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    Archive for September, 2009

    Numbers Game: Answer

    Sugar-CubesA small (16 ounce) Dunkin Donuts watermelon coolatta contains 14.75 teaspoons of added sugar.

    That is almost a teaspoon of sugar per ounce!

    By comparison, a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola clocks in at 16.5 teaspoons of added sugar.  

    In case that wasn’t clear, on an ounce-by-ounce comparison, a Dunkin’ Donuts watermelon coolatta contains more sugar than soda.

    Don’t let the “watermelon” fool you — there isn’t a drop of real fruit in here.

    All the sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup and sucrose (table sugar).  

    The watermelon taste?  Provided by flavoring.  As for that lovely shade of red, it appears courtesy of an artificial dye commonly known as Red 40.

    Throw in a chocolate  frosted cake donut (19 more grams of sugar) and you have a “meal” that contains as much sugar as 18 Oreos.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Flavored Powdered Drinks

    251664_300Are drink sweeteners (things like Lipton iced tea powder, Crystal Light, and other powders you add to water) with ingredients like maltose and dextrose bad for you?

    I don’t drink them every single day, but I will a couple times a week to help when I get a craving for something sweet, but it makes me wonder if I’m just putting chemicals in my body.

    – Jessie Arent
    Peterborough, NH

    Maltose and dextrose are not artificial sweeteners.

    Dextrose, for example, is a corn-based sweetener.  From a nutrition standpoint, these two are equal to sugar (4 grams of sugar and 16 calories per teaspoon).

    In the case of Crystal Light, the ingredient list reveals the following:

    Citric acid (provides tartness), maltodextrin, calcium phosphate, aspartame, modified cornstarch, Red 40, natural flavor, artificial flavor, potassium citrate, acesulfame potassium, salt, artificial color, Blue 1, BHA (to protect flavor).

    Maltodextrin is another starch based sweetener.  You usually see it in conjunction with artificial sweeteners (in this case aspartame and acesulfame potassium) for flavor optimization.  Without maltodextrin, these powders would taste significantly sweeter, believe it or not.

    Each serving of Crystal Light only contains five calories (all from the maltodextrin), so you are looking at a mere quarter teaspoon of added sugar.

    These powders are certainly test-tube creations.  That said, I don’t see anything alarming with having them a few times a week.

    Remember — nutrition is about consistent dietary patterns.  If, for example, these Crystal Light drinks make you crave large amounts of Doritos, that is more troublesome than if these drinks are an occasional addition to a diet is generally high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

    I’m just generally not a fan of artificial sweeteners because they don’t help us train our palates to get used to lower amounts of sweetness in our diet.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Coffee Creamer

    CMP_16FVanilla_StkPkWhat’s the truth about dried coffee creamer?  A co-worker told me that it’s basically processed lard, and I’m considering switching to green tea.

    I only drink a third cup of coffee a day, add no sugar, but must have some creamer.  My company provides free “coffee-mate,” so I add two packets of that.

    On the weekends, I instead have a full cup of green tea with a teaspoon of honey.

    Which is better?  Should I forgo coffee at the office, and make my own green tea instead?

    – Edrie (Last name withheld)
    (Location Unknown)

    Your friend isn’t telling you a very accurate story.  Coffeemate is basically sugar and plant oils mixed with some stabilizers — far from lard.

    That is not to say it is healthy or minimally processed, but referring to it as “processed lard” is silly.

    Just keep in mind that each packet of Coffeemate provides 14 grams of sugar (a little more than a tablespoon) and 20% of a day’s worth of saturated fat.  That twenty percent is quite high considering it’s in a 120-calorie package (if a 700 calorie meal offered that same amount of saturated fat, it wouldn’t be that alarming).

    Rather than thinking about forgoing coffee and replacing it with green tea, why not have green tea three times during the week and coffee the other two?

    While you’re at it, see how you like your coffee with one packet.  I have a feeling it wouldn’t be a tough transition for you, since you sweeten your weekend tea with one teaspoon of honey (roughly half of the sweetness you get in a packet of Coffeemate).

    This way, you are still enjoying something you like a few times a week!

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    Fave Four

    food_labelMany public health and nutrition experts have advocated a variety of changes to the current standard food label.

    From listing calorie information for entire packages commonly consumed in one sitting (i.e.: 20-ounce bottles of soda) to differentiating between naturally-occurring and added sugars (so consumers can know how much sugar is added to yogurt or dried fruit), the proposed changes would absolutely be helpful.

    I have thought of one tweak, however, that I haven’t heard anyone mention yet:

    The Food & Drug Administration should stop mandating that values of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron be listed for all products.  Instead, they should ask food companies to list the top four vitamins and minerals a particular product contains — and the recommended intake percentages in which they are present.

    Of course, as is the case now, food companies would have the choice of listing more than four nutrients if so desired.

    My main gripe with the four nutrients currently listed on food labels is that it often results in very healthy foods coming across as nutrition duds.

    Brown rice, for example, contains practically zero grams of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but is a wonderful source of other vitamins and minerals — consumers should know what they are!

    “But those four nutrients are supposed to be on the food label because they aren’t consumed in sufficient quantities,” some of you may rebutt.

    True, so if a consumer does not see calcium on a food label, they will know that particular product is not a good source of the nutrient.

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    Vocab Bite: Healthocrite

    315596-main_Fullhealth⋅o⋅crite [helth-uh-krit]

    -noun

    1. An individual who is overly concerned with one aspect of health while completely ignoring others
    2. A preachy or boastful person who fancies themselves a picture of health despite having certain unhealthy habits

    Example: Tim is such a healthpocrite.  He refuses to eat anything that has trans fats or white sugar, yet has no qualms smoking a half pack of cigarettes every weekend.

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    Numbers Game: Why Not Just Call It A Sugar Coolatta?

    dotsA small (16 ounce) Dunkin Donuts watermelon coolatta contains _______ teaspoons of added sugar.

    a) 10
    b) 14.75
    c) 13
    d) 16

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

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    You Ask, I Answer: Octopus & Squid

    octopusTwo of my favorite proteins are octopus and squid.  I rarely ever read or hear anything about their nutritional profiles.

    Can you enlighten me?

    – Paul (last name withheld)
    San Clemente, CA

    The United States consumes a lot less seafood than many other countries, and that is especially the case with these two mollusks.  In Japan, Portugal, and Spain, however, octopus is as common as canned tuna.

    A 3-ounce serving of cooked octopus delivers:

    • 139 calories
    • 2 grams of fat (of which none are saturated)
    • 240 milligrams of sodium
    • 25 grams protein
    • 510% of the Daily Value of vitamin B12
    • 45% of the Daily Value of iron
    • 11% of the Daily Value of vitamin C

    Just so you get an idea, a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast delivers five percent of the Daily Value of B12 and iron!  In fact, on an ounce-by-ounce basis, octopus packs in four times as much iron as — and 20 times the B12 of — beef.

    When simply grilled, squid has similar caloric and fat values to octopus.  However, squid offers less sodium and protein.  Squid is also void of any vitamin C and contains a substantially lower amount of iron and vitamin B12, but is home to 90% of a day’s worth of copper.

    The main issue with squid is that most people consume it in a breaded and deep fried form (calamari), which they then dip into sauces high in fat and sodium.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Vegetable Sandwich Wraps

    08570ctAre spinach or tomato [sandwich] wraps healthier than ones just made with flour?

    – Whitney Piller
    Portland, ME

    All sandwich wraps — flavored or not — are made with some sort of flour (usually wheat; if gluten-free, alternatives are used).

    The dark green color of spinach (and dark red color of tomato) wraps is courtesy of vegetable powders.

    By the time vegetables are processed and turned into powders, most of their nutrition is gone.  A few vitamins (such as vitamin A) may remain in tiny amounts, but the phytochemicals and antioxidants don’t even come close to the amount offered in fresh or frozen vegetables.

    Vegetable-flavored wraps are usually not the best choice, since they all tend be made solely with enriched (white) flour.

    Since most restaurants and sandwich chops use extremely large wraps that pack in anywhere from 300 – 400 calories, I tend to stay away from them when eating out.

    At home, however, I like to make wraps with Tumaro’s multigrain 8-inch tortillas.

    Each tortilla delivers great taste, whole grains, and the following Small Bites-approved nutritional profile:

    • 100 calories
    • 115 milligrams sodium
    • 8 grams fiber
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    Numbers Game: Answer

    PaneraBreadA Panera Bread Company blueberry scone has 430 more milligrams of sodium than a large order of McDonald’s french fries.

    While the large order of french fries contains 350 milligrams of sodium (roughly 15% of the recommended maximum), the Panera scone clocks in at 780 milligrams (a solid third of a day’s worth).

    Another reason to opt for an alternative sweet treat at the soup-and-sandwich chain?  The scone’s second ingredient — after white flour — is cream, which boosts its saturated fat content to 11 grams (slightly more than half a day’s worth).

    You’re better off selecting one of Panera’s chocolate chip muffies (mini muffins).  They are reasonably sized (2.5 ounces) and deliver a non-controversial 280 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, and 180 milligrams of sodium.

    Of course, in my ideal world, those would be the nutrition figures for regular — not mini — commercial muffins!

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    You Ask, I Answer: “Other Carbohydrate” on Food Label

    FiberAfter reading your post on Fiber One cereal, I noticed the food label lists “other carbohydrate”.

    What does that mean?

    – Dustin Apasda
    St. Petersburg, FL

    According to regulations set by the Food & Drug Administration, all food labels must disclose the amount of total carbohydrates in a food or beverage product (except bottled water), and specify amounts of fiber and sugar (naturally-occurring and added).

    Consider the values on the Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal food label:

    • Carbohydrates: 42 grams
    • Dietary fiber: 13 grams
    • Sugar: 6 grams

    In this case, you are looking at a product that contains 23 grams of starch (42 grams of total carbohydrates minus 13 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar).

    And, ta-da, 23 grams happens to be the value for “other carbohydrate”!  Mystery solved.

    Back in the low-carb craze of 2003, many food companies advertised “net carbs”, a value obtained by subtracting fiber grams from total carbohydrates to determine the amonut of carbohydrate would have an effect on blood sugar levels.

    What most people don’t know is that the Food & Drug Administration never approved that terminology, nor considered it a nutritionally-relevant concept.  Not surprisingly, once the low-carb 2.0 craze went bust, the “net carbs” stickers soon disappeared off supermarket shelves.

    In any case, “other carbohydrates” is nothing more than food companies doing some basic math for you and letting you know how much of their product is starch.

    In a few cases, too, “other carbohydrates” factors in sugar alcohols like xylitol and maltitol.

    For consumers, “other carbohydrates” doesn’t have much meaning.  It’s certainly not worth fretting about.  The most important carbohydrate-related values you should be looking at are fiber and sugar.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Red Pepper Cream Soup

    red-pepperMy recent cream of mushroom soup recipe was such a hit that many of you have been asking for another “blend and heat” soup recipe.  I am happy to oblige!

    Here is a similar concoction that beautifully highlights the natural sweetness in red peppers and carrots.  Perfect for fall!  Like the mushroom soup, this is fairly hearty and filling, so you can simply follow it up with a light entree.

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup water
    1/2 cup raw cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds
    2/3 cup raw red pepper strips
    1/4 cup raw green pepper, diced
    4 baby carrots
    2 Tablespoons raw onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon chopped celery
    1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
    1 garlic clove
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/6 teaspoon salt
    Black pepper, to taste
    1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in blender and process until well combined.

    Transfer to small pot and heat on stovetop for 2 or 3 minutes.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for cashew variation):

    384 calories
    4 grams saturated fat
    400 milligrams sodium
    6 grams fiber
    13 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Copper, vitamin A, vitamin C

    Good source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K

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    You Ask, I Answer: Ginger Ale for Nausea?

    Canada-Dry-Ginger-Ale-CanHow much truth is there to the belief that small sips of ginger ale can help combat nausea?

    – Hillary Trome
    (City withheld), OK

    Practically none.

    While there has been a fair amount of scientific literature showing that a teaspoon of ground ginger is a pretty powerful dose against nausea, the same can not be said for ginger ale.

    Most commercial varieties of the beverage do not contain any real ginger.  They instead use ginger flavoring.

    You are much better off dissolving a teaspoon of ground ginger into a cup of a hot tea than sipping on Canada Dry (which is what most people reach for to combat nausea).  Even ginger ales made with real ginger don’t usually deliver enough of it to have any effect.

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    When NOT To Go Skim

    product_sc_whiteIf you are a regular skim milk drinker and optimal nutrition is your goal, there are certain times when low-fat (1%), reduced-fat (2%), or soy (rather than skim) is the way to go.

    Although all milk in the United States is fortified with vitamins A & D, non-fat milk is a rather useless vehicle for it.  Why?  Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble, meaning they need to be consumed along with a small amount of fat (3 or 4 grams usually suffice) to be absorbed.

    If at any point in the day you are drinking non-fat milk without any other source of fat, you are much better off opting for a low-fat variety.

    Remember, an 8-ounce cup of low-fat milk only contains 14 more calories, 1.8 more grams of fat, and 0.9 more grams of saturated fat than that same amount of skim milk.

    If you enjoy the taste of soy milk, make yourself a vegan latte.  A cup of soy milk contains enough fat to help you absorb fat-soluble nutrients.

    Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your dairy consumption:

    • Accompany your fat-free morning latte with a healthy fat (i.e.: 1 tablespoon of the nut butter of your choice on whole grain toast)
    • Not a fan of sipping coffee between bites of food?  Make your coffee with low-fat, reduced fat, or soy milk
    • If you only like your oatmeal with non-fat milk, throw in some raw almonds or walnuts in there to help you absorb vitamins A and D
    • If you only enjoy fruit smoothies made with non-fat milk, add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to add that important small amount of fat
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    Numbers Game: Watching Your Sodium? Watch The Sweets!

    1185302512647A Panera Bread Company blueberry scone has ______ more milligrams of sodium than a large order of McDonald’s french fries.

    a) 150
    b) 225
    c) 380
    d) 430

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

    Share

    Quick & Health(ier) Recipe: Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Muffins

    img71mSince I am leaving the country for a few weeks on Sunday, I am trying to use up every ingredient in my pantry and refrigerator — like whole wheat flour and soy milk — that will otherwise spoil while I am away.

    This “no frills” muffin recipe (which can be vegan or not, depending on your preference) was the end result.  A friend of mine stopped by later in the evening, and, upon trying them, said I “have to put these on the blog!”

    I personally love them because they are a great way to satisfy a craving for baked goods without overloading on calories and sugar.  The fact that they are 100% whole grain doesn’t hurt, either!

    YIELDS: 12 mini muffins (in 24-muffin pan, as shown in accompanying photograph)

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)
    2 Tablespoons dark chocolate chips (if vegan, use carob chips or vegan chocolate chips)
    1 “flax egg”* (or 1 egg)
    1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any other milk of your choice)
    3/4 tablespoon coconut oil
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons sugar (or honey or agave nectar or maple syrup)

    *NOTE: a “flax egg” is made by mixing two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds.

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Place all dry ingredients (from whole wheat flour to chocolate chips) in one bowl.  In another bowl, place all wet ingredients (from “flax egg” or real egg to sugar).  If using vanilla powder, place with dry ingredients.  Vanilla extract should go in “wet ingredients” bowl.

    Add dry ingredients to wet ingredient bowl and slowly fold together.  Be sure to not overmix, as this will result in tough muffins you could bounce off the floor.

    Lightly spray muffin pan with baking spray (to prevent the batter from sticking).

    Fill muffin cups evenly with batter.

    Bake for 20 minutes in oven, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (for 2 mini muffins made with soy milk and “flax egg”):

    155 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    4 grams fiber
    4 grams added sugar
    4 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Manganese, selenium

    Good source of: Folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6

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