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Archive for September, 2007

Numbers Game: Calorie Control

Which of the following breakfast “switch strategies” reduces the most calories?

a) replacing a cup of whole milk with a cup of skim milk in your latté.
b) replacing your morning bagel with an English muffin (NOTE: both denote a top AND bottom half)

c) eating an orange instead of drinking a cup of orange juice

d) spreading a tablespoon of peanut butter, rather than a tablespoon of butter, on toast

Think it over and leave your guess in the “comments” section.
Come back on Monday for the answer!

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You Ask, I Answer: Spelt

Are bread products made with spelt healthier than ones with whole wheat?

– Patrick Wrengton
Palo Alto, CA

Spelt — part of the wheat family — is a whole grain.  While it is a healthy choice in terms of grain consumption, it doesn’t leave its counterparts in the dust.

Spelt offers plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, thanks to a tough outer husk that does a good job of retaining nutrients.

If the vast majority of your grains are 100 percent whole grain, you are doing just fine from a nutritional standpoint. Whether you choose whole wheat cous cous, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, or brown rice is entirely up to you.

Personally, the bread products I have tried with spelt flour haven’t wowed me. I recently had frozen bagels made entirely of spelt flour and found them to be too dense.

If the flavor and texture of spelt suit your palate, though, feel free to enjoy it.

However, think of it as a healthier grain option, rather than the “superfood” some proclaim it is.

It’s also wise to keep spelt — or any other whole grain — within an appropriate framework.

I recently saw chocolate chip cookies made with spelt flour, marketed as if they were just as healthy as a cup of plain of oatmeal. Nice try, but not quite.

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In The News: Deja Vu

Here we go — another E. Coli recall, this time involving frozen hamburger patties.

This one spans eight states and puts 165 tons of hamburger meat in the “shady” category.

Can’t say I’m surprised. Just one mass-produced hamburger patty is made up of several cows’ body parts. And, considering the deplorable conditions of most feedlots, it’s no wonder so many cows get sick and end up in our food supply.

The best way to ensure the meat you’re buying isn’t tainted? For starters — try to know the source. If you have a local butcher or meat market, head there first.

Although buying local isn’t practical for everyone and everything, animal meat is so prone to a variety of infections and illnesses that relying on mega factories to provide you with safe food is a risk.

If possible, buy certified organic meat.

That reminds me — in the next issue of the Small Bites newsletter (out in late October), I will discuss the benefits of organic food, as well as the myths and false sense of security that often accompanies their purchasing. Stay tuned.

Back to the topic at hand — the fact that people in Florida are eating meat products produced in New Jersey sets up a tremendous barrier to solving the problem at hand. This unsafe meat has now made its way to 20 percent of the country, making it that much harder to control.

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Simply Said: Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when our bodies are unable to digest lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in dairy.

The digestion of lactose falls under the responsibility of an enzyme called lactase, which breaks up lactose into two simple sugars – glucose and galactose.

These two sugars then travel through our digestive systems without problems.

However, if someone’s body does not produce enough lactase, lactose charges full-steam ahead… until it reaches the gut. Then, it just sits there, patiently waiting for lactase to come break it down so it can continue its travels.

Except lactase never arrives, so lactose is instead feverishly eaten up by bacteria in our gut, thereby causing gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and in some cases even diarrhea.

Lactose intolerance is mainly seen in Asian, Native American, Latin American, and African American populations.

Interestingly enough, regardless of your racial makeup, lactose intolerance becomes a more likely complication with each passing decade.

Turns out that as we age, our bodies produce less lactase.

The best way to know what you have for sure is simply by getting tested. While you can do this by undergoing an endoscopy, there is a much less invasive way – a breath test!

If your body is successfully breaking down lactose, you wouldn’t have much hydrogen present in your breath. However, if lactose is fermenting in your gut, its levels will certainly be detectable.

So what to do if you’re lacking lactase?

For starters, never eat dairy products on an empty stomach or by themselves.

You might also want to try lactose-free milk or take a lactase enzyme supplement before having dairy products.

Eat your bacteria. That’s right! If you’re having yogurt, aim for those with live cultures, which will aid digestion.

Play hard to get. Hard cheeses contain less lactose than soft varieties, so a Swiss cheese sandwich would go over better than a caprese salad with mozarella.

Don’t gloss over food labels. Just because a food doesn’t fall under the “dairy” umbrella does not mean it is 100% safe.

The biggest trap? An ingredient known as whey, which is derived from milk and contains lactose.

Food shouldn’t be your only concern, either.

About a quarter of prescription drugs contain lactose, as do the majority of birth control pills.

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Numbers Game: Answer

Approximately 40 million people in the United States fall into the “lactose intolerant” category.

Tomorrow night, I’ll discuss what lactose intolerance is, how to determine if you truly have it, and what foods people with this intolerance should avoid (expect surprises!)

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Trudeau In Hot Water

As many of you know, Kevin Trudeau is not someone I look to for sound nutritional advice and knowledge.

If this is your first time at the Small Bites blog, please click on the “Kevin Trudeau” link on the right-hand side of the main page and enjoy my various “Shame on You” postings in which I take great pleasure in deconstructing his New York Times bestseller Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About.

Although I have received 92 e-mails over the past few months from readers who love the section and share their own impressions of the book, I have also received a few strongly worded missives from fervent Trudeau supporters who tell me “I just don’t get it.”

Well, I think it’s Mr. Trudeau who just doesn’t get it. In case you haven’t heard, the Federal Trade Commission is breathing down his neck again, this time for misrepresenting claims in his latest book, Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You To Know About (which I was planning tackling after I got through Natural Cures…)

Turns out Trudeau calls his weight-loss plan “easy to follow” and “safe”, yet “in court documents, the FTC pointed out that one required phase of the protocol requires that consumers get daily injections of a prescription drug that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for weight loss.

It gets better! To obtain the drug, a consumer would need to either go overseas, or find a doctor in the U.S. who will prescribe the drug for off-label use. The injections must be intramuscular, and Trudeau even instructs the dieter to do the injections under the care of a licensed physician. Besides the injections, this phase also requires a 500 calorie/day diet for 21 to 45 days, and the consumer cannot use any medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, most cosmetics, and no creams, lotions, or moisturizers.”

Five hundred calories a day? Okay, allow me to give you some perspective. People imprisoned at Nazi concentration camps were fed approximately 800 calories a day. Think about that. Someone is telling you to go on a diet and consume less food than a victim of the Holocaust. Apart from being completely disturbing, it also goes to show you how unhealthy (and potentially lethal!) some of these ludicrous diets are.

Two big thumbs up to the hard working people at the Federal Trade Commission!

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Numbers Game: Zero Tolerance

Approximately _______ million people in the United States fall into the “lactose intolerant” category.

a) 40
b) 5
c) 95
d) 65

Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer as well as an explanation of what lactose intolerance is and how to determine if you truly have it.

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Blog Updates Coming Soon!

Dear readers,

Expect plenty of new posts late Wednesday night. Life has gotten in the way over the past few days, but things are resuming back to normal.

I’ll catch up with all of you VERY soon.

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You Ask, I Answer: Tofu

What is the difference between soft and firm tofu?

– Maria (last name unknown)
Location Unknown

Soft tofu (also known as silken tofu) contains more water than firm tofu.

From a culinary standpoint, this makes them significantly different in the texture department (silken tofu is great for smoothies, but terrible for a stirfry, while the reverse holds true for the hard version of this vegetarian staple).

The differences in water content also make for quite a difference in the nutrition department.

3 OUNCES OF SOFT TOFU VS. 3 OUNCES OF FIRM TOFU

Calories: 55 (soft) vs. 134 (firm)

Fat: 3.3 grams (soft) vs. 9 grams (firm)

Saturated Fat: .5 grams (soft) vs. 1.35 (firm)

Calcium: 100 milligrams (soft) vs. 315 milligrams (firm)

Protein: 6 grams (soft) vs. 12 grams (firm)

As you may have noticed, a very small percentage of tofu’s fats are saturated. A good portion of its fats are heart-healthy Omega-3′s, the same ones found in flaxseed and walnuts.

As a reminder – the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 milligrams, so hard tofu is a most excellent source.

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You Ask, I Answer: Pringles

Are Pringles better for you than regular potato chips? They feel a lot less greasier.

– Brandon Freimner
Chicago, IL

When it comes to items like potato chips, it’s rather misleading to think of one particular type of brand as “better for you”. “A slightly healthier alternative” is a more accurate way of thinking.

Some foods don’t offer much in terms of nutrition, and should be accepted as such.  That is why they are occasional treats.

When I enjoy a bowl of ice cream, I choose the brand that provides the best flavor and truly satisfies me. I prefer to have one scoop of decadent ice cream once in a while than half a box of fat-free, sugar-free, Splenda-laden fudge pops every week.

If you ever find yourself in the supermarket aisles looking for the “healthiest potato chip,” you are doing yourself a disservice.

Onto your question (which I really like, since Pringles are usually considered “less fattening” because, as the commercials used to proudly point out, they leave less greasy residue on your hands than a bunch of Ruffles or Lay’s).

I will let the facts speak for themselves.

Here is how one serving of Pringles (14 crisps) compares to a serving of Ruffle’s (12 chips):

  • Calories: Both offer 160 calories
  • Fat: 10 grams (Ruffles) vs. 11 grams (Pringles)
  • Saturated Fat: 1 gram (Ruffles) vs. 3 grams (Pringles)
  • Sodium: 160 milligrams (Ruffles) vs. 170 milligrams (Pringles)
  • Potassium: 340 milligrams (Ruffles) vs. 0 milligrams (Pringles)

In essence, Pringles are potato chips in a tube, by no means a “healthy alternative”.

And, at least with conventional potato chips (Pringles are dehydrated potato flakes), you get a decent amount of potassium.

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Measly Metamucil

I can’t wrap my head around the logic behind Metamucil.

What’s stumping me? The idea that someone would choose to swallow six pills to get a mere three grams of fiber.

That same amount of fiber can be found in:

1 medium apple
1/4 of a medium avocado
1/2 cup cooked broccoli

1/2 cup cooked winter squash

1/2 cup cooked corn

6 Triscuit crackers
1/4 cup kidney beans

3/4 cup oatmeal
1 medium pear

1/2 cup raspberries or blackberries
1 slice whole grain bread

Not only does food taste better than fiber pills, it also provides vitamins and minerals absent from tablets.

Choose food first!

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A Slice of… Hell

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. There is nothing I love more than a thin, crispy crust (preferably the nutty flavor of one made with whole grains), tomato sauce infused with oregano and roasted garlic, and a few pieces of fresh buffalo mozzarella and wilted spinach on top.

When made with fresh, healthy ingredients (and not smothered in cheese), pizza is far from the “junk food” category. When I make pizza at home, I buy a pre-made crust made entirely of whole grains and use unsalted tomato sauce and unsalted fresh mozarella.

When I made my first one, I was afraid my dinner guests would spit it out in disgust. Quite the contrary — I got a number of compliments. See, the sodium in the crust provides enough salty flavor, and the variety of condiments (oregano, pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil) I used to condiment the sauce gave it a vivid taste.

Unfortunately, this inoffensive treat can become a nutritional nightmare when you leave it in the hands of a fast food company.

Consider Pizza Hut’s Meat Lover’s pizza.

Say you and your friends get together and order a 12″ pie. One mere slice provides:

340 calories
35% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

1 gram of trans fat (the limit is set at 2 grams a day)

50% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

If what you’re sharing is a 14″ “stuffed crust” pie, then each slice contains:

520 calories
60% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

2 grams of trans fat

75% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

Meanwhile, if you’re going solo and enjoying a 6″ personal pan Meat Lover’s pizza, you’re taking in:

900 calories
90% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

105% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

What to do if you’re craving a pizza and your only options are the fast food type?

First, let crust be crust. Stuffing it with cheese only provides more calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

If you have the option, select a thin crust. This will also help cut down on calories.

When it comes to toppings, aim for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, onions, or even extra garlic.

Start off with an appetizer. Since pizza can be eaten very quickly, it can be easy to down three or four 300-calorie slices before feeling full. Best option? Start off with a soup or salad and then enjoy your pizza.

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Measly Metamucil

I can’t wrap my head around the logic behind Metamucil.

What’s stumping me? The idea that someone would choose to swallow six pills to get a mere three grams of fiber.

That same amount of fiber can be found in:

1 medium apple
1/4 of a medium avocado
1/2 cup cooked broccoli

1/2 cup cooked winter squash

1/2 cup cooked corn

6 Triscuit crackers
1/4 cup kidney beans

3/4 cup oatmeal
1 medium pear

1/2 cup raspberries or blackberries
1 slice whole grain bread

Not only does food taste better than fiber pills, it also provides vitamins and minerals absent from tablets.

Choose food first!

Share

A Slice of… Hell

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. There is nothing I love more than a thin, crispy crust (preferably the nutty flavor of one made with whole grains), tomato sauce infused with oregano and roasted garlic, and a few pieces of fresh buffalo mozzarella and wilted spinach on top.

When made with fresh, healthy ingredients (and not smothered in cheese), pizza is far from the “junk food” category. When I make pizza at home, I buy a pre-made crust made entirely of whole grains and use unsalted tomato sauce and unsalted fresh mozarella.

When I made my first one, I was afraid my dinner guests would spit it out in disgust. Quite the contrary — I got a number of compliments. See, the sodium in the crust provides enough salty flavor, and the variety of condiments (oregano, pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil) I used to condiment the sauce gave it a vivid taste.

Unfortunately, this inoffensive treat can become a nutritional nightmare when you leave it in the hands of a fast food company.

Consider Pizza Hut’s Meat Lover’s pizza.

Say you and your friends get together and order a 12″ pie. One mere slice provides:

340 calories
35% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

1 gram of trans fat (the limit is set at 2 grams a day)

50% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

If what you’re sharing is a 14″ “stuffed crust” pie, then each slice contains:

520 calories
60% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

2 grams of trans fat

75% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

Meanwhile, if you’re going solo and enjoying a 6″ personal pan Meat Lover’s pizza, you’re taking in:

900 calories
90% of the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat

105% of the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium

What to do if you’re craving a pizza and your only options are the fast food type?

First, let crust be crust. Stuffing it with cheese only provides more calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

If you have the option, select a thin crust. This will also help cut down on calories.

When it comes to toppings, aim for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, onions, or even extra garlic.

Start off with an appetizer. Since pizza can be eaten very quickly, it can be easy to down three or four 300-calorie slices before feeling full. Best option? Start off with a soup or salad and then enjoy your pizza.

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You Ask, I Answer: Soy Protein

Does soy protein have the same number of calories per gram (4) as regular protein does?

– Anonymous

Yes — all proteins (in their pure form) provide four calories per gram.

Allow me to clarify something that has confused people in the past. If you are eating a breaded and fried food providing 30 grams of protein, you are getting 120 calories just from the protein, not total.

You need to add the calories from the breading and frying to calculate the total amount of calories in that piece of food.

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