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Posts Tagged ‘ Calories ’

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

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

You can also read it here.

Food label-new 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

You can also read it HERE.

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with Michelle Obama announced an overhaul to the nutrition facts label required on all packaged foods. Among the proposed changes includes updating the serving sizes.

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

The food labels have not been revised in over 20 years, and the current serving sizes are based on portions typically consumed in the 1970s and 1980s.

We eat larger portions than we did 20 years ago, so current serving sizes are smaller–often much smaller–than what people actually eat. As I’ve written in my book The Portion Teller Plan and research articles, these serving sizes may be confusing to people trying to follow dietary advice.

In a previous piece I wrote for Huffington Post, while I commended the FDA for using more realistic serving sizes, I also offered a note of caution: in particular, that FDA is not telling consumers to actually eat more.

“For the good news, as I discussed on CBS Morning News, the serving sizes will be more realistic and reflect what people really eat. Many people today just glance at the calories and think that whatever amount they eat is a serving. For the ice cream example, a consumer reading food labels will now see 400 calories displayed instead of 200 calories. This may mean that you would think twice before scarfing down the entire pint.

A note of caution: FDA is not telling us to eat more. At least, the agency is not advising us to eat a bigger portion of ice cream. Rather, the agency is informing us as to the calorie and nutrient content in a standard serving size which is more in line with what we really do eat…. It would be useful if FDA follow up with nutrition education materials to further educate the public on the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and obesity.”

While there are clearly benefits to FDA requiring that manufacturers use more realistic serving sizes, a new study, published in the journal Appetite, addresses some potential problems with larger serving sizes. The study explores how consumers interpret the new serving sizes, and how they affect the amount of food they would serve themselves.

In one of several experiments, the researchers showed subjects two different labels for mini chocolate chip cookies–the current label which states 3 cookies as a serving and the proposed new label which lists 6 cookies as a serving. The subjects exposed to the proposed label served themselves significantly more cookies than those exposed to the current label.

Results of all four experiments found that people misinterpret serving size information. The majority of subjects believe that the serving size on a food label refers to how much they should eat. The researchers also found that the increased serving sizes on the proposed Nutrition Facts label can lead people eat more and purchase more food.

Uh oh! This is troubling, especially in a society where many of us already eat too much.

The researchers write, “We found that people misinterpret serving size information, with the vast majority of consumers incorrectly believing that the serving size refers to how much can/should be consumed.”

Lead author Steven Dallas, a doctoral candidate at New York University’s Stern School of Business wrote me the following in an email message: “Our research shows that the increased serving sizes of the proposed label lead consumers to serve more food for themselves and others. Since excessive consumption is a key contributor to obesity, this is a worrisome effect of the proposed label.”

Results of this study confirm that consumers may incorrectly view serving sizes as recommendations. Hopefully, FDA will take these findings into account when finalizing its serving-size rulings for the new food labels.

The authors conclude in their paper, “FDA should be encouraged to consider ways to correct this misinterpretation, such as by mandating the addition of a serving size definition to the proposed Nutrition Facts label. The definition could inform consumers that the serving size refers to how much of the product a typical person consumes in one sitting, and does not refer to how much of the product can be healthily consumed in one sitting.”

I agree!

In my comments last year to FDA on the proposed serving-size change, I suggest that FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations. I wrote, ” 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.”

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on the new proposed serving sizes.

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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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Hawaii to cap sizes of sugary drinks

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Hawaii to cap the sizes of sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

In New York City, we are patiently awaiting the court decision on whether or not a 16-ounce soda will become the default “large” at eating establishments including fast food restaurants delis, and movie theaters.

I am pleased that Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would move forward with many of former Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives, including a cap on the sizes of sugar sweetened beverages.

Now, it looks like Hawaii may cap the sizes of sugary drinks. The Hawaii State Senate recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces anywhere in the state.

As written in the bill:

The purpose of this Act is to promote the consumption of healthy beverages by ensuring that healthy options are available and accessible, and to reduce incentives to purchase and consume excessively large sugar-sweetened beverages.

Kudos to Hawaii!

Perhaps Bloomberg’s proposal initiated back in May 2012 was on to something. I recently wrote about the United Arab Emigrates’ proposed cap on super size beverages.

After all, does anybody really need to drink more than a pint of soda at one time? With obesity a major public health crisis in the U.S. and abroad, sodas that come in half-gallon containers may certainly be adding to the problem. Indeed, these jumbo sodas contain nearly 800 calories and 50 teaspoons of sugar, are pure liquid calories and contain more than a third of the calories many people should consume in an entire day.

And, as I’ve written before, obesity rates have increased in parallel with growing soda sizes and calorie labeling alone will not solve the problem. Consumers need an environment that encourages healthier choices. And the healthy choice must be the easy choice.

In the meantime, the NYC Department of Health continues to highlight the risks of drinking too many sugary beverages for children and adults. As part of its Pouring on the Pounds advertising campaign, the department recently introduced a new catchy ad, “A sip in the right direction.

In a continued effort to promote healthier New Yorkers, the health department is urging consumers to replace sugary drinks with water, seltzer, unsweetened teas, fat-free milk and fresh fruit.

Certainly a good idea!

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Save over 1000 calories with these simple portion swaps

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Save over 1000 calories with these 5 simple portion swaps.”

You can also read it HERE.

A new study published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition and Behavior sheds some more bad news for foods consumed outside the home. The researchers from Drexel University reviewed more than 2,600 menu items from restaurant chains and reported that a typical adult meal (comprised of an entree, side dish, and one-half appetizer) contained nearly 1,500 calories. Add a drink and a half dessert, and the calorie content of this meal increased to 2,020 calories.

To put this in perspective, the average American adult should eat around 2,000 calories a day. According to the research, you can meet your daily allotment for calories in just one meal. Yikes! No surprise that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

As a nutritionist tracking portion sizes, these numbers hardly surprise me. Restaurant portions are enormous, at least double what they were 50 years ago. Burgers, steaks, and pasta bowls have increased in size over the past 50 years. So have bagels, muffins and soft drinks.

While what you eat matters (choosing grilled instead of fried chicken, for example), how much you eat (how large your portion is), matters more than many of us realize.

Here are some simple portion swaps that can save you over 1,000 calories.

1. Order an appetizer portion of pasta instead of a main dish portion.
Many main dish pasta portions contain at least three cups which translates to an entire days worth of grains. Appetizer portions contain approximately 1.5 cups of pasta. Add some fresh tomato sauce and lots of veggies and your portion is far from skimpy. A typical appetizer portion is enough food for an entire meal. Switching from a main dish to an appetizer portion of pasta can save you at least 300 calories.

2. Order salad dressing on the side.
So often, we think we are being virtuous by ordering a salad. After all, a salad contains no bread, and so many of us fear the starch these days. However, many appetizer salads in restaurants contain at least four tablespoons of salad dressing, far more than most of us need. If you order your dressing on the side, you can control how much you add. Most of us do not need more than one to two tablespoons of dressing (which translates into three to six teaspoons). Make this switch, and you can save at least 100 calories.

3. Order the small coffee drink. (Note: in some places a small is called “tall.”)
In the U.S., we seem to want our food in larger portions. Hence, even the descriptor term ‘small” is considered taboo and not used in many food establishments. For example, when you go to Starbucks and order a “small,” you get a “Tall.” We often forget that our coffee drink contain lots of calories, especially if it is in an oversize cup. Ordering the smallest size can save you lots of calories. For example, switching from a Starbucks Venti 20-oz coffee Frappuccino to a tall 12-oz size can save you around 170 calories.

4. Chose bran cereal instead of a bran muffin.
Muffins these days are oversized, often weighing in at seven ounces, and containing more than 500 calories. However, because it is just one item, and contains the healthy sounding term “bran” in its title, we often overlook its high calorie content. A simple swap such as switching to a cup of bran cereal and a cup of fat-free milk can save you around 300 calories.

5. Go single, instead of double or triple.
The fast-food industry is notorious for offering single, double, and triple hamburgers. For the good news, YOU get to choose. My suggestion: order the single instead of the double or triple size. For example, while Burger King’s Triple Whopper which is 16 oz contains nearly 1200 calories, the company’s Whopper sandwich which is 10 oz contains around 650 calories. Just making this swap can save you 510 calories. To save an additional 300 calories, switch to the Whopper Junior sandwich which weighs in at nearly 5 oz (and contains enough food for an adult) and hold the mayo.

As I previously wrote here, you can take action to rightsize your plate and save lots of calories by splitting a dinner entrée, wrapping up leftovers, and being mindful of how much food is on your plate.

I would love to hear any portion tricks and tips you may have.

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Fighting Obesity in New York City One Cup at a Time

It has been a busy week in New York City surrounding discussions of Mayor Bloomberg’s portion-size restriction for sodas. Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the topic. You can read it HERE.

I was pleased to participate in Mayor Bloomberg’s press event yesterday at Lucky’s Café on East 34th Street along with other public health activists. The mayor vowed that the city will appeal the ruling overturning the portion-size restriction for sugar-sweetened beverages that was set to go into effect. He also eloquently spoke about the health implications of consuming large sugary beverages for New Yorkers. The mayor mentioned that obesity is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers annually and 100,000 people nationwide. Indeed, large portions of sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing to our obesity epidemic.

The proposed portion size cap was set to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 ounces in food establishments, including fast-food chains, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis, and street carts. It would include the now-typical 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and most oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters. It would even include many “small” sodas served at such eateries.

The press release from Mayor Bloomberg’s office cites new research from the city showing a strong connection between the consumption of sugary beverages and obesity.

The release states that:

… neighborhoods with higher rates of consumption of sugary drinks tended to have higher obesity rates. Nine of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates city-wide were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption.

From a nutritionist’s point of view, this makes perfect sense. Sugar-sweetened beverages are purely liquid calories, provide no nutrients, no health benefits, and contribute unnecessary calories to our diets. And, as I found in my research, portion sizes of soft drinks and other foods have grown considerably over time and so have our waistlines. The sizes of soft drinks have morphed into jugs and half-gallon containers large enough for a family of eight. In the 1950s, a Burger King “small” soda was 12 ounces and the “large” was 16 ounces. Today, its “small” is 20 ounces. In 1916, a Coca-Cola bottle was 6.5 ounces, and in the 1950s, a Coca-Cola ad advertised the 16-ounce size to be shared among 3 people. Today, many people complain that 16 ounces is too small. Indeed, our perception has shifted.

As I previously wrote here:

… the mayor of New York City is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than a reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

I was pleased to offer my support to the city’s portion size restriction. As I indicated in the press release from the mayor’s office:

“I am in support of the portion-size restriction on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “Large portion sizes of sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Capping the size of sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent way to fight obesity. Large portions of soda contain many calories and absolutely no nutrients. No one should be drinking a 64 ounce (half gallon) of soda. A 16-ounce soda (a pint size) is certainly large enough for one person.”

But consumers will only buy small portions if the price is right or if the large sizes disappear. The price is rarely right for small portions, however. Manufacturers rarely charge half price for a half portion, as it has to cover its costs. And the cost of food is cheaper than most other costs such as rent, labor, and supplies.

As I wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Daily News back in September after the proposal was approved by the Board of Health:

Large portions contribute to obesity because they obviously contain more calories than small portions: A small soda (16 ounces) at KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories — and is more than one-third of an entire day’s recommended calories for some people. Bigger portions also encourage us to consume more and to thus underestimate how much we are really eating and drinking. And it is the destitute who are most frequently the victims of the ills that come with fast-food consumption.

Given the enormous health implications of obesity in New York and elsewhere, capping the portion sizes of liquid calories devoid of nutrients is a terrific place to start.
The city did indeed file an appeal of Judge Tingling’s ruling. It is unclear how long it will take before a decision is reached. While I do hope that the decision is made in favor of the city, regardless of the outcome, Mayor Bloomberg and the city accomplished a great deal. The proposal to limit supersize sugary beverages set the stage for a national discussion on the contribution of our food environment — in particular, large portions of sugary beverages — to the obesity epidemic. And, we can do something about it!

I do hope that while we are waiting, restaurants and other eating establishments follow Lucky Café’s lead and voluntarily offer smaller sodas. We as consumers should also pay closer attention to the sizes of our food portions. We should think twice before buying the larger size, even if we get twice as much for just an extra quarter. And, in the end, we must remember that portion size matters.

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