Friday, March 14, 2014

Food Chemistry: Make it Personal {Week 10}

Alright so for the past 10 weeks, we've talked about lots of things. But recently, we've talked about dietary guidelines, dietary requirements and being active about your health. So it just makes sense that we now talk about labeling and personalized food plans. So a little about nutrition facts.
This is one of my favorite nutritional fact helpers. Some of you may know this, but some may not. I work in a student-run clinic as a nutrition education intern. It's basically a student-run free health clinic for underserved/uninsured populations. Med students from our college work in there to 1) gain practice 2) help those who otherwise would not receive any health care. So as the nutrition intern, i'm basically the only "nutritionist" there. So I get to do a lot of nutrition advising that a registered dietician would normally do for a clinic/hospital. Not only is it a fantastic experience for me in my long-term career goals, but also, it feed directly into my passion so much. I really feel like I found myself in this clinic. I found how much I absolutely love counseling people on what to eat. 

First thing I do with my patients is walk them through a food label. Like- what is it? Personally, I spent hours and hours going grocery shopping. Because, I literally just walk through, aisle by aisle just reading every single food label. Not because I was going to buy everything, but because I love just learning about how much sugar something has, or the calories in a cup of mac 'n' cheese. Yes, i'm weirder than your average person. No one spends 3 hours in whole foods per week. But hey, it's my passion. So to walk you through the food label, I have attached the picture above. An important part to look at is the Daily Value calculator. People always get confused at these percents. 

 "Does this mean thats 30% of what I should eat?"

"Or does this mean that I have 30% of my calcium intake and therefore should have 3 of these foods plus a third to get 100%?"

These percents are the % of this serving that fulfills the RDA requirement for that nutrient. We talked a lot about RDA values in Week 8. So basically, they take the amount of the nutrient/RDA for that nutrient * 100 = the % of the requirement you will "achieve" by eating that food. Does that make sense?

 But there are all different kinds of labels nowadays. For example, the picture below shows all the different kinds of food labels found on the front of packages, besides just the standard label on the back. 

Okay, so now you know how to read labels and know what to look for... but what does it mean? First, it is important to maintain a balanced caloric intake. Don't let anyone fool you, it is important to count your calories. However, the Paleo-side of me, is cringing at the thought of saying this. Reason being, I don't want you guys to obsess over numbers. It is more important to eat wholesome good food. But, just because bacon is considered a Paleo-approved (and encouraged food) doesn't mean that you should be overloading on bacon everyday. Or, sweet potatoes. Yes, sweet potatoes are a total "go" food. They contain complex carbs and are honestly a huge staple in my personal diet. But, keep in mind, a small sweet potato is ~ 70kcal. So when you opt for sweet potato fries, although they are paleo, you are upwards of 300 kcal per serving. So be careful. The other big one in the Paleo diet is ghee, or clarified butter. One tablespoon of ghee is ~ 74 kcal. You can't just keep pouring ghee on everything thinking "oh it's paleo, i'll lose weight" no. Yes, you're body will feel better with these foods. Yes, you will begin to notice changes in energy, health, etc. But at the end of the day, your calories intake must = your calories you put out via exercise in order to maintain your weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you should have a deficit in out calories vs. in. So it is important to count.

My favorite way of counting is through handy dandy trackers on my smartphone such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It. This way, I can also determine my fat intake, carb, protein etc.

 Another great resource to get more into the details of nutrients is the new USDA Food tracker, Super Tracker. This resources allows you to input everything you ate, how much you ate, for what meal, how much water and exercise you had, etc. Then you can glean nutrient reports and find out where you are deficient. Say for example you had a ton of broccoli this week so you have lots of calcium, but you didn't eat any meat or spinach so therefore you are low on iron. Here is a snapshot of my own SuperTracker nutrient report for the last 10 days. 

I basically just spent the top half of this post about what you can do for yourself. But now, let me address the "meal-planning" passion of mine. 
Because I work in the clinics, I like to make individualized meal-plans for my patients. Not everybody likes yogurt, not everybody likes greek yogurt with blueberries. Maybe someone likes to eat boiled chicken in the morning instead of the standard egg whites with steel-cut oats. So I enjoy recalling peoples diets for the last 24-hours and then figuring out what they like to eat and try to create meal-plans based on what they normally eat but with portion control. Because the main goal of the 21st century is to promote health and prevent disease, this is all about portion control and food. The goal of the USDA is perfectly in line with my life-long career goal.

For those of you who don't know, I have a passion for medicine and nutrition. I want to create the link in between the two things. For example, preventative medicine is all about food and health. What you eat now, affects your health long-term. Whether it be food hazards that we talked about earlier, or the amount of fast food and saturated fat you consume, or just your lack of knowledge of food labels. Therefore, I want to ultimately get my dietician license and then go off into medical school I don't think medical professions have the opportunity to get a lot of nutrition education in their medical education, and I want to have that background going into school. 

I love love love love love talking about nutrition and health and the things that affect it. The two are so intertwined that it's impossible and silly to even try to separate. Well, I hope that you all enjoyed my past 10 weeks of "education". I know I have! When I started this adventure back in January, I didn't think I would be able to tie it in to the foundation of my blog, or to even be able to figure out what to write and how to incorporate it into my own life. But nutrition education is so applicable that it literally fits into every facet of your life. It's also so personal. It means different things to different people and it is completely unique.

 Although, this was a food chemistry class, I learned so much about how people choose their foods, and therefore their preferences will dictate what foods they eat and ultimately the nutrients they consume. Then there is the issue of having to trust an organization to make sure the food is completely safe to consume and won't bring harm to you. But on top of all of that, you need to be active in your health and seek out the resources that are there for you to learn from. I hope these past 10 weeks of posting has helped you guys have an avenue for gaining education about food in "layman terms" instead of the heavy scientific jargon. There is a lot of research and science behind all these resources, but they can all be broken down into regular terms, which I hope I did for you here.

Thank you for caring and reading a long. If you have any questions, as I mentioned above, this is my passion. Please feel free to comment below and I will reach you! 

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