Understanding Food & Nutrition Labels

The labels you see on the foods you buy are meant to help you make more informed choices about what you put on your table and into your body. But all the names, numbers, and ingredients you find on food and nutrition labels can often lead to more confusion than understanding.

So how do you take what you see and turn it into what you know? With this handy guide, of course! Here are some simple definitions and descriptions to help you become a nutrition label sage and savvier food consumer.

Food Labels

Food labels tell us more about the food we’re buying and eating. These are some of the key terms you’ll read on food labels and what they really mean.

  1. Gluten-free

Gluten-free products are those that contain no gluten and are considered safe to consume by those with gluten intolerances or those who want to avoid it.

  1. Organic

To earn the organic label, foods and products must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients. The remaining ingredients must be on the national approved list provided by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Organic products can’t be made using ingredients produced with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

  1. Vegan

Vegan products are those that do not contain any animal ingredients (meat, eggs, dairy products) or any ingredient derived from animals.

  1. Non-GMO

For a product to have the Non-GMO label, the crops used to create the product cannot have been modified in a lab to make them resistant to herbicides and/or produce an insecticide. Simply put, they are foods that haven’t been genetically modified in any way.

  1. Free-range

A free-range label means that the animals must be allowed to move freely over a large area of open land. These animals shouldn’t be locked away or contained.

  1. Grass-fed

Meat labeled grass-fed means the animal must have been primarily raised on ranges and eaten only grasses and forages for the length of its life, rather than in a feedlot. It does not mean the animal wasn’t contained unless it also has the “free-range” label.

  1. Kosher

For a product to be considered Kosher, it must conform to the Jewish religious dietary law. Any animal species must be slaughtered using a method in which the animal is rendered unconscious. Death then occurs almost instantly and the animal doesn’t suffer during the slaughter. This method is called “Shochet.”

  1. All-natural or 100% natural ingredients

This label can deceive people. While foods can have an all-natural, or 100% natural ingredients label, they can still contain growth hormones, antibiotics or other harmful chemicals.

Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels let us know about the dietary impact of the foods we’re consuming. Here are some of the terms you’ll find on your typical label and how to interpret them.

  1. Serving Information

When you first look at the Nutrition Facts label, find the total number of servings (shown as servings per container) and the serving size. Serving sizes are first provided in familiar units that people typically eat at one time, such as cups, ounces or pieces. You are then given the specific metric amount (e.g., the number of grams (g)). It’s important to note that all the nutrient amounts shown on the label (calories included) are related to a single serving size.

  1. Calories

Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of the food in the package you’re reading. For example, if there are 100 calories in one serving of a drink, you get 100 units of energy from that serving. If you drink the whole bottle containing 4 servings, you’d be consuming 400 calories. The general guideline for most adults is 2,000 calories per day. Depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level, you may need more or less calories.

  1. Nutrients

The label’s nutrient section shows you the nutrients you’ll be getting by consuming that product. You can use the label to seek out foods containing more of the nutrients you want (vitamins and minerals) and less of those you may want to limit (saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars).

  1. The Percent Daily Value (DV)

The % Daily Value (DV) is the percentage of the daily value of each nutrient your body needs that a serving of that food will provide. Daily Values are average levels of nutrients based on a person who eats 2,000 calories a day. It also helps you determine if a serving is high or low in a nutrient. (5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, while 20% DV or more is considered high).

Five Ingredients to Watch Out For

The ingredient list must contain every single ingredient present in your food product, in order of greatest to least. Here are 5 ingredients to watch out for when making food choices.

  1. Hydrogenated Oils

Partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats) have now been outlawed in the US. However, many manufacturers are turning to fully hydrogenated oils instead. These oils are a source of saturated fat and can impact cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body. These types of fat are largely found in highly processed foods, foods that should be limited due to their low nutritional value.

  1. Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in many processed foods. It’s been shown to increase inflammation, obesity, oxidative stress, and allergic reactions. It also likely becomes carcinogenic when combined with higher levels of vitamin C.

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup contributes to inflammation, increased cholesterol and triglycerides, and fatty liver. It also increases appetite and obesity.

  1. Other Added Sugars and Refined Flours

In excess, added sugars contribute to inflammation, high blood pressure, weight gain, and fatty liver. Added sugars in any form are bad if consumed in excess. This includes sugars like honey and unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar, which some people believe are less harmful. Diets high in refined grain products, like white bread, pasta, cracker, and baked goods, have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

  1. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a food additive used to help with thickening and emulsifying foods. It has been linked to IBS, inflammation, colon cancer, and glucose intolerance. Foods that are labeled organic can no longer contain carrageenan. But other foods can.

Making more informed choices about the food you eat is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and reading and understanding food labels is a great way to do it. So, use the information you find there to your advantage and start eating and living healthier today. To learn more about healthy eating schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians.

Find a Provider Near You.

We offer more ways to care for you, your family and our community. Whether you need routine care or treatment for an injury or chronic condition, our providers are here for you.

Better Balance: Fall Prevention for Seniors

Have you experienced falls or a loss of balance within the last year? Did you know that more than one out of four seniors fall each year?1

Less than half tell their doctor.2 Get educated on what you can do to prevent falls!

Common Causes of Falls:

People can take a fall for many reasons but some of the most common are:

  1. Weakness in the lower body (i.e. hips, legs, ankles, feet)
  2. Poor lighting at home
  3. Rugs

What can I do to prevent myself from falling?

  1. Regular strengthening and balance exercises.
  2. Use night lights or ensure there is good lighting in your home so you can get to and from the bathroom.
  3. Remove rugs from frequently used pathways in the home as they are a common tripping hazard.

There are many exercises to help you build strength and endurance to help prevent falling. One of the most common helpful exercises supports transitioning from sitting to standing.

Sitting to Standing:

  • Scoot to the front of the chair, feet underneath you, and stand up. Sit back down and repeat!
  • Ensure the chair is not going to slip out behind you
  • Perform 10 sit to stands 2-3 times per day.*
  • Try not to use your hands if your balance is good enough for extra strengthening.

*Please consult your physician before performing any exercises to ensure they are appropriate for you.

Ready to improve your balance?

Schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapy specialists today.


References:

  1. Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2
  2. Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:59–62.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium jalapenos, seeded and diced (smaller pieces than your onion/pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (use the liquid too!)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
  2. Once oil is warmed, add your onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos. Sauté until all vegetables are tender and onions are starting to turn translucent (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the ground turkey and cook until it is browned.
  5. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, spices, and salt and stir.
  6. Add beans and reduce heat to medium low.
  7. Simmer for 20-30 minutes and stir occasionally. If chili becomes too thick, add more water or part of another can of diced tomatoes.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Ready to take the next step?

Our Lifestyle Medicine team is here to support you on your journey to better health. Connect with one of our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists today.

It’s Back-to-School Immunization Time

Are your kids up to date on their back-to-school shots?

Trinity Health knows that vaccinations are a big part of your back-to-school preparation. Do you know which shots your child’s school requires?

Check out this handy vaccination checklist for some commonly required shots:

Kindergarten:

  • Polio
  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Flu

Elementary School:

  • Flu

Middle School:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • Flu
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Human papillomavirus

High School:

  • Meningococcal disease
  • Flu
  • Serogroup B meningococcal infection

And don’t forget to check if COVID-19 vaccines are required for your child’s school. Don’t wait any longer, schedule your child’s immunization appointment near you.

Need to find a doctor?

Our high-quality primary care doctors are ready to care for you. Schedule an appointment with one today.

Child Heatstroke: Keeping Your Kids Safe from Heat Injuries in Cars (Infographic)

Our little ones mean a lot to us and it’s tough to imagine forgetting them anywhere – but it happens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority of child related hot car incidents happen because someone forgets a child in a car. Keep your children safe by:

  • Never leaving your child in a car, no matter what the weather is.
  • Teaching your children that cars are not play areas.
  • Placing a child’s item on the front seat and a personal item in the back seat.

When traveling with a child or infant, practice looking inside your car before locking it. Remember: Park. Look. Lock.

Find a Provider Near You.

We offer more ways to care for you, your family and our community. Whether you need routine care or treatment for an injury or chronic condition, our providers are here for you.

Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets

Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets

Author: Kim Friendly, Simply Plant Based Kitchen
This crispy and delicious recipe will make these tofu nuggets a regular part of your meal rotation.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 4
Calories 75 kcal

Equipment

  • Air Fryer

Ingredients
  

  • 14 ounces extra firm tofu drained & pressed for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos for gluten & soy free
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt optional
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Instructions
 

  • After you've drained & pressed your tofu, place on a cutting board & slice into 1" cubes.
  • Mix low sodium soy sauce & vegetable broth together in a small bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, add all the dry ingredients & mix together (garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, black pepper, salt, & cornstarch).
  • Place cubes in a medium sized bowl & toss with the soy sauce mixture (or you can put in a ziplock bag to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge for more flavor).
  • Coat the tofu with the dry spices and toss well. It's ok if you have broken pieces – they'll end up super crispy & tasty!
  • Place cubes in the basket of your air fryer (no need to spray with oil) in a single layer and leave a little space around each piece. (you may have to do separate batches depending on the size of your air fryer)
  • Set your air fryer to 400°. Cook for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to flip them/shake basket and repeat 2-3 more times until desired crispness. 10-15 minutes total.
  • Remove tofu & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy as a snack, salad topper, or main dish! Serve plain or with sauce of choice. Great to dip in BBQ sauce!

Notes

Baking Instructions (if you don’t have an Air Fryer):
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  Spread cubes out in one layer on the baking sheet, with space between each piece.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping every 15 minutes or until desired crispness.
Keyword air fryer, oil-free, plant-based, tofu, vegan

Reference: Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets (Vegan & Oil Free) recipe by Kim Friendly, Simply Plant-Based Kitchen

Ready to take the next step?

Our Lifestyle Medicine team is here to support you on your journey to better health. Connect with one of our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists today.

Air Fryers: Are they for you?

These days, air fryers are all the rage. Air fryers are constantly popping up on social media, and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. But are they truly healthy? Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD, Community Dietitian, Chelsea Hospital has the answer.

Air Frying vs. Traditional Frying

Using an air fryer is healthier than traditional frying. Air fryers use hot-air technology to cook food. Newer ovens that have a convection setting use a similar process: Fans blow hot air around the food. Air fryers produce a crispy exterior to the food, with little or no oil, making this frying method healthier than traditional frying.

If you use a deep fryer or pan to fry foods, you are bathing those foods in hot oil. Deep-fried foods are more flavorful, but they have more calories.

A Brief Word about Fats

Some fats are essential to give your body energy and support cell function. They help keep your body warm and produce important hormones. Fats also provide nutrients and protect your organs.

There are two major categories of fats: saturated (unhealthy) and unsaturated (healthy). Dieticians recommend getting 10 percent or less of your daily calories from saturated fats.

Why is frying unhealthy?

Fats are more energy-dense than carbohydrates and proteins. If you consume a lot of fat calories, you can gain weight and potentially become overweight — which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Foods that people deep fry absorb the saturated fats that are used when frying, making frying problematic for a person trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In the process of heating oil to a very high temperature when frying and grilling, carcinogens can result, which are then consumed with the fried foods. Do not eat any foods that blacken while frying or grilling. Chemicals that are thought to be probable human carcinogens are produced when food is blackened.

Features to Look for in an Air Fryer

If you still love and crave fried foods, there are ways to make it a little better for you – both for your health and your wallet. Consider how often you will use this countertop appliance, which is not limited to frying foods. For example, you can make hard-boiled eggs, bake salmon and other meats, prepare desserts, and reheat leftovers.

  • Consider the price of an air fryer before purchase. Prices can vary significantly.
  • If you have an instant pot, there is an accessory you can buy that air fries, so you wouldn’t have to purchase another kitchen appliance.
  • Review sites of air fryers say that consumers should consider the wattage needed.
  • If an air fryer has pre-settings and you plan to use the air fryer frequently, you may prefer a model with more settings.
  • Dishwasher-safe baskets are great for easy clean up.

Alternatives to Frying

There are several healthier alternatives to frying your foods.

  1. Sautéing: Preparing foods this way is significantly healthier than deep fat frying. Sautéing uses a very small amount of oil.
  2. Steaming and Boiling: Heating liquids to cook foods does not require the use of oils. From a nutrient standpoint, it better to steam than to boil.
  3. Roasting and Baking: Both methods of cooking are a great alternative, especially if you add seasonings to the foods you are making. If you are roasting a fatty food, such as beef, be sure to provide a way to catch the drippings so the food isn’t sitting in its own fat.
  4. Broiling: This method browns and crisps food at a high temperature for a short period of time. It is often used for a finishing or beginning touch, while the food is cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Be aware that you can char food if you over broil, which then produces carcinogens.

Your takeaway? Using an air fryer is a healthier way to produce fried foods, but overall, it is healthier not to fry any foods.

Find a Provider Near You.

We offer more ways to care for you, your family and our community. Whether you need routine care or treatment for an injury or chronic condition, our providers are here for you.

5 Safety Tips for Summer Camping

The great state of Michigan is full of natural wonders to explore. Whether you are backpacking along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, car camping and dune climbing at Warren Dunes State Park, or enjoying an overnight canoe trip on the Au Sable River, here are some tips to ensure your adventures are safe and enjoyable for the whole family:

Tip 1: Know the area you are visiting and have a plan.

Before you go, take some time to learn about the area including the weather, terrain, and risks. A simple web search will help you with this. Park Rangers are also an amazing resource to tap into.

Carefully plan your adventure and notify a trusted friend of where you are going, when you expect to return, and when the friend should consider you “overdue” and make a report.

TIP 2: Protect yourself from the elements, injury & insects.

Pack shelter & clothing that are suitable for the expected weather conditions; this includes a tent/hammock with a rain fly, temperature appropriate sleeping bag, rain jacket, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, etc. You should also pack sun block (minimum SPF 30) and insect repellant (20-30% DEET) to deter mosquitoes and ticks.

Always carry a first aid kit & a safety whistle with you. First aid kits geared toward outdoor adventures can be found at most recreation stores and are often scalable to the activity and duration. Plan to exercise and build strength and endurance before your trip to decrease injuries.

TIP 3: Give wildlife their space.

Michigan is home to bears, moose, porcupines, cougars, coyotes, and wolves. When viewing wildlife, stay back at least 25 yards for most animals and at least 100 yards for bear and wolves. If you are in bear country, carry bear spray & be a noisy hiker by talking or singing with your hiking buddy.

Making noise lets animals know you are nearby so they can move along. If you accidentally find yourself too close to an animal, know how to handle the encounter correctly. Resources for how to handle wildlife encounters can be found on the NPS.gov website.

TIP 4: Keep your food and water safe.

Always carry drinking water with you, even on short hikes. Water from lakes, rivers, or creeks must be purified before you drink it. There are many ways to purify water including boiling, tablets, squeeze filters, gravity filters, and UV light treatment. Store and prepare food AWAY from your sleeping area.

Keep your campsite clean and keep any food or scented personal care items out of your tent. When car camping, store food in your vehicle. When camping in the backcountry, hang your food approximately 15 feet high and 100 yards from your sleeping area.

TIP 5: Fire Safety

Keep fires contained in a well-established fire ring, keep a bucket of water nearby, and NEVER attempt to start a fire with gasoline. Fully extinguish your fire before going to sleep or leaving your campsite for the day. Discuss fire safety with children and set firm boundaries about running & horseplay near campfires.

Finally, whenever you are outdoors and enjoying nature, be sure to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and leave nature better than you found it.

Find a Provider Near You.

We offer more ways to care for you, your family and our community. Whether you need routine care or treatment for an injury or chronic condition, our providers are here for you.

Regular Screenings Can Help Catch Skin Cancer Early

Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the main cause of skin cancer is being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun?

Warm summer weather often means taking part in more outdoor activities. While it’s important to be more active, when it comes to being out in the sun, be sure to take care of your skin.

As a component of summer safety, Trinity Health would like to encourage you to care for yourself and your loved ones by reminding you of the importance of regular skin screenings.

Your primary care physician (PCP) or other health care professional might advise that you perform routine skin self-exams to check for the development of any unusual changes.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the best time to do this is after a shower or bath. Check your skin in a room with plenty of light and use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror to learn where your birthmarks, moles, and other marks are as well as their usual look and feel.

If you find anything that looks unusual, such as a sore that won’t heal, a new mole that is different from others or a change in the way one of your moles looks, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.

Having a PCP who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice.

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

Trinity Health is committed to providing resources that promote well-being though body, mind and spirit and is dedicated to helping you live a healthy life.

Need to find a doctor?

Our high-quality primary care doctors are ready to care for you. Schedule an appointment with one today.

From Couch to 5K for Seniors

Spring is here, and good weather is a time to think about recommitting to fitness, especially at community events.

Now would be a good time to start training to participate in a community walk, which is a great way for people to get moving, whether they are new to walking for exercise or trying to get back on the exercise bandwagon.

Getting on the exercise bandwagon, and then staying on it, can be a constant work in progress. That is why when patients mention their difficulties with exercise, we can say with assurance that “The struggle is real!”

There is good news, though. Research shows that for older adults, exercise is better than no exercise. Even one minute of exercise can help improve mobility and physical function. The bottom line is this: It is never too late to start exercising, and you can begin with small steps!

Using a “Couch to 5K” program or another beginner walking program is helpful in providing guidance and takes the guesswork out of “how to go about it.” Try this Walk/Run Plan tailored for beginners to get started.

Tips Before Starting an Exercise Regimen

  • After finding a program to get you started, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the safety of the program before you begin.
  • Spend time looking for footwear with proper cushioning, comfort, and stability. The fit should be a thumb’s-width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of your shoe. Your heel shouldn’t slip when you walk or jog, and your foot shouldn’t be spilling over the edges of the shoe. If your shoes are not comfortable when you first try them on, they won’t be comfortable when walking or jogging.
  • If you need to use an assistive device for balance or safety, such as a cane or walker, use it! Your safety is most important, and those devices will help you keep your independence.
  • Slow down the program if you find it is too much for you. It is okay to spend 12 weeks completing a 6-week program.
  • Make a public commit to complete the program. Making yourself accountable to someone, whether on social media or to a fitness buddy, can make it easier to keep going, even when you don’t want to.
  • Consider listening to music, nature sounds, a podcast or audiobook to accompany you while you train.
  • Don’t forget to stretch after warming up and definitely after finishing your workout.

And finally, feel proud of yourself for every minute that you exercise because you are one step closer to better health.

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