Feed Yourself Well – Learning To Read Food Labels

Many people are more and more confused when it comes to food choices.  The majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about nutrition and pesticides.  Many base their food choices on what is in or on them. This has led to an explosion in the organic food market, and to increasingly more confusing food labels.

Studies repeatedly show the foods we eat today are not as nutrient packed as they were in the past. According to food-navigator.com, “Changes in agriculture during the last 50 years include the widespread use of pesticides, plant growth regulators, and highly soluble sources of plant nutrients, along with decreased use of humus-containing fertilizers.” Due to certain farming methods, mass planting of a single crop, and transporting foods over long distances, crops have been made to withstand depletion of soil, long journeys from vine to table, and have been bred to handle lots of handling. All this translates into less nutrients for us.

Many are willing to pay more than fifty percent more for organic food. Organic food markets have begun to grow at approximately twenty percent each year. This means organic food prices and selections have gotten better, but how do you know if you are getting organic? When confronted with the enormous amount of options how do we make good choices and not throw up our hands in overwhelming frustration? Getting educated about labels will help you make the best food choices.

Deciphering labels:

An article in the Seattle Times outlined the following label definitions:

  • If the product is labeled “100 percent organic” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.
  • If the label says, simply, “organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced. And if it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approved list.
  • Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. The reason is that no standard definition for these terms exists, except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients. The terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are similarly meaningless. U.S. government standards are weak. The rule for the label’s use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be available for “an undetermined period each day.”
  • Labeling seafood “organic” is also misleading, since the USDA has not yet developed organic-certification standards.

Why does organic cost so much more than conventionally grown foods? Organically grown foods are usually produced on much smaller farms. These farms do not receive subsidies from the government and they must follow much stricter guidelines when growing, harvesting, transporting, and storing foods. Many shy away from organic foods because they feel they cannot afford them. It is possible to eat nutritiously on a budget, I know, I do it. It takes patience as you learn to read labels and understand which foods to choose. If you have to select from both conventional and organic foods on your regular shopping list apply the following ideas.

  • 1stBuy as much organic or locally grown as possible. The farmers market season is just around the corner-we have two great ones in town. Better yet try growing your own. The Broadway Community Garden is beginning! Free plots, help, and support is here in Superior! Call: Theresa at 218-727-4820 for more information.
  • 2ndShop the perimeter of the supermarket. Whole foods or foods with the least amount of processing will help, but get educated on companies – learn how they treat the animals or what types of growing they do.
  • 3rdAvoid the dirty dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of residue on them: apples, bell peppers, spinach, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries. Although, scientists have trouble connecting all the dots between disease and long term, small dose exposure to pesticides, there is evidence that we have more in our bodies today than in the past. This is especially important for expectant mothers and small children, as proportionally they end up with more in their systems. There is also some concern over the combined effects of different pesticides in our systems even in low doses.
  • 4thLearn to read labels. Choose foods with small ingredient lists, avoid the “bad” fats, and learn what the ingredients are. Try to not to eat foods with lots of unpronounceable things in them, artificial colors, flavors, and lots of salt or sugar.

Hopefully, you have a better and not worse idea of what to put on your grocery list next time you shop – your body will thank you for choosing wisely. 

Resources:

www.foodnavigator-usa.com

www.mydna.com

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060409&slug=consumerreports09

www.shns.com

Whole Foods Co-Op, Duluth MN

Planning Home Workouts

Have you begun to move your workouts indoors?  I know this has been the theme lately, but it is important you plan for seasons if you are going to be sucmcessful this year.

Many clients are able to workout at home, but are unsure of where to start. They buy some hand weights, maybe a video, and if they are really brave go for the infomercial special, which is often later used as a clothes rack. How can you avoid adding to your dust collection?  In a word – planning.

It is much easier for most to create an effective strength training routine at home. It can be done on a limited budget, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Here are the things to consider when purchasing strength training equipment for home. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to build mass or lose weight? Are you trying to maintain? Is this equipment just for emergency use on those days where getting to the gym is not possible, or is this going to be your only source of strength training? These answers will direct your purchases. If you are looking for emergency use equipment, you can get by with little or no equipment depending on your program. This is where a professional can be very handy. A good personal trainer will help you design your program around your environment and make sure you are able to meet your goals. What a great Christmas present idea, one or two sessions can keep you focused. If you have equipment handy you will have no reason to miss a workout, however if you are using your home equipment just for emergency days you’ll want to make sure you have a good plan of action on non-emergency ones because you may not have enough to be effective over a long period of time.

Are you looking to do the majority of strength training at home? This can be a wonderful way to incorporate fitness into your life. It is a great way to role model healthy living for your children, and make fitness a family priority. Although, my children do not get to use my weights, they do workout with me using the same movements and many they create as they hop from step to step, mimic me, and learn about their own bodies. They are excited and interested in movement and habits formed early have a better chance of hanging on. Remember, the biggest factor in childhood obesity is parents. Help your children fight obesity – its never too late to start.

If you decide to strength train at home consider your current level of strength. How much can you easily lift now? Again, your goals are going to be important because they will dictate the progression of exercise, which will dictate how many weights you’ll need and how heavy they should be. What kind of space will you be able to dedicate to your workouts? Do you have room for a bench or ball? Do you have storage for different sized dumbbells? Will you dig equipment out of a closet or from under a bed to actually complete a workout? This is the big question! Will you do the workout? Once you know the answer to these questions you can begin to create space and build your equipment choices for your complete home strength workout.

As you begin to contemplate your goals for health look closely at your choices. There are many options for your fitness. You just have to be willing to move!

10 Ways to Handle Office Donuts

 Many of our health sabotagers are the folks we work with. Damn those office mates! Most are well meaning. They are trying to be the good one bringing everyone Friday donuts or lunch meeting cookies and pop. However, when we are trying stay on fitness track having those extra calories around can be pretty devastating. How do you handle those well meaning office diet sabotagers?

1) Be pro active – you bring the snacks

2) Post a healthy snack list around the office – hit all the major bulletin boards when no one is looking – somebody is bound to notice.

3) Enlist co-workers in a weight-loss or other fitness challenge – then you are all working toward the same goal

4) Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawers – make ’em good and tasty otherwise you are bound to reach for the sweet treats!

5) Tactfully ask the person responsible for the breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner meeting food to include some healthy treats – be ready with #1 when they ask what types of foods you are looking for.

6) Propose an office wide policy to serve healthy options – people are more productive when they’ve eating something healthy than when they’ve carbo loaded on empty calories and sugar.

7) Ask your boss to sponsor workout incentives – people who workout are more likely to seek out healthy food choices. Bonus for the Boss – companies who have created a workout /  exercise program report fewer absentee days, greater productivity, and better employee morale from those who participate.

8) Ask the vending machine supplier to add a few healthy choices in the machine

9) Quit walking by the break room until all the donuts are gone

10) Remember – your fitness is your responsibility. Take accountability for what you feed yourself. What you eat is no one else’s responsibility but yours.

Why Fat Is Important in Our Diet & Selecting Good Fat Choices – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

Let’s talk fat. I think we have finally gotten away from blaming this big hitter for all our woes. Fat is important. Fat caloric values are worth twice the fuel the other two contribute. No wonder we store it so well. When our bodies are overfed we store fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing! They know we are feeding to get ready for something, so they hang onto the fuel. Fat helps us feel satisfied, full longer, and it gives us more bang for the buck when it comes to energy. As with carbohydrates we need to make smart choices about our fat intake.

Our bodies need fat to function, many of our vitamins need fat to be absorbed, so it is important to choose wisely and make sure to get the right amount and types of fat in your diet.
Here are some examples of good and bad fats taken from Heathcastle.com

The “Good” Fats
Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat. Click here for more weight loss nutrition tips.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.

The “Not so Good” Fats
Saturated Fats
Saturated fats rise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.

Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)

The Power Of Protein – Good Protein Sources: Eating A Balanced Diet

Protein is what your body uses to build muscle among other things. Another needed source of fuel, protein can help you feel full longer. This means that eating foods high in protein, usually means you won’t eat as much.

Snacks such as; apples with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and a fruit or vegetable can go a long way helping you reach your nutrition needs and keep your hunger at bay. Protein is especially important if you are trying to gain weight or muscle mass. If you are considering supplementing protein, read labels and research companies as many have long ingredient lists which may contain items you don’t want to be eating.

It is also important to understand how much protein you really need. The RDA recommends .8g/kg of body weight. If you are an active person you may want to pump that up to 1.2-1.8g/kg of body weight. Many people think they need a bunch of protein especially if they are looking to build mass, however the body only uses what it can so supplementing too much protein for your activity level will just result in excreting the extra, so that expensive supplement becomes very expensive pee. You also need to be cautious of too much protein because it can cause problems and place your kidneys under stress to rid the body of toxic ketones. As the kidneys do their work you risk dehydration because the body will need more water to do this.

Protein is needed for many body functions and is an important part of a balanced diet. Take care to get your protein from good nutrient dense sources and be aware of consuming too much.

Eating A Balanced Diet

Choosing healthy foods can be confusing. Especially when we are so removed from where our food comes from and how it is grown. It is important to start with the basics and learn how to balance your diet.

Food can be confusing. I advocate a diet without labeled foods (whole foods) and eating an abundance of colors (fruits and vegetables). If you must read a label, choose a small ingredient list (listed from most to least). Try to avoid processed foods with long ingredient lists, especially if the majority of the list you cannot pronounce, and those full of artificial flavors and colors.

Fat and carbs are not the bad guys, they are simply fuel for our bodies. Protein has a nutritional benefit; however, it can cause problems if taken in great quantities. An educated consumer has the means to make wonderful food choices each day. We have a plethora of foods available to us, more than at any other time in history. Educate yourself about food so you understand what you are putting in your body, because you are what you eat – for better or worse.

In the next few weeks we’ll look at carbs, protein, and fats individually so you’ll have the tools you’ll need to make educated food choices

Losing Weight The Healthy Way

Here is how healthy weight loss works. Extra weight is just fuel you’ve put into your tank and didn’t use up. You consumed extra calories without burning them.

Calories(kcal) in MUST EQUAL calories out to MAINTAIN your current weight. This means if you want to lose weight the healthy way you must figure out how to create a deficit. In other words calories in MUST BE LESS THAN calories out to LOSE weight.

We can cut our food intake or increase our daily calorie needs (movement or exercise). To lose weight the healthy way create a plan which combines the two. By limiting food calories and adding more exercise to your daily routine it is easier to create enough of a calorie deficit without compromising your energy or health.

For example: Cut 500kcals from your daily intake (about two 20-oz bottles of soda) and increase your exercise by 300kcals per day (30-60 min of activity depending). This creates an 800kcals deficit per day. If you could do this 5 days a week you would expend an extra 4,000kcals per week. To lose a pound of fat you must burn 3,500kcals. So under this plan you should be losing at least 1 pound a week.

Some words of caution.
Food is not the enemy – load up on nutrient dense foods (foods with low calories and lots of vitamins + nutritionist). Healthy weight loss is approximently 1-2 pounds per week. It took time to put the weight on it’ll take time to take it off. Do not cut your calories too low. Less is not always more. See a nutritionist for help. Not eating enough will put your body in conserve mode. This backfires on weight loss because instead of letting go of calories your body will slow functions down to conserve calories. You won’t be getting the workouts because you are likely to be more tired and possibly more sick. This is not where you want your healthy weight loss program to be.

How To Lose Weight With Healthy Eating

Fresh Fruit

In my last blog posting I talked about some reasons obesity is rising in our country. Although, these are not meant to be excuses for extra pounds it is helpful to understand how we got to this point so we can make better choices now.

Understand that marketing is a business meant to make money both for companies represented and the marketers. When looking at products look beyond packaging – even if it has fruit on the package it doesn’t mean it is really in the food contained within. Pay attention to how the packaging caught your attention – was it a commercial, a reward, a celebrity, a promise? This will give you insight into your own buying behavior and allow you to step back from habitual choices. Become an educated consumer.

Learn how to eye ball portions sizes. Split your meal when it arrives putting anything above a portion in a takeout box. This will allow you to maximize your money and keep your waist line under control. In addition, begin to put extras on the side so you can control how much goes on. For example, salad dressing and condiments can add calories quickly, but if you put them on the side you can dip your fork with each bite for plenty of flavor and a lot less calories in your belly. Blacken, bake, broil, steam, and grill your meats and veggies. Treat yourself to fresh, in season, fruits instead of baked and smothered desserts. Add veggies to your sandwiches and burgers.

Basic portion sizes are: Meats – the size of your palm
Cheese – a pair of dice
1 cupped handful – 1/2 cup
Both cupped hands – 1 cup
8-oz drinks – your fist

Aim for a balanced plate each meal – carbs, protein, and fats. Reduce your meat portion and add an extra veggie or fruit instead. Eat a rainbow of foods with each meal. The more colors on your plate the more nutrients and vitamins you are getting. Try these tips to lose weight with healthy eating.

How to Eat Healthy While On Vacation

Eating healthy may be a challenge at home during your regular routine. So how, you ask, am I suppose to eat healthy while on vacation out of my routines? Its not as hard as you think.

First, be prepared. Plan for your needs. Be the one to bring the raw veggie plate with a healthy dip. Or bring a fresh fruit desert.

Second, eat small portions. I for one love summer BBQs and potlucks but instead of taking heaping spoonfuls of all my favorites I just take a small bite sized portion. I can always have more if I want it but keeping it off my plate usually keeps it out of my mouth.

Third, go whole food. Look for items that are as close to their natural state as possible. The less processing foods have the better for you!

Finally, follow the 80/20 rule. If 80% of your choices are healthy options the other 20 can be less than ideal. The trick is to keep this rule in action consistently over time. So don’t panic if one day is off just remember to make it up the next day.

Healthy eating starts with choices you make every meal. Don’t get discouraged and keep coming back to your goals and habits. If you can make small changes that last a lifetime you are on track to reach your goals. Just remember fitness and health are daily things and keep moving forward!