Reading Food Labels…the Heart Healthy Way!
Food labels can be confusing. What should you look for when you want to buy foods healthy for your heart?
1. First, check out the fat section of the label. Aim for foods low in saturated fat with zero grams of trans fat. Unsaturated fats are your heart healthy fats (found in healthy oils, nuts, seeds and avocados) so don't be afraid of these. They are actually good for you!
Most people's total fat intake should in general be between 35-50 grams per day, with 90% of those fats coming from your heart healthy sources.
2. Next up, the carbohydrate, sugar and fiber section. Aim for foods with a higher content of fiber (especially the soluble fiber!) and lower amounts of sugar. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber per day to help fill you up and lower those LDL cholesterol levels.
3. Last but not least, check out the ingredient section. Avoid foods with ingredients such as palm kernel oils, hydrogenated fats and bleached white flour.
Make your own trail mix recipe:
I find it healthier to mix your own trail mix than to buy those that are prepacked, which may or may not have added salt and sugars.
In a gallon size baggie, mix a variety from the following ingredients:
- Carbohydrate options: Low salt pretzels, Cheerios (multigrain and regular), Kix
- Fruit: dried fruit with no added sugars such as apples, bananas, strawberries
- Seeds: sunflower, hemp, sesame, flax or pumpkin
- Nuts: pistachios, walnuts, almonds
- Sweets: Dark chocolate pieces, yogurt covered raisins or chocolate covered nuts (in moderation!)
- Spices: It's nice to spice up your trail mix every now and then to jazz it up a bit. Try cinnamon, curry, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne pepper.
In general a serving of trail mix is about 1/4- 1/2 cup.
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian/Health Coach, Franciscan WELLCARE