Thursday, December 10, 2009

Get Information on Toddler Nutrition AND Help Fight Hunger

If you have young children and you could use some nutrition tips, here's a great resource. Click here to buy "Expert Nutriton Tips for Your Toddler". It's 52 pages of questions answered by pediatricians and dietitians. For only $9.95 you not only get the book, but ALL of the proceeds go to fighting hunger in America. Donations go to "Share Our Strength", an organization whose goal is to help end hunger in America.
Get your copy today and feel good about contributing to those less fortunate.

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Do I Crave Chocolate?

I hear this question quite often.  Is it the nutrients in chocolate my body needs?  Something I am missing in my diet that chocolate can provide?
The answer may surprise you... but the reason you crave chocolate is because it tastes good! It's sweet on your tongue and creamy in your mouth.  It provides calories and fat to ward off any hunger that may occur over the next few hours.  It temporarily boosts your blood sugar, and even alters some chemicals in your brain that make you feel better. The caffeine may help you become more alert, and at the same time the serotonin (a neurotransmitter) more calm. Why wouldn't we crave chocolate constantly? It does so much for us!

A better question may be "why are you constantly focusing on it?"
If you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier, you may be continually telling yourself that chocolate is "not allowed" on your diet or it's "forbidden" or it's "bad". When you tell yourself that something isn't good for you, even though you like it, you are making yourself want it more. Think about things you were told you could not have as a child. As soon as something was "forbidden" you wanted it more. When you were allowed to have it, it lost some of its appeal.
Let chocolate lose some of it's forbidden appeal and let yourself have some. Not a pound Hershey bar. You might not even want to keep it around the house or your office. What if you let yourself buy a tootsie roll every day or a peppermint patty? Is there a reasonable amount of chocolate that you could savor, enjoy, not feel guilty about, and have your craving satisfied?

Perhaps your answer is "no" because some people simply cannot have one piece. "I'll eat the entire bag" they say, or "If I can't have a whole candy bar I don't want just one bite".
If you find a happy medium that works for you, like a few chocolate kisses in the afternoon, you may find your cravings aren't monopolozing your thoughts throughout the day.

Here's another question: "Why are you allowing yourself to give in to the craving?"
Think of some of the impulses we deal with each and every day. What are you craving that you just do not act upon because it's not socially acceptable? You would just love to plant a big smooch on that new handsome guy at work: Certainly, you aren't going to do it!

You are just dying to smack that gum out of the mouth of your coworker who annoyingly insists on chewing as loud as a cow all day long? Nope, you aren't going to give into that either.

If your friend got a brand new designer purse and you were just aching to take it home and make it your own, would you do it? No. Why not... You want it.

We have desires and impulses every day that we don't give in to. They would feel good in the moment, yet we know there would be consequences so we stop ourselves and turn our thoughts to something else.  What, then, are the consequences of eating chocolate?
Here's a heads up: If you eat a 300 calorie candy bar every day for a month, you'll gain three pounds. Ouch. Keep it up and you're looking at 36 pounds a year. Not gaining weight? This means you are eating the same number of calories your body burns, and on the flip side this means giving up that daily chocolate bar will result in a weight loss of 36 pounds a year. Some consequences, eh?

Why DO you crave chocolate. More importantly, what are you going to do about it?!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Balancing Work At Home, Housework, and Relaxation

I was recently in a coaching class called "Personal Path" in which a particular program helps guide us down the path of life we would like to choose.  There are various aspects of our life discussed, and  we are free to choose an area of focus to affect positive change.  The one that leaped out at me was "decompartmentalizing".

It occured to me that this has been an ongoing issue for me ever since I started working at home nearly two years ago.  It's tough having your office at home for many reasons: First, there's no defined time to "be at work" so you have to be very disciplined in putting down the newspaper and coffee or the dog's toy or the good book.  Second, you are always at home so you see chores that need tending to constantly--it takes a lot of effort to resist just putting in one load of laundry, or just cleaning up the kitchen a bit before heading to your desk.  Of course there are the constant phone interruptions, carpooling needs, and other household necessities that compete with a consistent work period as well.

On the other hand, sometimes there is difficulty in making yourself stop work.  Instead of relaxing with a good magazine after dinner or taking  a walk, you are sometimes coaxed back to the computer by a mysterious force, to touch up an article, re-check your email, or work on your finance and business plan.

It was a difficult balance for me:  I tried establishing "work" times; forcing myself to take breaks; compensating household chore time taken during the day for more work hours in the evening.  Sometimes  relaxation took a back seat for too many days in a row.  The person who works from home can suddenly find themselves either weeks behind in their work, or burned out from constantly working for weeks without appropriate breaks.

What a revelation it was for me to realize that I didn't have to compartmentalize the work, the chores, and and the down time.  They were all me, they were all part of my life.  They all contribute to who I am, what I value, what is important to have in my life, and what makes me happy. 
It doesn't matter whether I am reading a magazine, cooking dinner, or writing a new blog article.  Each of these accomplishments are completed throughout my day as part of my life and my career, and at the end of any given week, they are each part of the sum of what I do that makes this my life. 

Gone was working overtime to compensate for the guilt of enjoying working from home; gone was the guilt for going to a matinee with my husband on a weekday afternoon; gone was trying to schedule which hour I would spend eating lunch and which hour I could spend walking the dog.
I realized I had been negating the very benefits of working for myself.  Those of us who choose to work from home do so for the flexibility it affords.  I can go to a movie in the afternoon (as long as my assignments are completed in time); I can work in the evening if the mood strikes me; and I can throw in a load of laundry while I'm tossing around an idea for my next presentation.

The two weeks since I had this wonderful revelation have been two of the most peaceful weeks I remember having so far this year (except for vacation days for which I decided ahead of time not to work).  My goal for 2010 is to continue to incorporate this mentality into my days.  I envision weeks of calmness, productivity, and a consistently clean home rolling one into the other.  I breathe deeply before deciding I'm going to go read for an hour now . . . because that's what I feel like doing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For Better Eating, Learn More!

Studies show that people who know more about what is "good for them" to eat, actually eat better.  Here are a few things you can learn about your nutrition, what you need and how to find what foods will best meed your needs:

1. Use the ingredient labels to see what is actually in your food.  All ingredients must be listed by law (with a few exceptions of 'standardized foods' such as mayonnaise and ketchup), and in descending order of composition.  In other words,  there is more of the first ingredient than of any other ingredients in the food: If sugar is listed first in your cereal before flour, that means there is more sugar than flour.
Next compare the nutrition facts panel among several brands and varieties.  You want to get the most nutrition (vitamins, minerals) for the least calories and fat.  Remember to note the serving size and compare this equally as well: some products alter their serving size to make it look like they have fewer calories than another leading brand.

2. Find out what you need as an individual.  How many calories should you have in a day?  How many grams of protein? What is your healthy limit for fat grams?  Knowing how much protein you consume doesn't really mean anything if you don't have a goal to compare it to.  Be sure the source of your information is reliable: look for a registered dietitian or a reputable agency, such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, or higher educational institutions to provide you with guidelines that are backed by years of peer-reviewed studies and evidence.  Here is a good example .  The food guide pyramid even gives individualized guidelines for the macronutrients based on your height, weight, and gender.  Learn to question numbers when you find inconsistencies or hints of an ulterior motive.  For example, the group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) greatly reduces the suggested recommendations for protein in the hopes that people will turn away from animal products like meat and milk in order to save more animals.  In fact, you can easily get adequate protein from other sources, so it doesn't make sense to deflate the recommended numbers.

3. What really is "good for you"?  There's always news about the latest, greatest cure for aging or cancer in one food.  It just doesn't make sense.  We can't keep jumping from tomatoes to wine, focusing on one miracle food every few weeks in the hopes we'll live long and stay healthy.  The best guide to follow is "everything in moderation"!  Including a variety of foods in your diet assures you'll be getting the nutrients we don't know about yet, even before the next study comes out.

4.  What really is not good for you?  We know that excesses of certain components in food contribute to chronic diseases.  Sodium, fat, and cholesterol should be limited by anyone's evidence.  But what are the numbers?  You need to find out by perusing the latest research (again, composed by reputable agencies) the number of fat grams, cholesterol grams, and sodium milligrams that are in your best interest.

Arming yourself with the facts will lead you to avoiding too much of what is not good for you, and eating more of what you really need.  Learn about good nutrition from reputable sources: You might even consider purchasing a recently used nutrition textbook that is used in college nutrition courses.  Be sure to read the nutrition labels that are provided for you (and regulated by the FDA) to know what's really in the products you are buying.  The more you know, the better you'll end up eating.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Motivation to Do The Right Thing: Exercise!

I met a fellow blogger on line named Jenn, and she has some great tips for motivating you to eat right and exercise.  It involves literally training your brain to enjoy more of what's good for you, and become less interested in the things that aren't so good--say, laying on the couch all day!
Here's a bit about Jenn, and a link to her article: "Motivation Tips For Health and Fitness"

Jennifer Mitchell is a proud mom of two wonderful children, ages 6 and 4. She has become a fitness guru of sorts through her personal experiences with weight loss. During her pregnancies, she gained 60 pounds and then 40 pounds. She also battled with post-partum depression and anxiety. Proper exercise and nutrition truly changed her life. Jenn is proud to say that she is now in the best shape of her life. Thrilled by her results, she decided to become a personal fitness coach to help others make their fitness dreams become reality. She has helped hundreds of clients from around the country through online, phone and in-person coaching. Jenn's true passion is helping other moms learn how to make fitness fun and fit into their busy lifestyles.
Click here to read the article!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Picture Breakfast

This morning my husband--a photographer--shared with me a site (  that is sponsoring a contest for people to enter pictures of breakfast.  Some of them are very art-y and do not even include food!

But I found it fascinating to see what people all around the world have for breakfast.  Some are hearty meals, some are on lovely plates, and many are just busy people drinking coffee in their car or at their computer.  There are eggs and pancakes and franks and beans.  There are boxes of donuts and platters of pastry.  There are muffins and waffles and plates of fruit.  Some people are eating in their dining room and others in restaurants.  Some have beautifully decorated place settings and others are eating on the go.

Coffee definitely dominates.  Eggs are abundant, as well as cereal (typical in American breakfasts).  Some of the pictures are quirky and some are not even of humans!  That just shows what you get when you leave things open to interpretation.

This one was my favorite because it looks healthy and colorful and filling.  It's titled "decadent breakfast" and it's submitted by David Province.

Check out the photos and see what you think.

What does breakfast look like to you?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Donate Your Jeans for a Good Cause

If you're like many women (myself included) you have some jeans stashed away in your closet, hoping to fit back into them one day.

Maybe you know you won't fit back into them but you just wish you would.

Maybe you associate them with memories of a time when you were younger (and more fit).

Maybe by the time you do fit back into them, straight legs (or acid-washed or bejeweled pockets or seams down the front) will not be in style any longer!

Here's a great idea: Donate your jeans to your favorite charity! It'll help clear your clutter, and give someone else a pair of jeans they can use right now :)

Hop on over to and see Stephanie explain more.

Here's the badge I proudly post to announce "I am getting rid of my skinny jeans"

Mine are going to the Belleville women's shelter where I hope someone likes wearing jeans that fit way low down on the hips.... I decided I don't!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

5 Warning Signs You Are Sabotaging Your Diet

If you've been on a diet for weeks-or maybe years-and are not losing any weight, you may be sabotaging your diet by sneaking in calories unknowingly, and skipping out on healthy nutrients your body needs. Are you engaging in the following behaviors that are keeping the weight on?

1. Sneaking treats to reward yourself for weight loss:
Once you've been following a low-calorie diet for a while you might feel like you deserve a reward! Unfortunately we are a society that rewards ourselves with food, so you might just hand yourself a candy bar or a cookie because you've been so "good". This may undo all the calories you went without during the rest of the day in your concerted effort to lose weight. Thinking "just this one won't hurt" is only fooling yourself.

The fix: Consider giving yourself a day or two each week where you can choose a treat, and stick strictly to your lower-calorie plan the other 5 or 6 days.

2. Not knowing how many calories are in what you eat: If you aren't used to reading the label on every food you eat (or looking it up on the internet) you may have a vastly different calorie intake than you think you do. One co-worker I used to lunch with was convinced she needed to be on an 800 calorie diet to lose weight-but she was actually eating twice that.She just did not know how many calories were in the foods she was eating, and she wasn't a very educated guesser.

The fix: Be aware of what is in the foods you eat by reading up on labels, restaurants, and fast food items that provide you with this information.

3. Skipping meals because you believe it saves calories: It's so important to keep fueling your body with energy at least every four to five hours. If you skip lunch and think you'll just wait until dinner time, stop and think about how often that actually happens. More often than not, we get too hungry to wait and sabotage our diet by grabbing something quick when we're desperate-as a result, it's usually something high in calories.

The fix: Be sure and take a break at 8 am, 12 noon and 6 pm (or thereabouts) to give yourself a nutritious boost of energy. If you really aren't hungry or don't have time, use a meal replacement beverage or bar to give you the calories, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to get you through the next several hours.

4. Shunning fruits, juices, and other nutrient dense foods to save calories: I know a lot of women who will skip the oj at breakfast time to save 60 calories, but will ignore the 100 calories they're drinking in a glass of wine with dinner.

The fix: Make room in your low-calorie diet for fruits, low-fat dairy products, and other foods that do contain calories, but also provide a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, or protein. Do away first with those that aren't contributing anything necessary to your diet.

5. Avoiding the scale: If you find yourself avoiding the scale for long periods of time, you know you're due for a weigh-in. Putting your head in the sand won't make your weight gain go away!

The fix: Get on the scale right now and take a good hard look at where you're at and where you want to be. What do you need to do to get there? Sit down with a pencil and paper and write down just one goal you feel comfortable with that you can take action on this week: having fruit for dessert, eating 3 meals a day, starting an after-dinner walking routine, or something else that is reasonable and simple.

If you've been trying to lose weight for a long time, and failing despite what seems to be endless dieting, take assessment of what you are really doing instead of what you wish you were doing!One step at a time, you can get back on that healthy eating plan you were aiming for in the beginning.

If you really can't figure out why the weight is not coming off, submit your questions to Ask The Diet Coach at and we'll figure it out together!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Put the Brakes on the Junk Food

If you like to treat yourself once in a while to a sweet--cake, cookies, candy bar, soda, ice cream--here's an eye-opening fact about the average American diet: An article in a recent scientific journal published data showing that one-third of the calories came from so-called junk foods!

Think about how often you have a snack like a cupcake or a handful of chips--foods that taste good but don't provide you with much in the way of nutrition...just many extra calories! Could you replace these once in a while with a healthier choice: a piece of fruit or some string cheese or a bowl of cereal or peanut butter on a few crackers?

You'll be saving lots of calories and improving your diet by increasing the nutrients you take in.

Remember that an average diet contains 2100-2400 calories: this means junk food is contributing 700-800 calories a day in many cases.

If you can save 300 calories a day (not a difficult feat, considering it means giving up less than half your junk food) you can start losing nearly 3 pounds a month--losing about 35 pounds at the end of a year, without going on a diet!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cheap Junk Food Sabotages Efforts for Healthy Eating

This week's Time headlines announce how difficult it is to eat healthy on a dollar. The article explains (falsely) that for $1 you can buy just 175 calories of fruit, 250 calories of vegetables, 875 calories of soda, and 1200 calories of potato chips. I can't buy ANY of this for a dollar.

A bag of chips, which provides about 1200 calories, usually costs over $3 at any store I've ever shopped in. A 20-oz bottle of soda has about 220 calories but I've never seen one for less than a dollar--so 4 times this much would cost $4 (about what a cup of fruit or 2 cups of vegetables would cost).

Whoever wrote this needs to recalculate the calories purchased for their dollar.
And, by the way, instead of a bottle of soda, what would be wrong with eating a peach or an apple? Instead of a bag of chips providing little nutrition, wouldn't 2 cups of raw vegetables be quite a bit more filling, if not just more nutritious (even if one was only interested in feeling full?)

No, I think the point is that people would rather spend their money on chips, sodas, and candy bars (along with tatoos and ring tones for their phone) than to spend it on some chicken they have to cook, some rice they have to boil, a package of frozen vegetables for some vitamins, and some medication to control their blood pressure that they don't feel like they should have to pay for.

Where do you weigh in on this? Would you rather spend your money on things that contribute to your health, or something providing a fix for an immediate gratification?

Quote for the day

If someone tells you your house is dusty ... hand them a dustrag!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Help for Overweight Teens

My colleague Suzane sent me this list of 100 great resources for overweight teens.
Check out websites, books, even tv shows to help a teen you know to start getting into better shape. Find resources, fitness information, and recipes for a well-rounded plan to start eating right, becoming more active, and moving toward a healthier weight!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Good Reason To Eat Froot Loops!

Froot Loops photo courtesy of shuttersplash photography

As a dietitian I have always enjoyed the motto, "everything in moderation". This means there aren't any bad foods, even though there may be bad amounts of certain foods; certainly there are bad diets if they are composed largely of calories with low amounts of nutrients.
Like most people, there are foods I enjoy eating that I know aren't exactly "good for me". So I am always trying to justify some good a food will contribute to one's diet. It doesn't always work--soda, for instance, is one for which I can never find any beneficial attributes.

Now, however, there is a new reason for us all to enjoy the kids' cereal, Froot Loops again! Sure, it has a decent amount of the daily value of many vitamins and minerals, but you could get these by taking a vitamin pill, too... the cereal isn't naturally high in vitamins--they are added in to the rest of the ingredients.

Fiber, on the other hand, isn't as easy to take in a pill. A citrucel caplet contains just 1/2 gram of fiber, while a serving of Froot Loops now provides a whopping 3 grams! There are a few other varieties of Kelloggs cereals that have fiber, and they've even added it to some of their Pop Tarts, making it hard to resist these sweet treats with whole grain flour as one of the primary ingredients...until you read the calorie content on the pop tarts: 200 per pastry, 2 pastries per packet. It sure is hard to fold the packet up and put the other pastry back for later. While you're at it, you might want to measure your serving of Froot Loops before you get carried away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Six Tips for Weight Loss from the NHLBI

Here are some easy tips from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to get ready for your weight loss program!

They are simple and they make sense! Need some assistance getting your diet started and making a serious effort to change your habits for good? Consider hiring a diet coach, visiting a registered dietitian, surrounding yourself with support, and arming youself with all the accurate information you need. (start here for information:

Scroll through a year of blog entries to find stories and tips that can help you stay on course with a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Leave your comments to tell us your favorite and how it worked for you!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Survive the Snack Attack

Snacks are often just a part of life as we find ourselves hungry long before lunch or soon after. But don't let these cravings sabotage your resolve to eat healthy! Snacks can be a nourishing contribution to your diet, as well as a great pick-me-up in the afternoon. The key, as you may have guessed, is choosing the right snacks.
Here are some simple rules to follow to keep your snacks smart and healthy and prevent them from sabotaging your otherwise healthy diet:
1. Plan snacks ahead of time.
Know that you have one coming in an hour can really help get you past a dessert craving or walk past a candy dish. Keep smart snacks in your desk at work or even in your handbag so their available whenever the hungries start to overwhelm you. I'm a big fan of granola-type bars like those pictured above. Look for those providing less than 150 calories, and containing some vitamins and fiber. Also try to compare labels and choose the lowest fat grams per serving. If you have the storage facilities, other healthy snacks are fresh fruits (canned fruits work, too), yogurt (again, look for those under 150 calories per serving), string cheese, or a bowl of cereal.
2. Have that conversation with your inner child. When you hear that two-year-old having a tantrum in your head, screaming "I want a candy bar now", take a minute to address her instead of just trying to push her away with a loud 'NO'... after all, think about how that's worked for you in the past. Go ahead, even though it sounds silly, and ask her, "what is it you're looking for right now?". Chances are that part of you is stressed, or bored, or anxious, or--yes--maybe even hungry. If you're hungry, it's time for a healthy snack! If you're looking for something else, food won't really help. Consider taking a break from your desk, a quick walk, a drink of water, or emailing a friend to vent. Give yourself ten minutes to wait and see if the child settles down. Even if this works one or two times, you're getting some positive results!
3. Decide you want to live with healthy habits every day.
Develop a mantra to help you dedicate your behaviors to what really is important in your life. Whatever is meaningful to you (like, "I am nourishing my body and treating it right so it will treat me right when I'm older", or "I feel healthy when I eat healthy", or even "my body is my temple") write it down and post it everywhere until it becomes imbedded in your brain so it is a belief you don't even question!
Challenge your inner child when she starts whining and convince yourself to avoid the vending machine: How much satisfaction will you get from that candy bar? Most people answer "about two minutes"--as long as it takes to eat it! How long will you be feeling good about skipping the candy bar? As soon as the craving passes you'll be patting yourself on the back for at least the rest of the day! And the results will be showing on you for the rest of your life, every time you choose the better option.
Decide what's really important to you, and if it's living healthy, that includes eating healthy! Make up your mind to develop new habits and eat right every day, every hour. (And if you mess up one hour, don't beat yourself up about it! Just get back on track the very next minute and don't wait until Monday!)
Now go out and buy some healthy snacks so you can start living right, right now!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Diet Book Reviews by Dietitians

Here are three book reviews that were published in this month's edition of the ADA Times, a newsletter of the American Dietetic Association. I particularly like to get another dietitian's viewpoint about diet books, since I will never have time to read all the diet books out there!

I've inserted the capacity for you to click on any book that you might like to buy, and directly purchase it at the lowest available price through Amazon. Enjoy!

The Food You Crave, by Ellie Krieger, MS, RD
Review by Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN

"Centered on a flexible 'usually/sometimes/rarely' philosophy to incorporating all foods into a healthy diet, this is first and foremost a cookbook. Recipes include nutritional analysis as well as highlighted positive qualities (e.g. "Excellent source of vitamin C"), a handy chart alphabetically lists nutrients, daily, values, and functions, and "The New Way Pantry" itemizes ingredients that are frequently used in the recipes. Also throughtout the book are tips and information on subjects such as safely storing leftovers, smart snacking and cutting back on fats.
If there is any drawback, it is that some of the recipes would need to be modified in order to fit a tighter budget; depending on where you live or shop, some specialty items on the ingredients list may be difficult to find. However, with some smart substitutions, this book could fit most budgets."

Naturally Thin, by Bethenny Frankel
Reviewed by Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, CDE

"This book includes 10 rules, sample meal plans and recipes. Some of the nutrition information is in line with successful weight loss (portion control, savoring food, etc) but there is also a fair amount of incorrect information--not surprising since the author has no education or background in dietetics or physiology. Examples include eating almonds after cupcakes and chocolate to control blood sugar; alternating carb-based meals and protein-based meals; and avoiding starches when drinking alcohol (two to five cocktails).

Will you lose weight following the meal plan? Probably not, especially since the guidelines to follow are simultaneously specific (you should eat this today) and vague (but if you don't eat it, no biggie). The 10 rules aren't bad food philosophies in general, but readers will be more successful by seeing an RD. "

The Quantum Wellness Cleanse, by Kathy Freston
Reviewed by Ruth Frechman, MA, RD

"Claiming to bring 'the body, mind, and spirit to a higher level' the diet includes vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grains, fruits and nuts, Stevia, agave nectar, organic foods, vegan products, protein powders and bars; and eliminates sugar, caffeine, gluten, alcohol and animal products. Though the program lasts 21 days, the author hints it could be continued indefinitely; however, readers who do continue may lack vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and Omega 3 fatty acids in their diets. The book also contains plenty of misinformation. For example, apples and pears are NOT high in calcium or vitamins A and C. Gluten is NOT 'part protein and part starch'. Sugar does NOT contribute to an overgrowth of fungus in the body or feed cancer. And readers are told to eat complex carbohydrates and avoid white bread, pasta and conventional cereals, all of which ARE complex carbohydrates.

There is no scientific evidence that a temporary diet jumpstarts weight loss and healing, and there are much better resources for people who want to follow a plant-based diet. There is nothing wrong with a 'a gentler way of thinking and living' but from a nutrition standpoint I would not recommend this book."

If you have questions about any diet books, or the reliability of any diets in particular, feel free to email me at and I'll answer your questions in an e-mail reply and they may be posted on this blog, or on my other blog, Ask The Diet Coach.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Share Your Calories With A Friend

The other day my husband and I were meeting a large group of friends for lunch. We arrived at our destination early and killed some time wandering through a local market and then a used bookstore. While at the market I succumbed to an urge for something to nibble on to tide me over for the next 45 minutes and bought a bag of marshmallows.
First I read the ingredients and the serving size and the calories per serving, of course. The fact that four marshmallows had 100 calories did not prevent me from purchasing the bag. I did keep in mind, though, that there were 15 servings in the package and that eventually, if ate the entire bag it would provide me with nearly half a pound's worth of calories.
I had two and put the bag away. After lunch we went with all our friends for a hike in a local park. I brought the bag of marshmallows out with me, hoping I would have some help emptying it and be left with only a few for later. Just three or four interested people came forth and helped themselves to one or two. One of the men came back soon for another, and later for another, and during our walk came by a third time and was by then a bit apologetic. "It looks like I'm eating more of these than you are," he said.

"Oh, I appreciate someone to share my calories with--please help yourself," I encouraged him. "You see," I went on, "I read the label and there are 1500 Calories in this bag!"
"Well, for heaven's sake," he exclaimed, "Whatever you do, don't eat the bag!"

Monday, July 27, 2009

How To Eat Healthy and Conveniently

Click this link for an article on how to choose and use frozen meals for a fast alternative you can feel good about!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Does Having An Obese Child Constitute Criminal Neglect?

A South Carolina woman is being charged with criminal neglect because her 14 year old son weighs 555 pounds. He is currently in foster care, and she is at a loss as to how to explain his condition. "I worked two jobs so I had to buy fast food once in a while" is the only explanation she has to offer as to how this child came to be 400 pounds above his ideal weight.

A person this size must ingest over 4000 calories on a daily basis (nearly double the average intake that is used to calculate "daily value" needs on United States food labels). How was he even getting access to all this food? The woman's lawyers affirm that she was, indeed, on a limited budget so neither of them were able to buy limitless supplies of food. The boy's mother claims she kept no soda in the house and the child didn't even like sweets!

The lawyers defend her by asking how she could possibly be overseeing his eating habits 24 hours a day. "She worked; he went to school; he couldn't be in her sight every minute" [paraphrased]. Their final statement in her favor was "She loved her child; maybe she didn't say 'no' often enough".

What do you think? Are parents responsible for their child's weight? Could this child have suddenly gained 400 pounds without her noticing he was overweight while he was 10 years old or 5 years old? Should parents be forced to keep their children under (and over) a certain unhealthy weight or have their children taken away from them, given the health risks the child is certain to face in his life now?

Monday, July 20, 2009

There Are No Bad Foods!

A lot of people start out their next diet by making a list of "forbidden foods". What qualifies a food as being "bad" anyway? For most people's definition, they are referring to foods that are high in fat, calories, and/or sodium but provide little nutrition. The list goes from sodas to candy bars to bacon and sausage, to pies and cakes and cookies and ice cream. But if you try to cut all these foods out of your diet forever--and most of them happen to taste very good--you aren't likely to succeed in sticking with it.

Dietitians have a saying, "There are no bad foods; only bad diets". There isn't anything wrong with having a slice of pie once in a while, or 2 strips of bacon with breakfast once in a while. The problem is, many people in our culture treat themselves constantly to chocolates and cookies and high-fat pastries and coffee drinks and ice cream all day, every day, to make themselves feel better in some way. Maybe you get a burst of energy from one of these treats, or one of these foods calms you down; maybe a snack distracts you from the stress at the office or soothes you before you go to sleep. Whatever the reason, ingesting a large amount of these so-called "junk foods" on a nearly-daily basis doesn't really do you any good, and certainly makes the battle to lose weight a whole lot tougher.

Instead of putting these on a list of Never Eat Again foods, change the heading to "one-a-day treats" and be sure that you only have a total of one of them each day: if you have a cinnamon roll for breakfast, don't add a mid-morning donut, a piece of cake with lunch, a candy bar in the afternoon, a soda with dinner, and ice cream in the evening! All these foods will add up to a very bad diet overall.

Having a treat once in a while is not a bad thing. Indulging occasionally can help keep you motivated to make lifestyle changes that will get your weight to where you want it, and have a healthy and balanced diet.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New TV Shows Center Around The Pleasantly Plump

The latest TV lineups feature some shows about everyday people who are a bit overweight. Some focus on their lives as normal people and others are about the struggle to lose weight. As reported in USA today recently, here are three good looking picks.

Dance Your Ass Off
Yes, that's actually the name of the show! Airing on the Oxygen network at 10 pm eastern time on Mondays, 12 overweight men and women are coupled with professional dancers who teach them new dances each week. If you've ever watched the hit series "Dancing With The Stars" you recall how the celebrities are always shocked at the amount of physical work they are doing and never hesitate to happily tell us how many pounds they've lost during the time they spend on the show.
On this show the contestants are judged not just on how well they dance, but also on how many pounds they lose each week. The show does not emphasize any dieting, letting viewers and contestants alike watch as the dancers whittle their weight off through the joy of dancing.

More To Love
Another "bachelor"-type show, this reality TV program features a husky single man looking for love with 20 pleasantly plump ladies from which to choose. Premiering July 28 at 9 pm Eastern time on the Fox network, it should be interesting to see if the personalities of what the programming director calls "regular people" can be as entertaining to watch as the model-type ladies who are usually featured on The Bachelor .

This show is entering its second season on Sundays on Style at 8 pm Eastern time. Ruby is a real woman from Savannah, Georgia who has been losing from her starting weight of nearly 500 pounds. She lost nearly 100 pounds last season and has changed her focus on what it's all about. "It used to be 'let me lose weight so I can start eating pizza and ice cream' [now it's about] the rest of my life". We see her life struggles and successes and meet her supportive friends. Her actual weight by the end of season two is not revealed, but it looks like she loses another hundred pounds! Congratulations Ruby--We'll be cheering you on.

Let us know which show YOU become addicted to and we'll have a chat here!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Having a Happy Life

My sister in law is here visiting and shared a great story with me this morning that I want to pass along. We were talking about how wonderfully happy life is when you surround yourself with positive and happy people. Likewise, you may not realize what a downer it is when some of your friends and family are negative, pessimistic, whiny, and even make a regular habit of insulting you. Some days we just know we are in a bad mood after being in certain company, or we aren't looking forward to spending time with a particular person, but can't put our finger on why. Maybe we know a person makes us miserable but feel obligated to spend time with them because they are a friend or family member.

I mentioned to my sister-in-law how coaching teaches us to identify toxic relationships and remove these people from our lives, or at least let them know that we will not tolerate certain behavior from them. So she told me the story of The Black Walnut Tree.

"Several years back I had a little garden I tended in my back yard," she told me. "I wanted to grow some herbs and vegetables, but I was not successful with the plants. Every year the plants wouldn't survive. Every new year I resolved to try again; to figure out what I was doing wrong and find new ways to be successful in my gardening endeavors. But it never worked. I was frustrated year after year at my failure to grow these plants and see them through the season.

"One day someone pointed out to me that above the garden plot there was a large black walnut tree. 'Did you know that nothing will grow under a black walnut tree?' they asked me. 'There are toxins from the tree that will kill the plants'.

"All these years I wondered why I couldn't get the herbs to grow. I thought it was something I was doing, some way that I had failed them. But it was the black walnut tree that was poisoning their environment.
[this is really true: see more info at

"I had an epiphany then: The same thing was going on in some of the relationships I was trying to cultivate. I didn't enjoy how I felt around certain people and kept wondering what I was doing wrong and what I could do differently. I suddenly realized that in many of these cases there was a toxic environment and it was not coming from me. I was putting forth an effort to nourish and tend and give love, but without the proper atmosphere and climate, my efforts would not matter.

"Now my friends and I recognize there are people we come across who are negative forces in our lives. We call them Black Walnuts and we realize they are literally toxic to us. If people in our lives bring us down despite our attempts to communicate positively with them, it is time to free ourselves from the relationship".

This holiday weekend, take an assessment of the friends and family your are spending time with. Are you having a fabulous weekend like I am with my loving friends and family? Or are you dreading having to go through with your dinner plans this evening because of the people in whose company you will be? Consider that you are not obligated to be in the presence of people who are offensive and insulting. Think about how pleasant your life might be if you decided to avoid certain people (after letting them know what behaviors you are not willing to tolerate).

Know how happy your life can be if you make a conscious effort to seek the company of those who are positive, optimistic, giving, and caring. Please share with us your stories about someone in your life who makes you happy, or how much better your life is after having cut off a toxic relationship.
And be sure to stop by my sister-in-law's great blog Sophie, seriously; she's really smart and introspective and you can spend all day reading her stuff!

Friday, July 3, 2009

More News On the State of Obesity in America

Thanks to Rosa Sow for forwarding this video with more details on the state of obesity in America!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The American Annual Obesity Report Results

The nation's annual obesity rankings are in, and the report does not bode well for either the health of many Americans, or the purse of medicare.

Over the past year obesity rates among adults rose in 23 states. The rates did not decline in any state. This report does not even count how many adults are merely overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, but focuses on those who are obese which means having a BMI greater than 30. An example of a person with a BMI over 30 would be someone who is 5 feet 7 inches tall weighing over 190 pounds.

The results: Mississippi wins again (or loses) as the state with the most obese adults having 32.5% in this category. Other states with more than 30% of the residents obese include West Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee. The states with the fewest obese population are Colorado , Massachusetts, and Connecticut coming in with 20%, 21.2% and 21.3%, respectively.

The connection to medicare is the fact that the rate of obesity continues to rise in the 55-64 year old population group. Health economists once believed that obese seniors would weed themselves out of the high medical costs by dying younger of obesity-related illnesses. Now, however, it appears they are living as long as non-obese adults, living sicker, and costing a lot in healthcare dollars. The average obese older adult spends an average of $1400-$6000 more in healthcare per year than other adults.

Is there any good news? Well, last year the incidence of obesity rose in 37 states. Maybe we are starting to see a slower gain and this would be a welcome trend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Move To Fat Acceptance

For several decades there has been a movement, and even an association--The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance--to influence our society to stop being prejudiced against fat people. Yes, they call themselves fat, and there's a carefully thought out reason for this: labeling a person as "overweight" or "obese" lends more credence to the condition because of the clinical and scientific sound of the title.

Now with over a full third of the American population obese (previously clinically defined as 20% above their ideal weight, and now as have a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or above) more and more are joining the movement. Many women claim that being fat--even weighing as much as 300 pounds--is not what makes them unhappy; dieting is what makes them unhappy. They want to stop obsessing about their weight and their eating and stop experiencing the prejudice and public gawking they suffer because of their size. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) works to have laws passed to prohibit discrimination in the work place and act to intervene when children who are overweight are bullied at school. Indeed, these fat women assert that the number on the scale or the size of their clothing or the way that they look should not be what determines their acceptance in society, their happiness, or their self-worth. They point out that mental well-being is important just as physical health is, and that they suffer greatly from being singled out, stared at, and experiencing self-loathing because they don't meet society's ideal standard of weight.

For those who believe this is just an excuse for these fat people to eat what they please, most of the member of the fat acceptance movement say they are concerned about their health and do keep up regular exercise and sensible eating. They go to their doctors for physicals and evaluations and many can honestly say that their blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels are normal. They also point out the dangers of yo yo dieting, which are well documented.
While the people who are part of the fat acceptance movement say they are happier accepting their weight as it is, feeling great in every aspect of their life--including dressing well and finding worth in their family, relationships, and career insteadof their size--health professionals still acknowledge there is no denying that extra weight will more than likely contribute to chronic illnesses as these people age. No one can say being one hundred pounds overweight is good for you.

Another stand I take issue with is the NAAFA's statement that "society believes fat people are at fault for their size". I believe people are at fault for their size. As long as an overweight person attributes their weight to an outside factor--whether it's their metabolism or genetics, the fast food industry, or their destiny--taking the responsibility away from themselves is being in denial. This greatly reduces the chance they they will ever assume responsibility and do something to take control of their situation

Lose Just 10% for Better Health

For people who are very overweight, the journey to get the extra pounds off seems never-ending. The good news is, you don’t have to worry about getting all the way down to your ideal weight in order to experience many of the benefits of weight loss. Evidence is now clear that losing just 10% of your body weight can reap huge benefits to your health! This means if you weigh 230 pounds you don’t have to shoot for an all-or-nothing 50, 60, or even an 80 pound weight loss (depending on your height and gender). Just 23 pounds off your frame can ease the pressure on your joints and your back, help your blood glucose response, bring your blood lipid levels down, and reduce your blood pressure. Of course, the more you lose, the better the results, but it’s a huge relief for most people to hear that a little bit of weight loss will do a whole lot of good.

Think about what 10% weight loss is for you. If it doesn’t sound very significant to drop 20-something pounds, check out this perspective to see how it would feel if you could instantly feel the difference. Imagine yourself carrying a 25 pound bag of dog food or cat litter: what a relief it is to get it out of the car and into the house and finally put it down. If you had to carry it up a flight of stairs it feels even more heavy!
So how differently would you feel, how much easier would you move, how much less out-of-breath would you be if you weighed 25 pounds less?
Think about carrying a gallon of milk in each hand: they weigh a total of 16 pounds. It doesn’t sound like a lot to lose from your body, but it feels like quite a struggle if you have to carry this 16 pounds around for a while. What would it be like to drop 16 pounds and go about your day without this extra weight?

The struggle to lose weight can feel like a long, uphill battle. You can make it easier by acknowledging all of your successes along the way. Pat yourself on the back for every five pounds you lose and set a new, smaller goal today. Work your way to losing just 10% of your body weight over the next six months. You’ll find it much easier and less stressful to reach a goal you’ve set, and reap the benefits that resonate throughout your mind and body!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You Should Know About This

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a watchdog organization who blows the whistle when they find out about hugely unreasonable amounts of fat, salt, and sugar hidden in common foods and restaurant menus. They are a highly reputable group of physicians who work to let the public know what's really in movie popcorn, fast foods, and other sickening surprises. There are "extreme" cases they report here ( of many restaurant entrees providing nearly 1500 calories per order. The group pushes for healthier dining to be available for consumers by doing things like doing away with trans fats, and mandating labels on restaurant menus just like packaged foods must have by law.

Here is a video telling you more about them and how you can subscribe to their newsletter.

Watch for them in the news and listen up for the best information from these pros who are looking out for your best interest!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Please Hold the Avocado

I had a very unusual experience yesterday in a restaurant. Now, I am used to some very good waitstaff who suggest what is "excellent" on the menu, or maybe even who hint at what you might not want to order: they explain what things are, try to describe what they taste like, tell you which sauces best complement which foods, politely bring your food and quietly whisk away your empty plates. But yesterday, a waitress shockingly exclaimed that I was asking for them to remove "the best part" of the dish I ordered!

My entire life I have had people telling me what I should like and what I would like. Don't you have friends and family try to convince you that their favorite dish should be yours? They tell you the calamari you savor is "disgusting"; your favorite hot chili recipe is "undigestable"; that their beloved tuna noodle casserole is just the best and you don't know what you're missing!

I remember being told by my father, "You don't know what good is" as he happily gulped down a bowl of cold beet soup that made me gag just to look at. And this week, visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Israel, we are barraged with new fruits and salads and mixtures and sauces, all being pushed at us at every meal, our hosts telling us how delicious these strange foods are and how much we will love them--even if we are politely declining with a smile and a "maybe later--I'm very full right now".

I have been out to restaurants hundreds of times and sat next to customers ordering what I thought were odd requests: "burn the bun", "extra mayo on my hot dog", "bring me my stake so rare you can hear it moo". And the waitress just nods and writes it down.

So, I found it particularly surprising at the Japanese restaurant last night (yes, they have them in Israel!) when I asked the waitress to hold the avocado in my salmon sushi roll--I don't happen to like the texture mixed in with that of the fish, rice, and crunchy cucumber strips--and she virtually shrieked, "WHAT? But that is the best part! Are you sure you don't want it?" As if I had turned down a personal offer of her family favorite recipe, and it would make her feel better if I accepted. I would not. And she was okay with it after all.

What is your favorite (or least favorite) food that people are always telling you is wrong to like!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

FDA Strictly Enforces Label Laws

Last week, the FDA took issue with a health claim that is posted on boxes of Cheerios. The product claims it can "lower cholesterol levels", a feat that may be possible with the oat flour used to make the cereal. But the FDA says the way this claim is worded is in serious violation of the codes of the law.

According to certain sections of the code, the claims that Cheerios can treat and prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol (specifically "by 4% in six weeks") means it is being marketed as a drug. And drugs on the market must be submitted for extensive studies before the FDA allows them on the market.

The agency reminds General Mills that they are allowed to promote the cereal by saying "diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber-containing fruit, vegetable, and grain products may reduce the risk of heart disease" and that Cheerios can be a part of the healthy diet that meets these recommendations. They go on to quote other claims made regarding cancer prevention that are not written as the laws specify they must be, and warn the company that failure to promptly correct the violations may result in enforcement action without further notice. (Enforcement action may include seizure of products and/or injunction against the manufacturers and distributors of violative products).

For anyone who questions what to believe on food labels, be assured that the FDA is on the ball! Claims are routinely monitored and companies are warned when a violation has occurred when products are under the FDA's auspices. Remember that only food and drugs are covered by the FDA laws, and herbal supplements have exempted themselves from the eyes of the regulatory agencies--so take heed when reading labels of supplements, vitamins, and herbs that claim to improve any health conditions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Here is a Fantastic Article!

Check out this article from Smart Money magazine about finding the right person to help you figure out how to eat smarter.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chef Ramsay shows cooking at home beats going out!

I caught this show for the first time last week (on BBC) and thoroughly enjoyed it! The chef famous for yelling and swearing at novice chefs who flub up in the kitchen, takes a kinder turn in this series. He finds people who subsist on take out, fast food, and otherwise horrible contributions to a healthy diet (not to mention wallet) and shows them how they can cook their own wonderful meal that is good for them in less than 30 minutes.
I have my own version of a lesson in healthy, quick meals (The Virtual Dinner Coach) to show the average American Mom how to get good food on the table in a hurry for a small family. But his are much more detailed meals: Curry Chicken that includes a cinnamon stick and coconut milk as part of the ingredients; beef stew cooked on a portable camping stove for construction workers to make their lunch on site; and even a contest for the best meatloaf with the rock star Meatloaf!
It was nice to see another side of Ramsay, teaching English citizens to cook, showing them they can really do it even when they didn't believe they could, and enjoying the outcome--how proud the guys are when they taste their own delicious meal! Here's a clip with a man who orders take-out so often the restaurant knows his name and his usual order: Ramsay shows him how to make the same dish in less time than the restaurant can deliver it

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What to Eat With No Electricity

Recently some close family members were left without power in their home for several days. This prompted the question, "what will we be able to eat?" With power out all through the county most restaurants were not open either, and many of the gas stations were unable to provide fuel--so people were hesitant to waste gasoline driving around looking for fuel and food!
You can keep a few things in stock at home in case of a power outage that will allow you to eat enough nutrition to keep you healthy and satisfied for several days without having to cook. The number one item on the list is to be sure you have a hand-held can opener that does not need to be plugged in! Most of the items you will be living off of come in cans, and not all of them have handy pop tops.
Once the power goes out, your refrigerator and freezer are still going to be keeping food at a safe cold range (below 40 degrees F for refrigerated foods and below 0 degrees F for frozen foods) for several hours. It's after going more than a day that these foods may reach the "danger zone" above 40 degrees that allows bacteria to quickly multiply and cause food poisoning. At this point they will have to be thrown away for safety reasons. Up until then, feel free to eat leftovers and food that is cooked: this includes meats and chicken, dairy products like cheeses and milk, perishable fruits and vegetables, and juices.
After the refrigerated foods have raised to unsafe temperatures, you may still be able to consume some of the frozen foods, as long as they are already cooked. Raw meats will have to be thrown away once they thaw. But if you have cooked prepared foods or leftovers (the package will tell you whether it needs to be cooked or not) you can eat these cold (as long as they remain below 40 degrees all the way to the center). So the second important appliance on your list will be a good kitchen thermometer. This will let you know what is safe to eat.
If you happen to have an outdoor gas or charcoal grill, you'll be able to cook the foods you already have. Be sure they are cooked to proper safe temperatures (above 155 for most meats and fish; 165 degrees for poultry and pork).
After the raw food is cooked or tossed, you're going to be resorting to pantry staples that are canned or otherwise safely packaged.
Here are some nutritious items to meet your needs for protein: peanut butter, canned beans, canned chili, canned stews and soups, tuna or chicken (which now also comes in pouches), sardines, canned meats and fish. You do not have to heat these foods up when they are already cooked. Cold soup might not taste as great as when you heat it up, but it's a nourishing meal that will provide the energy you need to keep you going.
For many vitamins and minerals when fresh fruits and vegetables aren't available, canned ones work just as well: canned peaches, pears, pineapples, applesauce; green beans, asparagus, peas and corn will give you some vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Dried fruits are handy to have around as well, and will give you a more dense form of calories as well as fiber. Juice boxes will last without power. Any vegetables or fruits that are not consumed once the can is opened must be disposed of within a few hours if there is no refrigeration available.
Energy and B vitamins from carbohydrates can be obtained from canned white or sweet potatoes, breads, rolls, and crackers. Granola snack bars, and even pretzels and cookies are good snacks to keep around to give you a treat while you're living through life without power. They are good sources of carbohydrates and will give you the energy to help you get through another day.
If you have evaporated or condensed milk you can use these straight from the can in the case that your water supply is not safe to drink. Some stores carry ultra-pasteurized milk which is safe on the shelf for long periods of time, until the container is opened.
You can put together a surprisingly good meal with canned meat (chicken, or chili, or stew); canned potatoes or some bread or crackers; canned peaches and green beans on the side, and some cookies for dessert!
Print this out for future reference so you know what's safe to eat when the power goes out and you won't be able to look up safe temperatures for food on the computer :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can I eat food that might be spoiled if it smells okay?

This week's entries are brought to you courtesy of my brother who, as of today, is still living without power after severe storms passed through Southern Illinois several days ago. He and his wife came up to stay with us in the St.Louis area (just about 90 miles away) so they could enjoy the luxuries of hot showers, lights, internet access, and food that wasn't spoiled!
They had to return to their home before power was restored in order to get grades turned in for the semester end at Southern Illinois University where he is a professor. So after a lovely visit and some shared meals, we set about figuring out what they could bring home that would be safe to eat: without refrigeration, without electricity to heat a microwave dinner, or a freezer in which to keep any frozen; and without potable water (although they did purchase a portable camp stove so they could boil water and also cook in a pinch).
For now here are some facts on food safety, and tomorrow I'll bring you some ideas for what you can eat when you have no electricity. My brother had a great idea--he recommends you print this out now, while you have power for your printer and your computer, and while you have internet access. If you need this information when the power is out, you won't be able to access it!!
When Is Food Safe to Eat?
1) Never rely on smelling food to see if it's safe! Food does not always smell bad when it is teeming with bacteria. Yes, if it does smell funny you should throw it out. But just because it smells okay and looks okay, that doesn't mean you won't get food poisoning: There are more reliable ways to tell if it is safe!
2) Check the Temperature: Food has to remain within certain temperature zones to minimize replication of bacteria that are present. The so called "danger zone" (where you don't want the food to be) is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit; this is where bacteria multiply more quickly.
Notice that room temperature is in this danger zone, and so is picnic weather, and so is leaving it in your car while you do some more shopping and catch a movie! Food should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (which is the temperature in your refrigerator) or above 140 degrees (which happens when you cook it to the proper temperature and keep it warm until the guests arrive).
Your refrigerator should probably be at 36 to 38 degrees in order to be sure the food contained is all below 40 degrees. Keep a food thermometer on the top shelf or in the door to monitor this. After a power outage the foods in the fridge along with the insulation will keep it cool enough for several hours--maybe even overnight. So if the power outage is brief (say, six hours) you can check your trusty thermometer for assurance and as long as the temperature hasn't exceeded 40 degrees, you can keep all your food for safe consumption.

3) The Test of Time: Sometimes food will come into the danger zone and that's perfectly fine for a short period of time. For instance, while you are eating dinner, if you notice, as you reach for a second helping of meatloaf and mashed potatoes 15 minutes after it was set on the table, the food is not steaming hot. Testing the temperature with a food thermometer will show you that it has fallen below 140 degrees and is now in the "danger zone". But it does take time for the bacteria to multiply--you won't get food poisoning from food the instant it falls into this temperature range.

The safe guideline is to get food back to below 40 or above 140 degrees within two hours. So it's perfectly okay to have a leisurely dinner and put the leftovers back into the refrigerator 45 or even 90 minutes later.

This is why a brief power lapse will not affect the safety of refrigerated food. A four hour outage is no reason to dump all the contents of your refrigerator: It takes a while for the temperature to rise when everything inside is cooled. Certainly, though, after 24 hours or more the temperature is likely to have risen above 40 degrees inside the appliance, and the food will likely be creeping up into the danger zone. Having a thermometer in the refrigerator will be most helpful to determine at what point it's time to throw out the refrigerated foods.

Once power is restored to your neighborhood and your refrigerator is humming along, realize that it may take several hours (probably at least 12) for it to actually cool back down to below 40 degrees. Do not stock the refrigerator until the internal temperature is back in the safe zone. Use your thermometer to show you when you can safely purchase more milk, meat, spreads and sauces, and other perishables . . or you will have another load of spoiled food on your hands.
4) When in Doubt, Throw it Out! If you aren't sure about the safety of a food as a result of power outage, a questionable thermometer, or leftovers inadvertently left out for too long, just throw the food away. It's a shame to waste food, but it's even worse to make someone ill over eating something you aren't certain is safe. Food poisoning is uncomfortable at best, and can even be fatal in small children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems.
So there you have it: after a power outage, mind the time that perishable food stays within the safe range below 40 degrees; take your time re-stocking the refrigerator when power is restored; and just toss anything that gets up to room temperature for more than a few hours. Be safe!