Opting Out Of Running The Boston Marathon This Year

Nearly a year ago I made my comeback to the marathon, nine months after having our first child.  It was a great feat and something that I was incredibly proud of.  Having qualified before, but not getting the chance to actually run Boston, I was thrilled to register this past September.

I secured my spot, reserved a room, and roped my mom into coming along to watch Mary while I ran another 26.2 miles.

I began training in late December and to be very honest, my heart just wasn’t in it for several reasons.  One reason was that Northern Michigan kept getting pounded by snow.  I would wake up most Saturdays to several new inches of fluff to trudge through.  Living in a rural area, most roads don’t get plowed until later in the day.  Some roads aren’t even plowed on a daily basis.  During one frustrating 12 mile run, I kept going back and forth down one short road because it was mostly clear and my usual route was blocked.  It was super frustrating.  I have decided that the hardest part of training for Boston is dealing with the winter running conditions!

This year’s marathon also falls on Easter weekend.  I wasn’t loving the idea of being away from Rock during a special family holiday.  It feels like we should be together and wake up to treats for Mary from the Easter Bunny.

The main reason my heart has’t been into training is because we have been wanting to continue to build our family.  We love being parents and we have been blessed with the most wonderful 19 month old.  I am thrilled to say that  I have chosen to opt out of running Boston because we are expecting a new member to our family early next fall.

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While we are very excited by this new addition, I want to acknowledge that this can be difficult for some people to read.  Starting or continuing a family is not always easy.  In fact, there were many years and months in the past when I would start reading a favorite blog and feel my heart racing, knowing a pregnancy announcement was forthcoming.  It wasn’t from lack of excitement for friends.  It can just be very frustrating when you too are hoping/wishing for a family of your own and feeling like things might not work out.

I hope that our news can serve as hope for anyone, that patience and love can bring great things.  The best advice I can possibly offer, especially for runners, is to find yourself a great team.  Seek a doctor and other professionals who respect what you love and enjoy.

As for Boston, I do understand that many runners complete marathons while pregnant.  I myself have done several half marathons and logged many miles in my first pregnancy.  I have a fantastic new doctor in Michigan who is also a runner and was willing to consider allowing me to run this race.  However, with my heart not being into training and simply wanting to enjoy being pregnant, I am going to wait for a later time to try to qualify again and run Boston.  My hope is that someday in the future, I will be able to go with my whole family and make it a special trip for all of us together.

Meanwhile, I will continue running as I have been.  For now, I have been able to log about 40-50 miles per week; just at a much slower pace.  We have also made special plans to spend Easter weekend at one of our favorite places, as a family.  Here’s hoping that the bunny remembers how much I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Eggs!

 

Balance Exercises For Stronger Running

I have been focusing with my clients on balance a lot lately.  There are some incredible benefits to adding balance exercises to your daily routine.

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For older adults, we should be working consistently on keeping our legs strong.  As we age we become more and more susceptible to falls, which lead to broken and injured hips.  Injuries to our hips are often one of the leading causes to adults become sedate and far less active.  Hip injuries in older populations can become very debilitating.

Women are especially prone to falls and hip injuries.

Balance exercises can be beneficial for all of these reasons but they also go beyond just older populations.  Athletes can greatly benefit from working on improving balance.

When we focus on exercises that throw us off of our center of gravity, we improve on the areas where we have imbalances in muscle strength.  By working on these areas of weakness we are building strength from deep within our bodies.

Runners and athletes who make an effort to focus on balance will find improved muscle strength and may experience fewer injuries, especially ones due to overuse.

Bosu balls and balance trainers are great options for these exercises.  Simply working on standing unassisted on a Bosu ball is a great start.  In fact, after spending a few seconds wobbling around on the ball, you will start to notice your glutes, quads, calves, and ankles twitching.  This is an indicator that things are working!  Deep down in your tissue, those weakest muscles are working hard to keep you upright and you are making them stronger.

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I love using the Bosu for balance exercises and added difficulty with planks and pushups.

Don’t have access to these devices?  Some of the best balance exercises can be done at home on your own.

Start by practicing to balance on one leg.  Bend your free leg and lift it to approximately hip length.  Work towards holding this position for up to 30 seconds.  Once you can do this, try progressing to then extending the leg behind your body and reaching your hand towards the floor.  Always do these exercises on both sides.

 

Yoga is a great practice for balance.  Tree pose can be done at home.  Try holding a tree pose while you chat on the phone.  Alternate between legs and aim for a 30 second hold.

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Once you have mastered these moves, you can work to make them even more difficult.  Try closing one or both eyes as you hold these balancing positions.

Any of these exercises will strengthen your core and lower body and make you a stronger athlete!

Do you do any balance or other strength training exercises?

Having Too Much Fun To Blog

Happy Monday!  I had plans to keep this place updated over the past week and a half.  But we took our annual trip to Florida with the family and I was just too busy.  In years past, I would get a lot of great blogging in.  With the lovely warm weather temps and a return to outdoor running, I am usually inspired to post.

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I did catch a nice rainy run.  One of my favorites!

But with a 19 month old toddler playing in the sun and the sand, priorities quickly change.  Instead of taking our time to get out the door and getting double digit runs in, we were out early to get a workout in before the beach was ready for play time.

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I used to sit at the pool for hours reading new books that I saved just for vacation.  This year I enjoyed a solid hour of reading during Mary’s naptime.  Shoutout to Ton of Worms for her excellent recommendation of Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool.  While this might be a book for younger readers, I couldn’t get enough, and found myself dreaming about the story during my morning runs.

Early afternoons were saved for pool and beach time.  This year Mary is walking and loved playing with her wagon and digging toys.  It was a welcome change from last year when she just wanted to eat the sand!

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There was a ton of food enjoyed over the last week and a half.  We did a lot of outlet shopping too.  However, this has changed as well. I used to come down to score a new wardrobe every spring.  This year Mary was the big winner.  I did leave with a sweat pair of Asics Kayanos (my shoe of choice) for $55.  So maybe I was the big winner after all!

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We did discover that the best way to get a toddler to sit peacefully through an entire dinner is to entertain them with hibachi.

We spent a chilly afternoon touring downtown St. Augustine.  I used to stroll the shops and sights as a little girl and it is so fun to see our little one doing the same things.

We also went to the Fountain of Youth.  If you are ever in St. Augustine, this is my most highly recommended place to visit.  While it might sound like a cheesy tourist site, there is so much more to explore here.   You can sample from the exact fountain that Ponce de Leon first discovered, check out a planetarium, and watch a blacksmith in action.  There is also the preserved ruins of a Timucuan historical preservation that existed on the grounds for over 4,000 years.  Mary was a huge fan of the many peacocks wandering the 15 acres.

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Our trip to Florida was a lovely reprieve from the extremely snowy winter.  We had a great time as a family and even managed to log 78 miles of running on the beach.  And now it is back to reality……

Playing Winter Tourists At Home

Two weekends ago we had a guest for a few days.  I was a little bummed because earlier in the week we had amazing spring-like temperatures.  A few days of that weather melted all three feet of snow we had in our yard.  It was awesome.  I even got out for an 8 mile run in shorts and a tank.

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Friday morning I woke up to thunder and the sound of rain.  I was thrilled.  I assumed that any remaining snow was gone.  Was  I ever wrong.  I opened the curtain to our bedroom window and may have shouted a profanity or two.  The entire yard was covered in snow.  What the heck?!

Our guest arrived to a winter wonderland.  Yuck!  Sure it was nice to have for awhile, but I am ready for spring to come and stay!

Saturday after Mary’s nap we drove over to Traverse City and wandered around downtown on Front Street.  I will admit that there is something really picturesque about Traverse City when the snow is out.  Street lights are wrapped with holiday lights and the snow dusts the trees that line the sidewalks.

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It is just as beautiful, if not more so, when summer arrives.  With the warmer temperatures you see plenty of tourists and shops are buzzing.

Traverse City is a special place in Northern Michigan.   While you might picture the northern Midwest serving Friday fish fry’s (and you won’t go without finding one here), this mini city prides itself in serving quality farm to table foods.  From sushi, to salads, wood fired pizzas and even French cuisine, you can find it in this town.  The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula’s have the perfect land and climate for vineyards, and hops farms are also now abundant in the area.  You will find so many delicious wineries and breweries in the to enjoy. 

We spent our afternoon wandering through shops and picking up some fun gifts and winter sales items.

A trip to Front Street is never complete without stopping at Cherry Republic.  You will find just about any cherry product you could possibly ever imagine here in the “Cherry Capital of the World.”  Rock and I love wandering through the shop and sampling all of the cherry deliciousness.  I am a huge fan of the chocolate covered cherries and we discovered a delicious barbecue sauce and horseradish.  Mary found a perfect cherry ball pit and slide to play in.  Needless to say, we managed to stay there for quite some time.

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Next we drove over to the Grand Traverse Commons.  If you are a fan of history, architecture, shopping, or even ghosts, you will love this place.  This is the former site of the Michigan Psychiatric Hospital.  It closed several decades ago and sat in disrepair while locals fought it’s demolition.  Years later it has been refurbished without losing it’s original character.  Inside and around the grounds you will find shops, restaurants, apartments, condos, wineries and breweries.  We were bummed that our favorite taco shop was closed while we were there but we did enjoy wandering through all of the shops.

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The halls are lined with old photographs and this terribly un-PC postcard that somewhat amused me.

We ended our evening at Red Mesa Grill for some delicious, while not quite authentic, Mexican food.  The burrito might not have been my favorite typical Mexican fare, but I was really impressed by the slowly roasted pork inside.  It was a pleasant surprise.

Sometimes it can be fun to tour your hometown and see it from a different perspective.  While I wasn’t loving  the cooler weather,  it certainly set the tone for a picturesque visit for the day.

Have you ever visited Traverse City or any other places in Michigan?

Good Races vs. Bad Races

Last week the weather was amazing and it had me in a great mood for running.  In fact, I got outside for a fantastic 8 miles in shorts on a warm, sunny day.  Friday morning I woke up to another few inches of snow and it ruined my running inspiration.  So today I am not chatting about my best races or my worst races….I just can’t get into the racing mood quite yet.  Instead, let’s talk about what makes for a really great or a really bad race.

Bad Races:

Lack of Facilities:  Nothing will put you in a bad mood right from the start than feeling pressed to find a port-a-potty.  Last year at Grandma’s Marathon, we arrived an hour before the start and spent the whole time waiting in line to go once!  There were actually plenty of facilities but they placed them in a bizarre “U” shape that locked many of them out.  Runners were furious and many missed their start corrals (including myself).  As I mentioned before, it wouldn’t be a heinous crime if it hadn’t been an issue the year before.

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Totally Inaccurate Courses:  A few years back, we suckered a bunch of family members into running a 15k trail race with us.  Not only was the course advertised to be in Chicago and then later wasn’t, but the course was off by several miles!  We were supposed to run 3 loops to make 9.3 miles but after the second loop I was already at 8.5 miles.  I ended up quitting at 2 loops and feeling like a failure.  Only later did I see that most of the runners did the same thing and some were awarded prizes!  The only thing making the situation worse was a lack of advertised beer and no apologies for the crappy course.

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Nonexistent Prizes:  Last year I ran the RAM Racing Northshore Turkey Trot.  I actually had a 10k PR and felt incredibly proud of my performance.  Even better, I placed 3rd in my age group.  I contacted the race officials and was told that I would receive my medal within 4-6 weeks.  In January I contacted them again and was told that the medals were delayed and not to contact again, that they would arrive at some point.

As someone who runs a sports program and hands out medals for various events each year, I know that medals are neither expensive nor difficult to purchase.  For a 10k, this race is actually on the pricier side.  To wait over 3 months to receive an age group award is a major bummer.

The GREAT:

Awesome Amenities:  I loved that the Run For The Red Poconos Marathon not only had plenty of port-a-potties at their start, but they also had an indoor location with restrooms near the start.  The finish was lined with plenty of support and people ready to assist you.

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I didn’t take a pic of that but enjoy my big old maternity throw aways that made me so happy at the start.

Awesome From Start To Finish:  For a complete race experience, to me there is nothing better than what you will find at the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.  From the buzz (and plenty of facilities) at the start, to the crowd support along the entire course, you will have a blast the entire time.  Aid stations nearly ever 2 miles keeps you fueled and hydrated (and lubed).  When you finish the race you will be handed a sizeable medal and a big glass of local beer.  It seriously doesn’t get much better.

Post Race Refreshments:  One of our first races a few years ago was the Hudson Valley 15k.  One thing that was super impressive was the home cooked spread at the finish line.  Eggs, breakfast items, potatoes, and pasta were waiting at the finish catered by a local restaurant.  Everyone gathered in a tent to enjoy the spread and receive local food treats for age group prizes.

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I once placed first in my age group and won a bag of chips and salsa!

Make It A Local Party:  A race doesn’t have to be big to be awesome.  One of my favorite races was in Alden, Michigan set along the coast of crystal clear Torch Lake.  Check in the morning of and receive your tickets for post race drawings.  The race runs along local roads and even a few dirt paths.  As you finish right downtown, the local men’s club hosts their annual rummage sale fundraiser.  Scour the unique finds before gathering on a lawn nearby where prizes were handmade by a local artisan.

What were your best and worst race experiences?  Do you prefer big or small races?

Being Fit Doesn’t Always Mean “Skinny”

I spend a lot of time on various health and wellness blogs.  As a running coach, personal trainer, and health coach, I make it my business to read a lot of different articles on healthy living.  One thing I love seeing in the past few years is that social media is starting to (slowly) understand that we need to stop worrying about the word “fat.”  Fat as a food source is not a bad thing.  On a physical level, it is so amazing to see that we are starting to embrace real bodies.

Did you see that there is a model in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue who has stretch marks?  I absolutely love and applaud Lane Bryant for not airbrushing this model.  She is a beautiful woman with a very real body.

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The reality is that most of us deal with or have dealt with body issues at some point in our lives.  Some people can’t gain weight, and others struggle to stop gaining.  While some people hate exercising, others find themselves compulsively visiting the gym.  The odds are that if you asked almost anyone if they love their bodies, there is something each person would want to change.  This is a very difficult issue for most of us.

What I love about the Lane Bryant ad is the decision not to cover up what some people might consider flaws.  We all have our flaws.  Most of us are aware of these “imperfections.”  The reality is, this woman is a very attractive person who makes a living posing for pictures.  She is also real.

As a health coach, a mom, and a blogger, I have a very hard time embracing the whole “skinny” notion.  I often come across blog posts or articles discussing how you too can be skinny, and it honestly makes my skin crawl.  The quickest way for me to close a blog or skip a post is an article or heading about how to become skinny.

I work out a lot.  I enjoy working out.  I was a competitive athlete all of my life in a sport that embraced “skinny: and encouraged it’s athletes to remain a certain weight/size.  I have made fitness my life and my way of making a living.   But I also enjoy food; much of which is even what you might consider unhealthy food.  I’m not ashamed of that.  After years of struggling with my body image, I am happy to be able to enjoy dessert and a run and keep it balanced.

I also work daily with some incredible people who struggle to find the joy in exercise.  It can be difficult for them to find a balance in what they choose to eat or how much they eat.  This is very real.  When these people find a healthier way of life and take the time to work out, it is a very incredible achievement.  To make anyone think that you need to be “skinny” to be happy is a very wrong and unhealthy message.

And while we are on this topic, I need to wonder what exactly is skinny?  Many of us might look on that cover of Sports Illustrated and see the model in a tiny bikini and think that is skinny.  I myself might look in the mirror at my running muscles sometimes and cringe, wishing those were thinner.  Skinny is a pretty relative and unfair term for us to be aiming to achieve.

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Healthy is a way of life.  It is a way to approach balanced eating and activities.  Being healthy does not mean that you fit into size 2 jeans or a size small top.  Skinny is not an attainable or quantifiable term.  However, you can make daily steps to live a healthier life.  And please do keep in mind that just because you can fit into a tiny pair of jeans, does not mean that you are healthy.  Being healthy is a process of fueling your body with good food and exercise.

We can all aim to eat smaller meals and add more fruits and vegetables into our diets.  It would be a great goal to be active most days of the week.  Each of us should be trying to exercise for at least 30 minutes several days each week.  I can’t guarantee that you will end up on the cover of a magazine, but you certainly will feel better and be much healthier.  Doesn’t that sound great?!

Sun’s Out, Run’s Out

This past weekend brought a heatwave to Northern Michigan and much of the country.  We went from lots of snow and 20 degree temperatures to mid and upper 40’s.  After dreary and cold days, it felt amazing to see the sun shining and the snow melting.

I woke up with a bit more energy.  I felt happier and was also much more motivated.  I met with several clients over the weekend and they all mentioned that they felt so much better.  There was more motivation to get to the gym and they were happier in general.

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I felt like this all weekend!

Now, I’m not going to say that the groundhog was wrong.  Having grown up in the Midwest, I know that Mother Nature is just giving us a brief reprieve.  We can easily still get dustings of snow into the middle of May. But spring has started to show a little hint of itself and it feels great.

One of the most difficult parts of winter is the shorter and much colder days.  Even our dog doesn’t get outside as much.  It is very difficult to go for walks when your face freezes and the ground is covered in snow and ice.  We naturally start spending more time inside and less time being active.  Even as a runner, my step count isn’t nearly as high during the winter months. The cold weather and darker days also tend to make us want to hibernate.  It is much easier to curl up under a blanket on the couch with the family.

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When the sun starts peeking out from it’s winter hibernation, it is a great reminder that it is time to dust off those walking/running shoes.  Throw on some rain boots and walk around in the melting puddles left from the snow piles.  Take the kids out to make one last snowman.  Find some cleared sidewalks and join the family for a walk.  Yesterday we took two family walks.  Both times we finished by letting Mary splash in puddles until it was time to strip down and change clothes.  All of us had a blast playing in the melted snow.

The weather is getting a touch warmer and that can feel absolutely awesome.  Step outside at lunch and walk for a few blocks.  The fresh air and sunlight will wake you up and leave you feeling more motivated for the rest of the day.

The sun is setting later.  I love when this happens.  On my drive home the other night, I noticed that it was almost 7:00pm when the sun finally set.  Take advantage of this.  Even if you get outside for the last 5 minutes of the evening, just run around in the yard.  Throw a ball with the kids or a friend in your driveway.

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That’s what I’m afraid of…..

It has been a long winter.  Let’s take advantage of every bright and sunny or warm day.  Find some time to enjoy a few extra minutes outside.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Move a little bit more.  You will soon notice that everything starts to feel a bit better and you will set the tone for an active spring and summer season!

Did you enjoy the weather this weekend?  Were you able to get outside for a bit?

Lead Heavy Legs and Race Training

I recently was going through my website and found that one of the most searched topics on my site is “legs feel like lead during training.”  I did a post on this a few years ago and since it seems to be so popular, I thought we should touch upon this again.

Running is one of my favorite things to do.  That doesn’t mean that it is always easy.  Sure, some days are easier or better than others.  There are also days when every step is a struggle, and every minute is a process of me pleading with myself to keep going.

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Regardless of how many or how few miles you have logged before training for a race, one thing is almost certain, race training will exhaust your body.  Your legs will in fact feel like they are full of lead.  Your muscles will likely ache and you will probably fall in and out of love with the sport during your training cycle.

Training for endurance races is an involved process.  Plans will have you doing various types of runs that might involve both short and long mileage, speed work, tempo runs, and perhaps even sprints.  Each of these serves an important purpose in making you a stronger and healthier racer.

You will also notice that most plans follow a periodized pattern.  This involves a gradual increase in mileage over time.  The increased distance is meant to slowly train your legs to endure the large amounts of mileage you will face on race day.    In order to do this in a healthy manner and to hopefully avoid injury, you will spend many weeks of higher mileage training.

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This type of training and mileage will in fact, exhaust your legs.  In order to make your muscles stronger, you have to push them.  Just as your muscles get sore and tired when you lift weights, your legs must go through this same process.  In order to build muscle in the gym, you gradually lift heavier weights and for longer periods.  The result of this is tired and achy muscles, just like you feel after endurance training.

There are two things that you need to do during this period.  First, you must approach your rest and recovery in a manner that allows you time to heal and recover.  Respect your rest days.  Don’t run.  Stretch and do some light activities.  Drink lots of water and eat plenty of bright red and green fruits and veggies as well as plenty of protein.  Remember that a healthy diet fuels your training.

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Once you have ensured that you are resting and recovering properly, you then need to push through those heavy legs.  There will be days and even weeks where you legs and body feel absolutely exhausted.  You will have to continue training through these tired legs.  Your pace may slow down a bit.  Don’t push it too hard and be patient with your body.

Finally, know that this won’t last forever.  Trust that this process is meant to build your body and make you stronger for your event.  It will be difficult and frustrating at times.  With patience and diligence, you will soon find that you feel like yourself again.  In fact, you might even find that you are stronger than you were just a few weeks ago.

What is your best advice for dealing with tired and heavy legs?

Runner’s Amnesia

I recently heard the term “runner’s amnesia” and it has had me chuckling all week.  If you are a runner or have ever run, you most definitely have suffered a case of running amnesia.

The onset typically starts when you first begin.  Each day you struggle to breathe and push yourself through a workout.  The entire time you curse yourself for ever considering running.  You constantly remind yourself how much you hate this.  You swear that when you get home you are throwing your shoes away and never running again.

Somehow, by the time you wake up the next day, you seem to have forgotten about that run and you are at it again, cursing your way back through.  In fact, you might even go out the next day and see a cute running top or a shiny new pair of shoes and decide that you must get those for training, despite having just said you would never do it again.

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As a coach and a runner, the most common case of runner’s amnesia that I tend to see involves endurance races.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about a runner crossing the line of a half marathon and swearing they will “never do that again” only to sign up a week later.  Even better is when they decide that “never again” meant they might as well tackle a full marathon while they are at it.

Years ago I proposed doing a marathon to my husband for the first time.  I told him it was a bucket list item that we should do.  His response was that he would train with me and run a portion, but not the full race.  Today we have done multiple marathons and together coached hundreds of half and full marathoners.  Funny how quickly things can change.

As a matter of fact, I remember the morning of my first (and supposedly only) marathon.  I was sitting eating a bagel and these strange words slipped out my mouth without me realizing what I was doing, “Next time we do this, we should……”  We both looked at each other and had a scary moment.  We both knew right then that there would be a next time.

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So what is runner’s amnesia?  I believe that it is this wonderfully sick mechanism in our brains that allows us to suffer our way through a difficult run or event.  It allows us to curse ourselves, our bodies, and our poor judgement.  We can even say we will never run again or never do a particular race again.  And at the time, all of this is absolutely fair.  We are miserable.  Our bodies hate us, our minds hate us.

However, by the next morning, our brains have somehow erased most of those terrible memories or somehow recharged them so that we can laugh about how we stumbled across the finish line or threw up into our shoes.  Suddenly we are amused by our terrible experience.  Less than 24 hours later we think, “It wasn’t that bad!”  We start contemplating our next event or planning a revenge.

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While it might be a safety mechanism in our brains that allows us to erase terrible, horrible memories, it also is that strange mechanism that makes us runners totally weird.  It allows us to forget just enough to get back out there and keep going again and again.

What is your best case of runner’s amnesia?  Were you ever unable to not completely forget a bad run or race?

Make Yourself An Informed Consumer

Over the past few months I have worked with many clients who are trying to live a healthier life.  One thing that has become increasingly common with food logs is the general misunderstand about what is “healthy” and “unhealthy.”   There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding diets and well being.

One of the best ways to ensure that you are an informed consumer and healthier eater is by looking at food labels.  These is a standard format for all of the foods we purchase and consume.  All food labels look alike and show you the same information.

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The first thing you will notice at the top of a food label is a description of what the serving size is and how many servings are in each package.  This information is extremely important.  Serving sizes are not determined by anyone other than the company who produces the food, meaning that each company can determine how large a serving size is.  Next you will want to know how many servings are in a package.  It is not uncommon for a small package to have multiple servings.  If you did not realize this you might think you are consuming far fewer calories than you actually are.

Next on a food label, you will see calorie and fat content, followed by the percentage of calories that come from fat.  This information is also very valuable.  A snack with less than 100 calories per serving is considered a low calorie food.  Any snack with 100-400 calories per serving is considered a moderate calorie food.  And a snack with over 400 calories per serving would be considered a high calorie food.

Below the breakdown of nutrients on each label, you will also find a full list of the ingredients.  These are listed in order of largest amount to smallest.  It is always recommended to look for ingredients at the top that you recognize.  If you find words that you cannot decipher or do not recognize, they are most likely preservatives.  Aim for eating more whole or recognizable foods in your diet.

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Do you recognize most of these ingredients from your pantry?

You will also see a list of potential allergens.  All allergens must be listed.  The most common that you will find are peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, and gluten.

Buyer Beware!

Please note that while the government does regulate food labels and most food claims, it does not regulate everything.  Just because you find “whole grains,” “organic,” or “healthy,” or “natural,” does not necessarily make them great choices.  Sugar laden cereals can also contain whole grains.  Organic food can also be full of added preservatives or sugars.

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All of these claims are legal to place on the cover of packaged food.

While a food label may make certain health claims, it doesn’t mean that it is completely healthy.  Before you assume that a food is good for you, read the label and check it’s serving size, calorie and fat content, amount of sugar, and ingredient list.  Compare food labels and always opt for the lowest sodium option between foods.

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I may have tried to convince my husband that these are “natural” but we both know it’s not completely true.

Serving sizes can be very misleading.  Some small bags that appear to be a single serving can actually hold two or three servings.  If you did not realize this you might think you are making a wise choice.  However, knowing just how much you are consuming might change your decision.  I recently came across a granola that was listed by the ounce.  Do you know how small an ounce is?  The granola had 40+ servings in a small bag.  That to me, is almost scandalous!

Be aware of certain foods that can appear to be healthy but labels might show otherwise:  Some of the leading culprits (but not all) are cereals, granolas, fat free candies/chips/crackers, energy bars, energy drinks, smoothies, juices, and trail mixes.

While reading food labels might seem tedious now, you will likely find it eye opening.  Once you get used to reading labels, you will soon find that you will naturally give it a quick scan and gravitate towards healthier choices.

What is your best recommendation for being an informed consumer?