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Testimonial – Deborah M.

I’ve battled to maintain a healthy weight for most of my adult years. In addition, I am now lactose and gluten intolerant and had my gallbladder removed last year. I have a family history of heart disease, hypertension, cancer and diabetes. Six months ago I decided it was time to work with a dietitian to make sure I was eating a nutritionally-balanced diet that would support my goals to be as healthy as possible, lose weight and make sure I’m making good food choices.

I always thought I could obtain these goals on my own. I totally understand how the body metabolizes food, the importance of exercise, how to plan good meals. But I undervalued the importance of having someone – an objective someone – to meet with on a regular basis. Donna Wolf holds me accountable. Not everyone needs that, but I do.

Donna has helped me – and is helping me – to have a better relationship with food, to be patient about weight loss because my metabolism needs to be repaired, and works with me to find tools and solutions that motivate me to achieve my goals. For example, a food diary is really important, especially in the beginning, but after keeping one for months I realized it was now a chore for me. Donna realized that with just one question, and offered me a different way to track my behaviors. And her handouts are awesome. They support with research and give practical tools you can implement.

Since working with Donna, I feel STRONGER. I now better understand the triggers that make me overeat, I am exercising more (and more frequently), I am eating a wider variety of foods, and most importantly, I have Donna on my side … she is sympathetic, knowledgeable, and guides me to understand what I need to do to realize my goals.

For those of you who are struggling with similar issues, I would highly recommend you work with Donna Wolf.

Debbie Murray, September 21, 2016

Testimonial – Mick S.

I’ve had psoriatic arthritis for 15 years. The severity of my arthritis during the first 14 years was mild: 1-2 painful fingers which were easily treated with NSAIDS and often went into remission. During this past year, however, my arthritis became much worse, making joints in my feet, legs, hips, arms, and hands very painful. I noticed that certain foods made my condition worse, and when I fasted for a medical exam my joint pain felt significantly better. Research into this phenomena led me to the concept of food sensitivities, to the LEAP Protocol/Diet, and to Donna Wolf.

Under Donna’s expert care I’ve been on the LEAP Diet for over 6 months. LEAP uses the “MRT” blood test to generate an initial list of foods that are likely to cause inflammation-causing food sensitivities, and foods that are not. The diet is phased starting with the least sensitive foods on the MRT list, then other low sensitivity foods are introduced to see how your body reacts. At the end of the phased diet a large list of foods was generated that were proven to not cause inflammation and pain. This process would not have been possible without Donna Wolf’s expertise. Donna ordered the MRT test and guided the LEAP process every step of the way. She instructed me on how the LEAP process works, made adjustments to my food list, answered any EMAIL/Phone questions I had, and recommended high quality supplements that dovetailed with my list of low sensitivity foods.

The results were nothing less than astounding. My joint pain is several orders of magnitude better than when I started LEAP. The pain in my feet, knees, and hips is vastly improved. The pain in my fingers, arms, and shoulders is significantly improved and getting better every week I adhere to my low sensitivity foods. Before I started LEAP I could barely get out of a chair. Walking was extremely painful, and using my hands for everyday tasks was very painful or not possible. 6 months later I am fully mobile and hope to be pain free in the coming months. A huge side benefit of the LEAP diet is that I’ve lost over 30 pounds and my blood pressure is down 20 points. LEAP is a whole foods diet which tends to be low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and very high in fiber.

In summary, I URGE anyone with arthritis or other inflammatory disease to consider the LEAP Protocol/Diet and make an appointment with Donna Wolf. Your doctor/rheumatologist will likely not tell you about food sensitivities and/or LEAP because he/she likely doesn’t know about it (or doesn’t want to tell you about it!). The LEAP Diet is the closest thing there is to a cure for my arthritis, it has changed my life for the better!

Mick S., San Diego, October 6, 2016

Testimonial – Anna S

Donna Wolf and the LEAP protocol have helped me tremendously!

Prior to the protocol I had constant nasal congestion and hay fever and constipation. I tried on my own to eat better, drink plenty of water and exercise, but my symptoms never improved. I was desperate to find something other than going to my MD to be told to eat more fiber, drink water, exercise and take a decongestant…I knew there had to be another way.

Prior to my appointment, I completed a very detailed questionnaire of my medical history, and symptoms I was currently experiencing. On my first visit Donna discussed my medical history in great detail and explained in the value of the MRT blood test and how it identifies food & chemical sensitivities that could possibly be causing my symptoms.

Donna helped me to understand my results and my all phases of my customized food plan. LEAP protocol has really improved my symptoms, from a starting score of 52 down to a 2 in a matter of five months. I have more energy, no more waking with nasal congestion, hay fever and after taking her recommended probiotics, my constipation greatly improved and I’ve lost weight.

BUT the biggest surprise for me was my reaction to mosquito bites, since I was young – the bites would swell to the point where I’d have to go to the doctor’s office and get antibiotics. WELL, while on vacation a month ago… I did get bitten; BUT to my surprise, the mosquito bites did not swell or get infected! I know this was all due to my immune system finally being able to fight off infection…..where as before LEAP— my system was in an inflammatory state and unable to fight infection.

LEAP worked for me, I now enjoy trying new foods, planning meals and cooking again. I definitely recommend Healthy Directions to anyone who is suffering with constant allergies and constipation; but best of all…Donna is wonderful to work with!

Anna S., Fallbrook, CA October 24, 2016

Fall is a Great Time to Check Our Health Habits Before the Holidays Hit Us

Beautiful fall colors by the country road.This is a time of year when things can easily get out of control if we lack a plan of action, & established healthy behaviors. So much emphasis is put on overeating in our culture, especially this time of year: Halloween trick or treats, football tailgating, comfort foods to warm us up on chilly nights, & Thanksgiving. We also get so busy that time for sleep, managing stress and exercise are pinched. Optimal health and wellness is a maintenance project that is on a continuum. It is something that needs to be practiced daily—a habit. Yo-yoing from healthy to unhealthy and back is far worse for you than just staying in one position. However if that position includes an abundance of unhealthy behaviors, you put yourself at daily risk of suffering, pain, fatigue, poor function & rapid aging. This position is completely unnecessary and totally in your control to change. Daily small steps practiced over time make us successful at any goals we want to achieve. And, starting TODAY, NOW is the best time to begin your Healthy Direction back to optimal health & wellness.

I have hundreds of clients who have the “all or nothing mindset” about health, nutrition and dieting when they first come to see me. Lots of positional thoughts about right & wrong ways of behaving/eating, and many assumptions about what foods are “good” or “bad”.  They also assume I will agree with this “diet police” mentality, and tell them they can’t have what they already assumed they should not be eating. This is what I call a “dieting” mentality and serious nutrition misinformation. Believing the “sound bites” of what you hear on the news, or posted on “health” blogs are not always correct or the whole story. Each of us is unique and individual, starting with our genes. Each of us come with our own specific needs, emotions, histories, likes and dislikes, education levels, and ability to foster change in our lives. One diet does not fit all, nor are any of the current trending diets appropriate for all. Nutrition is a complex science and our God given, wonderfully made bodies are even more complex.

It is my mission to help you learn how to change your health behaviors so you can be successful, navigate life, especially through “difficult” times like the holidays, and feel GREAT. I want regained health & vitality for all, and the remission of symptoms without drugs or surgery. So many of my clients don’t even realize how bad they have been feeling and how long they have been tolerating illness, until they actually start feeling better. That part is shocking to them, but I see it daily! My motto is: “we are sick, tired and fat because we are nutrient deficient and overloaded with toxins, NOT because we have DRUG deficiencies.” Drugs don’t heal. Like Hippocrates said, “Let Food be thy medicine”. (He was an original doctor.)

In light of this mission, I plan to regularly post an email to you with information you can use, once or twice a month. If you don’t like the info please tell me why, before you unsubscribe. I certainly welcome comments, feedback and sharing with your network. Remember I am on a correct information mission. Some of what I will post may be reposts from other sources like the one below about reverse psychology, based on actual studies (evidence based). There is a lot of money spent on this kind of research by food manufacturers, and advertisers to get you to buy what they want to sell you!

OFFERING A NEW CLIENT SPECIAL FOR THE FALL. This is to encourage you, your family or friends to tune up, and tune in, before the onslaught of the holidays. In keeping with having a healthy plan of action, I am offering a THREE (3) VISIT PACKAGE FOR $199.00. It includes a nutrition & health assessment, and initial get going plan on the first visit. The following 2 visits we’ll get into more depth, education and coaching. I have many resources and recipes to share, to begin establishing and practicing healthy behaviors without suffering or feeling deprived! Come Dec. 31st those clients will be happy campers knowing they don’t have to overcome the damage normally done from Oct to Jan 1st, which can take easily take all of the new year to “fix”.

Here’s a recipe to enjoy the wonderful flavor and nutrition of the fall gourds, in season & plentiful now. I use butternut squash, which is my favorite, but any winter squash will do, including pumpkin. What is great about this recipe are; -the ease of preparation; -adaptable to any flavor profile you desire by changing or adding spices; and -nutrition packed: super high in Vitamin A, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and other nutrients that keep our skin, eyes and immune system working well, keep us regular, and eat up the free radicals that cause aging and damage to our DNA (ie cancer), and so many more benefits. Best of all it is delicious without a lot of calories. Good for tailgates, quick weeknight meal w/ salad & whole grain bread or crackers, or as a snack before a party/dinner, so you don’t devour unhealthy appetizers. Make a double batch & freeze leftovers for a quick, ready meal.


Spiced Butternut Squash SoupButternut Squash

1 large Butternut Squash about 3 lbs.

1 large sweet onion diced fine

2 Tlb. vegetable oil (olive, peanut or canola)

1 Qt. broth/stock–low sodium Chicken or vegetable (organic is the best)

2-3 tsp. grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp dry (to taste)

½ tsp. allspice

½ tsp. turmeric

Garnish: ¼ c freshly chopped parsley and (lowfat) sour cream

OR ½ c pine nuts toasted with paprika


Wash squash. Peel with vegetable peeler until dark orange flesh is revealed. Using a heavy gourd knife, cut squash in two. Scoop out seeds with melon ball tool, or sharp spoon. Continue to cut squash into large diced pieces. Place all pieces in a steamer with lid and steam until soft, about 5-8 minutes. OR place pieces in microwave safe pan. Add 2 Tlb. of water. Cover. Microwave on full power for 16 minutes. Place cooked squash and a small amount of liquid in into food processor. Process until pureed.

NOTE: Up to this point, recipe can be prepared ahead and stored in refrigerator (2-3 days) or freezer.

In a 4-6 Qt saucepan, heat oil. Add finely chopped onions and sauté until soft & translucent. Add pureed squash & mix. Gradually add broth, mixing well until you get desired consistency. (Add more broth, if mixture is too thick to your liking.) Add spices. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Garnish with parsley & dollop of sour cream. Serve.

OPTIONS: This soup can be spiced any way you like. Instead of ginger & allspice, try nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, curry, cumin, Chinese 5 spice, or galangal.

For a creamy consistency add 1 cup low fat sour cream in last 5 minutes of cooking, but do not boil. For a tropical and vegan version, try 1 cup lowfat coconut milk, and use coconut water or vegetable broth, instead of chicken broth.

Yields approx: 2 quarts, or 8- 1 cup servings

Per Serving (original recipe, no cream, nuts or coconut): 100 calories, 3 gm. prot., 14 gm. carb, 3.5 gm. fat, 2 ½ mg cholesterol, 50-285 mg sodium, and 2 gm. fiber. This dish is an excellent source of Vitamin A, phytochemicals & other antioxidants.

Reverse psychology: sometimes it works like a charm, sometimes it backfires.

Oftentimes, telling someone not to do something is the surest way to get them to do it. “Whatever you do, don’t look in the closet!” No, really, don’t buy me a birthday present!”

So what about when it comes to food? If people are given negative messages about certain ingredients—sugar, for example—do they tend to consume more of the foods that contain those ingredients, or less? Are reactions to negative messages different when the messages are coupled with positive messages? And do these results apply to everyone, or only to people who are already attempting to follow a particular type of diet?

A study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University, published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research provided preliminary answers to all three of these questions. The title of the research, “Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire among Dieters” certainly hints as to the outcome. According to the study authors: “…dieters (but not non-dieters) who see a message focusing on the negative aspects of unhealthy food (vs. a positive or neutral message) increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, dieters who see a two-sided message (focusing on both the negative and positive aspects of unhealthy food) are more likely to comply with the message, thereby choosing fewer unhealthy foods. Our research suggests that negatively worded food warnings […] are unlikely to work—non-dieters ignore them, and dieters do the opposite.”

Study Specifics:

The Arizona State researchers compiled the results of three separate studies. In the first, 380 participants read a positive, negative or neutral message about a dessert. Individuals who were dieting and saw the negative message paradoxically had more positive thoughts about unhealthy foods, while the negative message had a neutral effect on non-dieters. Study co-author Nguyen Pham speculated that negative messages made the unhealthy foods seem more attractive—perhaps a kind of “forbidden fruit” effect. more

During the second study, 397 participants saw a one-sided positive or negative message about sugary foods, followed by a brief video, and were then presented with chocolate chip cookies. Dieters who had seen the negative message about sugar consumed 39% more cookies than dieters who had seen the positive message. (Once again, however, participants not actively on a diet were unaffected.) In the third study, 324 participants were exposed to one of three messages about food: one-sided positive, one-sided negative, or a two-sided messages, which presented both positive and negative information. When subsequently asked to choose a snack, the negative message was associated with a 30% higher unhealthy snack choice than the positive message. Dieters who saw the balanced message selected 47% fewer unhealthy snacks than those who saw the negative message.

So what’s going on here? There could be a kind of reverse psychology at work, or perhaps dieters are simply fed up with conflicting messages about the healthfulness of foods and are either deliberately or subconsciously exerting their autonomy by “sticking it to the man,” so to speak, and intentionally consuming more of the foods they believe they’re being cautioned to avoid. One could hardly blame them, considering the fairly recent exonerations of dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, which had been health and nutrition’s public enemy numbers one and two for many decades. When evidence points to institutionally reinforced advice having been incorrect, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that negative messages about certain foods are not automatically trusted and taken at face value. The growing vilification of sugar and high omega-6 vegetable oils could well backfire: fool the consumers once, shame on the “experts.” Fool them twice, shame on them.

Study co-author Naomi Mandel noted, “negative messages about unhealthy food will backfire among dieters. If you want to change what they eat, a more even-handed message that contains both positive and negative information is the way to go.”

So how can healthcare professionals apply these findings in their practices? For patients who struggle with making difficult—but necessary—changes to their diet, it might help them resist temptation if they see certain foods as not being entirely off limits (because of negative messaging), but rather, that it’s their choice to avoid those foods most of the time, with a small amount of wiggle room to indulge once in a while. For example, even for refined flour and sugar-laden goodies, like cupcakes or brownie sundaes, there might be a time and place to consume them, such as a birthday or while on vacation. Special treats can fit into an otherwise healthful diet, provided they remain special treats, instead of becoming a nightly dessert ritual—or worse—dessert for breakfast. When forbidden fruit seems less forbidden, the desire to consume it may decrease just enough for someone to make a better choice—at least, until the next holiday!

Portions Out of Control

healthy-foods-grass-fed-beef-512x342The portions, servings, helpings, slices and amounts of what we eat have grown dramatically over the past two decades.
The bigger-is-better motto has taken over the food industry, in conjunction with mass marketing to convince us to buy bigger sizes in order to save money. Supermarkets and restaurants use the promise of better value as a way of pushing extra food onto customers.

Pizza pies were 10 inches in diameter back in the 1970s. Today the average size for a pizza is between 16 and 18 inches!

A Hershey chocolate bar weighed 0.6 ounces its first year on the market. The standard bar now weighs 1.6 ounces. That’s almost three times its original weight!

All of the most popular burger restaurants have increased the size of their hamburgers. The original Burger King burger weighed in at 3.9 ounces, and today a Double Whopper is 12.6 ounces. McDonald’s original patty started out at 1.6 ounces, and now the Double Quarter Pounder is 8 ounces – that’s five times more meat!

Even diet food has grown in size. During the 1990s, Weight Watchers introduced their Smart Ones frozen meals with larger portion sizes. Lean Cuisine offered Hearty Portions, with 100 more calories than the original meal.

Starbucks once offered the “short” cup of coffee at 8 ounces, but it is no longer on the menu. The smallest cup you can order is the “tall.” At 12 ounces, this cup is nearly twice the size of what was once considered a regular cup of coffee.

When Hot Pockets advertised that they had added 10 percent more filling to their microwavable sandwiches while keeping the price the same, their sales increased by 32 percent.

If you compare the new edition of the classic cookbook The Joy of Cooking to the original, you will find identical recipes for cookies and brownies, except that the new recipe makes fewer servings: for example, 16 brownies instead of 30. The modern portions are twice as large.

The Olive Garden restaurant chain offers the “Never-Ending Pasta Bowl,” with unlimited refills of pasta for only $8.95.

Portion Distortion

Bigger portions mean we eat more than we need. When a larger portion is placed in front of us, we tend to eat 30–50 percent more! Most often, we don’t even realize that we are eating more.

Women ate 31 percent more, and men ate 56 percent more when served a 12-inch sub sandwich instead of a 6-inch sandwich.

When cooking, people poured 4.3 ounces of oil from a 32-ounce bottle, but only 3.5 ounces from a 16-ounce bottle.

Moviegoers ate 61 percent more popcorn when given the larger container than they did with a small size.

Snackers poured about twice as many M&Ms from a jumbo bag (103) than they did when given a smaller package (63).

Adapted from The Portion Teller, by Lisa R. Young

Registered Dietitian versus Nutritionist

Detox-Body-WrapThe distinction is important! Anyone can use the term nutritionist, even without any formal education or training. Unlike the credential RD, it’s not a professionally regulated term,
which means that there are no minimum qualifications for a person to call him or herself a nutritionist. A nutritionist is commonly defined as a person who advises people on dietary
matters relating to health, well being and optimal nutrition. Since the term is not regulated or credentialed, it is also often used by people without training who may actually do harm
by giving inappropriate advice. Therefore, when you hear the term “nutritionist” you need to request more information about the person’s qualifications.

A Registered Dietitian (RD) has at a minimum:

1) graduated with a baccalaureate degree from a US accredited university or college
2) graduated from an accredited undergraduate dietetics program
3) completed a 900 hour industry-related internship, and
4) successfully passed the national registration exam

An RD must also maintain his or her credentials with continuing education. Most RD’s have even more specialized training & education.

Dietitians promote sound nutrition through education, help prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits, scientifically evaluate clients’ diets, and conduct research. The letters “RD” after a person’s name signifies that he/she has completed all requirements established by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (the credentialing agency for The American Dietetic Association).

Registered dietitians (RD’s) work in a variety of employment settings including health care, business and industry, public health, education, research, and private practice. Within each
of these settings, RD’s specialize in different areas of the nutrition field such as chronic health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular, and renal diseases; weight management;
allergies and food sensitivities; personal chefs; sports nutrition; child nutrition; and much more. With food and nutrition being a vast field, specialization is common among registered

For more information contact Donna Wolf RD, CLT at 858-335-2140.

As U.S. food prices continue to rise, shoppers are challenged to find more economical ways to buy groceries and prepare healthy meals. Here are 10 tips for stretching your food dollar.

1. Plan Menus and Make a List.

A sure way to overspend is by wandering aimlessly through the aisles and tossing whatever looks good into your cart. Instead, plan menus and write a shopping list that corresponds with the store aisles. Look for menu planning and recipe help on your supermarket’s website. Many feature tools for planning and pricing meals.

2. Use Coupons and Rewards Cards.

Did you know the Sunday inserts in your local paper have anywhere from $50 to $75 worth of coupons in them? Clipping coupons or printing them from websites can save you 10 to 15 percent on your grocery bill.

Also consider joining your supermarket’s shopper’s club. Not only will you enjoy price specials, but you may receive additional coupons for items you regularly purchase at check-out or by email.

3. Buy Store Brands.

The Food Marketing Institute reports 60 percent of shoppers say they are economizing by buying store brand products (also known as private label). Private label brands are often 15 to 20 percent less expensive than their national brand counterparts while the quality of the food may match the national brand.

4. Buy On Sale and In Bulk.

Cruising the aisle for sales on shelf-stable items or products you use regularly is a great way to save money. However, buy larger quantities only if you have proper storage space and will use the food before it spoils.

5. Compare Unit Prices.

Use the “unit price” (price per pound, ounce or pint) to compare national brands with store brands, or bulk and economy-sizes with single-serve or regular-size packages. Many stores show the unit price on a shelf tag.

6. Read Food Labels.

Compare nutrients using the % Daily Value in the Nutrition Facts panel. Five percent or less is low – try to aim low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Twenty percent or more is high – try to aim high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

7. Shop the Perimeter.

Fresh produce, meats, dairy and breads tend to be on the outer perimeter of supermarkets, so start there before hitting the inner aisles for other necessities.

8. Shop Seasonally.

Fresh produce often costs less when it’s in season Visit a local farmer’s market or join a produce club to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. For produce not in season, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (with little or no added salt or sugar) are a nutritious option.

9. Keep Foods Safe and Prevent Food Waste.

Use dating information (“sell by” and “best used by”) to help select the freshest foods at the market. Put cold and frozen foods in your shopping cart last and store them right away in the refrigerator and freezer. Once you’re home, store foods so those with the oldest “sell by” dates will be used first.

10. Pay Attention at the Check-Out.

Make sure prices ring up as advertised or as indicated on the shelf label, especially for sale items. Some stores will even give you the item free if they make a mistake on the price.

Food Group Economics 101

  • Produce: Seasonal produce usually offers the best value for your money. However, for produce that isn’t in season, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may be more economical.
  • Grains: Count on whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas and other grain products to add variety to your meals at a low cost. Buy in bulk when possible and cook them yourself rather than buying quick-cooking or pre-seasoned varieties.
  • Dairy: Look for special sale promotions for milk, cheese and yogurt. but avoid purchasing more than you can use by the expiration date.
  • Protein: Calculate cost per serving, not cost per pound, when buying meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Eggs, chicken and turkey are usually your most economical choices. Also consider vegetarian sources of protein like beans, peas, peanut butter and nuts


Back to School Packing a LunchboxOn hectic mornings, take the time to pack a nutritious and safe lunch for you AND your children with these tips.

Keep it Clean

Start off each day fresh by washing lunch boxes and lunch bags with warm, soapy water after each use. Be sure to wash your hands before, during and after preparing lunches, and make sure counters and surfaces are clean to prevent cross-contamination.

Before they eat, remind your children to wash their hands or pack a moist towelette or hand sanitizer in their lunch container.

Keep it Cool

Perishable foods should not be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours, but many students don’t have access to a refrigerator at school. Help keep your child’s lunch safe by packing it in an insulated lunch bag or lunch box and including an ice pack or frozen beverage container.

If refrigeration is unavailable at work or school, consider substituting perishables with shelf-stable foods, such as trail mix, individual boxes of cereal, granola bars, bagels, carrot and celery sticks, whole fruit, dried fruit, single-serve applesauce and whole-grain crackers with peanut butter.

If you prepare lunches the night before, make sure perishable food items such as yogurt and meat or cheese sandwiches are properly stored in a refrigerator set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep it Healthy

When building lunches, choose whole-grain breads, low-fat or fat-free dairy options and lean meats and proteins. Also, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Just remember to wash vegetables and ready-to-eat fruit like apples and grapes, as well as peel-and-eat fruits like bananas and oranges to eliminate harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.



You read labels at the supermarket so that you can make the healthiest choices for you and your family. But sometimes you get stumped: How do you decide between a container of pasta sauce with “reduced sodium” and another that’s labeled “low sodium”?

Here’s a guide to help you tell the difference between some similar-sounding label claims and ingredients that can trip you up. A basic rule of thumb for my own purchases,  if you can’t read it, pronounce it or even get close to sounding it out. . . .I tend to pass it up!

“Hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils”

Which is better? Neither (though some experts say PHOs should be banned entirely!)

Why? Both oils are commonly used in processed foods to help prolong shelf life and improve texture. But PHOs (a main ingredient in some stick margarines) are a major source of heart-harming trans fats, which raise dangerous LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol (the healthful kind). Hydrogenated fats, on the other hand, are similar to saturated fats. They might raise LDL, but they don’t have a negative effect on healthful HDLs.

Although fully hydrogenated oils may seem to have a slight edge, they’re not harmless. They’re still a source of saturated fat, and if a label lists hydrogenated oil, it’s possible that the food contains some trans fat. In 2013 the Food and Drug Administration proposed removing PHOs’ classification as a food that’s “generally recognized as safe”; the agency has yet to make a final determination. In addition to butter substitutes, you may find PHOs in cake icing, commercial baked goods, microwave popcorn and other foods.

Which is better? Whole grain.

Why? “Multigrain” sounds earthy and grainy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the grains are whole and contain all of the essential parts and nutrients of the original kernel. “Multigrain” just means that the food contains more than one type of grain. The only way to ensure you’re getting whole grains is to look for ingredients such as whole-wheat flour.

“Reduced fat” or “low fat”

Which is better? Low fat.

Why? You’ll always know what you’re getting when you choose a low-fat food: three or fewer grams of fat per serving. “Reduced fat” isn’t as straightforward. It simply means the food has at least 25 percent less fat than its regular version, which could be high in fat to begin with. And don’t get snookered by “light” or “lite,” either; they, too, can mean various things.

“Sugar-free” or “no added sugar”

Which is better? Neither.

Why? A “sugar-free” label means that the food has less than half a gram of sugar per serving. A “no sugars added” claim means only that sugar wasn’t added in processing. But if a food’s ingredients are high in sugars anyway, it could still pack a lot of calories.

“Excellent source of fiber” or “made with extra fiber”

Which is better? “Excellent source.”

Why? An “excellent source” or “high-fiber” food has a federally defined standard: It must have at least five grams of fiber per serving (20 percent of the daily recommended value, or DV); a “good source” must have at least 2.5 grams per serving (10 percent of the DV). By definition, a food with “extra fiber” should supply at least 10 percent more of the DV per serving than a similar food.

Which is better? Neither.

Why?Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are compounds added to processed meats such as bacon and ham to “cure” them, boosting shelf life, improving flavor and adding color. But both are additives you don’t want to consume in unlimited quantities because they’re associated with the formation of possible cancer-causing nitrosamines on meat and in the body. The government allows “no nitrates added” and “uncured” labels when meat is cured with celery juice or celery powder, but those ingredients can naturally produce nitrates.

“Low sodium” or “reduced sodium”

Which is better? “Low sodium.”

Why? For a food to earn a “low sodium” label, it must contain no more than 140 milligrams per serving. Even better but harder to find is a “very low sodium” food, which by definition has a scant 35 or fewer milligrams per serving. But because a reduced-sodium food needs to be only 25 percent lower than the regular version, it can still pack a lot of sodium.


Information gathered from: