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    Archive for the ‘low-fat’ Category

    Numbers Game: Answer

    oreoA reduced-fat Oreo cookie contains 3 fewer calories than a regular Oreo cookie.

    This is precisely why the terms “low fat” and “reduced sugar” often mean absolutely nothing from a caloric standpoint.

    Part of the issue here is that carbohydrate-based fat replacers are tacked on during processing,  adding calories back in.

    In this scenario, “low fat” certainly does not give you license to eat twice as many cookies!

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    Numbers Game: Unlocking the Secret

    A reduced-fat Oreo cookie contains _______ fewer calories than a regular Oreo cookie.

    a) 3
    b) 12

    c) 26

    d) 51

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

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    In The News: Oh, Look… Calories!

    CNN is reporting the findings of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing the efficacy of four diets — high-carb, low-carb, high-fat, and high-protein.

    Although not based on popular diets (the high-protein diet, for instance, does not provide the same distribution of nutrients as Atkins), the four eating plans had their particular distinctions (i.e: one offered 35 percent of calories from protein, while another increased the amount to 65 percent of calories from protein).

    The conclusion? “All produced weight loss and improvements in lipids [as well as] reduction in insulin. The key really is that it’s calories, not the content of fat or carbohydrates — just calories,” summarizes study co-author Dr. Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health.

    Or, as the study itself beautifully encapsulates it: “reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.”

    No matter which of the four diets the 811 overweight participants were on, they all “had a[n average] 750-calorie reduction per day.”

    Not surprisingly, they all lost weight.

    Note that even the higher-in-fat diets followed American Heart Association guidelines (mainly sufficient fiber intakes and limited saturated and trans fat intake).

    Let this be even further proof to the “saturated fat is the healthiest fat; everyone is lying to you!” camp that diets rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat do indeed lead to improved lipid profiles and weight loss.

    Adding to the uniqueness of this study is that it is one of the few that tracked participants on these diets for two entire years.

    How will “calories don’t matter, it’s all about limiting carbohydrates”enthusiasts explain yet another study showing weight loss can be accomplished while eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates?

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    You Ask, I Answer: Tortilla Chips & Salsa

    I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant this weekend that labeled some [menu items] as low-fat and low-carb.

    I was surprised that the chips and salsa appetizer wasn’t [labeled] low-fat.

    I know salsa is fat-free, so wouldn’t [chips and salsa] be lower in calories than [an order of] chips and guacamole?

    — David (last name withheld)
    Orlando, FL

    Although a standard restaurant order of chips and salsa (approximately two ounces of tortilla chips and one cup of salsa) offers 330 fewer calories than that same amount of chips and guacamole, it is not a low-fat appetizer.

    Sure, one serving (two tablespoons) of salsa contains a negligilble 0.1 grams of fat, but don’t forget about the chips!

    One serving of tortilla chips (one ounce in weight, or approximately 12 individual chips) contributes 140 calories and seven grams of fat. This is identical to the calorie and fat values of potato chips, by the way.

    Assuming the restaurant is following FDA standards for low-fat labeling, they can only “award” that moniker to items contributing less than three grams of fat per serving.

    Since one serving of tortilla chips alone offers more than twice that amount, you can understand why this particular appetizer didn’t make the cut.

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    Leaving Out Vital Information

    Vending and food service company Next Generation has introduced Vitalities, a sticker-based initiative which “provides customers the ability to make selection based on healthy snack and beverage alternatives, while still having the flexibility to select name brand product options.”

    In essence, products that meet certain health criteria — created with the help of a Registered Dietitian — get a sticker next to their item code.

    On the food side, the following categories are offered: lower in fat, lower in sugar, lower in carbs, and “higher energy.”

    Why are they leaving out the most important concept– CALORIE information?

    Consider the following. To qualify as “low in sugar”, a product must meet one of the following criteria:

    * Sugar Free
    * No Sugar Added
    * Contains less than 4 grams of sugar

    These divisions are very helpful for snack companies because they don’t evaluate their products from a whole nutrition profile.

    Per the above mentioned standards, something like Sugar-Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would receive a “low in sugar” sticker (and therefore seem like a healthy choice) despite offering 6 grams of saturated fat (30% of a day’s worth) in one 180-calorie serving.

    Similarly, a bag of Skittles can receive a healthy-sounding “low-fat sticker”, all while offering 250 calories and 12 teaspoons of sugar!

    I am also perplexed by the “lower in carbs” sticker. Unless someone has diabetes, there is no reason to believe that low carb figures by default indicate a healthier choice.

    The beverage stickers are slightly better, as they are divided into these four categories: lower in fat, lower in calories (yay!), lower in caffeine, and higher in nutrients.

    My concern here is the “lower in fat” label, which makes no mention of calories in its criteria:

    * Less than 2.5 grams of fat per 8 ounce portion
    * Skim and 1% milk
    * Flavored waters
    * Juices
    * Energy drinks

    Notice that soda can not qualify for this sticker. Fine and dandy, but sweetened flavored waters (often containing just as much sugar and as many calories as soda) can.

    This initiative is a start, but I would much prefer vending machines post calorie information on items.

    After all, unless people have those figures memorized, they are unable to see them until they have already made their purchase.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Ice Milk

    Have you heard of, or know much about, ice milk?

    I think Weight Watchers promotes it.

    — Katie P.
    (Location unknown)

    Ice milk is the outdated term for what we now call “low fat ice cream.”

    The name change occurred as a result of new FDA labeling laws in 1994.

    Four years later, milk underwent similar changes, with 2% officially changing its name to “reduced-fat” and 1% being renamed “low-fat.”

    I don’t understand why Weight Watchers would specifically suggest participants seek out ice milk, since that term is literally extinct.

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    In The News: Taking Back "the C Word"

    Let’s do this Vagina Monologues style. Ready?

    Say it with me:

    c-c-ca-ca-ca-calo…. calor-calor-caloriesssss!

    How wonderfully liberating!

    After a long period of foolishness where mainstream weight loss rhetoric focused on fat grams, carbohydrate grams, or what time of day you stopped eating, The New York Times — in an article beautifully titled “Calories Do Count” — reports that “good old calorie counting is coming back into fashion.”

    That’s right — after being dismissed by the likes of Gary Taubes and his ilk, calories are the new black!

    Consumers are simply beginning to re-embrace the idea that successful, long-lasting weight loss comes with familiarizing themselves with calorie contents of foods, as opposed to eating unlimited amounts of foods that are simpy very low in carbohydrates or fats.

    It is worth pointing out that this heightened caloric awareness is a direct result of labeling laws that take the guesswork out of ordering at many restaurant and takeout chains.

    Meanwhile, restaurants — profits firmly in mind — are “jumping on the latest bandwagon.”

    “Dunkin’ Donuts recently added a low-calorie egg white breakfast sandwich, Così is using low-fat mayonnaise and McDonald’s large French fries have dropped to 500 calories this year from 570 last year.”

    Additionally, “Quiznos is testing smaller sizes and less-caloric sandwich fillings in its New York stores. At Le Pain Quotidien, which has 17 outlets in New York… the popular quiche Lorraine was trimmed to 6 ounces from 11, with extra salad filling out the plate.”

    Food manufacturers, meanwhile, will soon be catering to the “calorie trend” by printing calorie values on the front of their packaging.

    Don’t be surprised if, a few years down the road, mandatory chain restaurant calorie labeling laws go national.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Battle of the "Diets"

    Andy, are you going to blog about [the study that concluded that a low-carb diet was more successful at helping subjects achieve weight loss and healthier blood cholesterol profiles than Mediterranean or low-fat ones]?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    I was most certainly planning on commenting on this study, mainly because of some very distracting flaws I noticed.

    Let’s begin with some basic information.

    The study — partially funded by the Robert and Veronica Atkins foundation (potential bias, anyone?) — took place over 2 years, during which 85% of the 322 participants stuck with their respectively assigned diets (low-fat, Mediterranean, and low-carb.)

    Now with some of my “uh, wait a minute” impressions.

    Firstly, when it came to weight loss, low-carb beat out low-fat by 4 pounds (10.3 lbs vs 6.3 lbs), but edged out a Mediterranean Diet (which includes higher carbohydrate consumption) only by 0.3 lbs.

    And although the low-carb diet resulted in the best blood cholesterol profiles, it’s important to note that for this study, researchers “urged [the] dieters [on the low-carb diet] to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.”

    In other words, although the low-carbers had the highest saturated fat intake out of the three groups, the majority of their fats came from plant sources.

    There isn’t anything groundbreaking here. Anyone keeping up with nutrition research knows that mono and polyunsaturated fats are recommended for heart health.

    Hence, this study calls into question the belief so many low-carb fanatics like Gary Taubes fervently hold on to — that saturated fat is the best for blood cholesterol levels.

    The study specifically mentions that the blood cholesterol levels of the low-carbers is due largely to the consumption of monounsaturated fats.

    Besides, I always wondered why low-carb enthusiasts even bother bragging about improved cholesterol profiles on their diets when, two seconds later, they turn around and say that the cholesterol-heart disease link is a lie and the result of “bad science.” Which is it?

    The study wasn’t entirely a “low carb diets RULE!” piece, either.

    For instance, the Mediterranean Diet — which was highest in fiber — proved to be the most effective at managing blood glucose levels.

    Yet again, this goes against traditional low-carb beliefs (and, once again, those Gary Taubes loves to pontificate) that the research on fiber is “inconclusive at best” and that there is no need to have it in the diet.

    Before anyone jumps down my throat about whether or not I read Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes himself said at his New York University talk in March of this year that he didn’t think high-fiber grains were any healthier than refined ones.

    Speaking of fiber, I noticed that the low-fat group was only asked to consume “low-fat grains.”

    This struck me as odd, mainly because it is hard to find grains high in fat — they are all low-fat.

    Additionally, it’s hard to overlook some bias.

    The study does not urge low-fat dieters to consume the healthiest grains (whole grains), yet specifically requests that low-carb dieters eat the healthiest fats.

    I also found it strange that for the majority of this study the low-carb group was consuming 120 grams of carbs a day. This is definitely higher than the much lower levels recommended by most low-carb advocates.

    Atkins, for instance, usually calls for no more than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day during the maintenance phase.

    Finally, take a look at the numbers and you see that although the low-carb group was not calorie-restricted, their caloric intake was lower compared to their pre-study diet.

    So, as always, we are talking about weight loss as a result of reduced caloric intake.

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    In The News: A Case for Calories

    Oh, what a great morning!

    The weather is absolutely beautiful in New York City and I wake up to a story from Time Magazine in which Harvard School of Public Health Chair Walter Willett (pictured at left) reminds us what matters most when it comes to weight gain and weight loss — calories!

    I have never been a fan of the scapegoating targeted at specific nutrients.

    I do not think eating fat causes people to become fat, nor do I think carbohydrates are sent up on an express elevator from hell.

    This is why, if you are a reader of Small Bites, you know that the recipes I share are not “low fat” or “low carb.”

    “From many kinds of studies conducted over years, we are quite confident now that a calorie from fat will cause a similar amount of weight gain as a calorie from carbohydrate,” Willett affirms.

    And, no, he isn’t pulling this theory out of thin air; there are plenty of studies showing that diet composition isn’t as important as caloric intake in determining weight.

    “The best way to get to the bottom line is to look at long-term studies where we randomize people to a high-fat/low-carb diet or to a low-fat/high-carb diet and follow them for at least a year or more.

    That kind of study takes into account the possibility that one kind of diet provides more satiety; so, over the long run you would see more weight loss on that diet.

    But those studies — half a dozen or more such studies have been done — show quite clearly that the percentage of calories from fat has very little effect on long-term weight loss.”

    What Dr. Willett does stress is that the quality of fats and carbohydrates are important (i.e.: whole grains, monounsaturated fats, and Omega-3 fatty acids are nutritionally superior to refined grains, saturated fats, and trans fats).

    Let’s cap this off with another great quote: “We’ve now looked at over 250,000 men and women for up to 30 years, and we [also] haven’t seen that the percentage of calories from fat or from carbohydrates in your diet makes any difference in relation to heart attacks, various cancers, or stroke.”

    Let the Gary Taubes fanclub hatemail begin…

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    In The News: A Case for Calories

    Oh, what a great morning!

    The weather is absolutely beautiful in New York City and I wake up to a story from Time Magazine in which Harvard School of Public Health Chair Walter Willett (pictured at left) reminds us what matters most when it comes to weight gain and weight loss — calories!

    I have never been a fan of the scapegoating targeted at specific nutrients.

    I do not think eating fat causes people to become fat, nor do I think carbohydrates are sent up on an express elevator from hell.

    This is why, if you are a reader of Small Bites, you know that the recipes I share are not “low fat” or “low carb.”

    “From many kinds of studies conducted over years, we are quite confident now that a calorie from fat will cause a similar amount of weight gain as a calorie from carbohydrate,” Willett affirms.

    And, no, he isn’t pulling this theory out of thin air; there are plenty of studies showing that diet composition isn’t as important as caloric intake in determining weight.

    “The best way to get to the bottom line is to look at long-term studies where we randomize people to a high-fat/low-carb diet or to a low-fat/high-carb diet and follow them for at least a year or more.

    That kind of study takes into account the possibility that one kind of diet provides more satiety; so, over the long run you would see more weight loss on that diet.

    But those studies — half a dozen or more such studies have been done — show quite clearly that the percentage of calories from fat has very little effect on long-term weight loss.”

    What Dr. Willett does stress is that the quality of fats and carbohydrates are important (i.e.: whole grains, monounsaturated fats, and Omega-3 fatty acids are nutritionally superior to refined grains, saturated fats, and trans fats).

    Let’s cap this off with another great quote: “We’ve now looked at over 250,000 men and women for up to 30 years, and we [also] haven’t seen that the percentage of calories from fat or from carbohydrates in your diet makes any difference in relation to heart attacks, various cancers, or stroke.”

    Let the Gary Taubes fanclub hatemail begin…

    Share

    Speaking With…: Milton Stokes

    Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN is the owner of One Source Nutrition, offering a variety of private counseling and media consulting services.

    He is also an American Dietetic Association National Media Spokesperson who has been featured in a plethora of publications, including Self, Cooking Light, Men’s Health, Fitness, and the New York Daily News.

    I first met Mr. Stokes in January of 2007 when he served as an adjunct professor for New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health.

    He is an intelligent, sharp, and charismatic entrepreneur who is a wonderful asset to the field of nutrition and dietetics and communicates his nutrition knowledge in a most effective manner.

    On with the interview:

    What shifts, if any, have you noticed with your clients over the past decade? Is nutrition education really more widespread?

    Most people come to my office well-educated on nutrition and health.

    They develop admirable knowledge from websites, like anything associated with NIH.gov, and certain consumer publications, like Eating Well and Cooking Light. Clients know all about MyPyramid and reading food labels. So it’s not a knowledge gap.

    Instead, the problem is that gray area of disconnect, that missing spark to motivate clients to implement their knowledge.

    A lot of what we do in the practice is boost a client’s self-efficacy. We simply point out “You say you want to achieve health, but you continue with this behavior.”

    From there we proceed by encouraging them to start with a specific change today or this week. Showing clients we believe they can do it helps enhance their sense of self belief, which is what self efficacy is all about.

    What do you perceive as two of the most important behavioral modification changes people who are looking to lose weight can do?

    Step one is getting proof of what a client’s eating and drinking. Proof in the form of a simple food journal. It’s amazing what a difference seeing food consumption on paper really makes. Subtle, but significant, patterns start to emerge.

    Usually those patterns are enough to guide future work with the client. We work with eating disorders mostly, and as I said earlier, our patients are extremely educated in nutrition. But they do things, like sabotage themselves with unhealthy environments at home.

    Premium ice cream and other binge foods don’t crawl into the kitchen without help. With exercise, owning a treadmill is a good start, but you can’t use it as a wardrobe station in the basement. Take those clothes off of it–or whatever items reside there–and have it ready.

    This leads me to the next tip: plan. If you don’t plan to exercise, you probably won’t. Your sneakers and workout clothes won’t magically appear if you don’t take them out. Furthermore, take them with you in the morning. After work it’s a little easier to get to the gym when you don’t have to come home to change.

    Once home, it’s like pulling teeth to go back out. Home has dishes to be done, laundry to fold, mail to open, and so forth. Those are common distractions that become excuses. So I say bypass those and do the exercise first.

    Planning is applicable to food as well.

    Do most of your clients share a common obstacle/hurdle in reaching their health/nutrition/weight goals?

    We see mostly females in our practice. And the adult women tend to prioritize everything but their health.

    For one of many examples: They shop for food, they cook the food, and they clean up after it’s all over. I say, “Hold up, why can’t you farm out some of this work?” Give the list to your spouse; assign your 10-year-old the task of tearing lettuce for the salads and setting the table; each person clears his own dishes and loads the washer.

    That the woman has to do all this is really old fashioned. And it’s a common barrier to putting health first. If you aren’t healthy, how can you take care of your family?

    Finding ways to earn back 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there will add up. Soon you’re at 20 minutes, which is enough for a brisk walk and some alone time to clear your head.

    Are there two or three popular nutrition myths that most of your clients have interpreted as “truth”?

    Eating breakfast makes me gain weight.

    Stop eating after 6 pm or all the food turns to fat. But digested food isn’t like Cinderella’s carriage: at the stroke of midnight (or whatever time) it doesn’t turn into a pumpkin….or into fat.

    Holy grail of nutrition and feeding is some secret or mystical concoction. What’s the minute, teeny tiniest thing I’m missing to make me whole?

    Exogenous digestive enzymes….we would’ve died out ages ago.

    As a nutrition educator, are there certain inaccurate messages in the mainstream media regarding nutrition that especially frustrate you?

    In general, a lot of marketing jumps the gun on real benefits of specific nutrients or foods. This promotes adult food jags of sorts.

    One day dried plums or blueberries or tomatoes are the rage. The next, it’s some hideously bitter juice designed to extend life by 7 years.

    Then just a pill crammed with all the nutrition of 10 fruits and vegetables. There is no secret or miracle to losing weight or preventing disease. Eating real food does the trick–but that message isn’t sexy or provocative or profitable.

    Having said that, let me also pause to recognize the work of researchers.

    Nutrition is an evolving science, so what we know today may change tomorrow as research is completed. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to pursue new findings.

    I do wonder, though, what would become of human health if we diverted some of those research dollars to subsidize fruits, vegetables and whole grains? We know that eating this way works. Do we need more research, or can we go ahead and pay farmers with research dollars to deliver their products to all neighborhoods?

    People could go to market several times a week, or whenever, and stock up. Farmers could be paid to go door-to-door. Consumers wouldn’t pay a thing.

    What particular direction would you like the nutrition field to embark in over the next 10 – 15 years?

    Stop putting everything under a therapeutic microscope.

    Stop hanging on the latest research finding that says a certain micronutrient might do this or might do that. Nobody eats solo nutritients. Clients tire themselves by getting carried away over headlines without understanding the full scope of the study.

    Studies isolate single nutrients without considering synergy or total nutrient packages in whole food. This relates to what we talked about earlier: the message to eat more fruits and vegetables isn’t glamorous or trendy.

    I am concerned with incessant food scares over pathogens and improper food handling.

    I’d like to see nutrition researchers partnering with sleep experts. Who isn’t sleep deprived? Without enough sleep we know it’s quite difficult to lose weight, and you’re more likely to reward yourself with high-carbohydrate foods as way to feel better.

    Vitamin D [is another subject that we need to look into further].

    I might get in trouble for this, but we may have missed out on the opportunity to consider low-carb diets. First of all, I believe no single diet fits every person. I also believe low-fat isn’t necessarily top dog.

    Researchers, like Jeff Volek, have shown low-carb diets promote fat loss, preserve lean muscle mass, and improve lipid profiles. Am I saying we all need to eat low-carb? No. But we could let the scientific process show us what low-carb eating can do.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    A huge thank you to Milton for participating in this interview.

    If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to visit his new blog for more information and tips.

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    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Heart Disease

    In the May 28, 2008 Willamette Week Murmurs column there’s a story about a man doing 25 months in state prison for assault.

    He’s suing Multnomah County and a Philadelphia-based food distributor for serving food he says led to a near-fatal heart fibrillation.

    He claims he was subjected to “criminal inhumanity” in 2007 at the county’s Inverness Jail, where he says food did not comply with the low-fat diet prescribed by his cardiologist.

    Do you think this lawsuit has any merit?

    — David Brown
    Kalispell, MT

    Very coincidental timing! A friend sent me a link to that story 15 minutes before I received your question.

    I was very intrigued and planned on sharing it here.

    I have looked for more details on this case but have been unable to get anything beyond a short paragraph with the most basic information.

    (NOTE: I called the Sheriff’s Office and left a message with Deputy Travis Gullberg, who handles press inquiries. Let’s see if I hear anything!)

    What would help me determine the “merit” of this lawsuit is this man’s cardiac health upon being admitted to prison.

    If he already had heart disease, it is important that he follow a prescribed low-fat diet plan in order to help reverse some of the damage.

    If there is no diagnosis of heart disease in his past, it will certainly be a very hard case to win.

    Of course, there are other legal issues here (i.e.: was the jail notified of his special diet needs by his cardiologist?) but this will be an interesting case to keep an eye on.

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    Nutrition Highs and Lows

    People regularly throw out the terms “low-fat”, “low-carb”, “high fiber” and “reduced sugar” liberally — and often times inaccurately.

    Although the terms “high” and “low”can be subjective (a 15-story building in Manhattan is relatively low compared to the surrounding skyscrapers), they are mostly defined by clear-cut boundaries in the world of nutrition.

    When in doubt, here is a handy guide.

    If you’re talking fats, a “very low fat diet” gets no more than 15 percent of total calories from fat.

    A traditional low-fat diet, meanwhile, consists of no more than 30 percent of calories from fat.

    Keep in mind this is a rather wide spectrum.

    In reality, 16 to 25 percent is truly considered “low fat”. By the time you get to the 25 – 30 percent range, you are crossing into more moderate territory.

    Hence, the latest mainstream recommendations for 30 – 35 percent of calories from fat can not be casted off as “low-fat” dogma.

    The heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet, for instance — which no one would ever describe as “low fat” due to the prevalence of olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish — consists of approximately 30 – 35 percent of calories from fat.

    It is worth pointing out that the Mediterranean Diet is high in monounsaturated fat and very low in saturated fats.

    Mainstream dietitians have no qualms in recommending daily intake of heart-healthy foods like almonds, walnuts, olive oil, salmon, avocado, and flaxseed.

    Although there is no true definition of what a “low carb” diet is, two numbers keep popping up in the literature.

    Many clinical research trials define “low carb” as no more than 60 grams of carbohydrates per day.

    More intense low-carb advocates, however, bring the number down to no more than 30 grams a day (as much as one large apple or one standard slice of bread.)

    Food labels also have to abide by certain protocols (established by the Food & Drug Association) to make “high” and “low” claims.

    In order for a product to be labeled “low fat”, for instance, it must contain no more than 3 grams of fat per serving.

    The term “reduced calories” can only be used on a product that provides at least 25 percent fewer calories than the regular variety.

    Similarly, any product describing itself as “reduced” sugar must offer at least 25 percent less sugar than the regular variety.

    The statement “high in fiber” may only be used on products offering at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.

    As for the term “good source of fiber” – you need at least 2.9 grams per serving to qualify.

    Lastly, another interesting one: “light” can be used to describe a product that offers either at least 50% less fat, 33% less calories, or 50% less sodium than the regular variety

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    Speaking With…: Mike Levinson

    This posting is dedicated to all my male readers.

    I’m not playing favorites, but certainly paying homage to the miniscule amount of male Registered Dietitians in the United States.

    Just how miniscule? Only 2.5 percent of the approximately 60,000 RD’s in this country are men!

    Remember, whereas anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, Registered Dietitians are accredited by the American Dietetic Association.

    Aspiring RD’s like myself must complete a series of required academic courses as well as a 900-hour clinical internship, and then show they can walk the walk by passing a national exam.

    If that isn’t enough, they also must complete 75 hours of professional education every 5 years in order to retain the credential.

    So, imagine my excitement when I first heard of RD Mike Levinson’s new book, Buff Dad, three weeks ago.

    Sure, there are plenty of male physicians, anthropologists, physicists, cardiologists, and quacks (oh, I don’t know, some guy named Kevin) dipping their toes into the nutrition waters, but it is rare to see a book penned by a male Registered Dietitian.

    Buff Dad is a “4-week fitness game plan” tailored for men (fathers or not) looking to tone up and slim down.

    Part of it comes from experience.

    Despite being an amateur bodybuilder and avid athlete, Levinson — who holds a bachelors degree of science in nutrition and exercise science from the Univ of Texas and completed his Dietetic Internship at California State University of Long Beach — gained 50 pounds in two years after his wife had their first child.

    The plan outlined in Buff Dad is what Levinson used to, as he puts it, go from a “puffy dad” to a “buff daddy”!

    What sets this apart from many other “diet” books is that Levinson instills some valuable lessons on healthy lifelong habits, including portion control, not swearing off any foods entirely, implementing exercise, and enjoying a diet that includes all food groups.

    Additionally, Levinson’s recommendations can be followed for life. No special supplements, exotic ingredients, or bizarre non-sensical rules.

    Unlike many other nutrition and fitness books aimed at men, the ultimate goal here is not to bulk up and reach Vin Diesel-like proportions. The focus is on healthy eating, toning up, and looking YOUR personal best, not that of advertisers’.

    Buff Dad‘s central “theme” surrounds the male sex hormone, testosterone.

    “Testosterone is the key to gaining that lean muscle and burning stubborn body fat,” says Levinson.

    In the book, he urges readers to include certain testosterone-boosting “powerfoods” on a daily basis, including tried and true classics like beans, poultry, and eggs, as well as some surprising ones — broccoli, brussels sprouts, and garlic.

    “Testosterone is shown to help men improve muscles mass and decrease body fat. The more muscle mass you can add to your body, the higher your metabolism which means you burn more calories and fat throughout the day,” he explains.

    Levinson believes that a steady intake of these foods, in combination with a consistent workout plan (also detailed in the book), helps tone up and boost metabolism.

    “Food is the most powerful fuel and drug to help athletes and people who want to get in shape and be healthy,” Levinson says.

    Small Bites landed an interview with this buff dad (and author). Our exchange follows.

    How does this plan fit into a vegetarian lifestyle? I specifically ask since lean beef and poultry are two of the top ten testosterone “powerfoods”.

    There are many vegetable-based testosterone foods which a vegetarian can include.

    [For example], lacto-ovo vegetarians [those who consume dairy and egg products] can eat eggs and egg whites.

    The most important factor [, though,] is to follow the diet plan and make sure to eat small meals throughout the day and watch portion sizes.

    Are there any foods that decrease testosterone levels? This kind of ties in to the first question, because I’m thinking along the lines of soy and phytoestrogens. Would a diet high in soy foods (ie: having soymilk, tofu, soy crisps, and soy burgers as daily staples) be detrimental?

    A diet high in soy based products could actually increase the production of estrogen in the body. High estrogen levels could potentially increase a man’s chances of getting gynocamastia (breast tissue “man-boobs”) and also increase risk of breast cancer.

    [But] I think including some tofu, soy beans and other soy based products is fine, and encouraged, especially if someone is a vegetarian. They need that protein to build muscle mass and further to increase metabolism [in order to] burn more fat.

    The plan recommends 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises three times a week, and 30 minute of cardio another 3 days of the week. If someone were pressed for time, could they do 30 minutes of cardio the same day/session as their 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises, or is that going to have counter effects?

    Yes they can- exercise is cumulative, which means [that] as long as you do three times a week of weight training to build lean tissue and three to four days a week of cardio to burn body fat and increase stamina and cardio health, that is fine.

    I recommend doing some form of exercise at least five days a week so doing cardio and then weight training on the same day is fine but I believe another day or two of walking or biking or some form of cardio is a must.

    The book mentions low-fat diets as detrimental for men since they lower testosterone levels. However, low-fat peanut butter and fat-free yogurt are listed as suggested foods. Are these recommendations based on lower-fat varieties contributing less total calories?

    Yes- I believe in a well balanced diet and try to avoid higher fat (saturated) yogurts- these are not that good for you because of the higher saturated milk fat.

    As for peanut butter- I believe it is a wonderful food but high in calories because of the fat content so trying to get just a little less fat translates to lower calories.

    I do not believe in low fat and high carb diets and in this day- you could potentially eat a virtually fat free diet (the 1980s and 1990s) and not see results.

    From a training perspective, what are some of the most common mistakes you see men make at the gym?

    Some common mistakes men make at the gym or [when] working out at home is doing the same body part (i.e. abs or biceps or chest) everyday and not working other muscle groups.

    Also working the same muscle everyday or every other day does not allow that particular muscle to rest and recuperate.

    A total body workout with minimum amount of time is ideal and the standard now.

    What would you say to a man who comes to you, is about 50 pounds overweight, wants to get his health and fitness back, but has no idea where to start?

    Buy Buff Dad and get started on the program. It will be an easy way to get in shape without buying expensive machines or exotic foods.

    Thank you once again to Mike Levinson for his time.

    If you are interested in learning more, visit him at the Buff Dad website.

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    You "Ask", I Answer: Gary Taubes/Low-Carb

    The low carb movement did not evaporate as suggested above. Just Google “low-carb” and visit some blogs and forums.

    You’ll find that there is a vigorous discussion taking place among numerous participants.

    While many [people] seem to thrive on the low-fat diet that Tom Blogical is so enthusiastic about, a significant portion of the population cannot tolerate high carbohydrate intake no matter how much exercise they get.

    These are the ones that Gary Taubes’ book was wrote his book for.

    So, to suggest that Taubes recommends the same low-carb approach for everyone seriously misrepresents his message.

    — David Brown
    Via the blog

    Keep in mind that a “low fat” diet can include up to 30 percent of a day’s calories purely from fat.

    Thereby, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you can consume approximately 65 grams on a daily basis (roughly 600 calories’ worth).

    I understand that, due to a variety of reasons, one particular style of eating can not be applied universally.

    In fact, this is precisely why I find Gary Taubes’ ideas to be particularly narrow-minded and a product of tunnel vision.

    He doesn’t beat around the bush. In his mind, carbs are evil and they cause weight gain. Simple as that.

    This is a man who places refined white flour and potatoes in the same category.

    As I have mentioned in the past, potatoes can be eaten in many different ways. Peel off the skin and deep fry them and, sure, you’re not getting much nutrition.

    Leave the skin on, pop it in the microwave, and top it off with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and you have a nutritious side dish containing fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

    I am not sure what you refer to when mentioning that “a significant portion of the population not being able to tolerate” a high carbohydrate intake.

    How many people are we talking about, and how is their intolerance defined?

    As far as Gary Taubes not recommending a low-carb approach for everyone, I’ll let his quotes speak for himself.

    From a December 12, 2007 interview with AlterNet:

    Atkins almost assuredly had it right — that we get fat because of the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates in the diet.

    When asked what he believed were the three biggest myths about obesity, his response was:

    That the difference between calories consumed and calories expended tells us anything meaningful about why we get fat. That eating less or exercising more are viable treatments for obesity and overweight. That all nutrients — fat, carbohydrates and proteins — have equal effects on our propensity to gain weight — in other words, that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, as nutritionists are always telling us.

    There still are — and always will be — followers of low-carb diets.

    From a business and popularity standpoint, however, the low-carb movement has significantly tumbled from its 2003-2004 peak.

    Let me make something very clear. I do not advocate that people subsist on refined grains and added sugars. I also do not think drinking two liters of soda a day is “harmless.”

    However, I am not going to oversimplify things and blame one single nutrient for rising obesity rates. That shallow tunnel vision does absolutely nothing but keep everyone in the dark.

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