Archive for March, 2014


What the dates on food packaging mean

Take a look at practically any food item in your refrigerator or pantry and you’re likely to see a date on the package. There are a number of dates that are voluntarily placed on packaging. That’s right. The dates are voluntary. The FDA mandates dating only on baby formula and baby foods.

The dates you see mean different things. Some refer to safety and some refer to quality. Here are the dates you’ll see and what they mean.

The expiration date refers to the last date a food should be eaten or used. It’s a safety issue. Don’t consume after the expiration date.

The sell by date tells the store how long they should display the product for sale. Make sure that you purchase prior to the sell by date. This is an issue of quality – freshness, taste, and consistency – rather than whether it will spoil on that date.

The best if used by date refers only to quality, not safety. It is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

The guaranteed fresh date usually refers to bakery items. They will still be edible beyond the date listed on the package, but they will not be at peak freshness.

Any use by date is determined by the manufacturer of the product and is not a safety concern, but the date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality.

For most packaged goods with a long shelf life, manufacturers will print a pack date on the label.

How long are foods OK to eat?

Memorize some ranges to make sure you’re keeping safe when it comes to the food you bring home.

  • Milk – It’s usually fine until a week after the sell by date.
  • Eggs – Assuming you bought them before the sell by date, eggs are usually OK for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home.
  • Poultry – Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
  • Seafood – Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
  • Pork – Cook or freeze within three to five days.
  • Beef – Cook or freeze within three to five days.
  • Canned goods – Foods that are acidic (think tomatoes) can keep 18 months or more. Veggies like green beans are probably good for up to five years.

How to trick your brain into doing what you need it to do

The power of the mind to convince your body that you can – or can’t – do something is absolutely real. Motivating yourself to focus, lose weight or just relax is sometimes a necessity when your brain isn’t really helping you do the things you need to do. You need some go-to tricks to get your brain on board.

Cut down on multitasking to stay more focused

Between the demands on our time and the gadgets at our fingertips, we are losing our ability to focus on a single task. Think of what your computer screen looks like. Chances are good that you have email, messenger, a browser with a couple of different tabs open, in addition to the projects you’re working on. Get in the habit of keeping only one window open at a time in order to focus on the task at hand.

Use aromatherapy to feel less hungry

One of the biggest challenges when trying to lose weight is hunger. For many people, when they exercise, it increases their appetite. Some research indicates that overloading your sense of smell may help decrease your appetite. Why does it work? There’s an area inside the hypothalamus called the satiety center that controls your feelings of hunger. Trigger it and it will tell you that you’re full. The key is to do it for more than five minutes, otherwise you might actually increase your feelings of hunger. Grapefruit oils, peppermint oils, and herbal oils have helped people curb their hunger.

Clear your mind with a breathing exercise

For many people, it’s nearly impossible to get the brain to shut down. How many times have you gone to bed only to have everything you’ve done during the day come back to haunt your thoughts. Short of full meditation, sometimes the act of breathing is enough to slow down our thoughts. The key is to focus on breathing. Think only of your diaphragm moving, your lungs inflating and deflating. If your brain throws some random thoughts at you, let them go and focus on the breathing.


How to deal with stress and decompress right now

Stress is everywhere, everyone experiences it and everyone deals with it differently. Last week, we talked about some common ways that people deal with stress that may not help alleviate the pressure of stress; in fact, these methods may actually help you hang on to it and may even affect your health. The negative ways to handle stress include:

  • Ignoring the problem
  • Obsessing
  • Blowing things out of proportion
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Sleeping too much
  • Emotional eating

Learning how to cope with the stress in your life can help your overall health and your outlook on life. Here are some common ways that people deal with stress that help them to handle it and de-stress right now.

Get some fresh air

Research indicates that the vitamin D boost from sunlight may elevate your levels of feel-good serotonin. And, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around you redirects your focus from your worries.

Stick to your routine

When stressful situations arise, it helps to stick to your daily routine. What that includes is up to you: taking your dog for a walk; listening to your favorite tunes on the commute home; taking a bath before bed. Following a routine gives you a sense of control over your day and can help alleviate some of the anxiety and tension.

Get out of your head

Thinking about your situation constantly is called “rumination,” and it is a negative way to handle stress. One of the best ways to cope is to do something that forces you to focus on your hands and body. Engaging in familiar, rhythmic activities gives you a sense of control that can help you relax.


Whether you call it guided imagery, meditation or “going to your happy place,” it is a great way to help deal with any stress you may be feeling. It’s quite simple to do. Find a quiet space, close your eyes and regulate your breathing. Focus on the picture where you feel absolute calm – a beach, mountains, forest, or your grandparents’ living room – and just let yourself go there for a few minutes.

Take a bath

This can be part of your routine, but soaking in a nice, warm bath is soothing and comforting. Couple the bath with soothing music and aromatherapy. Jasmine and lavender are shown to have stress-reducing properties.

Express gratitude

Research has shown that people who exhibit gratefulness increase the activity in the hypothalamus, and had increased levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. Writing in a journal, sending thank you notes, paying it forward by buying a stranger coffee, or tipping extra at dinner are ways to give yourself a little stress-relieving jolt of gratitude.

Getting some exercise

Exercise is the healthiest way to relieve stress. It increases your endorphins, helps regulate your sleep, alleviates mild depression, increases your energy, and helps you remain calm and more focused, all while helping your cardiovascular health.

The important thing is to address the issue, get help if you need it, and maintain balance. Dealing with stress is an absolute necessity. Learning to deal with it in a good way goes a long way to enhancing your overall health and wellbeing.


How not to deal with stress

Everyone has stress in their lives, and stress can be both good and bad. On the one hand, good stress pushes us to excel. On the other hand, it can be debilitating.

And just as there are good and bad stress, there are good and bad ways to deal with stress. Learning how to cope with the stress in your life can help your overall health and your outlook on life.

Here are seven common ways that people deal with stress that don’t properly deal with the problem and can also exacerbate the issue.

Ignoring the problem

It’s fine to take a breather and step away from the problem, but avoiding the stress point is counter-productive.


Focusing all of your attention on something is not a healthy way to solve the issue. Make sure you’re keeping it in perspective.

Blowing things out of proportion

When something bad happens, it’s natural to think about the worst case scenario. One mistake doesn’t make you a horrible person. Dwelling on mistakes can cause you more undue pressure, which increases the chance that you could make another.


Having a glass of wine after a stressful day is not necessarily a bad thing. Having a bottle of wine is. It can raise your blood pressure, prevent you from sleeping and can, in fact, cause you to ruminate.


Aside from the adverse effects on your lungs and heart, smoking can also increase your heart rate, make you anxious and can actually increase the stress you’re feeling.

Sleeping too much

Normally, sleeping too little is associated with stress, but some people react by hibernating. The problem is that sleeping too much can actually make us more tired. And exhaustion makes it more difficult to focus.

Emotional eating

In times of stress, many people turn to comfort food, which generally means loading up on calories, fat and sugar. The longer your stress lasts, the more likely you are to reach for food to cope, which can cause weight gain and other health issues.

The important thing is to address the issue, get help if you need it, and maintain balance. Dealing with stress is an absolute necessity. Next week … better ways to deal with stress.