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Dec. 18

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

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

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Suriya Kankliang at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suriya Kankliang at                    FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

1. Follow the 80-20 rule.

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

2. Plan in advance (when you can.)

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

3. Be a social butterfly.

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

4. Eat before you eat.

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

5. Size does matter.

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

6 Don’t start a diet.

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

7. Keep moving.

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

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

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Dec. 7

FDA wants to know how much Nutella YOU eat.

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

You can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One tablespoon or two?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measuring spoons anyone?!

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

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Nov. 14

Avoid these portion pitfalls which can derail your diet

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Avoid these 5 portion pitfalls which can derail your diet.” 

You can also read it here. 

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a portion size advocate, I believe all foods can fit into a healthy diet. However, while you can enjoy larger portions of certain foods (fruits and vegetables), you should pay attention to how big your portions are for others foods (breads, baked goods, red meat, candy and chips).

No one I know got fat from eating too many berries, apples, or carrots. Therefore, when I work with clients, I encourage them to enjoy generous portions of produce. However, we need to be more mindful of how much we eat of other foods, especially treats and sweets. It often takes retraining your brain, paying close attention to how much food really constitutes a health portion size, and developing healthy habits to avoid eating too much.

Being conscious of the following food traps is half the battle. Avoid these portion pitfalls to prevent you from overeating.

1. You buy oversize bags of chips in search of a bargain.

We all love a good bargain! After all, it is hard to resist buying the oversize bag of chips when it only costs just a quarter or so more than the smaller bag. However, while it’s great to stock up on jumbo rolls of toilet paper, the same cannot be said about food, especially junk food. Keeping your health—and your weight—in check is a top priority and the best bargain you can find!

My suggestion: Avoiding buying jumbo bags of food unless you take the time to portion out the contents into individual servings in small plastic baggies or containers.

2. You eat straight from the tub.

One of the easiest ways to overeat is to eat straight from the package. Whether it’s a tub of ice cream, a half-gallon of juice, or a bag of chips, it is very difficult to portion control your food when you eat straight from the package. And leaving it up to willpower rarely works.

My suggestion: Portion out a reasonable serving size, pour it onto a plate, savor it, and enjoy. And do eat sitting down.

3. You pour instead of dip.

One of the reasons so many of us eat more calories than we think is that we order a healthy salad but then we pour on tons of dressing. While salad greens and veggies won’t break you in the bank, salad dressing calories add up very quickly. One tablespoon of olive oil contains around 120 calories, and many salads—even appetizer sized!—contain several tablespoons worth.

My suggestion: Dip your fork into a side dish of dressing instead of pouring it all on your favorite salad. You can always add more if you need.

4. You pay no attention to serving sizes on food labels.

While food labels will be getting a makeover and many serving sizes of our favorite foods are set to increase, most people look at the calories listed but pay little attention to the serving size and the number of servings per container.

While one serving of your favorite treat may contain only 100 calories, if you eat several serving’s worth, your calorie count will much higher than just 100 calories. Yet so many of us would still say that they have only eaten 100 calories or so. I often see this pattern with many highly educated clients that I’ve counseled. Especially since many snacks that look like single servings actually contain two to three servings. Many muffins, for example contain two servings, but who eats just ½ a muffin? It’s easy to be fooled!

My suggestion: Pay attention to food label serving sizes along with the number of servings per container. I also suggest getting a measuring cup and food scale and from time to time weighing your typical portion to see how many servings are really on your plate.

5. You serve food family style.

The best way to serve food whenever possible is to plate it in the kitchen. Placing large platters of food directly on the dinner table and serving food family-style is one of the easiest ways to end up eating lots more than you really need. And the larger the serving platter and serving utensil, the more food we are likely to take.

My suggestion: Plate out a reasonable size portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can always go back for more.

For additional portion-size tips and tricks, click here and here.

We would love to hear portion tips that have worked well for you.

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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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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.

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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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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.

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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.

childwaterbottle

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!

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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 freedigitalphotos.net

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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.

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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.

beach

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.

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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.

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