Nutrition labels serve as an excellent resource for bariatric surgery patients starting a diet program. "When starting out, you don't want to get overwhelmed by all the information on the label, but there are a few key sections you can pay extra attention to that will boost your new, healthier lifestyle," says Rebecca Myrowitz, MHS, RD, LDN, dietitian for GBMC's Comprehensive Obesity Management Program.
First, it's especially important to look at the serving sizes and servings per container. It is very important to realize that the number of calories represented on the label refers to only one serving of the food or drink. "With many foods and beverages, you may think the entire package or container is only one serving, but it's often two or more, which doubles the number of calories you're taking in," says Rebecca. Calories per serving as well as servings per container are located at the top of the nutrition label.
Individuals should emphasize limiting saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium, all of which can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol. In addition, they can work toward incorporating healthier unsaturated fats, like those found in salmon, walnuts, almonds, avocado and olive oil, into their diets.
"Patients should also focus on taking in more protein, which helps build muscle, and fiber, which supports proper digestion," says Rebecca. She recommends taking in 70 - 90 grams of protein and 25 grams of fiber per day. When determining if a food has a high enough fiber content, refer to the "% Daily Values" (%DV's) column located at the far right of the nutrition label. Aim to choose foods that contain more than 5% DV of fiber to ensure meeting daily fiber intake goals.
"During the beginning of your diet program, you can start simple, making a change such as choosing a yogurt that has fewer calories than the kind you usually eat," she says. "Once you've gained confidence with limiting calories, it will be easier to start looking more in depth at the protein, fiber and fat content on nutrition labels."