Browsed by
Category: Health

How to Read Nutrition Labels & How They’re Changing

How to Read Nutrition Labels & How They’re Changing

(This post originally written for Solcana Wellness)
from CNN.com

This year, the FDA announced that all packaged foods will, within the next 3 years depending on the size of the food company, need to comply with new rules and updates for labeling nutrition facts. Here’s what to look for in the coming years:

  • Nutrition label updates:
    • the servings per container will be in a larger, bolder typeface and serving size will be updated to reflect more typical serving sizes based on how consumers eat (such as 3 servings per pint of ice cream versus 4.)
    • Calories will be in a larger typeface
    • Percentage daily values will be updated based on any new serving sizes declared
    • Under the total carbohydrate section, there will be a new row for added sugars
    • micro and milligrams of nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium will be listed, as well as their percent values.
    • New footnotes will explicitly describe percentage daily values based on a 2000 calorie daily diet.
    • Calories from fat will be removed from the header. Total fat, carbs and protein will still be listed in amounts.
    • Multi-serving packages will now have nutrition information per serving AND per container.
    • Total package calories will be written for packages that contain between one and two servings, instead of listing only per serving.
    • Dietary fiber will be added to foods that contain naturally occurring fiber or that are purported to be a healthful choice based on the fiber content.

Sooooooo what does this mean for you? Pretty good stuff, for the most part! The fact that total servings per container will be reassessed for multiple products depending on consumer dietary habits is a big deal. This means that that bag of fruit gummies in the checkout aisle will likely list one or two servings, instead of 4 (not uncommon currently). In addition, more items that have multiple servings will list the nutrition facts per servings as well as the nutrition facts for the total package. All this means is more clarity for the consumer. Nutrition labels are utilize fewer tricks under these guidelines. I’m particularly excited that the “total calories from fats” section will be taken away from the main label header. This really shows that there IS positive movement away from the fat phobia of the last 30 years. It demonizes fat quantity less and puts it on equal ground with carbohydrates and proteins now. Still, as a savvy consumer, it’s best to read the nutrition label along WITH the ingredient list. It’s in your best interest to be aware of quantity and quality of the packaged foods available to you.

Another hot ticket addition to nutrition labels (feel free to nerd out with me here) is the added sugars section that will be added under the total carbohydrates. Again, cool that the FDA is shifting focus away from fats and bit and towards sugars. One thing to remember is that a food can still be high sugar without any added sugars. However, now you can tell just how MUCH sugar is added to create the taste of the product in question. For those who have taken my Essential You group nutrition class, you understand not only the huge impact of added sugars in our health and economy, but also you understand what effect ALL sugars have in our bodies.

At the end of the day, informed choices are empowered choices. The new labels will have more information, therefore giving you more ability to make those choices and feel really, really solid about it. What’s not to love about that?

how to read nutrition labels

Migraines: Nutrients for Lasting Relief

Migraines: Nutrients for Lasting Relief

(This article originally written for Solcana Wellness)

I thought I’d talk a bit about the migraine today.

Shudder.

As a person who has had a history of getting migraines in the past, let me just say: Migraines are NO joke! Not only can they bring your day and the plans you had for it to an abrupt halt, but they can last for more than one full day, and the after effects can lessen your quality of life for a day or so afterwards as well as your body recuperates. Yeouch!

What is a Migraine?

  • A migraine includes both neurological and vascular changes during the migraine attack itself, and it includes a hypersensitivity to different stimuli that can then create pain, causing a cascade effect including activation of blood vessel inflammation, which in turn creates more pain signals.

Migraines often come in four stages, though many people do not experience all stages.

Migraine Stages:

  • Prodrome
    • a day or so before the migraine itself occurs, there may be warnings signs such as neck stiffness, bowel changes (trending towards constipation), increased thirst and yawning.
  • Aura
    • An aura is a visual disturbance experienced by some people who get migraines. They can appear as spiky, shifting, flashing or zig-zaging patterns in the visual field. They typically start as a small dot and grow and expand over the course of 30 to 60 minutes, often before the pain of the migraine itself begins.
  • Migraine Attack
    • This is when the pain begins, and lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some of the symptoms may include thrubbing pain in the head or neck, vomiting, nausea, major sensitivity to light, smells, touch or sounds, difficulty with vision, muscle pain and feeling lightheaded.
  • Post-drome
    • This is the follow-up phase to the painful attack, which can bring about tiredness, confusion, continued sensitivity visual or other stimuli and emotional exhaustion, too.

So when someone says they experience migraines, do them a kindness and don’t ask how they’re different from a headache!

What can typically bring on a migraine for many sufferers are things called triggers. These triggers can vary widely depending on the person, and often it may take one or two triggers coming together as a perfect storm for someone to then experience a migraine.

Common triggers:

  • Being under hydrated
  • Skipping sleep
  • Stress
  • Barometric pressure changes (abrupt weather changes)
  • Tight upper back, neck or jaw muscles
  • Hormonal changes around menstruation
  • Food additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame
  • Preserved or aged foods, such as some cheeses, coffee, chocolate
  • Wine (nitrates, nitrites, tannins and yeasts may all be contributors), alcohol in general,
  • Chemical sensitivities (strong perfumes, laundry detergents, secondhand smoke)
  • Medications
  • And more…

What can I do BEFORE the migraine attack?

Luckily, because migraines triggers are so specific to the individual, there’s often plenty you can do to start to understand and even mitigate the likelihood of migraines before they occur:

  • Keep a journal
    • to be specific, a food, drink, and environment journal. Write down the foods you are eating, being specific about when you eat them. Also note any beverages, including amount of water you drink throughout the day. Add in anything you notice, such as feelings of lethargy, slight headaches, the weather. Bring awareness to what’s going on around you and you may be surprised what it reveals! Take out offending foods or drinks to help yourself as needed. Don’t drink enough water and think that may be a contributor? Try bringing a water around with you at work. Take an extra break (if you can) to fill up your water bottle. Add sliced lemons, limes, cucumber, strawberry tops or blueberries to your water to keep it interesting. Grab a pack of sparkling water so you’re excited to drink water.
  • Reduce stress loads
    • this means begin to balance your blood sugar levels (when they’re out of whack, that’s a stress), identify emotional stress, check out how often and when you work out, and what your sleep looks like these days. What are actionable steps you can take to manage these? Is it adding a 10 minute dog walk in the morning to geting your body moving? Is it getting breakfast ready the night before so you have more time to sleep? If tight muscles may be a culprit, get mobilizing, massage or use a lacrosse ball to smash out the tight muscles. Ask a coach or mobility instructor for specific movements to help. Many people experience “let-down” migraines, too. These are migraines that can occur on weekends or times when we naturally unwind, especially if we’re someone that powers though the week frequently. Another thing to note in the journal of yours!
  • Herbs such as raspberry leaf, vitex or feverfew
    • discuss these with a knowledgeable professional, but raspberry leaf and vitex are both useful herbs to help balance hormone levels for those who experience migraines with their cycle. Feverfew is an herb that can act as a preventative for migraines.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • our bodies need enough omega-3 fatty acids to help our inflammatory processes work efficiently, so bring on the fatty fish, chia seed, walnuts and flaxseeds.

What can I do DURING the migraine attack?

Once you’re in the migraine itself, it’s a whole other ball game. I personally was prescribed medication when I was a teenager that never really helped the pain, so taking it was not very motivating and made me seek out other options. Again, just like migraine triggers are personal, so too are relief options, playing around with them is key to find out what works for you. There is always a place for medication (and that’s a dialogue to have with your doctor), so it will not be a focus of this post, and instead more natural remedies are what I can speak to. Here are a few ideas:

  • Magnesium: Oral magnesium supplements are a great preventative, helping muscles relax appropriately and assisting in boatloads of body processes. In addition, topical magnesium such as taking an epsom salt bath or using magnesium oil spray is a great way to target specific muscles that are clenching up.
  • Ice cubes: sometimes keeping an ice cube or drinking very cold liquid through a straw to hit your soft palate (the top and back of your month) can feel soothing during the middle of an attack.
  • Drink caffeine: If you know me, you may be saying “wait, what?” right now. There’s totally a time and place for using caffeine, and a migraine attack can be one of them! The theory is that caffeine is vasoconstrictive and can aid in managing blood flow, helping with pain. Just be aware of the amount of caffeine being ingested, because feeling jittery or like you can’t fall asleep compounded with an attack is well, ouch.
  • Eat something: make sure you aren’t working on an empty stomach during this time, even if you are feeling nauseated and not like eating. Half an apple with a nut or seed butter, or carrots and hummus. Doesn’t need to be super flavorful, just needs to give you body some energy while it’s managing what’s happening.
  • Massage: especially if you migraine triggers include tight muscles, see if you or someone else can massage your neck, traps or upper back muscles to provide some relief.
  • Remove stimuli: go to a dark room and lay down. Powering through often won’t help, or can extend the post-drome stage after the attack.

So. Migraines. There’s a whole lot to them, and they’re painful to experience, which makes them doubly intense to try to figure out. However, you’re not alone, and it can be extremely useful to understand what your triggers may be. I went from living in fear of seeing the aura and not knowing my triggers when I was a young teenager to now going over 2 years without experiencing a true migraine! Once you can get a hold of your triggers, it lessens the likelihood of that “perfect storm” to occur. Add in those preventative measures and dang, suddenly the mysterious migraines isn’t such a big question mark as it once was.

migraines nutrients

How to Naturally Smash Sugar Cravings

How to Naturally Smash Sugar Cravings

(this post originally created for Solcana Wellness)

Anyone that’s holding off on refined sugars, you may be noticing something by now… cravings. Specifically, sugar cravings. If you’re in this boat, guess what! You are the captain, and you have the chance to steer this experience in any direction. Aw, yeah! Here are my top tips for leaving sugar cravings in the dust!


 

Keep Blood Sugar Levels Even

You’re already starting to work on this just by leaving out the refined sugars–good job! Keep it up by emphasizing wholesome fats (nuts, avocados, coconut oil, butter) in your meals and by getting enough protein (eggs, pulled pork, lentils) at each meal. And speaking of meals–keep them consistent! Aim to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, and allow yourself time during the day for lunch and dinner. It’s so easy in our fast-paced lives to skip meals! When blood sugar is regulated, it’s easier to go longer stretches without meals (which makes intermittent fasting an option for many people!), but until then, keep meals and even some snacks handy while your blood sugar is working on evening out.


 

Drink Water, Try Salt

Sometimes, people are seriously thirsty and they don’t even know it! Try drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, and notice if that affects cravings. After that, try drinking a glass of water when you’re having a craving and notice what happens. After THAT, try adding a pinch of sea salt to your first glass of water in the morning. You may be surprised how this informs your taste for foods the rest of the day.


 

Eat a Spoonful of Fat

Coconut oil, coconut butter/manna, coconut milk, unsweetened nut butters, half an avocado, all of these are fatty foods that can help the body understand it’s cravings nutrients–not sugars. Give a spoonful a go and notice how it makes you feel. If you still crave something sweet, try adding an apple or banana next time and get in those happy carbohydrates!


 

Eat Good Bacteria

All of our guts have special friends, those good bacteria, that help us get the job done day in and day out. Give your digestion a boost it may be craving by having a serving of a naturally fermented food like sauerkraut, kimchi, unsweetened kefir or yogurt. For this, I’d hold off on kombucha, since it’s a sugar ferment and sometimes that will just increase the sugar craving.


 

So those are my four top tips to help smash out those sugar cravings! Eat regular, satisfying meals, drink water, get in those good fats and bring on the probiotics! But I want to hear from you–what works for you when you’re craving the sugar?

how to smash sugar cravings

(note: I do earn a small commission if you choose to purchase these products through the above Amazon Affiliates links through my Amazon Affiliates store.)