Navigating the Grocery Store Part 2: Labels and Lingo

My apologies for the large gap between posts! Sometimes life just takes you in different directions.

Now for Navigating the Grocery Store Part 2: Labels and Lingo
Once you make your grocery list and are meandering around the aisles, there are a lot of different words or advertising slogans brands use to promote their products. Lets break some down..

All Natural: According to the FDA’s website, this is the answer to the question of the term natural

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances”. So to break it down, it pretty much means it hasn’t been artificially added but because it is not a regulated term it can still be thrown around without being verified.

Here are some common terms from

  • Low fat – 3 grams fat or less per serving
  • Fat-free – Less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low sodium – Less than 140 milligrams sodium per serving
  • Low calorie – Less than 40 calories per serving
  • Calorie free – Less than 5 calories per serving
  • Low cholesterol – Less than 20 milligrams cholesterol and 2 grams saturated fat

The danger I commonly see with these labels is while foods may be low in fat or calories, it is not low in sugar-even artificial sugars!
I am a firm believer that it is not fat that makes you fat, sugar makes you fat.  

Look at the picture above at the comparison of the brains reaction to cocaine and sugar compared side by side. Pretty shocking! The World Health Organization recommends getting just 5% of calories from sugar which translates to about 25 grams. So while labels may say “reduced fat” be sure to check the sugar content! Chances are high if fat has been taken out sugar is added back in, whether artificial, real sugar or HFCS or whatever they can get their hands on.

Lastly, many people question the term organic.  Organic farmers are held to strict standards and  ongoing evaluations to be sure they are meeting the strict requirements to be deemed organic. I am a fan of organic foods-it helps the local economy and environment, keeps harmful chemicals out of the body, and more often than not the food tastes better. Look for the USDA Organic seal when shopping and you can sure the food is organically grown.



Marion Nestle- What We Eat


What Dr. Oz Can Teach Us Now

One of televisions most famous doctors, Dr. Mehmet Oz,  was hauled in front of the Senate subcommittee of Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance mid-June to testify on the products he promotes on his popular television show. The hearing was dealing with the regulation of dietary supplements (side note-there is relatively no regulation on these). He admitted that the things he promoted would not stand up to “scientific muster”, and his job on the show is to be more of a cheerleader than a doctor.

As a fan of health related shows as well as being a health educator myself, I know how much information gets thrown into our faces every day. It is confusing and often contradicting. So what can we do about it?

Quote from Hippocrates

It comes down to taking responsibility as a consumer. Most people today are not clueless about health; the science hasn’t changed in years regardless of what new products hit the market :

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Stay active
  • Drink more water
  • Everything in moderation
  • Get plenty of sleep

Often times people think of healthy as huge changes, extreme exercise, eating like a rabbit, whatever. But it isn’t- it all comes down to learning how to take responsibility as a consumer for you as well as the people around you, and applying in your life. In my next couple of posts (in between recipes and workouts) I will cover your neighborhood grocery store:

  •  Labels and understanding them
  • Definitions behind shady terms like “all natural” or “farm raised”
  • Smart shopping and money saving tips
  • Big brand marketing schemes
  • Calorie Density vs. Nutrient Density and being able to choose the more nutritious option

Check back soon for more posts and videos 🙂

Why Does a Healthy Diet Matter?

Imagine you own the most beautiful stunning mansion you can think up. Now imagine while you keep the outside pristine, the inside is a wreck-you never clean the toilets, take the garbage out, do any dishes, sweep the floor, etc. It would stay fairly nice on the outside, yet over time the inside would be a disaster. This is equivalent to eating a diet lacking in important nutrients.


In today’s society we have an overwhelming array of food products and ready made meals available to us that are often over processed and referred to as “food byproducts”. Food that in no way resembles the original form because it has been so made over with additives, fat, salt or sugar that it is now an entirely different food. Often times big companies or smart labeling tricks a person into thinking whatever they are eating is super nutritious (granola bars, energy drinks, the list goes on) and have no idea the crazy amounts of stuff that goes into food that indeed is not food. The sky rocketing rates of overweight and obese Americans, especially children, reflects a correlation between increased obesity rates and consumption of processed foods in the last 20 years. But these can impact people with regular weight as well in forms of mental illness, increased stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue, physical pain, low immune system, cancer rates, reproduction; you name it and diet will play a role.


However, by increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low or non-fat animal products, we can vastly increase our health status and reverse the risk of disease that comes along with a poor diet. For some people, this sounds like a death sentence. For others, its old news because it is already things they are doing. I aim to show how simple it is to incorporate these foods into a normal diet that is easy to follow (no ingredients that cost $75 dollars a drop at Whole Foods) and also budget friendly. For families, introducing new foods can be difficult because children eat what they are familiar with and eat what they like. Studies have shown over time increasing a child’s exposure to new foods increases their consumption of new foods, as well as their willingness to try new and unfamiliar foods in the future. There is no perfect answer, no miracle product, no one stop solution that will fix these problems overnight. It is lifestyle changes that can be introduced slowly and correctly to insure you are preparing yourself for a healthier lifestyle, starting with the plate in front you.







Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 2011. Available at:

Cooke, L. (2007), The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 20: 294–301. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2007.00804.x

Fuhrman, J. (2011), Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free. Harper Collins, 304 pages.