Label Reading Simplified: What to look for

Label Reading Simplified: What to look for

When you start changing your diet, one of the most important things you can do is to start looking at the labels of foods you buy. Unfortunately, you can’t trust the marketing lingo on the front of the box. A product may claim to be all natural, whole grain and no sugar added – and still be full of chemicals, sodium and artificial sweeteners. So you may think you are being healthy but in reality it is that food that is bringing you down! The best thing to do is to look at the ingredient labels and compare that to the nutritional label to see if it’s a healthy-ish option.

I look at the ingredient list first. The ingredients are listed in order of the ingredient that is in the highest concentration in the food. So if the number one ingredient is sugar….yeah, it’s going back on the shelf! I look for the top ingredients to be foods that I recognize, whole grains, etc. I look for a minimum of things I don’t recognize. If I don’t know what it is, do I want to eat it?? There are a lot of sneaky words for added sugar, which often are things like fructose, sucrose, syrup of various varieties (corn, rice, etc). I don’t mind if honey or pure maple syrup are added, as long as the overall sugar content in the label isn’t that high – a few grams or less. Women should consumer less than 20g of added sugar per day and men 36g.

sugar

Sodium is the next thing I look at, because sodium is often added in large quantities to make food taste better. Everything tastes better with salt! But I would like to be the one to add it in small amounts. As with sugar, I look for the sodium level to be in the single digits and as low as possible.

salt

I don’t buy a ton of processed foods, because they are usually high in one of these! Milton’s crackers and cereal and gluten free pretzels are probably my only “staples” that I buy in the snack category. Oh and Z Bars, which are organic, I am pretty comfortable with all the ingredients and my kids love them. So I feel less guilty about them being “processed.” More about cereal in another article (my 5 year old LOVES cereal, I used to eat it every day but after reviewing the sugar content on pretty much every box of cereal I save it for an occasional treat meal!). My husband is a celiac so he likes the gluten free pretzels.

There are a number of other things you can look at…calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat…I try to stay away from GMO (genetically modified ingredients), MSG, partially or full hydrogenated oils…

And added vitamins and nutrients are all well and good but I’m not going to consume extra sugary items for that reason! I feel it’s sort of a marketing strategy to make it appear healthier than it is!

There are a lot of things but I focus on the ingredients first, because the ingredients will tell me if there is crap in it and if the sugar is high then the calories and carbohydrates will be too! This is a very broad overview, and if you’d like a more indepth one you can read more about it on the FDA’s page here. When I’m in the grocery store with both my 5 and almost 3 year old, I have about 10 seconds to scan a label before I get interrupted and the ingredient scan and sugar and sodium scan give me a really quick idea if I want to buy the item or not. Rule of thumb – stick to the perimeter of the grocery store for clean eating!

 

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6 day reset, clean eating, strawberries and Disney!

6 day reset, clean eating, strawberries and Disney!

What’s new with you?? I keep trying to get in here to blog and it keeps being pushed to the back burner. So, that’s just how it is right now in my life on a daily basis. Pretty much every time I sit down to the computer I have one or both kids coming to me. Child 1 likes to inform me of various lego kit facts, such as you need to be 7 years old to purchase the Nexo Knights Monster Crasher (made that kit name up, and I’m not planning on buying him any legos any time soon, mean mom that I am), but he still likes to browse all his lego magazines and let me know about his findings. And he wants me to provide him undivided attention to share these very crucial details, so typing while he talks is not acceptable. Child 2 just prefers to climb on me, stand on my lap, pull my papers and pen from me and scribble on them, pound on the keyboard…basic two year old antics, which results in me feeling like a terrible parent and therefore giving in to her attention needs and giving up hope of getting anything done for quite some time.

I have been fairly consistent with getting in 6am workouts for the past month – 22Hardcorps, only 22 minutes long! I am really loving the alternating days of cardio focused workouts and resistance workouts. Lots of push-ups and burpees, but I need push-ups. I hate them. But I need them. I’m starting to see some solid upper body results!!
AM workout

Some fun things we did the past few weeks: Kindergarten registration for my oldest child, done! If you’ve done this, you no doubt remember the feelings that come with this… mixed feelings of excitement yet sadness, worrying if it’s too much time in school vs free play, hoping he gets a teacher he will love and will love him back…we had New Beginner’s Day last week, where he got to meet and interact with several teachers and see his new school. He did great and I am really pleased with the school.

Strawberry picking at one of our local organic farms! We’ve been eating a lot of strawberries and I froze a lot of them as well, because they pretty much start going bad in a day (the fabulous nature of organic, fresh picked anything). Also, for the record, $20 of strawberries may be too much.  I got a little out of hand.
strawberries

I’m also kicking off a 6 day clean eating reset this week! I like to do this reset every 6 months or so…because I tend to get in the subconscious habit of picking…eating bites here and there, especially with my kids snacks and food…and it catches up with me. Following a laid out, simple and healthy meal plan for 6 days really helps me kick those bad habits for a while and also knocks off a few lbs. Here’s some more info on the reset here if you’d like to see what I’m doing.

And lastly… Disney planning!!!!!  Ahhhhh!!!! I’m only KIND of excited!!! Early this year my husband suggested we do Disney – the last words I ever expected out of his mouth as he is not about crowds/mainstream activities/fun things (just kidding). He is lots of fun, he just prefers camping and solitude to waiting in lines to see Mickey and Minnie. Our youngest turns 3 in July, so she is just under the wire for free admission to the parks. So we are heading to Walt Disney World in a few weeks for Magic Kingdom, Legoland and also some beach time. We’ve been busy buying tickets (holy smokes the cost), researching and planning our itineraries. Because apparently you can’t just walk in and leisurely do whatever you want, that’s setting yourself up for complete failure in this day and age. Seriously. I read a blog on it. And my husband read like 10 on it. If you’ve done Disney you probably know this! I’ve been Fast-Passing it up and we have our plan. I’d love to hear any tips you’d like to share!!

Spring Into Summer Challenge Group starts April 3rd!

Spring Into Summer Challenge Group starts April 3rd!

Here in North Carolina we had some wonderful warm weather in February…shorts for some days! And then we got a little snow and it got cold again, wah.  But it will be warm soon enough – and summer bodies are made in the winter!  It’s time for swim suit shopping soon, are you ready?? I’m getting there with the help of my challenge groups! A challenge group is a small group of people, in a private group (we use the Beachbody Challenge Tracker App) who have the same goals – get fit using Beachbody nutrition plans and workout programs with the support of others doing the same! Comment or message me for more information about the group! It helps to have support to hit your goals 🙂 springintosummer

Stuffed Pepper Frittata

Stuffed Pepper Frittata

You know when you get really excited over a recipe?? No? That’s just me? Ok. Well, this one got me revved up this morning, and it did not disappoint! I’ll be making it again. And again. I may bust it out on my husband’s extended family weekend in a few weeks, because in addition to being delicious and healthy it’s also kind of fancy.

Bell peppers are the #1 veggie in our house right now, as everyone in the family will readily eat them raw. That includes husband, 5 year old and 2 year old. Ok, the 5 year old must eat every veggie dipped in ranch, but he’ll eat them. My 2 year old devours them and hubby will take them to work. And I enjoy them as well. So it’s on my Costco list every week to get the 6 pack of stoplight bell peppers, and that’s where I found a version of this delightful recipe.

Ingredients: (for 1 serving, multiple for more)
1 bell pepper
EVOO
2 eggs
handful of shredded cheese (1/2 blue container for portion fixers!)
handful of spinach (or cooked and chopped turkey sausage would be amazing too!)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400. Cut off top of bell pepper and remove seeds. Rub outside of pepper with a small amount of olive oil and place in baking pan or dish. If it won’t sit flat, insert peppers in muffin tin to hold them upright. In small bowl, scramble eggs and combine with cheese and spinach (or whatever additives you like!). Pour into egg and put in oven. Cook for approximately 30-35 minutes until egg is set to your liking. I cooked mine for 35 minutes because I don’t like yokey/runny eggs. Let cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy!!IMG_20170315_073848903-01

Sun-dried tomato pesto zoodles with chicken and spinach

Sun-dried tomato pesto zoodles with chicken and spinach

This was one of those everything but the kitchen sink recipes that actually turned out pretty amazing. I had some leftover Rosso Pesto from Aldi (sun dried tomato pesto) that I wanted to use up and it worked out great combining it with a number of other yummy ingredients! There are so many ways you could add variety to this and it would still taste great. I was going to add bite sized chunks of fresh mozzarella too! But I’m trying to stay a little tighter on a budget with the “wants” and “needs” of my grocery list. I already had Parmesan cheese at home, so decided to go with that instead of buying a chunk of mozzarella.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 package chicken breasts
1/2 tsp chili powder
2  medium squash, yellow or green, spiralized (if you buy this spiralized in a package probably want 2 packages)
2 Tbsp sun dried tomato pesto (love Aldi’s brand and price for this)
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
grated parmesan for topping
Salt & pepper to taste

Cut up chicken in bite size pieces, season with 1/2 tsp chili powder and salt & pepper to taste and saute in 2 tsp EVOO in large skillet over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until fully cooked. Remove from skillet. Add 1-2 Tbsp of water to pan, return to heat and add spiralized squash. Cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add pesto, gently combining with spiralized squash until fully mixed (this takes a minute to get it all mixed in!) Once mixed, add in grape tomato halves and fresh spinach, cook 2-3 more minutes to wilt spinach and cook tomatoes. Return chicken to skillet to heat up.  Once everything is hot, remove from heat and top with parmesan to taste!

Portion fix – I would count this as 1.5 green, 1 red, 2 tsp. Depending on the amount of parmesan you use, may need to count as 1/2 blue also.

sun dried tomato pesto zoodles

Protein Pumpkin Pancakes. Say that five times fast.

Protein Pumpkin Pancakes. Say that five times fast.

It’s been getting in the 70’s every day, the kids are in shorts and playing outside…in February!  I know a lot of the country is getting the same weather and it’s amazing, and also frightening. Oh hey #globalwarming. Not gonna lie, I am enjoying it. And for some reason I wanted pumpkin pancakes with this weather. Makes total sense haha! These pancakes are super easy to make, gluten free and full of protein and they taste good!

Ingredients:
1/2 c pumpkin puree (from a can is totally fine. Just don’t get the pie mix)
2 eggs
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder or shakeology (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp coconut oil

Combine together and mix well. Heat griddle or pan with 1 tsp coconut oil. Pour pancakes (this mix made 5 for me); cook until edges are dried, flip.

Optional toppings: combine 1 tsp nut butter (I used almond) with 1 tsp pure maple syrup or honey (I used syrup) – microwave for 10 seconds, mix well and spread on top of pancakes. It doesn’t make a lot but enough for a little sweetness on each pancake!

img_20170224_083657_959-01

Container count for portion fix: 1.5 red, 1/2 purple, 3 tsp

Healthy chocolate covered strawberries!

Healthy chocolate covered strawberries!

This was too easy not to try. Three ingredients is all you need for this yummy and healthy treat!

Ingredients:
A dozen strawberries, refrigerated then washed and dried
3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 – 3/4 of a scoop of chocolate shakeology – vegan or regular (all I had was vegan so used that and they turned out good!)

Optional:
3 more Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2-3/4 scoop of vanilla or strawberry shakeology for a drizzle on top

Mix oil and chocolate shakeology in a bowl. Grasp each strawberry by the stem and dip in the chocolate mixture, lay on wax paper to dry. I had extra leftover, so I did a double coating on each strawberry – the chocolate mixture will dry quickly if the strawberries are cold. If they are room temperature, you may need to refrigerate first.

If topping with the drizzle – combine oil and vanilla or chocolate shakeology in separate bowl and place in a small resealable plastic bag. Cut off one tiny corner of the bag and pipe mixture in horizontal lines over dipped strawberries. Refrigerate 1 hour until coating is set. Enjoy!

Servings: 12
portion fix: 1/2 purple, 1 1/2 tsp

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