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    Archive for August, 2009

    Sharing? Don’t Stop Caring!

    1208967775-33929_fullChili’s Grill & Bar is currently offering a “3 courses for $20” special that allows patrons to “split a starter, choose [their own] entree, and share a dessert.”

    Sounds like the key to a low-cal lunch, right?  Not when you consider the calorie, saturated fat, and sodium bombs on the menu.

    Below are three possible combinations from the available appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

    Remember, these calculations are per person for a shared appetizer, a non-shared entree, and a shared dessert.

    Option #1: Splitting a Half Order of Texas Cheese Fries, Eating a Mesquite Chicken Salad, and Sharing a Slice of Cheesecake

    • 2,010 calories
    • 55 grams saturated fat (almost three days’ worth)
    • 4,160 milligrams of sodium (one and a half days’ worth)

    Option #2: Splitting Bottomless Chips With Salsa, Eating A Quesadilla Explosion Salad, and Sharing a Slice of Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

    (Note: I was benevolent and assumed only one basket of bottomless chips was consumed)

    • 2,070 calories
    • 41.5 grams saturated fat (slightly more than two days’ worth)
    • 4,305 milligrams of sodium (almost two days’ worth)

    Option #3: Splitting a Skillet Queso Appetizer, Eating A Bacon Burger (Without Sides), and Sharing a Slice of Molten Chocolate Cake

    • 2,065 calories
    • 50.5 grams saturated fat (two and a half days’ worth)
    • 4,115 milligrams of sodium (one and a half days’ worth)

    Let’s put this into context:

    • Each of these ‘combo meals’ provides the amount of calories a 38-year-old, 5’8″, 140 pound, moderately active female needs in an entire day
    • On average, each of these meals contains as much saturated fat as an entire pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream
    • On average, each of these meals packs in only 100 fewer calories than FOUR Big Macs
    • You would need to eat ELEVEN slices of a Domino’s 12″ cheese pizza to match the average amount of sodium in each of these meals

    The floor is now open for comments.


    You Ask, I Answer: Health Benefits of Garlic

    garlic_bulbWhat health benefits do we get from eating garlic?

    Is it better to eat it raw (like in the pesto recipe you shared) or cook it?

    Do you need a certain amount of cloves to get the health benefits?

    — Whitney Bennett
    New York, NY

    The most solid evidence on daily and consistent garlic consumption is that it can:

    • Help reduce levels of LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol
    • Slow down atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
    • Discourage platelet aggregation (the grouping of platelets in the blood which ultimately forms clots)

    There doesn’t appear to be a difference whether garlic is consumed in a raw or cooked state.  For optimal results in terms of active compounds, though, fresh garlic should always be used (as opposed to pre-minced, jarred varieties).

    One garlic clove a day, once a day, provides the above-mentioned health benefits. An additional clove or two won’t pose any harm.

    I am not a fan of garlic supplements.  Firstly, since supplements are unregulated, you never know what you are truly getting.

    Number two — in the event that these supplements pack in high amounts of concentrated garlic, they may overly thin the blood.

    PS: If you take garlic supplements, you must stop taking them at least three weeks prior to any kind of surgery to prevent excessive bleeding.


    You Ask, I Anwer: Excess Protein & Kidney Damage

    minimallyinvasivediagramDoes excessive protein consumption damage the kidneys?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location unknown)

    Yes and no.  Let me explain.

    Individuals with healthy kidney function can safely consume up to 250 percent of their protein needs.

    To figure out your protein needs, convert your weight to kilograms (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2) and then multiply that by 0.8.

    The value you get from that equation is the amount of protein (in grams) your body needs on a daily basis.

    If you multiply that by 2.5, you can determine how many grams of protein you can safely consume each day with no adverse effects on kidney function.

    What makes the “protein is bad for the kidneys” issue confusing is that, at any given time, approximately ten to fifteen percent of U.S. adults are unknowingly living with beginning stages of reduced kidney function (the early stages of this condition do not manifest symptoms).

    Individuals with compromised kidney function can make the situation significantly worse if they do not curb their intake of protein.

    One of the best things you can do for kidney health is stay properly hydrated throughout the day.  Your urine should be colorless or, at most, a very pale yellow.  Darker shades are an indication you need to increase fluid intake (unless, of course, you are on any medications that may alter urine color).

    Keep in mind, too, that hypertension and diabetes greatly increase the risk of developing reduced kidney function.

    The best way to decrease your risk of developing hypertension and (type-2) diabetes?  Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active.

    It can’t be stressed enough — once those two pieces fall, the domino effect on your health can get very, very ugly.


    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “I’ve Got Hummus Coming Out Of My Ears!” Dip

    almonds-spoonAs much as I love hummus, there are times when my tastebuds beg for a change.

    This delicious — and super easy — dip is a top-notch, phytonutrient-rich alternative.

    YIELDS: 2 cups (8 servings)


    1 cup raw almonds
    1/2 cup raw walnuts
    1/4 cup onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves
    1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    6 Tablespoons water


    Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse for 20 – 30 seconds.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per 4-tablespoon serving):

    153 calories
    5.5 grams heart-healthy monounsaturated fat
    1 gram saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    3 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, vitamin C, vitamin E

    Good Source of: Copper, magnesium, riboflavin


    Numbers Game: Answer

    McCafe latte2Before a customer adds a single sugar crystal to it, a McDonald’s large non-fat vanilla latte contains 9.25 teaspoons of added sugar just from the vanilla syrup.

    For comparison’s sake, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains ten teaspoons of added sugar.

    Keep in mind, too, that a standard sugar packet contains a teaspoon of the sweet stuff (meaning this latte already comes sweetened with 9.25 packets of sugar).

    In this particular case, the vanilla syrup tacks on an additional 148 calories to this coffee.

    Ordering a regular McDonald’s large latte and sweetening it with two whole packets of sugar saves you 116 calories!

    Remember — our palates are extremely susceptible to training.  On average, it takes anywhere from 21 to 25 days to get used to new flavors or reduced amounts of sugar and salt in one’s diet.

    I can tell you from personal experience that my tastebuds are saturated by foods I once perceived as “not very sweet.”

    Ten years ago, I was a Starbucks caramel frapuccino fiend.  If you’re keeping score at home, that’s caramel syrup + whipped cream + ribbons of caramel drizzle on top.

    I have since become much more aware of my sugar intake, to the point where my tastebuds no longer enjoy extreme sweetness.

    I was recently at a Starbucks where one of the baristas walked around with a tray full of sample-size caramel frapuccinos.  I decided to try one, for old time’s sake.  After one sip, I was done.  I could not believe how cloyingly sweet it was!

    While there is no reason to completely cut out added sugar from your diet overnight (or at all, really), everyone can benefit from reducing their intake.

    I recommend keeping track of the amount of added sugar in your diet (the naturally occurring sugars in a glass of milk or a handful of raisins is irrelevant) over the course of three days.

    If, on average, your intake is between 28 and 32 grams, you are in good shape (FYI — the average adult in the United States consumes 90 grams.)

    Otherwise, aim to get as close to that figure as possible.

    If your average intake is closer to 90 grams, make it a goal to lower that figure by ten grams each week until you get to your desired mark.

    For the record: in 2002 I kept track of my added sugar intake for three days (for a class project) and I averaged 104 grams a day!  So, believe me, I’ve been there.


    How Hungry Are You? The Answer Is In Your Hand!

    642232_hand_and_fingers_4Here’s a useful “hunger self-assessment” tool that is useful for everyone, but especially children, as it helps them recognize — and become familiar with — varying levels of hunger.

    Before instinctively opening your refrigerator or pantry, take a few seconds to imagine that your closed fist represents your stomach at its fullest.

    Now, put up different amounts of fingers to represent the degree of hunger you are currently experiencing.

    For example, one-finger’s-worth of hunger means you are almost full, while four fingers represent being hungry for a full meal.

    A few people who use this tool on a regular basis have told me this is helpful in identifying when hunger is emotional, rather than physical.

    Someone (who has asked to remain anonymous) recently shared this anecdote with me via e-mail:

    “Yesterday night I was working on a manuscript on my computer and really wanted ice cream.  I already had some after dinner an hour earlier, so before I opened the freezer door I used the ‘closed fist’ method you told me about.  When I actually stopped to THINK about it, I wasn’t hungry.  In reality, I had all sorts of feelings, positive and negative, about finishing up my manuscript.  So I instead turned to my best de-stresser: sketching.”

    As with many other things, the answer to this question lies within you.


    “Buy One, Get One Free” Serendipity

    tyb-013020Yesterday I told you about Tasty Bite Simmer Sauces — flavor packets low in sodium (and with a Small-Bites-approved ingredient list of real food) that are perfect for dressing up dishes in no time.

    I have since found out that the company is currently holding an online “buy one, get one free” sale on this product, valid through September 8.

    Simply enter TBSMR9 at checkout and you’re good to go.


    UPDATE (8/31): A few readers informed me the “buy one, get one free” sale was not working when they attempted to order simmer sauce packets.  I inquired with the company, and this is the response I received:

    Basically, our fulfillment and web partner informed me that when a item has no value, it doesn’t appear as a line item in the cart. It needs to have a value associated with it. There is no error message, but unfortunately no confirmation that the additional sauce is put in it either. We are honoring the promo on all orders that include simmer sauces thru 9/8 when using the code or not.


    Vocab Bite: Guiltrition

    poythress2guil⋅tri⋅tion [gil-trish-uhn]

    – noun

    1. The insertion of guilt into nutrition information
    2. Attempting to convince an individual to engage in certain dietary habits by appealing to their sense of guilt, especially as it relates to their children’s health

    Example 1: “It’s a shame so many breastfeeding advocates practice guiltrition.  Instead of simply informing you about the issue, they make you feel like a horrible mother for even considering feeding your baby formula on an ‘off’ day!”

    Example 2: “Yesterday’s conference featured a hardcore guiltritionist.  She kept going on and on about how “a good parent” would never feed their child conventional produce.”


    Enough With This Sneaky Vegetable Nonsense!

    goldfish_crackerAs many of you know, I vehemently oppose the hiding of vegetables in children’s desserts or savory snacks.

    This notion that children will only eat vegetables if they are masked by copious amounts of sugar and fat is misguided in several ways:

    • The inherent message is that “vegetables are not tasty in and of themselves”
    • Desserts and savory snacks with hidden vegetables offer paltry amounts of nutrition (ie: a mere half-cup of spinach — one serving — spread out amongst a DOZEN brownies)
    • It doesn’t allow children to determine, on their own accord, what vegetables they like — and do not like

    There are better alternate solutions to the ever-popular “my child won’t eat ANY vegetables!” dilemma.

    1. Try out different textures.  A child may hate steamed carrots, but love them raw (or vice versa).  If your child enjoys crunchy vegetables, work with that.
    2. Try dressing up vegetables in healthy ways.  For example, offer raw vegetables alongside bean-based dips, drizzle steamed vegetables with toasted sesame oil, or roast various vegetables in olive oil and spices
    3. Research has clearly shown that it takes roughly eight to twelve tries for a child to accept a vegetable (if it will be accepted at all).  When trying out a new vegetable, serve a tiny amount and simply ask your child if he/she would like to try this vegetable that you enjoy.  Regardless of their reaction after swallowing, thank them for trying.  You can try again — remember: TINY amounts — a few weeks later.
    4. Salsa (especially the fresh kind, like Trader Joe’s) is one way to add vegetables to a child’s day
    5. I see a lot of parents fret about daily vegetable consumption.  Step back and look at the bigger picture.  What are the child’s weekly eating patterns?
    6. It is entirely common for young children to go through phases (i.e.: the only vegetables they eat are tomatoes and celery).  They’ll eventually grow out of it.  I don’t see any reason to nag, particularly if the phase involves eating vegetables!

    In any case, this is all build-up to notify you of Pepperidge Farm’s latest: Goldfish “Garden Cheddar” crackers made with dried vegetable powder.

    “The senior vice president and general manager of [the company’s] snacks division says the addition of veggies should be seen by parents as ‘an unexpected bonus,” but I don’t see the big deal.

    Not only are dried vegetable powders nowhere near as nutritious as actual vegetables, but each serving of these new Goldfish crackers contains a third of a serving of vegetables.  In other words, the equivalent to mere eighth of a cup of cooked vegetables.

    My biggest concern is that consumers may view this product as “healthier”, when in reality it is no different from standard Goldfish crackers.

    Thank you to Corey Clark for forwarding me this news item.


    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrient Deficiencies in the USA?

    b3f7589ceff2I’m confused.

    I’ve heard some nutritionists say that nutrient deficiencies among Americans are rare due to the sheer amount of food we eat.

    But, I have also heard reports that “most Americans don’t get enough potassium” or “30% of women in the U.S. don’t have an adequate intake of calcium”.

    So, which is it?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location Unknown)

    Wonderful — and very insightful — question.

    Both statements you’ve heard are accurate — and one does not cancel the other out!

    The answer to this puzzle?  Nutrient deficiencies and insufficient intakes are two very different concepts that exist on a continuum.

    A nutrient deficiency is tangible.  It has specific physical and/or biochemical symptoms which can be explicitly corrected by consuming adequate amounts of that nutrient (think Vitamin C and scurvy, or iron and iron-deficiency anemia).

    Although insufficient intakes of nutrients — which are much more common — often increase one’s risk of developing certain conditions and diseases, they do not clinically manifest themselves like deficiencies.

    Let’s go back to the vitamin C example.  Someone with an insufficient intake of vitamin C might have a more vulnerable immune system, but not have such a low intake that they develop scurvy.


    Two Healthy and Tasty Pantry Must-Haves!

    748404287930Considering the nutritional horrors that are often consumed due to time constraints, I am always eager to share products I personally come across — and try out for myself — that make it possible to whip up tasty and healthy food in minutes.

    First up– Seeds of Change’s microwaveable rice pouches.

    Four of the six varieties are 100% whole grain:

    It gets better.  All varieties are already seasoned with organic spices and a variety of organic vegetables (not vegetable powders — REAL vegetables!).

    While many boxed and seasoned grain products contain ridiculous amounts of sodium (as much as 600 or 700 milligrams per serving), Seeds of Change gets brownie points for offering, at most, 380 milligrams per serving (the average sodium content of these four products is an outstanding 268 milligrams per serving).

    Each of these pouches also offers, on average, 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

    Next up — Tasty Bite’s Simmer Sauces.

    Need to quickly and effortlessly dress up beef, chicken, seafood, tofu, tempeh, seitan, or some stir-fried vegetables?  Look no further.

    These sauces use real food — as opposed to flavored chemicals — and a variety of spices to liven up your dish of choice.

    Consequently, each serving contains no more than a practically non-existent 45 milligrams of sodium (Two-thumbs-up-FYI: a serving is half the pouch, not a quarter of a teaspoon!).

    Even varieties like the pad-thai simmer sauce, which packs in several teaspoons of sugar, are fine if you are using half a pouch for a meal that serves three or four people.

    Go ahead and add these to your “I want something healthy and delicious… and I want it NOW” shelf.


    Numbers Game: Who Needs A Sugar Packet?

    mc-donalds-latte-230Before a customer adds a single sugar crystal to it, a McDonald’s large non-fat vanilla latte contains ______ teaspoons of added sugar just from the vanilla syrup.

    a) 6.5
    b) 8
    c) 9.25
    d) 11.5

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Type-2 Diabetes, Excess Weight, & Genetics

    type2diabetesWhat do you think of this website?

    It claims that overweight is a symptom (rather than the cause) of diabetes, and that diabetes is simply genetic.

    — Courtney (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    While there is most certainly a genetic component to type-2 diabetes, environmental (AKA dietary) factors determine whether or not this “genetic potential” is ever reached.

    Renowned obesity researcher George Bray perfectly encapsulates the delicate interplay between “nature” and “nurture” with this quote:

    Genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger.

    The dramatic surge in type-2 diabetes rates can not be solely attributed to genetics.

    According to figures from the American Diabetic Association and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adult type-2 diabetes cases in the United States doubled between 1990 and 2005.

    Keep in mind, too, that once upon a time type-2 diabetes was appropriately known as “adult-onset diabetes”, since it was only diagnosed in the adult population.

    However, according to the CDC, “The incidence of type 2 in adolescents has increased 10 times over the last decade and now constitutes just under 1/3 of new pediatric diabetes cases (it was 2% 20 years ago).”  Genes don’t change over the course of ten or twenty years.

    As for excess weight not being a symptom of type-2 diabetes, it goes against the conclusions of hundreds of top-notch research studies.  Not only has excess weight been shown to increase diabetes risk; the loss of excess weight also undoubtedly decreases risk!


    You Ask, I Answer: Choline

    1B7796CD98BAE223AFF6643CFAF1A7What is choline?  Why is it good for us and which foods contain it?

    — @Monica_San Diego, @noelty5
    Via Twitter

    I received these tweets soon after I tweeted that 90 percent of adults in the United States do not get sufficient amounts of choline in their diets.

    Choline is an essential nutrient (‘essential’ meaning we must get it from food) that is often referred to as a “vitamin-like organic substance” that has a lot in common with the B vitamins (it is not, however, an out-and-out B vitamin).

    Choline has a number of important functions, including:

    • Proper functioning of neurotransmitters
    • Overall liver and gallbladder health
    • Fetal neural and spinal development
    • Cell permeability (allowing cells to absorb fats adequately and excrete necessary metabolites)
    • Phospholipid synthesis (necessary for cellular structure)
    • Cardiovascular health (choline helps lower homocysteine levels; high homocysteine levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease)

    As far as food sources go, these are your best bets:

    • Beef
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Egg yolk
    • Lentils
    • Salmon
    • Shrimp
    • Soy beans
    • Peanuts
    • Wheat germ
    • Salmon

    Men should aim for 550 milligrams a day. Women, meanwhile, need to shoot for 425.

    Multiple research studies have concluded that consistent, long-term deficiencies increase one’s risk of developing fatty liver, liver cancer, and heart disease.


    In The News: Excess Weight Goes To Your Head

    brain scanAn absolutely fascinating study courtesy of the journal Human Brain Mapping — “obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals [and] their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals.”

    Those in the overweight category, meanwhile, have “4 percent less brain tissue [and] brains [that] appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.”

    The neurosurgeons who conducted the study noted that obesity has a particularly depleting effect on cognitive reserves, increasing one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

    Also of note — “obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement).”

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