What Food Labels Really Say

Earlier today on my Instagram page, I shared a picture of a product label.


I tell everyone to read the label on everything you consume.

My mom enjoy’s grapes and she eats a lot of them. The purpose of this update isn’t to throw any particular company under a bus.  Instead, my intentions are to educate you (and me) on why we have to stay diligent in reading labels and doing research on any product we consume (internal or topical).

The more research I do, the more I realize how confusing the lingo and the process is. I am certain this is all by design.  So let’s try to dissect this mess!

Nature’s Partner, a self-proclaimed, family business who grows fruits and vegetables.

The label says: Grown & Packed By VIDEXPORT S.A. DE C.V. * Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico


VIDEXPORT is a produce marketing company and is a partner of Nature’s Partner.


The grapes are a “product of Mexico” and are distributed by Giumarra in Los Angelos, CA.

A closer look at Giumarra reveals that the Black Seedless Table Grapes are grown and exported from Mexico, so I think the mention of Los Angelos on the label is for consumers who think they are buying from the US (a marketing tactic).  At a glance, the label will trick you. Sidebar:  If you wear reading glasses, when you shop for food, start taking your specs with you.

Check out this out!  Some of Giumarra’s produce is USDA Certified Organic while others are not.  😦


Hot peppers, cucumbers, honeydew melons, and grapes are the only products that are NOT USDA Certified Organic.  This makes me nervous and should do the same for you.

Lastly and according to the label, the grapes are

“treated with Sulfur Dioxide for fungicide use”

I am not a science person but I researched Sulfur Dioxide or (SO2) and learned the following about Sulfur Dioxide:

  • It is a chemical compound that is a toxic gas found in the atmosphere.
  • The largest source of production in the air is from the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.
  • Short-term health exposure and affect the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult.
  • Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO2.
  • Environmentally it can harm trees and plants by damaging foliage and decreasing growth and contribute to acid rain which can harm sensitive ecosystems.

So what’s the bottom line?  Do your best (as I do) to buy locally grown produce and freeze them for later usage. If you are more adventurous and like the idea of playing in some dirt, try growing some of your own produce.

Try to buy produce that is grown and distributed in the US.  Produce grown in other countries are difficult for our government agencies to regulate.  They can pretty much do and say anything they want.

Read food and beverage labels.  If you don’t like what you’re read about a product, write the company and/or stop buying the item.

Follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on twitter and facebook. The agency posts updates on their pages.  You will be surprised by what the information posted on their web page.  The facts are published but consumers rarely make time to read it.

Acquire knowledge, apply it to your life and share with everyone that you know.  Us consumers have to stick together.  When we stick together we have a voice that makes a difference.

Although I grew up helping my mother in our large garden, I haven’t gardened in years. I still have fond memories of picking fresh green beans, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and more from our garden.

Although, it’s been many years I am happy to share with you that this summer, I will start my first vertical garden as well as, a vegetable container garden. I think this a simpler approach to gardening that will work for me and my elderly mother will enjoy helping out. The enormous amount of chemicals used to grown fruits and vegetables have inspired me to return to my roots.

Additional Reading

Organic Standard

Sulfur Dioxide

When to plant

How Much Sugar Are in These Crackers?

After leaving the gym one morning, I stopped by Shoprite my local grocery store to pick up a few items.  

After paying for my groceries, I am about to walk out the door when an elderly man stopped me.  As he approached me, he held a box of crackers in his hand. Pointing his finger at the label he says…

  

Excuse me honey, can you tell me how much sugar are in these crackers?

I was not wearing my reading glasses, so to read the label and to see the sugar content, I had to focus really hard. 🤓

Sir, according to the label, the crackers contain only one gram of sugar per serving, but if you are watching your sugar intake, I don’t recommend you eat them?

Really?   Why is that?

I point to the first ingredient, Enriched Flour.  “Do you see this here?” 
I try to give him a quick synopsis and tell him that the white flour is a starch, which isn’t the best choice for him. I explain that the starches are going to eventually break down in his body into simple sugar.   

He is shocked and says he is not going to buy them.  I tell him to look for “whole grains.” 

Of course there is so much to it then eating whole grains but I did not have the time to say all that I wanted and needed to say. 

My time was limited but I desperately wanted to take his hand and walk him aisle by aisle through the store to show him healthier options.  

Food labels are tricky and deceptive. The labels are colorful and are strategically designed to get our attention to buy their products.  It  seems that every aspect of this country is about profit. 

Healthy living is sacrificed for greed and for profit. 

Just look at Martin Shkreli.  The jerk… I mean CEO of Turing Pharmaceuicals.  He jacked up the price of a prescription drug designed to help save the lives of HIV patients.  He tried to increase the price from $13.50 per pill to $750.00 per pill!  What the heck!!

GREED!!  

The intentional trickery and lies told by food manufacturers is disturbing.  Consumers must read food labels; however, the education does not stop with reading labels. The process of educating oneself is ongoing and there are many valuable sources available online and in print.  Below are a few sites to check out but there are many. 

I also enjoy reading the free magazines from The Vitamin Store.  Several  magazines are located at the register and they are full of resourceful information.   

As I said in the beginning, I wish I had the time to walk the man and others like him through the store to help them to find healthier alternatives.  Hmm…. Maybe that’s something I could do on the side.   

Just remember, don’t be so quick to believe the pretty little lies they tell you on the colorful packaging.  Dig deeper to find what’s really in the food.   Just because the words “natural,” “low calorie,” “organic,” or “sugar free” are printed on a package, doesn’t mean that is true. Sadly, food manufacturers and companies can make all kinds of outlandish and untrue statements about their products.  The practice should be unlawful but it is not.

Some of these companies are such blatant liars, I can’t stand it!  If you stand close enough to me in the grocery store, you can overhear me saying, “liar! Liar!”   Lol!  I’m laughing but it is true.   

My rule of thumb is if an item has too many ingredients listed, for the most part, I leave it alone.  If you don’t already know, there is a large amount of the first ingredient listed on a label.  So when you see sugar as one of the first, second, or third ingredients written in anyone of it’s 61 forms, toss it pack on the shelf. 

Yes!!  According to Sugar Science, there are “at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. I didn’t know that!  Some of the most common names are:

Sucrose

High-fructose corn syrup

Barley malt

Dextrose

Maltose

Rice syrup

Americans consume 66 pounds of added sugar each year, on average.

Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged food.

Okay, my sugar rant is over. I could go on and on, but I will end with a friendly reminder to read the food labels and educate yourself.   Don’t cheat yourself by putting bad stuff in your body.  The body is like an automobile, the better you care for it, the better your body will perform for you. 

For the most part, the better you care for yourself, the better you will look and feel.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by and remember to keep it moving!  

He Went In Hard

Late December 2014, I received a random and unexpected text from a friend.  My friend was taking on a self-imposed 30 day challenge. His decision inspired a few others in our circle of friends to do the same.

The challenge was to merely live healthier for 30 days.  The goal was to avoid alcohol for the whole month of January and to eat healthier foods.

I don’t know what sparked his interest, but I was pumped and excited for my friend.  When someone makes a mindful choice to aim at living healthier (for whatever reason), I become overwhelmed with happiness. Why?  Because I know the benefits that await them. 🙂

Although working out was not part of the equation, I knew that if he remained committed for the entire month, he would certainly feel better, but also lose weight and inches.

My friend does not work out, but is active and rarely stays home.  He is active year around with sports and loves to travel. We also share an appreciation for good food.

He wanted to make better food choices, but he did not know how to do so, and that’s where I came into the picture.

I figure a big part of the obesity and unhealthy lifestyle culture in this country, is that people are unaware of the long-term effects that food has on the body and overall health.

Education should be ongoing and is vital to living in good health.

“When you  know better, you do better.”

At least that’s the premise from Dr. Maya Angelo and Oprah Winfrey.  I agree.

Year after year, I learn new facts about the food I consume, which I previously thought were good for me, and am forced to cut them from my diet.  And really, this is what the process is all about. Continue to educate yourself so that you can take a proactive approach to making smarter choices for you and your family.

While considering what kind of advice I would give him, I knew that I had to be realistic.  I needed to give him suggestions that he could manage and incorporate as part of his daily nutrition plan. The last thing he needed was to be overwhelmed by a long and complicated list of foods to eat and to avoid.

Lifestyle adjustments begin with small and subtle changes.  Studies show that taking on too much too soon can lead to failure, and failure was the last thing I wanted for him.

In addition to eliminating alcohol, my advice to him was to:

  1. replace soda and juice with lots water
  2. Avoid anything white (bread, flour sugar potatoes, sugar, etc…)
  3. reduce his sugar intake, i.e. sugar in coffee
  4. don’t skip meals
  5. eat breakfast (oats)
  6. plan meals
  7. When dining out, substitute cream sauces with tomato based sauces & replace fatty sides with extra vegetables.

He was open to trying new foods, which is half the battle of learning to eat better.  With the help of his girlfriend, he was delightfully overwhelmed with all kinds of new foods.   Here’s a list of some of the new food he incorporated into his diet.  It’s freaking amazing!

  1. Brown rice
  2. turkey burgers
  3. asparagus
  4. turmeric milk tea
  5. smoothies with kale, avocado, and almond milk
  6. zucchini spaghetti
  7. 1-2 gallons of water daily (he’s BIG guy)

He went in HARD and I love it!

Superbowl Sunday, the first of February was the official weigh in but, as soon as he took his coat off, I could see results. He lost inches in his midsection and his pants were unintentionally sagging.  Wow!

Without even incorporating an exercise program, he lost 14 pounds in January and 9 pounds the first week of February!

Most important to me is that my friend noticed his energy levels improved and ongoing joint issues improved.  He was flabbergasted by how changes in his diet improved how he felt.

Honestly, it’s no surprise to me but I am ecstatic that he has made the important connection between diet, nutrition, and overall wellness.  I’m doing cartwheels!  His attitude toward food is evolving…

from eating to feel full…

to eating to nourish the body…

Throughout the month, our group randomly checked in, via texts, to encourage, post meal pictures, and for daily and weekly progress reports.

Several friends in our group added exercise to the mix and experienced weight and/or inches loss.  Their journey to starting better lifestyle habits have begun. Yay!! I am so proud of all of them!  🙂

Developing new habits take time and “is not an all or nothing process.”

On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. [1]

Contrary to popular brief, it takes more than 21 days to form a habit.  The 21 day habit myth evolved from  study done by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Anyways, my friend is on his way to adopting new habits of improving his lifestyle. How do I know this?

Well, he decided to extended the practice of making better food choices in to February AND…. drum roll……  he is considering….

A gym membership!!!  I’m screaming this!!!!!!  

 It’s never too late…

You’re never too old…

You’re never too fat…

You’re never too far gone…

To take control and responsibility for your health. Start small, don’t quit, and go big!

You have what it takes!  🙂

Make it a great day!

 

Is This What FLOTUS Had In Mind?

Equal to my passion for fitness is encouraging, uplifting, educating, and empowering teens.

Teenagers are cool beings, often misunderstood, and just want to be heard. No different from when we were adolescents.  How soon we forget. I don’t know of anyone who miraculously jumped from age 13 right into “wisdom” and “maturity.”  Heck many adults are still trying to find themselves.

Anyway, I was preparing to talk to a group of teens. While I spoke, they ate their breakfast, which included this stuff.

delicious essentials

“Delicious Essentials!”  Seriously, what’s essential about this?  Read the label.

muffin labelPeep the sugar!!  16 grahams!

Graham Cracker’s for breakfast?

graham crackersGot milk?

low fat milklow fat milk labelLet’s add more sugar! 12 grams.

It was early morning and my curiosity got the best of me. I always read food and product labels. I already suspected the food had little nutritional value and was high in sugar, but wanted confirmation.

I picked up the packages squinting and straining to gain focus to read the small printed labels (reading specs were not on hand).

Aloud I say Nooo!!  Seriously?!! The “food pusha” that I am, the name given to me by a colleague, was appalled by the nutritional value of the package.

In just one meal, the breakfast almost exceeds the American Heart Association’s new daily sugar guidelines for pre-teen and teens.

One prepackaged breakfast included cereal, juice and animal crackers. Yes, animal crackers!  Smh!

Food Sugar Sodium Calories
Golden Grahams Cereal 5 grams 220 110
100% Apple Juice 12 grams 10 60
Whole grain animal crackers 7 90 110
Total 24 grams 320 grams 280

While this “meal” is low in calories, the sugar content is high.

“A recent AHA (American Heart Association) study found 14-18 year old children intake the most sugar on a daily basis, averaging about 34.3 teaspoons a day.”

A large number of sugar consumed by these kids come from sodas and juices. This number can be drastically decreased by replacing juice and soda with water. To add natural flavor to water, add lemon wedges, strawberries, or cucumber.

So back to the package… The “great breakfast” is produced by E.S.Foods. “Nourishing our future” is the tag line under the logo.   Umm… aaahhh…. (Twisting my lips to find the right words)… animal crackers, juice and Golden Grahams are not my idea of feeding my son a nutritious breakfast in the morning.

Here’s another breakfast favorite that was included in the stash.

fruit loops

Who believes that there is actually fruit in this bowl?  Want to to talk about food coloring?  Ugh!!

froot loop label

Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 6, Blue 1 – Here’s more about blue dye.

Before anyone gets upset here, I get it!

“A” breakfast is better than “no” breakfast at all. True.

But seriously, I really wanna know does the company genuinely want to help nourish kids or is it the same old bullshit that revolves around profit and a network of business minded folk and or politicians exchanging favors.

With the kids in mind, my thoughts are,

“How can the quality of the package contents be improved?”

“How can real fruit be incorporated into this process?”

I’m not naïve and understand the shelf-life of fruit is limited. The complexities of getting fresh produce out to kids will mostly likely be more complicated and cumbersome. I also know, due to shrinking family budgets, that not all kids eat or have even been exposed to fresh fruit.

Why not offer more fruit in schools and places like the Police Athletic Leagues, YMCA’s,  and The Boys & Girls Club of America?

There has to be a better way. I’m not here to judge any business, organization or institution who chooses to buy the product, I am simply pointing out facts and asking questions.

What if the manufacturer removed the cookies and substituted the cookies with a fruit coded voucher (similar to coupons redeemed from smart phones)  for fruit redemption in the food line in school?

Certainly they (manufacturers & suppliers) know the value and cost of each bag of cookies.

What if the manufacturer partnered with a local produce vendor or grocery store?

What if those grocery stores and markets provided fresh fruits to the vendors who buy the pre-packaged breakfasts and reimbursed them based on consumption up to an agreed upon amount? What if the local vendors partnered with agencies and institutions that serviced children?

Childhood obesity continues to rise. The Center for Disease Prevention (CDC) reports that, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

High blood pressure, diabetes, and hypertension—are diagnosed at much earlier ages than in previous decades.

I am a football mom. At the start of each season, I sit and repulsively observe over-weight and out of shape players struggle to complete one lap around the football field. The boys are literally wheezing, gasping for air, and crying! These boys are pre-teens and too young to be unfit and unhealthy.  It’s insane!

Years ago kids spent endless hours playing outside.  Electronics (TV, computers, games, smart phones, iPads, and other fun gadgets) replace the outdoor physical activity.

Throughout the school day only God knows what the kids eat. Furthermore, many of them do not eat dinner before soccer, football, cheer, baseball, lacrosse, or whatever their chose activity is.  By 8 O’Clock at night, the kids are hungry and will wolf down anything resembling food.

Cheese fries, hot dogs, or chicken fingers from the concession stand or a slice or two of pizza from the local pizzeria is not my idea of dinner.  Most often parents think they do not have the time to prepare balanced home cooked meals. But the key is meal planning and meal prep (just like in body building).

Consuming less processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables is essential.  I know that it is expensive to eat healthier. But don’t forget healthcare costs are rising too and American’s are also paying more for healthcare.  So, why not try to make small changes that will have better long-term affects on the health of our children?

So between these “healthy” breakfast offerings, school lunches, and on-the-road dinner, its no wonder childhood obesity and chronic illnesses are rising.

The solution? Education. Education. Education.

For whom?

Everyone!

Start by reading food labels. If you don’t know how to read labels, resources are available online. Here too.  If you don’t know what an ingredient is, google it online and keep reading until you understand what the ingredient.  Further research the ingredient. When you find something that isn’t healthy (or repulsive to you), make note of it (put it in notes on your phone) and avoid buying food with the product or buy foods that have lower amounts of the ingredient.

Policy makers. They can’t just campaign for healthier foods, sign off on legal documents, slap their hands together and call their job done. “Healthy foods” needs to be defined so that everyone is on the same page. Healthy to me certainly differs from someone else.

Banning candy and soda in school is fine, but not when the food is replaced by packaged food that say “healthy,” “low fat,” “low calorie,” and “low sodium” but is laced with sugar (as much or more as the candy) and other artificial and genetically modified organisms. Oh my Gawd!! My head is spinning.

Parents Wake up! Learn better habits so that you can do better. Read and educate yourself about the food you buy and serve your children.

I am not saying they can’t eat candy, chips, etc… What I am saying is that this “junk” that is often masked, as nutritious food should not be a child’s primary source of food.

While speaking to a group of teens I used my favorite car analogy. I asked about their dream cars. Maserati! Lamborghini! Mercedes! Range Rover! I further inquired about the type of gasoline they’d fuel their car. “The best!” “High octane!”   What about tires, I continued to probe… They named outlandishly expensive tires and rims that I’ve never heard of. Lastly I asked if how they cared for their dream care would affect the car’s performance. They agreed it would.

BINGO!!

So why would you take better care of your car than your body??   I could see the light bulbs going off! Lol!   Will it change the way they eat? Maybe. Maybe not. I tried to help them make a connection between diet and performance (mental & physical). If nothing else, they left the discussion with a little more insight with respect to what they eat.

All I can think about is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative. What would FLOTUS say about these meals? Remember, I am not judging and know the process is not easy. I am however, asking important questions, looking for better solutions and challenging parents to do the same.

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a fabulous day! 🙂

Additional Resources

Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2010

MyPyramid.gov

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 

Nutrition.gov 

healthfinder.gov 

Health.gov

Eatingwell.com

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA

Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Food and Nutrition Service 

Food and Nutrition Information Center

National Institute of Food and Agriculture

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health

Let’s Move!

Healthy People

U.S. National Physical Activity Plan Note: The U.S. National Physical Activity Plan is not a product of the Federal Government. However, a number of Federal offices were involved in the development of the Plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try Something New!

I like to challenge myself. I like to learn – so I like to try new things and try to keep growing.

-David Schwimmer

I loooooove to try new things; it’s scary and fun!

If you are on a journey to live healthier, whether it is to eat better foods, get into better physical condition, or just to adapt a healthier lifestyle, it begins with having the courage to be open-minded to trying new things and a willingness to view life through a different lens.

I am so excited! Why? Because today I am trying not one, but two new recipes!! Heeey! I’m dancing around the kitchen. Lol!

To eat healthy and clean (as clean as possible), you have your staple food items (avocados, leafy greens, brown rice, quinoa, and more). However, the six meals a day can get boring really quick, so just like fitness, you’ve gotta mix it up!

This is suppose to be a quick post, so I’ve got get back to cooking, but check out the ingredients. I forgot to include the black beans and two other spices in the recipe, but everything else is included in the picture.

These ingredients may not look like much, but oh… wait until you see the results!

ingredients

I’ll chat with you later!  🙂

 

 

Food And Fitness

Every year that I inch a little closer to the big 50, I realize my body is in a constant state of change.  My nutrition, skin care, hair care, and sleep needs change.  If I want to maintain status quo, (high energy levels to dance all night, great moods to handle life’s curve balls, beautiful glowing skin, etc…, I must sing a different song…. “..Change, change, chaaaange…..”

The changes in your body quickly creep up on you until one day you realize that certain things just aren’t working the say anymore.  This realization starts the ball rolling to finding a new– well everything!  Better quality fabrics in clothing, improved moisturizers for the skin, lavish conditioners to thicken the hair, better quality bras, and so on….

The good news is that if we chose to acknowledge the aging process. Oh wow!  I can’t believe I’m writing about the aging process….  It comes quick, that’s all I can say.

Anyhow, as I was saying, instead of resisting the process, we ought to embrace the changes and work to figure out what will work best for our body.

That said, Previously, I mentioned that I track my food intake using the free app LIVESTRONG.   Since I subscribe to the page, I receive informative emails related to nutrition and fitness.

Below is a chart included in, Eating, Exercise & Health Tips For 30s, 40s, and 50s.  I love this chart. It provides a great snapshot of common changes that begin to occur at various milestones.  The chart below is for 40 year olds, but if you scroll through, there are charts for other ages.

The chart is worth a look-over because it’s packed with valuable information that can help you get on track.  Of course no two human bodies are alike.  So before implementing any new nutrition or fitness regimen, you should always consult with your doctor first.

I hope you find this information useful.

Enjoy the day!
FoodFitness_40s_infographic (1)