When Nutrition Becomes Personal: A Retired Nurse’s Story

Have you noticed a subtle difference on your grocery’s shelves? New Nutrition Facts labels are starting to show up on some of your favorite packaged foods. This change reflects new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The new label intends to make it easier for consumers to make better food choices.

One of those consumers is Judy Weddle, a retired nurse now living in Tennessee, who watches her diet very carefully.

“I consider myself to be an avid nutrition label reader today, but that wasn’t always true. When I was in nursing school in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we were required to take a course in basic nutrition. At the time, I thought it was the most boring and tedious class. I did not see how it would be helpful when taking care of patients. I figured that dietitians would take care of that aspect of patient care,” said Weddle.

That changed when she began to work in coronary care and see how relevant nutrition was to teaching patients about healthy lifestyle changes. Then, while in her 50s, she was diagnosed with hypertension, and nutrition became personal for her.

“That was my wake-up call. I had never watched what I ate and never read nutrition labels. I had no exercise routine and poor sleep and stress management habits. It took me a while to get my lifestyle turned around.”

She joined a gym and tried meditation, but she believes the biggest impact came from changing her nutrition.

“I found out about the DASH diet. It stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It made sense to me. I started reading nutrition labels and comparing products. Then in 2016, at age 66, I went through cancer surgery and chemotherapy. That was a tough journey. I had additional nutritional requirements for protein and fiber. Today I continue to read nutrition labels to give myself the best chance for a healthy lifestyle.”

Weddle, who serves on the atom Alliance Advisory Council, is currently helping our cardiac care quality improvement team create a new patient education tool to help providers recommend specific, achievable lifestyle change goals to patients.

And for the last four years, atom Alliance Quality Innovation Network — Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) staff have offered Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) throughout the five-state region serving Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. DSME is a proven intervention for empowering persons with diabetes to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the quality of their lives. Instructors report that one of the more popular DSME classes focuses on how to read food labels.

If you’d like to schedule DSME classes in your community please contact Debra Bratton.  If you’d like to pilot the new cardiac health patient education tool, please contact Mitzi Daffron. The atom Alliance is part of Medicare’s national effort to improve the health status of local communities.

Nutrition Facts Updates

Here are some highlights:

  • Serving sizes were updated to reflect current common household portion sizes. Note that the label’s Serving Size is not a recommended portion size. Also, if a food package has two-to-three times the amount of one serving, a second column now shows nutrient amounts if all contents are eaten.
  • Calories (per serving) was made larger to make it more prominent.
  • Trans fat – 80% has been removed from the food supply since 2006, and the rest is being phased out as it has been deemed unsafe for consumption.
  • Sodium daily reference value has changed from 2400 to 2300mg. The FDA is working with industry to gradually reduce sodium in the food supply.
  • Added Sugars was inserted and shown as part of the Total Sugars to help consumers decide if a food is a source of calories low in nutrients. (Total Sugars are part of the Total Carbohydrate.) Only 10% of a person’s calorie intake is recommended to come from Added Sugars. This amounts to 50g sugar (200 calories) on a 2000 calories per day diet.
  • Key minerals and Vitamin D are shown in absolute amounts to make it easier for consumers to see how much they are consuming.
  • 25,000 foods have the new label, but you will see the old version on some products up until January 1, 2021.

Access an educational brochure on the Nutrition Facts updates here.