I frequently meet with groups to talk about healthier eating, and my favorite part of these events is the Q&A. I hear questions about juicing, fasting, and every diet from Paleo to Atkins to raw veganism; questions about apple cider vinegar, stevia and coffee enemas...Read More
It’s yogurt. It’s berries. Two nutritious choices coming together must create a nutritional powerhouse, right? Or at least a healthy snack option for the kids instead of candy? Yeah...not so much.Read More
Before I even picked up a cup to examine the ingredient panel, this package was desperately sending me a message:
- Check out my whimsical fonts! I’m light & fun!
- Coming in at just 100 calories, I fit right into your low-calorie deprivation diet, ladies!
- I’m with you in the fight against breast cancer! Buy me and you support breast cancer charities!
Reason #8 to work with a health coach is marked by this lament: "I eat a healthy diet, but I'm gaining weight!" A study by Cornell gives us insight into this phenomenon of overeating foods labeled as "Healthy," but it's intensive work with a health coach that will help to untangle this habit. Read more on this study here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-12/cfb-eho122315.php
Several clients have asked me about a certain brand of "breakfast biscuits" over the last couple of months. They're super convenient and tasty, I hear. And look at that packaging! The scattered oats and the green writing screams "NATURAL!" There's a claim of 19 grams of whole grains in a serving plus "4 Hours of Nutritious Steady Energy." Front of package claims mean absolutely nothing, and there's no FDA requirement around the energy claim, so to evaluate the quality of this product, let's ignore the packaging and move right to the ingredient listing, where ingredients are listed by volume:
WHOLE GRAIN BLEND (ROLLED OATS, RYE FLAKES)
Interesting that rather than listing OATS and RYE FLAKES separately in the ingredient list, the company chose to list these two ingredients as a "blend." Because items in an ingredient list are listed by volume, if oats and rye were listed separately, each ingredient would be pushed farther down the ingredient list, leaving the next ingredient as the first. And why wouldn't they want that item to be first?
ENRICHED FLOUR [WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN
MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID]
Make no mistake, "Enriched Flour" is white flour. Yep, the refined white stuff that we're all trying to avoid due to its impact on our blood sugar and our waistlines. Our bodies process white flour like sugar, spiking our blood sugar then sending us on a crash shortly after--not something I want my clients to include in their breakfast! White flour is stripped of its bran and germ, the parts of the whole grain containing vitamins, minerals and fiber. The flour becomes softer and more shelf-stable, but it must be "Enriched" by food manufacturers to add back in synthetic vitamins and minerals, essentially replacing some of what was stripped out.
HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL
"High Oleic" is a descriptor that lets us know that canola oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which act to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, except that added oil is not necessarily the best way to consume these fats. The good news here is that the product doesn't contain trans fats, the most dangerous fats to our hearts.
EVAPORATED CANE SUGAR
There are four sources of sugar in this product: Sugar, Evaporated Cane Sugar, and below there's invert sugar and malt syrup. Many companies deliberately use several sources of sugar rather than one or two to push the individual sugar ingredients farther down in the ingredient listing. Were all of these sugars added together into "Sugar Blend" similar to the way the grains were combined into "Whole Grain Blend," my hunch is that "Sugar Blend" would be very close to the top, if not the first ingredient!
WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR
Waaaay down here is the whole wheat flour. No need to enrich this whole grain flour, as it hasn't been stripped of its nutrients the way the white flour has.
MALT SYRUP (FROM CORN AND BARLEY)
See "SUGAR" above.
This is an emulsifier--it helps keep the ingredients from separating and is generally regarded as a safe food additive. Still, I wouldn't put it in my baked goods!
This is a synthetic chemical preservative that must be used to keep this packaged product from going stale or rotting quickly. If you baked your own oat cookies, you know that you can't leave them out on a shelf for weeks or months--this preservative makes it possible to do just that.
Datem--sounds like it's made from dates! Not quite. It's an acronym for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. Sounds tasty, right? It's a dough conditioner that provides volume. Is it safe? The FDA says so, but again, it's not something that HAS to be added to freshly made baked goods.
FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE (IRON), NIACINAMIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1).
Because there is very little inherent nutritional value in this food, the company has added in synthetic vitamins and minerals to improve the nutritional profile.
At this point, I've already made my decision as to whether this is a health-promoting choice for breakfast, but to confirm it, let's take a look at the nutrition panel and make a couple observations:
11 grams of sugar in each 50 gram serving translates into almost 1 full tablespoon of sugar (minus 1/4 teaspoon). In fact, simple math tells us that 22% of the product's calories come from sugar. That's not how I want my health-seeking clients to start their day! I always recommend my clients seek out breakfasts with solid sources of protein and fiber to keep them feeling fuller longer, and with a wimpy 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, this breakfast choice doesn't pass the test.
Would I recommend it to a client? Absolutely not. A better option with whole grains, fiber and protein would be oatmeal with raw seeds & nuts, cinnamon and fruit, or if you must eat breakfast behind the wheel of the car on the way to school or work, even a quick homemade trail mix comprised of raw nuts and seeds would be superior.
Need help deciphering food labels and creating a healthful diet? Let's talk!
Protein bars, cereal with added protein, yogurt with extra protein, protein shakes, protein-infused water...is America really so protein-deficient that we need these products? Are there different types of protein that better or worse for our bodies? Are high protein diets effective for weight loss? Is it healthy to only eat vegetarian protein? What about vegan protein? And just how much protein do we need anyway?
I'm excited to lead the next Wellness session at Vita to cover these very topics! Join me this coming Wednesday the 14th at 6:30pm at Vita (at Belvedere Square) for a fact-finding, myth-busting meaty conversation about protein!
If you can't make it, or if you're a man not too keen on coming to a ladies' store, look for a follow up post here next week! You can also get in touch with me any time to schedule a consult with me.
Do you have big fitness goals but missed a workout or forgot that healthy breakfast? No worries! Progress toward your fitness goals need not be thwarted. Just pick up a Fitness Drink...or maybe not...Read More
On this Halloween, I bring to you a true American horror story! We all recognize many of the items that make it to the grocery store shelves are an absolute nightmare: Candy, chips, processed meats and other junk food. But beware! There are many products disguised as healthful options, tricking us into thinking we’re making a good choice…when really they’re junky as the stuff we’re avoiding! Let me take you on a terrifying tour of a few of the products that make my list of scaaaariest junkfood in disguise!
1. This Greek yogurt masquerades as a healthy choice, but watch out! The ingredients in this "light and fit" option start innocuously enough with milk, but then comes water, sugar, cornstarch—ingredients that have no place in yogurt! Then comes the super scary stuff: Generic Splenda is added for extra scare, and the coconut flavor is but a ghost! No actual coconut to be found. Un-scary choice: Go for a plain greek yogurt and add your own coconut or fruit. Ingredients in yogurt should be milk and cultures. Period.
2. Don’t let the name “Vitamin Water” deceive you! They should rename this product Sugar Water. Because it is sugar and water. In this one bottle, you’ll drink up more than a frightening 1/4 cup of sugar! Scary, indeed! Whether we can even absorb the vitamins added to this brew is up for debate. Just as scary is the sugar free stir-in option. There is nothing natural about this chemical concoction, and evidence is mounting that artificial sweetener contributes to obesity, disturbances in your gut flora and worse. Un-scary choice: If you’re looking for hydration + vitamins, enjoy water or tea with a piece of fruit and skip the added sugar and artificial sweetener!
3. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter? More like Reduced Health Peanut Butter! Sure, this lower fat option knocks about 4 grams of fat off of the real deal, but replacing that natural, heart-healthy fat is corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein concentrate (which is created through a really nasty process), and the worst kind of fat there is for our hearts: Hydrogenated cottonseed, soybeen and rapeseed oil. Terrifying!!! Un-scary choice: Choose natural peanut butter with an ingredient listing of Peanuts and optionally salt, and exercise a bit of portion control.
4. A casual observer looking at the front of this box may assume claims like “Naturally Flavored,” “Simply Nutritious,” “Gluten Free,” and other phrases make this a healthy option! That observer would be dead wrong. These claims mean absolutely nothing. This first ingredients in this cereal are corn, corn meal, sugar, honey, salt, brown sugar syrup, molasses and oil, followed by flavoring. Four different kinds of sugar plus corn does not a healthy cereal make! Un-scary choice: Never read the claims on the front of the box—go straight to the ingredient label to see what you’re really eating. Look for whole grains and make sure that there aren’t umpteen types of sugar listed.
5. Ah, the Nutri Grain bar—can’t spell “nutritious” without Nutri. And those claims on the front are hard to ignore: Made with real fruit and whole grains! No high fructose corn syrup! What could go wrong?! Well, flip that baby over and you’ll realize that these claims mask a sugary Frankenstein of a bar. Oats are sewn together with white flour, several types of sugar, wood pulp (referred to as cellulose) and all manner of artificial flavors and preservatives. The “real blueberry flavor” comes from blueberry concentrate, which is a euphemism for sugar. In fact, each tiny bar has a full tablespoon of sugar. Un-scary choice: If you’re looking for a fast breakfast, try overnight oats made with oats, fresh or frozen fruit and almond milk. Or grab a handful of seeds and nuts with a piece of fruit. Or you could even whip up your own bars with ingredients that are all easily recognized as food.
Stay safe this Halloween! Avoid these spooky concoctions by reading those ingredient labels today and every day.
After spending a couple days at the Natural Products Expo, it occurred to me how easily food manufacturers manipulate us regarding the healthfulness of packaged foods. When we purchase foods packaged in a pretty shade of green, or when we see terms like Natural,Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly and Sugar-Free, many of us assume we're buying or consuming a healthy option. But that isn't necessarily the case.
There's even a name for the impact of this sort of..ahem...carefully branded packaging with the intent to make consumers believe they're buying healthy food: The Health Halo.
We feel better about eating foods with this reassuring language on the packaging, or maybe we're calmed by that pretty green pastoral scene, and food manufacturers are banking on the fact that we’re more likely to eat them in greater portions, whether they’re actually healthy or not. That glow you see emanating from the protein bar with the label "All Natural!" or "Gluten Free!"—that’s a health halo.
Many terms on packaging, including “Natural,” are unregulated by the FDA and actually mean zip, zero, zilch. “Natural” and other terms mentioned above (unlike the term Organic), don’t legally guarantee anything about the way a food was grown, whether there are ingredients excluded from the product, or how nutritious a product is. Pretty packaging and those powerful words are marketing techniques designed to make foods appear healthier and to encourage us to eat more of them.
So how do you beat the manufacturers at their game and shake off the halo?
Ignore every claim on the front of the package of processed food.
In fact, I would even go as far as to say skip the ingredient facts until you’ve taken this step first:
Read the ingredient list.
Determine whether the product is made with ingredients recognizable as real food.
Decide whether those ingredients that you actually want to consume, and only then move your gaze over to the ingredient facts to get a handle on serving size and all that jazz. And use common sense! If a package of chocolates is branded to look like a super healthy dessert that will cure all ills, don't take the claims at face value. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Still not sure if you’re choosing nutritious foods for yourself and your family? Let’s talk! firstname.lastname@example.org
In my job as a health and nutrition coach, I help my clients to find their healthiest selves by making dietary adjustments. When studies like the Tulane University low-carb vs low-fat diet receive huge press (like this, this and this), it makes my job a little tricky. There are only three macronutrients: Protein, fat and carbohydrates, and at any given time, one of these guys is elevated to hero status and another is vilified. That’s what makes headlines. This coverage of this study is a lot of spin, and frankly not a whole lot of news. It’s so important to read all the details, not just the headline of “Eat lots of steak and eggs to lose weight, feel great!”
The study found that those following a lower carbohydrate, higher fat diet lost more weight over the course of the year than individuals following a low fat diet high in carbohydrates. So what did this low-carb diet consist of? Was it huge steaks slathered in cream cheese and butter? Slices of American cheese rolled in mayo? Bacon dipped in ranch dressing?
Nope. It was actually a quite reasonable diet: Low carb participants may start with eggs for breakfast, tuna salad or other salad for lunch, and protein with vegetables for dinner. They were encouraged to eat plant-based oils, like olive oil, and lots of vegetables. The low fat diet had an emphasis on cutting out fats and eating lots of cereals and starches, foods that we know the average American doesn’t need in large quantity.
We’ve known for some time now that fat doesn’t make us fat and we have many studies discouraging us from over-consuming refined grains. We learned long ago that the green box of Snackwells cookies—reduced in fat but crammed with sugar—is not a healthy choice. We know that when we eat diets high in refined carbohydrates, like bagels, crackers, snack cakes, pastries, white bread and white rice, our bodies become hooked on those sugary foods, we’re hungrier, and we gain weight.
So while the spin sounds exciting and new, the facts are much less so: Diets that exclude lots of refined carbohydrates and sugar, and instead include healthy sources of protein, fats and lots of vegetables promote weight loss and overall better health. Sounds like common sense to me.