Understanding Food Labels

Understanding how to read a food label will help keep you abreast of wise food selections for yourself and your family.  For  consumers, it breaks down to an applicable knowledge on product packaging.  Digging deeper and looking at the nitty gritty of ingredients going into our bodies.  Mainly, the amount of fat, sugar, sodium and artificial flavorings that are hidden in products you buy.

For example, did you know that the label on a Kid Cuisine Fried Chicken Dinner says it is “88% fat free” but the actual fat amount is close to 50% of the fat a child should eat for the entire day?  Some labels list the percentage of fat in the product by weight rather than calories of fat per serving.  To find the calories of fat per serving, simply multiply the total grams of fat by 9.  Look at the total number of calories per serving compared to the total number of calories from fat.  If it is over 30%, buyer beware!

Real Fruit Additions.  Did you ever notice that the package on Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bars say “made with real fruit” but the actual amount of fruit per bar is only 1/50 of an apple?  Any inclusion of fruit, no matter how much or how little, allows the manufacture to say it is “made with real fruit.”  I would rather buy something without fruit and add my own later.

Wheat and Whole Wheat.  Did you know that the words “wheat” or “whole wheat” on a label don’t guarantee the flour is whole grain?  Nabisco Whole Wheat Premium Plus Saltines, Nabisco Wheatsworth, Pepperidge Farm Hearty Wheat and similar “whole wheat” crackers all have more white flour than wheat flour.

Oat Bran.  Did you know that you would have to eat almost 28 bowls (over 3,000 calories) of Post Honey Bunches of Oats cereal to get as much oat bran as you would in one bowl of hot, oat bran cereal?  The packaged name of a product does not necessarily justify the ingredients that are in the product.  Real oats are much healthier and less expensive than some of the top-brand, packaged cereals.

Beef Franks and Fat-Free Hot Dogs.  Did you know that a standard beef frank labeled 73% fat free has over 12 grams of fat and 130 calories per serving?  As a consumer, you might notice the label and automatically think “this beef frank must be ok – it’s low in fat”, right?  Once again, remember to look at the number of fat grams per serving.  In this case, 12 grams.  12 x 9 calories/gram = 108 fat calories in one beef frank with 130 calories.  The hot dog is really 83% fat.

If you would like additional help in understanding the new food labels, please call or email our office.  We’ll take you on a tour of the shopping isles and teach you what to put in and leave out of your cart!


Body Fat Measurements – Common and Easy Methods Available Today

Body composition measurements provide individuals with an estimate of fat-free mass relative to fat mass in the body.  Several methods are currently being used by practitioners today:  Skin Fold Techniques, Bioelectrical Impedance, Body Mass Index, Near-Infrared, Hydrostatic Weighing, Dual Energy X-Ray and Circumference Measurements.  For convenience and practically, skin folds, bio-impedance, body mass index and circumference measurements are the most commonly used methods employed in the health and fitness industry today.

Skin Fold Techniques measure the thickness of subcutaneous fat on various sites of the body.  The measurements obtained are converted into an equation to predict percent body fat and lean mass.  Skin-fold techniques are quick, noninvasive and inexpensive, but the accuracy and reliability of using this method can vary based on the technician’s skill, type of caliper being used and precision in measurement.

Bio-Impedance (BIA) is a noninvasive, easy and fast way to estimate body composition.  Individuals simply stand on a BIA device, or hold a BIA device that passes a low dose, single frequency current through the body.  BIA measures the body water’s resistance to that electrical current.  An individual with a greater percentage of body fat will have a greater resistance (slower flow) of current than a person with less body fat.  Lean tissue, muscle, has a greater percentage of water and can conduct an electrical current faster than fat.

Body Mass Index is a number based on a person’s height and weight.  BMI is noninvasive, quick and easy, but the standard error of estimate exceeds 5%.  To avoid confusion, BMI does not offer a % of fat.  It is a calculated number correlated to being “overweight” or “underweight”.

Circumferences measure distances (inches or centimeters) around certain parts of the body:  Arms, Legs, Chest, Waist, Hips, Buttocks, and Neck.  Like skin folds, circumference values can be used in equations to predict percent fat or whole body density.  This method is a great way for practitioners monitor site-specific reduction, but is not as accurate as Skin Folds or Bio-Impedance.

Iverson Fitness and Wellness Consulting uses a comparative approach to body composition analysis by incorporating several of the most common methods listed above.  Our bio-impedance analysis retains excellent reliability and accuracy, followed by circumference measurements for site-specific comparison.

New % fat health standards for men and women.





Young Male




> 22%

Middle Age Male





Older Male





Young Female





Middle Age Female





Older Female





Fitness and Nutrition – Facts and Myths (Part II)

Continuing with my topic on the Top Ten Questions Most Commonly Asked as a personal trainer, exercise and nutrition consultant, here are five more teasers to Test your Diet, Exercise and Nutrition IQ.

  1. True or False:  A person trying to lose body fat should stick to cardiovascular exercise.
  2. True or False:  Taking extra vitamins will help pep you up if you are fatigued.
  3. True or False:  There is good scientific evidence that caffeine is safe when consumed in moderation.
  4. True or False:  Athletes need more protein in their diets than the general population.
  5. True or False:  A day-long fast now and then is a good way to cleanse your body and possibly lose some weight.


  1. False:  Both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training are essential for maximizing body fat reduction. Cardiovascular activities commonly referred to as “aerobic exercise” require a sustained use of oxygen over a prolonged period of time and do prompt fat burning at the cellular level.  Resistance training exercises burn fat through anaerobic pathways.  Anaerobic pathways are not reliant on sustained activity, but still burn fat calories at the cell level.
  2. False:  The use of vitamin supplementation is so prevalent today that there is now a wide acceptance of the benefits for consumers.  Yes, vitamins are essential to our daily nutrition for metabolic processes, but taking extra vitamins – mega dosing – will not pep you up unless the vitamin supplement has been compounded with some form of stimulant.  Vitamin B, in particular, is a water soluble vitamin known for energy metabolism.  Some individuals report less fatigue when taking a  supplemental B complex according to recommended dosing, but not when mega dosing.  Any excess above and beyond what the body can absorb and use will be removed by the kidney and excreted as waste.
  3. True:  There are several studies that indicate caffeine may improve endurance and enhance performance when consumed in moderation.  The beneficial effect of caffeine lies with its ability to increase the release of fatty acids for oxidation and transport during work.  Too much caffeine, however, is accompanied by increased diuresis, agitation and nervousness.
  4. True:  Current recommendations for protein intake in the general population range from 10% to 35%, or 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  Athletes and body builders, depending on the frequency, intensity and duration of work, may require up to 50% more protein than sedentary counterparts.  Although protein is needed for muscle growth, maintenance and repair, eating more protein will not help you build more muscle.  The only way to build more muscle is with exercise!
  5. True:  Fasting for a day can give your digestive system a break and allow your body to rid itself of toxins and possibly lose some weight if the fast is conducted in a safe and effective manner.  If you have any issues with blood sugar, it is safer to choose a  juice fast or clear broth fast over a total elimination fast.  If you decide on a fast and do lose some body weight, it will most likely have come from water or stool elimination over body fat loss.  The intention of a fast should remain with purification (physiologically or spiritual) and cleansing within the body over starvation for weight loss.

Fitness and Nutrition / Facts and Myths (Part I)

As a personal trainer and fitness coach, I am continually presented with questions about diet, exercise and nutrition.  Most are related to fact or fiction.  Something they have been told, heard of or read about in the media network.  To clear up some of the confusion, I decided to present a two-part series on the Top 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions I receive from my clients, family and friends.  To make it interesting, you’ll get a first hand chance to answer the questions before the truths revealed.

  1. True or False:  When the body stops exercising regularly, muscle turns to fat.
  2. True or False:  Exercising specific parts of the body will reduce fat in those areas.
  3. True or False:  Low cholesterol foods are also low in saturated fat.
  4. True or False:  A person can safely lose 20 pounds in two weeks.
  5. True or False:  “Sugar Free” means there is not sugar in the product.


  1. False:  Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue.  Smooth muscle tissue is found in the vascular system, cardiac muscle in the heart and skeletal muscle tissue around the bones and connective tissue.  Skeletal muscle can contract, extend, maintain tone, grow in size (hypertrophy), become stronger with use, or deteriorate in size, strength and tone with disuse (atrophy).  Muscle fibers, however, cannot turn into a fat cell.  The distribution of muscle fibers and fat cells we have is genetically determined.
  2. False:  Exercising specific parts of the body can strengthen and tone the muscles in those areas, but it cannot reduce the number of fat cells located in a target area.  Fat cells can and do shrink with a proper combination of diet and exercise, but the cell itself will not disappear from the genetically positioned spot.
  3. False:  A product that is low is cholesterol doesn’t mean it is also low in fat or low in saturated fats which, if consumed in abundance, can contribute to increased blood cholesterol levels.  Although it sounds confusing, I distinguish cholesterol from fat with a word association.  Cholesterol is a sterol, fat (technically referred to as a lipid) is composed of fatty acids.  All fats contain three types of fatty acids – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated.  Butter, Coconut Oil, Lard, Palm Oil (things that are solid at room temperature) are high in saturated fatty acids.  These are the food items that can contribute to increased blood cholesterol.  Corn Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Safflower, Sesame, Soybean and Sunflower Oil are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  4. False:  A person who tells you they have safely lost 20 pounds in two weeks simply isn’t telling you the whole truth.  Physiologically, if someone has lost that much weight, it is most likely a combination of water and intestinal junk that has accumulated in the system.  They could be dehydrated, starving or on a detox diet.  The weight lost is not body fat.  To safely lose one pound of body fat, a person needs to burn or expend 3,500 calories.  To lose 1.5 pounds of body fat, they would need to burn 5,250 calories.  Now imagine 20 pounds in two weeks.  That is 70,000 calories expended in 14 days.  Highly unlikely and very unsafe.
  5. False:  Beware of labels that contain the words sugar free.  It only means there is no sucrose in the product.  Other forms of sweeteners include: honey, maltose, fructose, corn syrup, molasses, dextrose and sorbitol.  These substitutes are not necessarily better than sugar.  They are all carbohydrates which contain 4 calories per gram and offer the same insulin spike as regular sugar.  If you are trying to cut back on sugar for health issues or weight loss, make sure you carefully read the food label first.

Resistance Training for Overweight Youth

Years ago, resistance training for the youth population was often considered unsafe and potentially injurious to the developing muscle-skeletal system.  Particularly so for children under the age of 14 years.  With the global epidemic of pediatric obesity on the rise, new research has emerged.  Over the past decade, numerous studies have shown that regular participation in resistance training programs can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, bone mineral density, blood lipids and total well-being for our youth.  Resistance training can also help children lose excess body fat and improve insulin sensitivity at the cellular level.  These two factors alone can have a huge impact on the reduction of childhood obesity as a whole.

General Program Design and Guidelines for the Overweight Youth

  • Make sure the program is adequately supervised by a qualified instructor / personal trainer.
  • Ensure the exercise environment is safe and free from potential hazards.
  • Begin each session with a 5 to 7 minute, dynamic warm-up.
  • Perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions for each exercise.
  • Include exercises for the legs, arms, back and midsection.
  • Focus on technique rather than the amount of weight being lifted.
  • Include a cool-down and stretch period after each session.
  • Strive to resistance train 2 to 3 times / week on nonconsecutive days.
  • Use individual workout logs to chart progress.
  • Periodically vary the resistance training program.