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Archive for September, 2011

Self-serve frozen yogurts

Buyer beware: Many customers will eat more calories from a self serve frozen yogurt store than from an ice cream shop.

I must admit that I like frozen yogurt. But as a snack, not as a meal.  Self-serve frozen yogurt chains have been popping up all over New York and elsewhere. While my first thought was, great—you get to control your portion, it turns out, we end up buying MORE when we serve ourselves. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average size check is higher from a self-serve chain than from a more traditional store.  Believe me, I know. The first time I visited one of these chains, my bill was more than $8!!

The reason we buy more is no surprise. These chains are in business to make money and, they must be aware that the bigger the cup the more we will buy.  Therefore, the only size cups that are available are “big” or “tremendous.” A small size, or even a regular size cup, is not available even on request. I’ve tried getting a small size cup at various chains with little success. The other reason we buy more is the extensive choices we have. As I told Smart Money, the more choices we have, the more we will buy and ultimately eat. At these chains, we often have 10 flavors and more than a dozen toppings to choose from. And, of course, many of us, want a little of each.

So here are some tips: If you are a frozen yogurt lover, you can still indulge on occasion, but be very mindful when making your purchase. Pick the smallest size cup available, but understand that even the smallest size is BIG. Take a lap around and preview all of the flavors that are available before making your selection. Take no more than 2 or 3 flavors, and fill the cup no more than half way. I give my aunt a lot of credit as she only fills up the cup a quarter of the way. Saving for later does not work, especially for frozen yogurt which will melt after you do your first errand on your way home, so don’t even go there—only buy what you will eat NOW. As for topping, it is ok to take a generous portion of fruit (Just remember that it will cost you—as fruit contains a lot of water and will weigh more than candy.) And, one fun topping is OK, but I prefer you stick with a small helping of nuts, which is far healthier than cookie crunch or candy. ENJOY!!

And one final thought. Just because your frozen yogurt probably has fewer calories than ice cream, ounce for ounce, if you take a big portion of the lower calorie yogurt, you may end up eating MORE calories than if you went for the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

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McDonald’s: U.S. versus Argentina

I recently returned from lecturing in Buenos Aires on portion sizes and, of course, I could not resist visiting a local McDonald’s. While Argentina does not require calorie posting, after asking several employees, I was able to get the nutrition information. Overall, their portions are large like ours, but there are some differences. To summarize: the burgers are pretty close, but Argentina’s Angus burger is larger and contains more calories. U.S. portions of French fries are bigger and contain more calories than those in Argentina, and the sodas are pretty comparable, except that Argentina doesn’t offer the kiddie size.

For kicks, below is a comparison.

FOOD                                                U.S.                                         ARGENTINA


Hamburger                                 3.5 oz, 250 calories                  3.3 oz, 244 calories

Big Mac                                       7.5 oz, 540 calories                   7.1 oz, 495 calories

Double Quarter pounder

with cheese                                 9.8 oz, 740 calories                 9.3 oz, 764 calories

Angus burger

with bacon and cheese           10.2 oz, 790 calories                12.7 oz, 951 calories


Small                                           2.5 oz, 230 calories                   2.5 oz, 211 calories

Medium                                      4.1 oz 380 calories                     3.6 oz, 299 calories

Large                                          5.4 oz, 500 calories                     5.1 oz, 422 calories


Kiddie                                               110 calories                                         —-

Small                                                150 calories                                    156 calories

Medium                                           210 calories                                    209 calories

Large                                               310 calories                                     312 calories

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A low-calorie meal for weight loss?!

Are you trying to lose weight? Perhaps try eating one smaller meal per day.  Cornell University researcher David Levitsky conducted a small study published in the October issue of Appetite reporting that eating just one reduced calorie meal per day, while eating what you want the rest of the day, can be and effective weight loss strategy.

Study subjects ate nearly 250 fewer calories on the day they ate a reduced calorie lunch. And guess what—on average, participants lost an average of a pound a week for the two week period.   This study found that if you eat one low calorie meal, it doesn’t mean that you will compensate and eat more the rest of the day.

We would need more time and more subjects to see how these findings would pan out for the long haul. But it is still good news for dieters.

My advice: Start by watching what you eat for just one meal per day. But take note: you can’t eat “whatever you want” for the rest of the day and expect to lose weight. That would be wishful thinking. So be sure that the rest of your meals and snacks are still within a reasonable calorie range. And, aim for healthy choices such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, and small amounts of healthy fats.

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