What Does “Natural” Even Mean?

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing trend toward the use of fewer chemicals and more minimally processed products. These changes have been evident in several industries, including cleaning products, cosmetics, and most certainly in the food industry. This shift in consumer preference is especially clear in the grocery aisles, where words like “organic”, “farm fresh” “non-GMO” “all natural” and “natural” are jumping out at shoppers more than ever before.images.pngnaturallaysseasalted

All sorts of items, from fresh produce to milks, chips, crackers, and other processed foods, can be found bearing the “natural” buzzword. More specific food companies are making claims about natural flavours, sweeteners, colours and preservatives. The variety of products and use of the word “natural” makes it very unclear as to what the producer is actually trying to tell us about their product. His brings us to today’s big question: What does it actually mean when a food is labeled with the word “Natural”?

Here in Canada, for a food to be “Natural”, it must:

  • not contain, or ever have contained, an added vitamin, mineral nutrient, artificial blue-1326154_1920flavouring agent or food additive.
  • not have any constituent or fraction thereof removed or significantly changed, except the removal of water. For example: the removal of caffeine.
  • not have been submitted to processes that have significantly altered their original physical, chemical or biological state (i.e. maximum processes).(2)

Things get even more confusing when it comes to the USA. The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service defines the word “Natural” when labelling meat and poultry as:

“a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)” (1).

Outside of meat and poultry, there is no set definition for the word “natural”on other food products in the United States, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Association.

Unlike other buzzwords like “organic” and “trans-fat”, which have been clearly defined, in both Canada and the USA, guidelines for using such a powerful word seem ambiguous and leave large loopholes for marketing. Terms like “minimally processed”, “significantly alter” don’t mark clear, objective regulations for companies to follow, and leaves customers with no better guidance that what they started out with. When reading these definitions (and lack of definition), it becomes clear why the public is so frustrated with the regulation of marketing in food, and to wonder how the United states can have gone so long without any governing definition.

In a request for comments on the use for the word “Natural” on food labeling by the American Food and Drug Association, the vast majority of the more than seven thousand responses were negative and stated that the term needs be more clearly defined, and that junk food products and foods containing genetically modified organisms should be banned from using the word “Natural” on their labels (3). Many people were clearly passionate about the subject stating they felt lied to, and that the term was a scam by the food industry. Many have felt so strongly that they have taken legal action against food companies that sell and produce items with natural claims while containing ingredients such as GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, and synthetic vitamins (4). These strong opinions don’t seem to differ outside of the USA. An international study (5) showed that the majority of shoppers read food labels, but their opinions on the healthiness of a food didn’t solely depend on the claims on the label and found the labels misleading.

So in summary, how can shoppers bypass the murky waters of “Natural” claims to make healthy choices for their families?

  1. Brush up on your cooking skillsvegetables-573961_1280

You can easily avoid a lot of the scary ingredients at the grocery store by avoiding processed foods and preparing your own staples at home. Preparing homemade soups, bread, granola, veggie dip, sauces or salad dressings puts you in control of the ingredients and can help avoid unnecessary additives. If the idea of homemade bread is too daunting, check out your local bakery for a potentially shorter and less scary ingredient list than the grocery store stuff.

  1. Don’t be afraid of foods that don’t fit the “natural” guidelines

A lot of really nutritious, whole foods don’t qualify as “natural” in Canada, and that doesn’t make them bad. For example, vitamin and mineral fortification means that nutrients are added that were either not there to begin with, or that are re-added after processing, like B vitamins in wheat flour. Fortification is a great way to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs that are often lacking in a North American diet. Things like breakfast cereals, cow’s milk, non-dairy milks, and bread are often fortified, and are still very nutritious options.  Other processed foods that are your friends include dried legumes, and frozen fruits and vegetables, which often have more nutrients in the off-season than their fresh counterparts.

  1. Read Ingredient and Nutrient Labels

In line with the steps above, you can see the added ingredients and minerals in a product by quickly scanning the nutrient and ingredient lists. Check for things like added salt and sugars, colourings and preservatives. Nutrition facts tables are also a great way to compare two products and decide which is best in line with your food needs and values. This may seem overwhelming at first, but with a little practice, these can be a powerful tool to help you make more informed food decisions.


  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms
  2. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/method-of-production-claims/eng/1389379565794/1389380926083?chap=2
  3. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm456090.htm
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/30/the-raging-legal-battle-over-what-makes-a-food-natural/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f7560f0a8055
  5. Campos, S., Doxey, J., & Hammond, D. (2011). Nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods: a systematic review. Public health nutrition14(8), 1496-1506.

Written By:Laura Thibodeau B.Sc. Biol. B.ScFN Candidate
Edited By: Karly Meincke, Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutritionist

Fuel Up Nutrition

JOIN The Fuel Up Nutrition (FUN) Fall Challenge

Halloween is coming, and I am sure many of you will fall prey to post-traumatic candy consuming disorder (completely made this up). Let’s put a stop to the post-Halloween candy consumption and develop healthy eating habits just in time for the Holiday Season. Let’s not wait until the new year to develop a new you! Start today and sign up for the FUN fall challenge!

Click the Link to Sign Up Today Fuel Up Nutrition (FUN) Fall Challenge

Start Date: November 9th, 2017

Duration: 6 weeks

Price: $125+tax  -That works out to less than $15 a week (1 Daily Tim Horton’s Medium Coffee comes to $12.25/week) 

Karly Meincke is a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist in Sault Ste. Marie. Fuel Up Nutrition is the only private practice nutrition counseling service here in Sault Ste. Marie that offers access to a Registered Dietitian. At Fuel Up Nutrition we offer one-on-one nutrition counseling, nutrition seminars, and corporate health promotion. This coming month we also want to provide a nutrition challenge to help better service the Sault and area.

Why Join the Challenge?
Registered Dietitian led interventions can improve your health by reducing the risk of chronic diseases and help manage nutrition-related issues like food allergies and weight gain.

The Benefits of Healthy Eating:

  • Enhances mental health: improves social inclusion, self-reliance, self-determination, confidence, mood, and self-esteem
  • Reduces stress
  • Controls weight
  • Reduces chronic disease risk
  • Boosts energy and productivity
  • Improves longevity

Registered Dietitians are the ONLY regulated health professionals in the field of nutrition. At Fuel Up Nutrition we are committed to providing those living in the Sault and area with evidence-based nutrition information to help Saulites live healthier lives.

What Does this Nutrition Challenge Include?

  • 1-hour Nutrition Seminar/Webinar (in-person OR online for your convenience)
  • Nutrition Information & Resources
  • 6-weeks of Online Group Nutrition Coaching by Registered Dietitian, Karly Meincke
  • Nutrition Accountability
    • 6-weeks of Weekly goals/challenges to help you and your family stay on track and develop healthy habits
    • Each client will receive an accountability tracker to measure progress
  • Private Facebook Support Group
    • Ask questions
    • Share successes and barriers
    • Share resources
    • Don’t have Facebook? Don’t worry you will also receive e-mails with updates!
  • E-mail Updates
  • Two Inbody Scans (Before & After) valued at $75/two scans
    • Worldwide leader in Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) body composition analysis
    • Provides: Body composition analysis (water weight, dry lean mass, body fat mass), Muscle-Fat Analysis (weight, skeletal muscle mass, body fat mass), Segmental Lean Analysis, and Body Composition History (compares current results with previous scans)
    • The scan is quick and easy to use and is non-invasive
    • Weight alone is not always the best indicator. The InBody scan breaks your weight down into water, fat, and muscle to give you a better indicator of your health status

In Summary:
This 6-Week FUN FALL Challenge is not a meal plan or quick fix, but instead is a lifelong commitment to developing healthy eating habits that will ultimately lead you to success. This challenge will help you develop realistic nutrition/life goals and provide the necessary tools to succeed. Meal plans/programs often require upwards of 20 lifestyle changes all at once and this can lead to burn-out! Step away from yo-yo dieting and join this challenge to develop long-term healthy eating habits.

Fad diets promise quick results, but often fall short in long term success. Fad diets encourage “all-or-nothing” thinking that can leave you feeling unhappy when things don’t work perfectly. In this 6-week challenge, we are encouraging the “80-20 Rule”. Take comfort in knowing that most of your food decisions are healthy ones (80%) and don’t shame yourself for indulging every now and then (20%). Nutrition is at the base of health and fitness. We cannot outwork a bad diet.

This challenge provides simple and attainable goals/challenges each week. These steps toward change will help build a healthy lifestyle and provide the necessary fuel to take on life’s daily challenges. Many of us already have some nutrition knowledge, however remaining accountable is often the difficult part. This nutrition challenge will help make accountability easier by providing tools/tricks and a tracking sheet to assess progress.

JOIN JOIN JOIN!!!!  Fuel Up Nutrition (FUN) Fall Challenge





Elimination Diets . . . The Ill-Effects

I can guarantee we’ve all heard the success stories of people eliminating carbs or gluten from their diets and losing a desirable amount of weight as well as gaining health benefits. These stories have likely made us consider adopting the diet ourselves without the supervision or guidance from a health professional. So, what’s the worst that can happen?

breads-1417868_1920Eliminating food groups without a clinical diagnosis indicating it is necessary to do so can cause both negative physiological and psychological consequences. Many of the items people eliminate from their diets because they are deemed “bad for you” contribute nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet. For example, people who choose to eliminate gluten from their diet may miss out on nutrients supplied by whole grains such as protein and fibre. If these are eliminated from the diet completely without the supervision of a registered dietitian or health professional, it may result in deficiencies in these nutrients which are known to fuel the body and prevent against digestive cancers (https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-health-benefits/whole-grains-important-source-essential-nutrients). Cutting out food groups and items may also put you at risk for not consuming adequate calories or vitamins and minerals. If the foods eliminated are not replaced with other sources of those nutrients, the individual may be at risk of becoming deficient in both nutrients and calories. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss, malnutrition, and decreased vitamin and mineral stores.


Not only can eliminating food groups and items from your diet without supervision cause physiological consequences, it can also cause negative psychological consequences.  As we all know, food and eating is a frequent, social aspect of our daily lives. Cutting out food groups may take away the social aspect of meals and have drawbacks on your psychological health.

Case in point: if you are not clinically diagnosed with a condition that requires you to eliminate healthy food items or entire food groups, it may be unnecessary and unhealthy for you to cut out nutrients that are essential to your health. If you insist on cutting out food items and groups, please consider consulting a registered dietitian or other health professionals to monitor you throughout the process.

Written By: Cassandra Tessaro, Dietetic Intern & Fuel Up Nutrition Volunteer

Edited By: Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
Fuel Up Nutrition

A Personal Review of Today’s Most Popular Nutrition Apps

Over the summer I had the pleasure of having two volunteers work with me at Fuel Up Nutrition. One of the projects I had planned was to create a personal review of today’s most popular nutrition apps. I had one of my volunteers download 5 of the most common nutrition apps on today’s market. She spent a period of time trailing each of these apps and created a personal record of her experience. Below is a review of her experience with each app. Hopefully, this will provide you all with some insight into today’s world of nutrition apps available. Both pros and cons are provided!

“A Personal Review of Today’s Most Popular Nutrition Apps” – Marika Laird, Nutrition Student
Below is a chart summarizing my experience using five of the most popular nutrition apps. This experience is personal and your opinion may differ, but all-in-all my experience was positive. While these apps all offer similar platforms, each differs depending on your personal goals. In totality, these apps are most beneficial for those wishing to track eating and fitness habits for a goal – most popularly weight loss.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 10.46.30 AM

The App Chart – for a clearer view of the above chart click this link

Considering these apps mainly offer the same content with minimal differences, including subscription add-ons, the decision on what app to use might be confusing you. So, what is the best route for nutritional planning? The answer may surprise you.

With all these apps, time is an issue. To log and track all your foods requires a large amount of effort and in some cases stress. I found I was always worried about what I was eating because I wanted to make sure I could find it in the food database. It was easy to forget to log because days are busy and it’s not a habit of mine. In saying this, I found I did eat healthier using the apps because it was a literal log of my eating and it made me aware of the quantity and quality of my food.

Nutrino is the anomaly, not calorie tracking but instead meal-planning to help those who find healthy eating stressful and time-consuming. The largest downside is the cost of the subscription. But for some, the benefits would outweigh the low monthly cost of around $5.00 per month. I didn’t pay for any subscriptions apart from Nutrino, which I use mainly during the school year to help in meal-planning. I find the stress of planning meals while studying is too much, so this app has helped me continue to eat healthy while on-the-go.

If you are looking for help staying on track with your journey to a healthy lifestyle, starting off with MyFitnessPal, MyNetDiary, Lose It!, or MyPlate might benefit you. After using them all, the differences were so minimal that the better app truly does depend on the user. The biggest issue for me was ease of use and format of the app itself since the content was very similar across the board. I am most comfortable with MyFitnessPal and find that its longtime reign as the most popular nutrition app makes syncing it with other apps seamless. Its competitors have continued to improve on themselves by adding popular logging features so I would give them all a try to see which form you prefer. Seeing as they are all free, there really isn’t a downside.

An important point about nutrition logging is the connection. These are all apps, tied into technology. Our usage and dependence on apps and software to manage our lives can be consuming. I have had to acknowledge the increased stress of managing so many devices in recent years and make a point of disconnecting myself in ways that calm me and reset me physically and mentally. Everyone has their own “peace”, mine being biking, hiking or camping. In all three, I ditch the phone and just enjoy the moment outside – whether it be with friends, family, or just me alone with my thoughts. Having to e-mail, text, phone, Facebook, instant message, Instagram, Snapchat… (you get the idea), makes me stressed just thinking about it. Adding something else to manage isn’t for everybody and does add unneeded stress. Eating is a frequent and necessary part of life, and shouldn’t be something else you need to control and hyper-manage.

If you’re looking for a long-term solution for weight loss, or even to manage your weight, constricting yourself to calorie counting is not sustainable. These apps are beneficial for those who need help with accountability for their dietary and fitness choices. Otherwise, the stress of managing these apps might not be worth it. Therefore, as a start to creating a long-term lifestyle change, these apps are perfect… but really do keep in mind that diets, in general, can be mentally stressful and lead to unhealthy mindfulness. These apps also have food databases where anybody can create foods and isn’t a Dietitian-level database. This means the foods you are logging may not be nutritionally accurate and the number of calories they are suggesting doesn’t consider the individual or their lifestyle – only your height and weight. Overall, I wouldn’t suggest depending on calorie counting to maintain weight long-term. It is a helpful foundation to create healthy habits. Most importantly, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, contacting a professional will be the safest and most effective option.


Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist

Nutrition Knowledge VS Accountability

When I first entered the practical field of nutrition I was a book of knowledge. I wantedbooks-2337525_1920 to share all the new information I learned with everyone. I can still remember reciting the process of Maillard browning to my family at the dinner table. My top priority at that time was to provide as much nutrition information I could to clients, family, and friends.

As I mature as a dietitian I continue to explore the field. I have begun to realize that knowledge isn’t EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, nutrition knowledge is important and provides a foundation for developing healthy lifestyle habits, but I have come to learn that clients need more than a foundation of knowledge. I have met several clients who have a wealth of nutrition knowledge, however, their biggest struggle is putting it into action!!

Today, one of my top priorities with clients is teaching systems that make healthy eating easier and provide ways to stay accountable. Most people know fruits and vegetables are good for us and ice cream, chips and pops are not. However, many people struggle at implementing change and maintaining it over time. Accountability is difficult and developing new habits is not easy.


1. Set Small Attainable Goals – When setting goals for yourself it is important to start with goals that do not promote drastic changes immediately. Although this change may be your end goal, it is often difficult to sustain changes that promote extreme results right at the start. You should begin with setting small goals that you can continue to build upon. It is also important to put a time limit on these goals to add some pressure so that you stay on track. This is to keep you focused and accountable. You also want your goals to outline exactly what actions you need to take to achieve them which helps to provide clarity.
Example: This week I will eat 1 cup of vegetables at lunch daily.

2. Create a Tracking System – With advancements in technology, there are countless apps available to track food intake, activity level, and overall health. These apps can be useful for short-term use to increase accountability (i.e. what you eat, how much time you spend sitting, etc.). Sometimes seeing this information in front of you helps to put things into perspective and facilitates behaviour change. Using these stars-303203_1280apps long-term, however, is not sustainable and is very time-consuming. Another way to remain accountable is to make a list of your goals to either put on your fridge or desk and once they are accomplished reward yourself with a check mark or a sticker… because the feeling of getting a gold star never gets old even though we might.

3. Determine Your Top Values – In order to remain motivated to achieve your goals you should start by taking some time to think about what is really important to you. Make a list of what you value and then number them in order of importance to you. Now you can base your goals on what you are most passionate about which is guaranteed to increase your chances at being accountable and successful!

4. Keep Accountable to Someone or Something – Another tip to help you stay accountable for your action is to make plans to complete an activity with another person or to an organization. For example, if you tell yourself you’re going to wake up and go to the gym in the morning, it will be harder for you to back out of it if you have planned to do it with another person. Also, by signing up for races or events, you are more likely to follow through with your commitment, keeping you more accountable for your actions.friends-1015312_1920.jpg

If you found the above tips helpful and want to learn more about accountability and putting your nutrition knowledge into action set up an appointment at Fuel Up Nutrition. We would love to join you on your journey to a healthier and happier YOU! We will be there to coach you along the way and provide you with the necessary support.

Written By: Karly Meincke, Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutritionist, and Cassandra Tessaro, Dietetic Intern & Fuel Up Nutrition Volunteer

Fuel Up Nutrition

Another reason to choose BALANCED EATING!


First off, what are proteins? They are one of three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. Macronutrients are nutrients that give the body energy. Carbohydrates and fat are the main energy sources, with protein being a minor energy source. Therefore, the recommended daily macronutrient intake range is 45-65% from carbohydrates, 20-35% from fat, and 10-35% from proteins.plate-604423_1920

There is no storage site for proteins in the body and therefore any extra protein consumed is eliminated as a waste product from the body. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Some of these amino acids are essential to proper body functioning. This makes it extremely important to consume a variety of protein sources. Some examples of complete protein sources include: grains + vegetables, grains + legumes, nuts/seeds + legumes, nuts/seeds + vegetables, and meats.

The rule of thumb is 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight for adults aged 19-30 and between 1.2-2.0g per kg of body weight for athletes. Now, what happens if you decide to exceed your recommended intake?

1) Crowding Out Other Nutrient Dense Foods

If you decide to increase your protein intake, you must be mindful of how you are affecting your macro- and micronutrient breakdowns. Generally, people gravitate towards red meat and poultry as their protein sources. By limiting yourself to these forms of protein, you are most likely consuming fewer meat alternatives such as legumes and beans. Legumes and beans are excellent sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals and are lower in saturated fat than meat. Overconsuming protein also poses a threat to your intake of other types of foods such as fruits and vegetables that people generally decrease in portion size to accommodate for an increased protein intake. In addition, replacing meals with a protein shake narrows your caloric intake, in most cases, to pure protein. In a healthy diet, one should aim to eat foods with the highest nutrient density; meaning the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals in respect to overall calories. Some examples include salmon, kale, liver, and any of the protein combinations mentioned above.vegetables-573961_1280

If you’re going to consume a high protein diet, aim to incorporate both meat and meat alternatives to increase the nutrient density of your protein source. Also, keep in mind your recommended protein requirement and make sure you are not lowering your overall vegetable and fruit intake as a sacrifice.

2) Dehydration

Protein metabolism requires about seven times the amount of water than does carbohydrate or fat metabolism. If you consume more protein than you require an increase in urine production could result. This can cause your body to lose more water than you are consuming leading to dehydration. Protein metabolism may also take the water you are consuming away from being used in other body processes. So, if you aren’t consuming enough water to replenish the increased loss through urine, dehydration is more likely.


Be wary of your water and protein intake. Overconsuming protein can very easily cause dehydration which can affect your body’s ability to undergo the many other processes in your body which require water. Consuming more water when outside, exercising, and when consuming large amounts of protein will prevent dehydration.

3) Cost

Eating a high protein diet can strain your pocketbook. Protein powder, although thought to be a booming addition to one’s workout routine, is unnecessary if you are already consuming high protein sources in your regular diet. Depending on protein, a powder can be expensive and decrease your satiety and variety of foods. Meat is also a very expensive addition to a meal and if consumed three times a day,  can lead people to sacrifice quality and quantity of other foods purchased (such as fruit and vegetables). Eating meat alternatives in conjunction with meat will prevent overconsumption of protein and maintain nutrient balance.

money-576443_1280.pngTHE BOTTOM LINE:
Don’t eat more than you need to. There are many sources of protein you can attain in your diet without the purchase of protein powder or shakes. Even if exercise is increased, the protein requirement doesn’t require you to double your protein intake entirely. If muscle growth and strain are a concern, stretching and ensuring a post workout meal along with an overall high enough daily caloric intake will suffice.


Protein is an essential macronutrient in our diet, however consuming more than you need will not lead to increased muscles and could potentially lead to the above consequences. That is why at Fuel Up Nutrition we recommend BALANCE! Your body is both incredibly sensitive and adaptable. Having moderation and variety in your diet will make any nutritional issues unlikely. A good gauge is the 80/20 rule. This allows you 20% of freedom while maintaining healthy food choices 80% of the time!download.png





References: Hammond, G. 2017. UBC FNH 250 Class Notes: Proteins

Written By:
Marika Laird, Nutrition Student and Fuel Up Nutrition Volunteer

Reviewed & Edited By:
Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
Fuel Up Nutrition