Foot Detox?

Life is full of trial and error situations. You never know something for sure until you experience it for yourself. It is called the empirical method and it accepts things at face value. I guess it is like a layman’s scientific method without the test tubes and lab equipment.  In my quest to become healthier, I have used the trial and error method for food preparation with great success. I try to enrich normal recipes with better, fresher ingredients and the results have been impressive. I feel better and attribute my improved mind and body to good nutrition.

I am also on a quest to rid my body of toxins. It is my final step in achieving complete health nirvana. In other words, it will help me utilize what I consume if my body is free from pre-existing negative elements that block my intestines for one thing. This is the main area of concern for us health nuts. We do cleanses on a regular basis, but I needed more. I am using the trial and error method to find the right foot-detox treatment that I can do at home. So far, I have tried four that claim to be the best foot spa. I am not pleased and think that the news on the subject is not yet out: it is a sham. I haven’t felt any kind of relief other than a pleasant sensation of stimulation. It is a basic foot massager and not really a health vehicle.

It wasn’t that I was gullible, but I wanted to believe I could achieve positive results without drinking juice for three days and nothing else. I read that the appliance uses electrodes to “pull” toxins from the body through the foot. There is no pain nor discomfort. The reason is that it doesn’t work! I like the massage aspect and I have found one model in particular that does a nice job of relaxing me by addressing tired feet. I can keep it without guilt because of this function. I just have to forget about the detox instructions that come with the device.

I think that a foot massage is a simple form of “reflexology,” a legitimate type of touch treatment that can diagnose the health of body organs by rubbing certain areas of the feet. Both are involved in order to tackle every single one. Basically, the massage stimulates nerve endings that originate elsewhere such as the stomach, heart, liver, or intestines. Illness may be indicated by tenderness in the foot. I remember a friend telling me that her masseuse could tell by touching a part of her left foot that she had just had a hysterectomy.

The home machine is not as good as having a real person with experienced fingers that can tell a lot with a bit of pressure. But it is effective in any case and certainly worth a small investment. The feet don’t get much attention other than putting them up on a pillow after a long, hard day at work standing or walking. Try the foot detox in its new role and see how delightful a massage can be. Why not add it to your health regimen?

Proper Temperatures

For me, staying healthy is right up there with having friends, being close with family, and forming solid relationships. It is all vital to the good life. Thousands of articles on the Web tout exercise and fitness as the path to health, but I want to put in my two cents about the right nutrition. Without one, the other is less effective. We all know about raw fruits and vegetables and vitamin-rich foods. We must stay away from canned goods with all the unnecessary preservatives although we can opt for frozen once in a while. If there is no added salt, you can take the easy road to home cooking.

I believe in eating from all the basic food groups including carbs, fats, protein, etc. Everything in moderation as they say. Given the facts of nutrition and the vast knowledge we have gained, I now turn my attention to something given short shrift. Food can be healthy and on the other side of the coin it can be dangerous. Anyone who has suffered from food poisoning knows what I mean. Anyone can be a victim of old shrimp in a restaurant and stay up all night as a result. But you don’t expect to get sick from a lack of proper food storage at home. How many of you pay attention to expiration dates and keeping produce at the right temperature in the fridge? Dairy is particularly vulnerable and cheese can get too moldy, although some degree is in its nature. I have found out the hard way that beer can expire when not kept chilled and found a web site called Crack a Cold One that helped me learn the proper temperature to store beer.

It is more than this when it comes to avoiding bad food. You have to know how to cook pork and fish, for example, at the right temperature so it is properly done. The biggest transgression among those who prepare food themselves is leaving things out too long. It is fine to do so during dinner, but it is likely to be a problem if you let dinner stand for hours waiting for a latecomer to return home. You might think that desserts are an exception but it is patently not so. Anything containing fresh cream or butter can go bad in no time and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

I can’t express my views on this subject too loudly as I have known people who have paid a steep price. Food poisoning is highly dangerous to children and can put you and your family in the hospital. I have to be able to count on my local market to provide me with the freshest groceries possible. I often talk with the manager about refrigeration systems and the temperatures used for my favorite products. As for fresh fare, it can’t be left out overnight. Meat and poultry are in temperature-controlled glass front cabinets. The dates on packaged goods should be clearly readable. Even canned goods have a shelf life, although it is often quite long. Be wary and stay healthy.

That Was a Surprise

I was really excited when a friend asked me to go fishing during his upcoming vacation. I was willing to take time off for an outdoor adventure. I love the fresh air and scenery. It is relaxing and restful. All the craziness of life is suspended for a time. Plus, I could already taste the fresh-caught fish grilled over an open fire. So healthy. I could also imagine the many things I could do with the fish we took home. As a nutrition fanatic, I love any source of omega fatty acids. Fish can be eaten fried, baked, steamed, or barbecued. It is a very versatile protein. I couldn’t wait.

I prepared in the very early morning. I had borrowed a pair of wading boots and a soft cotton hat for the sun. I had my cell phone ready for a day of quick pix. It would be fun to share them on Facebook and Instagram. We set off abut 6:00am and arrived an hour later. It was a glorious day for fishing. There was something odd right away. Where were the rods and tackle boxes? They were nowhere in sight. I supposed that they were in the trunk of the car. My friend must have read my mind as she offered, “the gear is in the trunk.” I felt relieved. I had a premonition, but it was mild.

My suspicions were true. When we selected our spot for the day, my friend returned to the car to bring back a large plastic box. No rods, no reels, no fish baskets. She set the box in the water and proceeded to “set it up.” “It’s simply the best gold sluice,” she explained, clearly aware of my curiosity. “We are fishing for gold! I use this old-fashioned prospector method because it is so easy and fun.” My mouth dropped open. “How does it work?” I asked. I got a long demonstration. She put it in the river at a certain angle that I assumed was the best way to catch any gold nuggets or flecks. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it would work—right in our home state.

“Yes, I have been mining for gold this way for a while and it never disappoints.” She started to explain how she learned by trial and error and that she had to test various spots known for a decent yield. She showed me the “riffles” over which the water flows to separate silt and rocks from the metal. “I anchor the sluice with rocks,” she added while giving a full demonstration. “Notice how the bottom end is slightly lower.” I understood that the heavier metal gets caught in the riffles while the other lighter stuff leaks out the back. I was getting intrigued and wanted to see it in action. For the most part during our day out sediment was filtered. But two hours in, she struck gold believe it or not. “I wouldn’t have brought you here if I didn’t know I could get results.” I have a trick, she explained. She shovels gravel into the sluice head to remove rock and debris. It helps the sluice run well and dislodge any gold that has settled in the riffles. I love that word! There you have it—a gold sluice as a gold recovery tool.

Healthy Food, Healthy Home

I believe in looking after your health. No one else is going to do it for you—at least not all the time. Mom might send a recipe or two your way that demands fresh ingredients. Mine taught me to “shop smart” and read labels and look for local produce. Now I am on my own and do it naturally. To keep my weight and ward off illness, I am constantly in the search for nutritious food. I practice portion control, even when I am out (when it is not so easy). Life can be better when you eat right.

I also insist on a healthy and clean environment. This means using only earth-friendly products (no toxic chemicals for me), a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and recycling everything. Nothing lies about idly when its usefulness expires. I can repurpose and refashion a great many things. When it came time to try a new vacuum, I had to decide on an upright or canister model and this web site came in handy. While I can coach anyone on quality food, I was at a loss this time. People tell me that uprights are the most popular, but they aren’t necessarily better. It depends on the size of your home and the nature of the contents. Each type suits a particular lifestyle.

I am going to be as careful about this decision as I am about my food. Let’s start with the upright, which by the way, are cheaper than the other kind. The motorized brushes are efficient, especially on thick carpeting. With a press of your foot, you can go from carpets to wood floors. If you have a bad back, this one is for you. They store easily as there are no attachments to dismount. The big plus is the wider cleaning path.

The problem is that uprights are heavy, noisy, and inefficient in corners. So, let’s turn to the alternative. The canister vacuum has a nozzle at the end of a wand, which is linked to the unit by means of a hose. The engine is in the canister as are the filter and dust bags. Wheels make it easy to operate. Most people don’t know that canisters are more powerful than uprights with great suction and flow rate. They are light and easy to carry. Maneuvering is no problem. The hose allows the machine to reach difficult places. They are quiet due to sound insulation and they feature all the tools you need such as crevice tool, upholstery brush, and mechanized brush. Their versatility can beat an upright any time. But wait!

The cons for the canister vacuum are simple. You have to bend down to assemble the unit. Plus, you might drag the canister behind the want which may damage furniture and walls. You must get a model with rubber casing to protect your surfaces. I am also told that the little wheels get stuck in power cords and thick rugs.

Neither style has too many problems or significantly more assets than the other. I am still thinking it over.

You Can’t Outexercize a Poor Diet

I am going to give you a lecture on good eating. That’s the vernacular for proper nutrition. I can’t emphasize it enough. It is one of the key components of great health and well-being along with exercise and socializing (which boosts self-esteem and mood). There is a lot of emphasis today on the growing obesity problem in the U.S. and lots of vibrant discussion on what to do about it. Diets abound but they often don’t work because they are short term and boring. It comes down to eating the right amount of nutritious food in limited quantities—yes, calorie counting. It means covering the basic food groups for balanced meals and proper digestion. The consequences of eating junk food are well known, so stay away.

My advice is simple: buy fresh produce, especially that in season. Find your local farmer’s market and see what is offered. You will be inspired to good. I love these places and the fruit and vegetables are recently picked and divine. You can’t go wrong. Read the labels of processed food to be sure there are no chemicals or other harmful ingredients like artificial flavors, preservatives, and saturated fats (oils). Baked goods at the market that are not from the bakery counter are the worst as are canned goods loaded with salt.

I bring up this sore subject in my blog today because after having lunch with a friend, I noticed how many poor choices she made. She thinks her weight gain is because she has a knee injury that prevents her from exercising or even taking walks. She wears a knee sleeve, like the kind they use in sports like basketball (you can see them here – As a matter of fact, she plays on a women’s basketball team which is how she got injured in the first place. Since she is used to lots of activity, she wonders why she can’t lose the pounds. Now that she is idle, it is a particular problem. Well, I know after seeing her diet. Too many carbs of all kinds, from potatoes and pasta to bread and rice. She is going to suffer as a result and I warned her the best I could. I tend to be preachy about these things and people turn a deaf ear. I told her that the time has come. Just because the knee sleeve is coming off and she is back on the court, doesn’t mean she will drop any weight.

I could go on and on. Our most egregious offense in America is not heeding to portion control. We overeat high-caloric foods and sweets, but even when we have red meat, the size is often huge. Then we snack through the day. This is fine if you eat an apple, but not chips. Gyms are growing in membership, but frankly while exercise is always beneficial, it won’t work off the accumulating pounds all on its own. Overexercising, in fact, can be harmful to the muscles and joints.

A Brush with Danger

There is much work to do on an organic farm apart from picking the crops and sending them to market at the perfect moment of ripeness. How do you know they are ready, you ask. You can just tell. There are also animals to take care of—the kind that produce eggs and milk. And there are the roaming domestic pets. It is a big responsibility, but well worth the effort. You develop great relationships with vendors and keep your customers happy for life if your quality is consistent. Most of the time it is routine unless a storm washes away new seeds. You plant, you sow, and you reap. Such is farm life. It is all about fresh air, manual labor, and healthy living. Working is as good as a workout in any gym.

You don’t expect to have a brush with danger in this peaceful and calm world. But it happened the day I nearly ran over my exposed foot with a monster lawnmower. I vowed then and there to protect my feet with better shoes. In fact, I wanted some kind of industrial foot gear to wear only when mowing. I thought of rubber fly fishing boots but they flop around and are more of a nuisance than a help. Plus, they are mighty ugly. Athletic shoes and sandals are obviously out as are street shoes. It has to be a kind of all-purpose work boot, not unlike the ones on Rate My Welder. You might have seen a pair on a welder if you passed by a construction site. Now I see plenty of them online because I am in the market. It is time to select the right ones for my needs. They should be waterproof, sturdy, and rubber soled, but not so heavy that you can’t walk nimbly. I had a flash of genius when I remembered not to buy boots with laces that you can trip on or get caught in the motor. I have horrible images such as the ones you get about wood chopper mishaps. You have seen the horror movies. With the gaping yaw of the evil lawnmower, I better insist on re-enforced toes. The welders use metal tips for durability and safety.

I finally found a good model although they didn’t have sizes for women. I had to guess the equivalent male size. Plus, I am in it now for over two hundred dollars. They are pretty clunky and no fashion item. Maybe I will start a new trend. Ha! They also call them foundry boots in case you are looking. I love the website description that features benefits like comfort, heat-resistant. The soles will resist burning and melting. You can even work around furnaces. They meet industry standards. Ha! I said they are no fashion item, but let me tell you ladies that they are six inches high. Talk about the platform shoe trend. But the real kicker is that they mold to your feet inside.

Another Change for the Better

I have always tried to eat right, the first component of good health. Lately, however, I am not as energetic as I used to be, and my doctor says it is lack of healthy sleep. I have to change my lifestyle if I want to feel rested. I listened to his every word. Knowing what it means to get a good night’s rest will help you understand how vital it is to your physical and mental health.

Everyone has a unique sleep pattern, but there are some general guidelines. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. It can be consecutive or six hours plus a daytime nap. Your body will tell you what is best to keep you alert and smiling. It will tell you that you need a regular routine even if you work a nightshift.

If you fall asleep quickly, within fifteen to twenty minutes of getting into bed, you are normal. Your sleep should be continuous without long hours of lying awake because something is on your mind. It isn’t a good feeling to obsess over something and then wish you were asleep for hours on end. You should feel refreshed, my doctor says. This means alert throughout the day. If you are married or live with family, ask them if they have noticed anything out of the ordinary that might impact your ability to sleep soundly (such as breathing pauses, snoring, restless legs, etc.)

It is all about your circadian system or rhythms. If you don’t address them when having sleep disturbance, you will not feel your best. My doctor gave me a tip sheet on how to prepare for bed to enhance the quality of my sleep. If you stay up late on the Internet, texting, or watching TV, chances are you won’t doze off on time to satisfy your routine. If you eat or drink, this can impair your rest period. He asked me to keep a sleep diary to show me what I am doing wrong.

I had to practice “sleep hygiene” or healthy sleep habits so I could fall asleep in a short time and stay asleep soundly. I learnt about them here: I don’t have insomnia so I don’t require therapy; just a few lifestyle changes. These include: a consistent schedule every day (even weekends and vacations) and a reasonable bedtime. Go to bed when sleepy and it shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes to enter slumberland. Make sure your bedtime routine is relaxing. Keep your bedroom quiet with dim lights. You shouldn’t be too hot or cold. I am supposed to turn off my digital devices a half hour before bedtime and avoid large meals late in the evening. A light snack is okay.

There were more rules. I have to limit exposure to bright light, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, and avoid nighttime coffee. Alcohol, in contrast to what people think, does not help sleeplessness. Excessive fluid of any kind before bed will only cause you to toss and turn. Good luck.

When is it Better to go Organic?

Ideally, all of the food I buy would be organic and locally grown. However, realistically, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. First of all, I don’t make enough money to buy everything organic. Secondly, while more and more foods are being made in an organic option, there are going to be times where it just isn’t something that is readily available.

If you are like me and want to go organic but don’t really have the resources, I’ve done some digging and discovered the things that are best to buy organic when you can, and a few where saving the money and buying the traditionally-farmed food is fine.

Buy Organic:

  • These are a must. If you like apples and consume them regularly, you should know that are the biggest offender when it comes to pesticide residue.
  • These summertime staples are also chock full of pesticides. You are much better off consuming organic blueberries that have been washed thoroughly.
  • I know when you buy these at the store, they often already look dirty. It should be no surprise, then, when I tell you that they’re also covered in pesticides. So wash, wash, wash those suckers, and buy them organic!
  • Corn has been frankensteined into who-knows-what with its GMOs, and nobody has any idea what the long term effects they will have on us. So everything I have read recommends that you buy organic, and stay away from anything with corn-based sweeteners if you want to avoid GMOs.
  • Leafy greens. It’s hard to clean them, which makes them more likely to harbor chemicals. If you want to be healthy and eat a salad, you certainly don’t want to be consuming pesticides along with your meal. Do yourself a favor and get your lettuce, collard greens, and kale from the organic section.
  • Starchy, delicious spuds are also pound-for-pound pretty high in pesticides.

Save Your Money:

  • These nutritious powerhouses are the least likely to contain residue of pesticides. That means no matter which way you serve them, they don’t have to be organic!
  • They consistently come up cleaner than other produce, which is good news for those of you who like onions in your stir-fry or on your burgers!
  • Anybody who has ever tried to cut an avocado knows that it is no easy feat. So it makes sense that the same skin that can make them torture to cut also helps to prevent them from absorbing harmful chemicals!
  • Again, that thick skin really helps to keep the part of the pineapple we eat from being coated in nasty pesticides. So the next time you’re sore or are experiencing inflammation, have some pineapple and know that it is pretty safe to eat.
  • I was really surprised by this, but apparently buying them organic is unnecessary. They seem to be just fine no matter how you buy them—no worries!
  • Sweet potatoes. Another surprise for me, because potatoes get a bad rap. But these flavorful Thanksgiving staples are healthy and safe to eat whichever way you buy them.

This is, by all means, not an exhaustive list. If you want to know more, you should definitely search for the Environmental Working Group, who tests food for pesticides and regularly publishes a list of what’s safe to eat and what’s best to buy organic, as well as providing a whole host of other healthy information.

Relationship With Food

Our bodies need food for energy in order to get through the day, to grow and play and move. But it is so much more. It can be a comfort, like a hot soup on a cold day. It can be a demonstration of love when it is a birthday cake covered in candles for a friend. Food can also heal, as anybody who has ever eaten chicken soup when they were sick would know. And is there anything better than a juicy strawberry, a ripe bite of watermelon, or a sweet morsel of chocolate?

I love food, and not just eating it. I love the rainbow of colors you see in the produce section. The scent of fresh herbs and spices is intoxicating. The doughy texture of just-made pasta before you put it in boiling water. The exciting taste of a dish you’ve never made before.

When you have a mindset like that, you become more conscious of what you purchase—you want to start with the best ingredients: the freshest, the most aromatic scents, the most appealing colors. You want the most nutritious foods, so you stop buying the prepackaged things and start making things yourself—salad dressing, sauces, marinades, meals and snacks.

But buying these high quality ingredients can be hard, especially when you’re on a budget. One thing that I have found helps to keep my costs down is to meal plan. It helps because you aren’t buying a bunch of random ingredients that don’t go together when you pull them out of the fridge and try to cook something. It also helps because you can use items for more than one recipe. For example, maybe one chicken recipe I am making requires lemon zest, and then there’s a salad dressing that I like with lemon juice. I can zest the lemon for the meal I am making that night, and then squeeze the juice from the lemon and store it until later in the week when I am ready to make the salad.

Sure, prepackaged food might be cheap. Think about the cost of a hamburger at a fast food place. It’s definitely going to be less than if you buy chop meat, a package of rolls, and all the fixins individually. Are you really saving money, though? Probably not. You’ll likely get way more servings for the price out of the food you buy at the store, not to mention it will be healthier (and, as an added bonus, you’ll know exactly what’s in it).

Another thing that has helped with my grocery bills has been to get a rewards card from the store. They often have special rewards card pricing on items, and I’ll stock up on them. If you do some digging, there are websites that you can print coupons from. I also subscribe to the Sunday paper, because there are lots of store coupons and grocery circulars in there. I use it to help me meal plan, so I can coordinate my recipes with items that I know will be on sale.

A little effort goes a long way, and the energy you put in will be rewarded: you’ll be cooking better and fresher food, your grocery bill will go down, and your nutritional intake will go up!

How Do You Get Your Produce?

I love supporting my local community, especially the area farmers. I am lucky in that the area I live in has a great supply of freshly-grown produce. One of my biggest decisions was to figure out how to get my hands on those tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. I had a few choices: I could pick them up at a store—either a specialty market or a grocery store; I could find a farm stand or a farmer’s market and get what I needed there; or I could join a co-op.

The problem with the grocery store or a specialty market is that I could never really be sure where the food was actually coming from. Typical grocery stores import foods from all over—it’s necessary in most places because most climates are not conducive to growing everything most people are looking for. However, their price tends to be lower, because they sell more of a variety of items and make their money elsewhere. Specialty markets often have more locally-sourced items, but the closest one is a bit farther away than I would like, and it also is more expensive. So while I could probably buy strawberries there that were grown a few miles away, I’m paying more for them.

The next option that is worthwhile is going to a farm stand or a farmer’s market. This idea appeals to me because I get to visit the farm which produced the food I am purchasing, and more money goes directly into the hands of the people who work so hard to make the food. That matters to me. I would rather buy my steak or apples from my neighbor than from some factory in another country. Of course, I won’t be able to get all of my grocery shopping this way, but the stuff I do buy will be of better quality. There is also the potential for it to be cheaper, as I am purchasing it directly instead of through a third party.

My other choice was going into a co-op. I had two big concerns regarding buying food in a cooperative situation: the first was that it can be more expensive (and in return, I would be receiving more food). The second is that most places do not tell you in advance what you are going to be receiving. Typically, you get whatever in-season produce was ready to be harvested at predetermined intervals. This allows farmers the most freedom, in that they can grow the things best suited for their lands and the time of year, and guarantees them a certain amount of funding as they go through the year. These can be pick up or a delivery service.

I ended up looking into all three, and I decided that I’m going to do the co-op. I found a farm nearby that supplies eggs as well as seasonal vegetables, fruits, and herbs. I am looking forward to getting creative with the ‘mystery box’ type ingredients I’ll be receiving every couple of weeks. It should be exciting!

Do you have experience with any of these options? Which do you like best, and why?

Buying Produce in Season

When I first started trying to shop smarter, the phrase, “buying produce in season” is something I heard over and over. I understood the whole premise—buying something when it is in season means it will be freshest. But I didn’t know why it made it fresher, or even how to I was supposed to know what was in season when. I felt like it just made grocery shopping more complicated than it needed to be. So I did some investigating, and here’s what I learned.

In season produce is fresher and tastes better because it is allowed to ripen naturally on the vine/tree and is harvested when it is ready. What I didn’t know was that when produce is imported from somewhere else, it is harvested early and then chilled so that it can be transported. Then, when it reaches its destination, it is heated artificially so that it can ripen before it is put on the shelves. All those steps obviously have an effect on the flavor. There’s a big difference between that and fruit plucked off a tree at a farm nearby and shipped to a store, then put directly on the shelves.

When produce is picked too early, it doesn’t have enough time to mature. And while it affects flavor, it also affects nutritional value. The longer it takes from the time it is harvested to the time it is consumed, the more the nutrients decline. So if you want the most out of your fruits and veggies, the fresher you’ll want them to be.

In theory, in-season produce will also be cheaper. This happens for a number of reasons. Partially it is a quantity thing; when there is more of something (like a food naturally ripened), the price per item goes down. Secondly, it costs less as far as transportation goes, because we aren’t resorting to having it flown in from some other country. No extra steps need to be taken to make it grow—no hothouses, no chilling, no nothing. That also keeps the cost down.

And now that you know why it’s better (tastes better, more nutritious, cheaper), the big question is how you find out what’s in season. Luckily, there are a few ways to tell. The first way is to look it up online. The USDA has a guide right on their website! If you have a local farmer’s market or farm stand nearby, they’ll be selling whatever they recently harvested, so that’s a pretty good measure of what’s in season as well. Often, grocery stores will feature in-season produce in their circulars or display them prominently in-store. They will likely also be cheaper than other produce for reasons I listed above.

There you go! I hope you learned something with this post and you will start buying more local and in-season produce. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer you.

Secrets to Reading Food Labels

Food labels keep changing. It can be hard to process what you’re looking at, especially when you’re in a rush in the middle of the store. Here are a few tips to help you better understand what you’re looking at.

The word “natural” actually doesn’t mean anything. There are no rules regarding the use of that word. Be careful when you see it; check out the ingredients list on the back. If you wanta surefire natural product, make sure it has a USDA Organic seal on it. This will tell you that the product is composed of at least 95% organic ingredients. However, the certification process is long and expensive, so if you’re at a farmers market or something, food might qualify but not be certified. Askthe farmer about how they raise their livestock or grow their crops and they’ll be able to answer your questions.

While you’re looking at the front of the label, also be wary of the words “light” or “lite.” Light doesn’t necessarily ensure that it containsa reasonable amount of calories. It usually only means that it has less calories than the original version. This is often accomplished with artificial flavors, which may actually be worse for you than the calories in the regular version (depending on the food item). The calorie count and the fat content will be a much better barometer of whether it is a “light” item than some words on the label.

Next you need to check out the serving size. The best way to do this is to measure food out a few times until you get an idea of what the label is actually talking about. Also, especially with meat, the serving size may be different depending on whether it is cooked or raw—it tends to get smaller when cooked. Learn which one the label discusses.

Once you know how much a serving size is, you’ll understand how many calories you’ll be consuming if you eat one serving. Anything under 40 calories is considered a low calorie food. 400 calories or more is a high calorie food. The calories from fat is also important. The more fat calories there are, the higher the fat content and (typically) the less healthy the item is going to be.

If the food does have fat calories, they should be from monounsaturated fats—the kind you find in foods like avocados. Luckily, the label should also break down the type of fat. Saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided whenever possible. Steer clear of foods high in cholesterol.Same goes for foods high in sugar, which will also be broken out separately on the label.

However, there are some nutrients that you want to have higher numbers. The higher the dietary fiber, the more filling the product tends to be. It can also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron are all nutrients that are often lacking in our diets. The more, the better, as far as these nutrients are concerned.

There is one more item standard on a nutrition facts label. There is a Percent Daily Values label. It lets you know—based on a typical diet—how much of certain things you should consume (fat, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates). This gives you something to compare the nutrients listed on the particular food item you are looking at to what you should consume over the course of your day. It is a way to help you understand the label in terms of an all-day part of your diet.

Obviously, I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist. You should always ask a professional if you have questions. These are just some general guidelines and tips I have found to be helpful and I hope that it took some of the mystery out of reading labels for you. Your dietary needs might be different than mine, and you should talk to a professional if you have questions.