Nutrition Facts Breakdown: Foods for Weight Loss

Flickr photo by alancleaver_2000
Reading the nutrition facts on your food is a good way to ensure you're eating healthy. But do you know what all those letters and numbers mean?

Today we break down the nutrition data and tell you what to look for if you're trying to lose weight.

Lending a hand is Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician and obesity expert who goes by the name Dr. Weigh.


What nutrients can help with weight loss?

  • Dietary fiber -- Helps to keep you feeling full, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and help you lose weight.  Ideally, each meal and snack should contain some fiber.
  • Water -- A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics revealed that simply installing water fountains in schools, giving kids refillable water bottles and teaching kids the benefits of drinking water decreased the risk of being overweight by 31 percent .
  • Calcium -- Low fat or fat-free dairy products are delicious, low in calories, and a great source of calcium. There are also many other healthy, non-dairy sources of calcium out there.
  • Protein -- Like dietary fiber, protein helps to stabilize blood sugars and keep us full.  Try to include some protein in every meal and snack.

Where do you find them?

Fiber --  Whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and brown rice are wonderful sources of fiber.  There are also many cereals and bars that contain fiber.  I recommend the Fiber One brand of cereal and bars (especially the Oats and Chocolate flavor- my favorite!)

Water -- Obviously, plain drinking water is a source.  But you can also count beverages that don't contain caffeine or sugar, such as Crystal Light and seltzer.

Calcium -- Dairy products:

  • Non-fat Milk            1 cup, 300 mg calcium
  • Reduced fat Milk    1 cup, 300 mg calcium
  • Nonfat Yogurt            1 cup, 490 mg calcium
  • Swiss cheese            1 oz., 270 mg calcium
  • Mozzarella, part skim    1 oz., 210 mg calcium
  • American Cheese            1 oz., 140 mg calcium
  • Cottage Cheese            1 cup, 160 mg calcium
  • Parmesan cheese,grated     2 T, 140 mg calcium
  • Pudding, prepared     1/2 cup, 150 mg
  • Frozen yogurt             1 cup, 200 mg
  • Ice Cream, light    1/2 cup, 200 mg

Many non-dairy foods are now fortified with calcium and other vitamins.  These are also good to check out:

  • Black Beans             1 cup, 120 mg calcium
  • Navy Beans            1 cup, 130 mg calcium
  • Fortified Cereal    1 cup, 300 mg calcium
  • Fortified Orange Juice    1 cup, 300 mg calcium
  • Soybeans, cooked     1 cup, 180 mg calcium
  • Spinach, cooked     1/2 cup, 130 mg calcium
  • Bok Choy            1/2 cup, 80 mg calcium
  • Kale, cooked            1/2 cup, 90 mg calcium
  • Broccoli, cooked        1/2 cup, 20 mg calcium
  • Corn Tortilla            1, 6 inch, 50 mg calcium
  • Greens, mustard     1/2 cup, 100 mg calcium
  • Canned Salmon w/bones    3 oz, 180 mg
  • Fortified Cereal     1 cup, 300 mg
  • Waffle, fortified    1, 150 mg
  • Soy milk, fortified    1 cup, 400 mg
  • Greens, mustard            1/2 cup, 100 mg
  • Tofu                     1 cup, 40 mg
  • Almonds                    2 oz., 150 mg
  • Oysters                    3 oz., 80 mg


  • Beef: Extra-lean beef can be surprising healthy. The leanest cuts are tenderloin and top sirloin. When opting for ground beef, choose extra-lean (not lean which can have up to 10 grams of fat per serving!) In terms of percentages, choose ground meats that are at least 93 percent fat-free.
  • Chicken: Chicken breasts are an extremely healthy source of protein. But the breast is not the only cut that you can eat. While dark meat does have more calories and fat than white meat, it is still okay to eat -- as long as you remove ALL of the skin.
  • Ground Turkey: It is a myth that ground turkey is healthier than ground meat. It all depends on the type of ground turkey and ground meat. Regular ground meat includes the light meat, the dark meat, and even the skin! It can have significantly more fat than 95 percent fat-free ground beef. And, in my opinion, ground turkey never tastes as good as ground beef. However, if you want to get really lean, opt for the 99 percent fat-free all white meat ground turkey. That is as lean as it gets!
  • Fish: My daughter loves salmon and my son loves rare tuna. Other mild fish include cod and tilapia. Just remember, fresh fish should be used or frozen within two days. Once frozen, fish will stay good for about a month.
  • Tofu: Tofu is a source of protein that takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with! For stir-fries and main dishes, use firm or extra-firm tofu. For baking or smoothies, try silken or soft tofu. For increased flavor, buy pre-packaged tofu that has already been marinated.
  • Dairy:  Low fat dairy products are great sources of protein!  See the calcium list above for some healthy choices.
  • Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein and fiber.  Just be careful because they do contain lots of calories so be sure to limit your portion size.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids -- Oily fish such as salmon and tuna, walnuts, flax seed, fortified foods such as fortified milk, eggs, and baby food.
  • Folic acid -- Dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, whole grains, avocado, and
  • fortified foods such as breakfast cereal.
  • Vitamin E -- Nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, brown rice, and whole grains

What should you look for on the label?

Fiber -- Look at the amount of dietary fiber on the nutrition label.  Try to choose foods with 3 grams or more per serving. It's recommended that you get 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories that you consume each day. If you need 2,000 calories each day, you should try to include 28 grams of dietary fiber.

Calcium -- Many non-dairy foods are now fortified with calcium and other vitamins, so look at food labels to find new sources of calcium.

Protein:  Look at grams of protein on the nutrition label.  According to US/Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day.

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