Tag Archives: weight

Shop Smart by Reading Labels

Breaking Down Food Labels

While you’re shopping, understanding the nutrition labels on food can help you make smart choices for your family. We can help you make the most of them.

New Food Label for a New Era

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new Nutrition Facts label with some important improvements:

What's Different?
Image via the FDA

When you see them side by side, you can see that the new label calls out the actual serving size and calories per serving much bigger. At the store, this can quickly help you see how good for you something is in terms of calories, and how much bang for your buck you’re getting in what you buy.

New vs Old Label
Image via the FDA

It also calls out added sugars, which are sugars (like sugar, honey, or corn syrup) that are added to packaged food. Fresh fruit has natural sugars, so juices don’t list the sugar that’s naturally occurring from the fruit as added sugar.

And now it calls out the exact amount of nutrients, like vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

The FDA’s new labels have also changed serving sizes to better show how much people actually eat of certain foods:

New Serving Sizes
Image via the FDA

While a half a cup of ice cream used to be the recommended serving size, most people are scooping out closer to a cup, so the FDA wanted to make sure you know how many calories you’re actually eating in that bowl of ice cream.

Making the Most of Food Labels

1. Serving Size

Serving SizeWhen you pick something up at the store, start with the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label.

It will tell you the total number of servings in the package, and the new serving size, which better shows how much of it you actually eat.

These serving sizes are standard, so it’s easier for you to compare the calories and nutrients in similar foods to find the healthiest brand for you. Serving sizes also come in measurements you know, like cups, followed by grams.

2. Calories

CaloriesNext, look at the number of calories per serving. Calories are a measure of how much energy you’ll get from food.

Many people eat more calories than they need to, so keeping track of how many you eat can help you with your weight. Most people should eat around 2,000 calories per day.

When you’re looking at the calories, if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, then 40 calories is low for a serving, 100 calories is in the middle, and 400 or more calories is high. In fact, you should shoot for whole meals to be around 400 calories.

3. Nutrients to Limit

The nutrients listed first are Nutrients to Limitones that most Americans get plenty or too much of.

Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar can raise your risk of certain diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The bold headlines are most helpful for you when you’re shopping, so you can quickly see how much of these is in something, while the subheads, like saturated and trans fat, can help you focus on a nutrient you’re interested in.

The percentages along the side tell you how much of your 2,000 calorie diet this food takes up. So in this image, the total fat in this food takes up 10% of all the fat you should eat in a whole day.

Dietary fiber and protein that are mixed into this list are good for you and important to keep an eye on. Fiber can help you better process food and reduce the risk of heart disease, and protein can help you stay full longer and is important if you’re trying to build muscle.

4. Nutrients You Need

Important NutrientsThe bottom section of nutrients are ones that many don’t get enough of, so they’ve been highlighted to help you buy foods rich in them.

These are nutrients that can help you improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help you build strong bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later in life, and potassium can help lower your blood pressure.

5. Footnote

Label FootnoteThe footnote is more simple in the new design, too. It just reminds you that the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Now that you know what the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label are telling you, it will be easy to look for food with good calorie counts, limited salt, fat, and sugar, and plenty of healthy nutrients, like calcium.

Up Next:

Why shop organic? Our Organic 101 guide makes it easy!

Make sense of expiration dates while you’re shopping to make the most of your groceries.

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Checkup for Thyroid Awareness Month

Thyroid Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Do you know how important your thyroid is?

The Importance of Your Thyroid

 

About 1% of Americans will develop enlarged thyroids, and it affects  5-10 times more women than men.

Women and Thyroid Problems

 

Most of the 30 million people with a thyroid condition don’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone.

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Thyroid cancer can be painless and without symptoms. Learn more to protect yourself.

Thyroid Cancer Danger

 

To find thyroid problems and cancer early, learn how to do this simple Neck Check self-exam.

It’s extremely important to take care of the thyroid during pregnancy and infancy. Why?

Your Thyroid During Pregnancy

 

Medication adherence is key for those with hypothyroidism. MyPillCheck can help.

Taking Your Thyroid Meds

 

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Fighting for Fitness with Exercise

My Healthy Journey: Time to Sweat

I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.

I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.

But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!

I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.

Now, I’ve been doing P90X. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it used to have infomercials on TV, which automatically makes me suspicious. But I actually know a number of people who have done it, and my goal is less to get a killer six-pack and more to get in better shape, so I don’t really need it to live up to all its TV promises.

I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, so I didn’t spend all of the money they’re talking about. I’m also not following all of their meal plans or the exact exercise plan. Each day you’re supposed to do a different workout for a different part of your body, and they’re each about an hour and a half long with warmups and cool downs.

I usually can’t make it through the whole thing yet; they’re really difficult! I also do them more like every other day because I’m so sore the day after. They make you pour sweat, and they make you want to lie on the ground in your own sweat puddle to catch your breath.

But I can already see some improvements! And that’s really satisfying. Am I out running yet? No (it’s been so rainy!). But I am getting cardio and strengthening done, in my own bedroom no less.

Plus, I’ve found some new interests by doing them. For instance, there’s a kickboxing workout that I love, so maybe in the future, I might try kickboxing classes!

Do I think I’ll stick with this level of workout forever? Definitely no! Eventually, I’d like to mix things like this up with other activities, like yoga, runs, and more simple workouts. Once it’s a habit, it will really be more about doing something every day.

It’s all about finding the things that will keep you interested, engaged, and MOVING.

There are so many reasons (and studies on) why you should  exercise. Mayo Clinic breaks it down perfectly: Exercise controls weight, fights health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you sleep.

And Rally, our wellness tool, knows how important it is, too. It has tons of great missions to get you moving, like exercise 30 minutes every day, work up a sweat 3x a week, swim 30 minutes, and work your core, as well as weightlifting and walking missions.

So to help you get on a great fitness track that will entertain you and doesn’t require an expensive package, I’ve rounded up some activities for you to try for some of these missions.

Exercise 30 Minutes Every Day

43 Workouts That Allow You to Watch An Ungodly Amount of Television
100 No-Equipment Workouts

Work Up a Sweat 3x a Week

PopSugar Workout Music
Top 100 Running Songs

Run 30 Minutes

7 Easy Ways to Become a Runner
Beginner’s Running Guide
3 Methods to Run Faster

Swim 30 Minutes

The Ultimate Pool Workout
6 Tips to Improve Your Swimming Right Now
Make A Splash Infographic

Swimming's Benefits Infographic
Image via MyMedicalForum

Work Your Core

10-Minute Core-Blasting Pilates Workout

Quick Workout for a Powerful Core
Image via Buzzfeed’s 9 Quick Total Body Workouts

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Health Checklist for Summer's End

Summer Health Checklist

Your kids probably just kicked off summer vacation, but between the trips to the pool, family vacations, and summer sporting events, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to get your kids ready for next school year. This back-to-school health checklist can help!

Shots

Many schools won’t allow any students to come to school without their immunization record. Immunizations, or shots, help expose your kids to a tiny dose of a disease so that their bodies will already know how to fight off a bigger dose if they come in contact with it again.

These shots protect them from all kinds of diseases, from measles to cervical cancer. And they’re safe!

Kids get different shots at different times, so these handy charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you figure out what they need this year:

Health Alliance covers most immunizations, including flu shots. 

Vision

As many as one in 20 kids can’t see out of one of their eyes. But if they’ve been living without vision in that eye all along, they might not even know something is off.

Expressing that they have trouble seeing can also be difficult for young children, and it can be just as hard for parents to realize their kids are having trouble seeing.

Seeing well is key to learning to read and write and doing well in school. So there’s no better time than back-to-school season to get your kids a vision checkup to see if they need glasses or an updated prescription.

Talk to the School

One of the most important parts of this time of year is talking to your kids’ school. Making sure the school has up-to-date information could save your child’s life.

  • Is the emergency contact information correct for your family? Can the school reach you or your family if something happens?
  • Does the school have a full list of all the medications your child takes? Even if he or she doesn’t take them at school, it is important the school knows what your child is on in case of an emergency.
  • Does the school know of all the health problems it might have to deal with? For example, does the school know what your child is allergic to, like peanuts or bee stings?
  • Does your child have any physical restriction, like asthma or a heart condition? Are there sorts of activities he or she should avoid?

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

Before school starts again, there are also some little things you can help your kids do to feel good and succeed in school.

  • Help them get enough sleep. A sleep schedule can help your kids get into a routine and stay alert all day long. Growing kids need at least 8 hours a night, and teens need even more.
  • Make sure they have a healthy breakfast for all-day energy.
  • Help them know their healthy options. Vending machines are always tempting. But you can help them know what choices are healthy and will keep them going all day and how to limit things like chips and candy.
  • Encourage exercise. Whether it’s P.E., playing a sport, or riding their bike to school, just one hour of activity a day can help kids feel less stressed, stay healthy, sleep better, build their self-esteem, and grow healthy muscles, bones, and joints.

Talk to your kids’ pediatrician if you have more questions about their health this summer.

Annual checkups with your doctor are perfect at this time of year. Kids can get their shots, a routine checkup, and a sports physical all at once if they need it!

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Healthy Weight Week 2015

Many people who diet the first week of January binge the second, and are ready for better choices by the third week of the month. That’s why this week is Healthy Weight Week!

Finding Your Healthy BMI

 

Stop restricting calories! Losing weight with low-calorie diets can screw up your system. Instead, eat balanced and filling meals.

Don't Count Calories

 

Cooking at home, where you can control what is in your food and how much you eat, can be better than using expensive dieting products.

Protein Shake Powder

 

Making healthy choices while remembering that not everyone can look the same can help you focus on a healthy weight.

Embracing Healthy Differences

 

Not getting enough sleep can make your hormones imbalanced, actually making you hungry! So don’t skimp and you’ll fight your hunger and up your energy.

Healthy Amounts of Sleep

 

Stay active and accountable. You are the only one who can keep yourself from going back to bad habits. Find things that motivate you like a cookbook that inspires you or a friend to workout with.

Finding Motivation to Be Healthy

 

Reward yourself when you reach milestones. Finally hit a new dress size? Buy that outfit you’ve been wanting. Did you go to all the workouts you committed to? Sign-up for the fun fitness class you’ve been eyeing!

Reward Yourself At Milestones

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Lemon Water for the Holiday Season

My Healthy Journey: Fighting the Holiday Season

While I think most people find the holiday season the hardest to stick to their healthy plans, I’m actually feeling really ready to kick off the new year the right way.

I haven’t exactly decided on my resolutions yet, I’m sure that is coming in the next few weeks, but I have found it much easier to stick to my guns now that the Halloween candy and Thanksgiving leftovers are out of my house.

I have also started using the MyPlate app. It asks you a series of questions, and then it calculates what is probably a healthy number of calories for you to be eating each day for your weight and your goals.

My favorite thing is how easy it is to track food with it. You can scan barcodes or search by names and brands to find all the things you ate. And I mean all the things. Did you eat a piece of candy? Cream in your coffee? It can help you track every detail.

Is it probably accurate down to the calorie? No. Is it controlling your portions? No. But it does make it really easy to put a real number on how many calories you’re eating in a day, a thing I had never done before.

It also helps remind you what a proper portion is, which you don’t always think about just because the package is in your hand. Did you know you can have 7 pixie sticks for 60 calories? Yeah, I didn’t either.  And while I’m not endorsing you eating pure sugar, with my sweet tooth, I’m not going to completely cut it out of my life forever. So now, I actually know what a serving is and what it costs me out of my day.

And while I’m usually within or close to my calorie goals without making changes, the app does a really good job of making me think about how wildly my diet swings. One day I’m 300 under, the next I’m 200 over. Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world, but it does make me a lot more aware of the fact that I’m 200 over because I had a Coca-Cola that day. Now the mental downside that I’m trying to stay away from is when I’m 300 under, saying “Oh, what in my house can I eat because I’m under!”

And even though it’s just an app, having to check in every little thing I ate does make me want to eat healthier; like if I’m embarrassed to document it, I probably shouldn’t eat it.

It also gives you a breakdown of how much protein, fat, and carbs you’re eating, which I love. If at dinner, my diet has been mostly carbs that day, it’s no wonder I’m hungry, and I try to up my protein.

It also has a place where you can track the ounces of water you drink in a day. I am unfortunately still failing dismally at drinking enough, but having a place I look at everyday with a glaring empty if I don’t drink water unbelievably does make me want to drink more. There’s something about the satisfaction of that bubble being colored in, like a mental check, that gives me the drive to actually strive for results. (I like mine with just a squeeze of fresh fruit juice, so I feel like I’m drinking something tastier.)

I wouldn’t say it’s giving me concrete weight-loss results, but I actually love the feeling of control and monitoring it’s giving me, and I do think it could become a significant tool in my healthy journey progress. And, it’s on my phone, which makes it so easy to do any time.

As for the plank challenge, I really enjoyed this one! It’s almost over, and I think I might actually keep doing it. It takes very little time out of your day, literally a few minutes, and I have felt the improvement. Now if I can just get my flexibility up, I think 2015 could be my year to actually take on yoga!

Fried Chicken Diet

Long View: Why the Fried Chicken Diet Doesn’t Work

I am guessing many of you are in the same boat as me—wondering what to do about that pesky winter weight.

It’s a common problem, and I know I should do something about it. I get inspired with the first nice days of spring, but it seems by wintertime, I am adding another layer of winter warmth, so to speak.

I know many fad diets don’t work long-term. I have heard about the Paleo Diet, but I can’t picture myself eating like a caveman. The Grapefruit Diet worked for me, sort of, but only because I hate grapefruit.

Probably not the way for me to go.

When I have a question, I go to an expert, and we have one here at Health Alliance. Her name is Karen Stefaniak, and she is our wellness program administrator. She told me many diets don’t work long-term because people limit what they eat but don’t make behavior changes.

“Unfortunately most people on restrictive diets eventually gain back the weight they lost and possibly a little more,” she said. “It’s a shame to go through all that effort to end up where you started. Changes in a person’s behavior are the only way to ensure a long-term success.”

She continued: “The key to successful weight loss is to set specific goals you can reach. For example, rather than saying you are going to lose 20, set a goal to lose one pound a week. Each week, pick  a couple of things you can do that will help you lose that pound, like exercising more, limiting sweets or cutting down on snacks after dinner. Success breeds success.

“Reaching the goal of losing that first pound in week one will motivate you to keep going. You’ll begin to lose the weight slowly and at the same time learn behavior patterns that will help you keep the weight off. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any type of diet or exercise program.“

Well, Karen shared some do-able suggestions for starting a weight-loss plan. You could recruit a friend or coworker to start the journey together. I will give it a try, but I’m still hoping someone will come up with The Frito and Fried Chicken Diet. Oh wait, I am on that one now.