Archive for January, 2011

How To REALLY Read A Label

Food labels can be difficult to decipher and smart marketing can make a food appear healthier than it is. This guide will help you really know what you’re eating when your opt for a packaged food.

 Allowable Claims that you may see on labels that are “guidelines” for making healthy choices:

 1. Eating enough calcium may help prevent osteoporosis. (green leafy veggies are great sources of calcium)

2. Limiting the amount of sodium you eat may help prevent hypertension. (true, but note that not all hypertension is sodium related)

3. Limiting the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat may help prevent heart disease. (saturated fat is just one factor in heart disease, some saturated fats like coconut oil do not contribute to poor health )

4. Eating fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain dietary fiber may help prevent heart disease. (this is why oatmeal can claim it lowers cholesterol, however it’s best to get your fiber from vegetables and fruits)

5. Limiting the amount of total fat you eat may help reduce your risk for cancer.

6. Eating fiber-containing grain products, fruits and vegetables may help prevent cancer. (the best starchy fiber sources are sweet potato, yam, pumpkin, winter squashes and legumes,  followed by sprouted grain products and whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice.)

7. Eating fruits and vegetables that are low in fat and good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin A or vitamin C may help prevent cancer.

8.  Organic – this can get tricky.  Technically a product needs to have 95% organic ingredients to put “organic” as part of the product name.  For more details, see the USDA website

What Common Label Terms Mean

 Dietary Fiber

 High fiber: 5 grams of fiber or more per serving

A good source of fiber: 2.5 g – 4.9 g of fiber per serving


Fat Free: less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving

Low Fat: 3 grams of fat or less per serving

Lean: less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of sat fat and no more than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving

Extra-lean: less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat & 95 mg of cholesterol per serving

Low in saturated fat: 1 gram of sat fat or less per serving and not more than 15% of calories from saturated fatty acids

Reduced or less fat: at least 25% less fat per serving than the higher-fat version

Cholesterol Goal is 300 mg or less of cholesterol per day.

Low cholesterol: 20 mg of cholesterol or less and 2 grams of saturated fat or less per serving

Reduced cholesterol: at least 25% less cholesterol than the higher-cholesterol version and 2 grams of less of saturated fat per serving  

Cholesterol free: less than 2 mg of cholesterol or 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving


Sugar free: less than ½ gram of sugar per serving

Low Sugar: may not be used as a claim

Reduced Sugar: at least 25% less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

No added sugars, without added sugar, or no sugar added: no amount of sugar or any other ingredient that contains sugars that functionally substitute for added sugars is added during processing or packaging, the product contains no ingredients that contain added sugars such as jam, jelly or concentrated fruit juice


Calorie Free: fewer than 5 calories per serving

Low Calorie: 40 calories or less per serving

Light or “Lite”: 1/3 less calories or no more than ½ the fat of the higher-calorie, higher-fat version

Reduced Calorie: at least 25% fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food

Sodium Goal is 2400 mg or less of sodium per day

Light in Sodium: no more than ½ the sodium of the higher-sodium version

Sodium Free: less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and no sodium chloride (NaCl) in ingredients

Very Low Sodium: 35mg of sodium or less per serving

Low Sodium: 140 mg or less per serving

Reduced or less sodium: 25% less sodium per serving than the higher sodium version

 A couple more terms to be aware of:

· Free has the least amount of an ingredient and Very Low and Low have slightly more

· Reduced or Less always means that the food has 25% less of that nutrient than the reference version of that food

· Good Source Of means that it contains 10-19% of the Daily Value (DV) per serving

· High, Rich In, Excellent Source Of means that it contains 20% or more of the DV per serving.

· More, fortified, enriched, or added means that it contains at lest 10%more of the DV for protein, vitamins, minerals or fiber per serving.

· Fresh means that it has not been frozen, heat processed or similarly processed


January 25, 2011 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

Estrogen: Too Much Causes Big Trouble

Produced in the ovaries, this female sex hormone is the essence of femininity, the bestower of smooth skin and curvy hips. As an anabolic hormone in women, it builds up bone, the uterine lining, and body fat, estrogen also regulates the menstrual cycle and protects the heart.

However, in excess, this otherwise beneficial hormone can endanger a woman’s health and wreak havoc on her physique. In a relatively high estrogen state, known as estrogen dominance, women can really pack on the pounds, particularly in the hips, thighs, and butt – as well as increasing risk for breast cancer, endometriosis, infertility, etc. Estrogen dominance effects men as well, increasing risk for heart disease. This occurs as men become overweight.

The source of this excess estrogen isn’t the ovaries. It’s medications such as birth control pills, synthetic hormone replacement and our environment – and our body fat (via a process called aromatization which converts testosterone into estrogen in both sexes).

Both compounds that occur naturally and manmade chemicals in our air, water, and food—everything from plastic water bottles and shampoo to pesticides on fruits and veggies–contain molecules called endocrine disruptors, which research shows affect our health. These chemicals can block effects of hormones that balance out estrogens effects, and many act as strong estrogens themselves.

So getting the excess estrogens out of your environment is job one. Don’t panic when you see all the estrogen sources in your life. You can not completely win this battle, but you can probably, do a better job than you are doing now – here’s how:

  • Rid your home of conventional cleaners. Use more natural brands such as Method, Seventh Generation or see for more info on household chemicals.
  • Choose organic produce whenever possible to avoid estrogenic pesticides.
  • Choose clean, organic, free range, grass fed and hormone free proteins as often as possible.
  • Avoid or minimize strong phytoestrogens (namely soy)
  • Minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Use glass containers for food and drink. If you use plastic containers to store food, never microwave them. Avoid soft plastic water bottles as much as possible – opt for glass ideally or metal bottles such as Sigg and Klean Kanteen.
  • Switch to paraben and pthalate free cosmetics and body care products – you are literally rubbing these chemicals onto you body so it is important! Brands I recommend include Jurlique, Weleda, Earth Science, John Masters Organics and Aubrey Organics. Your local health food store will have many great products to choose from – but read your labels as not all products at health food stores are chemical free.

Among the more problematic personal care products is paraben containing deodorants. Most breast cancers occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (area next to the armpit), so rubbing exogenous estrogens into that area is a terrible idea! Natural deodorants that I love include Weleda’s spray deodorant in Wild Rose, Sage and Citrus and LaVanilla deodorant – however, good ol’ baking soda works like a charm! Try this recipe:

Place ½ to 1tsp in palm of hand

Add small amount of water and mix into a paste.

Rub into underarm area.

If you find that you are experiencing an offensive body odor, two to three times per week swab the underarm with rubbing alcohol to kill bacteria.

January 18, 2011 at 11:30 am 3 comments

Top Tips From Top Trainers – Make 2011 Your Fittest Year Ever!

Fitness professionals can make it look all too easy to be in great shape. What I can attest to with this group though,  is that they all walk the walk. They work out hard, eat well and consistently make good choices when it comes to staying active, taking care of themselves and continuing to be healthy. And that’s inspiring!

Lucky girl that I am, I get to be inspired by these great trainers every day since they are both friends and colleagues of mine at Peak Performance gym in NYC. As we all try to make 2011 a fit and healthy year, I asked them to share their best  get or stay in shape tips:

Joe Dowdell owner of Peak and my co-author for Ultimate You says, “Schedule your workouts like appointments. Put them right into your calendar like you would any other meeting.” One of the things I hear most often is that people are too busy to make it to the gym, you pencil in a haircut in order to make that happen, right? Do the same with your workouts – even if you don’t have a trainer, schedule it in. Same goes for meals. Many of my patients simply get too busy and forget to eat. Schedule in those 5 small meals per day – and your workout  – so you are reminded to take care of yourself.

Matt McGorry is one of my favorite trainers and favorite people. Read an interview I did with Matt after his body building competition, where we talked about what’s possible when you are simply compliant. Matt says, “To keep injury free and healthy, foam rolling should be as much a daily habit as brushing your teeth.” Get a foam roller from Perform Better and make it part of your pre and post workout routine. Many trainers feel this is even more important than stretching. It can be painful at first, but eventually you’ll really look forward to this practice – it’s sorta like self massage. It will keep you able to keep working out hard.

Sarah Petroski is a trainer and yoga teacher who says: “High quality, organic food is my Prada bag. It’s where I spend my extra money cuz I deserve it!” This may be my favorite of the tips ever! We love the best when it comes to clothes, cars, shoes, etc – why settle for less than the very best when it comes to what you put in your mouth? It costs more but the benefits are more than worth it when it comes to your health and you waistline.

Holly Rilinger, one of the buffest bods at Peak and Flywheel Spin Studio across the street, reminds us to “Not only set goals, but write them down!” January 1 you’re clear on your goal, but it fades. You’re often clear on your goal first thing in the morning, but come coffee break time you scarf down a muffin only to feel guilty afterwards.  Write down your goals, post them on your mirror and fridge, but more important: carry them with you in your wallet. Pull them out and review before meals, snacks, a night out with friends and when you try to talk yourself out of going to the gym.

Finally, my trainer: Joe Larson says “Fitness should be fun.” Sounds about right for a comedian, huh? But he’s right. We take the gym, the diet, and all that goes with it so serious. We need to remember to have fun while we’re working that hard. If we dread the gym, hate eating vegetables and feel restricted, obligated or stressed, then we’ve turned a healthy thing like working out or eating well into one more thing to worry and be unhappy about. So while you might not love every exercise, be sure you’re doing some activities you enjoy and keep a positive attitude about the ones you don’t. 

Here’s to a very fit 2011!

January 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

The Only New Years Resolution You Should Keep

It’s that time of year where we swear off sugar, vow to be a regular at the gym and announce to friends and family our grand plans to get into tip top shape. It’s that time of year we are right back where we started last January.

Very few of us are setting a get in shape or get healthy goal for the first time. We stand at the precipice of the New Year and declare that “this year is THE YEAR!” And we mean it. We believe it. We have every intention of pulling it off. We don’t set out to fail, but we often do. Should we just say “screw it”? Decide we can just live with this body as is? Accept that this is as good as it gets? Nope. Wanting to be healthy, and let’s be honest: wanting to be hot, is not the problem. The problem is often the bigness of our grand plan.

The goal is big: transform our sluggish selves into the fit, lean, vibrant, energetic, sexy person we’ve always wished we could be. A big goal like that needs a big plan: giving up sugar, alcohol and carbs; working out 6 or more times per week; signing up to run a race or other event; giving up our Friday night drinks with friends; and learning to say no to all your cravings and bad ol’ habits.

It’s tough – but that’s what it takes. We have to be overwhelmed, do a complete overhaul, make sweeping changes.


Sometimes an abrupt shift is just what we need….but sometimes, most of the time actually, we need to take a slower, more steady approach.  Just look at your gym this week, it’s packed with new faces. Then look again in March or April – it will soon back to the same crowd that was there in December, save a few new converts.  So the big, grand New Year’s resolution to lose weight doesn’t work so well.

But this doesn’t mean we are doomed to feel badly about our bodies and that we’ll never make the kinds of changes that give us the look and health we want, it means we need to change our plan about how to get it. Take a little of the bigness out of it.  

So what’s the only resolution you need to keep? It’s not to never have dessert or never miss a workout. It’s simple, sustainable and will give you quick and lasting results.  Dying to know? It will surprise you: simply do better than you did yesterday.

Today shouldn’t be so hard right? After days of holiday cookies and too much champagne last night, choose a big salad with protein for dinner tonight and take a walk. Today? It’s already better than yesterday. Then the next day, do a little more.  Go grocery shopping for the week and cook more meals in than dining out.  Hit the gym. Then do a little more. Look into a new class, go “more” organic, or drink more water.

Just keep doing better every day, bit by bit and come this time next year you’ll be loving your fit, healthy body; be a regular at your gym; and have mastered 100s of new healthy habits.  

You don’t have to be perfect every day. You just need to be better.

This year, simply resolve to be better. Be better today than you were yesterday.

For tips, recipes, motivation, and more be sure to follow BETTER by Dr Brooke on Facebook! Gonna be an amazing year!

January 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm 1 comment

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