Linkedin Twitter Facebook Email Our Blog
Join our mailing list
Oct. 8

FDA wants to know what you consider a “healthy” food product.

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post: FDA wants to know what you consider a ‘healthy” food product.

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Image courtesy of Ambro at


What do you consider a healthy food product?

As a nutritionist, what comes to my mind are whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and fish. Few people would debate such foods as being healthy and nutritious.

What gets tricky is how the definition pertains to many foods with package labels that are allowed to make claims such as “healthy,” “low in fat” or “good source of.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it plans to redefine what “healthy” means on packaged food labels.

For decades, FDA had defined a product as “healthy” if it met certain criteria such as low-fat, low saturated fat and cholesterol, relatively low in sodium, and contained at least 10% of the daily value (DV) for vitamins A or C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber.

Certain packaged food products clearly would not qualify as “healthy.” Several years ago, for example, I served as the nutrition expert for a legal case against the manufacturer of an unhealthy food product which used the “healthy” claim on its package label but its product clearly was not healthy.

Dietary advice has evolved over the years and the definition of “healthy” on a package label has gotten tricky. If a food product contains mostly nuts or avocados, for example, it will not qualify as “healthy” because it will not be low in fat (even though the type of fat is healthy). Yet a fat-free chocolate pudding or a sugary cereal such as Frosted Flakes may, indeed, meet the “healthy” definition.

This issue has played out recently.

Back in 2015, the manufacturer of a fruit and nut bar received a warning letter from FDA that they were not allowed to label their product as “healthy.” After petitioning the FDA, stating that their product contained fats, the FDA reversed its course allowing the company to continue to use the “healthy” claim on its label.

Now, FDA will be working to redefine what the “healthy” claim on a package label should mean.

FDA states:

Redefining “healthy” is part of an overall plan to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations and to encourage the development of healthier foods by the industry….

…Public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved, as reflected by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the updated Nutrition Facts label. For example, healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet. Also, the nutrients of public health concern that consumers aren’t getting enough of have changed.

Effective immediately, FDA will allow manufacturers to use the “healthy” claim for the following products that: 1) are not low in total fat, but have a fat profile makeup of predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats; or
(2) contain at least ten percent of the Daily Value (DV) per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) of potassium or vitamin D.

As a nutritionist advising clients and specializing in portion control, claims on food labels can often be misinterpreted. For example, just because a food product is labeled healthy or low in fat, for example, does not mean that you can eat as much as you want. And more is not usually better—it simply means you will be taking in more calories.

And, healthy foods such as whole fruits and vegetables which do not bear package labels are among the “healthiest” foods you can buy.

Nonetheless, I do feel that the “healthy” definition is outdated and does need to be revised in light of current nutrition advice.

FDA now wants to know what you think. Some points FDA wants stakeholders to consider:

    • What types of food should be allowed to bear the term ‘’healthy?”
  • What are the public health benefits of defining the term “healthy”?
  • Is “healthy” the best term to characterize foods that should be encouraged to build healthy dietary practices or patterns?
  • What other words or terms might be more appropriate (e.g., “nutritious”)?
  • What nutrient criteria should be considered for the definition of the term “healthy?”

You can weigh in here.

Share |
Sep. 19

Add these 6 superfoods to your diet this fall

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Add these 6 superfoods to your diet this fall.” 

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Fall is right around the corner and many superfoods will hit their peak season. The autumn harvest brings a wide variety of healthy and delicious produce, from winter squash and sweet potatoes to pears and apples. We also often tend to crave different foods as the seasons turn.

Here are some fall favorites to boost your health and your taste buds.


Apples are high in fiber and antioxidants while being low in calories. We have lots of varieties to choose from, from sweet to tart. Be sure to eat the skin which contains hearty-healthy flavonoids. As the weather cools off, I recommend a baked apple for dessert. Add spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, for an added boost of flavor and health. As an added bonus, an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away.

Winter squash

Despite its name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. I am a huge fan of butternut and acorn squash. Not only are these winter squashes nutritious, they are also versatile and, best of all, filling. One cup cooked butternut squash contains only 80 calories, over 6 grams of fiber, and is also rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. It tastes great roasted, lightly sauteed in olive oil, or pureed into a soup. I enjoy it as a filling side dish and left overs make for a yummy late afternoon snack.


Beets are a nutrition powerhouse rich in folate, iron, and fiber. Red beets contain betalains, a powerful antioxidant which gives this veggie its deep red color. Beets offer up health benefits—helping to fight cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Roasted beets make a great addition to a salad and can also be thrown into your favorite green smoothie for an added zest of nutrients and color.

Turnip greens

Greens such as turnip greens, bok choy, and kale are super nutritious and delicious. Turnip greens are one of my favorites: These greens are chock full of nutrients including vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fiber. They are also high in calcium and contribute to bone health; one cup cooked contains nearly 200 mg calcium. Saute them with a little olive oil, add them to a salad or smoothie, or add chopped turnip greens to veggie casseroles.


Pears contain a juicy and sweet flavor and are a good source of vitamin C, copper, and fiber. Pears are high in soluble fiber which helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Pears are portable and make for an easy snack. Cooking this fruit brings out its flavor, and a poached pear is a great addition to a salad.

Sweet potatoes

A nutrition powerhouse, sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. I recommend roasted sweet potato wedges tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Other super healthy foods to include this fall are cauliflower, figs, pomegranates, and pumpkin.

Share |
Aug. 29

7 healthy back-to-school tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 healthy back-to-school tips.”

You can also read it HERE.


As we approach the end of August, many of us are preparing for another school year for our kids. As a nutritionist, I regularly counsel parents and their children on healthy eating. The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to set the stage for the upcoming year and to create new healthy habits for the entire family.

Below are simple tips to get you going on the right foot.

1. Start the day off right.

Eating breakfast as a family is a perfect time to bond and spend quality time together while also preparing a healthy breakfast for the kids. Eggs with whole grain toast, fruit and yogurt, or whole grain unsweetened cereal with milk and berries are several great choices. I suggest that kids begin their day with a meal consisting of protein and fiber, a winning combination of nutrients that will help them feel satisfied until lunch.

2. Nix the added sugar.

I was pleased to see the American Heart Association’s announcement this week suggesting that children and teens ages 2-18 limit added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day. These new guidelines aim to help improve children’s overall diet. Kids who eat foods high in added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods that are good for their heart. Added sugar provides no nutritional benefits and is found in a wide range of food from cookies, ketchup, salad dressings, sugar sweetened cereals (even some whole grain ones!), smoothies, to sweetened yogurts. The major culprit of added sugar, however, is soda and sugary drinks including iced tea and fruit punch so I suggest limiting them from your kids’ diets. The guidelines also suggest that children and teens consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks a week. Sugary drinks, often called “liquid calories,” provide no health benefits.

3. Swap juice for whole fruit.

I am an advocate for feeding your kids whole fruit instead of juice. The fruit is rich in fiber and its high water content helps to keep the calories low. On the other hand, it is so easy to guzzle down too many calories from juice without even realizing it. A pint of orange juice, for example, contains around 225 calories. This is the equivalent to 2-3 cups of mixed berries, which would certainly make you feel much more satisfied. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about drinking the pint of juice but few of us would eat 3 cups of berries in one sitting.

4. Pack a healthy snack.

If you are packing snacks for your kids, here is a perfect opportunity to include at least one fruit and veggie. Smart snacks include fresh fruit (apple, pear, and bananas), Greek yogurt, baby carrots with hummus, roasted edamame, and of course a bottle of water. Nuts or nut butter squeeze packs are also great choices if a school allows nuts; if not, they are a great go-to snack when kids get home.

5. Keep portions healthy (no measuring cup required!)

Regardless of what you feed your kids, I am advocate for serving healthy portion sizes. I love using the plate method with kids (as long as the plate isn’t oversized!): at dinner, for example, fill half the plate with veggies and a quarter with protein (think fish, chicken) and the other quarter with a healthy starch (brown rice, sweet potato). To avoid overeating, limit eating in front of the TV and pre-portion snacks into 100 calorie portions. I offer more portion control tricks and tips here.

6. Skip the white food (unless it’s cauliflower or white beans).

White bread including bagels, white rice, and white pasta are refined grains and are easy to overeat. Because they contain virtually no fiber, we don’t feel satisfied after eating them. While many kids choose them by default, I’ve learned from my counseling practice that introducing kids to healthier alternatives including quinoa, whole grain pasta, and brown rice helps them get into the habit of enjoying these grains. No need for kids to cut out starch entirely. Choosing the healthier ones is a far better alternative.

7. Get moving!

Incorporating sports and exercise into your children’s daily routine is a great way to keep them healthy while also keeping their weight in check. If possible, enroll kids in after school activities where possible, enjoy a walk or bike ride with your kids whenever possible, and encourage them to move. I’ve noticed that if parents engage in physical activity, their kids will follow along.
Hope your school year gets off to a great start!

Share |
Aug. 3

5 ways to build a healthy sandwich

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 ways to build a healthy sandwich.”

You can also read it HERE.

sandwich veggie

Americans love sandwiches. On a given day, more than of half of us eat a sandwich for lunch. According to a new study, however, this meal may be hurting our diet.

A new study published in the journal Public Health found that on the days that people ate a sandwich, they consumed more calories, fat, salt, and sugar.

Researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzed dietary intake data from a large federal national survey of over 27,000 U.S. adults. They found that sandwiches contributed “nearly a quarter of daily total calorie intake and about a third of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium intake.”

And on days people ate sandwiches, they ate an extra 100 calories than on days they skipped the sandwich. They also ate an extra 7 grams of fat, 268 grams of sodium, and 3 grams of sugar compared to the days when they didn’t eat a sandwich.

This was because the sandwiches weren’t too healthy. The researchers reported that the most popular sandwiches were made with cold cut, burgers, and chicken.

The researchers also found that people ate slightly less fruit and vegetables on days when they ate sandwiches as compared to the days when they skipped a sandwich.

As a nutritionist, I know first hand that people love sandwiches! They are an easy go to meal, especially for lunch. If you pay attention to what goes into your sandwich, however, it can be a very healthy lunch.

Here are my easy tips to build a better sandwich.

1. Drop the bun.

You can still eat bread, but skip the white bun, roll, and all refined white bread products. My top picks are to choose a whole grain bread—whole wheat, oat, or rye bread. A whole grain pita or wrap is also a great choice. Gluten free whole grain breads, made with buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, or whole grain amaranth are also great bets.

2. Choose a healthy filler.

Choose a lean protein such as grilled fish, chicken, or turkey breast as a protein choice. If you want a burger, swap the hamburger for a veggie burger. A vegetarian sandwich made with tofu, tempeh, hummus or white beans is also a great choice. To avoid the extra sodium and fat, I suggest going easy on cold cuts and skip the cheese atop your turkey breast.

3. Size matters.

When asked “what kind of sandwich isn’t fattening,” my response is “half a sandwich,” Portion size does matter. Aim for around 3-4 ounces of protein—the size of your palm or a deck of cards. It’s ok to go a little over that, but many deli sandwiches often contain a pound of meat, enough protein for 4 people!

If properly portioned, a mid-day sandwich can, indeed, make for a good weight loss option too.

4. Pile on the veggies.

When you add on veggies—lettuce (the darker the better!), tomato, shredded carrot, peppers, and more, you add flavor, color, nutrients, crunch, and volume to your sandwich without too many calories.

5. Order the topping on the side.

When it comes to toppings, a little goes a long way. Condiments such as mustard and ketchup are high in sodium and a small amount does go a long way. Mayonnaise, cheese sauces, and creamy salad dressings are also high in fat and should be ordered on the side. One of my favorite toppings is thinly sliced avocado which adds healthy fat, flavor and moisture to your favorite sandwich.

One of my favorite sandwiches is a hummus avocado wrap filled with lots of fresh colorful veggies.

Experiment and enjoy!

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

Share |
Jul. 12

Portion control made easy for summer

Below is my blog for Huffington Post “Portion control made easy for summer.”

You can also read it here.

wine glasses

Summer is here and it’s a perfect time to manage our food portions to help keep our calories under control and our weight in check. As a nutritionist, I am huge fan of portion control and believe that how much we eat is more important than what we eat when it comes to managing our weight.

Below I highlight some of the most recent research findings on portion control to keep you from eating too much this summer.

1. Try a reduced-portion entrée next time you eat out.

Large portion sizes especially in restaurants and take-out eating establishment have helped fuel the obesity epidemic. Large portions contain more calories than smaller ones and may encourage people to eat more calories than they need.

The high calorie content of restaurant meals can also be attributed to the oversize portions we are served. In fact, it is not uncommon for a restaurant portion to often contain over 1000 calories, more than half of the calories many of us should eat for an entire day.

Because we eat more food when we are served more, strategies to help us reduce our portion may help us consume fewer calories and lose weight. A recent study published by University of Minnesota researchers in Public Health Nutrition found that when people selected a reduced-size entrée in a restaurant or work site setting, they consumed fewer calories and also wasted less food. This is certainly a winning combination!

Take home message: Whenever possible, order a reduced-portion entrée or make a meal out of an appetizer portion which is probably more than enough food.

2. Make a fist and use your hand as a portion guide.

For years, I’ve used the “handy method” to help clients assess their portion sizes. As I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan, using your hand is a great way to guesstimate how big your portion should be.

After all, when you go out to a restaurant you always have your hand. And, no one wants to go out to dinner and bring along measuring cups and a food scale.

Since so many of us overdo our starch portion (think rice, pasta, and potato), I advise clients and readers to make a fist to enjoy a healthy 1-cup portion instead of banning starch altogether. Want to include meat in your diet, without overdoing it? Think a palm’s worth. And, add lots of colorful veggies to your plate.

Now new research from University of Sydney found that using your hand to estimate your food portion is indeed, a good way to assess how much food is on your plate. The researchers found that finger width used as a ruler to help gauge the food dimensions combined with various geometric formulas of volume and food density factors resulted in an “acceptable accurate” estimate of food weight.

Take home message: While not an exact science and we all have different size hands, taking a look at your hand while you eat, may indeed help you gauge jut how big the portion on your plate should be.

3. Make a nice size smoothie, but keep it thick.

Summer is a time for milkshakes and smoothies. It is important, however, to watch the calories which tend to add up very quickly when you make it with ice cream and syrup. Now, a small yet interesting study conducted by Dutch researchers from Wageningen University found that to feel full, you don’t need a smoothie loaded with lots of calories. The solution, it seems, lies in the consistency of the shake.

Subjects given a frothy low-calorie (and just 100 calories!) milk shake that was thick felt more full than those given a thinner shake containing 500 hundred calories.

Take home message: The thicker and frothier the smoothie, the fuller you will feel. So next time you want a shake, make it with low fat Greek yogurt, lots of fresh fruit (including banana), and add plenty of ice. Not only will you get protein and fiber, but the thickness of this smoothie will keep you feeling full. A yummy summer treat! And, you don’t have to eat a tiny portion.

4. Pour your glass of wine into a smaller goblet.

Who doesn’t love an occasional glass of wine with dinner? The problem of course, is that the calories add up quickly when we use oversize goblets, which is the norm these days.

Researchers from University of Cambridge found that people drank more wine overall when the glass was bigger, even when the same amount was served per glass. A larger wine glass may change our perception of how much wine constitutes a portion, perhaps leading us to drink faster and to order more.

The researchers tracked consumers’ wine purchases from a restaurant over several months. The restaurant alternated between 8-ounce, 10-ounce and 12-ounce wine goblets. The researchers found that when the restaurant used the larger wine glass, they served approximately 10% more wine.

Take home message: Want a glass of wine without excessive calories? Pour it into a smaller goblet and you may end up drinking less.

Have a healthy summer and enjoy a perfect portion of your favorite food and drink.

Share |
Jun. 27

18 tips for a healthier summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “18 tips for a healthier summer.”

You can also read it HERE.


Summer is here, marking a time for travel, barbecues, and lots of socializing with family and friends. For many of us, summer is also a time to go to the beach and feel comfortable in a bathing suit. It is also a time to take off our sweaters and show off our figures.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time this season teaching clients how to stay healthy, lose weight, and keep it off while enjoying all the fun summer has to offer. I enjoy traveling both for pleasure and for work, so I am always fine tuning simple strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road.

Here are several smart and simple strategies to start off your summer on a healthy track.

1. Grab a fruit.

Whether or not you are a big breakfast eater, I recommend keeping your home filled with lots of fruit which you can enjoy in the morning with a healthy protein choice such as yogurt, eggs, or nut butters. Enjoy colorful summer fruit like watermelon and also try to keep fruit on hand that you can toss in your bag and take along to avoid temptations.

2. Bring along a water bottle.

Staying hydrated is very important especially in the summer heat. People often mistake feeling hungry when they are really just dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy while traveling. And need a fizzy drink? Opt for sparkling water instead of soda and other sugary drinks. You’ll save on calories and sugar.

3. Fiber up!

Foods high in fiber keep you feeling full and also help fight disease. Skip the white bread and opt for whole grains instead. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa are some great choices. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables also ensures that you get ample fiber.

4. Get moving.

This is a great time of year to stay active. The days are longer making it a good time for an after work bike ride. Heading to the beach? Take a brisk walk. And take advantage of an outdoor swim. Personally, I prefer exercising outdoors whenever possible and as long as it’s not to hot I try to take advantage of every opportunity.

5. Be social.

When going to a social gathering, instead of focusing on the food, enjoy the company. When you talk to others, you often end up eating more slowly and you eat less. After all, as it’s hard to chew and talk.

6. Eat sitting down.

A great way to avoid nibbling is to follow this rule. Somehow, when we eat standing, we do not pay attention to what and how much we are eating. At a barbecue? Grab your plate, fill it up, and find a seat.

7. Keep a veggie platter handy.

Got the munchies? Keep veggies at arms reach — carrots, celery, red peppers — and you’ll have something nutritious to nibble on.

8. Eat before you eat.

Going to a party and not sure what your host will serve? Eat something before you go. Grab a yogurt, snack on melon, or enjoy a turkey roll-up (turkey wrapped in lettuce.) These foods will cut the edge so you don’t grab the first food you see when you arrive at your party. Avoid “saving up” and overdoing it.

9. Snack smart.

Hungry for a snack? Skip the chips and choose nuts instead. Adding a handful of nuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of healthy unsaturated fats which may benefit the brain as well as the skin. Nuts also help keep you feeling full so you end up eating less junk later.

10. Have an attitude of gratitude.

Be grateful for the good things in your life. While we can all finds things that could be better, things could also be a lot worse. Starting your day with a grateful heart opens us up to receive all the many miracles life has to offer.

11. Eat a colorful salad.

I suggest eating at least one salad per day. Fill up on an assortment of colorful veggies and you’ll get a dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and fiber without too many calories.

12. Hold the dressing.

The best way to be sure that your salad or meal is not too caloric is to ask for dressing and sauces “on the side.” Typical store-bought salads often contain 4 tablespoons of dressing, adding several hundred calories, to your meal.

13. Share, share, and share!

Eating out? Chances are the portion you are served is too big? Share your meal with you partner and you’ll be satisfied without overdoing the calories. Share an entree along with a salad. Still hungry? Opt for an extra side of mixed vegetables.

14. Write it down.

Keep a food journal from time to time and to see just how much you are eating. When my clients do this, they are often shocked at how many extra nibbles they are eating. A taste here, a bite there — calories add up quickly. And, very often, if you have to write it down, you don’t bother eating it. A great way to save calories!

15. Relax and don’t stress.

Eating should be pleasurable and should not stress you out. When you travel or go to a party, do the best you can. If you overate, don’t fret, and get back on track. One meal will not blow your entire diet.

16. Buy single-servings.

As a portion-control advocate, one of the easiest ways to eat less is to buy single servings of your favorite foods and snacks. A small bag of nuts or pretzels makes it easy to keep our calorie counts down. If you nibble right out of a big bag, you are leaving it up to willpower, and if you are like most of us, you will probably end up eating too much.

17. Keep small baggies handy.

While you may not always be able to buy single-servings, portioning out a snack into a small baggie is the next best thing. Just be sure not to nibble while you are doing this.

18. Get a good night sleep.

When traveling, you are often busy socializing which is a good thing. But be sure to get enough sleep. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep. Put your cell phone away, and relax, as tomorrow is another day.

Happy summer!

We’d love to hear your healthy summer tips.

Share |
May. 26

New food labels reflect how much we really eat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “New food labels reflect how much we really eat.”

You can also read it HERE.

Food label servingsMay16

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced sweeping changes to the Nutrition Facts labels. According to the FDA, the new food label required on packaged foods will reflect the newest scientific information including the relationship between diet and obesity.

This is the first overhaul in over 20 years and most companies will have until July 2018 to revise their food labels. Some of the changes will help consumers become more aware of how much they are eating along with how many calories and added sugar are in their favorite foods. The hope to help us make healthier—and more informed—food choices.

As a nutritionist and portion size researcher, I applaud the changes.

Here are some of the changes you can expect to see.

1. Serving sizes will reflect how much we really eat.

As I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan and research articles, we are eating more—often lots more—than we were 20 years ago. Many of our portion sizes are two to five times larger than they were in the past. The serving sizes on the food label will now be reflecting the increase.

So you will see that the serving size for many foods typically consumed will be bigger. According to FDA, nearly 20% of the serving sizes will change to reflect more typical consumption. For example, the serving size for ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup; a serving of soda will increase from 8 oz. to 12 oz.; and your favorite bagel or muffin serving will increase from 2 oz. to 4 oz. After all, who eats just a half a muffin at a sitting? Too bad—but the yogurt serving size will decrease from 8 oz. to 6 oz. (Indeed, we are eating more of the unhealthy stuff!)

It is important to realize that the calorie and nutrient information will also be changing to reflect the new serving size.

According to FDA, “By law, serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating.” The new serving sizes will be a reality check for how much we actually eat and may hopefully encourage us to eat less.

I recently reported on research that found that larger serving sizes on food labels will encourage us to eat less and may actually help fight the obesity epidemic. However, it is important that we do not view larger serving sizes for some (unhealthy) foods as a recommendation to eat more. Indeed, that is not FDA’s intention. While you may love ice cream, the feds are not suggesting that we eat more.

To avoid the unintended consequences of more typical serving sizes, I would have liked to see a footnote on the label to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.” Let’s hope FDA follows up with an education campaign.

2. Calories, serving size, and number of serving per container will be in large font and easy to read.

Great news if you are among those who actually read the food labels. You will now be able to see how many calories are in your favorite foods along with the number of servings per container without needed a magnifying glass. This is so important especially since so many people do not pay any attention to the number of servings per container. Hopefully, now they will.

3. Your 20 oz. soda bottle will now be considered a single serving.

One of my biggest pet peeves from spending a life time counseling clients trying to lose weight was the food labels on packages usually consumed as a single serving—the 20 oz. soda bottle and the small bag of popcorn. A 20 oz. soda bottle, for example, was allowed to be labeled with 2.5 servings even though most people were not going to share it. Same for the small bag of popcorn or single muffin that was labeled 2 servings per package. Finally, this is about to change.

For packages that are between one and two servings, and typically consumed in one sitting, such as a 20 oz. soda, the food label serving size will be 20 oz. and the calories and nutrients will reflect that size. Previously, the serving size was 8 oz. (which contains 100 calories). While most people would drink the entire bottle, and guzzle down 250 calories, they may actually think they were just drinking 100 calories.

This is a big step forward for disclosure and may help people get a better understanding of how many calories they are eating.

4. If you polish off a pint of ice cream, you can see how many calories you just consumed.

A pint of ice cream along with a 3 oz. bag of chips and a 24 oz. soda bottle will now contain a dual column. Manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package” basis for food products that are bigger than a single serving but could be consumed either in one sitting or in multiple sittings. This rule would apply for packages that contain 200% and up to and including 300% of the standard serving size.

The purpose of the dual columns is for consumers to see how many calories—and nutrients—they will get if they eat an entire package (which many of us often do.)

5. You will see how much added sugar is in your favorite foods and drinks.

For the first time, under new FDA label rules, food and beverage companies will be required to disclose added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. FDA is requiring food labels to display grams along with a % Daily Value (DV) for added sugars. The DV for added sugar—to consume no more than 10% of calories from added sugar—is consistent with the recent recommendations set forth in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

This is great progress and I applaud the FDA for requiring food packages to list added sugars. Too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease. The new food labels will hopefully help consumers to see just how much sugar is in their favorite foods.

Share |
May. 13

7 Nutrition Secrets to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 secrets to live a longer–and healthier–life.

You can also read it here.

ADA stock photos-veggies low res

Let’s face it. We all want to live a longer — and healthier — life. Aging is inevitable but there are healthy habits we can create and foods we can enjoy to help prologue our lives. A nutrient dense diet along with a stress-free lifestyle goes hand in hand to promote longevity.

As a nutritionist, I regularly get asked how to help slow the aging process. Below are some simple tricks to help stop the clock.

1. Go meatless.

Swapping meat for fish, beans, and legumes is a great way to fight inflammation and prevent aging. Indeed, consuming fish regularly has been shown to promote brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines also help boost our intake of omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats also shown to promote heart health. Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet by eating less meat and more legumes along with more fruits and vegetables has also been shown to fight inflammation.

2. Eat brain candy.

To keep our brains sharp and to prevent cognitive decline, what we eat can make a difference. Foods high in certain vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to boost brain health. Deep red foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene which fights free radicals that come with aging. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamins E and K which may prevent memory loss and help reduce our “brain age.” Berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Maintain your weight.

As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down so it is important to watch calories and exercise more to avoid weight gain. It turns out that maintaining a steady weight and avoiding yoyo dieting is equally important. The centenarians fromOkinawa, known to live long and healthy lives, were known to keep their calories down and their weight steady. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Eating nutrient dense foods along with practicing portion control allows you to eat almost all of your favorite foods while helping to keep your calories in check.

4. Eat a colorful plate.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and aging. Choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum. Try to start each meal with a mixed salad and as diet planning guides suggest, fill half of your plate fruits and veggies.

5. Skimp on added sugar.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines set a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. This was done for good reason. A diet high in added sugar has been linked to obesity, chronic diseases, and inflammation. The 2015-2020 guidelines advise that added sugars comprise no more than 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which comes from sugary beverages. While we should skip soda, we also must watch out for other foods such as many store bought salad dressings, ketchup, and prepared foods which contain considerable amounts of added sugar. Read food labels and take note: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and honey are all other names for “sugar.”

6. Spice it up.

Seasoning your favorite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavor, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the aging process. Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning your foods with spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

7. Keep moving.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate for exercise and recommend that my clients incorporate an exercise program into their (almost) daily routine. Cardiovascular exercise including walking, biking, and swimming help keep our heart strong while strength training helps preserve lean muscle and is therefore equally important as we age.

We would love to hear your favorite anti-aging tricks.

Share |
Apr. 22

Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips”

You can also read it here.


Along with a new season come new foods and rituals. One of the things I love most about springtime is the extra daylight. I try to take advantage of these longer days by taking a walk outdoors or biking in the park. I also love taking advantage of enjoying the seasonal produce available this time of year. From asparagus to berries, springtime is the season for healthy produce.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies along with our minds for optimal health. These 10 simple tips will help boost your health, and maybe even your mood, this season.

1. Make small shifts to your diet.

One of the key messages in the recently released 2015-2020 dietary guidelines is an emphasis on making small shifts to our diet, as opposed to radical changes which are often difficult to stick with. Think of a food habit you’d like to change and slowly ease into a new ritual by making a small shift. If you are a soda drinker, for example, shift your beverage to water or seltzer. If you tend to go hours without eating, plan for a healthy snack by bringing along an apple and a small bag of your favorite nuts. And most of us can make shifts in our diet to include more fruits and vegetables.

2. Mind your hand.

Paying attention the size of your portion is one of the best ways to keep your weight in check. While measuring your food can be a bit cumbersome and not always practical, using your hand is a simple and useful trick to help you guesstimate your portion. As I discuss in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, your portion of meat should be the size of your palm (approx 3 oz) and your side of rice should be the size of your fist (approx 1 cup.) While it’s not an exact science, as we all have different size hands, it is a helpful way to help gauge how much you eat. And if you have a bigger hand, you can probably get away with eating a bit more.

3. Get moving.

If you do not yet have an exercise routine, this is a great time to get one into place. Exercising regularly offers up many benefits — from helping us shed pounds, boost our moods, and even keep our minds sharp. In the springtime, we have the added benefit of great weather and more sunlight, a perfect time to get moving outdoors.

Research even shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you even may enjoy it more. Exercising outdoors may also help to alleviate stress and depression.

4. Swap multigrain for whole grains products.

Many of my clients are easily deceived by healthy sounding terms like “multigrain.” The term “multigrain” is defined as containing a blend of two or more grains and has little meaning when it comes to boosting your health. The grains may be healthy if they are whole rye or whole oats, for example, but they may also not be particularly healthy if they are a blend of enriched wheat flour, which is refined, and not to be confused with whole wheat. So pay attention to food labels and the first ingredient in your grain products.

5. Go green.

I am a huge fan of all things green, especially green veggies. Spinach, kale, broccoli, you name it, and if it’s green, it is most likely healthy! One of my favorite springtime produce is asparagus. Chock full of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and iron, asparagus is a nutrition powerhouse. I invite you to add asparagus to your springtime dinner routine. My favorite method of preparation is simply roasting it with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

6. Find hidden sugars lurking in your favorite food.

For the first time, the dietary guidelines call out added sugar, and advise us to limit our intake to no more than 10 percent of total calories. While we know that soda and candy are full of added sugar, we may not pay attention to the sugar lurking in our favorite salad dressing or whole gain cereal. Trying to reduce our sugar intake would be easier if every product that contained it called it “sugar.” However, so many food products on the shelves contain sugar yet call it by a different name. Be on the lookout for the following terms which are other names for sugar: sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a daily value (DV) for “added sugar” along with prominently displaying the amount of added sugar on the nutrition facts food label. This will hopefully clear up some of the confusion. But until that happens, be a food sleuth, and read the ingredient list.

7. Scoop it out.

We eat more out of large containers and when we pour out our favorite foods into a bowl or plate, we often pour too much. We also tend to overeat when we nibble right out of a jar or box of food. Consider your favorite cereal: pour it into an oversize bowl and you probably poured too much. Same with your favorite ice cream: eat a spoonful straight from a pint, and you may end up polishing off the entire container. A scoop or measuring cup to the rescue! Pour your cereal into a one-cup measuring cup or scoop, and you will hopefully stop right there. Use a half-cup ice cream scoop and it will be easier to stick to that portion.

8. Eat fat.

As a nutritionist, I advise clients to incorporate healthy fat into their diets. Healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Fats help us feel full so that we are not grabbing for that cookie an hour after eating. Nuts make for a great snack as they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. Just be sure to stick to one handful. Because fat contains more calories than carbohydrates and protein, practicing portion control is key.

9. Add strawberries to your favorite salad.

Strawberries are delicious and one of the lowest calorie fruits. They are also rich in nutrients, particularly vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps the body quench free radicals. In addition to tasting great plain (or with whipped cream, of course), strawberries will add color, flavor, and nutrients to your fruit salad or even your tossed green salad.

10. End your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and practicing gratitude leads better sleep and improved mood.Research reveals that cultivating gratitude leads to better psychological and physical health. One ritual that I love recommending (and practice myself) is to write down 5 things I am grateful for each day. While certain things can always be better, we can all find a variety of things, both large and small, to be thankful for.

Photo complements by Rakratchada Torsap.

Share |
Apr. 6

Larger serving sizes on food labels may help us eat less!

Below is my blog for Huffington Post  “Larger serving sizes on food labels may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Food label-new 2014

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled plans to overhaul the Nutrition Facts panel required on packaged foods in the U.S. Among the proposed updates, FDA plans to revise the serving sizes to reflect more typical serving sizes. Because portions we currently eat are larger than food label serving sizes, consumers may be confused when reading labels and trying to determine ow many calories are in the foods they eat.

Indeed, typical portion sizes available in the marketplace have increased over the past several decades. Should serving sizes on food labels reflect these larger portions?

As FDA states, “These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

While there are clearly advantages to FDA requiring that manufacturers use larger, more realistic serving sizes, unintended consequences may arise. For one, consumers may view food label servings as recommendations even though they are not.

Indeed, according to one study, larger serving sizes may encourage people to eat more.

Now, a new study found that larger serving sizes on food labels will encourage us to eat less and may actually help fight the obesity epidemic.

Researchers from Georgetown University conducted several experiments published in the journal Appetite and found that subjects viewing larger serving sizes on packaged foods thought that they were more representative of typical marketplace portions. The subjects also had a lower health perception of the foods with larger serving sizes on the labels. Finally, subjects shown a larger serving size label ate less than those shown the current serving size label.

The authors wrote, “The studies find that the specific nutrition information provided with foods has a significant impact on perceptions of health, guilt, and estimated caloric intake. Providing consumers with easier to comprehend and more accurate information on all foods served in all contexts could reduce overeating. Decreasing caloric intake, through changing perceptions of health or increasing guilt, could improve public health.”

They concluded that “the proposed increase in serving size on Nutrition Facts panels could lower the consumption of high calorie foods.”

Let’s hope that this occurs in reality if FDA does, in fact, increase the serving sizes on food labels (which the agency proposed doing for nearly 17% of packaged foods).

For example, FDA is proposing to increase the serving size of ice cream from ½ cup to 1 cup. Rather than view the 1 cup serving as a recommendation, I hope that instead, consumers pay attention to the calories and view the larger serving size as a signal to eat less.

Whatever FDA ultimately decides to do, I think it is important that the agency follow up with an education campaign to teach people how to use the serving size information on a label and how to better understand the relationship between serving sizes, calories, and weight gain.

And, I hope that the agency pro-actively address concerns about any possible unintended consequences that some consumers view the serving sizes as recommendations for how much to eat.

As I suggested in my comments to FDA, “I strongly recommend that the FDA include clarifying language on the label by either: 1) denoting the serving size provided as a “typical” serving size or 2) including a footnote to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.”

While we patiently await the release of the updated food label, I suggest paying attention to how much food is actually on your plate, eating fewer processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. And, as USDA’s food guide myPlate suggests, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit.

After all, no one got fat eating to many carrots.

Share |
Visit our Blog © 2016 Dr. Lisa Young