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    Archive for the ‘portion control’ Category

    The Beauty that is Eurosizing

    DSC02625Last month while in Barcelona I snapped these photos of my two favorite “Eurosized” portions.

    First up — a chocolate croissant.  This was from a random local bakery deep in the heart of Barcelona.  It was not a “small” or “kid-sized” croissant; in fact, it was the only available size.

    Isn’t it perfect?  It allows you to satisfy a craving without going overboard.  Sure, you can buy more than one croissant, but by doing so you are aware that you are eating more than one (PS: it would take 4 or 5 of these croissants to equal one “normal-sized” croissant in the United States!).

    Then there’s this small ice cream cone.

    DSC02650It has been my experience that, at most United States ice cream parlors, a “small” ice cream cup or cone often consists of two — or even three! — small scoops of ice cream.

    In Barcelona, this was a one-scoop affair.

    What I love most about these portion sizes is that they make it entirely possible to include ice cream and pastries in a sensible fashion, thereby preventing food phobias.

    Share

    Measure It Out

    One of the greater challenges of weight management is keeping accurate track of calories.

    At the salad bar, you grab a container of salad dressing and sprinkle some over your dish. Doesn’t look like a lot, especially in that huge bowl filled with healthy vegetables!

    When you sauteé vegetables, you pour some oil into the pot for what appears to be no more than a single second.

    Spreading peanut butter on your morning toast is a matter of dipping the knife in the jar and getting just enough to cover the entire slice of bread.

    Raisins are good for you, so you figure two handfuls in your morning oatmeal are no big deal.

    I do not expect anyone to walk around with measuring spoons and cups on them or take all enjoyment out of eating by fretting over 15 calories.

    In fact, that is the LAST thing I want you to do!

    However, I strongly suggest that, just for a one-week period, you familiarize yourself with measurements.

    Next time you pour yourself cereal, pour it into a half cup measure first, and then into your bowl.

    Become aware of what a half cup of cereal actually LOOKS like.

    Serve yourself the amount you normally eat for breakfast, but keep in mind the half cup reference point — as well as how many of those half cups make it to your bowl.

    Do the same thing with your milk. You may think you’re getting a good amount of calcium every morning, but if you are merely adding a quarter cup to your cereal, you’re getting less than 10 percent of a day’s worth.

    I also recommend you have measuring spoons handy when you cook.

    Before pouring oil into a pot to sauteé garlic and onions, pour the oil into a tablespoon measurement and then into the pot. Is that what you usually pour? If so, that’s 120 calories.

    If what you usually pour is equivalent to five tablespoons, that’s 600 calories.

    This is a great exercise because, in the event that you are looking to lose some weight, it pinpoints what particular foods or meals you can feasibly make some adjustments to.

    Once you devote a week to this, you will have a clearer mental picture of what a tablespoon or a quarter cup of different foods look like. I’m sure you’ll find this helpful down the road when it comes to accurately gauging calories as you go through your day.

    Consider it a lifetime investment!

    Share

    FNCE 2008: Flavor Magic

    One upcoming product that caught my eye was the Flavor Magic portion control sheets — dry marinade sheets that are pre-cut to reflect the recommended portion size of fish, chicken or beef.

    Rather than weigh foods or eyeball portions, you tear a 4″ by 3″ sheet, place your protein of choice on it, and let it marinade for approximately 20 minutes (the time it takes for the spices on the sheet to transfer over to the piece of food.)

    At that point, you simply rip the sheet off, throw it out, and cook your protein to your liking.

    It’s quite an inventive tool, as it takes care of portion control and healthy flavoring in one easy step that does not require cleanup.

    The sheets are available in a variety of flavors — each providing only four calories and one gram of sugar, and ranging in sodium content from 120 to 160 milligrams (a mere 5 percent of the recommended daily maximum value).

    This is precisely the creativity that is desperately needed in the nutrition field.

    For more information, please visit the Flavor Magic website (NOTE: You may begin ordering the product via the company’s website on November 17.)

    I truly wish these innovators the best of luck and hope their product catches on.

    Share

    Numbers Game: Answer

    At McDonald’s, an order of small fries and a small soda contains 420 fewer calories than a large order of those same two items.

    The purpose of this particular “numbers game” was to show that no matter where you eat, there are ways to “soften the blow.”

    Many times, when people go to fast food restaurants (especially if it’s by choice), they resign themselves to large portions and high calorie amounts, thinking “hey, it’s not supposed to be healthy.”

    Similarly, a lot of people balk at the idea of calorie information being posted at fast food restaurants, claiming people don’t go to a burger and fries joint to eat healthy.

    The example provided in this answer is proof that while fries and soda are certainly not healthful options, they also don’t have to necessarily add 810 calories to your day (the chain’s large fries clock in at 500 calories, while a large soda contributes 310 calories.)

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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.

    Share

    Numbers Game: Answer

    In a 2006 study by Mindless Eating author Brian Wansink (of Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management), office workers ate an average of 7.7 Hershey’s kisses a day if they were in clear jars on their desks, and 3.1 a day if placed six feet away from their desks in opaque jars.

    That’s actually a 110 calorie difference!

    More importantly, though, this points to a key factor in human eating behavior — if something is within reach, we are very likely to eat it, even if from a physiological standpoint we are not hungry.

    This is partially why large portions of food at restaurants and movie theaters are such a problem — it is NOT easy to leave half our food on the table or tell ourselves to “stop” after finishing half of a medium-sized popcorn bucket.

    In Mindless Eating, Wansink recounts several experiments he and his team at Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management conducted in which caloric consumption increased simply when more food was available to participants.

    One famous study had a control group drinking soup from a regular bowl, and another group from a bowl that inconspicuously refilled itself in a continual fashion.

    
The results? Those drinking from the “bottomless” bowl not only downed 65 percent more calories than the control group, they also did not report feeling full for much longer than those who had a limited quantity of soup.

    In other words, they unknowingly consumed extra calories.

    Wansink also experimented with movie theater popcorn. Subjects who later remarked the popcorn tasted bad and stale still ate more if they were eating from larger containers. Oh, by the way, the popcorn tasted so bad because it was two weeks old!

    Weight management isn’t just about your mouth and stomach — make sure your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you!

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Gary Taubes

    I would very much appreciate any thoughts you have regarding Gary Taubes.

    — Karen Carabio
    Reno, NV

    This question arrived in my inbox on March 3, the same day I heard that Mr. Taubes was due to speak at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health on March 13.

    I wanted to attend that event before answering Karen’s question, so as to truly familiarize myself with his theories and viewpoints.

    If you are not familiar with Gary Taubes, he is a journalist and physicist who has contributed articles to Science magazine since the 80s.

    He became a semi household name in August of 2002 when his article “What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?” made the cover of The New York Times Magazine.

    Its main point? Carbohydrates — and only carboydrates — are to blame for rising obesity rates in the United States.

    Cut out carbs from your diet, Taubes claimed, and you won’t gain weight. And when he says “carbohydrates”, he’s even referring to whole grains.

    His article paved the way for the 2002 rebirth of the Atkins diet.

    And what a rebirth it was! Six hundred low-carb products were launched in 2003.

    Even common products like oils, cheese, and diet sodas included large “Low Carb!” stickers on their packaging, capitalizing on consumers’ growing interest in shunning carbohydrate-rich foods.

    By 2005, however, the hype died down, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy, and “low carb” was out (thank goodness!).

    That certainly didn’t change Taubes’ mind, though.

    Last year, he pubished Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.

    Its main point? Dietitians are blaming the wrong guy for this country’s increasing weight problems.

    Obesity, Taubes claims, is not caused by overeating. Not only that — calories have nothing to do with weight gain or loss!

    So what is the cause? Taubes attributes it to insulin.

    The more insulin you produce, he believes, the more weight you gain.

    Therefore, it follows that carbohydrates (which raise blood glucose levels more than fat or protein, thereby signaling the body to release more insulin) cause weight gain.

    At his March 13 NYU talk, Taubes presented a few more points.

    He first referred to animal studies demonstrating that when animals overfeed themselves, their metabolism revs up and burns more energy than usual; when they underfeed, their metabolism slows down.

    Taubes went on to explain that the same concept can be attributed to humans.

    If we overeat, he explained, our bodies are smart enough to know to burn more calories. If we undereat, our metabolism slows down.

    In Taubes’ view, calories in and of themselves are irrelevant because our bodies can handle what comes their way.

    Fair enough — one of the main flaws behind very low calorie diets is that they end up slowing metabolism down, thereby making it easier to gain weight when regular eating patterns are resumed.

    And while it is true that our metabolisms can compensate if we overeat by 50 or so calories, don’t count on it to balance things out if you overeat by 300, 500, 1,000 or 1,200 calories.

    Taubes claims that all overweight people are in such a state simply because of high carbohydrate consumption.

    Okay, but can he point to examples of people overeating calories and NOT gaining weight?

    Taubes believes that “portion control” only works because people are eating less carbohydrates.

    Yes, but they are also eating less fat and protein, thereby discrediting his entire argument.

    After the talk, a member of the audience asked Taubes how he explains many Asian cultures subsisting on “bad carbs” like white rice and having lower obesity rates than the United States.

    His response? “Well, they’ve been eating rice for thousands of years, so their bodies are just used to it.” Huh?

    At one point in his talk, Taubes claimed that sugar and refined carbohydrates are only approximately a hundred years old or so in much of Europe and North America.

    I would love to know where he got that information from, since the most basic of research on sugar points to its existence in Persia around 650 AD, and its delivery by European Crusaders to their continent in 1100 AD.

    Sugar is not new. It has been consumed by civilizations around the world for centuries. Following his logic then, why aren’t most humans “immune” to calories from sugar?

    Overweight and obesity are clearly linked to a higher consumption of calories.

    If you are skeptical, do me a favor and eat 1,000 more calories than usual (solely from pure fat or protein sources; absolutely no carbs) every day for a month.

    Then, get on a scale.

    Or, try the reverse and subsist on 400 calories of pure carbohydrates every single day for a month. According to Taubes, you would still gain weight.

    Taubes was also asked by an audience member if he thinks it is possible for humans to live healthfully without consuming a single gram of carbohydrates.

    His answer? A resounding “yes.”

    At one point in his presentation, he even referred to fiber as “insignificant.” I thought my eyebrows were going to reach the ceiling.

    I seriously wonder how he came to this conclusion; a thorough review of the evidence-based research on fiber consumption and its role in decreading cancer risks (particularly colon and prostate ones) clearly demonstrates the important role it plays in overall health.

    Once again, this theory can easily be disputed by trying it out yourself.

    If you think fiber is irrelevant to your health, go two weeks on a fiber-free diet — no laxatives allowed! I’m pretty sure you’ll soon realize just how crucial fiber is.

    By the way, Taubes’ infamous 2002 article quickly received a response from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Washington Post health reporter Sally Squires (I am unable to find her excellent article online — can anyone help?).

    Michael Fumento of Reason magazine also added his two cents at the time.

    Gary Taubes fired back a response, which in turn was replied to by Fumento.

    I have provided links to all these articles to enable you to read and form your own conclusions.

    I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Gary Taubes

    I would very much appreciate any thoughts you have regarding Gary Taubes.

    — Karen Carabio
    Reno, NV

    This question arrived in my inbox on March 3, the same day I heard that Mr. Taubes was due to speak at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health on March 13.

    I wanted to attend that event before answering Karen’s question, so as to truly familiarize myself with his theories and viewpoints.

    If you are not familiar with Gary Taubes, he is a journalist and physicist who has contributed articles to Science magazine since the 80s.

    He became a semi household name in August of 2002 when his article “What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?” made the cover of The New York Times Magazine.

    Its main point? Carbohydrates — and only carboydrates — are to blame for rising obesity rates in the United States.

    Cut out carbs from your diet, Taubes claimed, and you won’t gain weight. And when he says “carbohydrates”, he’s even referring to whole grains.

    His article paved the way for the 2002 rebirth of the Atkins diet.

    And what a rebirth it was! Six hundred low-carb products were launched in 2003.

    Even common products like oils, cheese, and diet sodas included large “Low Carb!” stickers on their packaging, capitalizing on consumers’ growing interest in shunning carbohydrate-rich foods.

    By 2005, however, the hype died down, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy, and “low carb” was out (thank goodness!).

    That certainly didn’t change Taubes’ mind, though.

    Last year, he pubished Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.

    Its main point? Dietitians are blaming the wrong guy for this country’s increasing weight problems.

    Obesity, Taubes claims, is not caused by overeating. Not only that — calories have nothing to do with weight gain or loss!

    So what is the cause? Taubes attributes it to insulin.

    The more insulin you produce, he believes, the more weight you gain.

    Therefore, it follows that carbohydrates (which raise blood glucose levels more than fat or protein, thereby signaling the body to release more insulin) cause weight gain.

    At his March 13 NYU talk, Taubes presented a few more points.

    He first referred to animal studies demonstrating that when animals overfeed themselves, their metabolism revs up and burns more energy than usual; when they underfeed, their metabolism slows down.

    Taubes went on to explain that the same concept can be attributed to humans.

    If we overeat, he explained, our bodies are smart enough to know to burn more calories. If we undereat, our metabolism slows down.

    In Taubes’ view, calories in and of themselves are irrelevant because our bodies can handle what comes their way.

    Fair enough — one of the main flaws behind very low calorie diets is that they end up slowing metabolism down, thereby making it easier to gain weight when regular eating patterns are resumed.

    And while it is true that our metabolisms can compensate if we overeat by 50 or so calories, don’t count on it to balance things out if you overeat by 300, 500, 1,000 or 1,200 calories.

    Taubes claims that all overweight people are in such a state simply because of high carbohydrate consumption.

    Okay, but can he point to examples of people overeating calories and NOT gaining weight?

    Taubes believes that “portion control” only works because people are eating less carbohydrates.

    Yes, but they are also eating less fat and protein, thereby discrediting his entire argument.

    After the talk, a member of the audience asked Taubes how he explains many Asian cultures subsisting on “bad carbs” like white rice and having lower obesity rates than the United States.

    His response? “Well, they’ve been eating rice for thousands of years, so their bodies are just used to it.” Huh?

    At one point in his talk, Taubes claimed that sugar and refined carbohydrates are only approximately a hundred years old or so in much of Europe and North America.

    I would love to know where he got that information from, since the most basic of research on sugar points to its existence in Persia around 650 AD, and its delivery by European Crusaders to their continent in 1100 AD.

    Sugar is not new. It has been consumed by civilizations around the world for centuries. Following his logic then, why aren’t most humans “immune” to calories from sugar?

    Overweight and obesity are clearly linked to a higher consumption of calories.

    If you are skeptical, do me a favor and eat 1,000 more calories than usual (solely from pure fat or protein sources; absolutely no carbs) every day for a month.

    Then, get on a scale.

    Or, try the reverse and subsist on 400 calories of pure carbohydrates every single day for a month. According to Taubes, you would still gain weight.

    Taubes was also asked by an audience member if he thinks it is possible for humans to live healthfully without consuming a single gram of carbohydrates.

    His answer? A resounding “yes.”

    At one point in his presentation, he even referred to fiber as “insignificant.” I thought my eyebrows were going to reach the ceiling.

    I seriously wonder how he came to this conclusion; a thorough review of the evidence-based research on fiber consumption and its role in decreading cancer risks (particularly colon and prostate ones) clearly demonstrates the important role it plays in overall health.

    Once again, this theory can easily be disputed by trying it out yourself.

    If you think fiber is irrelevant to your health, go two weeks on a fiber-free diet — no laxatives allowed! I’m pretty sure you’ll soon realize just how crucial fiber is.

    By the way, Taubes’ infamous 2002 article quickly received a response from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Washington Post health reporter Sally Squires (I am unable to find her excellent article online — can anyone help?).

    Michael Fumento of Reason magazine also added his two cents at the time.

    Gary Taubes fired back a response, which in turn was replied to by Fumento.

    I have provided links to all these articles to enable you to read and form your own conclusions.

    I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    Share

    In The News: Holy Calories

    Faith-based weight-loss programs are a rapidly growing branch of the diet industry, some of which — Bod4God, Weigh Down, and First Place — were featured in The Chicago Tribune a few days ago.

    All these programs incorporate Bible reading, prayer sessions, Scripture memorization, and a commitment to approach food and hunger from Christian-based teachings to traditional weight loss and management strategies.

    Advocates and members credit these programs with helping them differentiate between physical and spiritual hunger, replace temporary culinary pleasures with God’s word, and finally shed unwanted pounds that refused to disappear with a variety of popular diets.

    Many experts — not affiliated with these programs’ religions — give credit to them for successfully instilling ideas of portion control, hunger awareness, and balanced lifestyles to groups of people who had a hard time grasping these concepts with other programs.

    These are certainly no “touch and go” plans.

    This, for instance, is what First Place’s new members agree to upon joining:

    “ATTEND a meeting each week.
    ENCOURAGE one other person in your class weekly.

    PRAY daily.
    READ two chapters in the Bible daily.
    MEMORIZE one Bible verse weekly.

    Complete a weekly BIBLE STUDY, which takes about 15 minutes a day.
    Follow the First Place LIVE-IT FOOD PLAN.
    Keep a First Place COMMITMENT RECORD or food diary.
    EXERCISE a minimum of three times a week.”

    Weigh Down, meanwhile, describes their program in this manner:

    “From the day you begin a Weigh Down seminar, you will never again count a single calorie or fat gram, you will never again examine the contents list on a box, you will never again consult a food-exchange list or menu planning card, you will never again do your shopping in the dietetic food aisle of the grocery store, and you will never again step onto a treadmill to work off the candy bar you ate.”

    Unlike other faith-based programs, they do not advocate a largely vegetarian diet heavy on beans, legumes, and whole grains, instead explaining:

    “God did not “accidentally” leave the Basic Four food groups out of the Bible! He created the wonderful flavors of blue cheese dressing, pepperoni pizza, and chocolate brownies. He wants us to enjoy them – within His boundaries of what is healthy for our bodies. The body is the Temple of God, and we must begin treating it as such.”

    Some health professionals have a more cautious approach to these plans, initially citing a certain degree of inappropriateness they feel accompanies charging for a service on behalf of a religious figure.

    Issues of self-esteem and responsibility are also touted as potentially problematic.

    Weigh Down, for instance, firmly believes that eating beyond your level of hunger is a sin.

    This, some think, adds an extra layer of guilt to emotional binge eating, which is already enveloped in a range of negative emotions and, often times, self-loathing.

    Weigh Down has also been criticized — even by former members — for not giving any importance to physical activity, citing it as unnecessary and instead claiming that cutting down on portions and forming a stronger relationship with God are the only two things necessary for successful weight loss.

    Per Weigh Down’s website:

    “In Weigh Down, the only exercise God requires is surrendering your will to His perfect system of hunger and fullness.”

    Weigh Down’s overall philosophy also does not sit well with some members of the nutrition community.

    It basically claims that as long as people cut down their portions, the actual foods they eat are irrelevant; for all intents and purposes, a Twinkie is equivalent to a cup of oatmeal.

    Many find this to be odd — and not very wise — advice, especially since the program was created and developed by a Registered Dietitian.

    What do you think?

    Share

    Numbers Game: Up, Up, and Away!

    Since 1982, the standard size of a hamburger in Canada has increased ______ percent. Pasta servings have expanded by _________ percent.

    (Source: Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion)

    a) 85, 198
    b) 56, 278

    c) 112, 480

    d) 105, 374

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

    Share

    In The News: A Soda Tax?

    Over in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom is toying with the idea of imposing an anti-obesity tax on stores selling foods and beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup.

    Although I understand what he is attempting to achieve, I believe Mayor Newson is going about this the wrong way.

    Sweetened drinks undoubtedly add extra calories to anyone’s day, but I have a problem with foods being automatically branded as “bad” or “evil,” regardless of context.

    I don’t think the problem to tackle is soda itself as it is the ridiculous amounts of it people are used to drinking.

    Between unlimited refills, 20 ounce to-go bottles, and 64 ounce containers at 7-11, it is perfectly feasible to accompany any given meal with as much as 1,000 liquid calories!

    And while high fructose corn syrup is a dirt cheap man-made sweetener that is metabolized differently than real sugar (for one, it does not trigger our brain’s satiety center when consumed), eliminating it will not decrease an obesity problem.

    I have seen the graphs showing a correlation between high fructose corn syrup intake and rising obesity rates in the United States, but it is important to point out that increased high fructose corn syrup intake was also accompanied by exploding portion sizes and easier availability of sugar and fat-laden foods.

    It makes much more sense to attribute weight gain to extra calories in the form of more food (larger portions).

    Remember, high fructose corn syrup delivers just as many calories as any other sugar (fructose, honey, or table sugar) per teaspoon.

    I would hate for people to think that products made with real sugar automatically get a free pass.

    A Starbucks Venti vanilla latte accompanied by a banana chocolate-chip muffin adds up to over 1,000 calories and as much added sugar as a can of Coke.

    High fructose syrup might be missing from the equation, but that does not make this “meal” healthier or waist-friendly.

    A better initiative would be to help convenience stores (particularly those in low-income neighborhoods) offer healthier items (as attempted by New York City’s Healthy Bodega initiative).

    What do you think?

    Share

    Baked, Not Faked

    I have never been a fan of baked potato chips.

    Baked Lay’s make my palate think I am munching on salty cardboard, and other varieties (Baked Doritos, Baked Cheetos) taste just as artificial as the conventional versions.

    If you are a “sandwich and chip” luncher, or someone who enjoys a crunchy, salty treat once in a while, I am happy to report that the folks at Kettle have come up with a Small Bites approved solution — Kettle Bakes Potato Chips.

    Unlike synthetic low-fat/low-calorie potato chips made from dehydrated potato flakes and break apart (rather than crunch) in your mouth, these chips are made from real potatoes.

    No flakes, no dehydrated shenanigans — actual potatoes (you can even see the skins)!

    Each 0.8 ounce bag clocks in at a mere 100 calories and contains 65% less fat than the same amount of regular Kettle chips.

    The best part? The texture is like that of a real kettle potato chip!

    While I don’t advocate tracking down a bag of potato chips every time you are in the mood for a salty snack, there is one advantage to having them over other kinds of chips. One 0.8 ounce bag of Kettle baked chips contains 390 milligrams of potassium — 12% of the recommended daily intake!

    Let me be clear. I am not recommending potato chips as a good source of potassium.

    However, if you have a hankering for chips, be smart and reach for an individual sized bag of Kettle Bakes!

    Tasty, calorie controlled, made solely with real potatoes, low-fat and, as an added bonus, throw some much-needed potassium your way.

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    Listen Up!

    Portion expert Lisa R. Young has kindly shared with me a very informative podcast on portion sizes and control she recently did for Wellcoaches.com.

    Find out how portions have grown over the past two decades, how this relates to rising obesity levels, tricks and tips to “smartsize” your life, what “trigger foods” are, and MUCH more.

    Click here to download the 35 minute-long interview in MP3 format — it’s definitely worth a listen!

    My suggestion? Zap it onto your Ipod and listen to it on your way to work tomorrow morning. I guarantee you’ll be making better choices by lunch time.

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    In The News: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

    Dr. Lisa R. Young, author of The Portion Teller and former New York University professor of mine, wrote a column for MSNBC.com on ever-increasing portion sizes at fast-food establishments.

    A great read!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Sauces/Chinese Restaurants

    When eating at a Chinese restaurant, is garlic sauce or oyster sauce a better option?

    — Anonymous

    It depends on what you mean by “better option.”

    What I can tell you off the bat is that both sauces are very high in sodium.

    One tablespoon of garlic sauce contains 290 milligrams (12% of a day’s worth), while the same amount of oyster sauce packs a whooping 492 milligrams (20% of a day’s worth!).

    Yes, that’s only in one tablespoon! The average dish at a Chinese restaurant has five or six times as much — more than a day’s worth of sodium, in many cases.

    From a caloric standpoint, neither is a huge concern. A tablespoon of garlic sauce adds 25 calories to your meal, while one of oyster sauce contains an almost non-existent nine (even if you multiply those values by five you aren’t getting alarmingly high numbers).

    If a garlic sauce is made with fresh garlic, you are taking in some anti-inflammatory, immune system strengthening antioxidants.

    When eating out at a Chinese restaurant, I recommend the following.

    First, ask for all sauces on the side. You can then either dip your fork in the sauce before sticking it into the morsel of food you are about to eat, or lightly sprinkle your dish with it (leaving plenty in the side dish).

    Keep in mind that what you are putting sauce on is very important. Avoid deep-fried dishes. Always accompany entrees with brown — instead of fried — rice, and go for a side of steamed — rather than sauteed — vegetables.

    Avoid noodle dishes, that offer nothing but refined carbohydrates. Instead, look for entrees that include vegetables (ie: shrimp and broccoli). This way, you get your share of greens without having to order an extra side dish.

    Skip the spring roll, which is nothing but fried dough (and, in my opinion, are always tasteless). If you’re in the mood for an appetizer, opt for the always-delicious (and healthier) summer rolls, or give grilled skewers of lean proteins (chicken or shrimp) a try.

    Watch the portions! Chinese restaurants are notorious for providing huge dishes — often times a day’s worth of meat and half a day’s worth of grains.

    For more information on sodium, please check out issue 3 of the Small Bites newsletter.

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