How to Read Nutrition Labels

So reading nutrition labels can be scary, its ok to admit it. Half the time all I see when I pick up a product I have never heard of it looks like “kjsdkfbsjdfbosb” is in it… sometimes I can pick out what I think that could possibly be and other times I don’t even try because its obviously something insane!

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Here are some of the things that are a basic that I think everyone should know just in general but also know to kind of look out for when purchasing foods for themselves and family. I’m going to give your the basics of what everything means as well! =)

** Basic things I check is first what’s in it? How many ingredients are in it ? Carbs, protein, sugar and then calories… ***

  1. What’s the serving size? (go look at the serving size of your saltines, I bet its around 3-4 crackers. Do you eat that many.. honestly? No you eat like 10. Been there done that! Make sure you look at the serving size, say the labels says 4 crackers and that there are 3g sugar in 2 crackers (that means there are 15 g sugar in those 10 crackers). This goes for calories and everything else too, not just sugar. Keeps you eating the right proportions is knowing the serving sizes to begin with! =)
  2. Ingredients: They are labeled in order of quantity and volume, meaning that if sugar is like the second thing on the list don’t bring it home! The higher up whatever ingredient is in the list, the more the product contains of it and the lower the ingredient on the list the least of it. Watch out of hidden words like “dextrose, glucose High fructose Corn Syrup, Syrups, Aspartame.” These are still sugars you want to avoid. They put these ingredients as different names in hope of people not knowing what they are so they will buy more of it. Even when looking at the actual grams of sugar it contains, they don’t split it up and say where the sugar is coming from (like fructose comes naturally through fruit) So be sure to look at the actual ingredient list and know where your “sugar” form is coming from. Not all sugars are bad, its the syrups and fake sugars to watch out for!
  3. Calorie Count- How many calories does it contain per serving? This is where people can get confused when it comes to nutrition. Usually people just look and see if it contains a lot of calories or not, not even looking at the nutrients. In example something that contains a high amount of calories doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad food- it may contain a lot of nutrients. So don’t just look and see that it has 400 calories and then put it back onto the shelf, look and see where those calories may be coming from. Also don’t go after every food you can find that has little to no calories either. Just because it has 0 calories doesn’t mean its a healthy for you option. There are lots of things (unless its like fruits and veggies) contain 0 calories that have a million ingredients and fake sugar galore!!! Quality Vs. Quantity is a good example here.
  4. Where are your Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients at? – (DV) Daily Value is considered ideal and most sufficient when it comes to a basic diet. If it contains anywhere from 10-15% of your DV, its usually a better choice! The higher the better! You need all those nutrients to sustain energy, and keep your metabolism up and running good!!
  5. Sodium -When you’ve had too much sodium it raises your blood pressure. Also some foods have more than 3,000 milligrams alone in one serving when your daily amount is 2,300 (which I still think is too high personally- I would shoot for no more than 1500 ). The way I look at it too, the more sodium usually means its highly processed and should ideally stay away from. Things like frozen premade dinners have around 800 or more….. where as a green bell pepper has 4mg pepper.
  6. Carbohydrate- Here’s something tricky when reading carbohydrate on the label, it also includes complex carbs, fiber and sugar… I know how annoying?! So ideally shot for around 150-300 carbs a day at MOST! (keep in mind, depending on your level of physical activity could very with this and what kind of a diet your on as well. ) Some people go to extremes and do very low carb diets (which I’m not a huge fan of- because your body uses carbs as fuel) *note: I mean you should eat “good carbs and not “bad carbs” when I state that you should eat them. Some examples of good carbs include: Fruit, Veggies, 100% Whole Grains.. Bad carbs include: Refined grains and sweets with way too much sugar or fake sugar.
  7. Protein –  Depends on if your trying to build muscle, but usually shoot for around 40-50g a day. 35% of your calories should come from a clean protein source.
  8. What Kinds of Fats? – There are many types of fat and not all fat is bad for you. Your body needs fat to survive and function properly. The ideal type of fat is (Unsaturated fat), your usually clear if it doesn’t contain too much and/or (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats) These come from oils and other foods like olives, avocado, nuts, seeds and natural butter spreads (like almond butter or peanut butter) and fish . The ones you want to stay away from are the… (trans fat and saturated fats) If your food contains lots of this type of fat, just put it back and don’t even try to justify it. Its not healthy and not worth it! This usually comes from animal sources whether that be from the animal meat itself or something that comes from the animal, like dairy or eggs.
  9. Fiber- Always look for high fiber in anything, not if your eating enough veggies and fruits (which you know if you are because you will be eating them all the time..right?! ) then you don’t really need to worry about getting enough fiber, but always good to look for (shoot fore 3g or more)
  10. Sugar- The lower the better, but make sure your making sure there is “fake sugar” in it because that even worse! Shoot for natural sugars from things like fruit, veggies and some whole grains rather than the sugars in pre-packaged and processed foods. Your tummy will thank you! Try not to consume more than 30g sugars a day (Which is still kinda high)

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Whats up with High Fructose Corn Syrup ?

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Oh HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) … what’s the deal with it? Well within the past year we have heard a lot of crap about it through the media. Some say its ok to eat, others say its the same as sugar, and then some say to stay away… so what the heck is going on? And which is it? Here are my thoughts on HFCS!!!

So is it bad for you? Yes, I would say yes it is. Here is why… Its hidden in sooo many foods that we either commonly eat, or in foods that you wouldn’t even think that have it, so technically we are eating more than were aware of. Its also processed and “man made” – being chemically modified into the “syrup”.

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So when they say its the same as sugar or honey for example, yes sure it may be the same amount of calories.. (around 4 grams). But how they are metabolized and processed through the body are very different. HFCS is basically glucose that they treat with certain enzymes that help it convert into fructose. Since its 45-55 ratio and they are artificially generated, that makes them unstable. There are many studies out there saying that fructose can only be broken down by the liver as well. That being the case, making your HDL the “good cholesterol” lower and your LDL “Bad cholesterol” rising. ….. So  needless to say that its a “natural” sugar like they claim is like saying cigarettes are a form of herbal medicine lol.

So here is the main problem and WHY we are in such a huge obesity epidemic (if you ask me)… Pretty much everything (that’s processed in a way) has some form of corn in it, whether it be corn syrup, corn ingredients or corn sugar. Some foods you wouldn’t even think of it being in include: Cottage Cheese, Salad Dressings, Chocolate, Granola Bars, Waffles, Oatmeal, Pastries, Jelly and Jams, Yogurt, Cereal and the list can go on and on. …. Since its hidden in so many foods as Fruit fructose, Iso Glucose, chicory, Inulin and Glucose-Fructose Syrup people don’t realize how much they are actually consuming.  Personally I don’t even consider corn to even be a veggie, I consider it as a starch because when entered your body it basically turns into sugar right away, rising your blood sugar. No matter how much fiber it has, I can find better starches to eat.

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Good News though! Companies are wising up, America is wising up and people are starting to be concerned with what actually goes into their foods nowadays! YAY! So a lot of companies are actually banning high fructose corn syrup from their products, they are making packaged goods without it and the more we don’t buy products because of it, the less it will be around! So be a smart cookie and read your labels!! =D

And this picture is brought to you by me being a  smart ass … lmao!

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How to pick a Healthier Bread

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So there are like a bazillion different kinds of breads out there. Gluten-free, whole-wheat, oat, honey oat, white, potato, rye, sourdough, high-fiber, low cal, and the list could just continue. . . . .

So what the heck do I eat?!?! … Lets look into this.

  • If one of the first ingredients are “Enriched bleached flour” or “wheat flour” Stay away! (Its just a disguised word for white flour)  So if it looks like its whole grain and brown or it even says Wheat bread, doesn’t  mean its necessarily healthy. Even if it says multi-grain or 100% natural doesn’t mean its healthy either.. and rye isn’t necessarily the high fiber choice like you thought.. and don’t even get me started on white Wonder bread… if your eating that.. we are going to have some issues. . . . .

Now your super confused huh!

  • Look for “100% ” Whole Wheat. or 100% Whole Grain. Nothing less. Whole wheat isn’t good enough because its usually made with enriched wheat flour. Look at some labels next time your in the bread section at your local grocery store. You will be surprised how many bread have that ingredient listed as one of the first ingredients.
  • Why you want to shoot for whole grains is because they are naturally low in sugar, cholesterol and high in fiber.
  • Make sure you look at the serving sizes because one loaf will say “145 calories per slice” and some other ones will say “200 calories per 2 slices” make sure you do the math. Companies like to make it difficult when it comes to advertising.
  • Watch out for unhealthy fats such as : Trans fats, hydrogenated vegetable oil, vegetable oil shortening, partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Also stay away from high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, and high sugar.
  • When you go to buy bread squeeze it (don’t crush it! ) but if its super soft and too easy to crush.. its not the best choice, pick a denser bread, it will have more nutrients.

How to choose a good bread:

  1. look for 100% whole wheat (should be first ingredient)  AVOID “enriched flour” !!!!
  2. The shorter list of ingredients the better! (that usually goes with ALL food.)
  3. Try to get less than 200mg of sodium
  4. Shoot for 100 calories of less (per slice)
  5. look for high fiber, 3g or more!

Some good bread options:

  • Oroweat 100% Whole Grain
  • Oroweat Whole Grain + Flax
  • Natures Pride 100% Whole Wheat
  • Sara Lee Hearty and Delicious 100% Multi Grain
  • Arnold Sandwich Thins 100% whole wheat
  • Brownberry whole grain 100% Whole Wheat
  • Ezekiel  4:9 organic sprouted 100% whole wheat
  • Rudis organic bakery- whole wheat 100%

Easy Steps toward a heathier lifestyle

So a co-worker of mine was asking for little steps on how to just get in the swing of living a healthier lifestyle. So… I came up with a few =) enjoy!

  1. Water, Water, Water! Drink it up! Your body thrives on the stuff! I used to be very bad about drinking water myself so I found this cool little idea on Pintrist and made one of these. (below picture)Now I will admit I felt silly carrying this around at the gym and to work.. but it helped .. another good idea to make sure you get enough  water and/or are able to keep track of it is to put 4 rubber bands around the bottom of your water bottle. After you finish one bottle move a rubber band to the top =)
  2. Keep a food journal. Try it for a month, every little thing that touches your mouth (even water and gum) write it down. People don’t realize how much food they actually eat until they have to write it down.. plus you’ll be less likely to feel ok that you binged on those cookies and would rather write that you only ate 3 instead of 8.
  3. Carry a pedometer (I like my FitBit) it tracks my steps, miles and calories I’ve burned, plus this little gadget can be a food log too and you can set up goals and everything. But if you don’t have the money or don’t want to get all fancy…. a regular ol’ pedometer will do just fine, aim for 1,o00 steps a day at least.
  4. Eat 5 -6 little meals a day rather than 3 large ones. I personally like to aim for 300-400 cal per meal a day because it keeps me feeling full without over doing it. 5 small meals at 300 cal = 1500 … which isn’t bad at all. Plus its shown that when you eat your meals this way, with the same amount distributed this way, your body releases less insulin which keeps blood sugar steady and helps control hunger pains.
  5. Find a buddy. Weather its online, a friend at the gym or just someone to talk to. It helps to have the encouragement from a friend to have someone you kind of feel accountable to. Think about it, your less likely to skip a workout if someone is going to ask you how it was or if they are waiting for you at the gym.
  6. Throw out you “fat” clothes. Give away any clothing that doesn’t fit, and that gives you an incentive to keep the weight off and plus have fun trying on clothes with your new figure!
  7. Downside the dinner plate. The smaller the plate the smaller the portions (which usually are too big to start with).
  8. Say no to seconds….. you don’t get seconds at restaurants do you? nope, why should you at home…. p.s restaurant servings are usually double so when you order it, automatically cut it in half and that usually is the “correct” proportion. Take the rest home with you, you’ll have lunch for tomorrow at work =)
  9. Pull out the Veggies! Fill yourself up with a veggie platter at parties before the actual meal .. ta-da! Save on some major calories there. (eat the water-rich foods like carrots, celery, baby tomatoes and zucchini)
  10. Prepare your proportions. A lot of people like the “100 cal packs”  why not make your own that are healthier than those prepackaged Oreos…. so next time you buy veggie sticks or even pretzels, look at the serving sizes. It says 18 sticks? Great. Buy the little snack sandwich bags and portion out each serving so then your not tempted to grab the bag when your watching TV or running late.
  11. Use oil instead of butter… but if your  craving some butter on toast, use Earth Balance. Its made with olive oil!
  12. Make 1/2 your plate veggies, 1/4 meat and 1/4 some kind of starch like rice or a baked potato (hold the gravy and toppings please)
  13. At best, eat at home. Then you know how your food is made, and what exactly it has in it (chances are, it will be healthier)
  14. Avoid foods with fake sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and fake dyes…. we don’t need it, our bodies don’t like it… its man made… do you really think you were meant to digest that crap? NO .. go for all natural (stevia is ok, its made from a plant)
  15. HAha, I have a personal problem with this…. but eat your food slowly and calmly. Enjoy it. Savor every bit of it. Your body will digest it better and it usually takes your brain about 20 min to finally tell yourself your full.
  16. Eat only when your truly hungry…. usually its a way of telling yourself your thirsty. (drink a glass of water, and wait 10 min, if your still hungry, yeah its usually ok to assume your actually hungry. ) Also, we eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, frustration, stress the list continues…. truly listen to your body on whether or not your hungry or if you just saw a picture of a burger and you just want a burger now.
  17. STAY POSITIVE… this should probably be #1… ok I know I’m going to sound loony here, but the second I stopped putting myself down with the “I’m so fat” or “I cant loose weight” and I started seeing how awesome I really was.. the weight started falling off…. no joke! That’s what worked for me because I know how difficult this can be. I liked the way exercise made me feel and I felt more awake and had more energy.. so I was thinking “I feel awesome” and  “I rock, I’ve been to the gym every day this week!” and BOOM.. the change happened.
  18. Don’t use food as a “treat” …. sure you just lost 10 lbs, or you just got a new job promotion… everyone wants to celebrate with fricking food! … go out and buy a new purse or new shoes.. or something OTHER than food. Your not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food damnit!
  19. Use spices galore! The have 0 cal and can make any meal amazing!
  20. Eat fruit as a desert, once you start eating healthier your taste buds will change, and the fruit will be really sweet
  21. Skip the escalator and elevator. Take the stairs!
  22. If they ask you about the proportion size… chances are the smaller one if the “correct” proportion…. there is no need for you to have anything super-sizes, biggie, or Jumbo’d … common now.
  23. Watch less TV an get out. I hear people talk about their favorite TV show all the time (I’m guilty of it too) I also hear people say they don’t have time to workout. .. Lets just put two and two together and leave it at that shall we?
  24. When you get a salad, order the dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the dressing and then hit the salad. BOOM! You just saved a lot of calories!
  25. Brush your teeth after dinner, I like to do the whitening strips too sometimes too…. who wants to ruin that beautiful smile with food after that?? Whooo!
  26. Umm…. sex burns calories and is a good workout…. enough said 😉
  27. When looking at labels on boxes of food, if it had more than 6-10 ingredients its ok, anymore than that.. probably should stay away. And if you cant pronounce half of them.. yeah not a good idea. Avoid the words hydrogenated, high fructose corn syrup, and dyes.
  28. Look for more the 2g of fiber in each 100 calories in your breads cereals and grains.
  29. Get enough sleep! Don’t wear out your body.. it doesn’t like it.
  30. and finally…. HAVE FUN! just be happy, the less stressed you are the better off you are =)

My water bottle :

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