Easy as Pie: Nutrition 101

Jul 30, 2013
Tagged with: Easy as Pie: Nutrition 101

I have hesitated to write this post for a while because when people find out my major they usually exclaim, “Tell me what to eat!”  Please keep in mind that I do know a fair amount about nutrition, however I am not a registered dietician yet and encourage you all to do your own research, especially pertaining to your specific condition.

There are three macronutrients: lipids (fats), proteins and carbohydrates and two micronutrients: minerals and vitamins.  The main differences between macro and micro nutrients are the amount of energy they yield and quantity you need of each day.  First, let me define calories or Kcals.  Calories are a measurement of energy; I feel a lot of people are confused over this since there is always hype about how many calories a food product is or how many Kcals they need to lose.  Keep in mind though that calories are metabolized and stored differently depending on their food source.  Proteins and carbohydrates both produce 4 Kcals per gram, lipids 9 Kcals/gram and alcohols 7 Kcals/gram.  Please note that none of the micronutrients generate energy, thus they have 0 Kcals/gram.  A lot of people are surprised to find out that micronutrients do not yield energy especially since many claim that they had a boost in energy after taking vitamin and mineral supplements.  Their statement probably is somewhat correct, however, the vitamins and minerals helped the macronutrients absorb, which in return produces the energy.  I will review each macro and micronutrients in later posts, but right now I want to give some nutrition tips that I find exceptionally applicable.

One of the easiest ways to be proactive about your nutritional health is by reading the nutrition facts panel on the back of the packages.  Unfortunately, this does take some time, but with practice you will become quick at skimming the labels in no time. First, always check the serving size.  The serving size is different than the number of servings per container.  Ex. Serving size=2 peanuts, servings/container=8, total number of peanuts/container=16.  The serving size is helpful in determining the nutrient density of the food.  Next you will see the number of Kcals/serving.  DO NOT freak out, remember this is just the quantity of energy/serving and along with the number of Kcals there are other factors that determine the nutrient density of the food.  Displayed is also the number of Kcals/serving from fat; I don’t find this value too important, but it is good to be mindful of it.  Next you will find the amount of grams of fat, which then divides into saturated and trans fat.  Occasionally the panel will subdivide the saturated fats into mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Monounsaturated fats are the best kind of lipids and trans are the worst, try to avoid these trans fats.  Additionally, there will also be a percentage that represents the percent of lipids/day, but keep in mind that this percent is based on a 2,000 Kcal/day diet.  Carbohydrates and proteins will also be displayed in a similar manner.  Under carbohydrates are the amount of fiber and sugar.  Fiber is immensely important in a healthy diet.  In an average 2,000 Kcal/day diet, 25 grams of fiber is recommended and most people are not getting half the amount they need to consume.  Furthermore, when it comes to the sugars less is best!  Below the macronutrients, vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium will be displayed and sometimes a few other micronutrients.   Percentages will represent the quantity of these nutrients.  At the bottom, is a quick summary of the daily-recommended intake (DRI) levels based on a 2,000 and 2,500 Kcal/day diet.

Another area of the package that can be very useful is the ingredient list.  The ingredients are always listed in descending order by weight.  I’m not going to give you all a list of what to have or not in the list, however be aware of what you are consuming.  One of the best pieces of advice a professor once told me when reading the list was, “If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it”.

I don’t want you getting the wrong impression, I am not a kale cruncher by a long shot, but I am mindful of the foods I eat in my diet.  Every food has a place in a diet with moderation and significant awareness.  I mean I am always down for a donut just not everyday!

 

Nutrition Facts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a list of online resources.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm

 

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-facts/NU00293

 

http://www.choosemyplate.gov

 

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm

 

http://www.eatright.org/Default.aspx

 

This is my textbook from one of my freshman nutrition classes. This book breaks nutrition concepts into easy ways to understand; I still use it as a resource often.

 

Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies, Frances Sienkiewicz Sizer and Ellie Whitney, 12th edition.

 

 

Author: Demi Eckhoff



  • bobl07

    Demi, I know you touched on it briefly in your post but I was hoping you could clarify on how important the role of nutrition been in your life? Is it part of your everyday daily routine? How much of your thought process goes into making sure you have proper nutrition and calorie intake?

  • Demi Eckhoff

    Bob, nutrition plays a huge role in my overall health and I truly believe it is a big component in anybody’s active and healthy lifestyle. For me personally I think
    making sure I take in my necessary calories a day is most important since I
    don’t have a lot of energy reserve especially if I get sick. Next I always try to consider if I have taken in enough of my needed amounts of macro and micronutrients. However each person’s body and needs are different which is why I encourage people to do their own research and see a registered dietitian.