Tag Archives: health

New Year, New Fridge, New Pantry, Tips on Organizing-Part One

New Year, New Fridge, New Pantry, Tips On Organizing…

Another top New Year’s resolution is to de-clutter and get organized. I have to admit, I LOVE when all of the cute containers, planners, and organizing gadgets make their debut in early January. 

Clutter unfortunately doesn’t just stay in our closets or behind closed doors/drawers. It can invade our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries as well – a place we and our family members access several times a day. 

Why does it matter that we have an organized and clean refrigerator and pantry? And what does any of that have to do with our health and wellness? Well, it has A LOT to do with it! Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your refrigerator that you just grab whatever is easiest to eat- regardless of how it impacts your health goals? Perhaps you have a hard time cooking a healthy dinner at home because the kitchen is just too chaotic and un-organized and you don’t even know what food is there. 

This is why it matters that we maintain a clean and organized refrigerator and pantry situation. The more aware we are about what we have in our kitchens, the easier it will be to stick to our healthy eating goals. 

Maintaining a clean and organized refrigerator and pantry will not only make going to the refrigerator less stressful but it will also save time and energy when putting a meal together, especially at the end of a busy day. Stress-free meal preparation will not only save our sanity but also save your health goals. And of course, there is the money factor. In addition to saving time and mental energy, keeping an organized fridge and pantry will also result in money saved. Less food will be wasted because you won’t forget what you have and you won’t overlook ingredients and re-buy, hence helping you save money!

Here are 4 Steps to get you started on creating an organized refrigerator for 2021

Step 1: Remove everything from the refrigerator and freezer and wipe down all shelves and drawers using a mild soap and hot water. This will give you a fresh start and also help you take inventory of what you have in there (and what items need to be tossed because they are expired). 

Step 2: Toss any expired foods. 

Step 3: Adjust your shelves. Most new refrigerators/freezers have adjustable shelving and drawers- take advantage of that! Since most of us buy the same items time and time again, find a place to store said items in your fridge and adjust your shelving accordingly. This will help you stay organized and optimize the space you have. 

Step 4 (Optional): If you are really wanting to maintain a clean, organized fridge space, you can line your shelves and drawers after you clean everything and before you re-organize. Be sure to use a heavy-duty, water resistant shelf liner. Using a liner can help make clean-ups from spills easier and cleaning out your crisper drawers from fruit/veggie debris a lot easier too. 

Here are 10 quick tips on how to creatively organize your refrigerator so that it can stay that way and decrease your stress, help you stay on track with your eating goals, and put more money in your pocket. It’s a triple win! 

  • Store the same things in the same place every time you grocery shop. This way you will always know where to go to find the ingredient you are looking for and you will know when you need to buy more/replace the item. 
  • Group like items together- condiments, meat, vegetables, cheese, etc. 
  • Stack to save space, especially if you are storing bottles or cans. Try a bottle/can dispenser so you can get the most space out of stacking your cold beverages.
  • Keep your most often used items front and center and easy to grab. You can also keep healthy snacks (pre washed and pre-cut veggies, fruit, etc.) front and center so you are more likely to grab those when opening the fridge for a snack. 
  • Use your fridge doors for condiments, butter, cheese, juices, etc.
  • Use clear containers to keep like items together. You can even purchase ones with handles to make it easy to pull out and take to a prep area. Maybe you have a sandwich making bin with all of the ingredients to make sandwiches for lunches. You can also use labels to label your clear containers. Be sure to use clear containers so you can easily see what is inside. 
  • Stick kid snacks at eye level where they can easily reach without making a mess. Perhaps you even use a special bin for the kids snacks to keep them separate and organized in the fridge. 
  • Use drawers to separate items, especially produce. 
  • Always rotate items when you grocery shop…bring the older item to the front and the fresh items behind it so you can use the older items before the expiration date. 

 

See you next week for Part 2 when I give tips on organizing your pantry!

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach,
Certified Personal Trainer

 

 

Why You Need To Add NEAT To Your Day

Ok, you’re probably thinking what the heck is NEAT,  Meghan??, just from the title of this post.  Well, I am here to tell you! NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That’s a lot of fancy words that are probably foreign to you so let me break it down for you.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis are calories burned outside of exercise. Any activity or movement you do during the day that is NOT formal exercise is considered NEAT exercise. Cleaning, walking, raking leaves, moving objects, climbing stairs…basically any activity where your body is moving outside of exercise, eating, and sleeping. Most of us do some amount of NEAT every single day without even realizing it. It’s truly just a part of living our lives. 

So, why is NEAT important and what is the benefit of it? NEAT exercise is important because we can burn more calories by simply moving more throughout the day doing normal daily lifestyle activities. It may be hard to believe, but the energy expenditure and caloric output from NEAT exercise can be substantial and help you to maintain or even lose weight. 

Research has shown time and time again that those who move throughout the day are more likely to maintain their weight or reach their weight loss goals versus those who are sedentary and expend most of their energy in a single exercise session. A greater caloric output occurs throughout the day with various modes of movement than oftentimes you can achieve in a single 30-minute exercise session. 

Most people spend a majority of their day at work sitting behind a computer. This mode of working and living has definitely contributed to our more sedentary lifestyles and obesity epidemic in our nation. One effective way we can shift this is by adding more NEAT movement to our days. 

I often encourage my more sedentary clients who work 9-5 jobs to set alarms throughout the day to stand, go for a walk, or do some air squats near their desk. Try walking to lunch instead of driving if it is feasible. Park further away at the grocery store. There are SO many creative ways we can add more NEAT movement into our day to day lives to help maximize caloric output. Not only can we benefit by burning more calories throughout the day but this will also make us healthier individuals and a healthier country overall. 

NEAT is pretty neat, right?! Give it a try!

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach
Certified Personal Trainer

Weight Loss: Dieting vs. Lifestyle Change

Weight Loss: Dieting vs. Lifestyle Change

As we ring in the New Year, many will also ring in a new diet…cause that’s what you’re supposed to do come the New Year, right?! I’m sure if you are reading this right now, at some point in your life you have been on some kind of “diet”, whether it be a New Year’s resolution diet or some other time of year diet. And by “diet” I mean restricting certain foods/food groups and/or calorie counting with the goal of weight loss. To diet is defined as “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.”  We could all share stories of success and failure when it comes to our dieting endeavors- whether we’ve done Atkins, Keto, Whole30, Paleo, the blood type diet, veganism, among many more. 

According to the CDC in 2017-2018, 42.4% of Americans were categorized as obese. Obesity is an epidemic that is plaguing many Americans. And along with this epidemic comes a lot of people trying a myriad of diets to try and lose weight- some successful and some not. It is estimated that 45% of Americans go on some sort of diet each year. What most diets have in common is the thinking that if you eat less calories, you will lose weight. But time and time again this has proven to not be the case (for many). 

What is the difference between “dieting” and making lifestyle changes?

Obesity and being overweight can lead to several dangerous and life threatening health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes just to name the most common ones. Oftentimes doctors and medical practitioners will tell their patients it is imperative to their health to make lifestyle changes- healthier eating and more physical activity. 

The difference is that a diet consists of making temporary changes (and often drastic, unrealistic changes) to how you eat. A diet is very input output focused. If I eat this certain way or eat these certain foods, the outcome will be weight loss. 

Lifestyle changes take into account a person’s psychology, behaviors, budget, and values when developing a sustainable plan. Lifestyle changes involve looking at the whole person and every aspect of their life. You can diet all day but if you are a highly stressed individual who emotionally eats and continues to fall into this pattern after a hard day at work, no amount of dieting will truly help you overcome this behavior that is rooted so much deeper. In a situation like this, we need to first address it from a psychological standpoint and help decrease stress or find other coping mechanisms outside of eating.

Why do lifestyle changes have a higher success rate than dieting?

Lifestyle changes have a higher success rate because it’s liveable. It’s balanced. It leaves room to enjoy life and leaves room for grace when unexpected things arise. The goal is to implement changes that can stand the test of time, changes that can be maintained for the long haul and won’t get “old” or “boring”. We have to implement changes and live a lifestyle in which we can get back on track once we have fallen off or we know what we need to do and can execute it after a weekend or a vacation where we were a bit more lax on our diet and exercise. 

The main focus and goal of dieting is weight loss but when this is the main focus, we miss out or give up on other changes in your life that could have positive effects and be beneficial- such as decrease in stress levels, improved health markers, sleeping better, and feeling more energetic. These positive benefits will help someone maintain and sustain those lifestyle changes long-term because they feel better and when we feel better we are in a better mental state to make positive, healthy choices.

4 Ways to Make Sustainable Lifestyle Change

  • Change your Mindset: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, our mindset and perspective is everything. Knowing WHY you are doing something is necessary in order to maintain said behavior. Oftentimes we view eating healthy as restrictive and boring and exercise as dreaded and torturous. Instead, what if we viewed healthy eating as a way to fuel our bodies and we viewed food as medicine? What if we viewed exercise and moving our bodies as a gift instead of grueling? Changing our expectations and setting realistic weight loss goals is important as well. Sometimes we don’t need to lose as much weight as we think we do in order to be healthier and to see our blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other important health markers go down and in the right direction. Setting a realistic weight loss goal can help you to feel motivated and give you confidence that you can achieve that goal versus setting a lofty goal and feeling like you will never get there, get discouraged, and then quit. 

 

  • Consistent Eating Patterns: I like to live by and encourage my client’s to live by the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time you eat healthy, whole foods, and the other 20% is left for eating out, drinking alcohol, having a sweet treat, etc. It is near impossible and quite miserable to eat clean and healthy 100% of the time with zero sugar, zero wine, zero pasta, zero steak. It’s simply not sustainable. With 80/20 eating, you are consistently eating the same way but it allows enjoyment of life and enjoyment of food without guilting ourselves or feeling like we derailed all previous success. The key with 80/20 eating is to get right back on track after an evening of eating out or going to a party. 

 

  • Move More: Perhaps the thought of working out 30 minutes to an hour 5 days a week sounds daunting and overwhelming to you. Don’t let this fear of formal exercise scare you away. Just start moving your body more. Stand as you work. Take your meetings outside and walk and talk. Park further away. Do squats and lunges as you stand over the stove and sautee your vegetables for dinner. Take the stairs. Walk instead of using the moving beltway in the airport as you travel. There are so many creative ways we can incorporate more movement into our days. A body in motion stays in motion. The more we move our bodies and begin to feel more in shape, the easier it will be to transition into an exercise class or get to the gym for weight lifting. But movement doesn’t need to be formal to be formative. Simply move more and you’ll be amazed at how your body feels and responds. And maybe before long, you’ll find yourself taking exercise classes because you truly enjoy moving your body. 

 

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Research has proven that slow and steady weight loss is the ticket to keeping it off. You may lose a significant amount of weight doing a fad diet, but the question is will you be able to keep that weight off long-term? Don’t get discouraged if it is taking you longer than anticipated to lose weight. It is hard work and takes time, but it is so worth the wait to be healthier and feel WELL!

 

The weight loss industry is definitely not suffering with it being valued at more than $66 billion. We are bombarded with products and programs that offer promise after promise to help us finally lose the weight and reclaim our lives, especially this time of year with New Year’s resolutions on the rise. Don’t get me wrong, there are some supplements and programs that are highly effective, but, it is so individually based. And oftentimes, people think by popping a few pills or adhering to a strict program for a short amount of time means they will see the results they want and can then go back to how they were living before- all while maintaining those results. This is why we see yo-yo dieting and people losing significant amounts of weight and then gaining it back or we see people giving up on their New Year’s resolutions come February. Lifestyle changes seek to mitigate this yo-yoing back and forth and help individuals lose and keep the weight off for optimal health for the long-haul. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about weight loss through lifestyle changes, feel free to email me (Meghan) at hello@homebodysoul.com. I offer a FREE 30-minute consultation. 

 

Have a happy and healthy New Year everyone!

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach
Certified Personal Trainer

Set Your Goals Into Motion For 2021

Set your goals in to motion for 2021….We are SO close to a new year when we can finally put 2020 in our rear view! I think we’ve all been anxiously awaiting this moment the last several months…or perhaps since 2020 began. 😉 While we may be putting a lid on 2020, not everything will magically disappear or fix itself once Jan. 1, 2021 hits. We must still be INTENTIONAL with how we want 2021 to be for us and our families. We have to know what we value most and what we want this year to look like for our families, even if the circumstances don’t change entirely or even if this is another hard year…because we really don’t know. But, we can go into 2021 with our eyes wide open, prepared, and ready to take on the year with grit and determination. And how we do this is by setting intentional goals that we CAN control; how we run our homes, how we care for our bodies, how we prioritize family time…all of these things we have more control over than we may think. Let’s choose wisely and intentionally for 2021. Let’s choose TOTAL health and wellness for 2021 and beyond. Today I am going to walk you through a proven way to set and achieve goals. Here we go…

Studies show that only about 19% of people who set New Year’s resolutions maintain their goals long term. 

What is goal setting? Goal setting is the practice of cultivating and developing an action plan to motivate and guide someone towards a specific goal. Goal setting is a common practice in self development and can include the use of goal setting techniques such as SMART criteria . Goal setting is the first step in planning ahead for the future and for achieving the life you desire to live in various facets including but not limited to your health, relationships, education, work/career, etc. 

So what is this SMART criteria? 

SMART is simply an acronym for the guide to goal setting. The purpose of using SMART to help guide you in your goal setting process is to provide clarity to your ideas, bring focus to your work, help you to use your time and resources in a productive manner, and help you achieve lasting success for your goals. 

What does SMART stand for? 

Specific: Target a specific area for improvement

Measurable: Set a goal that’s measureable

Attainable/Achievable: Is this goal possible to attain?

Relevant/Realistic: Can this goal realistically be achieved? Is this goal relevant and does it make sense for you?

Time Bound: State when you will get it done and state a specific time frame or end date for goal. 

Next time you want to achieve a specific goal, take some time and break it down into a SMART goal and write down each specific step and how you will achieve it. 

Questions to Ask when Goal Setting: One of the questions I like to ask myself and have my clients ask themselves first and foremost is ‘why are you doing this?’ If we do not assign a bigger ‘why’ to our goal setting, we will have no purpose or value to fall back on when things get tough and we want to throw in the towel. Your ‘why’ is not only your fire starter so to speak, but it’s also your fuel to keep the fire burning. When the flames have simmered down on your goals, what is the thing that will reignite that flame, that fire within you? It needs to be your ‘why’, your deeper purpose and vision for your life. Take some time to think about your ‘why’ and cast a vision for where you want to be in 10 or 20 years. Think about the life you want to look back on when you are 80 years old. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind and the imprint you want to leave on your family and community. 

I know it can seem daunting and overwhelming to think about your life in such a big picture kind of way and then figure out how you are going to get there. The secret sauce is to start small. I am a firm believer that little adds up and that the small daily decisions we make ultimately impact our life long-term. As Annie Dillard once said, “how we live our days is how we live our lives.” So our 80-year old vision for our life has to start here and now, today. Start small. 

Why Small Works: Again, going back to SMART goals, it’s important to have specific and reasonable goals. It can be easy to get excited and jump in with both feet without really thinking about the logistics of how you will achieve the goals you have set. This is one of the biggest reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail. According to US News and World Report, 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. But they don’t have to. 

Find Accountability: Whether it’s a friend, a co-worker, spouse, or a health coach like myself, having an accountability partner will greatly impact your success in maintaining your goals and achieving them! Have your accountability partner check in with you via text or email once a week or however often you decide you need accountability for your specific goals. Working with a health coach is a great way to not only receive accountability but it also provides a time and space to discuss any barriers or obstacles coming in your way and how to overcome them so that your goals stay a reality. 

With these few pointers, I hope you can set your goals into motion this year and every year. And remember, there is nothing special about January 1st. Today is as good a day as any to begin working towards a new goal and begin living a healthier lifestyle. If you have a goal or need to re-evaluate your priorities and how you want to live your life, today is as good a day to begin! I promise you won’t regret it. Don’t wait until next year to begin living a life of purpose and priority, achieving the goals that matter to you. 

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach
Certified Personal Trainer

 

Sources:

 

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201812/why-new-years-resolutions-fail

Healthy Holiday Round Up Part 3

Healthy Holiday round up part 3 is the continuation of a 3 part blog.

You can see ‘Healthy Holiday round up: Part One here.

Part Two here.

I am sure you’ve seen gift guide after gift guide this holiday season from your favorite bloggers. I don’t know about you but the gift guides can be super helpful when buying for that tricky person in your life or getting ideas for teachers, co-workers, and friends this season of giving.

Today I want to provide you with a healthy holiday roundup of some of my PERSONAL FAVORITE resources when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. I am by no means sharing this as a sponsored ad; everything I am sharing I am sharing freely because I genuinely LOVE the products/programs.

As we round out an utterly stressful, tragic year, I think we can all do ourselves a favor and bless ourselves and those around us with the GIFT OF HEALTH as we enter into 2021. If you’re anything like me, this year truly revealed the importance of being grounded in a healthy lifestyle- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Below are just a few ideas and products that I love and that I think you will too….or will love to gift to someone you love this Christmas season.

Mental Health & Wellbeing: 

Val Marie Paper– Val Marie offers some beautiful prayer journals where you can write down, record, and reflect on your prayers throughout the year. The planners offer prompts as well. I love this idea of having a special place to journal prayers and be able to look back on them down the road. What a tangible way to pray away the stress!

Powersheets– I absolutely love this goal planner! It was a game changer for me when it came to me actually writing down and planning out my goals for the year. It’s a beautiful yet practical product. If you are looking for a way to keep track of your goals and begin to live the life you truly want to, this planner is for you!

Thank You Cards– One of the best things I think we can do for our mental health and wellbeing is to move outside of ourselves. It can be so easy to become self absorbed in our own minds- our stresses, troubles, you name it. Oh how our minds shift and our spirits lift when we focus on others! Next time you are having a stressful day or feeling down, whip out a thank you card and write a friend, co-worker, or family member and share with them why you are grateful for them. I think you’ll be surprised what happens and how it makes you feel.

Blue Zones Project– I recently got this book and am so excited to dig in and learn more about the Blue Zones around the world and how these people live in certain areas, “blue zones”, around the world to optimize health and longevity. We actually lived in a Blue Zone area a few years ago when we lived in California, which is where I first heard about it.

Other Health/Wellness: 

Young Living Essential Oils– Essential oils are a great way to invite health and wellness into your home and body. I love the Thieves products from YL as well as their Progessence Plus oil, which I use to help balance my hormones because of my PCOS. There are SO many wonderful products at YL for your home, body, and even children. If you need help with ordering any oils or where to begin, feel free to email me at hello@homebodysoul.com.

Hatch Restore– The Hatch Restore is an alarm clock like no other! It doubles as a sound machine and a smart alarm clock that gently wakes you up with a soothing sunrise light. You can personalize your sleep-wake routine so you get optimal and quality rest, create a soothing mood before bedtime with a variety of sounds, and relax with a soft glow reading light.

Bluelight Glasses– I try to wear my blue light blocking glasses in the evening before bed if I am watching TV or on my phone. The blue light blocking glasses are designed to obviously block blue light which can disrupt our natural release of melatonin, hence why it’s important to wear them before bed to optimize sleep quality.

The Defined Dish Cookbook– I’ve been cooking a lot of these recipes lately and they are so yummy and healthy. This cookbook offers gluten and dairy free recipes that are also Whole30 approved.

Healthy Snacks (Great Stocking Stuffers):

Chomps Meat Sticks– These are SO yummy and SO clean and healthy! Each stick packs 9-10 grams of protein!

Aloha Protein Bars– These organic, plant based protein bars are all-things FREE (gluten, soy, dairy, sugar alcohols etc.). They offer 14 grams of protein and are delish.

Pink Stork Collagen Sticks– I talked about Pink Stork further up in this guide. These collagen sticks are great for on-the-go and they taste yummy in your water with their light berry flavor.

GoMacro Protein Bars– Another yummy and clean, plant based protein bar option for on the go meals. This bar is gluten free and vegan! There are 15 different flavors to choose from.

SmartSweets– Ever get a hankering for some good ol candy?! Here is a healthier alternative. These gummies have only 3 grams of sugar for the entire bag and are free of sugar alcohols as well. They are sweetened with stevia and bursting with fruit flavor!

Alright, there you have it! Those are a few of my favorite things! I hope some of these items bless you and help you on your journey to living a healthy lifestyle.

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach
Certified Personal Trainer

 

Healthy Holiday Round Up Part 1

Healthy holiday roundup…

I am sure you’ve seen gift guide after gift guide this holiday season from your favorite bloggers. I don’t know about you but the gift guides can be super helpful when buying for that tricky person in your life or getting ideas for teachers, co-workers, and friends this season of giving. 

Today I want to provide you with a healthy holiday roundup of some of my PERSONAL FAVORITE resources when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. I am by no means sharing this as a sponsored ad; everything I am sharing I am sharing freely because I genuinely LOVE the products/programs.

As we round out an utterly stressful, tragic year, I think we can all do ourselves a favor and bless ourselves and those around us with the GIFT OF HEALTH as we enter into 2021. If you’re anything like me, this year truly revealed the importance of being grounded in a healthy lifestyle- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Below are just a few ideas and products that I love and that I think you will too….or will love to gift to someone you love this Christmas season. 

 

Clean Beauty & Supplements:

 

Vital Proteins Collagen– I love this brand of collagen powder because it’s clean and packs in 18 grams of protein per serving. I will add it to tea or a smoothie. It’s tasteless and dissolves easily. Collagen is SO important for the health of our skin, hair, and joints. 

 

Pink Stork– This brand is incredible in how they support women and women’s health. I take their fertility support supplement as well as drink some of their teas. They have supplements/vitamins for women in every stage of life. Their products are quality and the company is female-owned and everything is produced in the USA. So many wins! Use code ‘BFF10’ to receive 10% off your order!

 

Beauty Counter Clean Makeup & Skincare– I’ve been using Beauty Counter products for YEARS now and I continue to love them and share them with others. Some of my all time favorite products include their brightening facial oil, resurfacing peel, countercountrol pore cleanser, dew skin tinted moisturizer, luminous powder highlighter, and their twin skin concealer (AMAZING). You have to check this company out if you are looking for clean beauty products that have safe, natural ingredients. 

 

See you next week when we will introduce Part 2-Healthy Programs & Fitness.

Meghan Meredith

HomeBodySoul, Founder

Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Certified Personal Trainer
Connect with us @homebodysoul

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How to Have a Happy & Healthy Holiday Season

Oh the holiday season that is upon us! This most wonderful (yet busy) time of year is filled with food, festivities, gathering, decorating, shopping, and traveling. If you are anything like me, the sights, smells, and music all make this time of year so nostalgic and magical. But along with all of the magic comes the inevitable stress, overeating, last minute shopping, planning/hosting parties, and full calendars for the entirety of the month of December it feels like. 

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK, which is crazy! But there is a 5 week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that we need to plan and prepare for. We all want to enjoy the holiday season and all of the fun and joy it brings, but we also want to do our best to maintain our healthy lifestyle that we’ve worked so hard for. And 6 weeks of festivities and parties and eating can sure do a number to our waistlines and all the hard work we’ve put in. 

The goal of today’s post is to help you feel confident going into this season and ready to take head on the temptations, reduce the stress, and simply enjoy! We’re going to talk about three of the most common “problems” people face this time and year when it comes to maintaining health and wellness and a few tips on how to maintain health given these potential barriers. I think everyone can agree that some of the biggest struggles in staying fit and healthy this time of year revolve around our time, food and drink, and overall stress

TIME

This time of year always seems to fly by. There are never enough hours in a day to get all of the items checked off our list it seems. In order for this season to not become overwhelming and no longer joy-full, we need to make a PLAN to maximize our time and priorities. 

If one of your priorities this holiday season is to continue to exercise and move your body, make a plan for it. Our bodies need just as much exercise during the holiday season as any other time of year. Plan your workouts/movement around travel or plan to move while you travel. Pack a pair of running shoes and some resistance bands. Even walking for just 30 minutes a day will keep you feeling good and keep you active and well. 

Here are some common “problems” or barriers around exercise that arise for people during this time of year and some solutions.

PROBLEM: There isn’t a gym at the hotel or grandma’s house (or wherever you are staying).

SOLUTION:  Body weight exercises are a great way to exercise when you have no equipment. Body weight exercises help to improve balance, coordination, core strength, and flexibility. Stair climbing, walking outside, lunges up and down the driveway, squats while you brush your teeth. 

Travel Tips- Pack those running sneakers and easy to carry equipment like a workout DVD or a jump rope. Those things easily can fit in your carry on or check on luggage. 

PROBLEM: There simply isn’t time to workout, Meghan! Shopping, decorating, cooking, running around…there is no time left for working out. 

SOLUTION: Use a Tabata Timer to do a quick HIIT routine. 

You can download a Tabata timer app on your phone. It’s simple- you do 8 rounds of exercise in 4 minutes. You can choose to do one exercise or two and alternate back and forth. You will complete 20 seconds of all out work followed by a 10 second rest for 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes. Do a couple of tabata’s and I promise you will be sweating and your heart rate will be elevated…and you’ll feel so good afterwards! Exercises like squats, jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups, tricep dips, mountain climbers, and jumping rope are perfect to do with the Tabata timer. 

Second- plan your workouts! Because this season can be so hectic, it may be a good idea to institute early morning workouts for these few weeks. Getting a good morning sweat in will also help you to maintain those healthy habits and choices the rest of the day! If you can’t do 30 minutes to an hour at one go, split up your workout into 10 minute bouts throughout the day. 

PROBLEM: You’re family and friends don’t understand why you want to exercise. 

SOLUTION: Stick to YOUR goals! Don’t let others detract you from your plan and your wellness goals. Stay firm. Maybe invite them along. It’s a good way to de-stress and can be a fun family activity. 

Another family fun activity is to sign up and hit the road for your local Turkey Trot, which is typically a 5K race that you can run/walk. It’s a great way to get in some movement before you put on your stretch pants for your big dinner! 

FOOD AND DRINK

Cookies. Egg Nog. Casseroles. There is always plenty…and plenty of temptation. How can you overcome these temptations around all of the yummy foods and drinks this season?!

 

    Eat a pre-party snack. One trick I tell my clients if they are going to a party or out to a dinner where they know they could splurge and over-eat is to eat an apple before going! Apples are full of fiber and will help fill you up a bit before you even go to dinner, therefore you will consume fewer calories. This will help you to not overeat the bad stuff and keep your appetite in check. 

     Choose your beverages wisely. The holiday season inevitably comes with lots of alcohol consumption between the eggnog, wine, fancy cocktails, and social drinking. Drinking alcohol is consuming empty calories because it won’t curb those hunger pangs. Alcohol doesn’t provide satiety. It’s best to avoid mixed drinks that have a lot of sugar. The number of calories isn’t the issue per say, but rather the number of grams of sugar in these fancy holiday drinks. For example, 1 cup of eggnog typically contains 30-50 grams of sugar depending on the brand. Let’s remember that the daily recommended sugar intake is 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men according to the American Heart Association.

Eat your protein first. When we eat our main protein source first, we help to curb our hunger and keep our blood sugar in check. Eating protein can help to keep your insulin levels lower. Eating protein before a party or first thing at the party will help you to control your cravings for the other high calorie foods. 

Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps to fill your stomach so that you feel fuller and won’t cave to those cravings as much. Try to drink a bottle of water en route to your party or drink several glasses throughout the party. 

Pick your cheat or “treat” meals and fully enjoy it. We all need a cheat meal! That is key to any sustainable life changes and finding balance. We can’t deprive ourselves all of the time, otherwise we will go off the deep end eventually and lose all progress. Each day during the holiday season, we are tempted with treats- whether leftover at home or sitting in the lobby at our office. We could easily consume cookies and pie everyday between Thanksgiving and New Year, which is 37 days by the way for 2020. Let’s say you are consuming an extra 300 calories per day of sweets and goodies, which is equal to about 2 cookies or a piece of cake or pie. This adds up to just over 11,000 calories which equals 3 pounds of fat! The average already overweight person gains about 5 pounds during the holiday season according to NY Times. A survey by Fitness Magazine and Jenny Craig in 2013 found that 47% of women gain 4-5 lbs during the holiday season. So what is the key? My suggestion is to enjoy those holiday parties and get together’s, which typically happen on the weekend, but that will require sacrifice throughout the week. Leave the cookies in the jar at the office and say no to any treats at home or that your kids bring back from school. Eating a reduced-calorie diet, higher-protein diet five days per week and enjoying a couple of holiday parties or get-togethers each week can easily result in maintenance of body weight through the holidays. 

  1. Try new recipes or try replacing ingredients in your favorite recipes with healthier ingredients.Try replacing the not so great ingredients with healthier options. It can be pretty simple to clean up your favorite recipes. Some of my favorite swaps include swapping oil for Greek yogurt in breads, applesauce instead of butter or margarine, whole wheat flour instead of bleached white all-purpose flour, veganaise instead of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, honey or maple syrup instead of pure cane sugar. 
  2. Eat mindfully. Eating mindfully might be a new concept for you. Eating mindfully is simply being more aware of your eating experience. Paying closer attention, notice your thoughts, feelings, sensations of the food. Oftentimes we eat so mindlessly and just put whatever in our mouths and don’t think anything at all about the sensation, taste, texture, etc. Give your body 15-20 minutes to recognize if it is full or not before going back for seconds. 

STRESS

Over the years, this joyful time of year has transpired into a stressful, chaotic time of year for many. The holiday season shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be stress-filled. By using these 5 tips, hopefully you can reclaim your sanity and the season and say good riddance to the stress that every other year has brought you. 

 

  1. Be Realistic. Oftentimes we enter the holiday season with expectation in mind as to how things will go with certain family members, what food we will eat, what fun we will have, etc. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. Try to keep those expectations in check so that you don’t come away feeling disappointed and upset and so that you can be fully present and enjoy the time with family. 
  2. Plan Ahead. Planning ahead does take forethought and time but in doing so, it will greatly reduce your stress you feel later on once the crunch time comes. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup. Also, plan ahead with your budget! Our budget can easily fly out the window this time of year and then create immense stress come January. Think ahead, talk with your spouse or other family members and come up with a plan for your budget so you aren’t overspending and having to pay the repercussions of that later. Maybe instead of gifting to everyone this year, you can start a family gift exchange, or make homemade gifts for friends and co-workers. 
  3. Set Aside Differences. Everytime families come together, there will be differences in opinion, tradition, sometimes values, etc. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  4. Take a Breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include: Taking a walk at night and stargazing .Listening to soothing music. Getting a massage. Reading a book.
  5. Learn to Say ‘No’. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time. Learning to say no is very powerful and freeing. Learning to say No then allows us the freedom to say yes to the things that really matter!

“The more you live in the extremes of all or none, good or bad, the more likely that’s going to get you into difficulty,” says Gary Foster, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International. “The key is that this is a lifestyle. When it’s an on-or-off diet or a boot camp mentality, that’s a short-term behavior. It’s destined not to work out very well.”

We don’t have to live in an all-or-nothing state of mind around the holidays. Starving to over-indulging. Feelings of deprivation to feelings of guilt. 

 Give yourself permission to enjoy but in reasonable portions and reasonable frequencies- not all the time and not the whole cheesecake. The goal is to strike a balance.  

I hope these tips will help lead you into a life-giving, balanced, and enjoyable holiday season.  If you need other accountability, book a health coaching session with me by emailing me at hello@homebodysoul.com. I offer a FREE 30-minute health coaching consult call if you’d like to set a plan in place for your holiday season.

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer

Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I know this post is coming a few days late, but better late than never, especially on an important topic like this. 2020 has been anything but a normal year and with that I feel like October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month didn’t get nearly the attention it typically does. But, I am here today to hopefully shed some light on the subject and show you the importance of FOOD and NUTRITION when it comes to fighting and preventing breast cancer and really, any cancer.

This month is very near and dear to my heart given my mom’s survival of Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer and her subsequent need for a double mastectomy to hopefully prevent breast cancer in her future because of her predisposition as a BRCA1 gene carrier. Praise God for miracles! 

Today I want to share about a cancer fighting diet! There are foods that have been proven to help fight against cancer, prevent it, and even cure it! The food we put into our bodies has such drastic effects on our health and wellbeing. Food can be and is a very powerful tool when it comes to our health! I fully believe that food is medicine!

A FEW BREAST CANCER STATISTICS:

  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2020, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.

Data via breastcancer.org

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with a conviction to fight this horrible disease. Together as women, through education, empowerment, and self-care, I believe we can beat this. Today I want to focus on the power of food and how food can help us to combat this cancer and many others.

WHAT DOES FOOD HAVE TO DO WITH CANCER?

Cancer is really just abnormal cell growth. Inflammation is the underlying issue that precipitates cancerous tumor initiation, progression, and growth. Studies have found that 30-40% of all cancers can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and through dietary measures.

The root causes of cancer are often times complex and unknown, but possible causes include:

  • Poor diet
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Genetics
  • High stress levels
  • Poor digestion and nutrient absorption- Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Lack of physical activity

LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD

In general, eating a plant based diet has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer. Strive to eat more whole foods instead of processed foods. Below is a list of some of the top cancer fighting foods that have been listed on many reputable sites and throughout research articles, etc.

LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES

We all know we should be eating more greens. Eating green vegetables is ingrained in us from a young age thanks to our mama’s. Well, looks like there is a good reason after all. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, collard greens, etc. are all rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamin A and Vitamin C (beta-carotene) are the most common vitamins found in leafy greens and contribute to their cancer fighting effects. “And the benefits keep coming; as natural sources of glucosinolates, they also contain antibacterial and antiviral properties, inactivate carcinogens, help reprogram cancer cells to die off, and prevent tumor formation and metastasis. These powerhouse chemicals are known to break down during the chewing and digestion process into biologically active compounds that prevent cancer cells growth, which are referred to as indoles, thiocyanates and isothiocyanate.” – Dr. Axe

CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES

Eat up those Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and cauliflower! The cancer preventing effect comes through the chewing of these vegetables, surprisingly. Cruciferous vegetables are chock full of all different kinds of antioxidants like glutathione, sulforaphanes and insoles. You can roast these vegetables, add them to stir-fry, eat raw with hummus, or add them to soup.

BRIGHT ORANGE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

The bright orange pigment in fruits and vegetables means they are radiating phytochemicals! The main phytochemical found in bright orange fruits and veggies is carotenoids. Carotenoids are derived from Vitamin A and include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Beta-carotene in particular has been found to help fight cancers of the skin, eyes, and organs, along with promoting detoxification and liver health. Eat sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, pumpkin, squash, and carrots- just to name a few.

GARLIC

Bring on the stinky breath! Again, phytochemicals to the rescue. The phytochemicals found in garlic have been found to stop the formation of carcinogens such as nitrosamines from growing in the stomach and intestines. Nitrosamines enter our system when we eat nitrates, which are a common food preservative and are oftentimes found in deli meat, bacon, sausage, etc. Garlic can help fight against stomach, esophageal, colon, and breast cancers.

NUTS AND SEEDS

Because seeds and nuts are low in saturated fat, they are a great addition to a plant based diet. “Chia seeds and flaxseeds are two of the most nutrient-dense seeds in the world. They provide fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and a range of important minerals. Hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also beneficial and full of healthy fatty acids, as are walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds. Their health benefits are best sprouted and can be used easily in smoothies, baked goods and with yogurt. Aim for two tablespoons daily.”- Dr. Axe. Flaxseed also contains a beneficial plant compound, lignin, which helps fight against cancer. Eating nuts and seeds has been shown to decrease the incidence rates of colorectal and breast cancers.

MUSHROOMS

Any kind of mushroom in the mushroom family has been linked to help immune health and fight against cancer. Reishi, cordyceps and maitake in particular can improve immune function and cell regeneration. If you aren’t into eating these funky fungi, you can find them in pill/capsule form and in some supplements!

TRADITIONAL TEAS

Tea contains many flavonoids, which are known for their antioxidants. Kaempferol, a flavonoid, has been shown to have a protective nature against cancer. “Researcher Margaret Gates, a doctoral candidate at Harvard’s School of Public Health, suggests that consuming between 10 milligrams and 12 milligrams daily of kaempferol — the amount found in four cups of tea –offers protection against ovarian cancer.”

Source via WebMD

FRESH HERBS AND SPICES

Turmeric in particular is a super-spice! Turmeric contains curcumin which is the main ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric is often used as a flavor/spice in Indian dishes. Turmeric can be added to rice, chicken, lentils, and vegetables. Turmeric and curcumin have been proven to fight against bladder, gastrointestinal, colon, and breast cancers. Turmeric mainly helps to prevent and decrease inflammation. Try adding 1 tsp. of turmeric into your daily meals. It can be added to eggs, a stir fry, or used in a chicken seasoning blend.

BERRIES

Berries are some of the most antioxidant filled foods on this planet! Berries contain a plethora of the proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which are known to help reduce free radicals and the damage of free radicals. So many berries are included in this category too- blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, goji berries, and blackberries.

OTHER IMPORTANT SUPPLEMENTS

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that not only helps build strong bones through its ability to help absorb calcium, but it also can prevent cancer. A recent report by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) showed a link between increased vitamin D intake and reduced breast cancer risk. It found vitamin D to lower the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50%. Researchers believe that Vitamin D helps prevent cancer by lowering and prohibiting the growth of cancerous cells. Vitamin D can be found in supplement form but you can also meet the recommended amount through sunshine, seafoods such as cod, shrimp, and salmon, and through eggs. The RDA of Vitamin D is 1,000 IU. By soaking up 10 minutes of sunshine each day, you can get approximately 5,000 IU’s of Vitamin D (with 40% of your body exposed).

PROBIOTICS

Remember how I mentioned our gut flora as a risk factor  at the beginning of this post? So many of us have (to some degree) leaky gut syndrome and suffer from inflammation in our gut which leads to negative health effects. “The human gut microbiota has a significant effect on many aspects of human physiology such as metabolism, nutrient absorption, and immune function. Imbalance of the microbiota has been implicated in many disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, asthma, psychiatric illnesses, and cancers. As a kind of functional foods, probiotics have been shown to play a protective role against cancer development in animal models. Clinical application of probiotics indicated that some probiotic strains could diminish the incidence of postoperative inflammation in cancer patients. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy-related diarrhea was relieved in patients who were administered oral probiotics. By modulating intestinal microbiota and immune response, some strains of probiotics can be used as an adjuvant for cancer prevention or/and treatment.” – NCBI Pub Med

Food is medicine! What we eat and put into our bodies matters for our immediate and long-term health. Don’t underestimate the POWER of whole foods…it could be life or death. Eat well to BE WELL!

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer

My Favorite Exercise: The Burpee

My favorite exercise happens to be the burpee. Some begin to quiver at the mere uttering of the word burpee. If you’ve ever done one, you know the challenge they pose. If you haven’t done one but have watched someone else do a burpee, you probably got winded just watching them and vowed never to put yourself through that terrible misery. But fear not, today I am going to tell you why this exercise is my personal favorite and why you should add it to your repertoire at the gym. Because there are so many variations of a burpee, surely there is one for everyone, of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. 

So, what exactly is a burpee? The burpee is a total body exercise. No muscle goes untouched with this one and that’s the beauty of it. It’s not only an effective cardio exercise that will get your heart rate up after only one, but it also aims to tighten and tone all the right areas of one’s body…and who doesn’t want that?! 

Why do I love the burpee so much? Burpees are one of my go-to exercises solely because you get so much bang for your buck. I am not a runner; in fact, I practically abhor it. Why you ask? Because running is boring to me and it takes a lot of energy, time, and is rough on my precious joints…oh and not to mention the excruciating calf cramps I get- but that’s a whole other topic for another day. In the amount of time it takes to run 3 miles, I could have completed my burpees, burned just as many if not more calories, left the gym, went into the grocery store, and drove home. Well, maybe not quite all of that but you get my drift. Burpees are one of the highest calorie burning exercises out there. Why? Because you are literally using your entire body- moving that body up and down, in and out. These things are fast and furious!

Let’s learn some history of the burpee and find out where it came from. 

The burpee was first developed in the 1930’s by Royal H. Burpee. Royal H. Burpee was an applied physiologist from Columbia University and was the first one to coin the burpee test. He created this exercise as part of his PhD thesis “as a quick and simple way to assess fitness.” Could you imagine if our only fitness test to this day to assess our fitness was a burpee test? Yikes. And it’s to no surprise, the exercise then became popular in the United States Armed Services. The burpee test was used to test recruits for World War II to quickly and effectively assess for agility, coordination, and strength. 

 So, the burpee not only burns big calories, but it also offers great benefits as a cardio exercise and works all of your major muscles. What’s not to love? 

Another thing I love about burpees is their portability. And by portability, I mean you can do them anywhere your body goes because you don’t need a single piece of equipment. Now that’s great! So, next time you’re traveling for work or need to squeeze in a quick and effective workout at home before the kids get home from school or wake up from their nap, whip out a few burpees. I promise you’ll be sweating in no time and feel like such a star when you’re finished. Their empowering and actually quite fun, at least for this fitness guru. I hope you find them just as empowering and effective! 

 

Let’s Break Down the Burpee

 

The burpee at its core combines a squat, a push-up and a jump. Here’s how to do it in 4 steps. 

 

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip width apart. Squat down and place your hands, palms down, on the floor in front of you directly under your shoulders, being sure to keep your knees over your ankles (like a proper squat) and your chest lifted. 

 

Step 2: Jump both feet back and extend your arms so that your body is in a high plank position- long and symmetrical. Be sure to create a straight line with your back and keep your hips slightly lifted.

 

Step 3: Pull your legs back in so you are in a crouching squat position with your palms on the floor in front of you. 

 

Step 4: Stand and jump straight up in the air with your arms extended upwards, landing softly on the balls of your feet with your hips shifted back and knees in line with your ankles, like a proper squat. 

** Remember to engage your core the entire time! This is also a great core exercise! ** 

This is the basics of a burpee. If you want an added challenge, add a push-up in between step 2 and 3. A burpee with the pushup is the form the Military most commonly uses. 

Like I said before, there are many variations of a burpee. If you have problems with your joints and do not like to jump, simply step your feet back and in and skip the jump up in the air in step 4. You can also simply step your feet back and in if you are overweight and need something with less of an impact and a little easier to begin with. You can always work up to jumping the feet back and adding the jump up at the end. 

Below I will share a few variations of the burpee. Some of the variations include removing or shifting an arm or a leg (requiring more core stabilization) or working in a different direction or adding a more explosive move to increase strength and power in the body. 

 

  1. Mountain Climber Burpee: Perform the standard burpee steps. When you get to the plank position to do the push-up, perform a mountain climber instead of the push-up. To do a mountain climber, alternate pulling one leg into your chest, alternating each side twice. Be sure to keep your hips from sagging and keep a flat back, core engaged. Return to the plank position before finishing the remaining steps of the burpee. 

 

  1. Jump Variations: You can also add variety to the jump at the end of the burpee. Varying the jump causes the lower body to do more work by controlling the hips, knees, and ankles. Adding jump variations helps your body to build strength, power, and stability in different planes of motion. Some different jump variations include a tuck jump, broad jump, and a single leg jump. 

For the tuck jump burpee, complete the burpee as usual and at the end instead of simply jumping straight up, jump straight up and tuck your knees in towards your chest. 

For the broad jump, instead of jumping straight up, jump out trying to cover as much distance in front of you as possible. 

The single leg burpee adds great challenge because it requires a lot of core stabilization and balance. You can either do the push-up and the final jump on a single leg or just the final jump on a single leg. Be sure to draw that core in to help you stay balanced and jump as high as you can on that single foot, landing softly. 

So, there you have it. I hope you feel inspired to add a few burpees to your next workout. Start with one and work your way up. Once you’ve mastered the regular burpee, try some of these variations. Take it slow and listen to what your body says. Even if you can’t do the jumps and you’re slowly stepping your feet back one at a time and coming up slowly, you are still burning a lot of calories by moving your entire body up and down and you are working on core stabilization, balance, and coordination.

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer

How To Read A Food Label

How To Read A Food Label

Last week we covered navigating the grocery store and how to best go about that to stay on track with our health and wellness goals. This week I want to help you learn how to decipher the black and white box aka a nutritional food label on the back of our food boxes. Learning how to read a food label in the grocery store as we are shopping is crucial to helping us make wise decisions that align with our goals. 

While I think most of us could recognize a food label, I am not sure that we all know how to read and interpret one. Nutritional food labels can be confusing at best and misleading at worst. It’s important to know how to read a food label so that we can make educated and wise choices when it comes to the food we are nourishing our bodies with. I want to break down this little black and white box so that the next time you head to the grocery store or pull something out of your pantry, you can read it, understand it, and be empowered to make healthier choices. Knowing how to properly read a food label can not only help us to limit nutrients like unhealthy fats (saturated and trans), but also give us an insight into increasing nutrients that we often do not consume enough of such as dietary fiber and calcium. 

The purpose of a nutrition food label is to help consumers make quick, informed decisions when it comes to food. A nutrition label can help educate us to make healthier food choices based on the information provided.

So, what are the key components to a food label? Every food label provides the following information (from the top of the label to the bottom)- serving size, calories, nutrients (macro and micronutrients), % DV (daily value), and a listing of each ingredient. Now- let’s break it down further and discuss each of these areas of a nutrition food label.

 

SERVING SIZE: The serving size is the amount that people typically eat at one time. This information is critical to how we read and interpret the remainder of the information below on the food label. The nutrition facts and information on each label are based on one serving size. For example, if the serving size is one cup and you consume two cups, you then need to double the calories consumed and double each of the other nutrients listed, as well as the % DV.

 

CALORIES: This area displays the total number of calories in a single serving. This number would need to be adjusted if you eat more or less of the serving size. The calories listed can help us manage our weight as calories are the measure of the amount of energy you get from one serving of that food. As a general rule of thumb, a food that contains 40 or less calories is a low-calorie food, a food with 100 calories is moderate, and a food containing 400 calories or more is a high caloric food. This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

 

MACRONUTRIENTS: Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and protein. 

Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates are measured in grams on a nutrition label. Sugar, starch, and dietary fiber make up the total grams of carbs on the label. Fiber is a healthy nutrient that we want to aim to get 100% of the DV. Choose foods that have at least 2-4 grams of fiber per serving. It’s important to watch our sugar consumption as foods with added sugars add calories but do not provide essential nutritional value. Read the ingredient list to make sure added sugars are not in the first few ingredients. Sugar comes in many different names so be on the lookout for these words- sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose. 

Fat- When looking at the fat content on a food label, we want to pay attention specifically to the amount of saturated fat and trans fat. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lowers our good cholesterol, therefore we want to choose foods with 1 gram or less of trans fat. We also want to choose foods low in saturated fat to help prevent heart disease. 

Protein- Protein is an essential nutrient used by our body. Food labels generally do not provide a % DV for protein, so use the grams listed as a guide. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories. I typically encourage my clients to aim for 20-30 grams of protein per meal and around 10 grams for snacks. 

 

 

MICRONUTRIENTS: Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which are found in the lower section of a nutritional food label. Most Americans do not get enough fiber, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, and iron in their diets. When reading a food label, we want to be sure to get enough of these essential nutrients. Aim for a higher % DV (daily value) for nutrients like Vitamin A, C, D, calcium, and iron. 

Sodium- Sodium also known as salt, is one of the micronutrients that we need to be really watchful of. Most sodium in the American diet is hidden in packaged, processed foods, which is why we need to know how to read this portion of the food label. Look for 140 mg or less of sodium per serving. The daily recommended allowance for sodium is 2,300 mg but more ideally we should aim for around 1,500 mg of sodium per day for adults. 

 

% DAILY VALUE: This percentage is based on the daily value recommendations for key nutrients based on a 2,000 calorie diet by public health experts. The percent DV that you see on a food label is for the entire day, not just one meal or snack. For example, a food that has a 5% DV of fat provides 5% of the total fat a person should consume when eating 2,000 calories a day. A low % DV is 5% or less. We want to aim for low DV % in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A high % DV is 20% or more. We want to aim for higher % DV in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

 

INGREDIENT LIST: Any food that contains more than one ingredient, must list out each ingredient on the label. Ingredients are listed with the largest amounts first and in descending order by weight or amount used in the food item. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Another rule of thumb I like to go by when choosing foods is whether or not I am able to pronounce the ingredients listed. If I cannot pronounce certain ingredients or I don’t out rightly know what they are, I likely don’t want to be putting it into my body. Also- if you see any sugars listed in the first 3-5 ingredients, it’s best to leave it on the shelf and find a healthier option. A few other tips when it comes to reading ingredient lists- steer clear of bleached, white flour and words like fortified and enriched flour as these grains are refined and more heavily processed. Look for words like whole, sprouted, rolled, and stone ground. These are all unrefined, whole grains which are a much healthier option. 

There is one way we can avoid having to read a food label and that is to choose foods that do not have a food label- fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. We should aim to eat more fresh, whole foods that are not processed but I know there are times when we cannot avoid eating something that is packaged. I hope this post educated you on how to properly interpret a food label so that you feel empowered the next time you are at the grocery store so you can fill your cart with the healthiest choices.

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer