Nutri-Know: It’s what’s IN the calories a well as the number of calories

Nutritional Knowledge You Can Use

Are you trying to change your body composition (read that: lose weight)? The number of calories in vs calories out is very important, but you also must look at the ingredients of some of the processed foods that you consume.  I’m not talking about the Nutrition Facts – rather, the INGREDIENTS.

The ingredients that make up the calories have possibly been a cause of health and weight problems for many years (i.e. too much sugar, artificial flavors or sweeteners, trans fats, etc).

The  body as a machine; we put fuel (calories) into it and the fuel is burned through various activities.  The amount of fuel burned depends on how much and how hard the body is working. If the body is not active, it stores the fuel for future use. 

Lack of physical activity, the amount food consumed – and what is in the food – has led to a dramatic and troubling rise in obesity and diabetes.   More processed food containing bad ingredients is being consumed than it was 35 – 40 years ago.  (Processed meaning the nutrients are stripped out and possibly replaced by something artificial). 

The quality of the fuel consumed makes a difference.  Gasoline makes an automobile run.  Bad gasoline makes an automobile run poorly. The same holds true for the human body fueled by poor quality foods.

For example, let’s say Jill and Kate eat the same amount of calories and exercised exactly the same amount.  Jill’s food however is more processed than Kate’s – Jill eats canned vegetables and June eats fresh or frozen.  Kate’s body uses the food more efficiently than Jill’s.  So all things equal except one eats more processed fuel than the other. The body uses the fuel less effectively in the one that eats the more processed food. 

Realistically and economically, most of our diets contain at least some processed foods.  That said, we must try to choose foods with the best ingredients  for optimal health. Here are some examples of ingredients that we need to be wary of.

Mono and Di-Glycerides are used in many bakery items.  They are like trans fats that do not need to be called trans fats.   They affect your body similar to trans fats.

Carrageenan is used in some dairy products such as cottage cheese and yogurts to give them a thicker consistency.  It can cause digestive problems as noted in the noted link.

Soy is found in some breaded foods, infant formula, and other foods.  There is good soy and bad soy.  The best and safest soy to eat is fermented because it is more easily digested and healthier.

These are just some small examples.

Here’s a comparison of two types of bread in a local supermarket.  Which would you rather consume?

Split top wheat bread


wheat flour (enriched with barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, whole wheat flour, contains 2% or less of each of the following: soybean oil, salt, molasses, raisin juice, dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate), dextrose, tricalcium phosphate, calcium peroxide, calcium sulfate, calcium propionate (to retard spoilage), caramel color, flavor.


Oat Nut Bread


Unbleached white flour (enriched with barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, oatmeal, rye meal, barley flakes, yeast, cane sugar, wheat gluten. Contains 2% or less of the following: soybean and / or canola oil, soynuts, salt, cultured wheat flour, raisin juice, sunflower seed, oat flour, oat bran, steel cut oats, soy fiber, soy lecithin


My basic rule of thumb is if you cannot pronounce it or you do not know what it is, research it to see if it is potentially harmful to you.  Most ingredients are approved because they can be used in small amounts in a product safely.  However if you accumulate multiple food products throughout the day, you are consuming MORE than you think!

Protein Bar Recipe

Here’s a protein bar recipe that uses protein powder (you can also find recipes that do not use protein powder). You may want to play with it to get the right texture and taste.

* 1 – 16 oz  jar full of almond butter (you can use peanut butter but get a good quality with the peanut oil on top) (I used Trader Joe’s almond butter) Chunky or creamy is fine.

* 1 – 11.75 oz bottle of local honey.    I like buckwheat honey because of the thickness but experiment with how much you use.   Honey that is local to where you live is very healthy.

* 2 1/4 cups of protein power (use a good quality one)- any flavor – I’ve used Plant Fusion Chocolate Protein Powder which is plant based protein.  I have also used Reservage or Teras Whey chocolate whey protein powder as well instead of the plant based protein.

* 1 or 2 cups of uncooked oatmeal ( I use irish steel cut oatmeal from Trader Joe’s.  Makes it crunchy)

* Puree a handful of spinach and/or kale leaves in a blender.  Don’t use too much water.  This is optional but adds some greens to your bars.

* 1 – 16 oz jar of coconut manna (a jar of the coconut meat.  It is good quality coconut.)

Optionally, you can add:
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1/2 cup of ground flax meal
1/2 cup of oat bran

Personally, I don’t add the oat bran.

Mix the almond butter and agave in a bowl.

Add protein powder and mix really well.

Add oatmeal and mix well.

Add coconut manna.

Add chia seeds, ground flax, and oat bran options.  You can also add wheat germ, flax seed, chopped or ground almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc, but just don’t make it too dry.

Add in spinach/kale and mix really good.

If it is really dry, add a little coconut oil or olive oil and mix it up.
If it is too moist, add a little more protein powder or one of the other dry ingredients.

If you need to, spray a little olive oil spray into a 9 x 13 pan but I have not needed to.

Put the mixture into a 9×13 pan and spread it all out.

Flatten it as much as you can so it is compact.

Refrigerate it for an hour and enjoy!

NOTE:  Though not required, I try to use as many organic or truly good quality ingredients as possible.  No chemical additives.