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Archive for the ‘ Marion Nestle ’ Category

Why Calories Count

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

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

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

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

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

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New portion-size campaign: Cut your portions. Cut your risk.

Today, the NYC Health Department, very proactive in fighting obesity and other public health issues, launches a new ad campaign– Cut Your Portions. Cut Your Risk.–spotlighting the role of increasing portion sizes and it consequences for obesity and other health problems. The campaign is urging New Yorkers to be more aware of portion sizes when deciding what to eat or drink.

To hit home, this campaign will feature New York City subway posters encouraging New Yorkers to cut their portions to reduce their risk of health problems. The posters will be in English and in Spanish. Here is a sample.

This portion-size campaign is dear to my heart as I have researched the trend toward growing portion sizes over the past 50 years. And the campaign is based, in part, on my work on growing portion sizes and it’s contribution to the obesity epidemic. Serving sizes of most foods available for immediate consumption, including French fries, soft drinks, hamburgers, and baked goods have more than doubled in size—and therefore in the amount of calories they contain–in the past few decades. In many cases, a single meal is so big that it can contain many more calories than most of us need for an entire day. One of the problems with big portions is that we eat more when we are served more!

Here are several academic articles, co-authored with my mentor and NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle, summarizing my research:

I also write about the trend toward growing portion sizes and offer solutions in my book The Portion Teller Plan.

Hopefully, this new campaign, along with NYC DOH’s ongoing requirement that chain restaurants post calorie counts on menu boards, and some of it’s other terrific ad campaigns, will continue to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to make healthier choices and to eat LESS.

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Food Day

Today, and hopefully for years to come, October 24th, is Food Day. It is a national day of food awareness- to promote healthy eating and affordable, accessible food. It is sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit advocacy group that has led successful campaigns for food labeling, better nutrition, and safer food. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are the Honorary Co-Chairs for Food Day 2011. Advisory board members include nutrition experts and public health activists Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, and Kelly Brownell.

Food Day is centered on six principles:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  2. Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
  6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers


In honor of Food Day, I will be giving a lecture on portion sizes and the obesity epidemic entitled Portion Sizes Continue to Increase: Issues and Policy Implications to students at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition in New York City.

There are so many ways YOU can get involved in Food Day. This is just the beginning of a movement to promote healthy eating, reduce disease, curb junk-food marketing, alleviate hunger, support sustainable farms, and more. Read more about Food Day and see how you can get involved and what you can do.

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