Mandatory Monday

By: Mike Klaus RKC, FMS

MondayWhat is your opinion of Monday? It is typically seen as the worst day of the week, the day most people dread. However, there are some who see Mondays as a springboard start to a productive and successful week. No matter what your profession is, you have an option to stew in misery or make the very best out of each day and opportunity. The same is true with health and fitness. Imagine the difference in your week if you do or do not workout on Monday. Are you more likely to get more workouts in? How would you sleep that week? What about your food choices? Would your mood be better?

For the most part, gyms are full on Mondays. This is a good thing! These are people who are getting a jump start on their week. This is a practice I whole heartedly believe in. Health and fitness does not happen overnight, it is a process. The work has to be put in and like anything else, getting started is the key. There are many benefits to making your Monday workout “mandatory.” Here are my top 5 reasons why you MUST train on Monday!

  1. You are more likely to train throughout the week. After starting your week with a productive workout, odds are you will continue that trend.
  2. Sleep improves. Mondays are usually packed with tasks. Having 45 minutes to an hour in a workout where you don’t think about work or other stressors will help to ease your mind. You will also be physically tired and in need of recovery.
  3. Nutrition will more likely be a priority. It has been proven in studies that people who work out make more of an effort to eat better. Are you more likely to choose fettuccini alfredo and rolls for dinner or grilled chicken with roasted veggies and goat cheese and beet salad?
  4. Your mood improves. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. A morning workout can start your day off right. An evening workout can help you burn off steam. Also, in my opinion it is a great tool to help with depression or anger. Do yourself and everybody the favor of talking your aggression out on the iron!
  5. Erase a weekend that was less than optimal for your health. Did you put down a couple of cocktails? Were queso dip and chips  on the menu for dinner? Work that wild or lazy weekend off!

Make your Monday workout mandatory and set yourself up for success the rest of the week!

Stop Winking at Me

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Every person that I know wants to have a glorious back side. Why? Because, they all want to look great in their favorite pair of jeans. They want to know how people like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez do it! So they search online and find the “best” articles they can on how to do the perfect squat. And what do you know, everyone starts squatting to get a little lift behind them. Here is the problem: most people either don’t squat down far enough OR they squat too far. Yes, there is such a thing as too far, especially when talking about a healthy spine. This is where we get what most fitness professionals call the ‘Butt Wink.’

No, no. Don’t be flattered. This isn’t the kind of wink that the guy or girl from across the bar gives you that makes your heart flutter. This is the kind of wink that can leave your lower back debilitated for quite some time. It occurs in your hips when you have gone past a certain range of motion in your squat. This ‘winking’ is when you drop too far into your squat and your hips tuck under causing stress on the disks in your lower spine. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it? If you answered “not at all” then you would be correct. Now the question is how do we fix it?

As we have all heard in the past, the key to fixing any issue is addressing what the problem might be. When talking about ‘Butt Wink’ there can be quite a few underlying causes, but for the sake of time, I’m going to only talk about the two most common causes. These two are tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hips) and a weak core that can’t help hold you upright. More often than not, when these two things begin to be corrected, squat form becomes better.

Now here’s how we can correct it. When hip flexors are tight, they can keep a person from being able to sit back into their squat, keep the weight in their heels, and ultimately prevent the muscles in their backside from engaging. We can remedy this by simply adding a heel lift. Squat with your heels on a pair of 10 pound plates and you will see a difference. The weights will displace your weight forward and allow you to lean back farther. It’s a simple fix. Now, you might ask, what happens when my core doesn’t turn on? Luckily, it’s another simple fix.  When your abs don’t turn on in your squat, it will have the same effect as tight hip flexors: you will lean forward. In order to get the core to engage, hold a weight in front of your body instead of behind your neck. This will not only act as a counter balance to make you sit back farther but your core will turn on as well.

Adding these two simple things to your squat can be a HUGE game changer. It can greatly increase the range of motion in your squat and allow you to get deeper without that ‘Butt Wink’. Will they keep you from ever winking again? No. Even while using these tools it is highly recommended to stand sideways to a mirror and watch your hips as you go down. If your hips tuck or ‘wink’ you have simply gone too far. My advice is to stop just before that happens. Stopping at that end range and adding these tools to your squat will keep you healthy and build that beautiful backside you’ve always wanted, or just use them to watch your squat numbers increase!

10 Ways to Get More Veggies!

By: Suzanne Doerries RD, LD

VeggiesWe have all been told to eat our veggies as a child. Some may have heard, “No dessert until you eat your green beans.” For others, “Clean your plate. There are starving kids in China.” was more common. Well your parents may have been on to something! Veggies are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber! A higher intake of veggies (and fruit) has even been associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  A great goal is to make half your plate veggies at every meal. I am not talking about the giant plates that can be found today, but the smaller dinner plates that can be comparable to some salad plates. If you are having a dish that has veggies mixed it that works too. As long as those veggies would take up about half your plate if you separated them out, you are good to go!

Adding veggies to every meal can seem like a daunting task, but it can be pretty easy. When choosing your veggies for the week, try to include a variety of colors. This will insure you are getting a variety of nutrients. If you find it hard to get veggies with every meal try some of these tips below!

  1. Have veggies in your house. If you don’t buy them, you will not eat them. Buying veggies that are in season will help with price and they will also taste the best! See what veggies are in season.
  2. If you are purchasing veggies that do not have a long shelf life, eat those at the beginning of the week and save your carrots and celery for the end of the week. You could also go to the store twice a week. I find that this is what a majority of my clients like to do.
  3. Make sure the veggies you are going to eat are ready for consumption. If you are going to have sliced peppers and hummus, but the pepper still needs to be cut and washed the chances of you still having that will drastically decrease.
  4. Add veggies to your eggs. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach are quite tasty in eggs. If you missed the crustless quiche recipe a few weeks ago be sure to check it out.
  5. Add them to a smoothie. This works great with spinach and kale! Start with spinach; it blends right in and you probably won’t even taste it.
  6. Make them your staple side dish. Carrots, celery, or peppers with hummus is great! Celery with nut butter is another good one for packed lunches. Baked asparagus, roasted beets, kale salad, or fermented coleslaw are some great dinner options.
  7. Replace your chips with veggies. Peppers, carrots, beets, and other veggies will give your body more nutrients than chips. You can even try kale chips. They are easy to make and delicious!
  8. Replace the tortilla or bread with a lettuce, Swiss chard, or collard green leaf. If using a bitter leaf like the collard green blanch it first. This will take out the bitterness and create a nice texture for the wrap.
  9. When eating out, swap French fries for a side salad or veggie. I know it is tempting, but veggies give your body so many more nutrients than the French fries.
  10. Be adventurous and try a new veggie. You can even try ones you didn’t like as a child. Tastes change. In my opinion, canned veggies taste a lot different than fresh veggies. Who knows, you may find a new favorite food!

Which step are you going to take to increase your veggies? They can be easy to overlook, but are crucial to your health!

Spring Forward with Fitness BBQ Celebration!

Last week we announced the winners of our Spring Forward with Fitness Challenge at our BBQ. The challenge was based of percent inches lost around the waist and hips. We were so excited to see everyone’s results.  Not only could you tell people lost inches, but their attitude toward health, fitness, and their self changed.   After totaling everyone’s results, 44 inches were lost among the group in the waist and hips and 60 inches overall. That is five feet!

Congrats Kelly and Lisa!

Congrats Kelly and Lisa!

Kelly Williams took first place and $1,000 with 6.9% inches lost around her waist and hips! She lost 17.6 pounds, 10.5 total inches, with 6.5 of those being from the waist and hips. Kelly came in with a focus. You could tell she had made up her mind to make a change for herself. She came to the weekly nutrition classes and gave some great input. She was a regular to the 6am classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and usually added a weekend workout. Keep up the awesome work!

Lisa Bailey lost 5.5% inches around her waist and hips and was crowned second winning $600. Lisa has made so many great changes especially with her mindset. She figured out what works for her and how to frame things in a positive manner. This is so important when making changes that you want to last. Despite an extremely busy time in her life, she made time for workouts, nutrition, and herself. Way to go Lisa!

Laura Williams won $400 in third place losing 5.1% inches. She is someone who gives each workout her all. If you give her a heavier weight she doesn’t complain. She enjoys the challenge. She planned workouts around her 12 hour shifts and attended the nutrition classes she could. She made her health a priority. Congrats on your success! We wish we could have taken your picture at the BBQ, but understand those 12-hour shifts.

Congrats on your success!

Congrats on your success!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the BBQ! A special thanks and congratulations to those who decided to make a change and did the Spring Forward with Fitness Challenge. Even though only three people received cash prizes, everyone made an improvement!

No More Negative Self Talk

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Happiness concept.A few months ago if you would have said, “Nick, I think that there is a bit too much negativity in your life,” I probably would have argued with you and came back with something like, “No I don’t I just have a lot of stress in my life right now.” And then, I would have kept on living the way I was. In all reality you would have been exactly right. This is actually the case for most people when they stop and think about it for a second. We often forget that even though we say, “Oh, I don’t care what other people think or say about me,” we often tell ourselves what is wrong in our lives without even voicing a word of it. We think, “Why do all the bad things happen to me?” “Why can’t I get the job I want?” “Why am I not smart enough?”  This is what I, and a good number of other people such as Tony Robbins, would call Negative Self Talk.

Many times in our lives we think that the reason we can’t succeed in our goals is because of some sort of external source. Someone has said to you that you can’t. You don’t have some sort of training that would allow you to know how to do something. You physically feel that you can’t. The reasons can go on and on with this merry-go-round of not believing in ourselves. But, that is exactly it. WE believe it. We internalize these statements and actions see them as truth in our life. What if we said, “No, I will not believe that.” Or “How can I be successful today. That is all it takes to begin to turn things around.

Now, I said, “begin.” I use this word because it takes way more than one self-empowering statement to turn things around. Think of positive thinking as a muscle in your brain. You need to build that muscle. If you go to the gym and lift a 5 pound weight once a week, do you expect to get results? No! It is the same with positive thinking. You must do it on a consistent basis to get results. Ask yourself empowering questions every day, multiple times a day. How can I do that? Where can I find the answer? What do I need to do to accomplish my goal? What am I thankful for? What am I excited about today? If your brain is focusing on finding the answer to these empowering questions it will not have to for the negativity. Imagine all the possibilities when you let go of negative self-talk and ask yourself positive questions.

If I’m being honest, we all live in a world full of negativity. It’s a can be a constant battle some days. There will DEFINITELY be more than just one time per day, per hour, even per minute that we are faced with the choice of saying I can or I can’t. However, hitting that first test head on with a, “No, that isn’t going to be me today,” or “How am I going to succeed today?” can start a wild fire in your mind and fuel more empowering thoughts. It will take some work, but taking action and controlling your own mind can turn conscious effort of positivity into subconscious reaction. That is where the fun starts.

If you know that you tend to doubt yourself start paying attention to it. See how it makes you feel. If you have never thought about it, start thinking about your actions and interactions with those around you as well as the way you talk to yourself. How do you feel? How do they make you feel? Why do you feel that way? Being in charge of your thoughts is the first step to success. Whether it is in weight loss, job advancement, relationships, or any other trial that gets set in front of you, getting rid of that Negative Self Talk is the first step in achieving even your hardest goals.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Coach K of the Duke Blue Devils: “Doubt, kills more dreams than Failure ever will.”

Warm It Up and Cool It Down

Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Beautiful woman doing stretching exerciseAs far back as just about anyone can remember, especially in places like your elementary school P.E. class, we have been taught to warm up before activities were done. It wasn’t long after that we started learning about something called a cool down. It is no different now than it was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago. They are absolutely essential parts of making sure that your body is ready for what you are about to put it through and then ready to recover afterwards.

 We all remember having that one teacher who made sure you stretched before the class started. A classic example would be the hurdle, or runner’s stretch. And while stretching does have its place, we have come a long way from static stretching. Nowadays we know that using dynamic movement is probably the biggest key to unlocking the body before strength training, and even cardiovascular training. If I had a dollar for every person that I’ve seen not warm up and say, “Eh, I’ll be fine,” and then ‘tweaked’ something in that workout, I would have, well, a lot more money than I do now.

One part that some people don’t understand isn’t so much the fact that you are moving your body through ranges of motion, but the fact that you are connecting your brain neurologically to the different joints, bones, and tissues involved in each movement. If your brain is asleep, especially you morning gym goers, it is imperative to make sure that you wake it up with dynamic movement patterns before you start adding large amounts of weight.

There is always one question that goes along with the whole ‘brain’ explanation. Why? The best explanation that I have is to think about when you first roll out of bed. Is the first thing you think of doing a deadlift or stretching REAL big to get your body going? I highly doubt it. If you didn’t stretch, you wouldn’t break up connective tissues that get stiff while you sleep. Same thing goes for a workout. If the first thing you think of when you get to the gym is doing heavy deadlifts and nothing else you set yourself up for failure.

The second part of this is the cool down. The same way you get your body warmed up is almost the same way you want to cool down. Taking your body through some very low intensity dynamic movements and breathing patterns is perfect for getting your heart rate down. Adding some soft tissue work to the mix can help with relaxing any muscles that feel a little tense. Possibly the most important part of the cool down is the breathing though. Again, it goes back to the brain and making sure that you are taking your body out of that heightened state in order to start the recovery period.

Not doing either of these things and rushing into and out of a workout can actually end up being a recipe for disaster. Some people think that saying you could get hurt is just a way to scare them into warming up and cooling down. These are the same people that see it as a waste of time. I’ll also bet that most of these people don’t see the results they wish they could have. Why? (There’s that question again.) When the body is in a heightened state and hasn’t been properly warmed up or cooled down, you are in this constant state of flight or flight, which leads to prolonged recovery periods, plateaus and other not so fun gym terms. Do yourself a favor, warm up before and cool down after. Your brain and body will thank you, and you may just see more and better results than you did when you weren’t doing those things.

Three Fruits/Veggies to Try This Spring

By: Suzanne Doerries RD, LD

Spring is here! As a dietitian I always think about all the delicious fruits and vegetables that come with the warmer weather. Once summer hits berries, basil, apples and other tasty produce will be ready to enjoy. However, some people forget about the veggies that are in season during spring. I choose three items that I thought people might not make at home on a regular basis. I hope you will enjoy the info and recipes.

Artichokes

SelectArtichoke Cradled in Hands

Choose artichoke heads with tightly closed leaves. The artichoke should be heavy for its size

Store

Place artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Eat

Roasted Artichoke with Lemon and Garlic

Grilled Artichokes

Health

Artichoke is a good source of vitamin C. magnesium, dietary fiber, and potassium. It also contains the flavonoid silymarin that is thought to help with cholesterol levels and promote liver health.

 

Asparagus

AsparagusSelect

Choose bright green asparagus with tips that are closed, compact, and firm.

Store

It is best to keep fresh asparagus moist until use. If you are not going to use it the same day you buy it, trim a little of the bottom off and store upright in a container with a little water. For longer storage, wrap the ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Asparagus will usually last 4-5 days in your refrigerator.

Eat

Strawberry Asparagus Salad (I skip the dressing from this recipe and just do balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It is a lot less sugar! I even use almonds that do not have sugar on them.)

Roasted Balsamic and Garlic Asparagus

Health

Asparagus is a great source of vitamin C, folic acid, B6 and thiamine. It is high in glutathione, an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage.

 

Kiwi

SelectKiwi

Choose kiwi, otherwise known as Chinese gooseberries that are unblemished a little fuzzy. Ripe kiwi should give slightly to pressure. If you purchase a kiwi that is firm you can ripen it in a brown paper bag on the counter. Be sure to check daily for ripeness.

Store

Kiwi can be stored for days on the counter or for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

Eat

Great in fruit salads, also try the recipes below:

Kiwi and Cucumber Salad

Charred Jalopeno, Kiwi, & Cucumber Salsa (Great with kale chips)

Health

Kiwi is an excellent source of vitamin C, in fact it is thought to have the highest vitamin C content of any fruit. It is also a great source of vitamin E, potassium, and dietary fiber.

Recovery: Fitness that Doesn’t Come from a Gym

By: Nick Lape

Time to Recover - ClockJust about every person that I meet asks me what I do for a living. After I tell them I am a trainer, they all respond with what they are currently doing at the gym. More often than not I hear something similar to, “Nick, I just started a weight training program. I work out like 5 or 6 times a week and I hit ALL my muscles every day. I love how sore I’m getting BUT, I can’t seem to lose any more weight or get any stronger. How can I change things up?” When I ask them how much water they are drinking or how many hours of sleep they are getting on average, a huge look of surprise overtakes their face. Many people fail to realize that recovery outside of the gym is just as important, if not more important than their training inside the gym.

The number one thing that seems to be over looked in a training program is the rest or recovery phases. Without these, you will hit plateaus. Fat loss will begin to slow and strength gains will stop happening. You will be stuck because your brain and body are on overload. They don’t want you to do any more. You might tell it to push harder, but at some point your body will say “No.” It will worry more about surviving in this state of overload than losing weight or building muscle. It won’t matter how much harder you push yourself at this point, your body won’t progress until it has a chance to recover. Then you will be back at square one asking someone what to change.

In all honesty, if you are looking to change something there is a good chance that it has nothing to do with the gym. It is something that I personally tell people all the time. Most of your strength and physique changes happen in your kitchen and while lying in your bed, when your internal processes are hard at work. An example of just one of these processes is the release of Human Growth Hormone that helps repair our body as we sleep. All you did with your workout is shock these systems into working more efficiently. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your diet isn’t feeding your metabolism the way it should, you may as well just concede to your plateau. It won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Recovery, though you may not want to, could mean taking a day off or the gym and just foam rolling or breathing silently. It could also mean adding more veggies, water, and protein and taking out sugar and processed foods. Maybe it means turning off the TV an hour earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep in.  Everyone is different. Everyone will react differently to changes that they make. Plateauing is a common sign of overtraining. That means TOO MUCH training. Change things outside of the gym first and then worry about the next phase of your training.

Five Nutrition Habits to Health

By: Suzanne Doerries RD, LD

???????????????????????????????????Spring is here and delicious fruits and veggies are beginning to be in season. This usually motivates people to eat healthier. In addition to good nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress management play a huge role in health. However, today I want to focus on five habits to improve your nutrition and your health. How many of these do you do on a regular basis?

  1. Make half your plate veggies (and I don’t mean fries). Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and anti-oxidants. They fill you up and give your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Be sure to include a variety of colors! Here are a few recipes to try Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic Roasted Baby Carrots, Spinach Avocado Quinoa Power Salad, and Kale Chips.

 

  1. Have protein with every meal. Not only does protein help to keep you full, it is essential for immune and liver health, and it helps build/maintain muscle mass. Poultry, beef, pork, eggs, nuts, and nut butters are good sources of protein. Poultry, beef, and pork are the highest in protein per gram. Choosing the grass fed, pasture raised beef, chicken, pork, or eggs does make a difference. These items have more omega-3s than their counter part. I know from experience that breakfast is usually the hardest meal to get protein. Here are two recipes to help with the most important meal of the day Avocado Egg Bake and Muffin Tin Baked Eggs.

 

  1. Drink half your weight in ounces of water. This is a just a guideline. If you are more active you will need more water. Water helps to transport nutrients and oxygen that help grow and repair cells, messages from hormones, and cell waste. It helps to remove toxins from the body and plays a role in reactions in the body. In addition to lubricating the joints, digestive tract, and lungs, it helps pad your joints and spine. Adequate water also helps your skin to look good! If your body is dehydrated you automatically have a decrease in performance, you can confuse thirst or hunger, and you may experience “brain fog.” Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go to stay hydrated.

 

  1. Slow down when you eat. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your body to catch up to what you just put in it. If you shovel your food in, the chances of overeating are greater. Eating slower allows you to pay more attention to the way your food tastes creating greater satisfaction.

 

  1. Plan ahead. You have probably heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is especially true with food. If you do not know what you are going to eat how can you make sure it will be there for you? Know at least a day in advance what you will eat and prep accordingly. Making your protein (chicken, beef, pork…) ahead of time can make week night meals a lot more convenient.

If it seems overwhelming to do all five of these things at once, choose one to start with. Once you feel confident with that, add another habit. Which habit will you start with first?

What is the food label telling you?

The food label can be a confusing thing. However, looking at the nutrition facts and the ingredients can tell you a lot about a food.

Serving Size

The first thing under “Nutrition Facts” is the serving size. This is one of the most important things to notice. If you are not looking at this, the rest of the information is useless. Compare what you actually eat to the stated serving size. If you are eating more, more you will need to multiply the calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates and so on. If you are eating less, you will need to divide everything. For example, this label reads the serving size is 1 cup. If you eat 2 cups you would multiply everything by 2. If you eat ½ cup, you would divide everything by two. Some serving sizes can be really small. When you look at the calories, protein, fat, sodium… it may seem like a fine choice. But, if you look at the serving size and multiply to get the amount you are actually eating, you may be shocked.

Nutrition Facts Top Part

Servings Per Container

This tells you how many servings are in the container/box/jar. In this case, if you were to eat the whole container of broth you would have consumed 4, or 4 cups. To figure out how many calories, fat, protein and other nutrients you would consume multiply by 4!

Food Label WholeCalories

This is the number of calories in 1 serving of the food. When trying to lose, gain, or maintain weight the number of calories you are consuming is important. However, choosing calories that will nourish your body and listening to your body’s hunger are even more important for success.

Calories from Fat

This tells you the number of calories you will get from fat in one serving. These calories are already included in the calories; you do NOT need to add this number to calories.  It is really not that important to look at this number. The fat section will tell you more about the health of the food.

Total Fat

Total fat is the TOTAL amount of fat in one serving of the food or beverage. Typically you will see saturated fat and/or other fats listed below. Those fats are included in the total fat. Fat has 9 Calories per gram, unlike protein or carbohydrates which have 4 Calories per gram. This explains why foods that are higher in fat are also higher in calories.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat often gets a bad rap, but it is not a fat to avoid completely. Try to keep your saturated fat intake to about than 1/3 of your total fat intake.

Trans Fat

This is the one fat to try to avoid. It is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil in a process known as hydrogenation. Even if you look at the label and you see 0 grams next to trans fat, your food or beverage may still have this unhealthy fat. According to labeling laws, if a food has less than 0.5 grams of a fat in one serving, it can be listed as 0 grams. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you eat four servings you could be consuming one to two grams of trans fat. Looking at the ingredient list is a good way to see if they are telling the truth. If you see the words partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated, margarine, or shortening, it contains trans fat.

Total Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates, otherwise known as carbs, give your body energy. If you are not an active person you do not need as many carbs as an athlete. It is important to choose carbs that will fuel your body, not cause it to crash. Foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar are good choices. Oatmeal, fruits, veggies, and brown rice are a few choices.

Dietary Fiber

This is a number that you would like to see high! The average healthy female should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while the average male should consume 38 grams per day. This is based on an Institute of Medicine equation that calculates 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories.

When you are increasing your fiber intake, do not make a huge increase all at once. If you drastically increase your fiber intake in one day your body will most likely hate you. You will probably experience bloating and gas. Try adding a little fiber one day and little more the next. Drinking plenty of water is also important when increasing your fiber! Oatmeal, fruits, and veggies are a few examples of foods that contain fiber.

Sugar

Contrary to fiber, you want the grams of sugar to be low number. Foods that are high in sugar and low in fiber will not keep you full very long and will have a bad effect on your blood sugar levels. Foods like white bread, candy, ice cream, and sodas great examples of sugary foods and beverages. Other names that basically mean sugar include agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane juice crystals, cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, caster sugar, coconut sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystalline fructose, date sugar, demara sugar, dextran, diastatic malt, diatase, ethyl maltol, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, galactose, glucose, golden sugar, golden syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert syrup, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses syrup, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, oat syrup, panela, panocha, confectioner’s sugar, rice bran syrup, rice syrup, sorghum, sorghum sugar, sucrose, sugar, syrup, treacle, tapioca syrup, turbinado sugar, and yellow sugar. Yikes that is a lot of names!

Sodium

Your body needs some sodium to function, but too much is not good. If you have high blood pressure, watching your sodium intake is especially important. The average healthy person should try to limit their sodium intake to less than 2300mg per day. Soups, frozen dinners, deli meats, and canned veggies are foods that are high in sodium.  If an item says reduced sodium, that means the sodium content has been reduced by 25% of its original version. It may still be high in sodium though. Also, if a label says low sodium, it must have less than 140mg per serving. Remember to check the serving size and compare it to what you are actually eating.

Protein

Protein in your diet is a definite must. It helps to build muscle and is important to cell and organ function. It will also keep you fuller longer than just eating carbohydrates by themselves. Grass fed chicken, beef, and turkey, fish, nuts, nut butters, pastured/cage free eggs, quinoa, bone broth, Greek yogurt, and beans are all good sources of protein.

% Daily Value

If you look to the right of the grams listed, you will see percentages listed. This is the % Daily Value. This is the percent of a person’s daily needs they will consume from one serving if they are on a “2,000 calorie diet.” However, a majority of people do not need 2,000 calories a day. Some people will need more, while others will need less. Because of this, I typically focus more on the grams.

 Ingredient List

Ingredients

The ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight. This means the food that is in there the most is listed first.

This is the place to catch any tricks food companies may try to play. As I mentioned before, you will be able to tell if there is any trans fat in your food by looking here. Also, if you want to make sure you are eating bread that is 100% whole grain, look to see if the ingredients following whole wheat are not enriched, bleached flour.

There is another thing to look out for here. If you are looking to make sure sugar is not one of the first few ingredients on the list, good for you! However, even though sugar might not be in the top three ingredients, a food or beverage can still have more sugar than you would think. Often times multiple sweeteners are used. Here’s the issue. If sugar is the only sweetener used in a product, it might be listed as the first or second ingredient. However, by using sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and molasses. Sugar is now listed as the fifth ingredient and high fructose corn syrup and molasses, the sixth and seventh.

It is also important to look for other ingredients to avoid. Here are some to get you started artificial colors (yellow #5,red #40, blue #2), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), polysorbate 60, MSG,  (Monosodium Glutamate), carrageenan, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, artificial sugar (sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin…), artificial flavors, tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), and BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil).

Hopefully, this has answered some questions about what the food label is actually telling you. It can be a great tool to help you make healthy food choices.