Confused About Food Labels? That’s What They Want!

I would encourage you to buy and eat mostly foods that DON’T contain food labels – fresh fruits and fresh veggies, fresh and local meats, and other whole-food items. But there will more than likely also be items that do have labels. Terminology on packages can be incredibly confusing – marketing likes it that way!  So for today, let’s look at a few terms found on food packaging labels.  There are many, many, many terms, and later we can look at others.  But for now, we’ll start with a few common ones.
And, boy howdy, can they be sneaky!
Did you know that “fat free” does not really mean completely free of fat? And that “calorie free” doesn’t necessarily mean there are zero calories?
Ahhh, and the fun begins!
So, here’s the top two tricky lingo you may see on a package, and what it can legally mean.
Calorie Free: Less than 5 calories per serving (so it can have 1, 2, 3, or 4 calories per tiny serving)
Fat Free: Less than 0.5g of fat per serving (so it can have 0.1,0. 2, 0.3, or 0.4 grams of fat per tiny serving)
On labeling, they are allowed to simply round the number down.  More on why this may matter below.
Another trick with fat free – it is NOT the same as “calorie free”! If there is less fat, chances are the flavor is being made up with extra sugar and/or salt. Just because a cookie is “fat free” or “diet” does not mean it is helpful towards your weight goals – and by no means will it guarantee natural or healthy!  Chances are, it is a highly-processed, nutrient-depleted, love-it-for-a-moment-feel-guilty-later hunk of immediate-gratification that does not lend itself towards natural, healthy, beautifying goodness.   Better than an even more yucky option? Maybe. Worth it for the moment if you truly enjoy it and won’t feel guilty later? Possibly. But that’s your call.
Fun stuff, yes? 
When working at a weight-loss retreat, the best examples of this I saw were with a spray butters and oils and artificial sweeteners. Both claimed “fat free, calorie free.” So one woman at the retreat would douse her potatoes, salads, vegetables… with the “fat free, calorie free” butter spray, assuming that would be conducive to her diet plans. The catch? She was going through about 1 bottle a week, which – despite misleading labeling – contained something close a whopping 200g fat, and over 1000 calories!  (But that 1/8th second spritz of a “serving size” was less than 5 calories and less that 0.5 grams of fat, so it was legal to claim fat -free calorie-free.  And who uses 1/8th a second spritz for buttery goodness, honestly?)
Little packets of sweeteners can be the same. Nutrasweet, Splenda, Equal, etc – debates on being potential neurotoxins and carcinogens aside – all tend to average 4 calories per packet. So, legally, they can claim to be “calorie free.” Another patron at the retreat liked to sweeten her daily yogurt with 3 packs, her cottage cheese with 2 packs, her coffees with 4+ each, her pineapple with 3 packs… In a day, she said she was adding well over 20 packs per day. So, from “calories free” items, she was adding almost 100 calories PER DAY from “calorie free” foods. Perhaps you feel 100 calories isn’t that big a deal, but when you’re basing your weight goals on counting calories, that extra 100 per day can add up to an additional pound per month that you aren’t losing as you expected.
Be label savvy, and also be label minimizing – go for the good stuff! The natural, healthy, healing, vibrant stuff that doesn’t need all the confusing jargon anyways.  Often, if you see health claims like “now with antioxidants!” or “lower fat!” or “baked, not fried!”  they are just selling you health claims, not health.  I’d probably pass it by, wave too-da-loo, and go find something that’s ALWAYS had healthy antioxidants, healthy fats, healthy nutrients, and more.


Body Mass Index (BMI)

Someone made a comment to me that “according to my BMI, I am over weight.” And I looked at them, and was shocked they thought that! They looked good and strong, but not with excess fat. So, I thought commenting on BMI and some exercising may be good to put in here

Image result for arnold schwarzeneggerBMI, or Body Mass Index, is a generalized formula to figure out the ratio of your weight to your height. More weight typically is interpreted as “more fat.” And for some people, that’s true. But what about muscle? Muscle is heavy, too! The common example people give for this is Arnold Schwarzenegger (especially when he was a professional body builder.) At one point, while standing at 6’2″ and 250 pounds, the BMI chart would have labeled him a resounding “obese” at 32.1 kg/m2. But, since he was probably mostly some good rock-hard muscle, though the chart may have defined him as overweight, he surely was not “over fat.” And there is a difference.

The point? Just like the numbers on a scale shouldn’t define you, neither should the number on a BMI chart. This BMI concept is not 100% indicative of your health. Use it to get an idea, and be honest with yourself regarding your health.

BMI is simply one more screening tool to gauge your health, but it is not definitive. Yes, it can give you an idea, but if you are highly focused on strength training (and you should be incorporating at least some strength training!) as you gain muscle, you may not see that scale budge since you might be putting on muscle weight while losing fat weight. What you want to look out for is putting on excess fat weight.

If you really feel the need to know numbers, the best bets are waist to hip ratio, or to find your percent body fat (but that’s not always easy to get the equipment for.)

Or, don’t stress about numbers, and just take the steps towards healthier, natural living, regardless! Make sure you are trying to balance healthy nutrition, cardio, strength training, flexibility and stretching, a healthy attitude and stress management skills! These are all important components for a healthy lifestyle.


Blackberry Bursting Smoothie

Blackberry Bursting Smoothie
2 c spinach
2 c romaine
1/2 cucumber
1 tbs flax oil
1.5 c red grapes
6oz blackberries

Antioxidant PACKED! Along with the wonderful, cool hydrating effects of the cucumber, the skin-healing properties of red grapes, and the omega-rich benefits of flax oil

The blackberries actually turned this green smoothie into a beautiful burgundy!

If you have still been hesitant to try a smoothie, I recommend using blackberries or pineapple as a base – they have potent sweetness that helps to overcome “greeness.” And just start with some spinach, as it is less flavor-bursting green than Romaine and other leafies.

Have fun and give a smoothie a try!

Don’t Be Sabotaged by Sports Drinks

We’ve all seen them: the average gym-goer pumping away on the elliptical machine, sweating and striving towards their goals, and 15 minutes in, they pick up a neon-pink fluid and chug away. Bless their hearts, they really are trying to improve their health!

While I don’t think of sports drinks as necessary for anyone, really, and I think there are more natural ways of replenishing after a good workout, I know a lot of people still prefer to turn to an easy bottle after getting their sweat on at the gym. But even so, popular sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, are not usually necessary for the average person. Named after the Florida Gators, Gatorade was originally created to help re-hydrate and provide electrolytes for professional athletes who are training intensely for several hours.

If you’re a calorie counter, here are some numbers you may want to keep in mind:

1 bottle of a sports drink tends to contain 2.5  8-ounce servings, and packs an average of 150 to 160 calories.

  • 30 minutes of moderate walking (3 mph) burns: 100 calories
  • 30 minutes of elliptical machine: 210 calories
  • 30 minutes of moderate biking (12-13 mph): 250 calories
  • 30 minutes of jogging (6 mph): 310 calories

Replenishing drinks, if you drink them, are more for workouts that last longer than 60 minutes and if you have been working quite intensely and sweating heavily. If you only workout 30-60 minutes, water is sufficient for rehydrating – you won’t have lost enough electrolytes to even need anything more! Don’t let the calories of these drinks sabotage your workout. Be label savvy! 

Coconut water is being looked at more and more as a natural way to replenish your electrolyte balance after a long sweat. It has a good balance of potassium, natural sodium, manganese and magnesium; as well as some calcium and copper and other trace minerals – without added chemicals, colorings, or preservatives. It does still contain natural sugars and it does have calories, so it’s still something to be aware of.  But when you want a refreshing replenishment, maybe give this a try and see how you feel!  You can find coconut water at most grocery stores, or if you’re a lucky Saipan resident, coconuts are usually found as close as your own back yard.

In the states, Chocolate Milk has become a common post-workout recovery drink. Not only does it contain protein and the slow-carbs of lactose, but the sugar added from the chocolate is a quick source to replenish your glycogen stores. It’s your call on the idea of the processed sugars – I prefer to avoid it, but you can experiment on yourself after a long, intense workout and see how you feel and how you recover.

For me, even with an hour of HIIT work or heavy lifting supersets each day, I still prefer to use water for my hydration needs. And then refuel with a collagen protein shake with healthy fats and fruit when I’m finished. Find what works for you!




Bite Into Health for National Nutrition Month

I'm Blogging National Nutrition MonthHappy National Nutrition Month!

March has been deemed “National Nutrition Month,” with this year’s theme being “Bite into a healthy lifestyle.”  We will circle around that theme over the next month.  And I see two ways I’d like to tackle this trending topic (not counting tweeting digital “bytes” of nutrition tidbits, since I don’t Twit.)


As in, sometimes trying to be healthy just plain sucks!  Let’s talk about the common barriers, struggles, and frustrations of diverging from your dangerous, unhealthy lifestyle, and “chew the fat” on ways to change that around.

Let’s hash out our horror stories, laugh at our lapses, tell our tales of fails, and then bring in the Saipan Support to find ways to overcome our obstacles. Need a Facebook support group?  Looking for recipe ideas?  Confused about how to prepare that crazy new exotic food you found at the market?  We can do this together!


There’s an old proverb that goes, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

Often trying to make healthy changes is incredibly overwhelming.  While you may see more dramatic results more quickly – which can be rewarding – it can also be difficult to maintain over time.  Baby steps – or “little bites” – will get you to the same destination, and perhaps with a little more time to stop and smell the roses, enjoying the journey.

One bite at a time steps
modified from Academy Gakuin

These are just a few examples of habits you may be interested in changing.  And if you try to do them all at once…. yikes!  That’s an elephant of change you’re trying to swallow!

Little bites.  Small goals.  Tiny tweaks to your routine.

Thinking you want to start working out?  How about before you even lace up your sneakers, you just start with calling gyms for pricing and classes, or looking up local parks and walking paths?  Need to increase your water to 6-8 cups per day?  Before you even take a sip, why don’t you just write down how much you drink normally each day so you can see where you’re starting?

Share your Bites!

Let’s hear it!  Leave a comment below to share your struggles, laughable stories, what you’d need, or what your goals are.  I’d be happy to create a Facebook page for daily support and tips if there is an interest.

See what bite-sized change you can make today to begin the ripple effect that can change your life.