Monthly Archives: February 2013

Supermarket Sleuth: Don’t Get Fooled Again!

Yesterday I went shopping.  Or rather, I went sleuthing.Nutrition Facts

There’s a lot of buzz about obesity of late, and it appears that sugar is what’s got health experts on fire.  Sugary beverages are on the firing line as a major contributor to the epidemic of obesity, and no doubt, they have an impact on health.

Some would say that it’s an individual’s choice to either drink their calories, and we are obligated to exercise our “personal responsibility” when choosing foods and beverages.  No contest there…we do have choice, we can choose to purchase soda and sugared ‘fruit juices’ and punch, or not.

But choice is a relative term, and most people aren’t aware of how choices are influenced by marketing and media campaigns.  Back in 2005, Consumer’s Union released a report that  said that food, beverage, candy, and restaurant advertising expenditures weigh in at $11.26 billion in 2004, versus $9.55 million to promote healthful eating, specifically, the federal 5-A-Day plan, to promote fruits and vegetables.

In 2009 the American Heart Association reported that the soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation and sugars and syrups added at the table. Excessive intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity, and the AHA adds that no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance should come from added sugars.

Television, print advertising, radio, and billboards all encourage us to overeat.  So it’s nearly impossible to not be influenced by our environment—it’s almost unavoidable.

When shopping, always read the back of the package, and ignore the pretty pictures on the front.  Read the ingredient label first.  If you’re shopping for juice, then the first ingredient should be…juice.  Not water, not sugar, and not fruit juice concentrate, unless you’re buying 100% fruit juice concentrate, meant to be reconstituted with water, such as canned fruit juice.

Be on the lookout for those marketing terms that sound healthy, but are meaningless, like ‘juice drink’, or ‘fruit beverage’.  If the first ingredient is water, then it’s likely to contain artificial colors, flavors, and sugar, in a number of different forms, such as plain old sugar, corn syrup, or other.

Top 6 Party Tips (Have Fun, Stay On Track)

Party On! A great time doesn’t have to mean diet disaster.Group of Young People at a Party Sitting on a Couch with Champagne

I went to a fabulous birthday party on Saturday night.  In fact, it was a party weekend!

You say, hey,  it’s a party, and occasionally you can let go and take it all in?  Or maybe you don’t feel like feeling sluggish in the morning, you don’t want to overdo…you want to enjoy without undoing your work becoming fit.  Spring is just around the corner, right?

Here are my favorite tips for surviving celebrations without putting on unwanted weight:

  1. Pick your battle. Which is more fun—fatty foods, or a fit body?  At parties, avoid the waist-expanding fried hors d’oeuvre and circle away from bowls of nuts.  Make weight control second nature by gravitating toward filling, lower calorie foods such as shrimp and crudités.  Feel good both in the moment, and also over the long haul.  A bonus: by skirting calorie-laden and hard-to-digest foods, you’ll automatically feel “lighter,” more attractive, and in control.
  2. Prepare to party…by eating! Eat a snack before you go out, such as a container of nonfat yogurt and a banana or some protein plus a whole grain (a slice of turkey on whole wheat; a tablespoon of natural peanut butter on whole wheat pita).  Take the edge off your appetite before a party and you’ll be much less likely to overeat.
  3. Say “no” in creative ways.  Smart strategies include knowing how to say no.  Before anyone can ask if you want a drink, head straight to the bar and grab a low-cal cocktail such as a wine spritzer or lite beer.  Circle the buffet, gravitate toward protein and veggies, fill up on lower-cal foods. When pressed to ingest, just say, wow, I’ve just enjoyed everything so much!  I’m stuffed, and I’m taking a break.
  4. DANCE!  You can burn many excess calories and have a great time while you’re doing it! Don’t be a wallflower … get up and make it aerobic!
  5. Keep a glass in your hand. Keep your hands busy to make it harder to snack.  In fact, make eating deliberate.  If you’re holding a glass, it’s more difficult to hold a plate and eat!  Make a plate of “good choice” foods to begin with, enjoy it, and then keep a glass of water or club soda in your hand for the rest of the evening.
  6. And finally…dessert is not disaster.  It’s perfectly natural to enjoy a “reasonably” sized treat once in a while, particularly in a celebratory fashion.  The goal should not be to deprive yourself forever or stick to a “diet,” but rather learn to live and eat to stay thin, naturally.  In the context of a healthy overall lifestyle filled with good choices, your choice is your reward for a job well done.

Making Weight Control Second Nature

Diet Does Not Equal Deprivationhealthy-people

Want to make weight control second nature? Consider these tips for living thin naturally:

1. Get Ready: If you are ready for action, then go for it! If you aren’t ready for a lifestyle makeover, then get your calendar and mark down one action item each week for the next four weeks. For instance, eat a salad with dinner, drink fewer sodas (or wine, coffee, etc.) daily, walk for 20 minutes (or more) three times a week, or do leg lifts while watching television.

2. Get Help: Support is what allowed me to adopt naturally thin habits. Connect with either an individual or group—keep it consistent, especially for the first six months to one year. It works.

3. All Diets Work: But the only diet that works permanently is your diet. You can go on any diet to lose weight, but keeping it off takes permanent change.

4. Get Smart: Our Tax Dollars are hard at work. Use the USDA’s SuperTracker or other calorie-counting tool or book, and get smart about how much you’re usually eating by simply logging your usual diet for a week. The more you know, the easier it is to make good choices.

5. Neutral: Food is not bad or good. Food doesn’t have human qualities. Food is either healthy, fatty, high in fiber, or high in calories. You choose—you have the power to say yes or no, based on your goals.

Eggs For Weight Loss: Top Tips For Eating

Weighty Issues: Cracking Egg Myths, Serving TruthsEgg Cracked Open Into Mixing Bowl

When you think eggs, think satiety, and feeling satiated helps you achieve your weight loss goal.  As usual, I like to explore the meaning of words, and this month, satiety provokes my interest.  To be satiated means to be full, to be satisfied completely, and is usually related to food.  Eating eggs are a smart strategy to achieve that goal.

Your weight on the scale is just one measure of your health…other numbers like your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar more acuarately reflect your risk for disease.  If you’re “dieting” for weight loss, are you changing your habits permanently?  Or are your changes temporary, designed only to measure your weight?  All “diets’ work”…in terms of reducing calories and increasing activity, what you do to reduce those calories can make a big difference in maintaining your goal weight.

A recent study comparing a breakfast of eggs compared to bagels is exciting.  Two groups consumed a similar number of calories and protein, but the egg group (2 breakfast eggs daily) felt fuller and more satisfied before lunchtime compared to the bagel breakfast group.  The researchers estimate that because they were more satiated from eggs at breakfast, they ate less for lunch…significantly less, about 160 calories less per day.  That adds up!  And they reported being less hungry from the rest of day.  Over the course of one year you could tip that scale in your favor, because you’re consuming about 17 pounds worth of fewer calories.

But, hold on…are all egg breakfasts created equal?  No, because it’s all in the preparation.  A healthy food, on its own, may have the power of satiety, and then be adulterated and changed so that it’s barely recognizable. Think of that poor baked potato, with just about 100 smart calories, sitting innocently in its bare skin, full of potassium, magnesium, and with fiber and protein too.  But when you glob on sour cream and cheese, then that potato becomes a vehicle for fat—each added tablespoon has about has many calories as the potato itself.

And it’s the same with eggs!  Eggs, those small gems of tasty nutrition, with about 85 calories, zinc, iron and vitamins A, D, E and B12 and about 6 grams of protein—they contain all the essential amino acids necessary for good health. But fried in fat, scrambled in whole fat milk, or covered with cheese, well, that’s adding hundreds of calories and grams of saturated fat.  Uncover the true taste and benefits of eggs for staying satisfied while losing weight.

  • Breakfast:  My favorite quick-hot-egg breakfasts is cracking an egg into a microwave-proof cup, cook for 1 minute, top with a grind of sea salt and cracked pepper.
  • Hard boiled eggs are great for grab-and-go.
  • Lunch:  Slice a hard boiled over whole wheat pita: layer on some slices of tomato and avocado.  Egg salad is a breeze to make: add diced celery, onion, and a tablespoon of nonfat Greek yogurt and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
  • Dinner: Think frittata, an open-faced omelet.  My favorite is beating a couple of eggs per person with some non-fat buttermilk, then quick-sauté your favorite veggies: mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes, then cook in a medium-hot skillet until set.  Now you’re cooking with gas!

Holt SH, et al.  A satiety index of common foods.  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition September 1995; 49(9).  Accessed online November 29, 12.
Vander Wal, JS, et al.  Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects.  Journal of the American  College of Nutrition December 2005 vol. 24 no. 6.  Accessed online November 29, 12.

Protein: How Much Is Enough?

How Much Is Too Much?A man holding a knife and a fork with a stack of raw steak

A Diet is a Diet…is a Diet

What’s the best diet for maintaining weight loss? Studies show that (at least in the short term) lower-carb diets are more effective than low fat and low calorie diets for weight loss. However, over the long-term, all three popular weight loss diets…low carb, low fat, or calorie-restricted…show similar failure, that is, regardless of the weight loss diet, people regain weight.

In fact, the single most important criteria for permanent weight loss maintenance is whether or not you’re getting consistent and regular physical activity.

If you modify your diet permanently, and eat a higher percentage of calories from quality protein and fewer calories from processed carbohydrate will this equate to weight loss success and better health?

The Best Diet
We don’t eat foods in a vacuum, we eat foods within the context of a total diet, and we eat meals consisting of a combination of foods and nutrients. Portion size of all nutrients is critical in this context—just adding protein without considering calories is a recipe for weight gain! However, exchanging a percentage of carb calories for some lean protein (not processed red meats, but more fish, fowl, beef and plant-proteins) may help control appetite, increase satiety, moderate blood glucose, and help raise “good” HDL. Protein satiates better than carbs (and fat) and exchanging carb calories for protein may help to reduce daily calories successfully. Swap processed carbs for whole, stay with lean and plant-based protein, and stay healthy.

Confusion about Nutrition
Diets abound…low fat, low carb, gluten-free, organic, Paleo! What’s best, what’s bad…how to maintain that weight loss that you worked so hard to achieve? Experts link the increase in obesity to the dietary misinformation of the 1970‘s and ‘80s, when “fat” became that four-letter word. But, the “fat-free” fad led to the marketing of countless new “free” products and consumer confusion.
American rates of obesity and diabetes exploded and today Americans consume more calories daily (average 3,654) than any other people on earth…with the majority of calories coming from refined carbohydrates including sugar-sweetened beverages.

Studies show that it is the unfettered consumption of refined carbs and sugary drinks, accompanied by fewer whole foods, that’s causing the problem. It’s not the carbs, per se…it’s the type of carbs! We’re plagued by a lack of activity too. People are more likely to eat out and on the run than at home with their family. Purchasing and preparing fresh food in our fast-paced society is increasingly rare, and challenging.

A 2010 study included approximately 800 European adults, who had lost approximately 8% of their starting weight on a low calorie diet (they reduced their usual intake by approximately 500 calories daily). Those whose diets provided more calories from protein and “low glycemic index” carbs which meant more vegetables, whole grains and whole fruit were most successful in maintaining their weight loss compared to those who ate less protein and more servings of processed and refined foods (high glycemic index) such as sugary cereal, juice and white rice. And those eating more protein calories continued to lose weight, even compared to the group eating more calories from unprocessed carbs.

Protein and Aging
Protein may also play a role in aging and avoiding sarcopenia, or a loss of muscle mass and strength that’s associated with aging. Research shows that a higher percentage of calories from protein may prevent sarcopenia, while also helping with weight management compared to diets lower in protein and carbohydrate. The study’s authors concluded that rather than recommending a large, global increase in the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for all elderly individuals, (currently the recommendation is about 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight), a better idea is to include a sufficient amount of protein with each meal…about 25-30 grams of high quality protein per meal.

How much is this?

  • A 6-oz can of tuna is 40 grams
  • One large egg has 6 grams
  • 1 cup of milk 8 grams
  • 1-cup serving of Kashi GoLean Cereal 13 grams
  • 1/2 cup serving of black beans 6 grams

To learn more about how to choose foods, go to the USDA’s website.

1. Foster, G. D., H. R. Wyatt, et al. (2010). “Weight and metabolic outcomes after 2 years on a low-carbohydrate versus low-fat diet: a randomized trial.” Ann Intern Med 153(3): 147-157.
2. Larsen, T. M., S. M. Dalskov, et al. (2010). “Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363(22): 2102-2113.
3. Paddon-Jones, D. and B. B. Rasmussen (2009). “Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia.” Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 12(1): 86-90.