Archive for Nature

What’s your slice?

Who doesn’t love bread?  Some people would have you believe that eating a slice is like downing an entire birthday cake, frosting and all. But in reality, if you stick to whole grains, bread can actually be healthy. Here’s a guide to navigating the bread aisle.

Whole grains are wheat flour that is milled using the entire grain.  This process preserves all the fiber, vitamins and minerals and has multiple health benefits. According to the USDA, people who consume at least three servings of whole grains each day are at lower risk for diabetes and heart disease. Studies have shown that diets high in whole grains are associated with lower body weight.

Whole white wheat
If you don’t like the hearty taste of whole-grain breads, this option uses an albino variety of the grain, which is not only lighter in color but also milder in flavor. Double-check that you’re buying whole white wheat, though, or you may wind up with refined flour, which offers very little nutritional value.


Light breads
Choosing bread isn’t only about whole grains; carbs, protein, fat and fiber should also be taken into account. Light whole-grain breads can save calories while still offering fiber to keep you feeling satisfied.


Organic breads
This is more a question of overall health benefits than dietary ones. The ingredients are grown without pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, which may be beneficial to your body and the planet, but won’t make much difference nutritionally.

Multigrain breads are trickier, since each individual grain is only a small portion of the recipe, but taken all together the whole-grain content may be superb. Other whole grains you might see include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), corn, millet, oats and rye. Ideally, you’re looking for 16 grams of whole grains in a serving — most bread that meets this level will mention it somewhere on the package. This advice works across the board for sliced bread, English muffins, bagels, wraps , etc.

What to look for at the store
Supermarket bread aisles overflow with options. Our advice: Read packages carefully. Ingredients are listed in proportional order, so if the first item doesn’t begin with the word “whole,” beware. Even if it’s the second or third item, the amount may not be substantial.

What to avoid
When reading the label, stay clear of breads with predominantly “white flour,” “enriched white flour” or “wheat flour” — all three terms signify that the grain has been refined: stripped of the nutrient- and fiber-rich bran and germ. All you’re getting is the starchy stuff, with none of the health benefits. Also look at what kind of fats are listed, and avoid trans fats (partially hydrogenated, vegetable oil shortening or hydrogenated vegetable oil). These are the fats that can increase your risk for heart disease. None of them are essential in bread-baking, so they’re easy to avoid.

At the bakery
Without a package to read, it’s difficult to know for sure exactly what you’re getting with bakery bread. But there are some rules of thumb: Look for whole-wheat bread. Ask if you can pick up the loaf before buying, and if it’s lighter than air, don’t buy it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Bakers are often proud to discuss their product and will be more than happy to brag about high-quality ingredients. 

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Should you be eating THAT bar?

You’ve probably heard that you should eat five or six small meals a day to maintain a healthy weight and keep your energy levels high, particularly if you work out regularly. But let’s face it: it’s hard enough to find time to cook one meal a day, never mind six. When you’re on the go and looking for a quick, healthy snack, a nutrition bar can be a good option.

There are so many different brands and types of bars on the market — meal replacement/diet bars, energy bars, protein bars — that choosing one that’s healthy and suits your goals can be confusing.

Different types of bars all contain varying levels of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, depending on their intended goal.

  • Energy bars:  Designed to give a boost of energy to endurance athletes, such as marathoners and cyclists. Main ingredient is carbs, which provide the “fuel” necessary to make it through a competition.
  • Meal replacement bars/ “diet” bars:  Contain the least amount of calories and more carbs than protein. Meant to replace a meal or as a healthy, low-calorie pre- or post-workout snack.
  • Protein bars:  Designed with weightlifters in mind. High levels of protein meant to help build muscle and lose fat when training.

While a nutrition bar can be a healthy choice once in a while, you should always read the labels carefully. Many bars are packed with sugar, which can make them just as unhealthy as a regular chocolate bar. Choose one that contains little refined sugars and saturated fats.  Don’t make the mistake of eating too many; especially if you’re not very active, or you might end up packing on the pounds (remember the movie “Mean Girls”).  Be aware that many bars tested by Consumer Lab didn’t meet its labeling claims, which means that they may contain more fat and sugar than you think.

Here are some disturbing facts:

  • 1 out of 12 protein bars meet the labeling claims
  • 1 out of 8 meal replacement bars meet the labeling claims
  • 4 out of 10 “diet” bars meet the labeling claims
  • Some products exceed their claimed amount of fat
  • 50% of bars tested exceeded their claimed level of carbohydrates, some by a significant amount.

 Reason:  A major ingredient in most of these bars is glycerin (used as a sweetener to keep the product moist) but is not regarded as a carbohydrate by most manufacturers so it is not counted as a carb.  However, the US Food and Drug Administration states that glycerin is a carbohydrate and should be counted as such. 

Protein Bars are a great option but do your research when choosing a bar for your specific needs.  For more information or to ask a question, please visit us at  



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Definintion of spring:

Meteorologists generally define four seasons in many climatic areas: spring, summer, autumn and winter. These are distinguished by their average temperatures on a monthly basis, with each season lasting three months. The three warmest months are by definition summer, the three coldest months are winter, and the intervening gaps are spring and autumn. Spring, under this definition, can start on different dates in different regions. In most Northern Hemisphere locations, spring months are March, April and May. The vast majority of Southern Hemisphere locations will have opposing seasons with spring in September, October and November.

Astronomically, the spring equinox (this year March 20), should be the middle of spring (based on the angle of the sun and it’s heat) and the summer solstice (usually 21 June in the Northern Hemisphere and 21 December in the Southern Hemisphere) should be the middle of summer (because the sun is at its highest), but daytime temperatures lag behind by several weeks because the earth and sea take time to warm up.

Spring in Nature:

In spring, the axis of the Earth is increasing its tilt toward the Sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases. The hemisphere begins to warm significantly causing new plant growth to “spring forth,” giving the season its name. Many flowering plants bloom this time of year, in a long succession sometimes beginning even if snow is still on the ground, continuing into early summer. In normally snowless areas “spring” may begin as early as February. Subtropical and tropical areas have climates better described in terms of other seasons, e.g. dry or wet, or monsoonal, or cyclonic. Often the cultures have locally defined names for seasons which have little equivalence to the terms originating in Europe. Many temperate areas have a dry spring, and wet autumn (fall), which brings about flowering in this season more consistent with the need for water as well as warmth. Subarctic areas may not experience “spring” at all until May or even June, or December in the outer Antarctic.

Spring is seen as a time of growth, renewal, and of new life (both plant and animal) being born. Many hibernating animals “awake” and birds and other migratory animals head back north in the spring.  More and more flowers begin to bloom as the bees and butterflies distribute pollen. Spring is also thought of as the season of birth because some animals have mating cycles that enable them to give birth in the spring when food is plentiful and temperatures are favorable to raise their babies.

Spring Cleaning:

The most common usage of spring cleaning refers to the yearly act of cleaning a house from top to bottom which would take place in the first warm days of the year typically in spring, hence the name. However it has also come to be synonymous with any kind of heavy duty cleaning or organizing enterprise. A person who gets their affairs in order before an audit or inspection could be said to be doing some spring cleaning.

It has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date back to the Persian New Year, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which literally means “shaking the house” just before the New Year. Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned, from the drapes to the furniture. Another possibility of the origin of spring cleaning can be traced to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the spring-time holiday of Passover. In remembrance of the Jews’ hasty flight from Egypt following their captivity there, during the eight-day holiday there is a strict prohibition against eating anything which may have been leavened. Jews are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs they are expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of them for the length of the holiday. Therefore, for the past 3,500 years, observant Jews have conducted a thorough “spring cleaning” of the house.

In North America and northern Europe, the custom found an especial practical value due to those regions’ continental and wet climates. During the 19th century in America, prior to the advent of the vacuum cleaner, March was often the best time for dusting because it was getting warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem), and the high winds could carry the dust out of the house. For the same reason, modern rural households often use the month of March for cleaning projects involving the use of chemical products which generate fumes.

Other spring time happenings:

Daylight savings time- You should have changed your clocks ahead 1 hour on 3/13. This time change is often termed “spring forward.” Most of the US does this to save on energy as the days start getting longer.

Easter- Although a Christian holiday in honor of the resurrection of Jesus, it has become a day that many celebrate with the Easter bunny hiding eggs, baskets full of goodies and a delicious feast.

Baseball spring training- Many teams are already in training in Florida to get prepared for the regular season.

Spring Break- Although all school age kids get a spring break, it is synonymous with college kids going to the beach and having fun (sometimes a little too much!).

What does spring mean for you?

For me, it means beautiful weather, nature at it prime and a renewal of spirit.


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