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Breaking Down Nutrition Labels

This spring a robin built her nest right in front of my living room windows. So, while I was cooped up inside my house for a few months, this robin and their babies became a major source of entertainment and education for me. The more I watched her the more fascinated I became doing my own research on various robin facts. For example — did you know that robins build two nests a year? And that each baby robin eats about 14 feet of earthworms during the short two weeks spent inside the nest?

The point is, the closer we get to a topic, the more we want to learn about it. For example, as humans, we eat multiple times every day. So, it seems only natural for us to take interest in what we’re eating, don’t you think? My goal with this blog is to help you learn more about what you’re putting into your body by looking at nutritional labels.

Navigating a Nutrition Facts label can be intimidating at first, but let’s use Kodiak Cakes Double Dark Chocolate Muffin Mix to break down a few steps together to help make it easier.

Serving Size & Calories

The first step in breaking down a Nutrition Facts label is looking at the serving size. The serving size in Kodiak Cakes Muffins is two muffins. This is if you make about 12 muffins. If there are about six servings per box, and the serving size is two muffins, then each mix should make approximately 12 muffins (6 x 2 = 12).

Next, we can look at calories. This mix has about 400 calories per serving prepared, making it a great snack or small meal choice. A full meal is generally about 500+ calories, which means I might need to eat something else in addition to a serving of muffins to help keep me full. Some great additions could be an omelet, a salad, or lean meat and veggies because these muffins are good morning, noon, and night!

Fat & Sodium

Let’s keep moving down the label to Total Fat. In this case, each serving of double chocolate muffins has 3.5 grams of fat. You see how “Total Fat” is bolded, and “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat” are listed as sub-items? This is because the FDA requires that saturated and trans fats be included on food labels to help educate consumers about the type of fat in a certain product. Saturated and trans fats can increase risk for heart disease, so avoiding these types of fat are ultimately better for our overall health. Kodiak Cakes muffins have zero trans-fat, which is great!

I normally skip cholesterol because the amount of cholesterol we eat is a drop in the bucket compared to what our livers make every day, which makes sodium the next up for evaluation. Knowing the amount of sodium in a food is useful for people who have high blood pressure, heart disease, or who have a tendency to retain water. If you fall into one of these categories, it’s recommended to keep your sodium intake below 2400 mg per day — or whatever your doctor has recommended. If you don’t fall into these categories, you can usually skip this line.

Carbohydrates & Protein

Similar to Fat, Total Carbohydrates are broken down into sub-items. Sugar can be found naturally in a food, like fruit or milk. Sugar cravings are biologically normal because our brains prefer to use carbs for energy and sugar is a really quick way to give your brain what it needs to function optimally. Including sugar in moderate, planned ways is a really useful tool to prevent binging on sugar later. I don’t get too hung up on the grams of sugar in a food because it’s already accounted for in the total number of carbohydrates. If you are choosing to eat a food that has added sugars, just make sure to also eat protein or fiber at the same time so that your blood sugar doesn’t spike and crash. Speaking of fiber, the higher the fiber the better, which is why I love that Kodiak Cakes uses whole grains. More fiber means more fullness for the same number of calories. The fiber in whole grains also helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk for heart disease.

Final stop, protein. Protein helps build & repair muscle and increases fullness after a meal. I typically encourage eating at least 30 grams of protein at each meal because that’s the amount that’s been found to increase feelings of satisfaction after a meal and reduces cravings at nighttime. However, if you have kidney disease, consult with your doctor or dietitian before increasing protein because weak kidneys have a difficult time filtering out protein.

At the bottom of every food label is a list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in the order of quantity, or amount that makes up a certain food. If someone has food allergies or sensitivities, they might want to look through the ingredient list to avoid foods that might make them sick.

Pro tip: You can ignore the percentages on the right side of Nutrition Labels because they’re based on a 2000 calorie/day diet, and all of us have different daily calorie needs.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean that every Nutrition Facts label for the foods you eat portray the epitome of health. But knowing how to read a Nutrition Facts label is an important skill to have so you can understand how the foods you eat every day can impact your health.

For example, one of my favorite treats from my hometown are Gooey Butter Cookies. Knowing what I'm eating by reading the nutritional label for this recipe, I can embrace my natural desire to crave sweet foods, but also make balanced choices. I love this recipe because when I make it using Kodiak Cakes, it’s the perfect sweet bite while still having protein, which increases muscle mass and helps me feeling fuller longer.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

Makes ~26 cookies

Gooey Butter Cake Cookies

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the Greek cream cheese and the butter. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the Double Dark Chocolate Muffin Mix and stir until well blended. Roll the batter into 1-inch balls and roll them in the powdered sugar to coat. Place one inch apart onto a cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack.

About the Author

Jen Lyman has been a dietitian since 2014 and has worked in a variety of healthcare settings. She is currently the owner of New Leaf Nutrition, a nutrition counseling company that puts clients first. Jen created New Leaf Nutrition to give simple solutions. No more constantly being hungry. No more weight loss to just gain it all back. No more chasing the next fad diet. Her clients get easy-to-understand, straightforward help. She identifies goals that are mentally and physically healthy for her clients and creates a path to get them there. Find Jen on Instagram (@newleafnutrish) to learn more about her and New Leaf Nutrition.

For more info behind the photography in this post visit https://jackelynnnoelphotography.com/.

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