What is in My Food?!

One of our many jobs at Cookeville Nutrition Experts is to help you decipher food labels and ingredient lists. You may often look at the back of your food wrapper and wonder what some of the items are in the long ingredient list. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient or if you do not know what it is, does that make it bad? Not necessarily. However, food additives are often used in foods with low nutritional value, so they should be consumed in moderation. Continue reading to learn about some of the most common, hard to pronounce food additives. Your local registered dietitians are here to help!

Sugar, Corn Syrup, and Refined Sugars

Overconsumption of these products can lead to a multitude of health issues. They are empty calories and can result in obesity, tooth decay, and heart disease. Common food products with sugar, corn syrup, and refined sugars are soft drinks, sweetened teas, fruits drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candies, and most processed foods. Below is a list of terms you may see on the back of a food wrapper and should consume in moderation.

-brown sugar

-corn syrup



-fruit juice concentrates

-high fructose corn syrup


-invert sugar

-malt sugar



Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are also known as sugar substitutes. The sweeteners listed below have been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are recognized as safe. As a result, they may be beneficial for people who are trying to reduce their caloric intake or maintain their blood sugar. Keep in mind that some people have adverse effects from artificial sweeteners and may want to limit them. Below is a list of common artificial sweeteners.

-Acesulfame-K (Sweet One, Sunett)

-Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin)

-Neotame (Newtame)

-Saccharin (Sweet’n Low)

-Stevia (PureVia, Truvia)

-Sucralose (Splenda)

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are another sugar-free sweetener. They are typically found in foods like chewing gum, sugar-free candies, cookies, and soft drinks. Sugar alcohols digest slowly, so they do not cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. Do not consume too much, because they can cause diarrhea, bloating, and weight gain.



-Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates  








Starches and modified starches are typically used for thickening, stabilizing, and emulsifying. They are found in products that claim to be “instant”. Foods like gravy packets, instant puddings, and boxed meals usually contain modified food starches. Modified starches may be used to replace more nutritious ingredients like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Below you will find some common food starches listed on food packaging.

-Modified corn starch

-Modified potato starch

-Modified starch

-Modified wheat starch

-Potato starch

-Tapioca starch

-Wheat starch

Nitrites and Nitrates

Nitrites and nitrates are found in vegetables, fruits, cured meats, dairy products, cereal, and beer. Not all nitrites and nitrates are bad, however, the ones found in ham, bacon, deli meat, and hot dogs, for example, should be consumed in moderation or avoided.  Below is a list of how they may present themselves on a food label.

-Sodium nitrite

-Sodium nitrate

Food Acids

Food acids are used to enhance product flavors or increase shelf life. Below is a list of food acids that you may see on a food wrapper.

-Citric acid

-Fumaric acid

-Lactic acid

-Malic acid

-Tartaric acid


Tips for a Successful Grocery Store Trip

Grocery shopping can be stressful and overwhelming due to the endless amount of options available. Below are some tips that will help to guide you through the grocery store. 

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

            Plan a grocery list prior to going to the store by writing it down or putting it into your phone. Not having a list can lead to having to making another trip to the store, or buying foods that you do not need.

Tip #2: Never Go Hungry 

            Going to the grocery store hungry often leads to purchasing items you did not intend to purchase. Foods on the shelf look more appealing if you are hungry. Go to the grocery store after eating a snack or preferably a meal. If you decide to go after work, pack a snack before entering the store.

Tip #3: Consider Convenience

            If you know you have a busy week ahead, consider saving time and purchasing convenience foods. Having these handy pre-sliced vegetables and fruits will encourage you to eat them without forcing you to put in the time to slice your food.

Tip #4: Buy in Season 

            Buying fruits and vegetables in season often tastes better and guarantees you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients. 

Tip #5: Consider Frozen Fruits and Vegetables 

            If fresh fruits or vegetables are not in season or available, then consider buying frozen options. Buying frozen produce is a great convenient option, they store for longer periods of time, and they can make a delicious smoothie. 

Tip #6: Read the labels 

            Reading food labels can lead to overall healthier choices. Nutrients to look for on a label include dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. Nutrients to watch out for on a label include sodium, trans fat, saturated fat, and added sugars. 

5 Tips to Increase Your Protein Intake

It is easy to consume refined carbohydrates and fats when eating the typical American diet, but it is not so easy to get adequate protein. Protein is responsible for muscle growth and repair, nutrient transport throughout the body, and immune health, just to name a few of its functions. Below you will find easy tips to help you increase your protein intake.

  1. Mix plain Greek yogurt with powdered peanut butter, jelly, or vanilla extract. Spread over pancakes, toast, or eat with fruit and granola.
  2. Use cow’s milk instead of almond milk or oat milk. Almond milk and oat milk are very low in calories and protein. If you are lactose intolerant, try soy milk instead. Soy milk has 7g of protein per cup!
  3. Add hard boiled egg, deli meat, cheese, edamame, or tofu to your salads.
  4. Make or buy snack packs. Snack packs can include nuts, seeds, jerky, deli meat, cheese cubes, or hard-boiled egg. Pair snack packs with a fresh piece of fruit, veggie sticks, and whole grain crackers to create a balanced meal!
  5. Buy a blender! This tip may seem odd, but smoothies are one of the easiest ways to get a protein-packed meal. Add whey or plant-based protein to any of your favorite smoothies for added protein.

Tips for Increasing Protein When Eating Out

  1. Add extra meat and beans to your burrito bowls.
  2. Add meat, egg, or tofu to your salads.
  3. Go for grilled meat instead of breaded or fried whenever possible.
  4. If caught on the road with no protein, get cheese sticks, jerky, milk, or yogurt cups from the gas station.

How to Make Healthy Choices

Living a healthy lifestyle is all about making choices. You choose to be active. You choose to eat vegetables. You choose to limit your sugar intake. Sometimes it can be tough to make the right choice or know what the right choice even is. Here you can find some healthy substitutes for current choices you might be making!

High-Sodium Foods

There is not enough evidence to establish a Recommended Dietary Allowance for sodium, however, there is an adequate intake. The AI for men and women older than 14 years is 1,500 mg per day and should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. Unfortunately, the American diet makes it easy to overconsume sodium resulting in high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease. The average American’s daily sodium intake is 3,400 mg.

Instead ofTry this
Seasoning saltsHerbs and salt-free seasoning
Adding table salt to foodFresh herbs, spices, onion, garlic
Lunch meatLow-sodium lunch meat, home-cooked meat with no added salt
Regular soups and brothLow-sodium soups and broth
Canned beansUnsalted or low-sodium canned beans
Soy sauceCoconut aminos, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, herbs
Salted nutsUnsalted nuts

High-Sugar Foods

Sugar is readily available in the American diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. That is no more than 6 teaspoons, 25 grams, or 100 calories for women and 9 teaspoons, 36 grams, or 150 calories for men. Foods high in sugar may lead to unwanted weight gain, unstable blood sugars, and dental cavities.

Instead ofTry this
Soda or lemonadeWater, Zevia, or unsweetened tea
Flavored coffee beveragesSugar-free flavored coffee beverages
Honey, syrup, or sugarCinnamon, vanilla or almond extract, stevia
Flavored yogurtPlain yogurt with fresh fruit
Sugar added to recipesStevia, Splenda, or use less than what the recipe calls for


Grains are an important part of a balanced diet. It is important to make at least half of your grains whole. Grains are a good source of vitamins and minerals, and when whole, they are packed with fiber.

Instead ofTry this
White flour½ white, ½ wheat, or all wheat flour
White riceBrown rice, wild rice, quinoa
White pastaWhole wheat pasta
Instant oatmeal packetsWhole oats, steel cut oats

Other Substitutes

Instead ofTry This
Potato chipsBakes chips, veggie chips, whole wheat crackers
Dried fruit and juiceFresh whole fruit
Iceberg lettuceDark leafy greens
Croutons and bacon bits on saladsNuts, fruits, and seeds on salads
Creamy salad dressingOlive oil-based vinaigrettes

Community of Putnam County

The community of Putnam County offers many food pantries, farmers markets, and other available resources.

Food Pantries: 

God’s Grace Food Pantry 

421 E. Broad, Cookeville

Open M-F 9 a.m.-12 p.m. 

Bangham Heights Baptist Church

5961 Hilham Rd, Cookeville

Open 1st and 3rd Sunday from 4-6p.m. 

College Side Church of Christ

252 E. 9th St., Cookeville

Open Wednesdays 4-6 p.m.

First Christian Church

780 Fairground Street, Cookeville

Open TWF 8-10 a.m. 

Food to the Rescue

Putnam County, Tennessee

Delivers meals to children during school breaks.

The Care Center

Steven’s Street Baptist Church, Cookeville 

327 Stevens St., Cookeville

Open M, W, F 12- 2 p.m. 

Sycamore Church of Christ

1144 Crescent Dr, Cookeville

Open Wednesdays 1-3 p.m.

Life Church

2223 N. Washington Ave., Cookeville

Open W, TH (By appointment only)

Tennessee Tech University Food Pantry

Tech Village, 910 N. Willow Ave., Cookeville

Open M, T, W, TH 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Farmers Markets: 

Cookeville Farmers Market 

530 Mahler Ave, Cookeville 

Cookeville Farmers Market 

Corner of Broad and Dixie 

Little Creek Produce 

3500 Gainesboro Grade, Cookeville 

Malco Produce Farm  

154 Bennett Ln, Cookeville 

Available Resources: 

Helping Hands of Putnam County 

-Uses government grants and private donations to help with groceries, emergencies, rent, utility bill, transportation, and medical assistance


-Has a rent assistance program that is used to help families who are confronted with eviction

Head Start  

-Program that is aimed to help promote school readiness for infants, toddler, and preschool-aged children from low income families

Salvation Army of Cookeville  

-Helps with low income families, seniors, and children with food, Christmas assistance, clothing, and shelter. 

5 Tips For A Healthy Thanksgiving

  1. Move!

Complete some sort of physical activity. This could be a walk, run, or lifting session. Get the whole family involved. Set a timer for 60 minutes and get active!

2. Do Not Skip Breakfast

Many people will skip breakfast to save calories for the big lunch or dinner. This may lead to overindulging when that time comes. Eat a balanced breakfast just like you would every other day. Make sure to include color from fruits and vegetables.  

3. Use the Plate Method

Remember, ¼ of your plate should come from protein, ¼ should come from starchy carbohydrates, and ½ of your plate should be plants. Sticking to this will allow you to still enjoy everything you want but keep your portions under control.

4. Eat Slowly

Leave your phone in your pocket and engage in conversation as you eat Thanksgiving dinner. Chew your food completely before swallowing and really enjoy each bite!

5. Limit Alcohol

It is okay to consume alcohol but try and keep it to 1-2 drinks. Consume plenty of water throughout the day and remember that alcohol calories add up quickly

Best Places to Workout in Cookeville

Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand to maintain optimal health. Nutrition and exercise assist in maintaining physical health, mental health, improved mood, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, promote weight loss or prevent weight gain, and enhance the quality of sleep. Calories and nutrients are essential to fuel the body before exercise, replenish the body after exercise, and to feel better overall. Incorporating proper nutrition and physical activity into your daily routine is critical for staying healthy at any age. 

Workout Anytime 

-Open 24/7 

-Free weights & cardio 

-Hydro massage beds 

-Tanning beds 

-Personal training 

-Group classes

-Free trial 

-Styku 3-D Scanner 

-Multiple locations 


CrossFit Mayhem 

-Group fitness classes

-Sports team training

-Youth group fitness classes

-Open gym

-Online programming platform

-Coffee shop

Burnett Fitness Center (TTU)  

-Great for TTU students/ TTU alumni/ TTU Faculty/Staff 


-Group classes  

-Weight room, cardio room, track, gym, racquet ball courts, climbing wall 

-Rental equipment options: (biking, camping, kayaking, etc) 


Cane Creek Park 


-Outdoor workout 

-Paved walking/jogging paths 

-Biking trails 

 -Climbing walls 

Planet Fitness 

-Open 24/7

-Hydro massage 


-Group classes 

-Multiple locations 

-Cardio/ strength equipment 

-Free fitness training 


Fitness Master 

-Racquet ball courts 



-Aerobic Room 

-Functional fitness area 

-Open 24/7 

-Personal Training 

Dogwood Park 


-Outdoor workout 

-Paved walking/ jogging paths 

Absolute Fitness 


Group fitness classes 


Cardio/ strength training equipment

Child care 

Personal Training 

Tips for Choosing a Gym

A gym is not necessary to work out, but many prefer the gym environment. Choosing a gym can be overwhelming, so here are some tips to help choose the best fit.

Tip 1:

  •  Make a list of your “must haves” in the gym and determine if that gym fits your list. 

Tip 2:

  •  Browse social media and check out their website to see if it best fits you. 

Tip 3:

  • See if that gym offers a free trial pass. Signing up for a free trial can help determine if that gym is the best before signing a contract. 

Tip 4:

  • Determine all of the details. See if there are discounts, group classes, tanning beds, massages, etc. Make sure the equipment fits your work out style.

Tip 5:

  • Determine if the location best suits your lifestyle. Maybe you want to hit the gym on lunch break, before work, or after work. Determine if that gym is going to fit the commute you will make  

Snack Smarter in 3 Easy Steps

Do you ever find yourself hungry throughout the day with nothing on hand to satisfy your need? Often, this sends you directly to the nearest vending machine filled with less than ideal options or the fast food restaurant next to the office. Unfortunately, thoughtless snacking like this throughout the day can lead to undesirable results. Continue reading to learn how to prepare yourself for when hunger strikes.

Pre-Portion Snacks

The easiest option is to purchase pre-portioned snacks; however, you can also set aside time to prepare your own portioned snacks. Keep these snacks in a basket in your office, or if your work from home, keep them in a basket in your pantry. If possible, do not keep these snacks where they are visible from your workspace. This may lead to excessive snacking. Keep a mini fridge in your office, so you can keep a better variety of snacks on hand. Below is a list of balanced snack options.

  1. Beef jerky + 1-2 pieces of fruit
  2. Cheese stick + deli meat + carrot sticks
  3. Veggie sticks + hummus + piece of fruit
  4. Bread + deli meat + cheese slice + spinach
  5. Tuna + whole wheat crackers + pickles
  6. Yogurt cup + granola + piece of fruit
  7. Chips + salsa + cheese stick
  8. Protein shake + piece of fruit
  9. Oatmeal cup + ½ scoop protein powder + fresh fruit
  10. Cottage cheese + nuts + piece of fruit
  11. Sargento balanced break snack pack (or any other brand)
  12. Popcorn + deli meat and cheese roll-ups
  13. Protein bar + veggie sticks + hummus
  14. Side salad with hard boiled egg + piece of toast
  15. Piece of fruit + nut butter

Only Eat If You Are Hungry

Before reaching for a snack, ask yourself “how hungry am I really?”. If the answer to this question is, “hungry”, then by all means have a snack. Paying attention to when you become hungry is important because many people tend to gravitate towards food when they are bored or emotional. If you feel yourself wanting food when you are bored or emotional, take a five-minute break, and move your body. If you are still hungry when you come back, have a balanced snack.

Unprepared Snacking

While it is great to be prepared and have snacks available, what happens when you run out and do not have time to go to the grocery store? Your only option may be to pick up something from the fast-food restaurant next door or to swing by the gas station on your way to work. If this happens to you, do not panic. Below is a list of relatively balanced snacks you can find at most fast-food restaurants or gas stations.  

  1. Cheese stick + granola bar with dried fruit
  2. Pretzel & hummus cup + piece of fruit
  3. Grilled or breaded chicken nuggets + apple slices
  4. Side salad + grilled or bread chicken
  5. Cereal cup + milk + fruit
  6. Beef jerky + trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  7. Popcorn + cheese stick
  8. Applesauce + protein bar
  9. Egg McMuffin + apple slices
  10. Egg burrito + apple slices

Is Your Grocery Store Ripping You Off?

Price Comparison

A price comparison was completed between grocery stores in Cookeville. The generic brand was selected when doing the cost analysis. Aldi had the cheapest groceries followed by Walmart, Dollar General Market, Kroger, Food Lion, Save-A-Lot, Spring Street Supermarket, IGA, and Publix. Aldi, Walmart, Kroger, and Publix had the best quality items and variety. The produce sections with the most variety were found at Publix, Kroger, and Food Lion.


422 S Jefferson Ave

Hours: 9AM-8PM

Aldi offers in person shopping and delivery. Orders can be placed online at shop.aldi.us and they must reach a minimum of $10. Aldi also has a free app where you can view weekly ads and make a shopping list. It is more convenient to place orders on a computer than on your phone. If you have the app open, you can select grocery delivery & curbside pickup, however, it will take you out of the app to their webpage.  Aldi does not offer free grocery bags, so it would be smart to bring your own. You can purchase bags inexpensively if you forget your reusable ones. Bring a quarter to use a shopping cart as well. This is Aldi’s way of saving you money!

Dollar General Market

185 S Jefferson Ave

Hours: 7AM-10PM

Dollar General Market offers in person shopping only. However, you can order non-perishable items at dollargeneral.com. You can create a free account to access coupons.

Food Lion

1245 E Spring St

377 W Jackson St

Hours: 7AM-11PM

Food Lion offers in person shopping only in Cookeville. They have a free app that allows you to search products, weekly ads, and clip coupons. If you create an account online at foodlion.com or through the app, you will get access to an MVP card which gives further savings on certain products. Additionally, you can view recipes and create a shopping list through the app.


1010 N Washington Ave

Hours: 7AM-9PM

IGA offers in person shopping only. You can create a free account online at iga.com or through their app. There you can view products, weekly ads, and clip coupons. Online you can clip coupons and then enter the phone number associated with your account or scan your virtual card at checkout to redeem them.


445 S Jefferson Ave

Hours: 6AM-11PM

Kroger offers in person shopping or curbside pick-up. They currently do not offer delivery. You can sign-up for a free account online at Kroger.com or through their app. You can view products, weekly ads, clip coupons, and shop all from the app. Additionally, you can access your “my plus card” from the app to get further savings. You can earn fuel rewards by shopping at Kroger. Every $1 you spend earns you 1 fuel point, and you can save 10¢ per gallon for every 100 points redeemed.


1265 Interstate Dr

Hours: 7AM-9PM

Publix offers in person shopping, in-store pickup, curbside pickup, and delivery. You can sign up for a free account online at publix.com or through their app. You can view products, weekly ads, clip digital coupons, and order groceries through the app.


116 S Willow Ave

Hours: 8AM-8PM

Save-A-Lot offers in store shopping only. You can view weekly ads at savealot.com.

Spring Street Supermarket

215 W Spring St

Hours: Monday-Saturday 8AM-7PM

             Sunday 10AM-PM

Spring Street Market offers in store shopping only. You can view weekly ads and store information at springstmkt.com.


768 S Jefferson Ave

Hours: 7AM-10PM          

Walmart offers in store shopping and curbside pickup. You can view and order products and reserve a pickup times through the free app.

Easy Snack Packs for Athletes in School

Students and athletes can have a lot of trouble getting in enough calories and nutrients during the day due to demanding class, athletic, and social schedules. The school lunch program does a lot for kids in need, but it does not provide optimal solutions to these athletes who are trying to build muscle. Athletes who want to play college sports should not look to school lunches or vending machines to meet their daytime needs. A snack pack, like the one shown in this video, presents an easy solution to this issue.

  1. Planning ahead. Think about how long you will be gone on certain days and how many snacks you’ll need. About 1,000 calories worth of food is a good start. The goal is to have enough, but not too much. The next step is making the shopping list and actually getting those snacks into your house. This brings us to step 2.
  2. Choosing your snacks. Mix your snacks up in 2 groups, protein+fats in one group, and carbs+veggies in another. Each time you have a snack, choose some from each group. For example, a string cheese (protein/fat) would pair nicely with an apple (carbohydrate) for a balanced snack.
  3. Bag it all up. You can bag up shelf-stable foods ahead of time and add in your fruit and dairy the morning of. Keep it somewhere like your backpack and you’re ready to go!

Athletes in the high schools where I’m from, (Cookeville, TN), have demanding schedules. Many rely on the school lunch program for their daytime nutrition. For these athletes to reach their full potential, they will need to supplement their daytime nutrition with healthier snacks. Also, living in the country usually means longer commutes and more chores at home. Convenience and planning ahead are essential to consider here.

Try some of these snacks for higher protein/fat options

  1. peanut butter
  2. beef jerky
  3. string cheese
  4. boiled eggs
  5. tuna pouch
  6. protein bars
  7. Greek yogurt
  8. cottage cheese packs
  9. individual protein shakes
  10. mixed nuts/trail mix

Try some of these snacks for higher carbohydrate options

  1. bananas, apples, any fruit
  2. fig newtons
  3. pretzels
  4. goldfish crackers
  5. granola bars
  6. apple sauce pouches
  7. fruit gummies
  8. chex mix
  9. banana bread or muffins
  10. bagels