I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a fitness expert.

I am a 57 year old woman who has never felt more healthy and fit in my entire life. Five years ago, at 52, I weighed about 80 lbs. more than I do now. I felt much older, with stiff joints and back aches and no energy. And don't even ask about clothes!

My goal was not just weight loss, but to get healthier. I did not "go on a diet," I did not count calories or carbs. I made lifestyle changes, a little at a time. I tried to eat healthier and move more. You can do this, too. You can make changes to look, and more importantly, feel healthier and fit. You don't have to be overweight to be unfit. You will feel a difference in strength, energy, stamina and flexibility. I'm talking to you, men, too!

I can tell you how I did it. Not everything I do will be right for you. Through posts about my progress; tips and ideas about nutrition and exercise; links to sites I like and find helpful, I hope to inspire others to get fit and healthy and encourage a community of support and an exchange of ideas. And have a little fun on the way! Much of our information will be about local Cape Ann sites - walking and bike routes, gyms, types of exercise, yoga studios, good buys on healthy food - but Guests and commenters from anywhere are welcome as well.

Okay, I know you all want to know. Right now I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8. A comfortable size 8!

Twenty year old daughter:
"Mom, why are you wearing my clothes?"
Mom: "Because I can!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Not All About Calories

Nutrition Labels 101.

Warning: Steer clear of me in the supermarket if you're in a hurry. If I'm looking to try some new food, I'll be the one taking every brand and variety off the shelf to read the label.

I'm not rigid about calorie content, preservatives and sugars. If I'm choosing between products, what I try to do is choose the one with the fewer ingredients, or maybe the better protein-for-the-calories content, or less fat or sugar calories. I try to stay away from anything with artificial sweeteners - my own personal thing. I just try my best to pick the healthiest option.

One of my favorite mini-meals is a PB&J.

I mentioned yesterday that the only ingredient in Teddie unsalted peanut butter is peanuts. That's a no-brainer, an easy decision.

For the jelly or jam - I like blueberry preserves. This is one of those items where the number of ingredients (the fewer the better), the quality of the ingredients (nutrition labels list ingredients in descending order of weight/proportion, so in this case you want the fruit to be the first ingredient), and taste are as important as calories. Just about every jelly or jam out there has 50 calories per tablespoon. There are sugar-free options for something like 10 calories/tbsp, but I don't go for them.

I choose this for 50 calories and great taste:

Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Preserves - Ingredients: Wild Blueberries, Sugar, Cane Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid.

Instead of the same 50 calories and, in my opinion, inferior taste:

Smuckers Blueberry Preserves - Ingredients: Blueberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid.

From a health standpoint, I'm not convinced that High Fructose Corn Syrup is any worse for you than cane sugar. Neither is good for you. (Read more than you want to know about fructose, glucose and sucrose in this About.com article.) For me, it's a taste thing - HFCS is just too sweet. I work on limiting the amount of any kind of added sugar in my diet, so I don't worry about a little here and there. It's how much you consume overall that matters and reading labels will help you control your intake.

For the small amount of sugar in my tablespoon of preserves, I definitely pass on saving a mere 40 calories with this:

Smuckers Sugar-Free Blueberry Preserves
: Ingredients: Water**, Polydextrose**, Maltodextrin**, Blueberries+, Fruit Pectin, Locust Bean Gum**, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor**, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Sucralose (Non-nutritive Sweetener)**, Red 40**, Calcium Chloride**, Blue 1**.

**Ingredients not in regular preserves.

+Adds a trivial amount of sugar, <.5g/ Serving.


For the bread part, I like the whole-grain varieties of either Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats or Arnold Sandwich Thins - at 100 calories per roll, they're half the calories of two slices of whole grain bread. There is not much nutritional difference between brands and varieties - so in this case, price rules!

Even with the small amount of sugar, reading nutrition labels and choosing the right products can make a PB&J a healthy sandwich - high quality plant protein, a little bit of fruit and some whole grain fiber.

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