Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

The food pyramid becomes dust

June 1, 2011
The Egyptian pyramids will always endure, the food pyramid, not so much.

The old, new food pyramid -- confusing!

The triangular-shaped guide to healthy eating with its levels for each basic food group is being ditched in favor of a plate-shaped symbol sliced into wedges.

Half of the “plate” is taken up by fruits and vegetables, the rest of the wedges filled out with grains and protein.  It also apparently features a small circle for a serving of dairy.

The idea is to have your real dinner plate mimic the 2-D guide — a move many nutritionists are praising.  One tells The New York Times the plate will be better than the pyramid because the current model “basically conveys no useful information”.

I’d have to agree.

I get that the smaller the pyramid level, the less you should eat something, but they put fats at the top!  I don’t know about you, but putting something  atop of everything else has always suggested it’s better than the rest and in this case, it’s not.

So bring on the plate.  It’ll be officially unveiled tomorrow.  I wonder how long it’ll take before actual dishes printed with the eating recommendations hit the market…

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The 100 calorie rule

February 24, 2011

If you’re training for an endurance race like a half marathon, marathon or triathlon, you’ve probably read that you need to incorporate sports drinks or gels or bars at some point during your long workout sessions.  But if you’re new to endurance training and are used to drinking just water during your workouts, the transition can be confusing. 

How many extra calories do you need to take in and at what point during your run or ride should you start?  Here are the general rules:

  • During any workout up to one hour, plain water is fine. 

In fact, if you’re a just a regular gym rat (read: not training for anything) you should stick to just water.  Consider this: a woman weighing 150 pounds burns 98 calories per mile run.  The average sports drink contains 125 calories per bottle.  That means you’d have to run roughly 1.25 miles  before you actually start burning more calories than you’ve consumed. 

  • For those of us who are tackling training runs/rides in excess of an hour, it’s recommended to consume 100 calories or 30 grams of carbohydrate (drink or gel) for every hour beyond the 60 minute mark.

As for what to eat and/or drink, I prefer the fruity sports snacks like Gatorade, Powerade and Clif Shot Bloks.  Gu is also good if you’re looking for something really sweet. 

And here’s a tip if you’re planning on consuming the Bloks or Gu during a race…make sure you eat it near a water station.  You’re going to need the water to wash that stuff down because it has a tendency of sticking your jaw shut.

11 million victims, no easy solution

February 22, 2011

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. 

The goal of the National Eating Disorders Association is simple…to eventually prevent all eating disorders from occurring.  But it won’t be an easy battle.

Consider these statistics from the NEDA website:

  • It’s estimated 11 million people suffer from anorexia and bulimia.  10 million of those people are women.
  • The mortality rate among anorexic girls between 15-24 years old is 12 times higher than any other illness.
  • 40% of new cases of anorexia is in girls between 15-19 years old.
  • Only a third anorexics and 6% of bulimics receive mental care

As for why girls turn to such drastic measures as starving themselves, abusing laxatives or bingeing and purging, consider this: 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.  It’s easy to blame the media and fashion industry for those numbers.  Afterall, models are 98% thinner than the average American woman.  But girls also get their cues from their mothers.  And if their moms are a frequent rider on the diet rollercoaster, odds are the daughters will grow up fearing and dreading weight gain. 

It’s time to break that cycle. 

Click here to learn more about NEDAwareness week and what you can do to help stamp out eating disorders.

Do menus with calorie counts work?

February 18, 2011

Back in 2008 when New York City ordered fast-food and other chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus, the eateries were livid.  They worried that when faced with just how many calories a Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappaccino (440 calories) or one of Pizzeria Unos’ individual Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza (2310!) actually contained, they’d stop coming in search of healthier options.  Turns out the restaurant industry had nothing to worry about.

A recent study by researchers at New York University looked at whether the change affected the eating habits of New York City and Newark, NJ kids from low-income families.   (New Jersey served as the control group because the state doesn’t yet require calorie information to be posted).  They discovered that although 60 percent of the kids who ordered their own food noticed the information, 90 percent of them said the labels didn’t affect what they ordered.  It was the same when it came to kids whose parents ordered for them.

So are calorie counts a waste?  Not necessarily, say the researchers.  What they concluded from this study is that in addition to providing the labels, people need to be educated about what makes up a healthy diet.  In essence, what good is knowing how many calories something contains if you don’t know how many calories you should be eating in the first place?  But the question then becomes is it the responsibility of the individual or the government to get this information?  I should point out this NYU study comes federal officials write rules requiring chain restaurants across the country to post calorie information on their menus and drive-through signs.

The skinny bitch at fashion week

February 15, 2011

The skinny can that's making a splash at Fashion Week

Fashion Week is in full swing here in New York and the shows and new clothes aren’t the only things making headlines.  Pepsi took this week-long fashion extravaganza to unveil it’s new “skinny” Diet Pepsi can.  To say the thinking behind the design is flawed and offensive is to put it mildly.  The new can is taller and skinnier than it’s predecessor and will likely stand out amid all the short and squat soda cans out there.  No, what I take issue with is how the company has decided to market the new design.  Here are just a few words Pepsi uses to describe the new can: “sassier”, “stylish”, “confident”, “attractive” and “stylish”.

I get what they’re doing.  They’re trying to associate their product with all those fashionistas who flock to Fashion Week.  “Diet Pepsi: The latest must-have item!”  And yet it fails because in hyping a tall and skinny product as attractive and stylish, the company is implying  if you’re not tall and skinny (like those Fashion Week models) than you’re ugly with an out of date wardrobe. 

Sure it might be unfair to jump to the conclusion those skinny cans are a representation of what the company thinks confident and attractive women should look like, but consider this:  (1) They unveiled this product during Fashion Week and (2) most diet soda drinkers tend to be women. 

And I’m not the only one who’s insulted.  When this story broke last Thursday, the blogosphere blew up.  And then on Friday, the National Eating Disorders Association stepped into the fray calling Pepsi’s choice of branding words “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

I’ve never been a fan of Pepsi, but now I have even more of a reason to stick with my Diet Coke.

Why losing weight is so hard

February 3, 2011

Fat Cells

Stumbled across something interesting today regarding how the body stores (and loses) fat.

Apparently the body doesn’t store fat in layers.  That’s to say if you were to take a cross-section of your stomach the fat stored there wouldn’t look like the rings of a tree trunk.  Instead, our body has fat cells which expand to hold more of the stuff when we need them to.  (which for a lot of people is always)

As for losing fat, it’s doable, but our bodies make it hard to.  (Not that I had to tell you that).  But get this, the fat hormone produced when fat cells shrink is produced more rapidly than the actual shrinkage rate.  This means our brains are getting the message that we’ve lost more weight than we actually have.  Talk about sabotaging yourself!

And here’s one more sobering morsel to chew on…like all cells, fat cells shrivel up and die, BUT the number of them in our bodies at any given time always remains constant.

Obviously, evolution is the reason our bodies are hardwired to hold onto fat.  Food wasn’t so plentiful back in our hunter/gatherer days and our bodies had to develop a way to store energy for those times when a meal wasn’t forthcoming.

Who knows…maybe millennia from now getting rid of that excess fat won’t be as hard as it is now!

Eat breakfast like a king and you’ll end up like Henry VIII

January 26, 2011

Now that's a king-sized breakfast!

How many times have you heard that you shouldn’t skip breakfast if you want to lose weight?  And how about the one that the first meal of the day should also be the biggest because it’ll help you eat less throughout the day?  Turns out eating breakfast like a king could lead to a king-sized belly.

German researchers are out with a new study that reveals people who eat a big breakfast don’t  actually eat less calories throughout the course of the day.  In fact, those who ate a 400 calorie breakfast ate 400 calories more in a day than those who just had a normal breakfast.

  I can’t say that I’m surprised.  People love to eat, give them a reason to eat more disguised as a diet tip and you can be sure they’ll take it.  We’re on the diet in the first place because we don’t know how to eat less, so no wonder our caloric intake doesn’t change.

But the study isn’t all bad news. 

The researchers found that those who ate breakfast, as opposed to those who skipped it, made healthier food choices during the day.

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 9 — Basket full of joy

December 21, 2010

So you’ve left your holiday shopping to the last minute and are running out of time, but you still want to get a personal gift (not a gift card).  So what can you do?

How about a basket full of sports drinks, supplements and accessories?  It’s like one of those gourmet foodie baskets, but with the athlete in mind.

Instead of bottles of wine, buy bottles of Gatorade, Powerade and/or Vitamin Water.  Skip the chocolate and instead go for protein bars and energy bars.  If you’re shopping for an endurance athlete, throw in some packets of Gu or Cliff Shot Bloks.  You might also want to add a pair of running socks, a hydration belt, a water bottle, some muscle cream or one of those books from Day 6 to round things out.  Arrange it in a basket, slap on a Christmas bow and voila! you have a gift any athlete would be happy to receive.

And remember…you only have 4 shopping days left!

Watching your weight just got more complicated

December 7, 2010

Just when I was finally memorizing all the point values of my foods, Weight Watchers has gone and upended its entire points system.  And I’m not talking a few changes here and there.  Nope, it’s an across the board overhaul.  Major tweaks include:

  • All fruits and most vegetables are now worth 0 points.  That’s right, nothing.  Those foods you’ll still have to count include starchy veggies like potatoes, corn and peas.
  • Certain processed foods and alcohol now have higher point values.  For example, a Thomas light English muffin jumps from 1 point to 3 and 3 glasses of wine will set you back 11 instead of 6.
  • There’s now a higher, minimum points level and dieters are given more “flex” points per week.

Weight Watchers says the point (pun intended) of the overhaul is to focus more on wholesome, good for you foods.  Under the old system, with all foods assigned a point value, you could technically lose weight while eating junk food, so long as you stayed within your daily/weekly point allotment.  With this new system, Weight Watchers is trying to bring the focus to eating healthier.

I, for one, applaud them for the effort.  But that doesn’t mean I’ll be trading in the old system for the new one anytime soon.

For starters, I already eat a diet compromised of mostly fresh/wholesome foods.  I really wouldn’t be changing my diet all that much following the new system. 

Second, I don’t see the need to run out and buy new books when I’ve been doing just fine (i.e. losing weight) with the old system.  Like they say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

And a warning to those who think this gives them carte blanche to stuff themselves silly with fruits and vegetables: eating too much of anything will eventually lead to weight gain (not to mention a massive stomach ache!)

Good Halloween treats are a trick

October 28, 2010

It used to be that Halloween was the one time of year we could enjoy copious amounts of candy guilt-free.  That’s no longer the case.  Watch your local newscast or open your daily paper and you’re sure to find an obscene amount of info about which Halloween treats are the healthier choice.  I think it’s all ghastly advice.

Look, I like pretzels and graham crackers and carrots as much as the next person, but I don’t want those things anywhere near my trick-or-treat sack.  The point of Halloween is candy.  And it’s actually a tradition that goes back to the middle ages.  Back then, people would go around and beg for food in exchange for prayers on All Soul’s Day (which falls the next day).  But I digress.

Yes, eating all that candy in one day isn’t good for you.  But if you read this blog often enough, you  know that I’m all about moderation.  Halloween is the perfect time to practice.  Pick out your favorite pieces and then indulge in one or two a day.  As for the rest of it?…pack it up and bring it into work to or just (gasp!) throw it away.

But for those of you who insist on knowing which candies are the “healthier” choice (even though we all know no candy is actually good for us)  here are a few tips:

* Skittles and Caramel Twix have more sugar than Milky Way and Baby Ruth bars.

* A snack size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup checks in at 110 calories.

*Laffy Taffy, Starburst, Twizzlers, Nerds and Mike and Ike’s are all low-calorie options with about 50 calories or fewer per serving.

Happy Halloween!