Tips

How To Read a Nutrition Label

A few days ago, as I was perusing Trader Joe’s- yes, perusing, because I LOVE looking at all their seasonal offerings-I realized that the first thing I was doing with each beautifully packaged item, was flipping it over to read the label on the back. This is all too normal for me. Before it goes into my grocery cart, I scan the label and look at the nutrition information.

As per usual, the store was packed with people filling their carts for the impending holiday. I caught myself just observing people shop and I very rarely saw anyone look at the label. And then it hit me, what if people aren’t looking at labels because they don’t know what to look for or how to read the label?

That led me here.

Here is your basic guide to reading a nutrition label:

FDA_Nutrition_Facts_Label_2016.png

The best way to read a label is from top to bottom, left to right.

Focus on these 5 key factors first:

Serving Size: How much of the food is considered one serving. Shown in both measurements and weight. Weight is generally more accurate.

Total Calories: the amount of calories in each SERVING.

Total Fat: The first macronutrient, shown in grams. The amount of calories in each SERVING that come from fat. Each gram of fat has 9 calories.

Total Carbohydrates: The second macronutrient. The amount of calories in each SERVING that come from carbohydrates. Each gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories.

Total Protein: The third macronutrient. The amount of calories in each SERVING that come from protein. Each gram of protein has 4 calories.

Now, you may be thinking, but what about all the other things on the label? Those metrics can be used if you have a specific goal, weight wise or health wise. Master the basics and you will be well on your way to decoding the full label and utilizing the information for your benefit.

I encourage you to start looking at the labels in your cabinet, your pantry, and everything you pick up in your grocery store trip. Like the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and in this case practice makes you an informed consumer.


Meal Prep vs. Food Prep: Which do you need?

In the age of being long on commitment and short on time, how do you ensure that you meet your nutrition goals? There are a few methods to help you reach your goals, but the holy grail of time savers is Meal Prep or Food Prep. You may be thinking, “Aren’t they the same thing?” The answer, no.

Both serve as time savers, offer consistency, reduce anxiety and stress around food choices, and can save money.

So, How do you know which is right for you?

Meal Prep

Are you on the go a lot throughout the week? Do you like putting your meals on autopilot so you don’t even have to think about it anymore? Are you okay with eating the same few meals throughout the week? Are you only prepping for yourself?

Yes? Then meal prep is likely the best option for you. Meal prep allows you total control over you meals in advance. Not only do you prep the food, but you package all of your meals up individually so all you have to do is re-heat (or not) and eat!

Food Prep

Do you have a more flexible schedule? Do you enjoy variety every day? Do you have other members in your household who will also be eating the prepared food? Are you a fan of creating different meals on the fly with what is available?

Yes? Food Prep will be your best bet. Food Prep involves making individual meal components ahead of time so that when you go to eat, everything is already cooked, you just have to mix and match what you want to eat.

Where do I start?

No matter which route works for your schedule, there are a couple of guidelines that will help you be successful in the preparation department:

  1. Set a time to do your preparation each week. For most people, this falls on a Sunday or Wednesday, but do what works for you schedule and aim to keep it consistent.

  2. Decide what meals or foods you will be prepping. This part becomes easier with more experience, so if you are a new to the game, I encourage you to take it slow and keep it simple.

Decide which works best for you and start your adventure!


How to practice Mindful Eating

We’ve all been there, that moment when your plate is empty, but you still feel ravenous and can barely remember what you ate because you woofed it down so quickly. Often times, our meals are crammed between busy schedules, or on the go, or are a product of our emotions. But what if we began to slow things down, connect with our food, feel how it nourishes our bodies?

With the holidays fast approaching, a time that is sometimes considered free-for-all or eat as much food as possible, I want to arm you with a few helpful practices that bring more mindfulness to your eating habits in lieu of eating mindlessly.

  1. Slow it down

    There is a delay between the information passed from our stomach to our brain, and often times, when we eat too quickly, our brain doesn’t know that we our full, even if our stomach is overloaded, this leads to overeating. How do we combat this? We slow down our eating! Two great methods to practice when new to this are: Setting a timer on your phone for how long you want to eat, which brings awareness to your speed and putting your fork down between bites, allowing you to chew your food fully and savor every bite. Try this at your next meal and I will bet you enjoy it more!

  2. Say bye-bye to distractions

    Eating while distracted can lead to overeating very quickly because our brains aren’t registering that we are actually eating. Turn off the tv, put the phone away, avoid eating in the car and focus on the food you are eating. Imagine where it came from, how it got to your plate, and appreciate the end result by savoring the flavors and nourishment it provides.

  3. Use the 2 minute rule

    Are you an emotional eater or do you find yourself digging around in the pantry when you are bored? This one is for you. Consider how you are feeling when you go to eat a snack or a meal. Are you truly hungry? Do you really want that cupcake? The next time you find yourself pining for a super decadent sweet or getting the munchies or digging around the pantry/fridge. Stop, and set a timer for 2 minutes, go and do something else, away from the kitchen. When the 2 minutes is up, evaluate whether you really are hungry- or are you bored, happy, sad, mad? Often times, when the 2 minutes is up, the urge to snack is gone.

  4. Pay attention to your food environment

    The environment in which you consume food is equally as important as the food itself. Do you keep a ton of snacks in your house? Well, you will likely eat them if they are there. Do you snack by reaching directly into the container? You will likely eat more than you would if you put your serving on plate. Do you eat standing/on the go/in the car? You likely aren’t registering that you’re even having a meal which leads to being hungry again soon after. Evaluate your food environment and then proactively make changes where necessary- toss the junk food at home, plan to sit down at your meals, use plates/forks/knives.

    Small changes reap big benefits.