FIT Talk With Tania  

Food packaging does not always tell the whole story

Marketing vs. nutrition

Food labels and packaging: What they're really telling you

While I don't believe food companies are trying to create an unhealthy population, they are trying to generate more sales, meaning their primary focus is profit, not health.

The sole purpose of labels and packaging is to provide you, the consumer with information to help you make an educated decision on whether to buy or not, right? That's what you thought. That's what we'd all like to think. The truth is, like any other product out there on the market, companies that sell food products are first and foremost a business.

For any company to stay in business, grow, and become successful, it needs to be profitable. Because of that, the bottom line becomes the driver and dictates how products are packaged, how labels are written and how the product is marketed. When it comes to food products, marketing by the company often means ambiguous, unclear and even misleading messages in nutrition labels and in the overall design or branding of the product.

What that means for those who are reading labels and paying attention to advertisements on packaging is that often there is misleading and/or mixed messaging and it that can leave you wondering if what you're purchasing is really what you thought it was.

Make no mistake, if you are unsure about an item being really healthy, but you words such as “sugar free,” “gluten free,” and “only 100 calories” but can't identify anything to red-flag your choice, you're more than likely putting it in your cart and taking it home.

While a product that does have those claims plastered on the box or packaging may very well be made with quality ingredients, most often those claims are there to distract and keep you away from turning it over, reading the nutrition label and ingredient list and getting a look at what you’ll really be consuming.

I made a point of testing that one day in a local health food store a few years back. I decided I would look at sugar in protein powders. Naturally, I gravitated to the ones with, “sugar free!” or “sweetened with stevia”, plastered on the front thinking they should be cleaner, healthier products.

I turned them over and read the ingredient list of several brands using those claims and found they were true statements. Also true—and more important to know—was that the sugar was replaced with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, NutraSweet, etc., (known to disrupt endocrine system, cause bloating, gut issues, affect moods, etc.) and where stevia was added, it came at the end of the ingredient list, preceeded by any number of the aforementioned artificial sweeteners. For those who don't know, ingredients are listed in descending order of how much of that item makes up the product. The farther down the list it is, the less of it there is in that product.

Last week I did a Back to School one-minute segment with local radio personality, Toby Tannas, cautioning that packaging on the outside, doesn't always match what's on the inside. One example was a box of snack squares you might consider putting in a child's lunchbox.

The front of the box proudly displayed in bright colours, “lower in sugar” and “peanut-free! School approved,” along with more subtle, but right there on the front as well, “tree-nut free, peanut-free, gluten-free”. All of these are positioned near to the company name emblem, which has trademarked the term “Healthy Crunch.” The box also had small icons again noting “peanut-free”, “tree-nut free”, along with “dairy free”, the non-GMO verified label, an icon for “fruits and vegetables”, “certified vegan” and “GF”.

Flipping that box on its side however, and reading the ingredient list, showed, although the front of the box advertised “lower in sugar,” the first three ingredients contained sugar. Remember the descending order? It can be very misleading if you're a parent who's just trying to find something good to put in your kid's lunch.

By the way, there are many other names that don't include the word “sugar” but mean sugar is hiding in the item. Do a little online search for “other names for sugar” and you'll be shocked.

I remember attending a seminar and listening to Paul Zane Pilzer, an economist in two U.S. presidential administrations, speak about this. He shared how he was able to observe product satiety testing for fries made by one of the largest fast food restaurants. Satiety is measured by how much you eat before you stop eating.

Pilzer said as the subjects would say they'd had enough and didn't feel like eating any more, the chemist was directed to, “fix that!”

Yes, food can, and is, being made to make people want more, even when they'd otherwise stop eating. It was a very interesting and eye-opening seminar.

The bottom line is, as you are shopping for back to school snacks or otherwise, remember the front of the package does not tell the whole story. Ever.

Sugar is more than likely hidden in the ingredient list. Whole foods are always better than anything in a package. For those times you do buy for convenience, aim for five items or less, and eat them with some protein to keep your blood sugar stable. That goes for kids too. Your body will burn fat, you won't get that energy crash later and your kids will be able to concentrate and focus better in class.

It’s a win for you both.

For more information on stabilizing blood sugar, watch Tania's free 15 mins video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Kids, sleep and melatonin

Importance of sleep

More kids than ever before are using melatonin to sleep and experts are now cautioning against it.

With back to school in full swing, familiar routines start up again, and that includes reining in those late nights and getting the kids back on track with bedtimes.

At this time of year, conversations with clients and others naturally turn to their kids or grandkids and on more than one occasion, the topic of kids and sleep has come up. Setting a bedtime doesn't seem to be a problem. How their little ones (and not-so little ones) are just not sleeping is the bigger concern. And, of course, if they're not sleeping, neither are you.

For well over a decade, I've been coaching clients on how to achieve their health and weight goals through blood sugar stabilization and hormonal balance. There are six components to consider, one of which is sleep.

Truly, sleep is a key piece to overall health, and sadly, most people aren't getting enough. As my own kids were great sleepers, it never occurred to me that lack of sleep, in both hours and quality, was as pervasive as it is.

The Sleep Foundation posted an article earlier this month stating 50% of children struggle with sleep at some point during childhood, and that 20% to 30% of kids are diagnosed with sleep disorders.

In addition to nutrition, I spent almost 20 years in education, specializing in behaviour, working in the classroom with kids with special needs. Sleep was an issue for many of the kids I worked with. However, regardless the age or their scholastic ability, it sure was easy to tell who had stayed up late on a school night.

Because of the comments I heard and things I read, I decided to do a little investigating on my own. Sure, my kids are grown, but I work with families. There are friends and neighbours aswell and it's back to school time, so here we are.

So, I took a day and sent out messages to everyone I could think of with (younger) kids and teens and posted videos and polls on social media asking for feedback. I asked, “Do your kids have trouble sleeping?” and “Do you ever given them melatonin or anything similar for it?”

Only two out of all who responded said their kids slept well.

I happened to be at my chiropractor that day and I asked him the same questions with regards to the kids in his practice. His resounding, “Heck ya!” reinforced my thoughts on whether or not this topic warranted an article. Cleary it does.

We all know that sleep is important, but what does lack of sleep really do besides bring out your child's inner gremlin? Let's take a look.

Lack of sleep impacts physical health. Sleep Medicine Reviews reports children and adolescents with inadequate sleep are at a higher risk for obesity, as lack of sleep disrupts their metabolism and increases appetite, often for sweets and starches.

Mental health is also affected. According to the American Psychological Association, a lack of sleep causes increased feelings of stress and anxiety which contributes to sleep difficulties, continuing the cycle. Currently 25% of teens report feeling stressed out daily.

Learning is impacted. The National Institute of Health says a lack of sleep impacts academic performance as students are more likely to struggle with attending in class, memory, focus and learning.

Clearly our kids need to get some ZZZs. Almost all whose kids have difficulty sleeping reported they had used, or are currently melatonin. While melatonin is a hormone our brain needs for sleep, ingesting it has been shown to have some serious negative effects verses stimulating your body to make more on its own.

Because melatonin supplements can overwhelm the body's natural production and confuse the body's internal clock, kids who take it may experience drowsiness during the day. When used improperly, melatonin supplements can disrupt the natural sleep cycle, leading to disturbances.

Taking high doses of melatonin for extended periods of time may interfere with the body's natural hormone regulation, leading to potential hormonal imbalances.

The amount of melatonin kids produce naturally change as they grow older, and continued use can disrupt the body's natural development. As well, some kids may become dependent on melatonin supplements to initiate sleep, which can lead to difficulties of ever falling asleep without them.

If synthetic melatonin is part of your bedtime regimen, note that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently issued a health advisory with warnings about its use.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine also published a study that found “significant quality problems with melatonin supplements...having contaminants or failing label claim.”

Ultimately, the long-term effects of melatonin use, especially at higher doses, are not well understood.

I’m not sure about you, but I'm not too excited to give a child anything where the long-term outcomes are not well understood.

And yet, a child still needs to sleep. Nutritional bio-chemist, Dr. Shawn Talbott advocates a natural approach and has developed products that use things like turmeric, berries, lemon, vanilla, chamomile along with magnesium, vitamins B,B12, B6, D, D3, to help calm, relax and regulate moods, together with a type of corn grass to help your child's body make its own melatonin. He does keep them sugar-free, as well as free of artificial sweeteners.

Your child will feel calmer, relaxed and have an overall deeper sleep. Which means you will too.

For more information and to watch Talbott's video on kids' sleep aids, email me at [email protected].

To watch Tania's free training on blood sugar stabilization, click here.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only. ou should consult a trained medical professional before taking any supplements.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Sugar and aging are not a sweet deal

The problem with sugar

We all know that too much sugar isn't good for your health. But did you know it can also speed up the aging process?

Most folks know by now that sugar, although something our tastebuds love, isn't the best choice for health. But did you also know that excess sugar actually accelerates aging? It's true. Beyond the obvious things like cavities and a compromised immune function, sugar and the way it behaves in your body also speeds up aging. This process is called glycation and it is fuelled by dysregulated blood sugar.

Upon entering the body, sugar, along with other processed/packaged carbs (as they turn to sugar almost immediately) causes blood sugar to spike. Your body then over releases insulin to try and counteract, and it comes crashing down shortly afterwards. Every time that happens, it causes cells in your body to break down and oxidize which speeds up the aging process. Like when you slice an apple. Unless you wrap it up right away or put some lemon juice on it, the apple will turn brown, the exposed areas get soft and mushy and it will eventually rot.

The same thing happens to the cells in your body. The apple without any lemon juice is your cells when blood sugar is unstable and your body is glycating.

Think about it. A bagel at breakfast, that double double or latte on the way to work, a muffin at coffee break, a soda or energy drink pick-me-up in the afternoon, maybe some pasta and red wine for dinner. Just a few examples of foods that cause blood sugar to spike and become dysregulated.

Repeated spikes in blood sugar is a prime example of what can cause AGEs, Advanced Glycation End products. Aptly named, these harmful compounds are formed in the body when protein and excess sugar combine. The more sugary, packaged, processed, fast, and/or deep-fried foods we consume, the more AGEs are formed. AGEs trigger glycation which in turn accelerates aging and causes metabolic disease.

Which begs these questions

1. When you think about what you're eating throughout the day, how well are you balancing your blood sugar?

2. How much glycation are you creating, and how much pre-mature aging is going on inside because of it?

Currently, nine out of 10 deaths in America can be attributed to metabolic disorders. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, vision impairment, kidney damage are all caused and/or made worse, by dysregulated blood sugar.

Dementia and Alzheimer's have for years been quietly called “Type-3 diabetes” as well due to the affect blood sugar and glycation has on the brain. The irony here is that these diseases themselves can then accelerate the production of AGEs, creating a viciously unhealthy cycle.

If you follow my column, you know that I talk all the time about the importance of blood sugar stabilization and the key role it plays when it comes to sustainable weight loss. But with statistics like we just read, clearly there's a lot more at stake to balancing blood sugar than just losing weight.

What we eat, how and when we eat it, will either stabilize your blood sugar or cause you to glycate. For those who like a visual picture, you're either putting lemon juice on your apple, or allowing it to rot. Not a pretty picture perhaps, but it's not generally the beautiful, perfect pictures that necessitate a change.

So how can you use food to stabilize blood sugar? Simple. Choose clean, whole, single-ingredient foods most often. Eat a protein, fat, and carb together frequently throughout the day in the right portions and in the right frequencies.

I tell my clients “PFC every 3.” Protein is key for building and protecting muscle to support metabolism which in turn supports stabilizing blood sugar. Fat helps to slow down digestion and prevent carbohydrates from spiking up. Fat is your friend. Carbs are our energy source, so we do need them.

The best, most nutrient-dense carbs by far are your fruits and veggies. Does that mean you can't ever have that bagel for breakfast, or that latte on the way to work? Absolutely not. But have it with some protein and healthy fat to make it balanced.

As a baby, we were all born into this world eating and fuelling to stabilize blood sugar. Babies aren't even allowed to go home from the hospital if their blood sugar isn't stable.

Clearly there's a reason for it. Let's get back to that and see if we can't put a little lemon juice on.

For recipe videos, tips and all things PFC, check out Tania's new recurring cooking segment on Brinx TV. For more info on PFC every 3, watch Tania's Free 15 mins video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Weight loss needs to be part of a longer-term plan

Dying to be thin

It's been all over the news, so I'm sure by now you've probably heard the sad news regarding the newly-released autopsy report elaborating on exactly how Lisa Marie Presley died back in January.

Having a heart attack in your early 50s – especially for women – is not so common but now knowing the cause of that heart attack makes her death especially tragic and sad. I believe it should also be viewed as a cautionary tale for others out there considering medical intervention for weight loss.

Bariatric surgery, gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, lap band are a few of many different types of weight-loss surgeries, “..performed to reduce risk of weight-related health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes...for patients who... have tried to lose weight by improving their diet and exercising more, but it was unsuccessful...” as stated by Today news online, per the Mayo Clinic.

As with any surgery, procedure or prescription, there are risks and side effects associated with all of them. If you still have cable TV, you'll know exactly what I mean, as every medical ad presented comes with a laundry list of side effects and risks to be aware of. Some people experience these immediately, an allergic reaction for example, and for others, it can silently sneak up on you, as it appears to have done with Lisa Marie Presley.

There are numerous short-term and long-term risks associated with these types of surgeries. Dr. Ali Aminian, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic reports short-term risks are listed as excess bleeding, complications of anesthesia, infections and blood clots while the Mayo Clinic states long-term risks to include bowel obstructions, hernias, gallstones, ulcers, malnutrition and rarely, death. Obstructions can take weeks, or even years, to develop, showing up long after the person has recovered from surgery.

Just how risky are these procedures? Dr. Aminian reports about 3% of people who undergo these types of surgeries experience complications. That's three in every 100 people experiencing one or more side effects.

And yet the number of surgeries performed each year goes up. The data provided by ASMBS, the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, shows the total number of weight loss surgeries increased from 158,000 in 2011 to 262,893 in 2021, with the sleeve showing the greatest increase going from 28,124 in 2011 to 152,866 in 2021. These rising numbers continue to drive home that what we are doing as a society with regards to food, nutrition and health, isn't working and people are desperate. So desperate unfortunately that some, like Presley, are literally dying to be thin.

In my many years of coaching, I've talked to and worked with people who have had some of these types of surgeries as they still didn't end up fully getting the results they had hoped for, because they don't have anything in place post surgery to support and maintain that weight loss.

In my opinion, any prescription, procedure or surgery administered for weight loss should also come with a food plan. Simply telling someone to avoid sugar and eat smaller portions is a suggestion, not a plan.

Dieting, counting calories, restricting, eliminating foods and/or food groups, won't do it. Following the Canada Food Guide won't do it. Pills, patches, injections won't do it. Even surgery won't do it for the long-term, without a plan that focuses on creating health and balance in your body.

On the other hand, educating patients on how to eat the foods they love in a way that creates hormonal balance, stabilizes blood sugar and supports metabolism is the first step to getting your body back on track to how it was born to function.

How do you know if what you're about to do will get you results that you can keep for the rest of your life? Ask yourself these three things before trying anything for weight loss:

• Is what I'm about to do based in science?

• Does it make sense that I can do it for the rest of my life?

• Would I let a child do it?

There's a lot of science out there and honestly, you could probably find some obscure science for almost anything if you searched hard enough. Which brings us to point number two. What you're about to do needs to make sense to you and fit with your lifestyle so that you can do it anywhere, anytime in any situation without feeling deprived and starving so you can do it for life. If it doesn't, you're just setting yourself up to fail in the long run.

Number three is the most telling. When babies are born they want to eat right when they wake up and then again frequently throughout the day. What they're eating, breastmilk or formula is a perfect balance of a protein, fat and carb which stabilizes blood sugar and balances hormones. Our bodies have not changed the way we take in and metabolize food on the inside, we just got to be bigger humans. If you wouldn't let a child do it, you shouldn't be doing it either.

If you're ready to stop dieting and take back control of your health, watch Tania's Free 15 mins video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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