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Archive for December, 2016

7 tips to keep your weight—and waist—in check this holiday season

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 tips to keep your weight–and waist–in check this holiday season”

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Suriya Kankliang at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suriya Kankliang at                    FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the festivities of the holiday season upon us, temptations are all around, and making healthy and smart food choices can be challenging. While people often think that they will gain several pounds during this season, truth be told, research shows that we only gain, on average, around a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The greater challenge, however, is losing any weight we may have put on, and keeping it off.

Cultivating healthy habits during the holiday season (with some cheat treats allowed!) which we can take with us into the New Year will help keep us trim well into 2017.

1. Follow the 80-20 rule.

Yes, it is ok to indulge. Just not all the time. When I work with clients looking to lose weight, I generally advise them to follow a healthy eating plan most of the time while allowing them to enjoy an occasional treat meal, drink, or snack. For example, if you are going to a holiday party, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch and allow yourself to indulge (sans guilt) in your favorite holiday treat.

2. Plan in advance (when you can.)

Whenever possible, planning in advance, is a great way to go. If you are going to a favorite restaurant, decide in advance what you are going to order and work your day around that. If you know you want a pasta meal, have a salad instead of a sandwich for lunch. If you have an idea what will be served at a holiday party, you can plan what you will eat. While we may not always know what will be on the menu, often times we have an inkling, and for those occasions, pre planning helps.

3. Be a social butterfly.

Remember why you went to a holiday party in the first place. It probably wasn’t for the food, but rather the good company. Enjoy friends and family, and engage with them. Don’t make food the most important part of the gathering. When you arrive at a party, instead of running toward the buffet table, look around at the company and say hi to those you know and even those you don’t yet know.

4. Eat before you eat.

Rather than save up all your calories for a holiday party, I suggest eating a healthy snack before you go. Filling up with some protein and fiber will help satiate you and keep your hunger pangs at bay. Some of my favorites include a Greek yogurt with berries, hummus and fresh veggies, a bowl of lentil soup, or almond butter with an apple and whole grain crackers.

5. Size does matter.

As I like to say, it is OK to enjoy your favorite foods (just not all at once) and the key to avoid gaining weight during the holiday season is to watch your portion sizes. For a main meal, I love using the visual method—fill half of your plate with veggies and roughly a quarter with protein (fish, chicken, beans, lean meat) and the remaining quarter with a starch (whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa, if possible.) No need to go low carb at your favorite gathering! If you are having an alcoholic beverage, have just one drink (in a normal size glass) and enjoy it with the meal. Want a dessert? Choose just one treat—either your favorite pie or one holiday cookie. And, if your “one” cookie looks oversized, share it with a friend. Get the idea?!

6 Don’t start a diet.

The holiday season is not a time to begin a diet. Rather, think maintenance at this time of year and try keeping your current weight steady. While I find it courageous when a new weight loss client comes to see me during the holiday season, I outline a healthy food plan while also building in some wiggle room for holiday festivities. It is important to set realistic goals during this time of year and not be too hard on yourself.

7. Keep moving.

A great way to keep your weight in check without dieting at this time of year is to stick to a regular exercise routine. Whether it be a morning swim or run, or a weekend yoga class, keep the exercise going. It will help de-stress you while giving you some wiggle room to eat a little more than you usually do.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season.

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FDA wants to know how much Nutella YOU eat.

Below is my blog post “FDA wants to know how much Nutella YOU eat.”

You can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

The maker of Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread loved by many Americans, wants a smaller serving size to be listed on its nutrition labels.

Ferrero, Nutella’s parent company, says that a smaller serving size will reflect how consumers currently use the product, and has been petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reclassify the spread.

Ferrero claims that nowadays Nutella is eaten in smaller amounts as a spread on toast instead of as a topping on ice cream or a filler in cupcakes.

According to CNN, the company surveyed over 700 mothers and claims that 60% of consumers now eat Nutella on bread, up from 8% back in 1991. And, only 2% of consumers today use Nutella on ice cream, down from 27% back in 1991.

Nutella is currently categorized as a dessert topping, with a serving size of two tablespoons. Instead, Ferrero wants the sweet spread to be classified in the jam and honey category.

Why this request? They can list a smaller serving size of one tablespoon—instead of two tablespoons—on its jars.

A smaller serving size on the food label means fewer calories and less sugar. This may give consumers the perception that Nutella is a healthier spread and may influence shopper’s decisions to buy more of it.

One tablespoon or two?

Now FDA may consider Nutella’s claims, but only if Americans agree. So the agency is now asking Nutella lovers how much they eat at a time.

Two tablespoons of Nutella contain 200 calories. The two tablespoon serving size originated in the 1990s, when the spread was used more as a dessert topping on ice cream.

As a nutritionist and portion size researcher, I’ve observed that most people rarely pay close attention to their portion and tend to underestimate how much they really eat. And they will probably spread a lot more than one tablespoon of Nutella on a slice of bread.

Secondly, even if people do spread Nutella on toast, many people use it more like a nut butter (which has a two tablespoon serving size) than as a honey or jam.

The FDA is now collecting comments about how much consumers are eating in a sitting.

Clearly, Ferrero is worried that the required two tablespoon serving size makes its product look unhealthy when compared to honey or jam.

I’ve written about food label serving sizes extensively, and have discussed how after 20 years, food labels are getting a makeover. Many standard serving sizes—known as reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs)—will be increasing to reflect how much Americans typically eat. (We eat lots more now than we used to eat.)

The serving size for ice cream, soda, and other favorites will soon be increasing to reflect our changing eating habits.

Interestingly, research on consumer perceptions of larger federal serving sizes is mixed. On the one hand, if consumers see a bigger serving size on a package label, they will be more mindful. Especially after seeing a larger calorie count. On the other hand, however, research found that after seeing a larger serving size on the food label, many consumers will view that larger serving size as a recommendation to eat more.

As I’ve written, FDA serving sizes are not meant to be recommendations for how much we should eat. Instead, they are meant to reflect how much we typically eat.

Nonetheless, serving sizes do influence consumers’ decisions and the burning question is: How will consumers view a smaller serving size on a food label of Nutella?

So FDA wants to know how you eat Nutella and how much do you typically eat?
You can weigh in here.

Measuring spoons anyone?!

My guess would be that if we pulled out our measuring spoons, most of us would find that we eat much more than one tablespoon.

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