Theresa Albert

Theresa is a Food Communications Specialist and Nutritionist. Her French Canadian influences are a part of her 'no bologna' style as everything is on the table...not just the dinner. She has the unique ability to distill complex health concepts into simple, savvy steps to improve any lifestyle choice. Theresa is a sought after media commentator and lifestyle pundit on many topics with a particular fascination with human relationships with food and culture. She has two books published in Canada and the US: Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck. She can be found on Twitter as @theresaalbert and at www.myfriendinfood.com.
how to read a nutrition label
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Labels are critical to help you keep track of your things. The same is true of the food labels that appear on every package in North American grocery stores, and those labels are subject to certain standards under the law.

There are also private labeling systems in place. The Health Check System in Canada, which is a Heart and Stroke Foundation initiative, comes to mind as one that hasn’t lived up to rigorous enough standards.

In the US, there is the Hannaford Guiding Stars System, which is now implemented in Loblaw’s stores in Canada. It’s a ‘quick peek’ rating system to help customers identify the healthier products. Each product is given a rating of one, two, or three stars by a third-party panel of experts. Points are weighted according to the presence of positive attributes (like protein and fibre) and the absence of negative (white sugar, flour, salt, fat, etc.). It is a great quick way to help you pick up the best in class.

No matter the rating system on the product, once you get your products home, take the time to actually read the label and focus on:

  • The ingredient list. The first three items should be real, whole foods and the list should be as short as possible and completely recognizable.
  • The serving size.  Be sure you know that the serving size is not the recommended amount that you should eat, but a reference number upon which the nutritional information is calculated.
  • % of Daily Value. The number chosen is for a 2000 calorie per day diet which represents an average. And you are not average. So much can affect how many calories are right for you.  Be sure that you know how many calories are right for you, your number could be higher or lower.
  • Slippery Sodium. Health Canada estimates that 88% of our salt intake comes from packaged foods, so simply putting away the salt shaker isn’t the solution. Packages contain a ‘% Daily Value’ amount that is too high so it obscures the facts. Most health care professionals recommend around 1500 mg per day as a maximum. Nutrition labels allow 2400 mg per day (because the Canadian average is around 3300). Be sure that this is a percentage that you stay well below. There are ways to reduce your sodium, but in the meantime, read every package, add up your sources for a day and do not go above 75% of the ‘% DV’.
  • There are only 13 ‘important nutrients’ that must be listed on a label. But of course, a healthy diet contains much, much more. If a piece of fruit listed all of its nutrients, the label would wrap around it many times over.

Most of your nutrients will actually be coming from whole foods, so be sure that this is also where most of your calories come from and you will be right on track.

Image of reading a nutrition label from Shutterstock

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the toxic food you eat everyday
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The word ‘toxic’ is so confusing it needs to be divided into two categories.

Category 1: There are things that we know are toxic and that will kill you quickly, like ingesting rat poison or inhaling caustic chemicals. These things have an immediate and perhaps irreparable impact on your body simply because your body can’t process them, can’t clear them fast enough, so it overwhelms the system. It takes its toll and kills you.

Category 2: The word ‘toxic’ is applied to all kinds of other things in our world from indoor air, to relationships to pesticide sprayed broccoli. These things won’t take your legs out from under you and make you turn blue; instead, they make their impact over time. Much depends upon how effectively you/your body deal with them or eliminate them. This category is HUGE and but humans are designed to handle little baby assaults that would have the capacity to kill us… slowly. The trick is to mitigate risk all day, every day by making wise choices and having healthy habits.

There is one insidious thing that does exist in our daily lives that heretofore has been believed to be in category 2 (not that bad) that turns out to be a category 1 (really bad).

Hints:

  • You likely consume it every single day and sometimes even feel bad about doing so
  • Most of us know already know that we are supposed to reduce its consumption
  • Kids today consume an exorbitant amount of it
  • It, alone, may just be the explanation for our rising obesity crisis
  • You can even pour it into a glass daily when you think you are doing a good thing.

That’s right. Sugar.

(sometimes known as juice. Even pure, ‘freshly squeezed’ fruit juice, also known as brown sugar, no better than High Fructose Corn Sugar.)

There is a YouTube video lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth given by a specialist on paediatric hormone disorders (like diabetes) and the leading expert in childhood obesity, Dr. Lustig, that has become a bit of a legendary sensation normally reserved for pop artists. This lecture makes a persuasive argument about sugar and its toxic impact on your body. He makes it clear that we can no longer just think of sugar as ‘empty calories’ that can be ‘worked off’ as long as you are otherwise healthy. The impact of sugar goes way beyond that to actually become toxic. He walks through the biochemical reasons why a glass of juice or soda is no different than a shot of bourbon. The impact on the liver is the same either way and it is killing us…sweetly. Worth switching categories for, right?

Knowing this begs the question: is it ALL sugar? Certainly all white sugar/brown sugar/corn sugar that is consumed in liquid form. There is no doubt that we need to reduce the estimated 40+ pounds of that stuff that we swallow in our snacks and pour into our cups each year. Then, you want to find alternatives to them as often as you can.

 

Comments | Tagged under kids, health, sugar, wellness
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