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    Archive for April, 2010

    You Ask, I Answer: Garlic Powder

    320620bAre the health benefits associated with cooking with fresh garlic the same as when substituting garlic powder?

    — Guy Betterbid
    New York, NY

    Garlic powder offers some, but not all, of the health benefits associated with fresh garlic.

    A lot of garlic’s healthful properties come from its plentiful (and aromatic, to say the least) sulfur-containing compounds, many of which are lost when garlic is processed into powder.

    Two more important tidbits about garlic and health:

    1. Elephant garlic offers significantly lower levels of these sulfur-containing compounds
    2. Garlic cloves with green centers have also lost a good portion of their healthful properties (even more so if the actual bulb is sprouting those green shoots!)

    Numbers Game: Answer

    older_man_musclesAdults lose, on average, 5 to 10 percent of their muscle mass between the ages of 30 and 50, and an additional 30 to 40 percent between the ages of 50 and 80.

    This is why, as beneficial as cardiovascular exercise is, it does not cut it.  Weight-bearing exercise is key to muscle mass maintenance, and needs to be integrated into your physical activity routine.

    This is not about “bulking up”; it’s about preserving and keeping muscle tissue active and firm.

    The increased loss of muscle mass after age 50 helps us understand why so many individuals tend to put on weight during their fifties, even if they consume a diet calorically similar to the one they ate throughout their forties.

    Remember, a loss in muscle mass also means a less efficient metabolism.  The less efficient our metabolism works, the fewer calories we burn on a daily basis — and the higher our risk of weight gain.

    Weight gain, as you know, increases the risk for a multitude of diseases and conditions (from arthritis to diabetes to heart disease).

    Once muscle mass wanes, the dominoes cascade down very quickly!

    Use it…. or lose it.


    You Ask, I Answer: Broccoli Rabe

    i-broccolirabeFrom a nutrition standpoint, are broccoli florets and broccoli rabe the same?

    — Chris Tozer
    (City withheld), TX

    Ah, broccoli rabe.  One of my favorite vegetables.  Sauteed in olive oil and garlic, topped with a few crushed red pepper flakes and a generous squirt of lemon juice… it’s unbridled culinary beauty.

    Now that I’ve wiped off the drool from my keyboard, let’s talk nutrition.

    Broccoli rabe offers three times the vitamin A and calcium, double the vitamin K, and half the vitamin C that broccoli florets do. It’s also an excellent source of potassium and folate.

    While not super high in calcium or iron, the absence of oxalates (which are prominent in spinach) in broccoli rabe indicate that we are able to efficiently absorb the decent amounts of both those minerals that it contains.

    Its slightly bitter taste hints at more good news — it is loaded with unique antioxidants and phytonutrients!  For example, it offers high amounts of isothiocyanates, compounds that fiercely battle carcinogens in the body.  High isothiocyanate consumption has been shown to significantly reduce risk of developing breast, esophageal, lung, and prostate cancers.

    Isothiocyanates affect thyroid function, so individuals with thyroid complications should carefully monitor their intake of broccoli rabe and other leafy green vegetables.

    PS: Broccoli rabe is also known as rapini.  Chinese broccoli is a milder-tasting variety of broccoli rabe.


    In The News: Meaty Matters

    meatless_logoThe completely non-controversial concept of “meatless Monday” (in which some omnivores voluntarily start off their workweeks eating a vegetarian diet for 24 hours for health and/or environmental reasons) has some bloviators firmly clutching their pearls.

    In case you are new to this campaign (or live outside the United States), “it started in 2003 as a nonprofit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, Maryland.”

    Apart from the fact that “studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week, research compiled by the initiative suggests going meatless conserves water, reduces carbon footprints and lowers intake of saturated fats.”

    Remember — the saturated fats in red meat pose more health risks than those in coconuts or cacao.

    What completely astounds me about meatless Mondays is some of the fervent opposition.

    One blowhard leading those troops is, of course, emotionally stunted, soulless rodeo clown conservative television host Glenn Beck.

    “When Baltimore City Public Schools adopted Meatless Mondays last year as a way to cut costs, conservative commentator Glenn Beck deemed it an indoctrination of children to vegetarianism and veganism and decried it as an over-extension of governmental control.”

    Oh, the outrage!  It is so manufactured for ratings palpable!  Yes, Mr. Beck, how dare we introduce children to meals composed solely of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds?

    By the way, did I miss the passage in the United States Constitution that grants every citizen the right to consume copious amounts of meat from cows that are fed an unnatural diet of corn, antibiotics, and growth hormones, and spend most of their lives standing in their own fecal matter?

    Beck is then quoted as stating that if he is ever thrown in jail, his last meal will be “a giant steak.”  Someone get me a vision board… stat!

    Then, of course, there’s the American Meat Institute.  Their objection to meatless Mondays?  Per president and CEO Patrick J. Boyle, it “deprives children and their parents of the ability to determine what is appropriate for their diets and their own personal circumstances.”

    Mr. Boyle should consider a career in stand-up comedy!

    Thank you to @FoodieRD on Twitter for posting link to CNN article.


    Health Hype on Aisle 5!

    gogurtAh, that ubiquitous marketing tactic known as the “health halo” appears to be multiplying.

    You know the drill.  Take minimally nutritious food, sprinkle one fiftieth of a pinch of “something healthy”, and market the living *bleep* out of said ingredient on the product’s packaging.

    Consider these recently-spotted offenders:

    • Cinnamon Chex.  “With a touch of real cinnamon,” no less.  Cinnamon offers fiber, manganese, and heart-healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Alas, this cereal contains more sugar, oil, and salt than it does the sweet spice.
    • Betty Crocker Quick Banana Bread Mix.  “With real bananas,” the box touts.  The bananas are in there, alright.  As dried flakes.  Right after white flour, sugar, and partially hydrogenated oils.  PS: Each of the finished product’s twelve servings offers up an entire gram of trans fat.
    • Yoplait Go-Gurt Strawberry Splash & Berry Blue Blast portable yogurt flavor-combination packs. There isn’t a single strawberry or blueberry in either yogurt, not even in dehydrated or powdered form.  Instead, we get artificial dyes (the same ones banned by the European Union) and flavors.
    • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Sub Sandwich, Turkey and Cheddar.  This is described as “more wholesome” than previous varieties.  Does this ingredient list scream “wholesome” to you?

    Thank you to Small Bites intern Laura Smith for valuable assistance with this post.


    You Ask, I Answer: Gardein

    crispy_tenders_295x35052I want to get your thoughts on Gardein, a faux chicken brand gaining popularity.

    The products taste good, but what do you think of them?  Healthy or overly processed?

    — Bev (Last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    Gardein — short for “garden protein” — is the latest vegan chicken and beef alternative, available in refrigerated and frozen varieties.

    It is essentially a mixture of soy protein isolate, vital wheat gluten (AKA seitan), and, in most products, a melange of whole grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet, and kamut).

    I have tasted a few varieties.  The buffalo wings were overpowered by the accompanying mouth-burning spicy marinade, but I thought the seven-grain crispy tenders offered both a pleasant texture and flavor.

    Gardein falls into the “eat occasionally” category for me, though, mainly because most of the products offer quite a bit of sodium per serving (some of the serving sizes, as with the crispy tenders, can be laughably small).

    I am also slightly concerned that part of these products’ fiber content comes from isolated fibers rather than solely whole grains.  And, while highly- processed soy protein isolate is not the sole source of protein, it is one of the most prominent ingredients.


    You Ask, I Answer: Probiotic Requirements?

    suprema-dophilus-multi-probiotic-largeIs there a recommended amount of probiotics we should be eating each day?

    Is one cup of yogurt a day enough?

    — Maria Barbosa
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Probiotic research is in its infancy.

    Consider, for example, that of the hundreds of thousands of probiotic strains, we only have well-documented scientific data on a small handful!

    One of the challenges that often comes up when studying probiotics is that even within one general strand of bacteria, each species offers different properties (i.e.: one species may survive its transit through the human digestive system, while another may be obliterated in our stomachs).

    I suspect it will be decades until we truly have a solid grasp on probiotics.

    While there currently is no data on recommended dosages, we do know that consustent consumption of fermented foods (either raw, or pasteurized but containing live and active cultures) offers certain health benefits.

    Keep in mind, too, that to keep probiotics in tip-top shape, it is crucial to limit added sugars and consume a fair amount of foods rich in soluble fiber (i.e.: oats, kidney beans, pears) and fructooligosaccharides (i.e.: onions, oats, garlic, bananas).

    I don’t recommend spending money on probiotic supplements that advertise gazillions of probiotic bacteria (ie: “50 million strands per capsule!”).  Instead, stick to the bacterial strands that have been researched (ie: Lactobacillus acidophilus).

    For all we know, only a small percentage of those strands survive the digestive process and actually provide benefits.  Additionally, as with everything else (vitamins, fiber, minerals), it may very well be that extremely high doses cause more harm than good.


    Numbers Game: Don’t Wait to Pick Up Those Weights!

    bicepAdults lose, on average, 5 to 10 percent of their muscle mass between the ages of 30 and 50, and an additional ____ to ____ percent between the ages of 50 and 80.

    a) 20 – 30
    b) 18 – 28
    c) 30 – 40
    d) 50 – 60

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


    You Ask, I Answer: Vegan “Butter” and “Cheese”

    tumblr_l024ebWGmt1qzq14lo1_400I’d love to know your thoughts on Earth Balance “butter” and Daiya “cheese.” They seem relatively non-evil, but I defer to the experts.

    — Jennifer DiSanto
    (Location Unknown)

    Earth Balance spreads are popular among vegans, mainly as a butter substitute.  Depending on which variety they use, they can be used in baking or to top freshly baked garlic bread.

    I am not as worried about them as I am of some overly-processed faux-meat products for a variety of reasons:

    • Whereas it is feasible to eat two mega-processed soy burgers in one meal, most people consume small amounts of these spreads (i.e.: 1 Tablespoon over two slices of toast) at a given time
    • Unlike other butter alternatives, Earth Balance spreads are free of partially hydrogenated oils
    • Earth Balance offers soy-free spreads (for those who are choose to avoid soybean oil)
    • Earth Balance spreads are mainly a combination of different plant oils; it’s not as “Frankenfoody” as other products
    • Most of their spreads offer a fair amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids

    Daiya “cheese” in increasingly gaining popularity in the vegan community.  Let’s take a look at the ingredient list:

    Purified water, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and/or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, natural flavors (derived from plants), xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin, vegan enzymes (no animal rennet or animal enzymes), vegan bacterial cultures, citric acid (for flavor), annatto.

    There is nothing about that ingredient list worth raving — or ranting — about.  I wouldn’t necessarily call this a nutritious product (it’s basically flours, oils, and thickeners), but it’s also not horrific.  I guess you could place this in the “meh” category for me.

    The only thing to keep in mind is that Daiya cheese offers a moderate amount of sodium per serving (250 milligrams per ounce, approximately fifty percent more than the same amount of cheddar cheese) and significantly less protein than dairy or soy-based cheeses (1 to 1.5 grams per ounce, as opposed to 7 grams).

    As far as vitamins and minerals go, Daiya offers vitamin B12 (a plus for those who are fully vegan!) but is not a good source of calcium (which, truly, isn’t a concern if one’s vegan diet is high in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, or is otherwise fortified).


    You Ask, I Answer: Does Roasting Decrease Nutrition?

    Roasted_Harvest_Vegetables.ashxI love roasted vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, green beans… you name it.  I’m concerned that roasting may cause a lot of nutrients to be lost, though.

    Is that true?

    — Jim Ayres
    Houston, TX

    Like grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and frying, roasting is deemed a “dry-heat” method of cooking.

    Dry-heat indicates that:

    • There is no water involved
    • Foods are cooked at a significantly higher temperature than they are under “moist-heat” conditions (i.e.: poaching, steaming, boiling, stewing, etc.)

    Whereas most moist-heat cooking methods negatively impact phytonutrient and water-soluble vitamin content (by leaching them out of the food and into the water), dry-heat techniques preserve nutrients very well.

    Remember, cooking breaks down vegetables’ cell walls, thereby making their minerals more bioavailable and easier to absorb.

    So roast away, Jim!  Be mindful of how much oil you roast in, though.

    PS: If you’re roasting potatoes or sweet potatoes, keep the skins on for extra nutrition.


    In The News: Undersizing!

    story.blizzard.courtesyKudos to Dairy Queen (those are four words I never imagined writing!) for going against the “bigger, bigger, bigger!” trend and announcing that starting this July, they will offer “a 7-ounce Mini Blizzard [frozen dessert], 5 ounces tinier than its current “small” frozen treat.”

    As it stands now, a small Blizzard adds up to a mighty powerful:

    • 550 calories
    • 10 grams saturated fat (half a day’s worth)
    • 410 milligrams of sodium
    • 12 teaspoons of added sugar

    We can therefore roughly estimate that the new Mini Blizzards will provide:

    • 400 calories
    • 7 grams saturated fat
    • 320 milligrams sodium
    • 8 teaspoons added sugar

    While certainly not a “healthy” item (it’s almost as artificial as Heidi Montag), I am at least encouraged by the fact that consumers will now be able to order a smaller portion if they so choose.

    I would never suggest tracking down a mini Blizzard for an afternoon snack, but I live in the real world.  Almost every client I work with occasionally visits a fast food restaurant, and the availability of smaller portions certainly helps.

    International Dairy Queen’s associate vice president of communications Dean Peters, meanwhile, is clearly on a different page than I.  While he recognizes that this new Mini Blizzard will appeal to “smaller appetites”, he also states that the fast food chain “felt there was an opportunity with a smaller size Blizzard to perhaps bundle it with a combo meal or a food meal, as well.”

    I’ll take “brown nosing the stockholders” for $1,000, Alex.


    You Ask, I Answer: Following the Food Pyramid

    MyPyramidI classify my diet as “pretty healthy”.  I eat a variety of food and really limit processed junk and sugars.

    The other day I was reading the food pyramid [recommendations], and I realized my diet is a little off.

    For example, I am supposed to have 6 ounces of grains a day, but most days I get three or four.  Some days, my only grain consumption of the day is a cup of brown rice [2 servings] with lunch and a half cup [1 serving quick-cooking oats I’ll add to a smoothie (you suggested that in a blog post last year and I LOVE it!!).

    I eat a lot more vegetables than the food pyramid recommends, and some days twice the fruit than I “should”.  That is all [whole pieces] of fruit, not a bunch of glasses of Tropicana with breakfast.

    Should I be concerned about this?  Should I cut back a little bit on fruits and vegetables and eat more whole grains?  My weight is healthy, I feel fine, and I have never had cholesterol or hypertension issues or wacked levels of anything on blood tests.

    — Samantha Ondry
    (Location withheld)

    You don’t need to abide one hundred percent by the food pyramid (now known as MyPyramid).

    Lobbying and politics aside (ie: there is a “milk” group, as opposed to a much-more-objective-and-scientifically-sound “calcium-rich foods” group), the main point of it is to provide general guidelines to the general population.

    The main message I like to communicate to my clients about MyPyramid is that plant-based foods should make up a significant percentage of their diet.

    There is absolutely no need to be concerned about the fact that you are surpassing fruit and vegetable recommendations and “not meeting” grain recommendations, particularly if you are in good health and are not overweight, AND this intake is from whole foods.

    It’s important to note that many of the key nutrients in grain products are also found in fruits and vegetables.

    Would adding an extra cup or cup and a half of whole grains to your day hurt?  Not at all, provided you reduced calories from other foods to maintain your current caloric intake.

    Do I think you absolutely must increase your grain intake at the moment?  Not based on what you tell me.


    You Ask, I Answer: Agave Is The New Enemy?

    Before reading my response below, I recommend you read his article first.

    One more thing before we get started.  Look back at previous posts on this blog and you will see I am by no means an agave enthusiast.

    From the inception of Small Bites, I have always said that, in my world, “sugar is sugar is sugar”.  All sweeteners offer 4 grams of sugar (16 calories) per teaspoon.  The best thing you can do is limit all added sugars — whether it’s white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave.

    That said, I don’t see the need to demonize agave, which brings us to this post.

    Dr. Mercola’s statements are in red.  My responses are in black.

    “We have an epidemic of obesity in the US and it wasn’t until recently that my eyes opened up to the primary cause – – fructose.”

    Here we have one of the most basic (yet very prevalent) erroneous statements about obesity rates — that a certain component in food “causes” obesity.

    Rising obesity rates are clearly linked to increases in caloric consumption.  Technically — though very misleadingly — one could argue that carbohydrates are behind rising obesity rates in the sense that some of the additional calories consumed over the past thirty years come from carbohydrates.

    Protein intake has also increased in the past forty years, so one could also technically claim protein is behind rising obesity rates.  Of course, those sorts of statements are ultimately untrue and distract from any sort of serious conversation on the matter.

    The issue with sweeteners — ALL of them — is that they provide empty calories.  Empty calories do not satiate.  That is why we can easily drink 600 calories of soda (whether it is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, or agave nectar) and still feel hungry.  Eat 600 calories of a whole food that offers fat, protein, and fiber and I guarantee you will be full for hours.

    “Depending on the source and processing method used, agave syrup can, therefore, contain as little as 55% fructose, the same amount found in high-fructose corn syrup — in which case the syrup would offer no advantage.”

    Except that no one who consumes agave seeks it out because of lower fructose levels. Some reasons why individuals prefer agave over high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) include:

    • Avoidance of genetically modified organisms
    • Flavor/texture preferences
    • Veganism (the filtration of white table sugar often utilizes bone char from animals, thereby making it unsuitable for vegans)
    • Practical use (you can purchase agave nectar and bake with it, add it to beverages, or pour some over yogurt)

    “Most commercially available agave is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals.”

    Okay, and most yogurts contain excessive amounts of sugar.  That doesn’t mean all yogurt should be avoided.  Similarly, a lot of salmon is farmed and offer less omega-3s than wild salmon.  The key isn’t to completely shun salmon, but to know which types to pick.  That said, though, the processing of agave only requires one step.

    As Marion Nestle explained on her Food Politics blog earlier this year, “agave contains inulin, a polymer of fructose, which must be hydrolyzed (broken down by heat or enzymes) to fructose to make the sweetener.  It’s a processed sweetener requiring one hydrolysis step, requiring more processing than honey and less than high fructose corn syrup.”

    Raw agave nectar achieves this process through enzymes, while other varieties utilize heat.  I don’t know where the “caustic acid” notion comes from.

    “While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”

    A pretty terrible comparison.  I am not a fan of labeling foods as “good” or “bad” based solely on their glycemic index.  After all, ice cream has a ‘better’ score than watermelon.

    “There are also concerns that some distributors are cutting agave syrup with corn syrup — how often and to what extent is anyone’s guess.”

    Concerns that have never been substantiated, to the best of my knowledge.  Again, they key is to look for reputable sources.  Look for the USDA Organic seal on bottles of agave nectar, and make sure the ingredient list only lists agave nectar.

    “Agave is known to contain large amounts of saponins. Saponins are toxic steroid derivatives, capable of disrupting red blood cells and producing diarrhea and vomiting. There is also a possible link between saponins and miscarriage by stimulating blood flow to the uterus, so if you’re pregnant, you should definitely avoid agave products.”

    Saponins are found in a variety of foods, mainly legumes and beans.  They actually have health-promoting effects, including the lowering of LDL cholesterol.  When consumed in extremely high amounts, they can cause gastrointestinal distress.  Look at the data, though. and the amount of saponins needed to experience those symptoms is ridiculously high.  Dr. Mercola’s hyperbolic statements would be akin to a warning not to drink wine because it contains alcohol, which is capable of causing alcoholic poisoning.

    “Fructose only becomes a metabolic poison when you consume it in quantities greater than 25 grams a day. If you consume one of the typical agave preparations, that is one tablespoon.”

    I don’t know where the “25 grams a day” figure comes from.  It is not referenced and I certainly have not seen it in any reputable journal or publication.  What is most ridiculous about this quote is that it literally doesn’t add up.

    One tablespoon of agave nectar contains 12 grams of sugar.

    Let’s assume we are talking about one of these “super high in fructose varieties”.  Fine, if ninety percent of that sugar is fructose, that leaves us with 10.8 grams of fructose.

    How Dr. Mercola concludes that a tablespoon (12 grams) of agave equal 25 grams of fructose beats me — and scientific reasoning.

    For the record, a medium mango contains more than 25 grams of fructose, so does a medium pear and half a mango.  Would you consider that “metabolically poisonous”?

    As for pesticide claims: if this is a concern for you, look for certified-organic agave.

    Is agave addictive?  I have yet to see any evidence of that.  The very preliminary — and very controversial — research on sugar addiction only places the spotlight on sucrose, not fructose.

    As I have stated before, I never considered agave a “wonder” food.  I never advocated liberal consumption, nor did I classify it as “healthy”.  While I take issue with anyone who classifies agave as a health-promoting “super food”, I also will not stand for absurd demonizations of it.

    As one distributor or raw, organic agave put it, “[Agave] is not going to solve world peace, cure cancer or do your laundry, but it will provide a delicious alternative to highly refined sweeteners, poor tasting nutritive sweeteners, and high glycemic natural sweeteners.”

    One last point — what is it about the word “doctor” that inspires blind trust in so many?  For years now, I have heard people parrot absurd nutrition “facts” with the assumption that said information must be true because “a doctor” said it.

    Don’t get me wrong.  There are many intelligent, well-informed doctors with extensive nutrition knowledge.  There are also those who, for whatever reason, believe that having ‘MD’ after their name automatically makes them THE authority on every topic under the umbrella of health.

    The word “doctor” before someone’s name simply means they were granted an MD or PHD.  It tells us absolutely nothing about someone’s character, motivations, or extent of knowledge.

    So, no, Edrie, please do not forward that inflammatory article to your girlfriend.  Allow her to enjoy a small amount of agave nectar in her coffee.


    Happy Birthday To… Us!

    birthday cakeToday marks the third anniversary of the Small Bites blog!

    I’m elated to have a space where I am able to share nutrition information, engage in interesting discussions with readers from a variety of countries, conduct interviews, and truly write whatever is on my mind.  Intellectual freedom is underrated.

    I of course want to thank you for visiting, submitting comments, e-mailing questions, forwarding relevant news articles, and helping spread the word about this blog.

    With Much Appreciation,



    Are We A “Hungry Girl” Nation?

    HungryGirlI’m sure you’ve seen the perfectly coifed, sparkling-teeth caricature somewhere.  Perhaps a bookstore.  Or a container of “Hungry Girl approved” yogurt.  You may even subscribe to her newsletter.

    Hungry Girl (real name Lisa Lillien) has been a full-fledged nutrition star for several years.

    Her fans — and there are many of them, as evidenced by her books reaching the top of the New York Times bestseller list — point to her relatability as one factor behind her success.

    Ms. Lillien is not a nutritionist or dietitian.  She is not a doctor, nor is she the star of a basic cable reality show.  She’s simply a woman who lost 30 pounds several years ago, and wanted to share her story — and recipes — with the world.  Soon enough, her subscriber list exploded to half a million people, and food companies learned that a recommendation of one of their products from Hungry Girl equaled big sales.

    I know some Registered Dietitans who see Hungry Girl in a favorable light and publicly support her work.

    While I certainly don’t hold any animosity towards her prototypical “everyday dieter” persona, I truly worry about what her rampant success means.

    Sure, she does not employ the word “skinny” anywhere in her message (the whole “skinny this, skinny that” trend in nutrition books and diet plans is so tired it’s comatose), but Hungry Girl epitomizes Frankenfood dieting.

    Her hyper-popular recipes (featured in books like “200 [Recipes] Under 200 [Calories]”) tend to center around “Franken-gredients” like fat-free whipped cream, sugar-free syrups, and artificial sweeteners.

    There is no emphasis on health.  It’s not about cooking vegetables in a tasty sauce, eating healthier fats, or whipping up quick and simple recipes rich in phytonutrients and fiber.  It’s simply about the calories.

    As one colleague of mine brilliantly remarked when discussing this issue with me, it emphasizes the erroneous idea that nutrition equals weight management.

    Granted, Ms. Lillien does not profess to be a health expert.  “I’m just hungry,” is her trademark response.

    These, however, are the main things that I dislike about the Hungry Girl phenomenon:

    • The often-repeated “guilt-free” idea.  What makes a bowl of strawberries with Splenda and sugar-free syrup less “guilt-inducing” than a Lara bar?  And why must we always associate guilt with great-tasting food?  This goes well beyond the scope of this post, but why is it so hard for some people to realize that there are plenty of decadent, delicious, healthy foods?  Why the “either or” mentality?
    • The allusion that healthy eating is not tasty.  The unspoken idea behind a lot of the recipes is that they are not necessarily mega-healthy, but they are tasty and low in calories (because apparently “healthy” and “tasty” are opposites?)
    • The idea that the only way to lose weight successfully is through artificial sweeteners, chemically-laden processed food, and foods that didn’t exist thirty years ago.  Fat and sugar substitutes proceeded rising obesity rates!
    • The perpetuated gender stereotype that it is solely women who care about weight loss, and have “uncontrollable” sweet tooth urges that must be indulged ever so carefully (again, an issue way beyond the scope of this post, but still worth mentioning)

    Agree?  Disagree?  Want to add a new angle to the discussion?  Please comment!

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