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Nutrition Labels 101: Making Sense of the Facts for Better Senior Nutrition

Have you ever attempted to read food product nutrition labels? There is a lot of information provided there, but how to make sense of it all? 

You’re not alone if you’re unsure how to determine the right food ingredients. There are three important tips to keep in mind: 

  1. Nutrition label information is based on one serving size. Serving sizes vary. 

  1. As a general guide, 2,000 calories are used to calculate percentages, but your needs may be different. 

  1. Use the percent of the daily value (%DV) to help ensure you are getting the right amount of nutrients. 

Tips to reading nutrition labels 

Nutrition labels generally follow a similar format, regardless of the food item. Here is an overview: 

Serving sizes are standardized and are provided in units such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount. They are not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink.  

Calories provide a measure of the energy you get from a serving of a particular food. Be aware of how many calories you take in daily and the number of calories your body uses. You can calculate your estimated calorie needs here

Nutrients that a food may provide can help you determine if a specific food contains more of the nutrients you want and less of those you’d like to restrict. 

Examples of nutrients to limit: saturated fat, sodium and added sugars are often associated with adverse health effects. Too much added sugar can use up calories before getting your needed nutrients. 

Examples of nutrients to increase: dietary fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and Potassium are the nutrients that can lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as reduce calories and the risk of developing osteoporosis, anemia and high blood pressure. 

The Percent Daily Value (%DV) 

This number on a nutrition label represents how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet of 2,000 calories and can help in determining if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low. 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high. 

The %DV can also be used to help make dietary choices so you don’t have to give up all of your favorites. For example, if you decide to enjoy a food that is high in saturated fat, make sure to balance it with other foods that are lower. 

Source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration 

Nutrients and the needs of the older adult 

Older adults have different nutritional needs than other age groups and the nutrition label can help ensure you’re getting what you need. 

When reading nutrition labels, pay attention for the following: 

Calcium: important for bone health, it also helps with muscle and nerve function, blood clotting and hormone secretion. Diets rich in calcium can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. 

Vitamin D: helps your body absorb calcium and is important for bone health. Also plays a role in blood pressure management, hormone production and immune and nervous system function. Can also help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. 

Potassium: helps with fluid balance and heart, muscle, and nervous system function. 

Saturated fat: found in higher amounts in animal products. Replacing with unsaturated fats can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Sodium: found in table salt and many processed, packaged and prepared foods. Important for fluid balance as well as muscle and nervous system function but diets high in sodium can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and the diseases that can result from that condition. Blood pressure often rises with age so paying attention to the sodium listed on the nutrition label is important. 

Source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration 

Life at a Milestone Community 

If you’re looking at options for retirement living, we invite your family to visit one of our Milestone communities – designed to support your loved ones to live their highest quality of life. 

We offer studio and one-bedroom private apartments for our assisted living residents as well as private or shared memory care suites for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We also offer studio, one and two-bedroom apartments in our independent living communities. 

Our memory care residents are cared for by our compassionate and specially trained team who meet them wherever they are in their journey with patience and kindness. The residents also have access to customized activities, programs and secured outdoor courtyard spaces. 

Our amenities and services encourage our residents in assisted living to engage with others, remain as independent as possible and be reassured that help is available whenever needed. 

In addition to our personalized services, we offer: 

If your family is considering retirement living, we hope you will visit one of our communities. We are a trusted resource and are here to answer any questions. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to arrange a personal tour.