The Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Monument, CO, offers nutritious meals and snacks, which is one of the great perks of choosing assisted living. You don't have to cook if you don't want to, which also means you don't have to worry about cleaning up. And our staff works hard to offer balanced meals for seniors who want to enjoy delicious food while also staying on top of their health.
But if you haven't decided on assisted living yet, you may be preparing all your own meals and snacks. And even if you're a happy resident at Bethesda Gardens, you may still enjoy keeping foods in your own kitchenette for independence and when the craving hits.
Understanding how to read food labels can help you choose foods that are high-quality and offer nutritional value. Find out more in our guide below.
While eating a well-rounded and balanced diet with all of the nutrients you need is a good start, seniors can achieve an even healthier diet by paying attention to the specific ingredients in the food they consume. And the best way to do this is to start looking at the ingredient list and nutrition facts on the label.
Food manufacturers can advertise their product in ways that may be misleading, using words like natural, diet or even organic to convince you their product is healthy. However, the only way to be sure that what you’re putting in your body is good for you is to look at what is actually in it. Being conscious of the actual ingredients and buying food accordingly can also help you follow dietary restrictions and avoid allergens or other things you may be intolerant to.
Food labels are a great tool for finding foods that match your personal dietary needs. You can find how much of different nutrients, like protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals, are in that food product. But you should probably be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking any food with high amounts of a particular nutrient is automatically good for you.
Diet is all about balance, so if you buy a bunch of foods that are high in protein, you will likely consume too much of that nutrient and not enough of the others. Foods that are high in "good" things may also be filled with "bad" things. For example, many foods that are high in protein also contain a copious amount of sodium, which is almost definitely not something you want to eat regularly. The trick is to make sure that you’re using the food labels to create balance and not get too much or too little of the nutrients you need.
While what can be considered "good" on a food label is more subjective and ambiguous, what is bad to find on a food label is a little more cut-and-dry. There are specific things you pretty much always want to avoid. The first and one of the most important dangers you should look for is added sugar. These can lead to short term effects, like lethargy, as well as long term problems, like diabetes and heart disease. You should also watch for sodium and unhealthy fats, which can also cause health issues.
It will likely be impossible to cut out all of the unhealthy elements in your diet, but looking for them on food labels can help you reduce them to a safer level. Also, some ingredients may be more dangerous than others, but anything can be bad in excessive amounts. Moderation and balance are what define health. Even water is deadly in the wrong amount.
The ingredients list can usually be found directly under or to the side of the nutrition facts on a label. However, if you’ve ever read through one of these lists, you probably know that it might as well be gibberish. Half the names on them look like they belong in an advanced chemistry textbook more than a cookbook.
If you’re serious about being food aware and knowing exactly what you’re consuming, there are ways to sift through those gnarly ingredient lists. The best way is probably to ask a medical professional like a nutritionist what specific ingredients might be a problem for you, and then just scan the labels for those names.
You can also do your own research and look for scientific articles on the different ingredients you see. The problem of crazy ingredients can also be solved by buying less processed foods, as fresh foods generally have less preservatives and strange chemicals. It can be reassuring to see ingredients like milk and cocoa instead of potassium phosphate dibasic.
This article is just a brief look at how food labels can help you be more aware of your diet; it isn’t medical advice. Seeing a nutritionist is the best way to find out what’s right for you and what steps you should take to change your diet. Consider reaching out to Bethesda Gardens staff or a medical provider if you have questions about diet and nutrition.