Tag Archives: calories

Fresh and Fit Diet Advice

13 to go

Weight loss regimens are a national obsession especially at the start of the New Year when fitness centers fill up with new converts and supermarket carts fill up with salad fixings.

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Whether your goal is to trim a few pounds or overhaul eating habits for the long haul, here is a round up of fresh nutrition wisdoms from registered dietitians who specialize in health coaching.

It’s All About You

One size does not fit all fits all when it comes to nutrition. Changing what you eat can make you feel better and your jeans fit better but it can’t make you into a six-foot tall supermodel. So have realistic expectations.

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“People, like dogs, come in differing sizes and shapes,” says registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “There are St. Bernards, greyhounds, Labs, poodles and Chihuahuas. Be proud of your ‘breed’, honor your genetics, and treat your body with respect,” says Clark.

Fitness Friends

Congratulations

Phone a friend. Registered dietitian Annette Schottenfeld, of Nett Nutrition says, “Walk with a co-worker. Meet new friends in dance class or team training at the gym. Stay connected with fitness friends to ensure you will show-up, motivate each other and share successes.”

Some Like it Hot

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Fed up with cold rabbit food?  “Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables the way Mediterraneans do by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes and herbs,” suggests registered dietitian Elena Paravantes, health editor of Olive Oil Times. 

Learn by Example

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Demand for home delivered kits of pre-measured fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes is heating up nationwide.  Mary Alice Shreve, registered dietitian with Atlanta based meal kit delivery service Peach Dish makes sure recipes feature healthful foods with seasonings that add flavor without relying on salt. How about a Super Foods Salad with kale and sunflower seeds or Red Quinoa Parsnip Stew? Shreve says, “It’s all about getting people back in the kitchen. If you can put olive oil in the pan you can handle these recipe.”

Add to Your Diet

fruit

Registered dietitian Toby Amidor author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, advises setting short term goals, “It’s very important to establish short-term benchmarks and achieve different ones every few weeks,” says Amidor. “Short-term goals should be positive. For example, eat a fruit during at least one snack time each day.”

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Goals should be measurable and pleasurable!

 

 

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Summer Slimmers with Low Calorie Sweeteners and Carolyn O’Neil

Summer’s light and fresh menus serve up more foods cooked on the grill surrounded by salads. The problem is that “light and fresh” doesn’t always mean light in fat and calories.

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Here’s a video of Summer Menu Slimmers and Shockers on 11 Alive Atlanta and Company with host Christine Pulara and moi cooking up solutions with low calorie sweeteners. Even BBQ ribs and a margarita!!

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Here’s the recipe for Spare ribs with a skinny BBQ sauce slimmed down with Sweet n Low for summer from the super helpful The Skinny On Low Cal.org website.

OK back to the story…..on slimmers and shockers.

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These are beautiful salads chock full of summer’s slim-sational garden fresh ingredients.

Whether you’re tossing your own or eyeing the salad section on a restaurant menu, be wary of summer ‘blockbusters’. Many overly huge entrée salads aren’t a slam-dunk for summer slimming. Many weigh in around 1000 calories. Sides such as coleslaw, macaroni and potato salads are often loaded with mayonnaise. Mayo contains 100 calories per tablespoon. Opt for light mayo with 35 calories per tablespoon.

Most high fat salad toppings add about 100 calories per ounce. So chances are when you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons, bacon bits and salad dressing you’ve probably eaten more calories than a large burger and fries.

Slimming Summer Menus:

  • Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low calorie nutrient rich produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, field peas, peaches, basil, and all kinds of berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in fruit and veggies is essential for building collagen for healthy skin? Another summer beauty tip.
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Sweet pea hummus has more fiber and fewer calories than chick pea hummus. Plus it’s prettier! From The Slim Down South Cookbook. by Carolyn O’Neil
  • Avoid cream based cold soups and go for choices chock full of vegetables such as gazpacho. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry are delicious and nutritious summer menu additions, too.
  • Instead of ice cream or gelato, you’ll save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing frozen desserts made with low fat or fat free milk.

Sugar free frozen desserts made with low calorie sweeteners such as Sucralose are bathing- suit-friendly options as well. But watch the toppings. Choose fresh fruit when possible and skip the crushed candies.

  • Think about your drink. Count 400 calories per 8 ounces of a pina colada, margarita, or fruit daiquiri. Look for the ‘skinny’ mixers made with no or low calorie sweeteners such as sucralose or stevia. Stay hydrated in the summer heat and treat your taste buds by adding a little pizzazz to bottled water with sugar free flavor drops made with stevia. Great info on all sweeteners can be found on the Calorie Control Council’s fact filled website.

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Take advantage of the new innovation in computerized push button “free style” soda machines to easily find and select from a list of low and no calorie beverages choices.

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Healthful grilling

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These are NOT lean steaks. Marbling means high fat and calories.

At restaurants, don’t be fooled by the fire. Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil.

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Sam Huff is a BBQ genius!

Leaner cuts of meat– such as a sirloin tip instead of a heavily marbled rib eye steak or pork roast instead of a pork chop- are lower in fat and calories but can be a challenge to cook. Sam Huff, chef and owner of Sam’s BBQ1 in Marietta, Georgia says, “Only rich folks ate high on the hog. Barbecue was for the tough meat cuts with long protein strands so poor folks had to figure out how to cook them slow and low.”

Another tip for tender meats is placing a pan filled with liquid in the BBQ cooker or under the meat on the grill. “It adds flavor and stops the dripping fat from causing flare ups,” say Huff. “I use whatever compliments. With pork I’d use apple juice, beef maybe some red wine and with chicken I use chicken stock.”

IMG_6209Dubbed the “grill sergeant,” Huff is one of five featured chefs at the annual Montana Master Grillers event held over Memorial Day Weekend at The Resort at Paws Up, near Missoula, Montana.

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Such a natural. Saddle up cowgirl!

Billed as a 37,000-acre backyard barbecue, the weekend of Montana ranch meets fine food and drink includes activities such as fly-fishing, trails rides, and even a cattle drive.

 

Let the summer games begin!   Have a cookie!

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Here’s a yummy recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies sweetened with stevia.

Perfect with a bowl of sugar free frozen dessert topped with summer berries!

icecreamphotoHere’s to a Slim-sational Summer!!!

Thank you to the Calorie Control Council for the recipes and the foodie facts on sweeteners. I’m thrilled to be blogging for The Skinny on Low Cal this summer.

 

 

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Menu Labeling: It’s Complicated

girlwithmenu The countdown to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information for menu items is in full swing for more than 250,000 restaurant locations nationwide. Faced with a December deadline set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets are busily crunching the numbers to provide nutrition facts on their menus, websites and in-store signage.

“Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago,” said Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director for The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In addition to calories, written information on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber and protein must be available upon consumer request. The intent of the new law is to guide diners toward healthier choices on the menu.

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Joy Dubost, registered dietitian with the National Restaurant Association says, “Many restaurant patrons have stated that menu labeling is important to them when dining out, and we also know that based on trend data consumers are demanding more healthful options.”

Nutrition by the Numbers

Seeing the facts right up front can help diners avoid calorie bombs or at least be forewarned of the waistline busting cost of indulgent dishes and drinks.

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“What I like about the new legislation is that it holds restaurants accountable,” says registered dietitian Nicole King of the website Healthy Dining Finder.com.

How do restaurants come up with the nutrition numbers? The FDA allows several methods including the use of software programs based on nutrient data bases designed to calculate nutritional analysis for recipes, using nutritional information already calculated for recipes in published cookbooks or the more costly but most accurate laboratory analysis of individual items. King says, “And restaurants have to show their work when they provide documentation to the FDA so it’s clear what method was used.”

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It’s Complicated

Presenting the information to consumers is not always a simple task. Take a pizza restaurant for example. How do they list the nutrition numbers for all of the combinations of toppings and different kinds of crusts? King says, “It’s complex and cumbersome.”

Staff training is part of the new labeling law too to ensure that cooks follow the recipes. A liberal hand with the salt or mayonnaise in the kitchen will mean the numbers on the menu won’t match the dish being served.

“We have to remember this is hand crafted food not made to specs such as an Oreo where every cookie is exactly the same size. There are going to be slight variations,” says King.

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Other challenges behind the scenes are happening behind the bar. From pina coladas to cosmopolitans, alcoholic beverages are included in the menu labeling law even though they weren’t part of the packaged foods labeling laws. That’s why you don’t see calorie counts on a bottle of vodka. “The alcohol piece was not regulated at all. But now cocktail menus have to list nutrition information,” says King. So now when you say ‘make mine a double’ don’t forget to double the calories too.

 

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Balancing Act of Great Food and Good Nutrition

Nobody’s perfect, and that’s especially true when it comes to eating a healthy well balanced diet. “All these years and we still know that balance, variety and moderation are the keys to good nutrition and that includes enjoying occasional splurges,” says dietitian Jill Melton, editor of Relish Magazine. Melton and more than eight thousand nutrition expert colleagues meeting at The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference in Philadelphia gathered to learn the latest research and sample the best new healthy food products.

How to find a happy balance between healthy living and enjoying great foods was the focus of a series of lively panel discussions held in the spacious and welcoming Nestlé́ exhibit booth designed to look and feel like a home.  Dietitians gathered around an oversized dining room table and spilled into the aisles to listen to leading nutrition experts and expert observers talk about the challenges of promoting nutrition through the lifecycle from infancy to the elderly.  Invited by Nestlé́, I served as the moderator for four fast-paced 20-minute chats and – woah – did I learn a lot!  First off – Nestlé́ is the world’s largest food company with a commitment to nutrition, health and wellness. 

Good Food, Good Life

Nestlé́’s headquarters is in Switzerland and is most associated worldwide with their wonderful chocolate. But did you know that Nestlé́ USA develops and distributes so many other popular leading brands including Lean Cuisine, Stouffers, Buitoni, Libby’s Pumpkin, Juicy Juice and Carnation Breakfast Essentials? Nestlé́ Waters hydrates and quenches the thirst of millions with such iconic brands as Perrier, Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino, as well as Nestlé́ Pure Life purified bottled waters in the U.S. 

Nutrition Numero Uno

I learned more about the broad reach and respect for the Nestlé́ Nutrition Institute (NNI), too. NNI shares state-of-the-art science-based information and education with nutrition and health experts all over the world. And while most of us are familiar with their consumer brands – including childhood faves Ovaltine and Nesquik – Nestlé́ Health Science works with nutrition professionals to offer products for people with special health needs such as Boost, the nutritional supplement beverage for seniors who need a boost of protein, vitamins and minerals. 

Nestlé́ Professional, serving healthcare institutions, restaurants and schools, offers unique services, balanced products and valuable resources for the food pros specializing in away from home eating experiences.

Start Healthy – Stay Healthy

Now that you’ve glimpsed the scope of the company’s core mission to help people start healthy and stay healthy throughout life – here are some highlights from the hot topics of Nestlé́’s nutrition panels held during the 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition held in Philadelphia.

Healthy Hydration

Officially titled “Nourishing Healthy Living: Nutrition Throughout the lifecycle, including healthy aging, super foods and balanced eating,” this panel discussion got right to the heart of the matter – how nutrition can make a difference in the support of good health throughout the lifespan – from infancy to the elderly to support wellness and when we’re not that well to help nurture us back to health.  

Each of the dietitians on the panel are experts in working with the elderly and in medical care settings so have been on the front lines of seeing health declines in patients that could have been prevented. One of the simplest yet most important observations is that many elderly patients are dehydrated.

“Some elderly people don’t know they’re thirsty and can end up in the emergency room by not being hydrated, which affects brain function,” says Carol Siegel, MS, RD, Head of Medical Affairs, Nestlé́ Healthcare Nutrition. Another challenge – the elderly are more at risk of dehydration because their mobility problems may discourage them from drinking water (they might not be able to run to the restroom!) and due to physiological changes.  

“The body becomes dryer as you get older,” says Val Wendel, MS, RD, LDN, Healthcare Channel Sales Manager, Nestlé́ Professional. Adding more nutrition to hydration – as with Boost beverages and Trio soups – can offer a solution. Wendel says, “Fortified soups and beverages provide an excellent source of nutrients and hydration.” 

Easy To Swallow Solutions

Simply sipping soup and enjoying a cool glass of water is a big challenge for folks with swallowing problems that may be caused by stroke or as a side effect of radiation. “Swallowing difficulties can increase the risk for malnutrition,” says Maureen Huhmann, DCN, RD, CSO Manager, Clinical Sciences, Nestlé́ Nutrition.

Huhmann, a specialist in oncology nutrition, described how the odorless starch-based thickener called Resource Thicken Up Clear is used to thicken liquids to help patients with dysphagia (swallowing problems).

Drink Up Before School Kids!

Kids are vulnerable to dehydration too. In fact, “64% of kids go to school dehydrated,” says Carol Savage, MS, RD, Manager, Beverages Division, Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Nestlé́ USA. So when you send the kids off to school, whether on the school bus or when helping them put on the seat belt in the car, hand them a bottle of water or a container of Juicy Juice. By the way, milk hydrates, too – even chocolate milk.

Think About Your Drink

The take home from this panel of nutrition experts: dietitians care about keeping folks healthy and hydrated and a lot of the solutions are pretty simple – and tasty! You just have to know the power of proper hydration to think about your drink.

Nestlé́ products like Nestlé́ Pure Life help address a hydration deficit occurring in the elderly and in kids,” says Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion.

Mindful Eating

The second panel was packed with nutrition experts, including Dr. Barbara Rolls, Penn State University Nutritional Sciences Guthrie Chair, Dr. Wahida Karmally, dietitian and Director of Nutrition, Columbia University and Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington. Diving into the discussion about nutrition, cognition and mindful eating, Dr. Karmally, whose research focuses on pediatric nutrition, shared this important fact,

“Eating habits are established in the first 6 years of child’s life.”

And while most everyone agrees that nutrition is key to proper growth of body and mind, Dr. Karmally says the reality reveals big improvements are needed. “One in eight kids miss breakfast!”

In a hurry? I remember my mom giving me Carnation Instant Breakfast as I ran to catch the school bus. My favorite flavor is strawberry. I was always late because I couldn’t decide what to wear.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Carnation Breakfast Essentials offers a great breakfast substitute,” says Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner – what family meals look like today is the research focus of Dr. Drewnowski, who says, “The family meal is evolving.”  That means the balancing act of sitting around the kitchen table versus running off to sports practices and all of the other dinner time distractions is shaping the family meal today. 

The good news is that Dr. Rolls, author of “The Ultimate VolumetricsDiet”, wants parents to know that the balancing act of good nutrition can include occasional splurges. “You can eat anything in moderation,” She says.  And snacking is AOK in her book, too. “Find your healthy snacking pattern.”

Foods for the Future

What’s really a lot of fun is when discussions about nutrition burst into enthusiasm about great tasting, healthy foods. Leading the surge in discussing Foods for the Future, Lucien Vendôme, Director of Culinary Operations for Nestlé́ Prepared Foods says “We must all be passionate about nutrition.”  Vendôme, who is the creative genius behind the recipe development for Lean Cuisine, Buitoni and Stouffer’s Frozen foods, shared that frozen foods offer a tasty, nutritious and convenient solution for busy folks and families. 

Registered dietitian Jill Melton, blogger and editor of Relish Magazine, notes, “We are a microwave generation.” So it’s good news when food companies such as Nestlé́ stock the grocer’s freezer with delicious and nutritious microwavable options.

Melton, who was one of the founding editors of Cooking Light Magazine, observed that the word ‘light’ used to have a stigma; folks just assumed light foods wouldn’t be as good. But today that’s changed, and light eating is appealing and sought after.

Have Some Fun

Teaching the next generation to balance lighter choices with fun ‘splurge foods’ is an important goal for foods for the future.  And the lessons begin very early.

“The hardest transition for babies is from baby food to table food. Eating patterns begin to form at 18 months, and are set at two years of age,” notes Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition. Johnson-Askew also noted that one-third of kids’ calories come from snacks, so those snack choices should count towards good nutrition.

Balanced Eating

In the final panel, we get closer to ‘wear the rubber meets the road’ so to speak and that of course is the power of portion control, taste, enjoyment and the pleasures of the table.

While one of the USDA’s current nutrition messages to combat obesity is “Enjoy your food, but eat less,” Dr. Barbara Rolls, professor of nutrition at Penn State University, argues that the message should be to eat more of certain foods to fill up the plate. “People tend to eat a consistent amount of food. If you tell them to just eat less they don’t like it because they don’t want a plate that’s half empty.” Dr. Rolls’ research shows that eating more foods – which are higher in water content such as fruits, vegetables and soups – adds volume to the plate and satiety to support weight management.  

Easy Veggies

Making it easier to get more vegetables into meals, frozen vegetables and frozen entrees that include veggies offer simple solutions for complicated modern days.

“I always recommend mixing prepared foods with fresh foods,” says Katherine Brooking, RD, blogger, author, media personality and founder of Appetite for Health.  Blogger Colleen Padilla, known as Classy Mommy, says “Moms are always looking for more convenience.”

And with taste and style in mind Kristen Colapinto, blogger at Social Vixen, suggests, “One trick I use is taking prepared food out of their packages and placing on a plate to make it seem more presentable.”  I love this idea! Especially because I have a passion for pretty plates and even collect them at yard sales. Treat yourself and set a pretty table even when you’re smart to save time by choosing delicious frozen entrees.

Write it if you bite it!

Helping people keep track of what they’re eating and how much was discussed, and Katherine Brooking emphasized the power of the pen and recommends her nutrition minded clients keep a daily food journal. After a week they get a snap shot of where those extra calories may be coming from.  I say “if you bite it, write it.”

Dietitian Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion, sums it up very nicely, “Pleasures, balance and understanding are core pillars of what Nestlé́ wants to convey to the marketplace.”

So, the delicious lesson learned  (and echoed throughout the four nutrition expert panels for Nestlé́) is to find a happy balance in your food life – seeking healthier options for every day and enjoying occasional splurges. Oh, and don’t forget to drink some water!

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Recalculating Calories for Almonds

Down on the farm, well orchard to learn about California almonds.

When is a 100-calorie pack not a 100-calorie pack? When it’s filled with almonds.
The calorie count for California almonds turns out to be 20 percent lower than previously measured according to new studies conducted by nutrition scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). So, that 100-calorie pack of dry roasted almonds you might grab to snack on actually contains 80 calories. 
Nutrition researcher Sarah Gebauer gets out of the USDA lab to grab almonds in the orchard.
The almonds are not any different, but the way the USDA calculates calorie content is new and improved.  
California almonds ready to harvest in Lodi. You can snack right from the tree.
Historically, samples of food are burned in the lab to measure the amount of heat given off which is measured in calories. Now USDA researchers have enlisted the help of human volunteers at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center to determine the number of calories actually digested and absorbed from almonds as part of typical American meals. 

Mmmm toasted almond and heirloom tomato crostini 
“We are excited to have this approach to look at calories in a mixed diet,” says David Baer, PhD who led the research published this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “How we count calories is an important issue as we look forward.”
Recalculating

“Recalculating. Recalculating.”  That’s what you may hear from an auto’s GPS system when you drive off the suggested route.  USDA nutrition experts are recalculating too.  Their new course is a bit more complicated because measuring digestion and absorption in human volunteers means collecting samples of feces, “It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it,” says Baer. The analysis revealed that the fat in almonds is not absorbed as easily as fat in other foods due to the nut’s fiber content.  

Almonds in the Stewart & Jasper Orchard processing plant in Newman, CA.
 “Fat is stored inside the cell walls,” explains Chris Rosenbloom, registered dietitian and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University, “If the cell walls are not completely broken down through chewing and normal digestion then not all of the fats, therefore not all of the calories, will be available to the body. So, foods, like almonds, that are high in fiber and a ‘hard’ nut, actually have fewer calories based on the usual calculations.” (Similar studies with pistachios conducted by the same research team found five percent fewer calories than previously measured.) Can Georgia pecans be far behind? 

Food labels may need updating to lower calorie counts on hard nuts  such as almonds.
The Skinny on Almonds

Another diet discovery – even though subjects were fed meals designed to maintain their weight during the USDA study and were consuming about 70 almonds a day – many lost weight because the available amount of calories was actually 100 or 150 calories fewer per day because 20 percent of the nut was not being digested.  Rosenbloom says she’s always recommended almonds for health benefits, “So if you avoid almonds because of the calories, you should think again. Almonds can help you feel full longer so are good food to include for weight management.”

Jim Jasper is super creative with almond products. Coconut cream Pie and Key Lime Pie flavors! 
Also worth noting, scientists report that the more almonds are chewed up or chopped into slivers or pureed into almond butter, the easier they are to digest and therefore higher the ultimate calorie count.

“This new research opens the door for scientists to take a fresh look at how the body uses the energy stored in foods,” says Rosenbloom. “So, a calorie may not be calorie -at least as far as the food label goes.”

Baer reports that other commodity groups are clamoring to have their foods retested so it’s a busy time at the Beltsville lab, “My colleagues are going nuts.”

I’m nuts for these savory flavors of almonds. Perfect for Happy Hour. I’m happy almonds contain fewer calories.

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Brunch Bunch Beware

Marvelous morning meal at Rancho La Puerta Spa


Wake up and smell the coffee, the bacon and the eggs.
There seems to be a lot of action in the breakfast category as more restaurants focus on the first meal of the day. Eateries from fast food lane to corner coffee shops are in hot pursuit of early birds with an appetite to spend money on breakfast away from home. Even the new AMC television series The Pitch features an episode with rival advertising agencies fighting to win the Subway breakfast campaign account.

According to the NPD Group, about 14 percent of Americans eat breakfast away from home. But restaurants want to entice even more folks to order their breakfast out and have their eyes on the 31 million people who skip breakfast. The biggest ‘skippers’ are males aged 18 to 34 – nearly a third of these guys ignore the morning meal. Women over age 55 are the least likely to skip breakfast.

Morning Fuel – to eat and drink.

No doubt you’ve heard that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Eating in the a.m. recharges your batteries, giving fuel to your brain and your muscles, making it less likely you’ll succumb to a mid-morning munchies or a huge lunch because you’re ravenous by noon. Dietitian Dr. Joanne Lichten says the best breakfasts contain both fiber and protein, “I’d go for the oatmeal and some scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. But you could opt for Greek yogurt, sprinkling of nuts, and fresh fruit.” Simply drinking a cup of fat free milk or adding to cereal or a coffee latte provides eight grams of protein.

Container of Fage  Greek Yogurt contains 12 grams protein

Big Breakfast, Big Calories

Some even say we should prioritize the morning meal by eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. But Lichten says “How many of us eat dinner like a pauper?” In her new book “Dr. Jo’s Eat Out Healthy” she reveals the fat trap with big breakfasts, “ Even when breakfast out is just once a week, the traditional large bacon, eggs and biscuit meal can put on excessive pounds, due to high caloric content of these foods.”
When ‘Let’s go out for breakfast or brunch’ turns into an overstuffed omelet, hash browns, bacon, sausage and biscuits slathered in butter you’ve moved into the budget-busting calorie category. A three-egg ham and cheese omelet can rack up 500 calories. Hashbrowns add 250 calories. Two sausage links another 100 calories. Big biscuit with butter and jelly add up to 450 calories. And before adding cream to your coffee, say ‘Good Morning’ to 1300 calories.
Sharon Palmer, dietitian and author of The Plant Powered Diet says, “Restaurant breakfasts can be the most decadent meal of the day providing at least half a day’s calories and more than a day’s worth of sodium.” But, she’s happy to see healthy trends, “More restaurants are offering “lite” or “fit” menu offerings with reasonable portions in the 500 calorie range. The best news is that these lighter meals are hot sellers—showing that people are tired of eating these traditional “American” gut-busting breakfasts. I tried a Denny’s Fit Fare Breakfast recently when traveling and it was just the right amount of food—and there was fresh fruit and veggies on my plate!”

Health Halos not Heroes 

Seemingly uber- healthy granola cereals, fruit smoothies, and whole wheat pancakes, big muffins or bagels can throw a weighty wrench into your day’s diet plans too if you don’t pay attention to portion sizes.

Sure they’re packed with whole grains and a daily dose of bran but enjoy half to avoid eating your whole calorie budget

Jackie Newgent, chef, dietitian and author of the upcoming 1,000 Low Calorie Recipes advises two actions – choose your breakfast location and beverage wisely. “For a healthy weight, breakfast—like all meals—is best eaten while sitting down at a dining table, and not while in a car, at a desk, or on your iPad. Plus, some popular morning drinks, including select blended coffee or juice beverages, can provide a meals-worth of calories. The best bet when eating breakfast out is to keep your beverage calorie free, like an unsweetened green or black tea.

Juice it up – but not too far up

And if there’s no fruit in the breakfast, then it’s okay to sip a glass of 100% juice in a six ounce juice glass – not 16 ounces.”  Juice can have the same calories per ounce as a soft drink.
Cynthia Ann Chandler, a dietitian and culinary nutritionist ( that means she really likes the food part of food and nutrition!) in Louisville, Kentucky has a great idea for a hydrating with breakfast juice,”Just go for an orange juice, small size.  If you are using it to quench your thirst, add equal parts club soda to the juice and you have a refreshing breakfast drink.  Don’t be afraid to ask for club soda.  Most restaurants with fountain drinks can offer you a club soda option.”

More breakfast ideas and tips in my book The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!




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A girl walks into a bar, a restaurant, a donut shop….

Whether it’s a bar or a bank of vending machines, proposed new FDA rules will require many eateries and drinkeries to post the calorie cost of food and drink.

Let’s start with a waist whittling word problem. If someone who usually gets a small order of fries and a large sweet tea at McDonald’s wants to skip one to lighten their lunch, which would cut the most calories? Answer: it’s a wash. According to nutrition facts posted on the company’s website they each contain 230 calories. The point is that it’s not easy to guess the amount of calories in menu items. A study by Healthy Eating Research at the University of Minnesota found that people tend to get calorie counts wrong most of the time. For instance, when a restaurant dish sounded “healthy”, such as a Chef’s Salad (930 calories) 90 percent underestimated the calories. That’s why many health professionals and now politicians want to see more nutrition labeling on restaurant menus.

Uncle Sam’s Menu Plan

Authorized by the healthcare legislation passed earlier this year, the U.S Food and Drug Administration recently released a draft of guidelines to require that calorie information be posted on menus and menu boards by restaurants and other food stores with 20 or more locations and vending machine operators with 20 or more machines. “Knowledge is power,” says Atlanta registered dietitian Marisa Moore, “Having nutrition information available for foods eaten away from home is critical to help make healthy choices.” Moore, a spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association, believes the new federal menu labeling requirement would help, “They will allow you to play detective less often. I’ve used online nutrition facts for years to help clients make healthy choices away from home. It’s helpful to see the 150 calorie difference between the grilled vs. fried chicken sandwich before you ever have a chance to taste it.” The new rule also requires that additional nutrition information on fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, sugar, fiber and protein be made available upon request.
Will It Help?

Americans consume about a third of their calories from food prepared away from home so restaurant meals do offer a significant opportunity to provide a “teachable moment” in nutrition education. Moore explains, “Having nutrition information on hand allows you opt for one instead of two slices of cheese, skip the sauce, use less salad dressing or opt for a lower calorie offering.” Studies conducted in California and New York City, where restaurant labeling is already required, found that point-of-purchase nutrition facts may result in the selection of healthier meals. Women tend to use the information more than men. Many major chain restaurants and health focused eateries already voluntarily provide menu nutrition facts on websites and some right on the menu, but new federal guidelines aim to offer a standardized format so that diners can more easily compare apples to apples or apple pie to apple pie. Even with those suggested improvements- it’s complicated.

What Might Be Missing– Pay close attention to how the menu item is defined. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to list nutrition information for sandwiches without including cheese, mayo and special sauces. Entrée Salads may not include calories in the salad dressing you add later. Moore says, “Obviously these add significant calories, fat and sodium to the total.”
The Fudge Factor – Keep in mind that the nutrition information may not be perfect. There’s a proposed +/- 20% margin of error allowance. This accounts for the human influence in preparation and variations in product composition, analysis methods and databases. For instance, a cook may decide to add a little more salt or butter to a recipe.
Your Calorie Cap – Moore says, “In order to use nutrition facts effectively, you need to have a general idea about how many total calories you need to determine how a specific menu choice will fit into your day.” A recent survey found that just 1 of every 8 American adults (12%) knows about how many calories they need in a day. To get an idea about your calorie needs, check out www.mypyramid.gov.

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Finding Fitness in a Fattening World


The best formula for weight loss is and always has been consuming fewer calories and burning more of them through exercise.

But, keeping track of calorie counts has never been easy. There are charts and graphs and lists of the calorie counts of foods to refer to, but it’s time consuming and often confusing. Even dietitians who analyze diet records admit it’s often a frustrating chore, especially when clients overestimate and underestimate some amounts.

Say you had a glass of wine with dinner? Okay. But, was it in a 16-ounce tumbler? You had a salad with lunch? Great, but was it a few lettuce leaves drowned in ranch dressing or a large bowl of mostly vegetables, lightly dressed?

Dietitians are trained to be diet detectives to help ferret out the truth and teach clients how to better communicate exactly what and how much they’re consuming. That way they can figure out why the client isn’t losing weight and help design a diet that hits the mark with the right number of calories to consume each day.

Calling for help

Research shows that dieters who keep food journals noting what they eat lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Adding notes on physical activity is critical, too.

But the pages of a journal don’t tell you how many calories in a croissant.

Enter an age of technology-aided dieting. Weight-loss programs available on smart phones, including the iPhone and BlackBerry, make it easier to tabulate calorie intakes and even help plan diet goals. While there are no long-term research studies yet to show how well these apps help shed pounds, weight-loss experts are enthusiastic about these new tools. Losing weight is hard enough; so if keeping track of calories is easier, more accurate and perhaps even more fun using your iPhone, then chances are you will be more successful.

Popular, free weight-loss apps to try include LoseIt for iPhone and Calorie Counter by Fat Secret, for all smart phones.

Little things are big things

Apply the little proverb to weight control: Little things mean a lot. Little bouts of exercise — as short as 10 minutes in duration — can add up to significant gains in fitness. Unfortunately, it’s also the little bites eaten here and there above daily caloric needs that can add up to sizable weight gain over time.

Call it the “creep” — the cumulative effect of small daily errors in energy balance that slowly but surely feed the growth of body fat.

As obesity expert Dr. Robert Kushner of Northwestern University explains, “By consuming just 12 calories more per day you can gain two pounds a year. By eating 125 calories more per day you can gain more than 12 pounds in a year.” The sage budget advice to “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” holds true here, too.

On the exercise front, registered dietitian Ruth Ann Carpenter of the Cooper Institute in Dallas summarizes physical activity guidelines for weight maintenance. “Do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, such as walking, biking or gardening. Split it up into at least three days a week with no less than 10-minute bouts at a time.” If you want more health benefits, you’ll have to do more exercise.

It’s the calories, folks

Bottom line: to prevent weight gain, each day you should walk 2,000 steps and cut 100 calories. (Skip the cheese on the burger and pass on another pat of butter.) To support weight loss, you should walk at least 10,000 steps and cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day.

Learning how to make these healthy lifestyle choices is not easy in a world that weight control experts call an “obesogenic environment.” But it is a critical survival skill needed to prevent weight gain and related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

I’ve taken Dr. Kushner’s list of forces that contribute to obesity and given them healthy makeovers.

Finding fitness in a fattening world

– Hurried life, always rushing: walk even faster to burn more calories, take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator, park farther away and walk instead of circling to find the closest parking spot. Make moments of calm count. Savor your foods.

– Food available everywhere: this often means more variety, so be more selective about what you choose. Since weight loss apps are mobile, you can keep track of your calorie totals as the day progresses. Think twice before taking a second helping.

– Eating out more: whether it’s a fast-food or fancy place, become familiar with the calorie counts of your favorite foods at restaurants you frequently visit. Weigh-loss apps tap into databases with nutrition information on thousands of foods. Check them.

– Exercise engineered out of our lives: take the stairs, hide the remote, just say “no” to robot vacuum cleaners, open the garage door manually, ditch the drive-thru and walk into the restaurant. Weight-loss apps include extensive lists of the number of calories used during various physical activities. Track your totals so you’ll know how many more stairs to climb before the end of the day.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolyn
oneil.com.

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