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Since 1994 the nutrition facts label has become standard fare on all packaged foods. It was mandated for most foods sold in the U.S. under provisions from the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which obliged food companies to label the content of all packaged foods. Remember that book, The End of Overeating? This is the book that inspired Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move program? It’s author, Dr. David Kessler, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the early 90’s, and was responsible for developing the nutrition labels that we’ve come t know and expect on the foods we eat.



The label outlines several important facts, first and foremost – serving size. This is the most likely aspect of the label that will confuse people. Many tend to jump right past the serving size and look only at the calories, or the sodium or the sugar included. As a society people in the U.S. tend to supersize everything. Compared to our grandparents, we eat our food off of bigger plates, and out of bigger packages; and we drink our drinks out of larger glasses. So what we’ve come to expect as a “normal” serving size for even breakfast cereal might likely count as two or two-and-a-half servings.

Calories are listed next. As long as we have the serving size estimated correctly calories are just what they are. When the portion size is confused – the calories consumed can be much greater. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the labels include the percentage of a nutrient available in the food based on the “daily value.”  And this daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Most people in the U.S. have occupations that keep them sedentary for a good part of the day, so their caloric need might be well below 2,000 calories. Still, one can roughly gauge that if she gets 20% of her daily value of protein at breakfast – she’ll want to be looking for the remaining 80% of protein in other meal options.

The Nutrition Information Label will always list total fat, sodium, carbohydrates and protein. Other components such as calories, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A vitamin C, calcium and iron are usually show, but may not show up on the label if they are not present.

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A typical Thanksgiving meal in the U.S. weighs in at about 3,000 calories. Below are tips for trimming calories while enjoying the day.

  1. Give thanks with every bite. Remember, gratitude is meaning of the thanksgiving holiday.  Keeping your focus on gratitude for your meal, your hosts, your friends and family allows you to stay in the present moment and to celebrate all those elements as gifts in your life.
  2. Eat slowly. Chewing your food slowly and with gratitude will help you slow down, stay present and better embody the meaning of the day.
  3. Consider your plate. Back in the 1950’s when waistlines all over America were quite a bit trimmer than they are today, the dinner plates we used measured no more than 9.5” in diameter. If you live in an older home you may have had the experience of your dinner plates not fitting on the shelf where you’d most like to put them. That’s because the size of dinner plates has grown – and so have U.S. serving sizes. When dishing up your thanksgiving meal – give your plate a critical view—if it measures over 9.5” in diameter, then do not fill it to the rim – leave a half inch, inch or more around the circumference to serve yourself a 1950’s portion.
  4. When cooking, a few substitutes can bring caloric counts down. Substitute low-fat plain yogurt for sour cream or applesauce in cake recipes that call for margarine, butter or oil. Instead of mashed potatoes one year my sister steamed cauliflower and whipped it with chicken broth to come up with a delicious dish that took the place of mashed potatoes.
  5. Load up on green and non-starchy vegetables: Thanksgiving ‘s starchy carbohydrates are well renown but often there are green beans, broccoli, salad and other kinds of green, low starch vegetables that take second billing – take a generous portion of these and “crowd out” some of the more starchy choices
  6. Contribute to positive dinner conversation. Stay positive in though and word – it will help foster good digestion for you and all your dinner companions.
  7. Let your stomach tell you when you need more, not your head. It’s always a good to wait about 20 minutes letting your stomach do some of its digestion work before you reach for seconds or for the dessert tray. Your mind will always think that more is a good idea but your stomach tells the truth. Go with your gut.
  8. Drink water. Remember to keep hydrated – many of the beverages served with thanksgiving meals including wine, beer, cider and coffee have a dehydrating effect. Be sure to drink water, and perhaps substitute water for that first, second, third or fourth glass of alcohol. Water has no calories and when you are well hydrated the hunger you feel will be hunger. Often times we confuse thirst for hunger and we feed our dehydrated bodies more than they need.
  9. When serving dessert the pie – make small portions an option. The size of the average pie has grown even larger than the average plate size – instead of cutting the standard 6 to 8 slices, try cutting the pie into 10 slices or more. This tactic could also cut down on waste when the “eyes bigger than stomach” syndrome sets in.
  10. Do some kind of physical activity before and after the meal. A workout before the meal is a good idea because it means your workout will happen. After the meal – motivate others to take a walk,  rake leaves or play a game of touch foot ball before they plop themselves down in front of the TV for the long football watching marathon.

Health & Nutrition Counseling

An integrative approach to health and nutrition which includes Earth consciousness.


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