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Archive for March, 2012

Why Calories Count

Want to know more about calories? Most dieters are obsessed with calories, often counting them meticulously and incorrectly. They have no idea what a calorie actually is or how many calories they require.  My NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle and Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Malden Nesheim have just written a terrific new book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.

While the book isn’t officially out until April, it has already received wonderful write ups. Last week, two articles on the book were written for the New York Times, one by Jane Brody and the other by Mark Bittman. I’ve had a chance to read my copy and here are some excellent points worth sharing.

This is not another fad diet book telling you exactly what to eat or not eat. It also does not advise you to count calories. On the contrary, Marion and Mal dissuade readers from counting calories. It is a well-researched guide (with over 30 pages of references) on what you need to know about the “mysterious” calorie, the science behind the calorie, and the social implications of living in a society surrounded by too much food.

Marion and Mal begin by defining a calorie, reviewing its history, and discussing how scientists count and measure calories. They review some of the confusion surrounding the calorie and the struggle we have to estimate our intake. As a nutritionist researching portion sizes and counseling overweight individuals, what I found particularly important in the book is the discussions on obesity (two thirds of us are overweight or obese), weight gain, diets, and an in-depth look at the politics of calories, Marion and Mal tackle our “eat more” society, the role of the food industry, and the issues surrounding calorie labeling. They help readers understand the calorie in terms of food labeling, fad diets, and calorie myths. One such example is the concept of negative calories– which is wishful thinking, they write, unless of course you are drinking ice cold water!

Finally, the book concludes with a section on how to cope with our current calorie environment. Some simple and practical take away messages from the book: “Get organized. Eat less. Eat better. Move more. And, get political.”

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Eat Out Healthy

Dr. Joanne Lichten, known as Dr Jo, recently released a new book Eat Out Healthy. In this terrific book, Dr. Jo guides the reader through  guilt free dining. She  discusses “meal specifics”–including pizza ,subs, entrees, and ethnic cuisine. She then visits your favorite restaurant (and the list is extensive) and guides you about how you can order without breaking your calorie bank.

Dr Jo has also created a series of Eat  Out Healthy videos.

—Check out Eating Out Healthy at Starbucks:

—And, check out Eating Out Healthy at Outback Steakhouse:

Enjoy and hearty appetite!! Dining out has never been easier, thanks to Dr. Jo.

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“Get Your Plate in Shape” for National Nutrition Month.

March is National Nutrition Month©, an annual nutrition education

campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  (formerly

the American Dietetic Association) to focus attention on the importance

of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating habits.

This year’s theme, “Get Your Plate in Shape,” encourage consumers to

ensure they are eating the recommended amounts of foods from each food

group: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Here are some practical tips to get YOUR plate in shape:

Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Choose a colorful

variety of fruits and veggies; the different colors impart different

nutrients and health benefits. Be sure to include dark leafy greens

such as spinach and romaine lettuce as well as and some orange choices

such as carrots, cantaloupe, and butternut squash. Fresh fruit and

veggies are great but so are frozen varieties. Choose fresh fruit

instead of juice.

Practice portion control. Eat realistic portion sizes by using smaller

plates and bowls. Get into the habit of dining at home, where you can

control the ingredients of the foods you eat.

Snack wisely. Add fruit and veggies to snacks too. Enjoy baby carrots

and hummus, celery and peanut butter, fresh fruits such as apples,

pears, and berries

Choose whole grains. At least  half of your grains should  be whole

grains. This includes oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole

wheat pasta, and other grains such as soba noodles, millet, and


Drink low-fat or fat-free milk. These have the same valuable nutrients

without the calories calories from fat, which is mostly in the form of

saturated fat.

Choose healthy proteins. Eat fish at least twice a week. Good choices

include salmon, sardines rich in omega 3 fatty acids. When you eat

meat, choose lean cuts, and when selecting poultry be sure to remove

the skin.   Include plant based proteins such as beans and legumes.

Slash salt and empty calories. Check out labels when you go food shopping.

Get rid of sugary drinks and opt for water instead. Watch out for

added sugars and foods high in sodium.

Eat WHOLE foods and limit processed foods. Choose more fresh fruit and

veggies, and less refined junk food.

Include alcohol in moderation. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and two for men.

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