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Reading Product Labels:Information from Laura Crooks, Wellness Coach

I want to share this article because Laura makes some fantastic points about misleading food labels and gives great information about how to read them properly.

There will be many people trying to get their eating and weight under control right now–that is probably the most popular New Year’s Resolution…right?

This information could help you and make you a little more aware of what you are eating. Pay attention! That’s what is it truly about!

Misleading and Confusing Food Labels by Laura Crooks

In our quest to eat healthier foods and take care of our bodies we might rely on food packaging labels.  This can be dangerous to our health and undermine our efforts thanks to unregulated and misleading food labels.  The labels can be misleading, confusing, and pose as healthy food imposters.

Food packaging labels are created by companies whose sole purpose is to entice us to buy their product.  Their misleading information implies we are getting health benefits that may not exist.  They may print unsubstantiated health claims, or use pictures of desirable foods to make us think that is what is in the box, or they use cleverly crafted phrases which are not lies, but are also not as honest as they seem at face value.  We are led to believe that fruit snacks are real fruit; they may have a bit of real fruit juice in them, but they are candy.  Frozen dinners with real vegetables may have a bit of powdered vegetable in the sauce, generally not what we think of from the packaging.

Each company can create their own seal of approval or they may purchase the right to use one.

Here are some common food labels and what they mean (or don’t mean!):

100% organic is a USDA regulated term.  The farmer must pay to have the government inspect and certify their farm.  These foods are grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, without hormones or antibiotics, are not cloned or genetically modified.(Remember that smaller farms may follow sustainable, 100% organic procedures but not pay the large assessment fees to be able to label as 100% organic.)   Organic means that 95% of the ingredients are 100% organic.

Made with organic ingredients means that at least 70% of the ingredients are 100% organic.   all natural – This label means that the product is free of preservatives and additives.  It does not mean that the product is good for you or healthy.  Arsenic and lead are all natural, but we try not to eat much of them! low fat – This label means there is less fat than in the regular version.  It does not specify how much less fat, nor does it necessarily mean lower calorie.  Low fat products often have more sugar, added to boost the flavor removed with the fat.

good source of calcium – This means there is at least 10% of your suggested amount of calcium present.  Is 10% enough for you to consider it “good”?

carb free – This means the product has no carbohydrates present.  I have seen this label on fresh meat; the meat is protein, it never was a carbohydrate product, but the label catches our eye.

made with – This label is often followed by something healthy such as real fruit or whole grains, such as “made with real fruit”.  The label itself only means there is at least a drop of the named product present.

0 trans fats – This label is tricky, it does not mean there are NO trans fat in the product.  It can be legally used provided there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.  The company only has to adjust their serving size to one with less than 0.5 grams to  meet this labeling requirement.  If you eat more than one serving you are adding up your amount of trans fats.  If fully or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil are in the ingredient list the product has trans fats present.

cage free (usually referring to eggs or chickens) – This means the chickens were raised indoors but not in cages.  Forced molting and beak cutting are allowed.

free range – This term makes you think the chickens get to roam outside all day in green pastures.  It means the chickens are allowed access to the outside but there is not regulation on the duration of outdoor time nor the quality of their outdoor space.  They could have spent a total of 5 minutes outside in dust.   Beak cutting and forced molting are allowed.

humanely raised – This is a totally unregulated term and can mean whatever the manufacturer wants it to mean.  They would like you to picture a clean, healthy living environment!

100% wheat – Your squishy white bread is 100% wheat…it is totally refined wheat flour.  Look for 100% whole wheat for the more nutritious type.  If the ingredient label does not say 100% whole wheat as 1 of the first ingredients  consider it to be refined white flour with some caramel coloring added to make it look brown.

less sodium – This means the product now has less sodium than it once did.  It does not mean it is low in sodium or good for you.

wholesome, nutritious, selected, and country fresh – These claims have no regulated meaning and can almost anything the manufacturer wants.

So how should we make informed choices?

Check the product’s serving size. Is that small bag of microwave popcorn a single serving or intended to serve 3?   The calories and fats need to be tripled when you eat the whole bag intended for 3.  How many servings are in that 24 ounce soda?

Check the nutrient labels. Each serving should provide less than 5% of sodium and saturated fats, regardless of the label saying it is reduced fat or has less sodium.  Aim for more fiber per serving and less sugars.

Read the ingredient labels.  Ingredients are listed in descending order; the first item listed is the most prevalent.  Ingredient lists may not use the most common term for each item.  For example, sugar can be found as: agave nectar, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane juice crystals, corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sugar (sucrose), sorghum syrup, turbinado sugar.

Reading product labels with our eyes open to the fact that manufacturers are more concerned with us spending our money than with our health may help you see some of their labeling for what it is.   Look for these labels in the store and read the fine print on the package.  Reading ingredient lists and nutrient information may help you make better nutrition decisions as well.

Some of the most nutritious and healthiest foods do not come with labels.  Have you ever noticed how fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, and meats do not have pictures or labels?  Make the wisest, healthiest decisions you can.

About Laura Crooks: I am an RN, speaker, and certified wellness coach living in Pittsburgh, PA with my husband and children (plus the bunnies, leopard gecko, and hamster!). I help busy women create solutions so they can enjoy reduced stress, losing weight, balancing personal-professional-family time, and making time to exercise.  My services include individual and group coaching, speaking, and wellness programs.  For more information please visit www.YouBloomWellness.com .

Will You Get the Flu?

It’s on your mind, so let’s talk about it. The Flu.

I would like to point out that it is not a given that you have to get sick every Fall and Winter.

You can significantly reduce your chances of catching colds, the flu, and everything else going around.

If you take care of yourself, you may not get sick at all.

Just so you know, my two daughters had what the doctors assume was the H1N1. We were not invited into the doctor’s office as they are trying to avoid those germs, so it was not verified with a test, but they probably had it.

So, I made sure they got plenty of rest, plenty of liquids, and Tylenol for the headaches. I did end up taking one daughter in to have the doctor listen to her chest, but there was no problem. The fever lasted 4 days, the cough a few days longer, and they are fine.
I never caught it, though I was with them all the time, and in very close contact. There are things you can do to avoid the flu and other sicknesses.


  1. Make your rest a priority. If you keep going without enough sleep, your body’s defenses will be down and your immune system will not be able to fight off germs. It will take you longer to recover if you do get sick.logoWoman standing outside
  2. Get plenty of fresh air. Don’t stay inside all of the time.
  3. Consider getting a flu shot. I had the flu once when my three children were small and I was miserable. I now get a flu shot every year. I do not get sick. Do the research to decide whether or not you want the swine flu vaccine. Many people of a certain age have already built up immunities to it.
  4. Don’t smoke. Just stop it. Yes, you can.logo
  5. Drink tons of water. Hydrate those cells, and flush your body out!
  6. Wash your hands often–at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water. Before cooking, and after touching, well…just about anything.Carry and use liquid hand sanitizer.
  7. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. The viral infection enters your body’s airways through mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, or mouth. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.(Teach your children to do the same.)
  8. Banish sneaky germs: According to the November issue of Health magazine, flu germs can live on your cell phone and other everyday items for over 8 hours!  Use disinfectant spray* on your purses, briefcases, cell phones, credit cards (!), your rings,door handles, car steering wheels and desktops. (One suggestion in the article for cleaning cell phones, was Wireless Wipes, $2.95 at WirelessWipes.com. I HAVE not checked these out yet, but will soon.)                                                                                *Disinfectant spray should say it kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, or make your own: 1 part bleach to 20 parts water.


  9. Get Chiropractic adjustments. Make sure the natural healing messages from  your  brain can get to all the parts of your body!
  10. Get exercise.  It will increase lung capacity, and reduce stress. (You know I love that one!)Your body will be stronger.
  11. Eat your veggies and fruits. Junk food will not offer protection against the onslaught on germs. Don’t weaken your body with sugar and white flour!


12.  Take a multivitamin and Vitamin C daily.

Most importantly, don’t stress about this. If you follow these suggestions, you may not even get sick.

If you do get sick, go to bed, and take good care of yourself. REST. Do not hurry back into your crazy, busy, over-doing-it schedule. Even after the flu symptoms are gone, there could be up to a week or more of residual coughing and fatigue. Many of the complications you hear about are because people tried to resume strenuous schedules too early.

Stressing about any of this will make it worse, and could make you sick.
Take some deep breaths, (outside and away from the sick people and germs) and relax!

I Wish You Could Feel This Energy!

As many of you know, I was in Michigan the weekend of October 3rd for the Michigan’s Next Movie Star Event.

I had such a great time and met some really wonderful people, but the thing that impressed me the most was this: Positive Energy!

The event was being held in Flint, Michigan, not far from Detroit.
Saying things are not good in Michigan may be the understatement
of the year.

BUT, I met some amazing people who want to change all that, and are willing to look for a new way to employ people and give them something to look forward to!

Clemon Crum, of Manifest Productions, held this event to encourage people to step up and try something new–get in on movie making in Michigan.

He was so positive and so upbeat, we couldn’t help but have a great time!
The audience was wonderful and the actors, producer and everyone else
who took part in this just wanted it to be a success! And it  was!
Elizabeth and Diana Clem and Diana
Elizabeth Brady-Marasco,Owner of Brady Events & Planning
Clemon Crum,Owner,ManifestProductions

Actor, Dustin Diamond Lev,Disc Jockey,Flint,93.7
Robert Miano, Joel Reiseg
Actors Jordan Hodges,Robert Miano

It really makes you think–if these people, in this economy, can stay happy and upbeat–why can’t everyone try it?

I am not saying that we should ignore reality–
I am saying we should look at reality, and figure out the best way to make things work!
If things aren’t working out for you–look at them differently.

Negative energy creates more negative energy.
And Positive Energy creates more Positive Energy!

You can change your reality, by changing your thoughts.
Really notice what you are thinking about throughout your day.

  • Do you beat yourself up and call yourself names?
  • Do you think derogatory stuff about other people? Even if you aren’t saying it aloud, it is hurting you.
  • Do you dismiss creative and positive ideas and insist they won’t work?
  • Do you forget to dream?

With dreams and imagination, you can change your world!
Try a change of energy–it feels great!

Want to break into the movies?

Find out how at Flint event By Chad Swiatecki

Flint Journal October 01, 2009,

Clemon Crum thinks it’s time aspiring actors and other film industry talent in the Flint area cashed in on Hollywood’s growing investment in Michigan. Which is what led the Flint resident and entrepreneur to organize Saturday’s “Michigan’s Next Movie Star” showcase and workshop at The Whiting for prospective actors, writers, camera talent and others looking to break onto the silver or small screen.

“Hollywood is coming to Michigan but most of that business is going to Detroit when we could be doing things right here,” said Crum, a co-producer of the event. “It seems like a lot of the reason we’re getting passed over is because there’s not an awareness of what we have here, and a lack of training on the technical side of things. We’re trying to change that.”

For a first foray into nurturing the Flint film economy Crum’s Manifest Productions and Brady Events and Marketing of Grand Blanc have scheduled veteran character actor Robert Miano, television star Dustin Diamond and motivational speaker Diana Fletcher to give presentations about what it takes to achieve a career in the entertainment industry.

Would-be starlets will also get to network with local photographers, prospective agents and other entertainment professionals, and audition for one of several spots in “Happy Deathday,” a horror movie filming in Michigan soon.

Crum secured Miano and Diamond for the event while they were in the Flint area filming “Minor League: A Football Story,” a movie he invested in making. “People will get some real perspective on what it’s like in Hollywood, that you can’t get out of any book or class,” he said. “People will benefit from hearing their stories and the networking opportunities they’ll get.”

Elizabeth Brady Marasco, owner of Brady Events, said she and Crum looked at similar workshop events in Detroit — which had a part in 30 films in the last year versus Flint’s three — to determine what locals needed to hear to help them get a start in front of or behind the camera.

“What really works is getting stars involved so they can share what it takes to do this,” she said. “We expect this will be the first of many events that will educate people about all aspects of the movie industry. We want to establish a baseline level of training in this area so when a movie comes here we have the people they need to make it work.”

While Diamond and Miano will share insights into their careers, Fletcher will help attendees prioritize their lives so venturing out in a new career isn’t so daunting. “When you’re trying something new it can be very exciting but there’s also the chance that we can freeze, your heart starts racing and fear takes over,” said Fletcher, a published author and life coach based out of Pennsylvania who centers most of her presentations on learning to handle and reduce stress.

“With something as unique as pursuing an acting career, there’s the chance that other people won’t understand something that’s so out of the mainstream or have an idea that going to auditions isn’t really working. Handling that all comes back to eating right and taking care of yourself, so you can deal with the stresses that come from striking out on a new career.”

Be aware of stress to manage it BY Christy Strawser SPECIAL TO THE Detroit FREE PRESS

Sandra Finkel has heard all the excuses for racing through life.  But she doesn’t buy them.

Finkel, who holds a master’s degree in public health and works as the manager of stress management services for the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, said one simple lesson can benefit nearly everyone: If you can’t control it, don’t get upset about it. “Shift focus, and be aware of how you’re reacting,” Finkel said. “Discern whether it is something within your control. That defuses a lot of stress.”

So, the first step toward conquering stress is awareness. Here are more tips: Set up a schedule. Create one that includes everything you need to do, but doesn’t leave time for anything unproductive. Include work, family time, whatever would lead to a more fulfilling life. Make it easier by putting weekly errands into one or two blocks of time and turning off the BlackBerry and television during set hours.

“A lot of superficial, time-wasting stuff doesn’t have room when your schedule is full of things you want to do,” Finkel said. Learn to say no. Make no excuses for being selfish with your time. Saying no to requests to organize a fund-raiser or bake five dozen cupcakes may seem selfish, but could pay off for your health.

“Stress has been shown to increase a lot of risk factors, cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation in the arteries, belly fat,” Finkel said. “What do people do behaviorally when they’re stressed? They overeat, drink or smoke.

” Quiet time. Diana Fletcher, a Pittsburgh author and life coach, advises that people spend 15 minutes a day sitting quietly. “The problem is that we never stop,” Fletcher said. “We are always so busy trying to keep up with this crazy world — but we just can’t.”

Be in the moment. Feeling scattered in different directions is one of the major reasons people feel stressed, so decide to focus on what’s in front of you. Finkel recommends meditation as a way to learn to live in the moment, which requires sitting still for a few moments and clearing your mind. Focusing on the present is an especially good tip for the legions of metro Detroiters who are out of work, Finkel said.

She said a recent study showed people experience more stress if they’re working and worried about losing their job than after they’ve been laid off, which means uncertainty is a bigger stress inducer than joblessness.

Exercise. When you feel overwhelmed, remember exercise is a wonderful stress reliever. Walking, riding a bike, swimming, dancing to the radio or skipping rope, even for just 15 minutes, releases feel-good endorphins. “It gives energy, it doesn’t sap it,” Finkel said.

Michigan Film Incentive Brings Great Opportunities as a Dynamic Event is About to Take Place!

Former Michigander, Motivational Speaker and Stress Reducing Expert, Diana Fletcher Speaks Out to Help with the Transition into an Exciting New Industry

Diana Fletcher Life Coach and Stress Reducing Expert, announces today that she will be one of the speakers at the upcoming Michigan’s Next Movie Star event on Saturday, October 3, 2009 at the Whiting in Flint, MI.

Having been born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, Dearborn Heights, Diana is excited to get back to her roots and help her former neighbors with the transition from being an auto industry based state to a movie industry based state.

The economic times have put a strain on the auto industry in Michigan and now it is time to look ahead to new opportunities, one being the incentive package made available to the film industry.

In 2008 alone, 37 movies were made bringing in approximately $120 million in revenue for the state of Michigan. Included was between $50 and $60 million paid to Michigan residents who worked on those films.

“Besides someone having a passion of working in the film industry and now having the opportunity, I think we are excited about the extra revenue the movie making industry is bringing to the state. But with change comes fear and stress,” Diana says, “and I plan on speaking at this event to help those attending overcome their feeling of fear, and help them find the joy in trying something new and exploring new careers.”

“Our hopes are that Michigan’s Next Movie Star will help catapult the interest and excitement in Michiganders, and I am here to help with the emotional transition,” says Diana.

Other speakers will include actor Dustin Diamond best known as Screech on Saved by the Bell; actor Robert Miano who has played in hundreds of films, but most recently, Fast and the Furious 4; and Joel Reisig a writer/actor/comedian/producer best known for his role in the film Fraternity House; each offering their secret tricks of the trade.

ABOUT DIANA FLETCHER: Diana is a Stress Reducing Coach, Author and Motivational Speaker and an expert at helping people reduce stress to achieve optimal health. For more information visit http://www.DianaFletcher.com.



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What I do

I am a Certified Life Coach, Author and Speaker and am an expert at helping people reduce stress. I work with individual clients and facilitate workshops and coaching for groups in my coaching practice. I am the author of three books and as a speaker, author, and coach, I offer easy-to-incorporate strategies to help people reduce stress. We cannot always change things around us, but we can change what's inside of us.


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