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    Archive for the ‘whole wheat bread’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Weeding Out Wheat Ingredients

    ucm161772Can you explain the different types of whole wheat?

    I know you are supposed to look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient in a bread, but what if you have choices like stone ground whole wheat or whole white wheat?

    Which is better?

    — Jill Twist
    (Location Unknown)

    You are absolutely right that the main thing to look for when purchasing breads is “whole wheat” (or a whole non-wheat flour) as the first ingredient.

    As you point out, though, other factors come into play that can confuse you and millions of other consumers.  Let’s run through some common wheat-based ingredients and what they mean from a nutrition standpoint.  Although your question specifically refers to whole wheat varieties, I am going to throw in a little bit of information about “healthy-sounding” non-whole wheat ingredients.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Bread Without Added Junk?

    I’ve been thinking about baking my own whole wheat bread instead of buying chemicals at the store.  I was so disappointed to see how much crap is in Sara Lee breads.

    Ideally, is homemade bread better than commercial ones?

    — Jason Kehl
    Via Twitter

    Is homemade bread a healthier or more nutritious option?  It depends on a variety of factors.

    Are you using organic or conventional flour to bake your bread?  Refined or whole grain?  How much salt are you adding?

    While it is true that a lot of commercial breads are the end result of ingredient lists littered with soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, and added coloring, that is not always the case.

    Here are bread companies I like because of their simple approach.  I have linked to their websites so you can see retail information or order their products online.  Please note that this is not a definitive list.  I am sure there are many small, local bakeries that provide breads with the same characteristics as the ones listed below.

    Also, this list is updated as I find new bread brands worthy of this post!

    • Dave’s Killer Bread (added August 21, 2010): Although the sugar content is a little high, it has many redeeming qualities that still make it a standout.  The spelt variety offers the least amount of sugar, by the way.
    • Food For Life: These breads are made from sprouted grains, which makes their minerals more bioavailable.  Bonus: 0 grams of sugar.
    • Manna Organics: “Manna bread” is a high-fiber, sprouted grain bread free of added sodium, added sugar, and yeast.  I often enjoy a thick slice topped with almond butter in the morning.
    • Silver Hills (added August 21, 2010): Sprouted-grain breads, minimal amounts of added sugar (a mere gram per slice), and wonderful texture.  Wonderful sandwich bread.
    • Vermont Bread Company: Their whole wheat bread has a lovely ingredient list
    • When Pigs Fly: Delicious and mega wholesome!

    If your local supermarkets and food stores do not carry any of these brands, look for breads with the following characteristics.  The more of these bullet points they offer, the better!

    • Whole grain flour to be the first ingredient
    • Whole grain flour to be the only flour throughout the entire ingredient list
    • Whole grain flours that are organic
    • No more than 2 grams of sugar per slice
    • At least 3 grams of fiber per slice
    • No more than 200 milligrams of sodium per slice
    • A simple ingredient list (ie: Whole wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, honey)
    • For maximum mineral absorption, look for sprouted grains

    If you choose to go ahead and make your own bread at home, keep these parameters in mind.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Enriched Whole Grain Bread?

    dsc00448I love this Costco whole grain loaf [I took a photo of the ingredient label for you to see] but have questions regarding some of the ingredients that go into it, namely the thiamine mononitrate, the riboflavin and the ferrous sulfate.

    I know that they can be described as dietary supplements but I am an avid whole grains baker myself and never add any of that to my breads.

    Two questions: Should I?   Do these nutrients double as dough conditioners and could it the reason Costco is using them?

    — “MC”
    Via e-mail

    Guess what?  Contrary to what Costco wants you to think, that loaf is not 100% whole grain.

    Notice the first ingredient?  Unbleached flour?  That’s refined white flour.

    Sure, whole wheat flour is the fourth ingredient, so this bread contains some whole grains, but it is not an entirely whole grain bread.  If you seek 100% whole grain products, look for whole grain flours as the first (and only) ingredient.

    In the United States, per the National Enrichment Act of 1942, all refined grain products MUST be enriched with niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and iron.

    Folate is a fortified nutrient and was not legally required to be added to refined grains until 1998.

    Remember, enrichment refers to putting nutrients lost during processing back into a food, while fortification entails tacking on nutrients not naturally found in a given food.

    When a bread is 100% whole grain (meaning ONLY whole grain flours are used), it is not enriched.

    These nutrients do not double as dough conditioners; they are there because it’s the law!

    By the way, this would only be considered false advertising if the loaf was sold under the guise of being “100% whole grain.”  It is TECHNICALLY a whole grain loaf since it DOES contain whole grains.

    Trust me, manufacturers know this.  They also know the words “whole grain” help boost sales.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    I eat fresh veggies and hardly any processed food, whole wheat bread, fruit, salad, etc.

    Since logging my food intake daily on the Daily Plate.com, I see I am significantly under my daily requirements for fiber.

    How can I increase fiber without adding a lot of extra calories? I already know about eating brown rice, whole grains, etc. I also eat steel cut oatmeal often as well too.

    — Laura Lafata
    Miami Beach, FL

    Since fiber is free of calories, replacing low-fiber carbohydrates with ones higher in fiber will not increase your caloric intake up.

    I am not sure what your totals are, but I will say that if your diet is low in calories, you will find it difficult to reach your fiber goals.

    However, here are some tips on increasing your daily fiber intake.

    If you are a cereal person, grab one that provides 4 or 5 grams of fiber per serving.

    When it comes to bread (whether it’s for toast or a sandwich), always go for whole grain varieties offering at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.

    For quick on-the-go snacks, try out Lara, Clif Nectar, Pure, or Gnu bars (Gnu bars offer 12 grams of fiber; this may be too much at once for some people, so you can try having half a bar with breakfast and the other half after lunch.)

    Beans and legumes are great sources of fiber. If you’re having soup, opt for black bean or lentil rather than minestrone, tomato, or chicken noodle.

    Similarly, add half a cup of chickpeas or kidney beans to salads and wraps.

    For an extra fiber boost throughout the day, sprinkle ground flaxseed on soups, salads, yogurt, smoothies, and cereal.

    Two tablespoons provide 4 grams of fiber and more than a day’s worth of Omega -3 Alpha Linolenic Fatty Acids in a 70-calorie package.

    Due to the presence of these polyunsaturated fats, be sure to keep ground flaxseed meal in the refrigerator to slow down rancidity.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    Forty percent of adults in the United States consume a grand total of ZERO whole grain servings every day.

    Not the most encouraging of statistics.

    Although whole grains are increasingly more available, I suspect this has to do with a lack of education and knowledge.

    Many people, for instance, think multigrain bread is a whole grain. It’s not.

    Additionally, the overwhelming majority of new whole grain products come in the shape of sugary cookies or cereals “made with whole grains,” which can mean that as little as 5% of the total wheat flour used is whole.

    Not the best approach.

    If your whole grain consumption isn’t up to par, here are some ideas.

    — Whether at home or at a restaurant, opt for brown rice. Kitchen-phobes have no excuse. Many companies now offer brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes in the microwave. Nutritionally, it is equal to regular, longer-cooking varieties.

    — Enjoy whole wheat pasta, like DeCecco whole wheat fusilli (pictured at right). If you are brand new to it, make your dishes with half regular pasta and half whole wheat.

    — Eat whole grain bread (at least 3 grams of fiber per slice and ‘whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient).

    — Experiment with alternative grains like quinoa and whole wheat couscous (they cook the exact same way as rice. All you need is a pot and water).

    — Add barley to your soups.

    — Start your morning with plain oatmeal (sweeten it up with fruits; add fiber and protein with walnuts or almonds)

    — Make sure your morning cereal is whole grain (again, look for whole wheat or oat flour as the main ingredient).

    — Snack on popcorn (air pop it or make it at home in a pot with a little bit of olive oil).

    — Make waffles and pancakes with whole grain mixes. If you buy frozen varieties, make sure they are whole grain.

    Remember, whole grains offer more health benefits than non-whole grains with extra added fiber.

    If you need more assistance, check out the Whole Grains Council’s amazing and extensive list of whole grain products. It’s the perfect supermarket assistant!

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    Perfect Pickings: Sliced Bread (Calling Them As I See Them!)

    Earlier today I received a comment from a reader named Mel, who shared how difficult it is to find a “truly whole-grain bread that does not have high fructose corn syrup.”

    I empathize.

    So, let’s cut down your time in the bread aisle and name names.

    The following “approved” breads have at least 3 grams of fiber, are 100% whole grain, and contain NO high fructose corn syrup.

    Please note this is by no means a definitive list, as it does not include lesser-known brands.

    A random sampling from a New York City supermarket led to these results.

    Small Bites Approved Breads:

    * All varieties of Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Flourless Sprouted Grain Breads
    * Arnold 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread
    * Arnold Natural Flax/Fiber Bread
    * Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread
    * Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural 9-Grain Bread
    * Pepperidge Farm Golden Harvest Grains
    * Sara Lee 100% Whole Wheat Bread
    * Vermont Bread Company Soft Whole Wheat Bread

    Names Can Be Deceiving…

    * Arnold 12-Grain Bread (contains High Fructose Corn syrup and white flour)
    * Arnold Double Fiber Whole Wheat Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup)
    * Arnold Healthy Multigrain Bread (contains white flour)
    * Arnold Hearty Whole Wheat Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup)
    * Arnold Whole Grain Health Nut (contains High Fructose corn syrup, only 2 grams of fiber per slice, and contain white flour)
    * Dutch Country Stroehmann 100% Whole Wheat Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup and only 2 grams of fiber per slice)
    * Healthy Life Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup)
    * Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup)
    * Wonder Bread 100% Stoneground Whole Wheat Bread (contains High Fructose Corn Syrup and only 2 grams of fiber per slice)

    When in doubt, always read the label!

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    Perfect Pickings: Sliced Bread

    You would think something as simple as nutritious bread would be easy to pick out.

    Guess again.

    The sliced bread market brings in approximately $18 billion a year, meaning consumers must sort through a maze of brands, health claims, and expensive marketing campaigns.

    Alas, Perfect Pickings is here to save the day!

    As far as calories are concerned, commercial sliced breads range anywhere from 60 to 120 calories per serving.

    These figures mainly depend on the thickness and weight of a particular brand’s slices.

    Some clock in at 1 ounce, while another weigh in at an ounce and a half. Some lower-calorie “light breads”, though, constitute a single serving as two slices.

    Most standard commercial breads, though, are very similar when compared ounce to ounce.

    Don’t focus too much on calories — the differences aren’t that significant, and there are more important values to consider.

    Sodium amounts are also fairly consistent across the board, ranging from 120 to 190 milligrams per slice (unless you specifically buy low-sodium varieties or sprouted grain breads, which contain no sodium).

    Fiber is the main figure to be on the lookout for. Aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

    Don’t be fooled by varieties consisting of 9, 12, or 15 grains. It is very possible all 15 grains are refined and stripped of their fiber.

    You must check the nutrition facts and ingredient list to ensure you are getting a whole grain product.

    If “whole wheat flour” is not the first ingredient and each slice provides less than 3 grams of fiber, you are eating white bread (you can thank the addition of molasses for that brown color) with seeds sprinkled on top.

    If you see “enriched wheat flour” as the first ingredient, you are not buying whole grain bread. “Enriched wheat flour” is a nice way of saying “white, fiberless flour.”

    Keep in mind that Although pure rye bread – popular in Scandinavia – is a whole grain food, the overwhelming majority of rye breads in the United States contain a significant amount of white flour.

    Another tricky tidbit – careful with low-calorie “light” breads.

    Many boast a fiber content of 5 or 6 grams per serving, but this is mainly due to the addition of cellulose or soy fiber.

    Although they operate like insoluble fiber (by helping everything move quickly and smoothly through the digestive system), they do not provide the same health benefits as fiber derived from whole grains.

    I recommend avoiding varieties containing high-fructose corn syrup (bread requires a pinch of sugar to soften texture, but HFCS skeeves me out).

    Mission: (Semi) Impossible!

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    More Numbers, More Problems

    Behold the latest curveball thrown at supermarket shoppers — “grams of whole grains”.

    When this trend first started in early 2007, I inwardly cringed and hoped for its quick disappearance.  Far from it — I keep seeing it on more and more products!

    It is my suspicion that with whole grains and fiber being the latest hot topics, food manufacturers hope to confuse shoppers looking to increase fiber intake by boasting about the grams of whole grains in their foods — two very different concepts.

    Consider this your “advertising-proof” tutorial on whole grains.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    According to MyPyramid (also known as 2005’s “food pyramid 2.0”), adults who ate 2,000 calories per day should consume 6 servings of grains.  The USDA defines a serving of grains as one ounce (28 grams). Remember that figure, it will come in handy very shortly.

    MyPyramid distinctly called for half of those 6 grain servings to be whole (i.e: oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, barley, etc.), rather than enriched (i.e.: white bread, white rice, etc.).  Strangely, the recommendation wasn’t “at least three whole grain servings,” but simply “three.”

    This is where it all starts to get confusing.

    If one ounce equals 28 grams, and we are asked to make three grain servings (AKA three ounces) whole, then the recommended daily intake of whole grains adds up to 84 grams (28 grams x 3 servings).

    Alas, if you look up whole grain serving recommendations, you’ll see a daily suggestion of 48 grams per day.  Some simple math (48 grams divided by 3 servings) tells us, then, that one serving of whole grains equals 16 grams.

    “But I thought one serving of grain equaled 28 grams.  Why isn’t a serving of whole grains also 28 grams?” you may wonder.

    Well, most whole grain products contain a variety of ingredients; not just flour.  It turns out, in fact, that a one-ounce serving of whole grains contains, on average, approximately 16 grams of flour (the other 12 grams are other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oils, etc).

    Although food labels do not list grams of whole grains, you have two ways of finding this information out.

    One is by claims on the packaging (such as the “Now with 5 grams of whole grains per serving!” stated on boxes of Teddy Grahams).

    Usually, though, these claims are made by products that sprinkle a little whole wheat flour on top of a product that is virtually refined grains.

    Considering that you need at least 48 grams a day, 5 grams is a pretty pathetic figure to bother writing about in such large font.

    The other is via the Whole Grains Council stamp (pictured at top left), which specifically lists the grams of whole grains per serving in a product.

    Some companies are still using old versions of the stamp, which classified foods as “good” (8 – 15 grams of whole grains per serving) or “excellent” (16 or more grams of whole grains per serving).

    What about fiber? How does it tie into all this?  An item high in whole grains is high in fiber, but products high in fiber are not necessarily high in whole grains.

    An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar, for instance, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.  Since this is a low-carb bar, you certainly won’t find whole grains flour anywhere on the ingredient list.

    So how is this value achieved? Thanks to a polysaccharide known as cellulose.  Keep in mind that while this kind of fiber helps keep things moving, there are specific substances in whole grains that have been targeted in nutrition research as helpful in reducing the risk of several diseases.

    So, how do you put all this together without going insane?  Simple. Try to consume 25 – 30 grams of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds every day.  Generally, the foods that boast “x grams of whole grains per serving!” claims are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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    You Ask, I Answer (On YouTube!): Healthy Eating Outside The Home

    How do I start onto the path of eating and living more heathfully? Hopefully, there are others who, like myself, know what they “should” be doing, but don’t know where to begin or what to pay attention to the “most.”

    For example (speaking only for myself here), here is a glimpse of all the food-related thoughts running through my mind daily:

    “Watch your calories, fat, salt, refined sugar, and flour intake…. no fast food/chips/soda/Starbucks mocha whip lattes (sob!)…. pay attention to the glycemic index/volumetrics/South Beach/Weight Watcher/Zone Plan… eat your largest meal early and your lightest meal later… get your daily serving of fruits and vegetables (ha!), fiber, and protein… don’t forget to take your vitamin/calcium suppleent… and put down that ice cream/cookies/cake!!”

    I currently work full-time and go to grad school part-time, so 3 days out of the week I leave my apartment at 8:30 am and don’t get home until after 11:00 pm.

    I work either Saturday or Sunday each week to make up my school hours.

    My eating schedule is seriously out of whack — many times I’ve eaten cold pizza at midnight.

    I struggle with the “healthful vs. convenienc” battle every day.

    And as for cooking? I use my oven as storage space for pots and pans that never get used — I just don’t have the time.

    Any advice?

    — Amie Lemire
    (Location Unknown)

    Great question, Amie.

    People tend to overcomplicate nutrition. If you focus on the basics, though, the rest of your concerns will fall into place.

    Rather than write out a lengthy response, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to debut Small Bites on YouTube!

    You can view my answer below. Be sure to bookmark the Small Bites channel on YouTube, too!

    Readers: I would like to post a YouTube clip every 7 to 10 days.

    Let me know what you would like to see on the channel. Product reviews? Questions and answers? Fad diet critiques? Let your voices be heard!


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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    I’ve recently been drinking Naked Juice because I love the taste of it.

    I know full well (from my last question) that it isn’t a replacement for healthy eating, so I still try to round out my diet.

    However, fiber seems like something I still probably am not getting enough of, and I would love to add, like, 10 grams a day mixed into my juice.

    Do you know if any of those pure “green” juices include fiber?

    If not, do you know of any powdered fiber supplement that isn’t marketed as a laxative?

    I know it shouldn’t stop me, but as a healthy 21 year-old, I can’t bring myself to go buy Metamucil.

    Until I can afford to drop $500 on a crazy blender that blends whole fruits, I’m hoping adding some powdered fiber to a juice will help.

    — Andrew Carney
    Richland, WA

    If your goal is to increase fiber consumption, skip the powders and liquids and go for a much tastier and plentiful source — food.

    I personally don’t understand the decision behind taking Metamucil as a fiber supplement.

    It has an unpleasant taste and texture, doesn’t offer more fiber than food (one serving offers 3 grams — as much as six Triscuit crackers,) and doesn’t provide the naturally-occurring nutrients and phytochemicals in fiber-rich foods.

    So, if 10 grams is what you seek, enjoy your juices as they are and consider the following instead:

    Snack on one Gnu Flavor & Fiber, Lara, Pure, or Clif Nectar bar every day.

    Add a half cup of legumes (chickepas, kidney beans, lentils) to a meal. Some easy options? Heat up some lentil soup or add legumes to a salad, wrap, or burrito.

    Complement your breakfast with a cup of whole grain cereal or two slices of whole (or sprouted) grain toast. For an extra fiber boost, start off your morning with fruit as well (a medium banana provides 3 grams of fiber).

    If you’re making smoothies at home, add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed. You’ll get Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and 4 grams of fiber in a 70 calorie package.  Another great option?  One tablespoon of psyllium husks is a wonderful way to add soluble fiber to your day.

    Like pasta? Next time you make some, mix a regular variety with a whole wheat one.
    A cup of cooked whole wheat pasta packs in 5 grams.

    By all means, try to get your fiber from food first.

    There’s no reason why anyone — young or old — should be spending money on fiber supplements.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    I just looked at the fiber I add to my meals and noticed it has calories. 2 tablespoons add up to 72 calories. Is that worth it?

    I take it because I was told that when you eat fat with fiber, you absorb less fat.

    In addition, I want additional fiber in my meals without additional calories or food. I need to reduce the size of my food intake.

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    It is indeed true that fiber can decrease the absorption of fat (to a certain degree) by forming viscous gels that trap fat particles in, preventing them from being stored in tissues.

    There are, however, other important reasons why fiber plays a huge role in weight management.

    Soluble fiber — the only component of oat bran, and partially found in fruits, vegetables, and some whole grains — helps slow down transit time of digested particles, thereby helping us feel satiated for long periods of time.

    This is why a cup of oatmeal in the morning sprinkled with a few fruits and nuts makes you feel hungry later in the day than if you were to eat two Pop-tarts (which, despite having more calories, are completely lacking fiber).

    Keep in mind that insoluble fiber — which wheat bran is entirely made of — has no calories.

    The fiber in whole wheat bread (and the skin of fruits and vegetables) does not add calories to your day.

    This is partially why I always recommend people get fiber from whole foods, as opposed to supplements (another reason being that when you eat a fruit or vegetable, you are also getting important vitamins and minerals not found in a fiber pill).

    Having fiber-rich meals will help you reduce your caloric intake. A 600 calorie meal providing 15 grams of fiber will keep you fuller longer than a 900 calorie one with 6 grams of fiber.

    A cup of lentil soup, for instance, provides 9 grams of fiber and 150 calories (along with 8 grams of protein, which also helps you feel full). This is a much better meal component than a 120 calorie cup of tomato bisque, which only provides 2 grams of fiber (and 2 grams of protein).

    The tomato soup will leave you feeling hungry a lot faster than the lentil soup, resulting in you taking in more calories soon after.

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    You Ask, I Answer: White Whole Wheat Breads

    I personally am kind of sketched out by [“white with the same goodness of whole wheat” products] because if they’re not actually whole wheat they’ve got to be missing something somewhere, right?

    — Vincci (via the blog)

    I assume you are referring to whole wheat breads that are white in color.

    If so, I’m happy to report that they are just as healthy and nutritious as regular whole wheat breads.

    The only difference between them is that while standard whole-wheat bread is composed of red wheat, white whole wheat breads are made using albino wheat.

    Remember — determining a bread’s whole grain content by its color is often inaccurate.

    Many brown breads are made of refined white flour and have molasses thrown in for color. And, in the case of white whole wheat products, their color does not represent a fiberless bread.

    You’ll always be sure of what you are getting by reading the label.

    If “whole wheat flour” is not the first ingredient, you are not getting a whole grain bread.

    In fact, if the second ingredient is “unbleached wheat flour,” you are not getting as many whole grains as you could. The ideal whole wheat bread should have one kind of flour — whole wheat.

    If your question is in reference to breads “made with whole grains” (or those labeled “multigrain”), then you have every reason to be suspicious, since they are not whole grain breads.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to figures by Consumer Insight, the average Thanksgiving dinner (three ounces of turkey with gravy + one serving of mashed potatoes + one serving of cranberry sauce + one serving of candied yams + one serving of green bean casserole + a slice of pumpkin pie + two bread rolls with butter) adds up to 2,777 calories and 90 grams of fat.

    Yes, just one meal provides approximately a day and a half’s worth of calories and fat for most people.

    It isn’t too far-fetched, then, to say that on Thanksgiving Day, many people can take in almost 4,000 calories.

    One huge mistake I see many people make on holidays like Thanksgiving is starving all day (or follow non-sensical rules like “I will eat nothing but celery sticks until dinner”) in anticipation of a huge meal where high-calorie foods are at their disposal.

    End result? Gorging and bingeing all through dinner (and taking in more calories in one sitting than they would have had they eaten sensibly throughout the day) followed by some unrealistic diet goal announcement like, “that’s it. Tomorrow it’s nothing but chicken broth and grapes.”

    The best thing you can do before sitting down to a meal where overindulgence seems imminent is to prepare yourself.

    Approximately forty five minutes to an hour before dinner, snack on foods containing fiber, healthy fats, and protein.

    Some good pre-Thanksgiving dinner snacks include a handful of nuts, a Lara/Clif Nectar/Pure bar, whole grain crackers with hummus, and a bowl of whole grain cereal with raisins or a banana.

    If you can make it to the dinner table without starving and wanting seconds of everything, you can enjoy your meal without overloading on calories.

    Besides, you know as well as I do that slices of those tempting pies — along with every other dish — will be in the fridge tomorrow (and the day after, and the week after that). There is no need to shove it down if, by the end of dinner, you already feel like a Macy’s parade balloon.

    Also, find ways to make classic dishes healthier.

    Serve whole wheat rolls with trans-fat-free margarine, opt for oven-roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with chopped rosemary in place of mashed potatoes, and check out this delicious low-fat pumpkin recipe made with a whole grain crust!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Spelt

    Are bread products made with spelt healthier than ones with whole wheat?

    — Patrick Wrengton
    Palo Alto, CA

    Spelt — part of the wheat family — is a whole grain.  While it is a healthy choice in terms of grain consumption, it doesn’t leave its counterparts in the dust.

    Spelt offers plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, thanks to a tough outer husk that does a good job of retaining nutrients.

    If the vast majority of your grains are 100 percent whole grain, you are doing just fine from a nutritional standpoint. Whether you choose whole wheat cous cous, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, or brown rice is entirely up to you.

    Personally, the bread products I have tried with spelt flour haven’t wowed me. I recently had frozen bagels made entirely of spelt flour and found them to be too dense.

    If the flavor and texture of spelt suit your palate, though, feel free to enjoy it.

    However, think of it as a healthier grain option, rather than the “superfood” some proclaim it is.

    It’s also wise to keep spelt — or any other whole grain — within an appropriate framework.

    I recently saw chocolate chip cookies made with spelt flour, marketed as if they were just as healthy as a cup of plain of oatmeal. Nice try, but not quite.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Multivitamins

    What is your response to Dr. Willett, who suggests a multi-vitamin as an inexpensive form of insurance in his book Eat Drink & Be Healthy? My understanding is that a multi-vitamin is a good idea regardless of diet since aside from providing the daily minimum amounts of vitamins it also provides certain things like minerals which even for a smart eater can sometimes be overlooked?

    — Guy Betterbid
    New York, NY

    For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Walter Willett is a professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health as well as Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

    A renowned medical researcher, Dr. Willett is perhaps most famous for his revised dietary pyramid, which places exercise and weight management at the base, plant oils and whole grains on the second level, and red meat, butter, and refined grains as neighbors at the tip.

    Along the side, Willett borrows from the Mediterranean food pyramid by including alcohol (in moderation) but then adds his own touch by including multi-vitamin supplements.

    I’m not quite as gung-ho as Dr. Willett on the thought of people popping a Centrum once a day.

    First off, there is so much fortification in today’s food that getting most vitamins and minerals is not too difficult. Even the sweetest and least nutritious of children’s cereals provides 100% of many of these nutrients.

    On top of that, we have beverages — such as Vitamin Water and even Diet Coke Plus — as well as “energy bars” that also throw in a day’s worth of vitamins and minerals.

    It’s crucial to realize that it does not take extreme amounts of food to get a daily supply of certain vitamins and minerals. As I recently posted, just half a cup of red peppers provides 100% of our vitamin C needs.

    Meanwhile, half a cup of baby carrots provides 300% of our vitamin A requirements, one cup of raw spinach packs in 181% of the Vitamin K we need each day, and a sandwich made with two slices of whole wheat bread contains 60% of our daily manganese needs.

    It is true that the recommended intakes for minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium are only achieved by having a combination of foods rich in them.

    That being said, I believe it is important to recommend people get as much of their vitamins and minerals from real food as possible.

    When you eat a carrot, you aren’t just getting Vitamin A. You are also getting fiber, phytonutrients, carotenoids, and antioxidants that are not available in pill form.

    Additionally, increasing dietary potassium often correlates with a reduction in sodium intake. That’s two birds killed with one stone if vitamin and mineral consumption is first tackled via diet.

    I also believe that relying on supplements tends to give people false security, thinking that popping a multi-vitamin in the morning is a free pass for going through the rest of the day without paying attention to the food they are eating.

    I think it is much wiser to take a look at what vitamins and minerals one tends to be deficient in and then tackle that problem specifically (ideally by altering one’s diet first).

    Vitamin D is not readily available in many foods (and most people in the world do not get enough from the sun during winter months), so I do not see anything wrong with supplementation. I also think calcium supplementation is important if the diet does not provide sufficient coverage.

    Additionally, people on restricted diets often need to supplement their diets appropriately (i.e.: vegans and vitamin B12).

    While we’re at it, I would like to clarify that vitamins do NOT provide energy. Calories provide energy. Vitamins do not contain calories.

    Yes, the B vitamins are necessary for energy pathways to work properly, but they do not give a boost of energy in and of themselves.

    Back to the original question: people eating balanced diets do not need to pop a multi-vitamin every day.

    They are better off seeing what nutrients they are actually deficient of, see if they can get them by altering their diet, and, if that’s not possible, look to supplement that specific vitamin or mineral by means of a pill.

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