Become a  Nutrition Detective


Nutrition Reports—3-Flag Ratings

Become a Detective

 In chapter 3 we mentioned that Stage Three of The Full Plate Diet requires you to become a “label detective.” To help get you get started, we made several trips to the grocery store to check random off-the-shelf product labels and obtained nutrition information from the websites of fast-food and dine-in restaurants. We came up with a 3-flag rating system—

 green means “go ahead.” These foods can be eaten without sacrificing health or interfering with weight loss.

 Yellow means “caution.” These foods should be eaten in moderation or less frequently.

red means “stop and think” before eating these foods. They will have a negative effect on your efforts to lose weight.

The following ratings aren’t meant to be comprehensive. Our goal is merely to show you enough green, yellow, and red flags for you to recognize how we’re arriving at these judgments—a starter list. These lists aren’t meant to be a guide you carry with you to the grocery store. They’re intended only to show you the things you should be looking for on nutrition labels and lists of ingredients. Details of our rating system are at the end of this chapter.

At Your Grocery Store

 Let’s start with off-the-shelf products. There are a few generalities to keep in mind while grocery shopping. First, the more convenient a food has been made to prepare, the more likely it will be highly processed  or otherwise loaded with unhealthy ingredients.  The same is true for all snack foods. Read labels carefully. If you need help understanding the labels, visit

Suggestions for Avoiding  Trans Fat

 remember: Hydrogenated and “partially hydrogenated” oil and shortening are trans fat. 1. Avoid deep-fried foods  Q  partially hydrogenated oil is used for deep frying 2. Salad dressings Q  ask if the salad dressing is made with partially hydrogenated oil Q  use lemon juice and/or olive oil Q  bring your own 3. Watch out for those dinner rolls! Q  they’re usually made with partially hydrogenated oil. And if you don’t eat the rolls, you won’t need the butter (high in saturated fat) or the margarine (usually contains partially hydrogenated oil) 4. Go easy on the crackers Q  they’re almost always made with partially hydrogenated oils 5.   Avoid cakes, pies, donuts, and other pastries Q  they’re loaded with shortening and/or partially hydrogenated margarines and oils. (You didn’t really think we were going to give donuts a green flag, did you?)

Food Sources Think of these as general guidelines when evaluating food: 1.  Grown organically and fresh from your own garden. BEST! Happy, Happy, Happy. 2. Organically grown, farmer’s market or store-purchased. GREAT! Happily dancing. 3.  Grown non-organically in your garden. Still GREAT! 4.  Farmer’s market or store-fresh veggies & fruits, with selected whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, and nuts. VERY GOOD. 5.  Canned and frozen fruits, veggies, and beans without added fat, salt, or sugar. GOOD. Much better than the average American diet. 6.  Carefully selected restaurant foods. GOOD. Sort of. 7.  Canned and frozen fruits, veggies, and beans with fat, salt, or sugar added. BAD. 8.  Junk restaurant food. VERY BAD. 9.  Junk snack food & drinks. EXTREMELY BAD. You may fall over dead before you eat that last bite. Just looking at the wrapper has been known to cause blindness. (You know we’re kidding, right? Still, snack foods are very unhappy.)

Beyond Fiber

 Increase your dietary fiber and you’ll experience numerous health benefits, one of which is sustainable weight loss. Seek out foods that are high in fiber. The nutritional quality of a food, however, is more than just how much fiber it contains. This is especially true when it comes to commercial food products. A whole-plant food is the gold standard. Whole-plant foods are wholly derived from plants, and as close as possible to the way they came off the vine or tree, or out of the ground. Shop in the produce section and you’ll lose weight. Packaged foods are a different story. Some packaged products offer high nutrition, have very little processing, and use only a few ingredients.

Details of Our Rating System


 All whole-plant foods. Those that contain high amounts of fat, such as coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butter, should be eaten in moderation if you want to lose weight faster Q  Commercial or restaurant items that contain: –  100% whole grains (no white or enriched flour) –  Sodium less than 350 mg per serving –  Calories from fat less than 25% of the total –  No trans fat, MSG, artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, or acesulfame) –  No added sugars (high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, etc.)


  Red meat, pork, poultry, fish, and most dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.),  and eggs Q  Commercial or restaurant items that contain: –  Processed grains –  Sodium between 350 mg and 750 mg per serving –  Calories from fat between 25% and 60% of  the total –  Artificial sweeteners –  Added sugars


 Commercial or restaurant items that contain: –  MSG –  Added trans fat –  Fat calories more than 60% of the total –  Sodium more than 750 mg per serving –  Added sugars first or second on the ingredient list

If you’re aware of what you eat, and what’s in what you eat, you’ll live a longer, happier, healthier life. And you’ll slim down and look great, too. That’s our wish for you.


About The Full Plate Diet

Solo family practitioner for 35 years, encompassing all aspects of primary care including obstetrics, newborn care, pediatric and adult medicine. Practice setting has included ambulatory as well as inpatient hospital critical and non-critical care. Concierge house-call medical practice from 2006 - 2016 in Sedona, Arizona. Lifestyle medical practice with emphasis on nutrition, physical fitness, stress management, health coaching, and behavior change medicine.

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