How to Read Food Nutrition Labels

How to Read Food Nutrition Labels

Going to the supermarket can become a real challenge when you’re trying to lose weight or simply looking for healthy food. Shelves are packed with lots of options, each stating to be the best… but, how to choose the food products which best suit our needs? In this article we’re going to give you some tips that will help you make wiser decisions for your grocery shopping.

What are Food Nutrition Labels?

Food labels are the panels found on a package of food and which contains a variety of information about the nutritional content inside a package of food. By law, all food manufacturers are required to provide them, and they can help us to:

  • Compare between food products more easily.
  • Find out the nutritional value of the foods you usually consume.
  • Better manage your special dietary needs (e.g. low sodium, low-carb, or low-sugar diets).
  • Increase or decrease your intake of a particular nutrient (for example, increase fiber, decrease saturated fat)

Decoding Food Labels

Food labels are broken up into sections to make it easy for you to read and understand the nutrition found on a particular food item. Here are the 5 very easy steps from the American Heart Association that will help you understand the information in your food labels:

1. Check the serving size

This will tell you the size of a single serving and the total number of servings per container (package). A good idea is to compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat. If you eat the serving size shown on the “Nutrition Facts Table” you will get the number of calories and nutrients that are listed.

2. Check out the calories

Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving of a packaged food. You should pay attention to the calories per serving and how many servings you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients.

3. Check the Percent Daily Value (% Daily Value)

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient per serving, based on the daily recommended amount. It can help you determine if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.

The %DV is very useful when you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), or if you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber). And it can also be used to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day.

4. Get less of these nutrients

The nutrients listed first are the ones Americans generally eat in adequate amounts, or even too much, and which should be eaten moderately or even avoided:

  • Total fat (especially saturated fat and/or trans fat)
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

5. Get more of these nutrients

These are the nutrients most Americans don’t get enough, and which can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.

  • Calcium
  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium*
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

*Note: The listing of potassium is optional on the Nutrition Facts Label.

Some extra (and useful) facts

  • Food labels are based on a 2,000-calories diet a day. We consume less or more than that depending on our age, gender, activity level, and whether we’re trying to lose, gain or maintain our weight.
  • Many food packages contain more than one serving, so if you’re eating the whole package, you should multiply the information by the number of servings contained in it.
  • Being familiar with %DV, can help you to compare foods and decide which is the better choice for you. Be sure to check for the particular nutrients you want more of or less of.

If you still don’t know which foods are best for you, our therapists at Forma Vital will provide you with professional advice according to your dietary needs. #DecideItNow, and we will help you choose your food wisely.

How to Strengthen Your Willpower and Achieve Your Goals

How to Strengthen Your Willpower and Achieve Your Goals

According to the survey Stress in America™, carried out by the American Psychological Association, Americans usually cite lack of willpower as their No. 1 reason for not achieving their health-related lifestyle goals. And how are we supposed to survive temptations when we’re bombarded with ads for high-calorie treats, and fast, processed food is available 24/7, often at a lower cost than healthier options?

Willpower, the road toward long-term goals

Willpower can be defined as the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. With more self-control, we could have better eating habits, avoid overusing alcohol and drugs, save more money, and reach all kinds of goals. As a matter of fact, scholars such as Eli Tsukayama have found that people with a better self-control are less likely to become overweight, thanks to their ability to control impulses and delay gratification.

Researchers have also found that willpower can be depleted, having an impact over a range of behaviors, including substance use and misuse, impulsive purchasing, and excessive food intake. The good news, they don’t believe willpower is ever completely exhausted. On the contrary, we all appear to keep some in reserve, and we’re even capable of strengthen it with practice.

6 strategies to reboot your willpower

According to Roy Baumeister, our beliefs and attitudes may mitigate the effects of willpower depletion. When high motivation is not enough to overcome weakened willpower, you may find the following strategies pretty useful:

  1. When our glucose levels are low, we’re more susceptible to overeating. Eating regularly to maintain blood-sugar levels in the brain may help refuel run-down willpower stores. Just remember that if you’re trying to keep off extra pounds, you should eat frequent small meals and snacks rather than spending long periods of time without any food.
  2. When you set goals, be sure to meet your own personal objectives, and don’t try to fulfill others’ expectations. When it comes to willpower, being in touch with ourselves yield better results than pleasing others. Willpower is YOUR choice. If you decide to make some changes in your day-by-day habits, you should be truly convinced to do so: the only person you have to please is yourself. If you go on a diet just because your friends, family, or couple want you to lose weight, you’ll have to make a greater effort than if you were doing it because you want a better version of yourself.
  3. Flexing your willpower muscles can strengthen self-control over time. Regular physical exercise leads not only to stronger muscles, but will exert your willpower as well. Exercising for the first time requires a lot of willpower, but once you’ve begun, it becomes a routine. The same happens with every change you’d pursue in your life; exercising is a routine that also strengthens your willpower.
  4. Don’t set too many goals at the same time. Once a good habit is in place, you won’t need your willpower to maintain the behavior. Healthy habits will become a routine and you won’t need self-control either; it is then that you can put the next goal in your calendar.
  5. You can try the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. If you’re trying to get rid of extra pounds, you can try keeping junk, fattening food out of sight, it’ll be easier not to fall into temptation.
  6. Use “if-then” statements to plan those situations you know might make you fall. For instance, if you’re watching your alcohol intake and you’re attending a party, you can think, “If I’m offered a drink, then I’ll ask for a soda instead”. Having a plan in place ahead of time may allow you to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower.

Having willpower will bring you positive life outcomes, such as higher self-esteem, lower intakes of damaging substances, and improved eating habits, which will lead you to a better physical and mental health. It might not be easy at first, but if you #DecideItNow, you’ll soon realize it was worth the effort.

How To Succeed In Your New Year’s Resolutions

How To Succeed In Your New Year’s Resolutions

According to research studies, 50% of Americans make a list with their New Year’s Resolutions: losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and save money are in the top of our lists. However, only 12% manage to achieve these goals. That’s why here we’re going to tell you some strategies that can help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions.

You can prepare yourself to succeed in your resolutions

Changing our behaviors is no piece of cake, and might be a harder work than we expect. One of the biggest problems is that we’re not properly “ready” for changing our lives only because we change of year.

If you really want to succeed, being prepared for these changes is an essential stage. And even if we know there are no foolproof plans, we all need a start point. Here are some strategies you can use to be prepared for your New Year’s resolutions:

  • Commit yourself when you’re TRULY ready: There are some times which are definitely better than others; goals are easily achieved when the context is suitable for them to happen. For instance, if you decide to go on a diet during the holidays, it’s very likely you’ll end up, either falling off the diet wagon, or become really frustrated. But if you choose a time when you know you can prepare your own meals and won’t be so socially active, your diet won’t become a nightmare, but a definite success!
  • Be aware of success and failure: Leaving bad habits behind is not that easy, and you may have relapses. If you plan how this could happen, you can make a contingency plan. You can even try to re-commit one month from your start date and see how things are going.
  • Go for specific and measurable goals: It isn’t very effective to say “I want to lose weight”; but if you say “I will work out three days of a week for 30-minutes” you can be measuring your progress towards your deadline and not just leave your resolution up in the air.
  • Start with the most reachable goals: If we begin with small and manageable goals, which success we can see in a couple of weeks, we feel very motivated to add more goals… and successes!
  • Strengthen your willpower: As Roy Baumeister suggests, willpower is limited. Every time we start a new behavior or quit an old one we use our willpower “supply”. If we set too many goals, we get physically and mentally exhausted. If you try to achieve them little by little, you’ll have more chances to succeed and, therefore, you’ll strengthen your willpower.
  • Build your resilience: What doesn’t kill us make us stronger, and gives us the chance to adapt well in the face of adversity and to be able to bounce back from setbacks. When we’re resilient, we can fall and stand up again to achieve our dreams.
  • Reward yourself when succeed: Instead of punishing yourself for missing goals, be proud for what you’ve achieved. Start thinking about what your rewards will be. Just remember these rewards should be meaningful for you and motivate you to fulfill your resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are a good way to bring out the best in us and improve our lives. If you really want to make some meaningful changes this coming year, #DoItNow, there’s no better way nor time to start. And by the way, Happy New Year!

Some Little Tricks to Survive Xmas Overeating

Some Little Tricks to Survive Xmas Overeating

With Christmas just around the corner, all our attention is focused on festivities: gifts, toasts, and food, lots of food. Clearly, the main objective of the holidays is not to forget about your healthy eating habits or to gain weight. December holidays must be a cause for celebration, a tradition that reminds us the importance of family and friends. However, it can become a real torment for those who have been fighting overweight throughout the year.

Thinking about the pounds you might gain during the holidays terrifies you?

According to data from, an average American eats about 3,300 calories on Christmas day, which makes almost 7,000 calories during all the festivity; that is, more than three times the daily intake recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture!

Without a doubt, that overindulgence of food and drink has a negative impact on our body weight. A survey from the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that we gain between 7 and 10 pounds during this holiday season, which can ruin all our past year’s efforts and even take away our desire to try to lose weight again.

Christmas time survival guide

The good news is that following these simple tricks you can avoid regaining weight but will still be able to enjoy the delicious Xmas recipes.

  1.Use smaller plates

Big plates are in style today; they’re pretty “chic”, but they can make us overeat. According to Brian Wansink, specialist in psychology of eating from Cornell, using smaller plates also decreases the amount of food we eat and reduces in 60% our calorie intake. The same happens with tumblers, so you’d better chose tall skinny tumblers instead of small ones.

  2.Don’t skip meals waiting for the “great feast”

Skipping breakfast, and even supper to “make room” for Christmas dinner, it’s a really bad idea. When we arrive with an empty stomach we run the risk of overindulging. It’s best not to leave without having breakfast; take a light, though substantial, meal. If you’re going to a dinner, don’t forget to eat something healthy to curb your cravings.

  3.Continue with your workout routine

During this season, full of reunions and dinners, we usually forget to do exercise. Remember that physical activity boosts your metabolism and whets your appetite in the morning, which keeps you from skipping breakfast. Believe it or not, that will prevent you from overeating and will make you enjoy food more.

  4.Eat strategically

The utmost objective of Christmas is neither try EVERY dish, nor eat them in large amounts, so you’ve got no excuse to leave your healthy eating habits behind. If you have the chance, choose eating more vegetables and low-fat food instead of meals rich in sugar and/or fat.

  5.Be aware with desserts

We know it’s almost impossible saying “no” to a delicious Christmas dessert, but you may choose desserts with less sugar and more cinnamon, or pick up an apple strudel and not a chocolate cake. Your dessert will be as delicious, but you won’t gain weight.

  6.Look out for yourself

Pre-Christmas toasts and dinners are the first of a long series of festivities; Christmas and New Year’s dinners, Three King’s Day, and their corresponding after-parties, to say nothing about reunions with friends and colleagues. That’s why you should look out for yourself daily. If possible, do a detox (here we tell you how) a few days before special feasts; don’t stop your workout routine; and, mostly, don’t abuse your body overeating.

Christmas season is the best time to celebrate our achievements and reward ourselves. However, #DecideItNow; don’t lose sight of your objectives. You can share this season’s delicious meals in moderation. Remember that, even if making a pause during Christmas is up for grabs, it’s not worthy to throw all your past efforts for achieving your ideal weight down the drain.

How Stretching Can Help You with Your Weight Loss

How Stretching Can Help You with Your Weight Loss

If you’re trying to lose weight in a healthy and sustained way, you should have a balanced diet along with a physical training program that includes not only cardio and strength workouts, but flexibility training as well.

Since we’ve already talked about cardio and strength workouts in other articles, now we’re going to explain you why it’s important that you develop your flexibility, and how can becoming more flexible can help you lose some extra pounds.

Flexibility and weight loss

If you’re wondering how comes flexibility helps keep our body fit, the answer is quite simple. To begin with, when we’re more flexible we can practice any sport without getting hurt so easily, and it also prevents muscles soreness after working out.

As our body works more efficiently, we burn more calories and optimize our weight loss. Then after we’ve already reached a healthy weight, flexibility exercises help us shape our body figure. Thus, when we feel and look better, it’s a lot easier to keep on with our new habits.

The importance of stretching

If you’re one of those people who spend half of their lives in the same posture, for example, sitting behind a steering wheel or a computer, it’s very likely you’ve already felt that your muscles are constantly tense and contracted, mostly your back and legs. Besides, remaining seated for a long time puts pressure on our pelvis, so it hurts when we stand up.

Regular stretching prevents muscle soreness related to poor postures and everyday stress. Remember that stretching is mandatory before and after a cardio and/or strength workout routine in order not to get hurt or be sore the day after working out.

Effects of stretching

Flexibility is a main issue at any age, and even if it’s one of those abilities which we lose through time, we can improve it no matter if we are young or not so young.

If you’re still not convinced, below are just a few of the many benefits you can get from stretching:

  • Improve muscle strength as it increases amplitude of our movements.
  • Improves post-workout recovery.
  • Reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Relieve joints and muscles tensions.
  • Increases flexibility and decreases stiffness.
  • Helps us relax and experience general well-being.

What is stretching?

Stretching exercises enables the development of flexibility. They are characterized by muscle elongation, and there are mainly two types: static stretching and dynamic stretching. During static stretching, muscles stretch out until perceiving some tension which is held for a few seconds and without doing any effort. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, consists on doing ample movements with different body parts.

According to a study about stretching and strength exercises from Austin University, it’s better if we do dynamic stretching before our strength or cardio trainings. In such way we increase our blood circulation and lubricate our joints. After working out, it’s recommended to do static stretching, since these help us eliminate muscles’ contraction and to regain flexibility and mobility.

How to improve flexibility

Believe it or not, we can improve our flexibility no matter how old we are. What we should keep in mind is that, even when the tension levels of our stretching go hand in hand with our current flexibility level, our objective should be to increase it with practice.

Among some of the activities which help us develop our flexibility there are:

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Exercise ball
  • Golf

No doubt stretching is the perfect workout partner if we want to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy life. So, #DecideItNow, just remember that all the exercises you do should be appropriate for your physical abilities and for your weight-loss objectives.

The Best Physical Workouts to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

The Best Physical Workouts to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Simply put, losing weight is just a matter of burning more calories than we eat. Combining a good nutritional plan with a physical workout will bring you excellent results in the short term. However, if you’re looking for a sustained weight loss and not to gain back the pounds you lost, you’ll probably want to continue reading.

Which is the best workout for weight loss?

There are mainly three types of workouts which, ideally, we adults should include in our everyday physical training: cardio, strength/endurance, and balance/flexibility.

All of them comply a series of specific activities that contribute, each in their own way, to maintain our health. And even if it’s not necessary to do the three of them every day, varying your physical routine will help you lose weight faster and not to gain it back so easily.

In a previous blog we’ve already talked about the benefits of cardio workouts, so now we’re going to tell you why it’s important to build your muscles doing strength-endurance training.

Cardio vs Strength and Endurance

Cardio workouts, such as jogging or cycling, have proven effective for weight loss. Unfortunately, if we only do cardio we may regain the pounds we’ve already lost: it’s true, cardio burns off our body fat, but it also makes us lose significant amount of muscle mass along with it. Therefore, it’s best to build the strength and endurance of our muscles.

Strength training builds stronger muscles and it also boosts our metabolic rate. A fast metabolism allows our body to burn off more calories while resting, avoiding thus to regain the pounds we’ve already lost.

In fact, a study from the American Physiological Society which compared cardio with strength and endurance workout found out that the combination of both trainings brings a sustained weight loss in the short term; and in the long term, it prevents us from gaining back that weight.

Benefits of strength training

  • Increase and/or maintain our muscle mass.
  • Build stronger bones.
  • Improve our posture and balance.
  • Lower risk of injuries, osteoporosis, and back pain.
  • When practiced regularly, they also contribute to the health of our heart and lungs as they increase our oxygen saturation levels.

How to build muscle strength and endurance

When it comes to physical training, perseverance is what matters. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends strength training at least twice per week if we want to improve our health. If we’re trying to avoid gaining weight back, training two or four times per week is enough.

According to health and fitness professionals, post-workout recovery is the most important phase when building muscles, since muscle growth happens while resting and not at the gym. That’s why a minimum of 48 hours of rest between sessions is ideal to allow your body to benefit the most from your training, besides combining it with a healthy eating plan and enough sleep. You’ll avoid sore muscles as well.

Remember that, even if we commonly relate strength training with gym workout, there are many other places where we can work out without spending a single penny or even going out! Try using your own body weight, resistance bands, etc.

What really matters is to be careful when exercising to prevent any injury. If you have the chance, you’d better get the advice of a fitness professional who can provide you with a workout routine specially designed for your body type and needs.

In our next blog, we’re going to explain you what is balance and flexibility training and how they help us achieve a healthier weight and a better life. And don’t forget that change is within your reach. #DecideItNow, remember this is your finest moment.