Monday, September 17, 2012

How Many Grams in a Teaspoon of Sugar?

I'm trying to read labels to help me choose the best foods for me and my family. I have an idea of how many grams of protein and grams of fat to aim for in a day. But I want some more understanding of grams of sugar. I take it we don't actually need to have any sugar in a day (since we can get energy calories from complex carbs, starches, etc). But, is there a recommendation for a healthy number of grams? And just so I know, how many teaspoons of sugar are in, say, a 20 oz. bottle of soda that states 67 gm sugar on the label?
Julie M.

Hi Julie,
You may have seen the recent research showing that women who read food labels tend to weigh less, so you know it can't hurt to be observant. Good for you for taking the extra steps to feed you and your family the best choices.

You're right about us not needing any sugar, per say, in our diet. But I wouldn't encourage people to aim for zero grams of sugar in a day. For starters, there is naturally occurring sugar in milk, fruit and fruit juices. Avoiding these products will eliminate some foods that are good sources of some major nutrients.

If you're talking about added sugars, a limit is probably a good idea. That range, however, depends on all sorts of things, like your daily calorie intake, whether or not you are trying to lose weight (or possibly gain weight), and how healthy your diet is in general.
For an average adult who takes in 2000 calories a day, I think 20-50 grams is a good ballpark figure. This includes sugars found in baked goods, desserts, breakfast cereals, and added sweets like honey, jam, and sugar used in beverages.

Regarding grams per teaspoon, there are about 4 grams of table sugar in a teaspoon (this provides about 16 calories). So a bottle of soda with 67 grams has the equivalent of close to 17 teaspoons of sugar--a number that should make you take a pause before drinking another one of those!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trying to Lose 20 pounds (I blame my husband!)

Hi Laurie,
I was at my best weight 6 years ago when I got married. After 2 years, eating to keep up with my husband (big mistake!) I gained 20 pounds. It's been very hard to take the weight off. I'm 28 years old, 5'5" and 150 pounds. I actually lost 5 pounds over the past year walking 3 miles a day and keeping my calorie intake to 1600-1700 a day. I do have a drink or two (alcoholic) a day, but I include that in my calorie intake. I had a good report at my check-up last month and my weight isn't at a very unhealthy point, but I would feel a lot better to get back to 125#. Any advice?    Tina R.

Hi Tina,

Well, you are in the same boat as a whole lot of people. 
The fact that you've lost 5 pounds over the past year is quite good news! Keep it up, and you'll be at your goal in another 5. I'm sure you want to lose more quickly than that, but in order to lose faster you'll have to make some changes.

1) Seriously consider cutting out the alcoholic beverages, or limiting as much as you can (a drink or two a week?) Each drink has at least 100 calories (and some can have 300 or 400 depending on the size and ingredients).  For every 100 calories you cut out of your diet (and by cutting out these drinks you are making no nutritional compromises) you can lose a pound each month. Cut out 200 a day, lose 2 pounds a month. The question you'll have to answer each day is, "Do you want a drink to make you happy for an hour? Or would you rather weigh 125 pounds and be happier 24/7?"

2) Consider walking farther or faster. Or finding some additional exercise. Can you join a gym and try out some fun classes? Zumba, spinning, step and kettle bells all have their fanatic followers. If a gym is not in your budget you can find a DVD and work out at home very inexpensively.

3) Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, shortly after you eat (or drink). We often forget a few hundred extra calories here and there. Some great websites to help you do this are FitDay, SparkPeople, and LoseIt (which also has a phone app). Enter your food intake and these programs track your daily calories, subtract from the total when you enter exercise, graph your weight loss, and let you buddy up and chat with others going through the same thing.

4) Think about joining my Lifechanging! Weight Loss series starting late 2012). We meet by telephone (think virtual conference room) and follow along with the Beck Diet Solution workbook for 8 weeks. Here's the registration and information page .

Do some serious thinking on this: You'll have to make a commitment to make some changes (even slight ones) if you want to see changes on the scale.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Can I Burn 300 Calories?

My question is How can I burn 300 calories fast? What is the best method to burn 300 calories so people can still eat cake, but not gain weight. What exercise is most effective for burning calories? What can you do to speed up your metabolism?  Alyse E.

Hi Alyse,

This cool site lets you enter your own weight to calculate calories burned in various activities.
The more you weigh, the more calories you burn; it takes energy to move more mass.

If you run or walk about 3 miles you'll burn close to 300 calories. Walk a 20-minute mile and it will take an hour; run a 10-minute mile and burn 300 calories in 30 minutes.

One good workout is circuit weight training. You burn calories working out, then burn more even when you aren't exercising since you'll be building up muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so keeping fit means you'll burn more calories than a person of the same weight with less muscle, regardless of whether you are exercising.

PS You could also try having a smaller piece of cake ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Binge Eating Help!

Hi, Laurie!  I'm 32, 5'4, and 172 lbs.  I'd like to lose a minimum of 30 lbs to get to a healthy weight.  I walk 5 miles a day Monday-Friday and am slowly losing weight.  However, I can't stop binge eating.  I eat a sensible breakfast in the morning and then 20 minutes later, I eat again.  I consume 1,000+ calories and then feel guilty and full all day until dinner.  I feel like I'm sabotaging myself.  I've tried to stop, think, drink water, but I still just can't stop eating!   I feel like I'm stuck on a binge/starve/guilt cycle!  Any advice?   Sheila R.

Dear Sheila,

First of all, congratulations on taking the steps towards a healthier lifestyle that will get you to a healthier weight. Keeping up with the walking is a big commitment and you should be proud!

Now, regarding the binge eating: I could ask you all sorts of questions about that behavior:
- Have you had a major life change recently?
- Is this binge eating brand new for you?
- Are you getting enough sleep?

But all good intentions aside, the way you've described what's going on sounds characteristic of disordered eating. I don't want to alarm you, and I certainly cannot diagnose an eating disorder. 

My guess is, though, that your mind is so crowded with "what can I eat/when can I eat/I shouldn't have that/I can't resist it/ I shouldn't have eaten that/ I feel so awful/ I've failed today/ I'll start again tomorrow" that you aren't able to experience your life and all the pleasures you should be able to enjoy.

If that sounds familiar, rest assured, you are not alone! The National Eating Disorders Association estimates millions of Americans suffer from some type of eating disorder, including binge eating disorder.

The good news is there are kind and understanding counselors who deal specifically with eating disorders (including anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating disorder--also called BED). Counselors who treat people suffering with obsessive thoughts about food, eating, and diet really know what you are going through and can help.

The experts at NEDA can help you find someone in your area who can address this behavior and help you get back to a normal and happy life! Click on the NEDA link above and call to get started right now.
And do write back to let me know how you are doing.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Can You Live on a Liquid Diet?

My question is, can someone live their whole life on a liquid diet?
Amanda K.

Yes, Amanda, it is quite possible and many people require liquid diets for periods of time that may span the rest of their life.
I have provided prescribed liquid diets to patients with a broken jaw, for example, who are not going to be able to chew for several weeks. But the diet must include a variety of foods to meet nutritional needs, paying close attention to calorie needs. Merely drinking beverages instead of eating food may result in a diet that is not balanced; for instance, if you drink mostly soda (which has no nutritional value). Even if you drink milk and juice--healthy beverages-- the diet must still be carefully planned to include a balance of essential nutrients.

Many people live on liquid diets because of certain conditions. Examples include diseases that prevent safe swallowing, such as throat cancer or some strokes; a complication of diabetes called gastroparesis which prevents the stomach from emptying normally; people who are respirator dependent in some cases; and those who are in a coma. Formulas like Ensure and Boost (which can be found at your local grocery or drug store) are provided in amounts to meet 100% of the daily requirements for the nutrients we know are essential; even fiber is provided in some formulas. And many formulas are adapted for other conditions the person may have, such as diabetes, kidney failure, or high protein needs.

The bottom line is, a nutritious and well-balanced diet can be provided in liquid form and someone can live with that for many years. Just drinking whatever you feel like, however, can easily lead to lack of essential 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are Artificial Vitamins Harmful to Me or My Children?

I was recently researching whether or not 1% fat or skim milk is a healthier alternative compared to whole milk. I read that since all the fat is stripped away, the vitamins have to be "replaced" by synthetic ones and in time, could actually harm the body more than the high-fat whole milk. 

There is SO many different answers/information online that I just do not know what to believe, although I DO want to eat and drink what is best for me. (and my 3 children) Any of your educational input would be GREAT!
Christina P.

Hi Christina,

Low-fat or fat-free milk is better than whole milk for some people because it is lower in fat and cholesterol. If your children are young and active, whole milk may still be appropriate for them.

Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble so the vitamins naturally present in milk are in the fat; therefore, fat-free milk has only trace amounts of vitamin A, and no Vitamin D.

It's quite difficult to find milk that is not fortified with these vitamins; particularly vitamin D. In the first half of the 20th century, when rickets--the deficiency disease of vitamin D--was found rampant, especially in areas of the country where children rarely had exposure to the sun, healthcare providers recommended supplementing milk with vitamin D, since that was a food consumed by almost every child. It was a good way to assure most of the children in the US would get the vitamin D they needed, and the incidence of rickets has been quite low ever since.

There are brands of milk that do not fortify with vitamins and you are more likely to find these in health food stores or organic aisles. But I don't know of any harm that would come to humans from consuming added vitamins as opposed to those naturally found in foods (other than toxicity from excess ingestion). The chemical composition of vitamins in pill form is identical to vitamins occurring in nature.

When you're looking for accurate information, look for agencies that have no obvious conflict of interest (eg, the dairy council will certainly tell you how great milk is, while PETA will have a host of reasons why milk/meat is not healthy). Look to the NIH (National Institute of Health), FDA, USDA (including, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, MedlinePlus, or CDC (Centers for Disease Control). 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Can Spray Butter Help Me Lose Weight?

Hi, I was wondering about these spray butters... is there something in them that helps you lose weight? How much would I have to use to start seeing results? And the same question for spray salad dressings also.
Raymond F.

Hello Raymond,
The spray form of butter and salad dressing save calories not just by changing their formula, but by changing their method of application. You end up using less since the spray can cover more area using less of the fat.

A couple of examples:
Salad Dressings
-Wishbone spritzers variety salad dressings provide 15 calories in 10 sprays. That is enough to wet a good portion of a small salad. Even if you usually pour a "light" raspberry vinaigrette over your salad, that's 80 calories in two tablespoons. This is what they call a serving, but try measuring two tablespoons some time, then put it on your salad. Does this cover enough lettuce, tomato, and cucumber for you to be satisfied? If not, you might be using two, three, or even more 'servings' when you dress your salad! If you use regular dressing, something like Creamy Caesar dressing contains 170 calories in the same two tablespoons: Measure how much you use on your next salad to figure out how many calories you'll be saving by switching to the spray method.
You don't have to buy this particular brand. You could actually use any light dressing, put it in a spray bottle and use less dressing.

Butters and Spreads 
-On your toast, corn cob, or in a fry pan, a tablespoon of regular stick butter provides 100 calories. Spreads that come in a squeeze bottle (the more liquid, the lower in saturated fat) provide about 60 calories per tablespoon. Whipped butter comes in lower at only 50 calories per tablespoon. But the lowest of all is the "I can't believe it's not butter" spray with less than one calorie in five sprays. Now, it may take you 20 or 30 sprays to cover your entire bagel in the morning, but that's still fewer than 10 calories.

Imagine how many calories you consume by covering your food with fats like butter and salad dressing; think about how many you can save by switching to the sprays.