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Posts Tagged ‘ healthy ’

Healthy or hype? 5 food label claims that may seduce you to over-eat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post: “Healthy or hype? 5 food label claims that may seduce you to overeat.” 

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever purchased one food item over another because the nutrient claim on the package gave you the impression that it was the healthier choice? You may have been misled.

Many terms on food labels can confuse even the most educated consumers into thinking that a packaged food product is healthy when in fact, it is anything but healthy.

As I previously wrote, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be giving food labels an overhaul after 30 years (with updated serving sizes, disclosure of added sugar, and more), and even changing the definition of some terms manufacturers can use on labels (including “healthy”), it is still easy to be tricked into thinking a packaged food product is healthier than it really is.

Here are several—often misleading—terms that manufacturers often use on packaged food labels along with my tips on how not to be fooled. Such terms are often “health halos,” giving consumers the impression that the product is healthy thereby encouraging you to eat more than they may ordinarily consume.

1. Multigrain

When shopping for healthy grains, including bread, pasta, and crackers, looks—and words—can be deceiving. A loaf of bread, for example can be flavored with molasses or caramel coloring and have that brown “healthy” look but may not be any healthier than refined white bread. The term multigrain, for example, means that the product must contain two or more grains. But those grains may or may not be healthy whole grains.

Whole grains, including whole wheat breads and pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice contain more nutrients and fiber than refined products which have been stripped away of the bran and germ, the grain’s healthy components. The Dietary Guidelines advises that at least half of our grains be whole grains so read labels carefully.

My tip: When reading food labels, if you want to be assured that your product is healthy, look for the words 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat as opposed to multigrain. And be sure to read the ingredient list which tells a lot. According to FDA, “ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight,” meaning that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first. The ingredient list tells you like it is.

2. Zero trans fat

Trans fat is just about the most unhealthy fat you can have. It is bad for your heart, is generally found in heavily processed foods, and the ideal amount to have is none at all. However, products are allowed to say that they contain “zero trans fats” if one serving contains less than 0.5 grams. This is deceiving because if you eat multiple servings—which so many of us do—the grams of trans fats add up quite easily.

My tip: Read the ingredient list and if “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” is listed, then the product contains trans fats, and I suggest you keep it on the shelf instead of adding it to your grocery cart.

3. Fatfree

The term fat-free can be notoriously misleading. Many products that bear this label are not as healthy as you might think and just because a label says fat-free, it doesn’t mean that the food product is calorie-free and that you can eat as much as you want. Fat-free products often tend to be loaded with sugar and are not healthy at all, despite what many consumers often think.

I’ve had many clients over the years that think they don’t have to pay attention to their portion size of fat free products. However, many fat-free cookies have just as many calories as their full-fat version. And many fat-free versions taste awful and just leave us wanting more.

My tip: Check the label for calorie content, and compare it to the full-fat version. And watch out for the added sugar.

4. Sugarfree

According to FDA, the nutrient claim sugar-free means that a product contains less than 0.5 grams of sugars per serving. These products, however, may still contain calories and carbohydrates from other sources. As many consumers often think, the term sugar-free doesn’t mean the product contains fewer calories than the regular version. Oftentimes, it contains more.

Sugar-free products often contain sugar alcohols such as xylitol, maltitol, or sorbitol which do contain calories (although fewer calories than table sugar) and may also cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea. Therefore, it is very important to practice portion control.

My tip: Compare the labels of the regular and sugar-free version and be sure to check the number of calories as well. And do not eat too much of either version. In fact, the sugar-free version will probably give you a stomach ache if you eat too much.

5. Gluten free

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye and should not be consumed by people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. These days, gluten-free products are very easy to find with the proliferation of new products regularly hitting store shelves.

Gluten-free products, however, are not necessarily any healthier than those with gluten and can often actually be less healthy and contain more sugar and salt, and less fiber.

While gluten-free products are important for those who cannot digest gluten, there is really no advantage for everyone else to buy them. And they certainly will not help you lose weight, unless of course, they are lower in calories than the regular version which is not necessarily the case.

My tip: Read food labels and compare the calories, fiber, sugar, salt, and ingredient list of the gluten-free and regular varieties. And remember gluten-free cookies are still cookies!

One final thought: Before turning to packaged foods, I’d suggest you aim to eat more whole foods—including fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, fresh seafood, and quinoa or brown rice—without fancy packaging and lots of added ingredients.

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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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10 tips to supercharge your health this holiday season

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “10 tips to supercharge your health this holiday season.”

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net byApolonia

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‘Tis the season for overeating.

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s are filled with lots of social gatherings and food festivities. Food is everywhere, whether the office party, family events, buffets, cocktail parties or holiday candy gifts. It is also a stressful time for many people which, in and of itself, can lead to additional overeating.

With some advance planning, and smart pointers, however, you can come out healthier and more rejuvenated, and maybe even a few pounds thinner in time for the New Year.

To help you avoid gaining weight this season and reduce “food-related” stress, below I offer strategies that I’ve successfully used with clients in my talks and nutrition counseling practice. I invite you to try incorporating them into your daily routine.

1. Plan your day.

Part of the reason we overeat is that we do not pay much attention to what we are going to eat. We forget to eat, wait till we are famished and then overeat, or just grab whatever we can find when on the run. I suggest trying to map out your day in the morning and thinking about some of the healthy food choices you can make. For example, if you are going to a dinner party, plan for a healthy snack an hour or two before you go so that you are not starved when you arrive. If you are going out to lunch or dinner, view the menu in advance so you can get an idea of what you may want to order.

2. Eat healthy most of the time.

This is not a time to begin a diet. Or to ban your favorite foods. My suggestion for this holiday season is to pick a few foods that you absolutely love and legalize them, that is, allow yourself to include them, sans the guilt. The key is not eating them all at once. Plan for one treat a day and this way you will have something to look forward to.

3. Downsize your portions.

What I love about practicing portion control is that you can still eat what you love, just less of it, which will help you trim calories. You also do not have to say no entirely. For example, if your family is going to your favorite steakhouse, instead of not joining them, allow yourself to sharing a steak and order an extra portion of vegetables. Instead of saying to yourself “I need to cut out all alcohol,” allow yourself to include an occasional glass of wine with dinner. I offer additional portion-control tips hereand here.

4. Swap and substitute.

I am a big fan of swapping out unhealthy foods for healthier ones. As a nutritionist, instead of telling clients not to eat this or that, providing them with healthy options helps to empower them to make smarter choices. Healthy substitutions allow you to give something up while including something else so that you do not feel deprived. Swap out refined grains for whole grains instead of cutting out grains entirely. For example, choose quinoa over white rice, if possible. You can also incorporate smart substitutions at home. Try using Greek yogurt or applesauce to cut some of the butter in your favorite recipe.

5. Drink more water.

Drinking water regularly will keep you hydrated. So often, we think we are hungry, but we really are just thirsty. I recommend including water, seltzer or herbal tea to keep you hydrated. Fruits and vegetables, along with vegetable-based soups also count toward fluid. Skip the soda and juice, and go easy on alcohol and caffeinated beverages. I suggest keeping a water bottle on your desk or in your brief case. It will serve as a great reminder to drink up!

6. Spice up your favorite dish.

I love recommending spices for several reasons. Spices offer up a multitude of health benefits, ranging from containing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, to acting as antioxidants and warding off disease. Also, when you incorporate spices into your diet, you tend to use less sugar and salt, which is a good thing. Spices are simple to keep on hand and don’t take up much space. Instead of adding sugar to your coffee, try using cinnamon; instead of sprinkling salt on your eggs, try turmeric.

7. Include a fruit or a vegetable at each meal.

Many of us fail to eat enough produce. Fruits and veggies contain lots of fiber as well as vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium. They are also relatively low in calories. Make an effort to add fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks. Add berries to your yogurt, choose a salad with lunch or order a veggie-based soup, munch on baby carrots as a snack, and include a colorful assortment of veggies at dinner. Engage your kids and make a smoothie as an evening snack. The fruit and veggie servings quickly add up.

And here’s an added benefit–when you eat plenty of fruits and veggies, you tend to eat less junk food.

8. Keep moving.

Even though this is a busy time of year, trying to incorporate some kind of exercise will really help you to not only keep your eating–and weight–in check but also to help you stay centered. Go for a swim or a run in the morning to get you going or go to a yoga class to help you slow down and be more mindful. Weather permitting, it’s great to exercise outdoors in nature. Call a friend and go for a walk in the park.

9. Practice gratitude.

Being grateful for your life and all of the good things going your way is so important. While things can always be a bit better, it is so important to take time out and have a grateful heart.

10. Enjoy the company of family and friends.

Last but not least, instead of focusing on food, nurture your relationships. When getting together with family and friends, savor their company, and enjoy catching up with them. At a dinner party, take a portion of food, grab your loved one, and focus on filling each other in on what has been going on in your lives.

We would love to hear your favorite holiday survival tips.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy–and healthy–holiday season!

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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5 ways to build a healthy breakfast

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

You can also read it HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few great breakfast options:

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

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

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

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

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

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