We all know nutrition is the key to seeing your fitness goals in to fruition (if you didn’t know, I’m telling you now!).  Whether it is losing weight, gaining muscle, or training for an endurance sport, food is the fuel that will truly change your body. Start thinking of your body as a luxury car. You would never put low-grade gas in a Rolls Royce, now would you? You are a Rolls Royce. Eat accordingly! Lean proteins, leafy greens, complex carbs, and minimal sugar are some basic rules to remember when cleaning up your diet.

 

Ok, so what do you do when real life starts and you need food fast? How do I pack my kid’s lunch? Although, I’m not an advocate for processed foods, I understand they are a modern convenience that is nearly impossible to completely cut out of your diet. Becoming a master at reading nutrition labels is your biggest defense against. Most of us are in the habit of at least checking nutrition labels to see how many calories we’re eating. Calorie checking is step one. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when checking the nutrition labels on your favorite snack foods:

·       Check the calories. If something seems too high in calories, itis. Put it down and walk away.

·       CHECK THE SERVING SIZE. Food companies are excellent at tricking us into thinking we are eating much less than we are. Be careful that you aren’t eating or drinking more than the serving size that’s listed on the label. You’re favorite soda may only be 160 calories, but if you read the serving size there are 2 servings in each bottle. You just consumed 320 empty calories. Be careful!

·       Check the macronutrients on the label, aka check the fats, carbs, and proteins listed. Look for foods high in protein and low in fat. Carbs and protein are 4 calories/gram and 9 calories/gram of fat. 10+ grams of fat for a packaged item with a tiny serving is a lot of fat so even if it seems “low carb,” it’s not the best use of fat calories. Don’t be afraid of carbs and fat either. Carbs give you energy, but if you have excess fat, you got that way by eating too many carbs so be wary of high carb processed foods. Not all protein bars are made the same! Sure it has 25g of protein, but it also as 8g of fat and 30g of carbs. That’s equivalent to a full meal. I don’t know about you but I’d be a lot more satisfied with a meal on a plate than a “healthy” bar that’ll never taste as good as real chocolate.

·       Check the fiber. Fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer and it’s necessary for smooth digestion.  A lot of packaged food is skimpy on the fiber.

·       Look at the ingredients! If there are a ton of ingredients, none of which you recognize, put it down. Processed foods are full of chemicals that can create hormone imbalances. Many chemicals found in processed foods can negatively affect estrogen levels in the body, making it harder for you to lose weight.