Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Calorie Rules for Restaurants

The Food and Drug Administration announced new calories rules for restaurants.  This is part of the Affordable Care Act.  So what will be changing?   
       1.        Chain restaurants (those with 20 or more locations), pizza parlors, movie theaters will be required to post calories on their menus.  
       2.       Beverages on Menus – calorie content of beverages, including alcohol will be posted but not for mixed drinks at a bar.  
       3.       Grocery stores – buying a sandwich or a salad for yourself, then the calories will be noted.    Buying a rotisserie chicken or other item designed to a number of people and the calories need not be noted.  
       4.       Convenience stores like 7-Eleven will need to post calories counts on prepared food meant to be eaten by one person.  
       5.       What type of foods will be labeled?

         a.       Meals from sit-down restaurants.
         b.      Food purchased at drive-through windows
         c.       Take-out food, like pizza
         d.      Foods, such as made-to-order sandwiches at a grocery store or delicatessen
         e.      Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar
         f.        Muffins at a bakery or coffee shop   
         g.  Popcorn purchased at a movie theater or even an amusement park 
         h.      A scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice cream store

FDA says this is important as Americans now consume about one third of their calories away from home.  But not everyone is happy about the new law.  Grocery stores are not pleased as they were not supposed to be included in the rule but FDA disagreed. 

So when can you expect to see these calorie counts at restaurants?  Not any time soon as FDA wants to give the industry time to adopt this new rule.  So restaurants have a year to comply.  But a number of restaurants already list calorie counts for their menus including Panera Bread and McDonald’s.  Many more offer this information online.  
 Sources: FDA to Require Calorie Count,  Overview of FDA Labeling Requirements, image source: 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coffee for good health?

So much good information is coming out about coffee that some health professionals are wondering if they should recommend coffee for good health.  So what are some of these great health benefits and how much do you need to drink to get these benefits? 
Health Benefits of Coffee  

  •  Reduced risk of many diseases including cardiovascular (heart) disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes – all these benefits for just drinking coffee.
  • Reduced risk of skin cancer- about 3 cups of coffee a day reduced risk of skin cancer
  • Reduced risk of depression, at least in women – 2-3 cups a day, helped lift one’s mood according to a Harvard University Research study

Why is drinking coffee healthy?
  •  Phytochemicals – coffee contains more of the phenolic phytochemical than tea or red wine, other phytochemicals in coffee are flavanols
  • Antioxidants – these prevent damage to the cells in your body.  Coffee provides these beneficial antioxidants.
  • Minerals – one doesn’t think coffee has nutritional value but it provides both magnesium and chromium.  These minerals are important in controlling blood sugar levels.   
Drinking coffee with lots of cream, whipped cream, caramel, chocolate, other sweeteners can add calories and added fat in your diet.  

Enjoy Some Coffee: So if you like your coffee, enjoy it and know that there are some health benefits to drinking coffee.  Don’t like coffee, then enjoy some green tea which also has health benefits. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How can you get your kids to eat more fruit and veggies?

In the health class I teach, it is a challenge to get parents to serve fruit and veggies to kids.  Then when they do, they say the kids won’t eat the fruits and veggies.  Some of my students work in day care centers and the center tries to serve healthy fresh fruit and vegetables only to have the kids turn up their noses.  So how can parents, day care centers and others who work with kids, get the kids to eat more fruits and veggies?  For good health kids should eat a minimum of 5 A DAY – five fruits and veggies a day.  Many eat none.  So here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control:

10 Ways to Help Kids Eat More Fruits and Veggies

1.    Keep a bowl of fresh fruits on the counter.  Keep cut up fruits and veggies in the fridge in small bags to easy snacks.                                                                              
2.    Serve 2 fruits and veggies at every meal
a.       Breakfast  - one fruit is fine but lunch and dinner need 2.  MyPlate shows half the plate is fruits/veggies. 
b.      Sneak veggies into foods – add grated or cut up veggies into spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, other entrees, side dishes and soups.  Top off cereal with fruits or add frozen fruits to smoothies.
3.  Set a good example.
a.       Snack on fruit and veggies when at restaurants – order the salad, the apple slices, and sides of veggies.
4.  Pack the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard with pre-cut, frozen and canned vegetables so that it is easier for you to prepare meals and snacks that include vegetables.
5.   Challenge family members to reach their daily fruit and vegetable goal.
a.       Reward the winner with a prize of his or her choice.
b.      Start with 5 A DAY then try for more than 5 servings of fruit/veggies a day.
  6.  Ask that fruits and vegetable be offered at school functions, sport games, after school programs, and in vending machines.  
7.    Let children choose which fruits and vegetables to serve and how to incorporate them into their favorite meals. 
       8.  Make fruits and vegetables fun.  Try dressing up sandwiches with faces and smiles made from fruits and veggies.   
       9.  Keep trying.  For some foods, it may take multiple times before a child acquires a taste for it.
10.  Encourage friends or relatives to offer vegetables and fruits to your children.

And one last tip – French Fries don’t count.  They are so high in fat, CDC even doesn’t count them as a veggie.  Potatoes yes, French Fries no.
If you want to view some kids’ excuses for why they won’t eat something, see this clip a relative shared with me:  Picky Eating Habits

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Grains – Are you eating whole grains?

It is amazing how many people have no idea what a whole grain is and what foods are whole grain and which are just refined grains.  To have a healthy diet, one needs whole grains in their diet, yet so many people have no idea what that means.  I was presenting at a high school class while the students ate their lunches.  All the students said they ate whole grains.  When I asked them what on their lunch tray was whole grain they pointed to the white roll, the breading on their fried chicken, the mashed potatoes.  Of course, none of these foods are whole grain.  Fortunately, I was there to help them learn what whole grains were.   I’ve asked many adults what whole grain bread is and they respond, if the bread is dark in color, any brown at all, it is whole grain.  Not true.
What is whole grain?  To be whole grain, the food needs to contain 100% of all parts of the grain seed including the bran, endosperm and germ.  When food manufacturers refine grains, they remove the bran and germ and most of the nutrients and nutritional benefits of the grain.  The Whole Grains Council lists whole grains as:
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat – Try buckwheat pancakes
  • Corn – whole cornmeal and Popcorn
  • Millet
  • Oats – oatmeal is a super healthy cereal
  • Quinoa
  • Rice – brown rice and colored rice – going out to Chipotle?  Choose the brown rice.
  • Rye – very hard to find whole grain rye bread, most is refined
  • Wheat – only if whole wheat.  Many breads are called “Wheat Bread” but this isn’t whole grain bread, just wheat flour dyed brown.   Need to look for 100% Whole Wheat Bread.
  • Wild Rice 
         Many people avoid starches and grains.  And we should avoid or cut back on eating white bread, foods made with white flour.  But whole grains should be added to our diets as whole grains have so many health benefits.  The Whole Grain Council notes:   
  1.   Whole grains reduce our risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes and even obesity. 
  2. Whole grains have phytochemicals and antioxidants that are removed when they make white flour.  These phytochemicals and antioxidants are super healthy.  
  3. Eating at least 3 servings of of whole grains a day, reduces: 
    • heart disease risk by 25-36%
    • Stroke  by 37%
    • Type II diabetes by 21-37%
    • Digestive cancers by 21-43%    
Find ways to add whole grains to your day.  I often have low fat microwave popcorn. (Not theatre popcorn which is super high in fat and salt.)  Buy bread, bagels, English Muffins labeled 100% Whole Wheat and not Wheat Bread.  Try Triscuits, Wheat Thins as snack crackers.  We like buckwheat pancakes, a little dry but tasty.  Cook up some quinoa as a side dish for dinner. 
For more information on whole grains go to the Whole Grains Council at  An interesting website that talks about the health benefits of whole grains is:

Sources:  Whole Grains Council and Nutrients in Refined vs Whole Grains,  Image Source:Whole Grain Council

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Low on Energy?

Many people ask me how they can have energy throughout the day. They say they feel tired and wonder if there is anything they can eat that will give them more energy. Food is how your body fuels its engines, the right food will give you more lasting energy. An interesting article appeared in the Weill Cornell Medical College newsletter called “Avoid the Energy Roller Coaster”. What hints do they offer to keep you energized throughout the day?
      1.  Complex Carbs – so many people are “avoiding carbs”. And yes, there are carbs you should avoid such as foods with refined carbs, the added sugar and white flour carbs. But many complex carbs will not only provide energy but more longer lasting energy.
  • Whole grains – these complex carbs will re-fuel your engines, have fiber to fill you up and will provide more lasting energy than refined carbs. Whole grain crackers, whole grain bread, even whole grain chips
  • Legumes, beans – hummus is a great addition to crackers for an energy boost.
  • Vegetables – like carrots, zucchini, radishes, asparagus – have carbs but are low in calories
  • Whole fruits – any whole fruit would be a great way to get an energy boost. Whole fruits have the fiber often missing in juices.
 2.  Eat every 3-4 hours. You may be low in energy reserves because you don’t eat often enough. Doesn’t have to be a meal but a healthy snack that includes some complex carb and protein would be a great energizer.
3. Protein – protein foods provide lasting energy. Good to have the complex carbs for immediate energy, then add some protein for more lasting energy.
  • Low fat protein – low fat yogurt, low fat milk, make a smoothie
  • Lean cuts of meat – chicken
  • Cheese – reduced fat cheese 
      4. Breakfast – skipping breakfast can lead to low energy in the late morning. Breakfast means, “Break the Fast” – as your body has been fasting all night. Researchers have found those who eat breakfast are more alert and have more energy throughout the day.
  • Bagel (whole grain) and low fat cream cheese
  • Hard-boiled egg and whole wheat English muffin
  • Whole grain cereal and fruit
  • Oatmeal and blueberries
  • Peanut butter and whole grain toast or whole grain bagel      

Roller Coaster foods – these would be refined carbs – foods high in added sugar and/or white flour. These can cause your blood sugar to rise sharply, you feel great, but then plunge and you feel tired.
  • Candy
  • Sugared soft drinks
  • Donuts
  • Cookies
  • White bread
  • Crackers made with white flour
       Source:  Avoid the Energy Roller Coaster, Image Source:  Bagel and Peanut Butter