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    Archive for the ‘calories’ Category

    Small Sizes, Big Numbers

    Some nutritional horror figures don’t exactly come as a surprise.  No one is particularly shocked when told that an order of Burger King’s large fries packs in 580 calories, or that a large Wendy’s chocolate frosty shake clocks in at 890 calories and contains almost as much added sugar as three cans of Coke.

    It’s not just the large sizes that come with jaw-dropping nutritional values.  In fast food world, “just go with a small” advice goes out the (drive-thru) window. Below, my three picks for “yes, really, those numbers are for the SMALL size!”

    Continue Reading »

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    Burger King’s New Breakfast…. Is More Of The Same

    bk-new-breakfast-menu-items-590Hyperbolic press releases, pricey media campaigns, and plenty of advertising fanfare accompanied the recent unveiling of Burger King’s new breakfast menu.  Higher-ups were quick to point out that the addition of these items to the Burger King breakfast lineup  were the company’s “largest menu expansion ever”.  Like, OMG!

    According to Mike Kapitt, the chain’s chief marketing officer for North America, this menu was designed to “compete to be America’s wake-up call”, and he had no doubt the “quality, variety, and value” on the menu would make Burger King the “breakfast destination”.

    If these new items are America’s wake-up call, then the U.S. of A should smash its alarm clock against the wall and keep snoozing.  Let’s dissect the nutritional bombs unveiled by Burger King, from least to most explosive:

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    You Ask, I Answer: “Greek-Style” Yogurt

    JF08_IO5aI’m a little afraid to ask you this, but here it goes.

    I have noticed that some Greek yogurts actually say “Greek style” on their packaging (with the word “style” in tiny letters).  I’ve been reading your blog for a while, so I have a feeling this is significant.

    Are these different from (or less healthy than) a “real” Greek yogurt like Fage?

    — Melissa Heaney
    Albany, NY

    Ah, the drawbacks of being a sharp-eyed nutrition sleuth at the grocery store.

    I recall several years ago, when I first started reading ingredient lists for common brands I used to buy, walking around supermarket aisles in a heavy-hearted daze.  It was almost as if I had just been told that my significant other had been cheating on me on a daily basis.  Except that, rather than stumbling across a hurriedly-scribbled name and number on a piece of paper, I was alerted to the presence of artificial dyes, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup.  Heartbreak on aisle five!

    Onto your question — there is a difference between Greek-style yogurts and actual Greek yogurts.  If you’re curious about what makes Greek yogurt special, please read this post.

    Here is the ingredient list for Fage non-fat Greek yogurt:

    Grade A Pasteurized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus)

    Now, let’s take a peek at the ingredient list for a Greek-style yogurt.  For this example, I am using The Greek Gods brand:

    Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, Inulin, Pectin, Active Cultures (S. Thermophilius, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, L. Casei)

    Whereas “true” Greek yogurt’s thick consistency is the result of straining out the watery whey, Greek-style yogurts add thickeners (ie: gum blends like pectin and inulin, milk solids, stabilizers).

    Each yogurt’s respective Nutrition Facts label also tells the tale.  Here is what 6 ounces of real Greek yogurt offer:

    • 90 calories
    • 0 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 19% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    That same amount of Greek-style yogurt contains:

    • 60 calories
    • 2 grams fiber
    • 6 grams protein
    • 25% of the Adequate Intake of calcium

    Let’s make sense of that.

    • The decrease in calories is due to the reduction in protein.  Remember, Greek yogurt’s higher protein levels are due to the absence of watery whey.  Greek-style yogurt retains the whey and adds on thickeners.
    • As you know, all dairy products are fiberless.  The 2 grams of fiber in Greek-style yogurt are due to the presence of thickening gums.  Depending on what other brands of Greek-style yogurt use, the fiber value may be zero.
    • The higher percentage of calcium is also attributed to the presence of whey.

    There is nothing troubling, disturbing, or unhealthy about pectin and inulin.  We aren’t talking about blue dyes or trans fats here.  Two FYIs, though:

    1. For optimal health benefits, fiber should come from foods that naturally contain it, rather than add-ons.
    2. If you’re looking for the higher protein benefits of Greek yogurt (mainly the ability to feel satiated for a little longer), reach for the authentic product.
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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Quinoa Vegetable Ginger-Curry Burgers

    quinoa11And so we come to the last vegan burger recipe.

    This is by far the most time-intensive, as it requires you to use cooked quinoa, and then refrigerate the burgers for a few hours before cooking them. Actual prep time, though, is not long at all.

    Of course, you could very well plan ahead slightly and, next time you cook quinoa at home, make an extra batch to have handy for this recipe.

    YIELDS: 4 patties

    1 cup quinoa, cooked (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
    1/2 cup shredded carrots
    1/2 cup red peppers, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Pepper, to taste
    1/2 tsp curry powder
    1/8 tsp ground ginger
    3 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
    1 teaspoon tamari
    3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Once hot, add the baby portabella mushrooms and shredded carrots. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the red peppers and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the spinach leaves and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Allow vegetables to cool for five minutes.

    In a food processor, process the cooked vegetables and spices for 20 to 30 seconds.

    Empty the contents of the food processor into a large bowl. Add the quinoa, tamari, scallions and breadcrumbs; mix together with your hands until you achieve a dough-like solid mass.

    Refrigerate the “burger dough” for two hours.

    After the two hours have passed, take out burger dough from refrigerator.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per patty):

    248 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    250 milligrams sodium
    3.5 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, niacin, thiamin, monounsaturated fatty acids

    Good source of: Magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrients in Seitan

    51rh64MddTL._SS280_I have a question about wheat gluten- (also known as”wheat meat” or seitan).

    I haven’t been able to find any nutritional content information regarding this type of meatless product. What are the calorie and protein content?  What about B vitamin information?

    Also, I found a blog which stated seitan contains fiber?  Where would the fiber come from?

    — Chelsea Wynn
    (Location Unknown)

    A three-ounce serving (visual reference: a deck of cards) of seitan provides:

    • 90 calories
    • 1 gram of fat
    • 3 grams of carbohydrates
    • 18 grams of protein

    It also contains a small amount of iron and phosphorus, and a fair share of selenium.

    Since seitan is pure gluten, it does not contain any fiber or B vitamins.  The only exception to this rule would be if someone’s home recipe for it also includes whole wheat flour.  Even then, though, the amount would be minimal and would not make that particular batch of seitan high in fiber or B vitamins.

    I have seen much confusion over seitan all over the Internet.  I have seen it referred to as a soy product (it is not), high in fiber (absolutely not), and even an excellent source of vitamin E (in no way, shape, or form).

    PS: When buying commercial varieties of seitan (which are commonly marinated in soy sauce), I recommend a 30-second rinse under cold, running water to lower sodium levels.

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    In The News: Don’t Count on Calorie Labeling in Great Britain

    double_whopper_with_cheese_menu_labelingDiscouraging news from the other side of the Atlantic, friends — “fast food chains and restaurants have quietly sunk a plan by Britain’s food watchdog to display calorie counts in eating outlets across the country.”

    A trial calorie-display initiative set forth by the Food Standards Agency has been downright abandoned by “fast food greats” like Pizza Hut, KFC, and Burger King.

    Consequently, a mere three percent of the eligible fast food restaurants in Great Britain are posting calorie counts in visible ways (ie: not solely on their websites or on a leaflet that must be requested by customers).

    This is why having the law on your side is crucial.  Calorie counts must be legally — and federally — mandated.  Case closed.

    And, before any “the government can’t tell me what to eat!!” zealots pipe up, keep in mind that this is not about prohibiting the sale of any foods.  It simply makes information more public and easier to access.

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    KFC’s Double Down Is Sooo Two Months Ago!

    friendlys-grilled-cheese-burger-345Nutritionists across the country couldn’t help but groan earlier this year when KFC announced the launch of its “who needs sandwich bread when you’ve got fried chicken” Double Down sandwich.

    A few days ago, I tweeted about the latest fast-food concoction to knock the Double Down off its Nutrition Hall of Shame throne, and I thought it was also worthy of posting on the blog.  Behold Friendly’s Grilled Cheese Burger Melt!

    What appears to be the result of a middle school dare “amounts to three sandwiches morphed into one: First, there’s a Friendly’s Big Beef burger, but instead of a bun, there are two (count ’em, two!) grilled cheese sandwiches.” Slash Food reports.

    Not surprisingly, this amounts to 1,500 calories and 2,030 milligrams of sodium (84.5% of a day’s worth).

    You know something is wrong when your latest burger makes the Big Mac look like something out of an E-z Bake Oven.

    Thank you to Jon Slaughter for forwarding the Slash Food link.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Shirataki Noodles

    noodlesSomeone in my class was talking about this “Hungry Girl diet” and mentioned shirataki noodles.

    Have you heard of them? What do you think?

    — Danielle Ippolito
    (Location Unknown)

    I have indeed heard of them.  FYI: for my thoughts on Hungry Girl and her “diet” (it’s not a diet as much as it is a way of eating), please read this post.

    Onto your question:

    Shirataki noodles are made solely from an Asian root vegetable.  Since they are mainly composed of soluble fiber, they are very low in calories.  Some manufacturers of these noodles claim they are “calorie-free”, which makes no sense to me.  Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is not calorie-free.

    While a local Asian market may sell shirataki noodles made exclusively from that fiber, the more popular brands sold here in the United States are made from a combination of said root vegetable and tofu (mainly for texture purposes).  In fact, the ingredient list places ‘tofu’ before ‘yam flour’.

    I often see them as touted as “weight-loss food”, which is silly because there is nothing about them that inherently causes weight loss.  They are certainly low in calories, but “weight-loss food” implies that a food has some sort of magic property that results in weight loss.

    A dinner of shirataki noodles may be low-calorie, but if your lunch was a Chili’s quesadilla, don’t expect any weight-loss miracles.

    Here is why I’m not quite as enthusiastic about the “new pasta”:

    • Shirataki noodles are flavorless, and reinforce the stereotype that healthy food must be void of taste and solely consumed “because it’s good for you”
    • While low in calories, they are also low in every nutrient.  I wouldn’t refer to them as “nutritious”
    • Since they have very little flavor, many people consume them in ways that are highly caloric anyway (i.e: rich sauces, stir-frying them in oil, etc.)

    If someone enjoys these noodles, more power to them.  I would never steer someone away from eating them.  They are certainly an excellent source of soluble fiber, and offer some health benefits.

    However, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about pasta, especially whole-grain varieties.  The main problem in the United States is that pasta is eaten in huge amounts and drenched in highly-caloric sauces.

    If you are looking for wheat-free pastas, I recommend soba noodles (look for ones made solely from buckwheat flour, such as the Eden Organics brand), brown rice pastas, or quinoa pastas.

    If calories are a concern, give spiralized zucchini “noodles” a try.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “No Flour? No Problem!” Pancakes

    oats-280wThis recipe was created out of true laziness one morning when I craved pancakes and quickly realized I had no flour of any kind in my kitchen.

    Oh, yes, I could have walked all of three minutes to the store around the block to buy some, but… then you wouldn’t be reading this.  It was all part of the plan!

    Some quick FYIs before we get to the deets:

    1. While sturdy, these pancakes have a more delicate texture than conventional ones.

    2. Some of the ingredients (i.e.: xanthan gum, unsweetened shredded coconut) are only available at health food stores (or Whole Foods).  They are not expensive, though, and all you need is one short trip to buy them all.

    3. The inclusion of whey or hemp protein (as optional ingredients) is for individuals looking for a more substantial meal, as is the inclusion of extra nuts and seeds.  I like to have these pancakes for brunch, so I like making them in a way that keeps me satisfied for several hours.

    4. A large majority of the saturated fats in this recipe come from coconut products, which are significantly less damaging than other saturated fats.  You are welcome to use other plant oils if you would like, though coconut oil is my favorite for this recipe.

    5. For optimal flavors, these pancakes should be generously topped with blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices.

    Yields: 2 large pancakes

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 Tablespoons ground flax
    5 Tablespoons water OR milk of choice (ie: dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    1.5 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (if aluminum-free, even better)
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum (can buy this at any health food store)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional; if including, I highly recommend unsweetened, but flavored, whey or hemp)
    1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice OR 1/4 cup seeds (i.e.: chia, hemp) (optional)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons coconut oil

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a small bowl combine the ground flax and liquid.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

    In large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, vanilla, cinnamon, protein powder, nuts/seeds, and shredded coconut.

    Add applesauce and coconut oil to ground flax mixture.  Stir briefly.

    Add contents of small bowl to large bowl.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ones.

    On stovetop, heat griddle at medium heat until surface is hot.

    Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil or vegan butter or conventional butter.  Use paper towel or spatula to spread evenly on surface.

    Pour batter onto griddle and form two pancakes.

    Cook pancakes until top surface begins to bubble.  Flip, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

    Serve.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per pancake, made with whey protein, chopped pecans, and using water for flax mixture):

    512 calories
    7.5 grams saturated fat
    360 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    24 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Alpha-Linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin

    Good Source of: Folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc

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    You Ask, I Answer: Spicy Sushi Rolls

    spicytunarollIs a spicy tuna roll any less healthy than a non-spicy one?

    — Amanda Refler
    Washington, DC

    Spicy rolls offer a higher number of calories.

    That spicy sauce on top is made from a combination of mayonnaise, chili peppers, and, in some cases, oil.

    A standard spicy roll contains a tablespoon of mayonnaise and anywhere from two to three teaspoons of oil.  Some of the newer — and significantly larger — “special rolls” can contain as much as two tablespoons of mayonnaise and four to five teaspoons of oil!

    In that case, you are looking at anywhere from 57 to 314 calories per roll (57 assuming a tablespoon of mayonnaise and no added oil; 314 if there are 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 5 teaspoons of added oil).

    If your favorite sushi joint pulls off the mayo plus oil combo, you can definitely save several hundreds of calories by 86’ing the spicy topping next time you order two rolls.

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    Who Said It?

    iced-teaIce-cold green tea is a negative calorie drink.

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

    And now, please excuse me while I bang my head on my desk.  Repeatedly.  Because I am so tired of this negative-calorie nonsense.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    biggulpBy the time they are 14 years old, 52 percent of male adolescents in the United States drink 24 or more ounces of soda each day.

    Source: Institute of Medicine

    Which means, that, in a one-year period, these teenagers are consuming anywhere from 520 to 730 cans of soda (‘520 cans’ assumes sodas are only consumed on weekdays; ‘730 cans’ assumes sodas are a daily habit).

    FYI: that’s a minimum of 74,360 tacked-on empty calories (and as many as 104,390 extra sugar-laden calories) in a single year.

    For the record, I’m not throwing stones — nor do I live in a glass house.  Throughout seventh and eighth grade, I would often drink as many as six cans of soda per day.  Although I was never overweight, I recall having uneven energy levels and generally feeling like a high fructose corn syrup-laden blob.  So, if anything, I’m throwing rubber balls from my glass house.  You know, as a non-destructive, but awareness-raising “heads up” to those going down a similar path.

    What’s most interesting about the statistic that drives this post is that these 24 ounces are generally attributed to the consumption of one large — or, in some cases, “medium” — soda with a meal (as opposed to multiple cans throughout the day).

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spiced Lentil & Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Dressing

    lentejas_-lensculirnarisI consider this a perfect year-round dish.

    In the cold winter months, the warm lentils and quinoa, along with the spices, make for a comforting dish.

    Once summer hits, I love this as a cold salad!

    This is also one of those meals that keeps you full for a very long time, as it combines heart-healthy fats, soluble fiber, and protein.

    Don’t be let the long steps fool you; this is a very simple recipe.  The lentils and dressing can both be prepared while the quinoa cooks.

    By the way, if you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like taking it out, using it, and cleaning it), you can always replace the dressing with some fresh avocado slices.  Even if you don’t have avocados handy, the lentil and quinoa combination in itself is delicious!

    YIELDS: 4 servings (1 cup quinoa + 1 cup lentils + 2 TBSP dressing)

    INGREDIENTS (Quinoa):

    2 cups quinoa
    4 cups water
    Pinch of salt

    INGREDIENTS (Spiced Lentils):

    2 TBSP olive oil
    1 cup onions, chopped
    1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    1/2 cup red pepper, diced
    1/4 cup green pepper, diced
    1 cup mushrooms, chopped
    2 T garlic, minced
    1/2 t cumin
    1/4 t cinnamon
    1/2 t curry powder
    1/3 t salt
    1/4 t paprika
    1/8 t black pepper
    1 cup dried lentils, rinsed (any color; if you can find sprouted dried lentils, even better!)
    3 cups water
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice

    INGREDIENTS (Avocado Dressing):

    1 large avocado, pitted
    2 t lime juice
    1 garlic clove
    2 t ginger
    1/4 t salt
    1/4 c water

    INSTRUCTIONS (Quinoa):

    In a small pot, combine quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer until all water evaporates.

    Fluff quinoa with fork.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Spiced Lentils):

    In a large pot, heat olive oil.  Once sufficiently hot, add onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic.

    Stir frequently over the course of 2 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Add spices.  Stir frequently for 2 more minutes.

    Add lentils and water, stir and bring to a boil.

    Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times.

    Turn off stovetop, uncover, add lemon juice, and stir one more time.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Avocado dressing):

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until evenly combined.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    538 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat
    450 milligrams sodium
    15 grams fiber
    18 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fats, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc

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    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.

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    In The News: Calorie Consciousness

    calorie-menu-next-big-thingAre the calorie rule books about to be rewritten?  The Wall Street Journal definitely thinks so, following the recent publication of a study by pediatrician David Ludwig and nutrition scientist Martijn Katan in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    Said study “suggests that the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms tamp down the effects of changes in diet or behavior.”  In other words, the effects of consuming 500 additional calories on a daily basis would not be consistent; the amount of weight gained would lessen with each passing year, and eventually level out.  For a visual representation of this concept, visit the Wall Street Journal article.

    Perhaps even more importantly, this same theory applies to weight loss.

    This study challenges the conventional notion that in order to gain or lose a pound of weight, one must consume 3,500 more, or fewer, calories than they already do.

    I always found that figure to be a little too perfect, especially since it does not take into account individual metabolic factors.  That said, I think it’s important to have an approximate figure to refer to when speaking about the general population.

    Mind you, this study is not challenging the notion that weight gain — and loss — relate to an abundance or deficit of calories.

    Rather, “the 3,500-calorie-rule makes sense in short time frames with small diet changes, nutrition experts say.  But just as the body requires less fuel to power itself as weight declines, it requires more to create and sustain more weight.”

    This is one of the many things I love about nutrition — the on-going tweaking of concepts and processes that allows us to grasp a better understanding of the science.  This is the same reason why I can’t  help but geek out when I read that a new phytonutrient has been identified!  Now, where did I leave my pocket protector?

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