Health Articles

Healthy Living

What is a Nutrition Facts Label?
The Nutrition Facts Label allows you to determine the amount calories and nutrients in one serving of food. The information on the label is important in determining whether you're eating a healthy, balanced diet.

The label, which is included on every packaged food product, lists the amount of:
• Fat
• Total fat
• Saturated fat
• Trans fat
• Cholesterol
• Sodium
• Total carbohydrate
• Dietary fiber
• Sugars
• Protein
• Vitamins and minerals
Here is an example:
Nutrition Facts

What is a serving size?
Serving size is the first thing listed on the label. A serving size is the amount of food that is typically eaten in one serving. It is listed as a general household measurement, such as pieces, cups or ounces (for example, 7 potato chips or 1/2 cup of cereal).

Serving size is an important part of a healthy diet. Eating very large servings, or portions, can contribute to weight gain because as the portion size increases, you're also eating more calories.

Remember, serving sizes may be extremely small (for example, only 7 potato chips or 1 ounce of cake) to make the food seem low-calories or low-fat, so be careful. If you double a serving size, you must also double all the other values on the nutrition label.

What is the Percent Daily Value?
You are supposed to consume a certain amount of fats, carbohydrates (especially fiber), protein and vitamins and minerals each day. You are also supposed to limit certain types of unhealthy ingredients, such as saturated and trans fats. The nutrition label provides a list of percentages (called the Percent Daily Value) that tell you how much of a certain nutrient one serving of food contains, to how much of that nutrient you should consume daily.

One serving of food with 5% or less of the daily value is considered low. One serving of a food with 20% or more of the daily value is considered high.

The Percent Daily Value is based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. You will need to adjust the percentages if you eat more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For more information on calorie allowances, read our handout on determining calorie needs.

What ingredients should I limit in my diet?
Saturated fat. Saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. The average adult should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
Trans fat. Trans fat also increases your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should get 0 grams of trans fat per day. When you read a nutrition label remember that companies are allowed to list the amount of trans fat as “0 grams” if it contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving. This means that your food can contain some trans fat even if the nutrition label says “0 grams” per serving! Always check the ingredient list for trans fat, which will appear as “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fat is usually found in commercially prepared baked goods, fried foods, snack foods and margarine.
Cholesterol. Limit your total cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day (and less than 200 milligrams per day if you have heart disease). Read our handout on cholesterol for more information.

What ingredients should I get more of in my diet?
Fiber. Fiber aids in digestion, as well as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A food is considered high in fiber if it contains 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Men age 50 and younger should get at least 38 grams of fiber per day, while women age 50 and younger should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day. Fiber is found in foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for the words “whole grain.”
Vitamins and Minerals. The nutrition label lists vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. You should try to get more of these nutrients in your daily diet, as well as other vitamins and minerals that are not listed on the label. You can learn more about vitamins and minerals

Nutrition: How to Make Healthier Food Choices
Why is healthy eating important?
When combined with exercise, a healthy diet can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol level and improve the way your body functions on a daily basis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid divides food into 6 basic food groups, consisting of
1) grains,
2) fruits,
3) vegetables,
4) meats and beans,
5) diary and
6) fats.

The USDA recommends that an adult daily diet include the following:
• 3 ounces of whole grains, and 6 ounces of grains total
• 2 cups of fruit
• 2 1/2 cups of vegetables
• 3 cups fat-free or low-fat dairy

General Diseases

Addison’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease
Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Batten Disease
Behcet’s Disease
Cerebral Palsy
Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
Chronic Granulomatous Disease
Congenital Heart Disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Crohn’s Disease
Cystic Fibrosis
Down Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Graft Versus Host Disease
Huntington’s Disease
Lyme Disease
Multiple Sclerosis
Muscular Dystrophy
Paget’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease
Photosensitive Epilepsy
PolioPrion Disease
ScoliosisSickle Cell Disease
Spina Bifida

Tips For Improving Your Healthy Life

Good nutrition is one of the keys to good health. This means making sure you regularly eat foods that have a lot of vitamins and minerals in them, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low- or nonfat dairy.

Do I need to change what I eat?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may need to talk about nutrition with your doctor:
• Has your doctor talked with you about a medical problem or a risk factor, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
• Did your doctor tell you that this condition could be improved by better nutrition?
• Do diabetes, cancer, heart disease or osteoporosis run in your family?
• Are you overweight?
• Do you have questions about what kinds of foods you should eat or whether you should take vitamins?
• Do you think that you would benefit from seeing a nutritionist? (A nutritionist is a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition counseling.)

Won't it be hard to change my eating habits?

Probably, but even very small changes can improve your health considerably. The key is to keep trying to eat the right foods and stay in touch with your doctor and nutritionist, so they know how you are doing. Here are a few suggestions that can improve your eating habits:
• Find the strong points and weak points in your current diet. Do you eat 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day? Do you get enough calcium? Do you eat whole-grain, high-fiber foods regularly? If so, you're on the right track! Keep it up. If not, try adding more of these foods to your daily diet.
• Make small, slow changes, instead of trying to make large, fast changes. Small changes will be easier to make and stick with.
• Keep track of your food intake by writing down what you eat and drink every day. This record will help you see if you need to eat more from any food groups (such as fruits, vegetables or dairy products) or if you need to eat less of a good group (such as processed or high-fat foods).
• Think about asking for help from a nutritionist if you haven't already done so, especially if you have a medical problem that requires you to follow a special diet.

Can I trust nutrition information I get from newspapers and magazines?

Nutrition tips and diets from different sources often conflict with each other. You should always check with your doctor first. Also, keep in mind this advice:
• There is no "magic bullet" when it comes to nutrition. Short-term diets may help you lose weight, but they are difficult to keep up and may even be unhealthy in the long run.
• Good nutrition doesn't come in a vitamin pill. Only take a vitamin with your doctor's recommendation, as your body benefits the most from eating healthy, whole foods.
• Eating a variety of foods is best for your body, so try new foods!
• Stories from people who have used a diet program or product, especially in commercials and infomercials, are advertisements. These people are usually paid to endorse what the advertisement is selling. Remember, regained weight or other problems that develop after someone has completed the program are never talked about in those ads.

What changes can I make now in my diet?
Almost everyone can benefit from cutting back on unhealthy fat. If you currently eat a lot of fat, try just one or two of the following changes, or those suggested in our handout on healthier food choices:
• Rather than frying meat, try baking, grilling or broiling. Take the skin off before eating chicken or turkey. Eat fish at least once a week.
• Cut back on extra fat, such as butter or margarine on bread, sour cream on baked potatoes, and salad dressings. Use low-fat or nonfat versions of these condiments.
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables both with your meals and as snacks.
• When eating away from home, watch out for "hidden" fats (such as that in salad dressing and desserts) and larger portion sizes.
• Read the nutrition labels on foods before you buy them. If you need help reading the labels, ask your doctor or your nutritionist.
• Drink no- or low-calorie beverages, such as water, unsweetened tea and diet soda.
Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are good for your health, even if your weight never changes. Try to set goals that you have a good chance of reaching, such as making one of the small changes listed above or walking more in your daily life.

Keeping a Food Diary for Weight Loss

What is a food diary?

Put simply, a food diary is used to record what we eat and drink each day.

Typically, a basic food diary is designed to record:
• When we eat and drink
• What we eat and drink
• How much we eat and drink
• How many grams of Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat and Kilojoules or Calories are contained in what we eat and drink

The basic food diary contain on this site also records:
• Our energy (Kilojoule or Calorie) target each day
• What supplements we take and there nutritional value
• How many glasses of water we drink each day
• The number of surplus (more) or deficit (less) Kilojoules or Calories we consume versus our daily target

In addition to a basic food diary we offers the following other free food diaries:
• An emotional eating food diary
• A sugar, salt and fat food diary
• A fibre, calcium and omega-3 food diary
• An iron, magnesium and potassium food diary
• An alcohol, caffeine and cigarette food diary

Each of these food diaries records our total energy intake versus our daily target but also allows us to focus on individual problem areas or areas that we particularly want to modify.

Why use a food diary?

The main reason we should use a food diary is to make positive changes to our diets.

The reasons that a food diary is superior to relying on our memory are that food diaries are far more accurate (little pieces of chocolate aren't forgotten), and are easier to analyse because they contain more information than just what is eaten.

From a weight loss perspective, by recording exactly what and how much we eat and drink each day, we can better understand why we're putting on weight and what needs to be modified in our diet to help us lose weight and/or increase certain nutrients in our diet.

If we ever visit a dietician to get help with our diet, the first thing they will ask us to do is to keep a food diary for a week or two so that they can analyse what we're eating and recommend changes that will help us reach our weight loss goal.

How a food diary can help aid weight loss

Here are some of the great things a food diary can do to help us lose weight:
• Break down our weight loss goals into manageable chunks (daily energy targets)
• Plan future menu and eating patterns
• Record our actual eating patterns
• Record other important "peripheral information"
• Better understand and manage our eating habits and portion sizes
• Break unhealthy and emotional eating
• Take the guess work out of the weight loss equation
• See how balanced our diet is
• Improve our nutrition
• Stay motivated
• Stop unconscious eating
• Provide a hard record of our successes

How to complete the free food diaries

Generally, food diaries are meant to be kept for at least a week or two, but studies have shown that even keeping track of what we eat for a day or two can help us make positive changes to our diets.

Some people keep a food diary indefinitely to help them maintain a healthy weight range once it's helped them achieve their ideal weight.

How long we keep a food diary is going to be a matter of personal choice, the most important thing is to start using one and when we feel that we don't need to anymore, we can stop.

Let's have a look at how to fill out each field contained in each of the food diaries offered on this site (but before we do remember, we don't need to fill out every detail specified in order to get at least some benefit from these food diaries):

Basic Food Diary

Energy Goal: Simply write down your target number of kilojoules or calories for the day.

Date: Write down the relevant date.

Time: Write down the time of each meal (there is an option to record up to six meals per day, including snacks).

Food/Drink Item: Write a description of what you eat and drink at each meal (e.g. Salad Sandwich).

Qty: Write down how many serves of the food/drink item you consume (e.g. 2).

Protein: (Optional) Write down how many grams of protein are contained in what you've consumed - for this information refer to the nutritional information panel printed on the packaging of the food and drink you consume or consult a set of nutritional tables.

Carbs: (Optional) Write down how many grams of carbohydrates are contained in what you've consumed - for this information refer to the nutritional information panel printed on the packaging of the food and drink you consume or consult a set of nutritional tables.

Fat: (Optional) Write down how many grams of fat are contained in what you've consumed - for this information refer to the nutritional information panel printed on the packaging of the food and drink you consume or consult a set of nutritional tables.

KJ / Cals: Write down the total number of kilojoules or calories contained in each food or drink item consumed.

Energy Subtotal:Add up all the kilojoules or calories contained in all the foods and drinks consumed for each meal and write this figure down in the far right column.

Supplements Table: Record all of the information as above for any supplements taken throughout the day.

Total Energy Intake: Add the two energy subtotal numbers together (if relevant) and write the result in the far right column.

Calculation: Write down the total energy intake number in the first field and your energy goal for the day in the second field. Now subtract the second number from the first and the result will equal your surplus (more) or deficit (less) kilojoules or calories for the day.

Water Consumed: Each time you drink a glass of water (200 - 250ml) simply tick one of the boxes provided.

Emotional eating food diary

Use this food diary if you think you are an emotional eater who often eats when not really hungry.

Instead of recording the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in the foods and drinks you consume, record where you ate/drank (e.g. home or office), what you were doing at the time (e.g. working, watching TV) and what mood you were in at the time (e.g. happy, depressed).

Sugar, salt and fat food diary

Use this food diary if you think you might be eating too much sugar, salt or fat in your diet.

Instead of recording the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the foods and drinks you consume, record how much sugar and salt as well as fat they contain instead.

Fibre, calcium and omega-3 food diary

Most of us should be consuming more fibre,calcium and omega-3 fatty acids for weight loss and optimal health and this food diary is designed to help us do just that.

Instead of recording the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in the foods and drinks you consume, record the fibre, calcium and omega-3 they contain instead.

Iron, magnesium and potassium food diary

Most of us should be consuming more iron, magnesium and potassium for optimal health and this food diary is designed to help us do just that.

Instead of recording the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in the foods and drinks you consume, record the amount of iron, magnesium and potassium they contain instead.

Alcohol, caffeine and cigarette food diary

Over consumption of alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes often accompany or form part of our bad eating habits.

Use this food diary if you think that this applies to you and you would like to track your consumption of these 'undesirables' and understand how each is interrelated.

Instead of recording the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in the foods and drinks you consume, record your how much alcohol and caffeine they contain and how many cigarettes you smoke.

Tips For Food Diary

Here are some general food diary tips to make sure they work for you and are as easy to use as possible:

• Don't change your eating habits while you're keeping your food diary.
• Be honest and write everything down.
• Keep your diary with you at all times
• Use the KISS Principle and keep it simple.
• The nutrition information you record (kilojoules, etc) doesn't need to be accurate to the hundredth percentile, just accurate enough to be helpful.
• Wait until the end of the day to add up your totals.
• Draw up a page that lists the foods you eat most often and refer to it each time you record those foods.
• For the most accurate results, use the nutritional information panel on the packaging of the foods you eat.
• If you are generally satisfied with the day's food intake, give yourself a mental pat on the back and relish the day's accomplishment.
• If you feel disappointed in what you read, remind yourself that it is only one day in a lifetime of thousands of days. Forgive yourself and start over.
• Analyze what you eat and make the necessary changes.
• Start recording today.
• If you need help, visit a registered dietitian or weight loss professional.


Dieting is the practice of ingesting food in a regulated fashion to achieve or maintain a controlled weight. In most cases the goal is weight loss, but some athletes aspire to gain weight (usually in the form of muscle) and diets can also be used to maintain a stable body weight

List of diets





















Food Habits Survey

Food Habits Survey

Your doctor would like some information about your usual food habits to help plan the best possible health care for you.

Please complete all sections as completely and accurately as possible.

Survey: General Information

Name ________________________

Date _________________________

Who shops for food at your home? ____________________________

Who prepares it? ____________________________

What do you drink during the day? ____________________________

What kind of meat do you usually buy?
___ hamburger, steaks, pork chops ___ chicken, fish

What type of meal or meals do you prepare most often?
___ fry ___ bake ___ broil ___ stew/slow cook ___ grill

How many times a day do you eat? ____________________________

What do you usually eat? ____________________________

How many times do you eat out during the week? ___________________

What restaurant do you go to most often? ____________________________

List any vitamins or dietary supplements you take here. How many of each do you take? How often?

If you eat any special foods for health or personal reasons, list what kind and how much.

Do you add salt to your food at the table?
___ Yes ___ No

Do you add salt to foods when you cook?
___ Yes ___ No

Sample Survey

The sample Food Habits Survey for Fred shows what he eats in a day from two food groups: Grain Products and Vegetables.

Fred usually eats 2 or 3 slices of bread or toast a day, so he wrote "2-3" in the blank beside "slice(s) of bread." He eats a roll most days. He has a large bowl of cold cereal for breakfast, so he wrote in "2" because it's about the size of 2 small bowls. Fred usually has 2 helpings of vegetables a day, so he wrote "2" on the line for "scoop-sized helping(s) of vegetables." He also has a small salad nearly every day.

Grain Products

2-3 slice(s) of bread

___ tortilla(s)

1 small roll(s), biscuit(s) or muffin(s)

___ 1/2 bun(s), English muffin(s) or bagel(s)

___ small helping(s) of cooked cereal, rice or pasta

2 small bowl(s) of cold cereal


2 scoop-sized helping(s) of vegetables

1 small vegetable salad(s)

___ medium-sized potato(es)

Now fill out the form below to show what you eat on a typical day.

Survey: Your Daily Diet


Mixed Foods

____ slice(s) of bread

____ small square(s) of lasagna

____ tortilla(s)

____ small serving(s) of spaghetti with meat sauce

____ small roll(s), biscuit(s) or muffin(s)

____ small serving(s) of macaroni and cheese

____ 1/2 bun(s), English muffin(s) or bagel(s)

____ taco(s)

____ small helping(s) of cooked cereal, rice or pasta

____ burrito(s)

____ small bowl(s) of cold cereal

____ slice(s) of pizza





____ scoop-sized helping(s) of vegetables

____ cup(s) of regular coffee

____ small vegetable salad(s)

____ cup(s) of decaf coffee

____ medium-sized potato(es)

____ cup(s) of regular tea


____ cup(s) of decaf tea


____ 12-ounce soft drinks

____ piece(s) of fruit (an apple, orange, banana, slice of melon, etc.)

____ 12-ounce diet drinks

____ 1/2 cup(s) cooked or canned fruit

____ glass(es) of Kool-Aid or fruit punch

____ small glass(es) of fruit juice

____ glass(es) of water




Sweets and Fats

____ glass(es) (8 ounces) of whole milk

____ sweet roll(s) or donut(s)

____ glass(es) of 2% milk

____ slice(s) of pie or cake

____ glass(es) of 1% or skim milk

____ 3 small cookies

____ 1 ounce slice(s) of cheese

____ candy bar(s)

____ serving(s) of yogurt or cottage cheese

____ 10 chips or french fries

____ 1/2 cup(s) of ice cream

____ rounded teaspoon(s) of margarine or butter


____ tablespoon(s) of salad dressing

Meat or Meat Alternatives


____ small piece(s) of meat, fish or poultry (about the size of a deck of cards)


____ 2 eggs

____ 12-ounce beer(s)

____ 1 cup(s) cooked dried beans or peas

____ 4 ounces of wine (small glass)

____ 4 tablespoons peanut butter

____ shot(s) of liquor

Dietary Fiber

Quick Facts...

·  Fiber may be beneficial in treating or preventing constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.
·  Water-soluble fiber helps decrease blood cholesterol levels.
·  Foods containing dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains.
·  Include a variety of high-fiber foods in the diet.
Can high-fiber diets really do all they claim to do? Studies have looked at the relationship between high-fiber diets and many diseases, including colon cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes. Proven benefits of a high-fiber diet include prevention and treatment of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. In addition, certain types of fiber help decrease blood cholesterol levels.

What Is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber comes from the portion of plants that is not digested by enzymes in the intestinal tract. Part of it, however, may be metabolized by bacteria in the lower gut.
Different types of plants have varying amounts and kinds of fiber, including pectin, gum, mucilage, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Pectin and gum are water-soluble fibers found inside plant cells. They slow the passage of food through the intestines but do nothing to increase fecal bulk. Beans, oat bran, fruit and vegetables contain soluble fiber.
In contrast, fibers in cell walls are water insoluble. These include cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Such fibers increase fecal bulk and speed up the passage of food through the digestive tract. Wheat bran and whole grains contain the most insoluble fiber, but vegetables and beans also are good sources.
Sometimes there is confusion as to the difference between crude fiber and dietary fiber. Both are determined by a laboratory analysis, but crude fiber is only one-seventh to one-half of total dietary fiber.

Table 1: Sources of dietary fiber.

Soluble Fiber

Insoluble Fiber


whole grains

oat bran

whole grains





Benefits of Fiber

Insoluble fiber binds water, making stools softer and bulkier. Therefore, fiber, especially that found in whole grain products, is helpful in the treatment and prevention of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Diverticula are pouches of the intestinal wall that can become inflamed and painful. In the past, a low-fiber diet was prescribed for this condition. It is now known that a high-fiber diet gives better results once the inflammation has subsided.
Low blood cholesterol levels (below 200 mg/dl.) have been associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The body eliminates cholesterol through the excretion of bile acids. Water-soluble fiber binds bile acids, suggesting that a high-fiber diet may result in an increased excretion of cholesterol. Some types of fiber, however, appear to have a greater effect than others. The fiber found in rolled oats is more effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels than the fiber found in wheat. Pectin has a similar effect in that it, too, can lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Other claims for fiber are less well founded. Dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of some cancers, especially colon cancer. This idea is based on information that insoluble fiber increases the rate at which wastes are removed from the body. This means the body may have less exposure to toxic substances produced during digestion. However, more recent studies have not confirmed the protective effects of fiber in developing colon cancer. A diet high in animal fat and protein also may play a role in the development of colon cancer.
High-fiber diets may be useful for people who wish to lose weight. Fiber itself has no calories, yet provides a "full" feeling because of its water-absorbing ability. For example, an apple is more filling than a half cup of apple juice that contains about the same calories. Foods high in fiber often require more chewing, so a person is unable to eat a large number of calories in a short amount of time.

Sources of Fiber

Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Meat, milk and eggs do not contain fiber. The form of food may or may not affect its fiber content. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as raw ones. Other types of processing, though, may reduce fiber content. Drying and crushing, for example, destroy the water-holding qualities of fiber.
The removal of seeds, peels or hulls also reduces fiber content. Whole tomatoes have more fiber than peeled tomatoes, which have more than tomato juice. Likewise, whole wheat bread contains more fiber than white bread. Table 2 lists the dietary fiber content of some common foods.

How Much Fiber?

The average American consumes 14 grams of dietary fiber a day, which is considerably less than the recommended level. The current recommendations, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed. So, if you consume a 2500 calorie diet, you should eat approximately 35 grams of fiber per day. Also, fiber intake may vary depending on age and gender.
While the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans serves as a general guide to healthy eating, the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) provide standard recommended amounts for nutrients. In 2002, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences Research Council issued DRIs for fiber (see Table 1). Previously, no national standardized recommendation existed. The new DRIs represent desirable intake levels established using the most recent scientific evidence available.

Table 2: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Fiber.


g/day Fiber


1-3 years


4-8 years



9-13 years


14-18 years


19-50 years


51+ years



9-13 years


14-18 years


19-50 years


51+ years



<18 years


18+ years



<18 years


18+ years


For many people, meeting the DRI for fiber may require changes in their eating habits. Eating several servings of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dried beans each day is good way to boost fiber intake. However, if you are not used to eating high fiber foods regularly, these changes should be made gradually to avoid problems with gas and diarrhea. Also, drink plenty of water to minimize intestinal gas. Anyone with a chronic disease should consult a physician before greatly altering a diet. If problems with gas continue to be an issue, gas-reducing over-the-counter and prescription drugs are available.

Food Labeling of Fiber

Nutrients required on food labels reflect current public health concerns and coincide with current public health recommendations. Nutrition labels now list a Daily Reference Value (DRV) for specific nutrients, including fiber. The DRV for fiber is 25 grams per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet, or 30 grams per day based on a 2,500 calorie diet. The fiber content of a food is listed in grams and as a percentage of the daily value.
Figure 1 shows a food nutrition label. It tells you the product provides 3 g of fiber in a half cup serving. The percent Daily Value for one serving is 12 percent, or 12 percent of DRV of 25 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Specific health claims can be made for food products that meet specific requirements. For example: "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease." In order to make a health claim about fiber and coronary heart disease, the food must contain at least 0.6 g of soluble fiber per reference amount. The soluble fiber content must be listed and cannot be added or fortified. A product containing a health claim for fiber and coronary heart disease must also meet the definitions of a low fat, low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol product.
A statement such as "made with oat bran" or "high in oat bran" implies that a product contains a considerable amount of the nutrient. Claims that imply a product contains a particular amount of fiber can be made only if the food actually meets the definition for "high fiber" or "good source of fiber," whichever is appropriate.
The following terms describe products that can help increase fiber intake:

  • Nutrition FactsHigh fiber: 5 g or more per serving
  • Good source of fiber: 2.5 g to 4.9 g per serving
  • More or added fiber: At least 2.5 g more per serving than the reference food

Although fiber is important, it is just one part of a properly balanced diet. It is possible that too much fiber may reduce the amount of calcium, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium that is absorbed from foods. Deficiencies of these nutrients could result if the amount of fiber in the diet is excessive, especially in young children.
Fiber supplements are sold in a variety of forms from bran tablets to purified cellulose. Many laxatives sold as stool softeners actually are fiber supplements. Fiber's role in the diet is still being investigated. It appears that the various types of fiber have different roles in the body. Furthermore, fiber may interact wil prescription medications.
For these reasons, avoid fiber supplements. Instead, eat a variety of fiber-rich foods. This is the best way to receive the maximum benefits from each type of fiber present in foods, and obtain necessary nutrients.


  • Farley, Dixie. May 1993. Look for 'LEGIT' Health Claims on Foods. FDA Consumer.
  • Kurtzweil, Paula. May 1993. Nutrition Facts to Help Consumers Eat Smart. FDA Consumer.
  • Duyff, Roberta. American Dietetic Association's 2nd Edition Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. P130-142. 2002.
  • Slavin, J. "Dietary Fiber: Mechanisms or Magic in Disease Prevention?" Nutrition Today. Nov/Dec. 1990.
  • Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). National Academy Press p. 265-334. 2002.
  • UC Berkley Wellness Letter, April 2007.

Table 3: Dietary fiber content of foods.


Serving size


Breads, cereals, grains

White bread

1 slice


Whole grain bread

1 slice


100% All Bran

1/2 cup


Corn Flakes

1 cup


Shredded Wheat

2 biscuits


Oatmeal, cooked

1 cup


Rice, brown, cooked

1 cup


Rice, white, cooked

1/3 cup


Fruit (fresh unless otherwise noted)

Apple, with skin

1 large









1 cup








Grapefruit, pink and red



Grapefruit, white



Melon, cantaloupe

1 cup






1 small






1 medium



1 cup



1 small


Prunes, dried




1 cup



1 cup



Beans, baked, canned, plain

1 cup


Beans, green, cooked

1 cup


Beets, canned

1 cup


Broccoli, raw

1 cup


Cabbage, raw

1 cup


Carrots, raw

1 cup


Cauliflower, raw

1 cup


Celery, raw

1 cup


Corn, yellow, cooked

1 cup


Lentils, cooked

1 cup


Lettuce, romaine, raw

1 cup


Lettuce, iceberg, raw

1 cup


Peas, boiled

1 cup


Peas, split

1 cup


Potato, baked, fresh

1/2 potato


Sweet potato, cooked without skin

1/2 potato


Tomato, red, ripe

1 tomato


Winter squash, cooked

1 cup


Zucchini squash

1/2 cup


Other foods

Meat, milk, eggs



Almonds (24 nuts)

1 oz.


Peanuts, dry roasted (approx. 28)

1 oz.


Walnuts, English (14 halves)

1 oz.


Dietary Sources

The only reliable unfortified sources of vitamin B12 are meat, dairy products and eggs. There has been considerable research into possible plant food sources of B12. Fermented soya products, seaweeds and algae have all been proposed as possible sources of B12. However, analysis of fermented soya products, including tempeh, miso, shoyu and tamari, found no significant B12.
Spirulina, an algae available as a dietary supplement in tablet form, and nori, a seaweed, have both appeared to contain significant amounts of B12 after analysis. However, it is thought that this is due to the presence of compounds structurally similar to B12, known as B12 analogues. These cannot be utilised to satisfy dietary needs. Assay methods used to detect B12 are unable to differentiate between B12 and it's analogues, Analysis of possible B12 sources may give false positive results due to the presence of these analogues.
Researchers have suggested that supposed B12 supplements such as spirulina may in fact increase the risk of B12 deficiency disease, as the B12 analogues can compete with B12 and inhibit metabolism.
The current nutritional consensus is that no plant foods can be relied on as a safe source of vitamin B12.
Bacteria present in the large intestine are able to synthesise B12. In the past, it has been thought that the B12 produced by these colonic bacteria could be absorbed and utilised by humans. However, the bacteria produce B12 too far down the intestine for absorption to occur, B12 not being absorbed through the colon lining.
Human faeces can contain significant B12. A study has shown that a group of Iranian vegans obtained adequate B12 from unwashed vegetables which had been fertilised with human manure. Faecal contamination of vegetables and other plant foods can make a significant contribution to dietary needs, particularly in areas where hygiene standards may be low. This may be responsible for the lack of aneamia due to B12 deficiency in vegan communities in developing countries.
Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians are dairy products or free-range eggs. ½ pint of milk (full fat or semi skimmed) contains 1.2 µg. A slice of vegetarian cheddar cheese (40g) contains 0.5 µg. A boiled egg contains 0.7 µg. Fermentation in the manufacture of yoghurt destroys much of the B12 present. Boiling milk can also destroy much of the B12.
Vegans are recommended to ensure their diet includes foods fortified with vitamin B12. A range of B12 fortified foods are available. These include yeast extracts, Vecon vegetable stock, veggieburger mixes, textured vegetable protein, soya milks, vegetable and sunflower margarines, and breakfast cereals.

Required Intakes

The old Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA's) have now been replaced by the term Reference Nutrient intake (RNI). The RNI is the amount of nutrient which is enough for at least 97% of the population.
Reference Nutrient Intakes for Vitamin B12, µg/day. (1000 µg = 1mg)



0 to 6 months

0.3 µg

7 to 12 months

0.4 µg

1 to 3 yrs

0.5 µg

4 to 6 yrs

0.8 µg

7 to 10 yrs

1.0 µg

11 to 14 yrs

1.2 µg

15 + yrs

1.5 µg

Breast feeding women

2.0 µg

Pregnant women are not thought to require any extra B12, though little is known about this. Lactating women need extra B12 to ensure an adequate supply in breast milk.
B12 has very low toxicity and high intakes are not thought to be dangerous.

Determine Your Calorie Needs

Different groups of people have different daily calorie needs. For example, an adult athlete will need to consume more calories than a moderately active 3 year old.

When eating store-bought foods, be sure to look at the nutrition label to see how many calories are in one serving.

When eating out, choose what you’ll eat before you go. Most restaurants offer nutritional information online.

The following chart will help you determine the appropriate calorie need for your age, gender and activity level.



Activity Level


Age (years)


Moderately Active




1,000 calories

1,000-1,400* calories

1,000-1,400 calories*



1,200 calories

1,400-1,600 calories

1,400-1,800 calories



1,600 calories

1,600-2,000 calories

1,800-2,200 calories



1,800 calories

2,000 calories

2,400 calories



2,000 calories

2,000-2,200 calories

2,400 calories



1,800 calories

2,000 calories

2,200 calories



1,600 calories

1,800 calories

2,000-2,200 calories



1,400 calories

1,400-1,600 calories

1,600-2,000 calories



1,800 calories

1,800-2,200 calories

2,000-2,600 calories



2,200 calories

2,400-2,800 calories

2,800-3,200 calories



2,400 calories

2,600-2,800 calories

3,000 calories



2,200 calories

2,400-2,600 calories

2,800-3,000 calories



2,000 calories

2,200-2,400 calories

2,400-2,800 calories

* - The calorie ranges shown reflect the needs of different ages within the group. Children and adolescents need more calories as they get older. However, adults needs fewer calories at older ages.
The following terms are used in the chart and are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Sedentary - a lifestyle that includes activity that is only associated with day-to-day life.

Moderately active - a lifestyle that includes physical activity equal to walking between 1.5 and 3 miles per day.

Active - a lifestyle that includes physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day.


Vitamins and minerals


The following information is based on the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes. Specific advice for individual needs should be sought from a qualified dietitian.

The term nutrient identifies those substances in food that provide essential nourishment to maintain life.

Nutrient (Vitamins)

Needed for

Key sources

Vitamin A

  • maintaining normal reproduction
  • good vision
  • formation and maintenance of healthy skin, teeth and soft tissues of the body
  • immune function (has anti-oxidant properties).

Milk, cheese, eggs, fatty fish, yellow-orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, pumpkin, mango, apricots, and other vegetables such as spinach, broccoli.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

  • supplying energy to tissues
  • breaking down and using the energy and nutrients in carbohydrates, proteins and fats
  • nerve function

Fortified breakfast cereals, baking flour, wholegrains, wheatgerm, yeast, legumes, nuts, pork.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

  • obtaining energy from food
  • making Vit B6 active in the body
  • reducing a key cardiovascular risk factor
  • production of red blood cells and body growth

Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified breads and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

  • obtaining energy from food
  • breaking down and using carbohydrates, proteins and fats and their building blocks
  • maintaining healthy skin and nerves
  • releasing calcium from cellular stores

Beef, pork, liver, beans, wholegrain cereals, eggs, cow’s milk.

Pantothenic acid

  • making, hormones, vitamin A and D and substances that help make nerves work
  • helps make new fats and proteins in the body

Chicken, beef, potatoes, oat-based cereals, tomatoes, egg yolks, whole grains.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

  • breaking down,using and reforming the building blocks of proteins

Muscle and organ meats, fortified breakfast cereals, brussel sprouts, green peas, beans, split peas, and fruit.

Vitamin B12 (Cyano-cobalamin)

  • normal nerve function
  • normal blood function

Beef, lamb, fish, veal, chicken, eggs, milk and other dairy products.


  • breaking down and using the building blocks of proteins
  • the processes of tissue growth and cell function
  • maintaining good heart health
  • preventing neural tube defects in newborns

Cereals, cereal products, vegetables eg broccoli, legumes and fruit eg oranges.


  • breaking down and using the building blocks of fats and proteins

Meats and cereals.

Note: eating raw egg whites prevents absorption of biotin.


  • making nerve cell transmitters and cell membranes
  • inflammatory and allergic response
  • healthy kidneys and liver
  • reducing the risk of heart disease
  • fat and cholesterol transport and break down in the body

Milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat germ, dried soybeans.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

  • protects against oxidative damage
  • aiding absorption of iron and copper
  • formation of collagen
  • healthy bones
  • helps fight infection
  • helps regenerate and stabilise other vitamins such as vitamin E or folate

Blackcurrants, orange, grapefruit, guava, kiwi fruit, raspberries, sweet peppers (Capsicum), broccoli, sprouts.

Vitamin D

  • absorption of calcium and phosphorus
  • maintenance of calcium levels in blood
  • immune function
  • healthy skin
  • muscle strength

Sunlight on skin allows the body to produce Vitamin D. Few foods contain significant amounts however main dietary sources are fortified margarine, salmon, herring, mackerel, and eggs.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

  • acts as antioxidant particularly for fats
  • keeping heart, circulation, skin and nervous system in good condition

Oils and margarines, fats of meats, chicken, fish, wheat germ, , spinach, cashews, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds.

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

  • normal blood clotting

Spinach, salad greens, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, soybean oil, canola oil, margarines


  • development and maintenance of bones and teeth
  • good functioning muscles and nerves
  • heart function

Milk, cheese, yoghurt, bony fish, legumes, fortified soy beverages and fortified breakfast cereals.

Note: the body excretes calcium with salt in urine, so eat less salt to retain your calcium.


  • enhancing the action of insulin to regulate blood sugar

Widely found in foods such as yeast, eggs, meat, whole grains, cheese.


  • the functioning of several enzymes
  • formation of connective tissue
  • iron metabolism and blood cell formation
  • nervous system, immune system and cardiovascular system function

Organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grains.


  • healthy teeth and bones

Fluoridated water, fish, tea.


  • normal thyroid function (important in the growth and development of central nervous system)
  • energy production
  • oxygen consumption in cells

Salt water fish, shellfish, seaweed, iodised salt, vegetables (if there is iodine in the soil where they are grown).

Note: Severe deficiencies can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, infant mortality, congenital abnormalities etc.


  • Haemoglobin in red blood cells (important for transport of oxygen to tissues)
  • component of myoglobin (muscle protein)

Red meats – beef, lamb, veal, pork, fish, chicken and wholegrain cereals.

Note: Iron absorption from plant sources eg cereals or green leafy vegetables is much lower than from animal sources so 80% more is required in the food to get the same amount absorbed. Vitamin C helps with absorption.


  • the functioning of more than 300 enzyme systems
  • energy production
  • regulating potassium levels
  • the use of calcium
  • healthy bones

Green vegetables, legumes, peas, beans, lentils, nuts, wholegrains and cereals


  • healthy bones
  • carbohydrate, cholesterol and protein metabolism

Cereal products, tea, vegetables.


  • breakdown of proteins

Legumes, wholegrain products, nuts.


  • forms part of DNA and RNA
  • buffers the acidity of urine
  • protection of acid/base balance of blood
  • storage and transport of energy
  • helps activate some proteins

Widely distributed in natural foods eg dairy, meat, dried fruit, eggs, cereals.


  • nerve impulses
  • muscle contraction
  • regulates blood pressure

Leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, root vegetables. Also moderately abundant in beans, peas, bananas, avocados, milk, yoghurt

Note: Potassium has a beneficial effect in offsetting the effects of sodium (salt) on blood pressure.


  • antioxidant
  • thyroid metabolism
  • part of several functional proteins in body

Seafood, poultry, eggs and to a lesser extent other muscle meats and cereal foods (content varies widely with soil condition).


  • maintain water balance throughout the body
  • nerve impulses
  • transport of molecules across cell walls

Found in most take-away and processed foods eg bread, butter, margarine, deli meats, cheese, cereals.

It is also a major component of table salt and baking soda

Note: It is important to use only moderate amounts of salt as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines.


  • component of enzymes that help maintain structure of proteins and regulate gene expression
  • needed for growth, immunity appetite and skin integrity

Meats, fish, poultry, cereals, dairy foods.

Note: availability from animal sources is greater than that from plant sources so vegetarians need 50% higher intakes.