As we get older, many of us begin increasingly thinking about ways to create a diet that includes foods that are full of healthy nutrients. You might start looking for foods that contain more vitamins, and you may try to find products that are full of fiber. Sometimes, though, it can be tough to interpret the nutrition facts on a food label. It can be difficult to determine what all of the different percentages mean, and it can be hard to figure out the serving size and the calories in each serving. If you’re looking for ways to improve your diet, this senior nutrition guide will help you.
What’s in the Nutrition Facts Label?
Every Nutrition Facts Label has the same basic parts. At the top of the label, you’ll see the serving size and the servings per container. Typically, a food product will have more than one serving in it. The serving size is listed in easy to understand measurements, like cups or pieces.
Underneath the serving information, you’ll see the calorie information. The calorie information is based on one serving of food. On the left, you’ll see the calories per serving. On the right, you’ll find the calories from fat. Try to mostly buy products that have a low percentage of calories from fat.
Below the calorie information, you’ll find all of the nutrient information. The nutrient information is also based on one serving of food. On the left side, you’ll see the name of each nutrient. The nutrients that you should eat in limited amounts are listed at the top of the nutrient information section. These are fat, saturated fat, Trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Below that, you’ll see the nutrients that you should be sure to eat enough of each day. This includes dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
On the right side of the Nutrition Facts Label, you’ll see the percent daily value of each nutrient. The percent daily value tells you how the nutrients in the food product contribute to your overall daily diet. For example, if the food product lists 10 percent for Vitamin B, that means the food is giving you 10 percent of the Vitamin B that you need in a day. These percentages are based off a 2,000 calorie daily diet. Generally, if a food has 20 percent or more of a nutrient, it is high in that nutrient. If it has 5 percent or less, it is low in that nutrient.
Some Nutrition Facts Labels also include footnotes. These footnotes tell you how many grams of each vitamin and mineral are in the food product.
Creating Balance in your Daily Diet
Once you have a handle on how to read to the Nutrition Facts Label, you can begin using the label to create balance in your daily diet. Pay careful attention to the percent daily values on each food you’re eating. If, for example, you eat a food that has a high total fat percentage for breakfast, try to choose a low-fat food for lunch. When you do this, you can still eat the foods you like, and you’ll be able to balance out your splurges with healthier meals.
Senior Nutrition Shopping Tips
When you’re trying to improve your senior nutrition, it’s important to pay careful attention to what’s in each of the food products you’re buying. Try to mostly buy products that are low in fat but high in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Spend time studying the food labels for different products at the store, and try to get products that contain a wide variety of healthy nutrients.
It’s also a good idea to look for food products that have short ingredient lists. Companies will often include sugar and chemical additives that increase the shelf life of a product or enhance its look. To avoid these products, take a look through the ingredient list on a few products, and choose the product that has the fewest additives and the most nutritious ingredients.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re buying plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables offer tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You also won’t have to worry about them having any additives or preservatives. Eat fruits and vegetables for snacks, and include them as side dishes with your meals. If you have difficulty chopping, consider buying containers of pre-sliced fruits and vegetables from your grocery store.
Nutrition Concerns for Seniors
There are a few nutrition tips specifically for seniors that you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re making your meals. When you’re buying food, try to buy items that are low in sodium. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. When you’re buying canned goods, check the Nutrition Facts Label and try to get a product that has a low percentage of sodium. Also, when you’re adding seasoning to your food, be careful not to use too much salt. Try flavoring your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
If you enjoy eating cereal for breakfast, consider buying fortified cereal that contains Vitamin B12. Many older adults have low Vitamin B12 levels. As we age, our body loses the ability to absorb B12. Low B12 levels can lead to anemia, memory problems, and nervous system issues. Eating fortified foods and foods that are high in B12 helps offset these issues.
Check the Nutrition Facts Labels on a few different boxes of cereal before you choose which one to buy. Try to get the cereal that has the most B12 in it. It’s also a good idea to buy other foods that are high in B12, including soy milk, eggs, cheese, and low-fat milk.
Senior Health and Nutrition
As a senior, it’s important to eat a diet of healthy foods that contain the fiber and nutrients that you need to stay healthy. The next time you go grocery shopping, keep these senior nutrition tips in mind. These tips will help you choose the best foods for a healthy and nutritious diet.