Perusing Food Labels For Healthful Eating

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Feeling confident that you are putting healthful items in your shopping cart can come from reading the label and knowing what you personally need to reach your weight goals.

"‘Fat free' ‘calorie free' ‘sugar free' and ‘cholesterol free' are not very specific terms," said Payson osteopath, Dr. Matthew Harris.

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Reading labels is one way to know the nutritional value of food and eat for better health. Other tips for healthful eating, "Drinking eight glasses of water per day to keep your fluids flowing good. Coffee, juice and other fluids do not count. Your system really needs the water," Edythe Finley a KOPS of TOPS 373 said.

Generally it means less than would be in a regular serving.

Although some manufacturers were labeling foods earlier, the government made it a requirement in 1994.

The "Nutrition Facts" panel on packaged foods gives not only the serving size and calorie count per serving, but breaks it down into categories so that consumers have the option of knowing the amount of a particular vitamin, fat (trans or saturated), carbohydrate, dietary fiber or cholesterol they are consuming.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control admit that characteristics for weight and obesity have varied over time, using the BMI, or Body Mass Index, as a guide, according to the Census Bureau in 2000, nearly two-thirds or 129.6 million American adults are overweight, and approximately one-third or 61.3 million are obese.

TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) is a weight-loss support group that has been around more than 60 years.

"People in TOPS make a lifestyle change," said Edythe Finley, coordinator, TOPS 373. Actually, Finley is a KOPS, a member who is "keeping off pounds sensibly."

TOPS 373 meets in Payson at Crossroads Foursquare Gospel Church Thursday mornings. Private weigh-in is at 7:30 a.m. A meeting follows with a presentation by on exercise or other ways to fulfill the goals of taking and keeping off excess weight.

TOPS 412 meets in Pine at the Mormon Church on Wednesday mornings. Weigh-in is at 7:45 a.m.

"We share love and friendships and lots of support. We have contests that encourage people too. Sometimes the programs are funny. Laughter has to be a part of it too, because life is funny," said Finley.

"One thing that keeps us going in the group is we are all in the same position. I've been way up in weight and fighting this battle for years and years. We all know it takes a lot of fight to get down to goal," said Shirley Conklin, weight recorder for the Pine group.

Anyone interested in joining TOPS can contact Finley in Payson at (928) 595-1078 or Conklin in Pine at (928) 476-3024.

Food and Drug Administration definitions

Fat free: Less than 1/2 gram of fat/serving

Low fat: 3 grams or less fat/serving

Light: 1/3 fewer calories or half the fat of the regular version

Reduced: 25 percent less of the nutrient than the regular version

Cholesterol free: Less than 2 mg of cholesterol and 2 or fewer grams of saturated fat/serving

Sugar free: Less than 1/2 gram of sugars/serving

Calorie free: Fewer than 5 calories/serving

High fiber: 5 grams or more per serving. Must also meet standard for "low-fat"

Good source of calcium: At least 100 mg calcium/serving

Low sodium: 140 mg or less/serving

Very low sodium: 35 mg or less/serving

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