For years I have been trying to eat a healthy diet. I have read several books about nutrition and have made attempts to follow many of their guidelines. I think I have a pretty good idea of how to eat properly so that I receive a sufficient amount of nutrients, but I’m not sure if I do. I look at the Nutrition Facts on food packages, but it’s tough to really tell what nutrients I am actually getting throughout the day. Do you know of an accurate way in which I can determine the number of nutrients I am getting from what I eat?
I have been hearing more and more about the importance of eating a nutrient-rich diet to prevent diseases like heart attacks, cancer, and stroke. The more I hear, the more concerned I become. Could you please tell me how I can find out how nutrient-rich my diet is?
You’re right. Unless you track everything you eat or drink, you may not know if you are getting all the nutrients you need, especially if you eat a reduced calorie or modified diet (i.e. diabetic, low cholesterol, salt-free).
First, you should record every food you eat for at least 3 to 7 days to determine what nutrients you consume as food, beverages, and nutritional supplements each day. Because your food intake on weekdays and weekend days is usually different, you should record food from both days. Remember to include the quantity and measure of each food or beverage you eat or drink. For example, 1 cup of Cheerios with 1/2-cup skim milk, 1 tsp. added sugar.
Next, you need to analyze the nutrients in every food you wrote down in your food record. A Registered Dietitian could provide you with a complete analysis of your food intake with charts and graphs. They could also include any vitamin or nutritional supplements in your nutrient analysis report as well as the nutrition information from food labels that you can submit with your food diary. The charts and graphs will help you see the effect of the supplements you are taking and whether or not the specific vitamins and amounts are necessary or if you are deficient in another nutrient. You would be wise to repeat this on a monthly or periodic basis to keep track of how healthy you are eating.
A detailed nutritional analysis will provide direction for changes you need to make to eat a healthy diet. For instance, if an analysis shows that your food record is lacking in folacin (folic acid), a dietitian could provide you with a list of foods that are good sources of the nutrients your diet is low in.
Your other alternative is to buy nutrition analysis software and spend the time yourself inputting your foods and supplements.
The number one health risk factor for all most all the major causes of death and illness are diet-related other than smoking. Research has shown that even small changes in eating habits can make a positive change in your health risk from nutritional sources.