Smarter Than Pancakes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Easy Trick to Use to Tell if a Food is Nutritious

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 1:11 pm

I had to go to a class for the local Home Extension group that I’m in.  (I joined thinking that I don’t have a mom or grandma who can teach me things like canning or pie crust tips, I could learn things from these wise ladies.  It turns out that the ladies in the group I’m in are more convenience food ladies. Their canned goods come from Walmart and their pie crust is Pillsbury.  They are very nice, so I stick around.)

Every month, one of the ladies teaches a lesson on some topic that has been predetermined by the Home Extension office.  I’m supposed to teach a lesson to them on reading and understanding food labels.  I had to go to the library where someone from Home Extension taught us the information they wanted us to pass on.  Unfortunately, the other ladies in the class were older and didn’t pick it up quickly.  Simon and I got the gist within the first 15 minutes.  (Partially because I had included nutrition and food labels in his homeschooling.)  We then sat there for an extra hour while they explained it over and over to the other ladies.  I was pretty sure that’s how it was going to work–hence my dread.

First, let me preface by saying that I’m really all about shopping the edges of the store.   Foods that don’t require a nutrition label are my ultimate goal, but I understand that I’m a rarity.  A lot of people have no idea how to cook  the foods that you find around the outer edges of the store–produce, raw meat, dairy, etc.  People also frequently shop the middles because they have been brainwashed into thinking that they don’t have time to eat anything besides the processed stuff in the middle by years of commercials telling them that things like Hamburger Helper are delicious AND nutritious.  The little trick that I learned in this class is a good start for people who shop the middles!

COUNTING ON YOUR FINGERS TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THE FOOD LABEL (Kinda)
by our Extension Service and (Adapted by Shaye of Smarter Than Pancakes)

So you can Google food label to learn all about how the FDA requires there to be labels, that there are 14 items of info, etc.  I’m only giving you the trick they taught us to tell if a food is nutritious or not by counting on your fingers.

So you’re in the store and you’re trying to decide if Multi-Grain Pringles are a nutritious food.  Here’s what they say you should do:

Start with a closed fist and look at the middle section of the nutrition label.
If the food has 10% or more of vitamin A, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of vitamin C, raise another finger.
If the food has 10% or more calcium, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of iron, raise a finger.

Now move up to the top part of the label.
If the food has 5 grams or more of protein, raise a finger.
If the food has 10% or more of fiber, raise a finger.

Now you can either look at calories or fat.
If the food has over 200 calories or 10% or more total fat, lower a finger.

According to them, if you have any fingers standing, the food is nutritious. (Obviously more fingers means more nutritious, but no fingers is a pretty good indication that what you’re holding is a package of empty calories.)

My only problem with that is that they aren’t looking at cholesterol, sodium, or sugar with their finger thing.  Those are the big three that cause the most problems medically.  Their handouts do say that 10% of cholesterol, sodium, and sugar are excessive; but they don’t consider that in deciding if something is nutritious or not.  I would say that if you’re holding up one finger, and notice that the cholesterol, sodium, and/or sugar is above 10%; you should probably put that finger back down again because the nutrition you’d be consuming would most assuredly be negated by the extra cholesterol/sodium/sugar you’d be consuming along with it.  They said if you’re *watching* your cholesterol, sodium, or sugars; you should keep an eye on those numbers.  Shouldn’t everyone pay at least a little attention to those things with the epidemic proportions of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes in this country?  (Sorry, I’ll get off my high-horse now, and try to start with baby steps.)

Anyway, that’s what I learned.  I’ve already had Simon use it a few times to decide if he was making a nutritious choice, so it is a nice little trick to have your arsenal.  (See how I didn’t say “handy little trick”?  I resisted!)

P.S.- Multi-Grain Pringles have 0% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 0% calcium, 2% iron, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.  Exactly zero fingers held up before we even look at fat, calories, or anything else. Don’t be fooled by the “Multi-Grain”.  You need “Whole Grain” if you want healthy. 😉

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1 Comment »

  1. I am looking for more information on this method. What extension office were you working with and do you have any other resources to validate the “determining if food is nutritious by raising fingers” method? Thank you!

    Comment by Amy Thompson — Wednesday, April 8, 2015 @ 2:04 pm | Reply


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