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Archive for March, 2011

Rising food prices, smaller packages!

Yesterday’s New York Times had a front page article featuring the rising prices of food leading to smaller packages. As Stephanie Clifford and Catherine Rampell write, “chips are disappearing from bags, candy from boxes, and vegetables from cans.”

Here are several examples of shrinking portions:

Whole wheat pasta went from 16 oz to 13.25 oz.

Canned vegetables went from 6 oz to 13 oz.

Canned tuna went from 6 oz to 5 oz.

Orange juice went from a 64 oz to 59 oz carton.

Nabisco’s Fresh Stacks package of saltines, below, contains about 15 percent fewer crackers than the old package.

Clearly, instead of raising prices, manufacturers are shrinking its packages. Of course, hoping consumers won’t notice. Oops. This could be—and often is–considered a sneaky trick. But looking at it another way, perhaps it may lead us to eat less, which would be a good thing. Indeed research shows that we eat more, often lots more, if packages are bigger. So, perhaps there is an upside to rising food prices and we can use these shrinking food packages to our advantage: to help reduce calories and ultimately help in the fight to reduce obesity.  Only time will tell.

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Healthy vacation tips

Developing Healthy Habits on Vacation

Last week, I went away for spring break and was the resident nutritionist in a warm weather resort answering all sorts of nutrition and diet questions. Vacations often take on a life of their own when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. So often, people just “let themselves go” and justify that they are on vacation. And, they end up feeling worse when they return home.  However, it is really ok to indulge every now and then while away, while also maintaining healthy habits overall.

Here are some common vacation pitfalls and tips for how to conquer them:

All you can eat meals/buffets.

Have you ever felt that you paid for something so you want to “get your money’s worth?!” Well, you are not alone. This is very common and often leads people to overeat, and to rationalize about it as well. I deal with this issue so often when I counsel clients.  As I tell my clients, you will get your money’s worth if you eat healthfully and feel satisfied, not stuffed. Good health is your greatest wealth. The good news about buffets is that there will usually be some healthy choices. And, so often, there will be a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. My rule of thumb: do a lap around buffet and sample the choices BEFORE making your selection. Take one plate of food (not 5 mini plates) and make sure your plate is not piled so high that food is ready to fall off the plate. Eat till you are comfortably satisfied (and it’s ok to leave a little room for your favorite dessert) and enjoy the company.

Remember to:

Practice portion control

Fill up half your plate with fruits and veggies.

Take one portion and sit down. Do not pick or eat standing.


Lounging on the beach.

Going to a beach resort can be a great way hide away on a lounge chair and curl up with a good book or… it can a great way to get in some exercise too. Since I am a fan of varying your exercise routine, when you are away at a beach resort, use it as an opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking views and to exercise. Taking a long walk either with your travel partner or solo is a great way to get your heart rate moving. Your ipod will certainly come in handy here! If you are a runner, taking a jog on the beach is also a way to break from your usual routine. You are also more likely to take that walk or jog if you are already on the beach as opposed to going indoors to the gym.

Lack of structure. The lack of structure on vacation often throws people’s health routine off. But you can totally turn it around and use it to your advantage. Eat structured meals and eat mindfully. Set aside some time most days to get in exercise. And, since you are away from your usual obligations, you certainly have time. Just, be sure to structure it well.

Enjoy, and have a fun—and healthy–vacation!!

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What’s your portion IQ?

Test your portion IQ: Wheel of Portion quiz

With portion sizes so big these days, it is hard to get a handle on how much food constitutes a normal portion.

Question: How much soda comes in a small cup?

Answer: It depends on the year!

When Burger King first opened in the mid 1950s, a small soda was 12 oz and a large was 16 oz. Today the 12 oz is called kiddie and the 16 oz is called small. What was once labeled  large is now called small. Confused? No surprise. And you can even get a 42 oz size.

When I wrote my book The Portion Teller Plan, I created a lengthy quiz, Wheel of Portion, to test your knowledge of portion sizes.  It is a great way to get a handle on how big portions have become and can help you learn to scale back.

Here is a sampling of questions from the quiz. Enjoy!

A typical deli/bakery bagel is equal to approximately _____ slices of bread (and servings of grains.).

a.  2

b.  3

c.  5

d.  8

correct answer: c


A take-out order of your favorite Chinese food comes with a side of rice. How many cups does that portion of rice contain?

a.  ½ cup

b.  1 cup

c.  2 cups

d.  3 cups

correct answer: c


How many standard grain servings are in that side of rice?

a.  1

b.  2

c.  3

d.  4

e.  6

correct answer: d


All of the following are ways to cut down your intake of meat while dining in a restaurant except:

a.  sharing a meat entrée with a friend

b.  ordering an extra portion of “sides” such as vegetables and baked potato

c.  just ordering off the menu without making special requests

d.  ordering two entrees—one meat entrée and one vegetarian entrée—and a large salad and splitting them several ways

correct answer: c


1/2 cup serving of cooked rice or pasta looks like:

a.  a golf ball

b.  ½ baseball

c. a baseball

d.  a walnut

correct answer: b


For lunch, Jane ate a turkey sandwich (3 oz turkey on 2 slices rye bread), a cup of vegetable soup, and an apple. Her lunch included…

a. 1 serving from the grain group, 1 serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

b. 2 servings from the grain group, 1 serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

c. 3 servings from the grain group, two serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

correct answer: b


A 1 oz serving of ready-to-eat (cold) cereal translates into approximately:

a. 1 cup cheerios

b. 1/4 cup granola

c. 2 cups puffed rice

d. all of the above

e. a and c

correct answer: d


A pint of orange juice contains ___  oz?

a.       4

b.      8

c.       12

d.      16

e.       20

correct answer: d


Your friend drank a pint of orange juice for breakfast. This translates into how many fruit servings:

a.       1, after all, it is 1 pint

b.   2

c.   almost 3

d.   4

correct answer: c

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National nutrition month is here!

March is national nutrition month.

National nutrition month is a nutrition education campaign sponsored yearly by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). This year’s theme is “Eat Right with Color.”

Here are some tips to help you eat healthier:

  • Include fruits and vegetables at each meal. Sprinkle in berries to your yogurt, add a colorful green salad to your lunch, and include vegetables with your dinner.
  • Eat a variety of foods from each food group.
  • Aim for color!! Choosing a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene, for example. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene.
  • Include whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal instead of refined grains.
  • Choose locally grown produce that it is season.
  • Include plant based proteins such as beans, nuts, and legumes. They not only give you protein, but they have an added bonus as they are chock full of fiber.
  • Try new foods. A huge assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables are available to us. But we often get into a rut and stick with the usual fare. Give a new food a try. You may actually love it!
  • Spring is coming, so use this as an opportunity to get more active and take advantage of outdoor activities such as walking and bike riding.

UPDATE 2012: The ADA has been renamed to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

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Big breakfasts = more calories!

Big breakfasts = more calories!

We are often told to eat a big breakfast. The thinking goes that it will lead us to eat fewer calories later in the day. However, a new study from Germany says this is untrue. As  Nicholas Bakalar from the New York Times writes, this study, published in Nutrition Journal, found that subjects who bigger breakfasts simply ended up eating MORE calories over all. Regardless of whether the subjects, overweight or slim, ate a large breakfast, a small breakfast, or no breakfast at all, their non-breakfast calories remained the same.

So, here is the take home message. While you shouldn’t skip breakfast entirely, if you are trying to lose weight, keeping your breakfast calories low, is a good idea.

As I tell my clients, watch your portions AND stick to nutrient dense choices—foods that give you lots of nutrients for few calories. And try to include fiber and protein—both will aid in satiety so that you will not be hungry in an hour.

Here are some of my clients’ favorites:

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal mixed with 8 oz low-fat or fat-free milk. Top with berries and 2 tblpsn crushed walnuts.
  • Egg white omelet with spinach, tomato, and a slice part-skim cheese with a slice ofwhole grain toast and all fruit spread. Fruit salad on the side.
  • A cup of Greek nonfat yogurt topped with ½ cup high fiber cereal, and a cup of mixed berries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed.

And here are some breakfast fares to avoid, especially if you are trying to lose weight: oversized muffins, jumbo bagels, fat-laden danishes and donuts.

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