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What is in Your Gas Tank?

October 18, 2011 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Advice from a Winner: Part 4

Screaming up to the gas station, windows down, hair wild in the wind, I grudgingly turn down the blaring stereo after a dirty look from another patron. Pushing my aviators on to my head, I casually grab the gas nozzle and start pumping fuel into my sweet ride. Wait! Is that diesel??!

You wouldn’t go to the gas station and just start pumping without knowing if you were juicing up your ride with premium octane or diesel. So why do we think it is OK to fuel our bodies with unknown foods and beverages? I know label reading sounds like a mundane activity. But, really, we research what we put in our cars, into our soil for our plants and into our pet food. It makes sense that we would pay attention to what we put into our own bodies.

Holly, the winner of the Healthy Families BC contest, and her family try to eat well and make heart-healthy choices. The dietitian she worked with, Danielle Van Schaik, helped her make sure she was getting the most out of her efforts to read labels. “One of the health concerns we’re focusing on is for my hubby who has to watch for high cholesterol and high blood pressure…I used to look at calories and fat on labels and now I’m reading further about sodium and trans fats. It was a real eye opener. Even at home, many packaged foods have a lot of sodium.”

Label reading doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It is OK to start in stages like Holly did. Begin with one nutrient that relates to your health goals, become familiar and then try another. For example, try starting with sodium to get an idea of what foods have a lot (15% DV or more) versus a little (5% DV or less). Aim to choose products with less. To get started, you can call 8-1-1 to talk to a registered dietitian. There are also lots of web resources to help with label reading. Over time it will be automatic. Just like filling your car with the usual regular unleaded, while talking on your cell phone, chewing gum and daydreaming about where the road will take you next.

What motivates you to read nutrition labels?

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