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Dec. 15

Calorie counts on menu boards may help us eat less

Below is my latest blog post “Calorie counts on menu boards may help us eat less.”

You can also read it on Huffington Post by clicking HERE.

After much anticipation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally announced its final regulations requiring food establishments with 20 or more locations, including restaurants, fast-food chains, movie theaters, and pizza places, to state the number of calories in their menu items. And those calories will be visible; the font size of the calorie counts must be, at least, the same size as the food item name and/or price.

The regulations came out of a 2010 provision of Obamacare. Americans spend nearly half their food budget on foods eaten away from home, and these foods make up nearly a third of the calories consumed. We ought to know how many calories are in these foods.

New York City, California, Vermont, many New York State counties, Philadelphia, King County (WA), and others have already implemented calorie labeling policies. And a handful of restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain, and Panera already post calories on menu boards nationally.

Next year when these rules are set to take effect nationally, if you go to a movie theater, you will see how many calories are in your oversize jug of soda and a bucket of popcorn, both large enough to feed an entire family. I hope that after seeing this information, you will consider skipping these treats or sharing them.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in the press release: “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Will posting calories actually help us make better choices and eat less?

While the evidence is mixed, I remain optimistic and so do other nutrition policy experts.

New York City has required chain eating establishments to post calorie counts on menu boards since 2006. As a New York City resident, I have been able to see some of the results. I recall seeing one of my favorite Starbucks treats, the marshmallow dream bar, originally contain around 400 calories when posting calories first went into effect. Today, at my local Starbucks, the treat weighs in at 240 calories.

I hope that requiring eating establishments to post calories will encourage companies to make their products smaller and reformulate them to contain less fat, sugar, and ultimately fewer calories.

Some companies, in addition to Starbucks, are already marketing healthier choices, perhaps, at least in part, as a result of calorie labeling, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutrition advocacy group in Washington D.C. Several popular chains have introduced smaller portions on their menus, such as: California Pizza Kitchen’s “Small Cravings,” The Cheesecake Factory’s “Small Plates & Snacks,” and T.G.I. Friday’s “Right Portion, Right Price.” Other eating establishments cut calories from some of its menu items. The chain Cosi, for example, introduced a new “Lighten Up! Menu,” featuring lower-calorie versions of menu items.

And if we have absolutely no idea how many calories our favorite foods contain, we sure will know when calorie counts are posted at our favorite eating chains nationwide.

Marion Nestle , my NYU colleague, author, and nutrition policy expert says “Calorie counts work for people who look at them and understand what they mean. They certainly work for me. If I see that a slice of pizza is 750 calories (not impossible), I don’t buy it. That’s more than a third of what I can eat in a day. Everyone is always saying that education is the first line of intervention in obesity and that people have to take personal responsibility for what they eat. Calorie labeling ought to help with that.”

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at CSPI, issued a similar sentiment. She told me that “Menu labeling will allow people to make their own choices about what and how much to eat. It also provides an incentive for restaurants to improve their menus and add items lower in calories. Unfortunately, most restaurants’ regular and children’s menus are dominated by high calorie choices that are hard to fit into a healthy diet, especially given how much most people eat out these days.”

It is my hope that when adopted nationwide, requiring chain eating establishments to post calorie counts of our favorite foods will help us make better food choices and order smaller sizes while also encouraging these establishments to market healthier options with fewer calories. And, we can do as Dr. Nestle does: don’t buy foods that comprise a third of our daily calorie budget. These are certainly steps in the right direction to help reverse the obesity epidemic.

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Nov. 27

Diet mistakes not to make on Thanksgiving

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 common diet mistakes not to make on Thanksgiving.”

You can also read it HERE.

‘Tis the season for overeating. This is the time of year that many of us give up healthy eating and tend to overindulge. However, with some smart planning and helpful tricks, the holiday season can be a time to enjoy special foods in moderation while still eating healthfully and not gaining weight.

Having spent the greater part of my career advising clients on weight loss, I have come up with common mistakes people make on the holidays that can derail their diets. Here are five common diet mistakes not to make this Thanksgiving.

1. Going hungry and skipping breakfast and lunch.

Many people skip early meals on the day of Thanksgiving in an attempt to “save up” calories and use them later. My advice: Don’t do it! You just may end up eating more. One trick to help keep your eating in check at the Thanksgiving meal is not to go hungry early in the day. It is OK to eat lightly, but I suggest you include some protein and fiber earlier in the day. Enjoy a yogurt with fruit or eggs and a slice whole wheat toast for breakfast and perhaps a salad with some kind of protein at lunch (beans, legumes, fish, chicken, hummus). Eating something before you get to the party will prevent you from being famished when you arrive at your guests’ house. It will be easier for you to pass up the high caloric appetizers, many of which you probably do not even like.

2. Wearing loose-fitting clothes

One sure way to avoid overeating is to wear form fitting clothes. When you wear loose clothes, you may not register that you are full, making it easier to overeat. Wear pants with a belt, a form fitting skirt, or your snug skinny jeans. These clothes will signal that you’ve had enough.

3. Treating Thanksgiving like your Last Supper

Thanksgiving is just one meal and I suggest that you not treat it like The Last Supper. Interact with the company, eat slowly, and savor holiday treats. I suggest that you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, but I do think you need to exhibit some kind of portion control. While it is okay to fill up on salads, veggies, and turkey without meticulously worrying about amounts so much, I do suggest that you watch your portion of starch and do not eat every type of food available. Choose between the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and rice, and try to eat a portion that is around 1/2-1 cup (no larger than your fist), and making up no more than 1/4 of your plate. You can always get more turkey and salad if you are still hungry, and it’s best to save room for your favorite dessert.

4. Starting a diet and banning all treats

The holiday season is NOT a time to start a diet and to ban all of your favorite foods. While I do suggest that you avoid your trigger foods — foods that you tend to eat too much of — it is not a time to ban all foods, especially your favorite holiday treats. As a nutritionist, I think it is perfectly ok to have one portion of your favorite starch — approximately a half cup portion of rice ,stuffing, or sweet potato; and one small piece of your favorite pie. Skipping these foods entirely, may end up causing you to feel deprived which can end up leading to overeating later.

5. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach

While it is unrealistic to say that you will not drink at all on Thanksgiving, I suggest that you choose to enjoy a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail with the meal. Drinking alcohol tends to decrease your inhibitions and if you drink early on, you may end up overeating and having several drinks. Looking forward to a drink with dinner is the best way to avoid eating too much.

We would love to hear your common Thanksgiving mistakes and some tricks that have kept your weight in check.

Wishing you a happy — and healthy — holiday season!

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Nov. 19

Healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post ” Healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay.”

You can also read it HERE.

For the German translation, click HERE.

As a nutritionist counseling clients on healthy eating and weight loss, I am often asked about how to choose a healthy snack. Let’s face it: Most of us don’t just eat three meals a day without any snacks. Snacking can be a good practice if we make healthy choices. Snacking can be a great way to boost our intake of fruits and vegetables, and nutrients such as fiber, which so many of us fall short on. Here are a few tips for choosing a healthy snack: eat real food, keep it portion-controlled (and calorie-controlled), aim for a fruit or veggie serving, and try to get some protein or fiber in your snack to help you feel full and stabilize blood sugar.

Here are some healthy choices to eat if you get a snack attack.

1. Hummus and veggies

Hummus and vegetables makes for a great snack. Here is a good chance to get a dose of colorful vegetables including carrots, red and yellow peppers. All veggies are great choices. Hummus contains protein which will help keep you feel full. Aim for around a quarter cup serving of hummus and as many fresh veggies as you like.

2. Greek yogurt with fresh berries

Greek yogurt makes for a great snack as it is a good source calcium and protein. Choose the low-fat varieties which makes this tasty snack relatively low in calories. Top it with your favorite berries for a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber.

3. Vegetable/bean soup

Soups make for a great snack. Eating soup is a great way to pack in several servings of vegetables. Soup is filling and takes a while to eat, and because most of us eat soup sitting down, we eat it mindfully. Great choices are veggie based soups such as minestrone, white bean, and lentil soup. One caveat: If you are eating it out, be sure to check sodium content, as many soups contain too much.

4. Part-skim cheese and whole grain crackers

Cheese and crackers can make for a healthy snack. The cheese contains protein and calcium while the whole grain crackers contain fiber which will help us stay full. A healthy portion is around an ounce of each. An ounce of cheese is one slice or if it is cubed, looks like four dice. Check the nutrition facts label on the crackers to see how many crackers constitute a one-ounce serving and be sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain (such as whole wheat, rye, or oats.)

5. Sliced apple with almond butter.

Apples make for a great snack — high in fiber and low in calories. Add a schmear of almond butter (approximately 1 tablespoon) for a serving of good fat and fiber which will keep you full and help keep your hunger at bay.

6. Mixed nuts and (low-sodium) vegetable juice

This is a great snack if you are on the run. Low-sodium vegetable juice (such as V8) is filling and chock full of nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C. Nuts contain healthy fats along with some protein and fiber; just be sure to keep your portion to 1/4 cup serving or one layer of your palm. A quarter cup serving also looks like a golfball.

7. Frozen banana and peanut butter

This is a yummy snack to keep in your freezer if you are craving a frozen treat. Peel a banana and spread it with peanut butter (no more than 1 tablespoon), place it in a baggie, and freeze. The banana contains fiber and potassium, and the peanut butter contains a serving of heart-healthy fats.

8. Air-popped popcorn

The great news about popcorn is that it is a whole grain, and unlike pretzels and chips, where a serving is one cup or less, a serving of popcorn is 3 cups. To avoid added fat and calories, stick to air popped popcorn. And feel free to drizzle it with parmesan cheese, garlic, or your favorite spice.

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Nov. 3

Healthy habits to adopt now

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “8 healthy habits to adopt now.”

You can read it HERE.

You can also read it in Portuguese at the Brasil Post HERE.

Eating healthy does not have to be difficult. In fact, if you develop a routine of adopting positive healthy practices, which you engage in regularly, eating healthfully can become second nature. Consider brushing your teeth. Most of us regularly brush our teeth so the practice has become easy to sustain on a regular basis. That is the goal of developing healthy eating habits. I teach clients to engage in a few practices regularly until they become second nature, and it feels unnatural not to do them.

As most of you know, I am not a fan of diets. The reason is that we follow a certain diet for a while, and then we fall off the wagon as we are unable to sustain it, and so often, end up discouraged. Better to adopt a healthy lifestyle you can sustain for the long haul.

One key, however, in adopting healthy habits is to know yourself. As bestselling author of the upcoming book on habits, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin says, “I’ve realized that the secret to good habits — for nutrition, or anything else — is to know yourself. For instance, some people do better when they give up a temptation all together, others when they indulge in moderation … You have to think about what works for you.”

Here are eight simple healthy habits which will help you to lead a healthier lifestyle.

1. Stock up on healthy foods.

We tend to eat what we buy and keep around the house. It is, therefore so important to stock up on healthy foods. Keep fresh fruit and veggies handy which you can grab and eat easily — baby carrots, apples, pears, berries. Buy whole grains instead of white bread products — oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat breads. Keep healthy protein options around — nuts and seeds, fresh turkey breast, and eggs. Try not to keep soda, cookies, and sugary cereals around.

2. Eat sitting down.

When you eat meals while you are sitting down, you tend to eat more slowly, enjoy what you are eating, and may even end up eating less. When you eat standing, you often do not even realize that you are eating. If you want a scoop of ice cream, instead of eating straight from the pint (and wolfing down the whole pint), place a portion in a bowl, sit down, and enjoy it. It’s also great to eat with others and enjoy the social experience of dining.

3. Drink water instead of liquid calories.

Limiting liquid calories — soda, sweetened drinks, fruit juice — is one of the simplest ways to cut out calories and sugar. Sweetened drinks like soda provide no nutritional value and are just empty calories. Diet sodas also provide no nutritional value, taste too sweet, and do not help most of us lose weight. So why even bother drinking them? Instead, get into the habit of opting for water or flavored seltzers. They will keep you hydrated without providing any calories. Try drinking a glass of water before eating each meal or snack, and you may just end up eating less.

4. Snack on fruit instead of chips.

It really is pretty easy to eat fruit if you keep it handy. Opt for a variety of fresh fruit in season, and plan for it. So often, we grab a bag of chips because it is convenient. Choosing fruit can also be convenient, if we set it up that way. The trick is to either know where to get fruit if you are out, or to stock it in your fridge, and bring it along if you are going to be out all day. Throw an apple in your bag on your way to work; this will help to ensure that you eat it if you need a mid-morning snack. Also choose a fruit with breakfast. Throw a handful of berries into your yogurt or oatmeal or have a piece of melon when in season. Fruit also makes a great after dinner snack.

5. Eat a colorful salad — or veggies — each day.

Eating salads are a great way to get a variety of nutrients without too many calories. (Of course, that means” dressing on the side.”) The different colors of vegetables impart different nutrients, so it’s best to choose a colorful variety. And fill up on what you like — you’ve got enough to choose from. Several top picks include romaine lettuce, kale or spinach topped with a colorful assortment of tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, beets, mushrooms, or cucumbers. If you don’t love salads or are not in the mood, another way to get your veggies is to have a vegetable-based soup or to eat steamed or sautéed dressing. You will still get so many of the healthy nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and more.

6. Chew your food well.

When we chew our food and pay attention to what we are eating, we eat more slowly, and usually end up eating less. It takes at least 15 minutes for our bodies to register that we are full. Also, our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomach, and when we eat quickly, we often tend to eat too much and end up feeling uncomfortable and stuffed.

7. Put leftovers away.

Leaving leftovers sitting out on the counter signals “eat me.” It is so hard to resist temptation when food is just sitting around. Why tempt yourself?

8. To thyself be true.

It is so important to know yourself and recognize what works — and what doesn’t work — for you. I’ve counseled many different types of clients over the years, and some need an after dinner-treat while others end up overeating if they have one small cookie or piece of chocolate. In an email, Gretchen wrote me the following: “My sister’s Kryptonite is French fries, so she gave them up altogether — that was easier for her. But some people feel rebellious if they can’t have that one square of chocolate every day, and if that describes you, keep a chocolate bar in your desk drawer.”

So, take some time to reflect on what you like and on what works for you.

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Oct. 3

5 ways to build a healthy breakfast

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

You can also read it HERE.

Eating breakfast is a perfect opportunity to get a healthy dose of several key nutrients including fiber, protein, and calcium. It can also be a good time to bond with your family and touch base before heading out for the day. While there has been a recent debate about the merits of eating breakfast for weight loss, it is agreed that children should eat breakfast.

What you choose for breakfast is important for improving your health, and the right breakfast may keep you feeling full and help you eat less later in the day so that you may even lose a few pounds.

Here are five simple tips that I use with clients to help build a healthy breakfast.

1. Include a healthy protein rich food.
Including a serving of protein rich food will help keep you full. A few great choices are low-fat Greek yogurt (yes, Greek yogurt is packed with protein), eggs, or egg whites. Nut butters such as almond butter or peanut butter are also great options so long as you practice portion control (a walnut in its shell is approximately 2 tablespoons worth). Low-fat milk and cheese are also good options.

2. Include a serving of fruit.
Eating a serving of fruit in the morning is a great way to get a dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. Choose a fruit in season that you enjoy. A cup of berries or melon in season is a great choice. An apple or pear is portable if you want to bring it with you. An orange or half grapefruit is another great option. Whole fruit is preferred over juice. The fruit is higher in fiber and lower in calories. And it takes time to chew so you will eat slowly and recognize that you are eating.

3. Include a whole-grain serving.
So many people are skipping carbs, in particular, healthy grains, in an effort to lose weight. Grains and carbs are not the villain. While I would recommend skipping the donuts, coffee cake, and bagels, or saving these foods for a special occasion, a cup of cooked oatmeal or a slice of whole wheat bread is a great choice to include for your morning meal. Other examples of healthy whole grains are: whole grain breakfast cereal (with at least 3 grams of fiber), brown rice cakes, a whole grain English muffin or pita, or brown rice crackers.

4. Sit down and enjoy!
As I always tell clients, eat mindfully and eat sitting down. When you eat on the go, you tend not even to remember that you are eating. It’s almost as if you rationalize to yourself “the calories don’t count when you eat standing.” But, as you know, calories do count regardless of whether you eat them standing or sitting. Better to sit down and enjoy a bowl of whole grain cereal than to eat a “healthy sounding” energy bar on the run.

5. Eat slowly.
Along with sitting down and enjoying your breakfast comes eating slowly. When you eat slowly, you tend to pay attention to what you are eating, and you eat less. Eating slowly also allows your body to register a feeling of satiation and fullness.

If you are in a rush, if you can, instead of wolfing down breakfast at home, bring a portable breakfast along with you and enjoy it when you get to work. You do not need to eat breakfast as soon as you get up. ( I tend to be a mid-morning breakfast eater.) The important point is that you eat something instead of waiting till 1 p.m. to get your first bite in.

Here are a few great breakfast options:

– A spinach and tomato omelet with a slice of whole grain toast and a half grapefruit.

– A Low-fat Greek yogurt with blackberries, strawberries, and a handful of whole grain cereal.

– A whole grain English muffin with a schmear of almond butter and a pear.

– A bowl of oatmeal made with fat free milk and topped with blueberries and a few walnuts.

Enjoy. We would love to hear some of your favorite breakfast choices.

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Sep. 21

5 easy tricks to avoid portion distortion

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 easy tricks to avoid portion distortion.”

You can also read it HERE.

The portion sizes of foods we commonly consume are too big. Look around and just about everything is available in jumbo sizes. Soft drinks, French fries, coffee drinks, steaks, burgers, bagels and muffins have all grown in size. Indeed, many food portions are now two to five times larger than they were 50 years ago. I discuss this phenomenon known as “portion distortion” in great detail in my book The Portion Teller Plan and my research papers.

Why are large portion sizes such a problem? Large portions are particularly problematic because the more we are served, the more we eat. Eating more translates into more calories, and ultimately, many of us, gain weight. And lots of it. It is no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.

An extensive review from Bond University found that we eat more if we are served more. The researchers reviewed 88 existing studies on the topic. They found that when people are given a portion twice as big, they will eat around a third more food. that is pretty significant and can translate into many more calories in the course of a day, a week, and a year.

Steven Holden, one of the Bond University authors, wrote on his blog, …”In addition to being substantial, the effect is robust, even pernicious. Larger portions lead to greater consumption even across conditions of bad food, where the portion size is not visible, and among people who should know better.”

So, the next time we go out to eat, or even eat at home, how can we not fall victim to this portion size trap?

Here are five easy tricks.

1. Choose the smallest size available.

These days, many foods come in multiple sizes. The small size is your best option, and is probably not even small. Consider the smallest Starbuck’s cappuccino. It is 12 ounces and labeled “tall.” It is not even called “small” ( a word often considered taboo in our oversized food culture.). Next time you have a choice on a size, order a “small” or whatever the small size may be called.

2. Steer clear of bulk sizes, at least when it comes to food.

Many of us like shopping in Costco and other warehouse stores where just about everything comes in bulk and in jumbo sizes. Bigger sizes cost less per unit (or per ounce so) they are appealing. However, try avoid them when you can. As it is often hard to resist eating a reasonable size portion. If you want to buy tissues and paper towels in bulk, no problem. But limit the cookies that come 50 to a box, or muffins that are jumbo sized and come in an eight-pack. Your waistline will be happier.

3. Mind your plate size.

The bigger the plate, the more we tend to pile on and eat. And plate sizes have increased right along with our food sizes and waistlines. Here is how you can use plate size to your advantage. Eat your salad (dressing on the side, of course) off of a larger dinner plate, and use a smaller plate for your entree. This can encourage you to eat more of a lower-calorie healthy salad and a smaller portion of your main dish, which so often consists of meat and mashed potatoes. Similarly, try using a larger bowl for your fresh berries and a smaller bowl for your breakfast cereal which most of us usually tend to over pour.

4. Eat with your stomach, not your eyes.

You know the expression, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? It certainly applies to how so many of us deal with our portion sizes. We pile on the food, taking more than we need, and then we are… stuffed. I suggest tuning in to your internal bodily signals and eat till you are satisfied. Wait before taking doubles or feeling the urge to finish what is on your plate. Eat slowly and put your fork down between bites.

5. Fill up on fruits and veggies.

Focus on including more healthy fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Because fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories, you can have a larger portion, and the fiber will make you feel full. This may make it easier to resist the urge to overeat on processed foods and unhealthy desserts. Try including a fruit or vegetable serving with each meal and snack.

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Sep. 3

5 healthy back-to-school tips

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post: 5 healthy back-to-school tips

You can also read it HERE.

With summer coming to a close, next week is back to school for most kids. It is also a great opportunity to create new healthy habits for your kids and for the entire family. As a nutritionist counseling families and children, here are some simple tips to get you and your family off to a healthy start.

1. Eat a nutritious breakfast.

While there has been a debate recently about the merits of eating breakfast for weight loss, it is agreed that kids should not skip breakfast. Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to help your kids get a healthy dose of nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and protein. Great options include: whole grain cereal (with at least 3 grams of fiber) and low-fat or fat-free milk, low-fat Greek yogurt and fruit, or scrambled eggs and a slice whole wheat toast. And, whenever possible, try to eat breakfast as a family.

2. Limit liquid calories.

The easiest place to start is to limit sugary beverages such as soda. Sugary drinks are simply empty calories and devoid of nutrients. Try also limiting fruit juice or diluting juice such as OJ with water to reduce the sweetness and the calories. Try also helping your kids substitute sugary drinks for a glass of fat-free milk.

3. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Fruits and veggies are rich in nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, and potassium. They are also low in calories. To help your kid increase their consumption of fruit and veggies, I suggest keeping pre-washed produce available for your kids to simply grab and eat. Keep washed berries, apples, pears, and bananas on hand. Keep a bag of baby carrots and celery sticks around for kids to snack on.

4. Plan dinner as a family.

The best way to get your kids to eat healthy dinner is to engage them in the planning. Choose healthy options that everyone likes and let your kids select a veggie option and healthy whole grain option. Steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice are some examples of healthy side dishes. Healthy main dish protein options include baked chicken or grilled fish. Try to make meals kid friendly and try to eat together as a family on most nights.

5. Practice portion control.

Finally, my favorite tip for families is to practice portion control. Minding your portions as well as those of your kids is, by far, one of the easiest ways to manage calories and avoid weight gain. I also love practicing portion control with kids as it allows for occasional treats instead of banning foods altogether. Portion out an occasional cookie for your kids’ snack and add additional healthy choices such as melon, berries or grapes.

We would love to hear some of your favorite healthy tips.

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Aug. 11

7 reasons to add blueberries to your diet

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post.

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I love recommending blueberries to my clients. And I regularly eat them as well. Blueberries are healthy, low in calories, versatile, and taste great. You can throw a handful of blueberries into your yogurt, add them to a salad, or microwave frozen blueberries and eat them warm (they taste like the filling from blueberry pie — yum).

Here are seven reasons to add blueberries to your diet.

1. Blueberries are relatively low in calories.
A 1-cup serving of blueberries contains 80 calories.

2. Blueberries are chock full of nutrients.
Blueberries contain the antioxidant vitamin C, manganese, and are full of fiber, with nearly 4 gram of fiber per 1 cup serving.

3. Blueberries may promote cardiovascular health.
Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to heart health and a reduction of other chronic diseases. Blueberries may also help lower blood pressure. A study conducted on obese subjects with metabolic syndrome, found that those who consumed a blueberry beverage over an eight-week period had a decrease in their blood pressure when compared to those who consumed a placebo beverage.

4. Blueberries may improve insulin sensitivity.
study found that drinking blueberry smoothies helped pre-diabetic obese adults improve insulin sensitivity. Anthocyanins, compounds in blueberries that give them their blue hue, contain antioxidant properties, which may contribute to improved insulin sensitivity.

5. Blueberries may contribute to brain health and improve cognitive function.
study found that object memory loss that occurs normally with aging can be not only prevented but also reversed by feeding older rats blueberries. Furthermore, the improvement persisted for at least a month.

6. Blueberries may help fight cancer.
Blueberries contain the antioxidant anthocyanins which may play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of cancer. Further, recent research has demonstrated that breast tumor growth can be reduced in mice supplemented with blueberries.

7. And finally, blueberries taste great.

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Jul. 31

FDA to update food label serving sizes

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “FDA to update food label serving sizes.”

You can also read it HERE.

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is seeking public comment on the proposed revisions to the food labels (NOTE: deadline August 1).

You can still comment on the following:

1. Serving Sizes: Docket FDA-2004-N-0258

2. Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label: Docket FDA-2012-N-1210

Below are my comments on FDA’s proposal to update the serving sizes.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg
Commissioner
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Re: Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments; Docket No. FDA-2004-N-0258 (Formerly Docket No. 2004N-0456)

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

I strongly support the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain food and beverage products. I have been researching trends in growing portion sizes as well as educating clients and students on understanding information about food label serving sizes and the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and weight management.

Below I make the following points:

I. I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain products;
II. FDA should revise serving sizes for additional foods;
III. FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations.
IV. FDA should require that serving size information be displayed in ounces instead of gram weights.
I appreciate the chance to comment. I urge FDA to expeditiously finalize this rule, as well as the companion proposal regarding revisions to the Nutrition Facts Panel.

I. I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain products.

I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the serving size for certain foods and beverages to reflect the way Americans eat today. Labels that list the nutrition information for outdated serving sizes may be deceptive to consumers, and I commend FDA for its recognition of the need to revise the RACCs for specific foods. I also commend FDA’s proposal to require that packaged foods and drinks typically consumed in one sitting be labeled as a single serving, and that manufacturers declare the calorie and nutrient information for the entire package.

As FDA notes, the original RACCs were established using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey data from 1977-1978 and 1987-1988. Consumption patterns have changed over the past few decades. For example, on average, American adults aged 20 and older consumed 240 more calories per day in 2009-2010, when compared to levels in 1971-1975, mostly due to increased portion sizes of foods and beverages.

The portion sizes of commonly consumed foods have increased considerably since the late 1970s; one reason for the increase in obesity rates may be that people are eating larger food portions, and therefore, more calories. The trend toward growing portion sizes has been observed for packaged foods and drinks as well as energy dense foods served in the highest selling takeout places, restaurants and fast-food outlets. Many food portions are now two to five times larger than their original size.

II. FDA should revise serving sizes for additional foods.

Using consumption data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), 2003-2008, the agency proposes to modify an existing RACC if the median consumption increased or decreased by at least 25 percent, compared to the RACC established in 1993. The FDA states that it also took into account other factors when deciding to modify an existing RACC, including information from citizen petitions, industry comments, and market trends. I urge the FDA to consider:

• Pegging the proposal to set new RACCs only for changes of 25 percent or greater neglects some categories that deserve re-evaluation due to their impact on public health. Under the law, FDA is required to define the reference amounts for foods based on the amount of food customarily consumed. See Pub. L. 101.9(b)(1); 58 F.R. 44039 et seq. Therefore, I urge FDA to update the RACCs based on actual food consumption data as opposed to allowing for a 25% or greater change

III. FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations.

I recognize that the RACCs used to calculate serving sizes are required to be based on the amount of food people customarily consume, and are not recommended amounts of food to eat. However, given the likelihood of confusion among some consumers, 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.”
Other ideas for communicating a similar distinction should also be tested in consumer research by the agency. I also support additional education efforts to increase consumer understanding of the meaning of the change in serving sizes, as FDA suggests in its proposal.

IV. FDA should require that serving size information be displayed in ounces
instead of gram weights.

From my experience as an educator and clinician, few people understand the meaning of gram weights, as we do not rely on the metric system in the U.S. While I applaud listing food amounts in common household measures ( cups, tablespoons) as well, I urge the FDA to require that serving size information be displayed in ounces instead of gram weights. The term “ounces” as opposed to “grams” is used by USDA’s MyPlate.gov and is also more easily recognizable to US citizens.

References

Food and Drug Administration, Food Labeling; Serving Sizes, Jan. 6, 1993, 58 FR 2229, at 2236-2237.

Ford ES, Dietz WH, “Trends in energy intake among adults in the United States: findings from NHANES. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:848-53.

Young LR , Nestle M. Reducing Portion Sizes to Prevent Obesity: A Call to Action. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:565-568.

Young LR, Nestle M. The contribution of increasing portion sizes to the obesity epidemic. Am J Pub Health 2002;92:246-249.

Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Patterns and trends in food portion sizes, 1977-1998. JAMA 2003;289:450-453.

Young LR. The Portion Teller Plan. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, Random House, 2005.

Young LR, Nestle M. Expanding portion sizes in the US marketplace: Implications for nutrition counseling. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:231-234.

Food and Drug Administration, Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments, Mar. 3, 2014, 79 FR 11990, at 12008 (hereinafter, 79 FR at _______).

Juan W, “Memorandum to file: Consumption estimates for foods for infants and children 1 through 3 years of age and for the general food supply for individuals ages 4 years and older in the United States by general category and product category using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2008 (NHANES 2003-2008) compared to the 1993 RACCs, and Proposed Changes to RACCs.” Feb. 11, 2014.

79 FR at 12007.

US Department of Agriculture. MyPlate. Washigton, 2011. www.choosemyplate.gov

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, CDN

Author, The Portion Teller Plan (www.portionteller.com)
Nutrition Consultant/Registered Dietitian in private practice
Adjunct professor of nutrition, Dept of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University

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Jul. 23

5 healthy foods you can easily overeat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Portion alert: 5 healthy foods you can easily overeat.”

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I counsel many clients who know what foods to eat to lose weight and be healthy. However, even the most educated of consumers may have trouble determining how much to eat of these foods. It is possible that eating too many of even the right foods can prevent you from losing weight. Hence, the need for a reality check and tips for portion control!

Here are five foods that are easy to overeat along with my suggestions.

1. Ready-to-eat cereal.

We know to stay away from sugar-sweetened cereals and choose a cereal where the first ingredient is a whole grain. However, pouring your healthy whole grain cereal into an oversize bowl can often spell disaster. It is a bigger problem for dense cereals like granola. In fact, it is easy to consume several hundred calories of granola in one sitting without realizing it.

As I discuss in my book The Portion Teller Plan, I advise clients watching their weight to eat approximately one ounce of ready-to-eat cereal. A one ounce serving of cereal can range in volume from ¼ cup of granola to approximately 1 cup cereal flakes to 2 cups puffed wheat.

My tip: It is important to read the food label and measure out the volume of cereal you plan to eat before pouring it in your bowl.

2. Nuts

Nuts are healthy. They contain healthy fats and also help us to feel full. However, it is easy to eat too many nuts. Especially if you are eating them straight from an oversize jar or at a bar when having a drink with a friend.

The recommended serving of nuts to eat is 1 ounce. That translates into a handful (a golf ball’s worth) or the amount that can fit into an Altoids tin.

My tip: When home, I suggest portioning out several servings worth and placing them in baggies to avoid over-nutting.

3. Olive oil.

We hear that a green salad drizzled in olive oil is healthy. This is true. After all, greens are super nutritious and olive oil contains monounsaturated heart healthy fat. But… olive oil still contains calories, at least 100 calorie per tablespoon.

The recommended serving of olive oil or an olive oil based salad dressing is 1-2 tablespoons, an amount that will fill a shot glass. When eating out, we are often served a salad with at least 4 tablespoons of salad dressing!

My tip: Next time you order a salad out, ask for the dressing on the side.

4. Hummus

Hummus, or chick pea dip, is a super healthy snack. Hummus contains protein and healthy fats. Fresh veggies dipped in hummus makes for a great snack. However, it is easy to overdo it, especially if you buy the jumbo tubs of hummus or if you are nibbling at a cocktail party.

I suggest eating approximately 2 tablespoons worth of hummus as a snack. This looks like a walnut in a shell.

My tip: Add baby carrots, celery, and red pepper for crunch, volume, and a boost of nutrients.

5. Fresh squeezed orange juice

I’ve written previously I suggest swapping a glass of juice for an orange. You will gain fiber and the mere fact that you are chewing your food helps you consume fewer calories. but fresh squeezed OJ can be healthy. However, it is easy to guzzle down a pint’s worth in the blink of an eye. Especially since it is hard to buy a smaller size.

The suggested serving size for juice is 4-6 ounces. That is approximately half a glass worth.

My tip: Next time you buy a pint of fresh squeezed juice, share it three ways or save the rest for another day.

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