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.