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    Archive for the ‘beverages’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Best Weight Loss Tip?

    erdinger-jumbo1I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I really love your blog and respect your opinion and was wondering what you consider to be the most effective thing someone can do who wants to lose quite a bit of weight but has no clue where to start.  Thank you.

    — Lauren Stimper
    Toronto, CANADA

    Just go ahead and put me on the spot, why don’t you!

    I think one of the most effective — and easier — first steps someone can take towards weight loss is completely eliminating caloric beverages from their diet for at least four weeks.

    Whether it’s replacing soda with a seltzer water/ freshly squeezed lemon juice concoction or starting the day off with solid food rather than a smoothie, keeping all liquids calorie-free is a painless way to get rid of excess calories.

    Similarly, instead of accompanying breakfast with fruit juice, try eating a piece of fresh fruit, simultaneously cutting calories and increasing fiber.

    It has been my experience that, with individuals looking to shed a significant amount of pounds, this is often the best first step they can take.

    Consider this: someone who drinks a 20 ounce soda with lunch every day and another 20 ounce soda with dinner is taking in an additional 480 calories each day.

    Simply eliminating those calories from the diet (without adding them back in through food) can result in 25 to 35 pounds of weight loss in 12 months.

    The initial weight loss that can occur in the first few weeks is a also a great motivator!


    Good Morning, Unnecessary Products!

    productshotBehold CapriSun’s latest venture — CapriSun Sunrise.

    According to its advertisements, this juice drink blend “adds a little sunshine to breakfast” by providing children with calcium and Vitamin C in a “fun-for-them, no-fuss-for-you pouch.”

    Sigh.  This quite possibly deserves the “most unnecessary product award.”

    From a nutrition label and ingredient list standpoint, there is absolutely no difference between CapriSun Sunrise and regular CapriSun.  Water and sugar are the first two ingredients, followed by juice concentrates (more nutrition-void sugar!)  The highly-advertised vitamins and minerals are simply tacked on during processing.

    THIS is supposed to reassure parents that their children are starting off the morning nutritiously?  They might as well serve their children a glass of sugar water a with a chewable multivitamin on the side.

    Apparently, consumers are buying into the notion that certain products are strictly for the morning hours, despite being identical to their “any time of day” counterparts.  Luna Bars’ Sunrise bars (released in 2007) have sold well, and 2006’s Gatorade A.M. has managed to stay afloat in the sports drink arena.

    According to CapriSun, their Sunrise line “makes Mom sense.”  I think it’s NONsense.


    In The News: That’s More Like It

    The Los Angeles Times shares encouraging news today — “Coca-Cola Co. and joint-venture partner Nestle agreed to pay $650,000 in a settlement with 27 states over claims that Enviga green tea burns calories, resulting in weight loss.”

    If you are not familiar with Enviga, it is a flavored sparkling green tea in the Nestea line of products.

    The claim? Drinking three cans per day helps burn anywhere from 60 to 100 calories.

    Coca Cola based that claim on the presence of EGCG, an antioxidant in green tea which has been the focus of several metabolic and weight loss studies (here is my take on the research literature.)

    The man behind this lawsuit is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who added that moving forward, “any marketing of Enviga or a similar beverage that uses the terms “the calorie burner,” “negative calories” or “drink negative” must clearly disclose that the product doesn’t lead to weight loss without diet and exercise.”

    Small Bites salutes — and thanks — you, Mr. Blumenthal.


    You Ask, I Answer: Liquid Calories

    There’s been quite a lot written about liquid calories in the last couple of years. Specifically, Nutrition Action (published by CSPI) has repeatedly warned that too many calories from milk, juice, and soda can lead to weight gain

    I don’t drink any of these things, but I do enjoy pureed whole foods.

    If I make a smoothie from yogurt and whole fruit, or if I blend my vegetable and bean soup into a smooth puree, does my body read that as liquid or solid calories?

    It’s not clear to me if the problem with liquid calories is that they lack fiber and therefore don’t fill you up, or if being pureed makes the sugars in food hit the bloodstream too quickly.

    Or some other explanation entirely.

    — Rachelle Thibodeau
    Ottawa, Canada

    The type of liquid calories you refer to are different than juice and soda because they contain fiber and, therefore, take longer to digest.

    That said, since smoothies are quickly consumed (more so than soups, which are hot and can take some time to finish), it can be very easy to down an 800 calorie one (i,e: a blend of milk, peanut butter, flax oil, and weight gaining powders) in a matter of minutes.

    I should also note that a homemade smoothie with yogurt and whole fruits is different than many commercial ones made with fruit-flavored syrups or juice concentrates.

    As for your blended soups: a pureed version of a food raises blood sugars more quickly than those same foods in their whole form, but since you are dealing with vegetables and beans, the fiber content is still high — and will be helpful in filling you up quickly.

    I refrain from putting milk in the same category as soda and juice drinks.

    A glass of milk (whether dairy, soy, or nut) contains protein, a variety of nutrients, and some fat (depending on the variety of milk you drink). It is not liquid candy.

    The concern with milk and weight gain has more to do with sugar-laden milk-based concoctions like milkshakes, flavored milks, and yogurt beverages that have as much sugar as a can of soda.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health study published in the November 2007 issue of Obesity Research found that per capita total daily intake of liquid calories in the United States increased 94 percent from 1965 to 2002.

    This means the average American is now getting a hefty 21 percent of his or her total calories exclusively from beverages.

    Since we are talking about mostly caloric beverages (particularly sodas and fruit juices), this makes the 2002 figures 222 calories higher than those from 1965!

    Add to that the fact that these 222 calories are not balanced out by a reduction in food intake (if anything, they are accompanied by an increase in calories from food!) and it becomes rather clear why rates of overweight and obesity have increased.

    Let the accompanying photo also serve as a reminder that 7-11’s 44 ounce Super Big Gulp and 64 ounce Double Gulp cups did not exist in 1965!


    Numbers Game: Drink Up

    A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health study published in the November 2007 issue of Obesity Research found that per capita total daily intake of liquid calories in the United States increased _____ percent from 1965 to 2002.

    a) 53
    b) 71

    c) 86

    d) 94

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer!


    You Ask, I Answer: Liquid Calories

    I’ve read that we don’t really seem to feel full after drinking caloric drinks like soda, [which is why] we can easily guzzle down 600 calories of Pepsi and still feel hungry.

    My question is, does this apply just as much to milk, or soymilk?

    It seems like while I could guzzle down a full glass of soymilk and not feel that much more satiated, it definitely fills me up more than drinking a glass of Diet Coke.

    — Christine (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Those studies are absolutely legitimate, but they mainly apply to empty calories like the ones found in soda and fruit drinks (in my mind, KoolAid and its imitations are basically flat soda).

    Since these beverages contain nothing but sweeteners, they don’t do much in the way of providing satiety. Correction — they do absolutely NOTHING.

    Keep in mind, too, that in your particular case, you are talking about diet soda, which provides zero calories.

    Milk and soy milk are more nutritious beverages. They contain protein and some fat (unless you are drinking skim milk), two nutrients that play a significant role in helping us feel full.

    This same concept can be applied to food. Take almonds and pretzels.

    Pretzels are basically nothing but refined flour — practically 100 percent fiberless carbohydrate.

    Nuts, meanwhile, contains protein, fat, and fiber.

    That is why 150 calories of almonds leave you feeling fuller than that same amount of pretzels.

    Although liquid calories promote less fullness than solid food, milk and soy milk are certainly more filling than sugar water.


    You Ask, I Answer: Wheatgrass

    I really liked your video on supplements. So many of them are just empty hype. I completely agree with you.

    What are your thoughts on wheatgrass? One of my cousins swears by it.

    He says it’s the easiest way to get a bunch of vitamins and minerals.

    — Name withheld
    New York, NY

    Wheatgrass juice, the end result of pulping the young shoots of sprouted wheatberries, sure sounds like a magic green potion.

    Depending on who you listen to, it clears acne, helps detoxify the colon, has “living enzymes” (ugh!), and even cures cancer and heart disease.

    Before I go on, allow me to say “shame on you!” to anyone who advertises a food, beverage, or supplement as a cure for any disease, much less cancer.

    It’s absolutely despicable to toy with people’s emotions and hopes like that.

    Anyhow, I’m sure someone, somewhere, also claims wheatgrass gives you a foot massage after a long day at the office.

    Wheatgrass advocates point out its high chlorophyll content as a major “plus” in the nutrition department.

    Since chlorophyll resembles hemoglobin, so the wheatgrass PR goes, this juice is a great way to “rebalance the blood.”

    I have no clue what rebalancing the blood means, or why we even need that, but chlorophyll has absolutely no effect on human health. If we were plants, a nice chlorophyll shake would certainly work wonders!

    Chlorophyll may share some molecular similarities with hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to other tissues), but it does NOT transform into it, nor does it have any effect — positve or negative — on our blood.

    And the ridiculous claim keep on coming, folks!

    “Wheatgrass has what is called the grass-juice factor, which has been shown to keep herbivorous animals alive indefinitely.”

    The grass-juice factor? What PR intern came up with that “catch phrase”?

    And as for keeping herbivorous animals alive indefinitely — can someone tell me where I can find one of these timeless creatures subsisting on grass juice?

    “Wheatgrass juice is great for constipation and keeping the bowels open. It is high in magnesium.”

    Apart from the fact that keeping the bowels open doesn’t sound very pleasant, wheatgrass is not high in magnesium. It contains absolutely negligible amounts.

    If you seek magnesium, reach for nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains.

    The only nutrients wheatgrass offers are protein (at a practically nonexistent 0.5 grams for a 1 ounce serving), some vitamin C (7% of the Daily Value in a 1 ounce shot), and iron (10% in that same shot).

    I have absolutely no ideae where some of these wheatgrass companies get their statistics about their product offering vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), C, D, and K, along with potassium and calcium.

    “Wheatgrass helps the body rid itself of toxins.”

    No. The liver and kidneys take care of that.

    Simply put, there is nothing about wheatgrass that can’t be found in other fruits and vegetables.

    While there is no harm in having it, perceiving it as some kind of miracle beverage is completely inaccurate.

    Spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and Granny Smith apples are much more nutritious green foods. In fact, the actual wheatberries are much more nutritious than the shoots.

    Remember, no one food or beverage meets all nutrition requirements or holds the powerful secret to longevity and agelessness.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is a big old fraud.


    One Size Does Not Fit All

    Walking around New York City’s West Village yesterday, I came across one of local smoothie chain Juice Generation’s branches.

    The establishment looked pristine, and many of the offerings sounded delicious.

    I walked in, figuring a fruit-based beverage would hit the spot on a hot August day.

    Except for one problem. Their smoothies are available in just one size — 24 ounces.

    I was in the mood for a light, refreshing drink — 12 ounces would have been perfect.

    Why is the “standard” size equivalent to three cups’ worth? Whatever happened to having a choice? Why can’t I opt for a small, medium, or large?

    As a result, a peanut butter and banana smoothie (which would clock in at a reasonable 260 calories for a 12 oz serving) is only available in a much heftier 520 calorie package.

    We all know too well (mainly from Brian Wansink’s research) that when food — or beverages, in this scenario — is in front of us, we finish it, regardless of how large the portion is or how hungry we truly are.

    Ordering a 24 ounce and throwing half of it away was out of the question, and since I wasn’t planning on being home for another 2 hours, there was no chance of saving the rest in the fridge for the next morning.

    It’s a real shame, too, because in many ways this place is a cut above the rest — their smoothies are syrup and puree free, as much of the fruit as possible comes from local farms, and they are well-known for always passing food safety and health inspection checks with flying colors.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    A traditional Long Island iced tea (shots of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and triple sec combined with sour mix and cola) contains 650 to 750 calories.

    The recipe I’m referring to is the one many bars in the United States offer — four jiggers of hard liquor, half a jigger of triple sec, half a cup of sour mix (pure sugar) and another half cup of cola.

    Not surprisingly, these are served in very tall glasses.

    Granted, some establishments offer smaller versions of this drink, but even then you’re looking at roughly 500 calories.

    It’s always a good idea to stick to a few low-calorie alcoholic beverages since alcohol lowers blood glucose levels, consequently triggering hunger.

    As you might guess, the more you drink, the hungrier you get. Which explains why some people can feasibly eat an entire bag of chips after a night at the bar.


    Numbers Game: Long Island Iced Atroci-Tea

    A traditional Long Island iced tea (shots of vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and triple sec combined with sour mix and cola) contains ____ to ____ calories.

    a) 350 – 450
    b) 480 – 580
    c) 650 – 750
    d) 825 – 925

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


    You Ask, I Answer: Seltzer Water

    I have a question regarding soda water and sparkling water: Is it as hydrating as regular water?

    I’ve never been a fan of carbonated beverages until I started drinking sparkling water and soda water.

    I work in a restaurant so it’s usually soda water out of the bar gun, or occassionally San Pellegrino.

    I drink water thoughout the day and was wondering if there are any negative effects to drinking 12-24 ounces of soda water each day.

    — Sue (last name withheld)
    Seattle, WA

    None whatsoever.

    I don’t see a single problem with enjoying up to 24 ounces of soda water each day.

    Well, I suppose I could see it as a potentially problematic mealtime beverage for someone who is very much below their desirable body weight and might eat less food as a result of feeling bloated from the carbonation.

    But, as far as everyone else is concerned, it’s an A+ choice.

    After all, it’s calorie (and sugar) free and, for many people, provides the little kick they feel is missing from standard tap or bottled water.

    I’m especially a fan of flavored seltzers, since they provide fizziness and fruity flavor without sugar or artificial sweeteners found in diet soft drinks (think aspartame, Splenda, and acefulsate potassium).

    And, yes, seltzer is just as hydrating as still water. So, sip to your heart’s content!


    In The News: What’s Next? Genetically Modified Bananas With Extra Potassium?

    Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures.

    Currently experiencing a lull in revenue, coffee giant Starbucks jumps on the energy drink bandwagon 5 years after everyone else.

    That’s right — you can now amp any Starbucks beverage — hot or iced — by simply saying “plus energy” at the end of your order (dare you to order a “grande sugarfree vanilla decaf carameal macchiatto with breve plus energy” without stopping to take a breath!).

    The “plus energy” concoction — created by Starbucks’ “research and development team, a group of culinary experts, food scientists and product designers” — includes the usual suspects: ginseng, guarana, taurine, L-carnitine, and B vitamins.

    FYI: Guarana is a berry native to South America containing four times as much caffeine as coffee beans. It’s extremely popular in Brazil, where it is mainly consumed as a soda, in both regular and diet varieties.

    Is all this really necessary in a coffee-based drink? I vote “no.”

    Why are “energy mixes” billed as the only solution for a drop in energy levels? Is healthy eating and getting enough shut eye not “cool” enough?

    And why are we increasingly encouraging people to walk around like the Energizer bunny on crack?


    A Mighty Tiger’s Weak Roar

    You can’t accuse the folks at Gatorade of resting on their laurels.

    However, their new products often leave me furrowing my brow and asking, “Why?”.

    No, I take that back. I shake my head, grunt, and THEN ask “Why?”

    Case in point — the new Gatorade Tiger, inspired by hotshot golfer Tiger Woods.

    According to the beverage’s press release, Tiger embodies “mental strength, physical power, and technical perfection.”

    What these three qualities have to do with drinking a sports drink beats me. I think Tiger’s success is better attributed to a unique mixture of hard work, genetics, ambition, and practice?

    Anyhow, Gatorade executives heart Tiger so much that they formulated this drink especially for him. Tiger even underwent sweat analysis testing at the Gatorade laboratory facilities.

    I would also spend countless hours sweating profusely for a bunch of scientists if I was pocketing a cool $100 million for this five-year development deal like Tiger did.

    In any case, this is the same mostly unnecessary product repackaged for a new campaign.

    Oh, I’m sorry, Gatorade Tiger has 25 percent more electrolytes. Wow, then it MUST be better, right?

    Not quite.

    This simply means that a 16 ounce, 100-calorie bottle contains 270 milligrams of sodium (more than a one-ounce serving of Lay’s potato chips) and a negligent 80 milligrams of potassium (remember, the daily requirement is set at 4,000).

    Let’s not forget the 28 grams (7 teaspoons) of added sugar.

    Sugar water with salt — Tiger Woods’ secret!


    What Happens in Vegas… Shows In Your Tummy

    Two nights in Las Vegas provided plenty of blogging material.

    My observations, below:

    Despite the recent influx of celebrity chefs and three star restaurants, there isn’t a single high-scale, fine dining vegetarian restaurant on the entire Strip.

    What gives?

    I’m afraid business executives and consumers are still under the inaccurate assumption that healthy dining and delicious meals are mutually exclusive.

    As a result, diners who do not eat meat have to basically rely on pasta dishes. Zzzzzz….

    All my restaurant experiences, while delicious, left me asking, “where’s the fiber?”

    Whole grains are completely absent from most menus, as are beans and legumes.

    I am not asking for steakhouses to be shut down or the plethora of French restaurants to “de-fatten” their menus.

    What I do want to know, though, is where are the options for healthy upscale eating?

    I understand being on vacation and wanting to enjoy a rich, decadent meal, but after two or three of those, your body starts begging for some mercy.

    Think everything is big in Texas? Wait until you hit the Vegas Strip!

    At the Paris hotel, you can get alcoholic drinks in an Eiffel-tower shaped 32 ounce glass. Over at the Luxor, 52 ounce daiquiris are on the menu.

    People do order them. I saw at least fifty people on one given night walking around the Strip with these huge drinks in hand — most were more than halfway finished.

    FYI — a 32 ounce daiquiri contains 1,800 calories. The 52 ounce? 2,900.

    And then there’s the buffets. I am not a big fan of them, as I often find that quantity trumps quality.

    I was up for some nutrition research, though, so off I went to The Palms for lunch one day.

    Of the forty different dishes, not a single one contained a whole grain.

    The salad bar’s only truly nutritious offerings were chickpeas and kidney beans.

    To my surprise — and disappointment — the salad bar did not offer carrots, bell peppers, broccoli florets, canned tuna, grilled chicken breast, avocado, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, beets, asparagus, or anything to help diners construct a healthy and tasty salad.

    It did, however, manage to provide croutons, bacon, cheese, iceberg lettuce, and pickles. Yum????

    Fried foods, rich sauces, and refined carbohydrates made up the bulk of the remaining offerings. Vegetables were mostly drowned in butter or cream or covered in a deep fried shell.

    Dessert consisted pies (some sugar free), cakes, brownies, and ice cream.

    Fruit, you ask? There was literally one basket with three apples and two bananas.

    The Venetian has a healthy restaurant (all dishes are low in saturated fat, high in fiber, high on fruit and vegetable content, and contain little or no added sugars) tucked away in its spa, meaning it is exclusively for guests of that hotel.

    Why not move it to the general restaurant area and open it up to the general public?

    While I’m at on the topic of hotels: why do guests have to pony up extra money — up to $20 or $30 — to utilize a hotel’s gym?

    Really. Why are people being deterred from exercising?

    Anyway, a big thank you to the folks who make Lara, Clif Nectar, and Flavor & Fiber bars. My intestinal tract couldn’t have made it in Vegas without you.

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