Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #5

Evaluate nutrition claims on products

Welcome back to another post in our healthy grocery store shopping series! This series is designed to help you be a more efficient, healthier, happier shopper. Last time, we talked about shopping the perimeter first: buy the fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and fresh bread before you head into the aisles to pick up the processed stuff. Once you do make your way into the labyrinth, you’re ready for Tip #5:

Beware products bearing gifts (particularly nutritious ones).

There are many subtle (or not so subtle) nutrition messages on the front of food products that are designed to catch your eye and snag a sale. As a savvy grocery shopper, these nutrition claims are a signal for you to inspect that product a little further, and decide if what the company is claiming is actually of benefit to you.

Let’s look at various messages common to most packaged products:
ront Label of cereal box

Cereal box photo courtesy of smncc.com

On the front of this box of Frosted Flakes, the left side has the usual players — the manufacturer, brand name, the dazzling smile of Tony the Tiger, but on the right, I noted the appeals to both parents (nutritious!) and children (toys!) to buy the product. The toys are a pretty obvious sell, and it’s probably a losing battle to get your kids to not be tempted by those free gifts. But I’d like to spend the rest of this post deciphering some of the nutrition claims found on products, so you can make an informed decisions about which products to buy and consume.

Common Nutrition Claims Deconstructed

  • Cholesterol Free!

    What does this message actually mean? That the product is made from plants. Only animal-based foods (milk, meat, eggs) have cholesterol! On the one hand, this message is great: the manufacturers didn’t have to do any special processing or add weird ingredients to make your products cholesterol free! On the other hand, it’s a little misleading to think that the label denotes an extra level of healthfulness above that in other similar products.

  • Now with less fat! (or less sugar).

    This message is a big warning sign that the ingredients have changed since you last bought the product. Fat and sugar are very important for the deliciousness and shelf stability of a product. So if a product has been reformulated to decrease the fat (for example), there may have been an increase in sugar, salt, or other ingredients to keep it tasty, keep the consistency of the product, and keep it shelf stable. When you see a “now with”, check the back of the box to see if what ingredients may have been substituted in, and make sure the new formulation still aligns with your health needs.

  • High Fiber!

    Similar to the cholesterol message, high fiber does not have to be a bad thing. If anything, we need more fiber in our diets! There are two possible reason why your product say high fiber: either the food is naturally high in fiber (because of flax seeds, dried fruit, or whole grains), or a bunch of ingredients were added to the product to increase it’s fiber content. Some of these fiber additives can increase abdominal discomfort (read: gas), so added fiber is something to watch out for if you haven’t been feeling so great after eating certain products. If you’re searching for added fiber on the ingredient list, watch out for “bran” ingredients.

Double check the price of products with nutrition claims on the front.

Some better-for-you products truly do cost more because it takes higher quality ingredients, a slower process, or a specialized workforce to make that good quality product. However, sometimes, the price are higher only because of the health claim, and not because they actually cost more to produce. When you see a claim attached to a higher price tag, take a step back to evaluate what their enhancement is, and if you actually feel that the benefit provided by the product is a worthy trade off for the price.

What are other common nutrition claims do you see on the front of products you buy? Do they influence your purchasing decisions?


Healthy Summer Strategies

Healthy Summer Run
Image courtesy of fitgirlonthego.com

I love Summer time — everyone is a little more relaxed, the sun is out, I can spend time at the beach. But it feels like as every Summer begins, I also notice changes in my body – I find myself more tired, thirsty, and less motivated to stick with my exercise routing. Does this happen to you?

The thing is, it’s not that we’ve all become lazy bums that need more sleep! Rather, the tiredness and lack of motivation are symptoms of the stress our bodies are under because of the high heat and changing weather. That’s why this summer, when the temps started rising, I enacted my happy summer health plan to work with my body as it adjusts, rather than fighting through my lower energy levels. The result? No summertime fatigue and an easy segue way into Summer fun. Read below for how I am transitioning into a happy and healthy summer.
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Well at work: Healthy snack drawer

Healthy snack at the office
Image courtesy of austinprimalfitness.com

Planning snack time at work at first seems like the wrong way to go. We’re eating too much, not too little, right? Plus we are already bombarded with opportunities to eat at work: office birthdays, lunch meetings, midmorning pastry breaks…despite all of those offerings for food, having an emergency healthy snack stash can actually help you eat less when those temptations for the unhealthy office snacks arrive, and can keep you at your mental, emotional, and physical peak. Below I explain why having a healthy snack drawer at work can be good for you and for others, and how to do it.
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Choosing your health goals

Working together for Health goals
Image courtesy of natural news

Every day we are bombarded by messages about the newest diet craze, a medical study with surprising findings, and an expert who knows what we “should” be doing for our health. However, at the end of the day, we all have different needs. And unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to be a a paleo, gluten-free, vegan who does 8-minute high intensity workouts 3 times a day, wakes up before 6am, and manages to retain her sanity.

…Well, actually it’s pretty fortunate that we can’t do that. But it’s unfortunate that most of us walk around thinking that we should be able to hold ourselves to these health standards that are almost impossible to achieve.

Eventually, you have to choose which health messages you’re going to listen to, and which you’re going to decide are not worth your time.

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Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #4

Grocery perimeter

It’s time to get shopping!! In this series meant to help you become a happier, healthier grocery shopper, we’ve talked about the importance of shopping happy, knowing when to go, and making a list. Now, it’s time to revamp how you shop when you’re in the store!

My tip for this week is based on the geography of a grocery store, and is good practice no matter what your current shopping habits or needs are. Continue reading…


Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #3

Grocery List
Photo Courtesy of imgarcade.com

This post is part of a series on forming healthy, efficient grocery store shopping habits. We’re on to the last post about the pre-shopping experience. Enjoy!

 
 
Having a grocery list is the most important of the pre-planning shopping tips we’ve discussed so far. We’ve talked about not shopping hungry, and choosing the right time to go grocery shopping, but having a plan is so important. Did you know that supermarkets are on average 42,000 square feet and contain over 38,000 different products? WOAH. Navigating that labyrinth with a list and a plan is going to make the entire experience easier and less frustrating.

As a bonus, we’re going to use the grocery store list to make sure that your food purchases align with your health and monetary goals. The grocery list is just one more thing that’s going to help you live your healthy lifestyle.

Making a Grocery Store Shopping List

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Increasing energy levels at work

Low energy sleeping at work
Photo courtesy of The Guardian

What goes up must come down – including energy. We love our energy highs, when we are ready to take on the world, are super productive, and feel great. Those energy lows though? Not so much. Instead we complain, berate ourselves for not feeling our best, and try to find any solution to increase our energy.

Some of our solutions, however, are really band-aids: they’re not fixing our low energy problem, they’re just covering it up for a while. These band-aid solutions, like caffeine and sugar, make you feel good for a little while, but there is usually an energy crash that follows. And while sugar and caffeine are not inherently bad, if they come wrapped in a 400-calorie package, or are being used as a constant crutch to support waning energy, the negative effects can be larger than just that one-time energy crash.

So today, when your energy starts to decrease, and you’re ready to find the nearest quick fix to bring you back up, consider some of these tips instead, which address the root cause of your low energy. These sustainable systems to increase your energy have no negative side-effects, and can help you feel better, work better, and smile!

Tips to increase energy levels at work

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Saying no to unhealthy food

Saying no thank you sign

Saying no is hard to do. It feels so mean! So definitive! So dismissive! Because we get caught up in worrying about the other person’s feelings or perceptions of us, we become willing to overextend ourselves, double book, and invest in projects that we don’t have love or commitment for.

However, whenever you say yes or no, you’re also sending a message to yourself and to others about what your values and priorities are. And by pretending and bending your priorities to align with what others want can result in feeling guilty, sadness, stress, or like we don’t have agency in your own lives. Plus, it can erode at your confidence in what your priorities are and your ability to make decisions that are good for you.

Saying no is difficult when we’re interacting with our bosses and loved ones, but why do we feel a pang of guilt when we tell a waiter at a restaurant “no, I don’t want fries with that”…”actually, I don’t need another glass of wine”….”no dessert tonight, thanks”. Why do we think that these people actually care whether we take them up on these offers? Continue reading…


Why can’t I get to sleep?

sleep
Happy Sleeper

Let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is being mentioned everywhere in the news these days: getting enough sleep has been linked to increased happiness and productivity, weight loss, lower diabetes risk….you name it!

Due to all of this research, however, there’s also a plethora of “how to sleep better” articles and tips around the web. The problem I always run in to when reading these articles is that sleeping problems are not created equal! Some nights, I can’t fall asleep easily because I’m agitated or stressed. On others, I’m blissfully happy, but (being in North Carolina), my belly is full of barbeque and I just can’t get comfortable. These two causes are completely different and require different techniques to overcome!

Luckily, taking some time to figure out what is underlying your sleeping issues can make it much easier to take the right steps to bring you closer to some happy Z’s. Continue reading…


Bringing lunch to work

Lunch containers
During the work week, there are lots of reasons why we choose to go out for lunch, rather than bringing food from home. It can feel a little like elementary school to bring a brown paper bag and a peanut butter sandwich. There’s a bit of hassle involved because it takes time to put your lunch together, and there is more to carry during your commute. I would argue, however, that the main reason why we like to eat out so much is because it’s the only time during the day when many of us get up from our desks, walk outside, and take a break from work.

That break time is so important! Taking time away from our desks is important for our productivity and creativity, but if it leads to consuming an excess of salt, sugar, and fat, bringing lunch to work starts to sound pretty good. But you might as well make it easy on yourself, right? Below are great ways to make it easier to have delicious, homemade meals at work.
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