. Yes… you can always enjoy your stationary bicycle while watching TV!