Saturday, October 24, 2015

Which Weight Loss Supplement Works Best?

My girlfriend and I are both above our goal weights. We would both like to lose about 30 pounds. The problem is, she decided she wants to try weight loss supplements. She told me the other day that she "isnt at a point in life where she wants to give up having sodas and pizza." We dont go to the gym much right now. She wants an easy way to lose weight, but I tell her we have to put in the effort if we want to lose weight. Much of her problem stems from severe irritability if she doesn't eat frequently. She's trying to eat high-protein and low-sugar and has cut back to one soda per day. She told me that I could research and pick a supplement that she would try, but if I didnt she was going to pick one. I am very apprehensive about these supplements. The two types of supplements I have been looking into both seem relatively safe at low doses and have potential. They are EC stacks and DNP (a proton uncoupler for the ETC). Both are pretty drastic, but she has to eat frequently and often goes over her calorie quota for the day (around 1300). Do you have any recommendations? I am going to try to recommend today that we just go to the gym again everyday instead, but wanted to get your advice on the supplements too in case that fails.  Todd N.

Hi Todd,
I appreciate your predicament; you both want to make a change, but your girlfriend isn't ready to do the work.

You can tell her, these supplements don't work, and I have a few reasons to back that up:
1) ALL weight loss supplements come with a suggested diet and weight loss plan to accompany taking the pills. ALL weight loss supplement ads and commercials have a little asterisk * that states "results not typical". Taking an over-the-counter pill alone will NOT cause weight loss.
2) If your girlfriend does not eat less AND exercise more there is no way she will lose weight. It's a simple equation: Calories OUT must exceed calories IN in order for their to be a net energy loss, which results in weight loss.
3) Whenever skeptical/hopeful that a supplement works, I use Oprah as my guide: Is Oprah still overweight? YEP. She has a slew of employees and investigators scouring the world for the secret weight loss potion (Is it Optifast? Is it Garcinia Cambogia?) If there is ANYTHING out there that promotes weight loss, Oprah's staff will have discovered it and Oprah will be nice and skinny. Until I see a skinny Oprah, I know there are no magic weight loss pills available

The bottom line is, your girlfriend may choose EITHER to eat what she likes OR to lose weight. You can't have both. Not every day. That would be like saying "I want to save for my retirement but I must buy these new shoes/new purse/new iphone/new car in the meantime". Pick one; you can't do both. But you can buy a pair of shoes once in a while.

She doesn't have to give up pizza and pop forever, but here's a simple equation: Eat 100 fewer calories a day and lose 1 pound a month (approximately). Give up 3 sodas a day (which it sounds like she has) and lose about 3 pounds a month.
Can she compromise and eat relatively healthy for ONE day a week? Perhaps she can gradually up the number of days per week that she eats in her target calorie range.
Or: If 1300 calories leaves her too hungry, try going up to 1500 per day for an easier day and just a tad slower weight loss.

Burning 100 calories works the same: Burn 300 calories at the gym each day, lose 3 pounds at the end of the month; burn 300 calories 3 days a week, lose 1 pound per month.

She doesn't 'need' to eat frequently and more and junk food, she just WANTS to. Everyone has to put up with a little discomfort when they are making a change--every change is difficult and takes thought and mental energy.

She might try coming up with a list of the reasons she wants to lose weight to find her motivation. At this point the in-the-moment motivation to eat what she feels like is outweighing the desire to lose weight.

One weight loss plan I highly recommend (and lead teleclasses with) is The Beck Diet Solution.

Either way, when she's ready to lose weight she'll have to be ready to do the work.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Can You Eat The Skin of a Kiwi?

Hi Laurie,
I was wondering if you can eat the skin on kiwi fruit and if so how many calories are in the skin?
I read online that eating the skin as well as the flesh is really good for you, but I've never seen anyone do it!
Thanks, Lisa T.
Photo courtesy of California KiwiFruit 

Hi Lisa,
Well, I've never seen anyone do it, either, and what's more, I've never even thought about it!
But you are correct: The skin is entirely edible and actually contains nutrients, including fiber.
Because there is so much fiber in the skin, the caloric content is pretty negligible.

The numbers I have found are 42 calories in a kiwi fruit and 50 calories if you eat the entire fruit including the skin. There is also over 200 mg of potassium in a kiwi fruit and over 6 grams of fiber if you eat the skin along with the fruit.

Even without the skin, 1 kiwi fruit supplies 100% of the daily value of vitamin C along with 2 grams of fiber.

Quite the healthy and tasty little package.

For more information on Kiwis, visit the California Kiwi page at

You learn something new every day :)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Is there a safe way to jump-start my diet?

Hi Laurie,
In the past, once I lose 10 or so pounds, I feel much more motivated. I was wondering if there is a way to drop a lot of pounds in the first week or two of the diet, but not gain it right back when I start my actual diet.
Thanks! Carla K.

No Carla, unfortunately not! The quick, large amounts lost are mostly due to water weight. So if you stopped drinking fluids you'd lose weight fast--then end up in the hospital!

Instead of the "diet to lose weight" mindset, it would be helpful to have a different mindset... "I've decided to eat healthy for life". How does that sound?

The fact is, when people go on a diet to lose weight, they go OFF the diet once they reach their goal. Then the weight comes back on.

What if you found a healthy way to eat, lost weight slowly, and it never came back on?!
Wouldn't that be worth the slow loss for the first few weeks??

Try some of the websites or apps that help you track your calories in, calories burned, and your weekly weight (FitDay, SparkPeople, LoseIt). Sometimes looking at a graph every once in a while demonstrates how far you've come, even when you don't feel it. You might also try other techniques to demonstrate to your subconscious how much you've lost: Like filling a gallon jug with water (or picking up a gallon of milk in the store) and feeling how heavy it is. This weighs 8 pounds. If you lose 8 pounds it would be like carrying this heavy jug around all day and then putting it down all at once! Except in real life it just happens more slowly.

It might help you to keep a food diary or some other type of journal or blog. Be sure to document your successes each day. Find small, positive goals such as eating 2 vegetable servings or 2 pieces of fruit, drinking 6 glasses of water a day or going for a 2-mile walk.
In this way you can experience success that will keep you motivated, even if it isn't in the form of a number on the scale!

Good Luck, and keep me posted.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Does Alli Work for Weight Loss?

I've been overweight for most of my adult life, I'm 44 now, and I've tried every diet you can think of. The weight always comes back by the end of a year, and I'm at the end of my rope, thinking I'll never be able to weigh a normal amount. I'm way too nervous to ever try weight loss surgery, but I'm ready to think about some of the prescription weight loss pills. I know even some of the ones prescribed can be dangerous, but I haven't heard anything terrible about Alli. What is your opinion on this weight loss drug?
Melanie C.

Hi Melanie,
Alli is a diet aide sold over the counter that is approved in prescription strength as the pill "orlistat".
Unlike many diet pills, which are appetite suppressants, this pill works by preventing some of the fat you eat from being absorbed. If you don't absorb fat into your system, you won't get the calories it provides. Over time you can lose weight through this method of reducing your caloric intake. And if you maintain a relatively low-fat diet (50-60 grams per day) there's a good chance you can keep the weight off.

If you visit the Alli website you'll see they have a lot of support to offer. They provide tips for a healthier lifestyle and tools to help you plan proper meals. They give you access to chat boards and answer your questions. There are quizzes and articles and skills to help you change your eating habits for good.

The weight loss plan itself? Alli is, alas, not the magic pill that dieters are still waiting for. They factually inform you that, "For every 2 pounds you lose, Alli can help you lose a third pound". This means YOU have to change how you're eating now and be able to lose weight by eating less in order for Alli to help.

"Success" is described as losing 5-10% of your body weight. For a 300-pound person, losing 30 pounds is equal to 10% of their body weight. Most people who weigh 300 pounds probably have a goal weight quite a bit lower than 270 pounds.

The facts are, Alli blocks the absorption of 25% of the dietary fat you eat. In order to be on the Alli program, the suggested fat intake is less than 50 grams of fat per day. Fifty grams is the amount of fat that can be found in half a Domino's pepperoni pizza, or a Burger King Breakfast Biscuit with sausage, egg and cheese, OR a Mc Donald's Quarter Pounder with cheese and a medium order of fries. Again, the 50-gram fat recommendation is for the entire day. So a typical 300-pound person is going to have to drastically change their lifestyle to drop their fat intake probably to one-quarter of what they are used to.

An example of 10 grams of fat would be found in less than 1 Tablespoon of butter or oil, about 1 cup of whole milk, or a small hamburger---just check some of the food labels on candy bars or chips you have in your pantry. You'll need to skip almost every fat-containing junk food (chips, donuts, cookies, biscuits, milkshakes, candy bars, ice cream) to leave way for healthy foods that contain fat, such as an egg, a chicken breast, avocado, nuts, and fatty fish. If you can adopt the habit of limiting fat in your diet, you can lose weight with or without Alli.

Here's the kicker: If you eat additional fat and take Alli, the medication blocks the absorption of 25% of the fat you eat, and guess where the fat goes? It comes straight out the other end of your digestive tract. That's going to be the equivalent of a tablespoon of oil dribbling out each day, with nowhere else for it to go.

In fact, this side effect is one of the factors that keeps Alli users on track: They quickly find out what will happen when they over-eat fatty foods, so they avoid these foods and keep their fat intake low.
In reality, Alli is only going to keep 250 calories from fat out of your system when you stick to the 50-gram daily intake; this is just enough to lose 1/2 pound each week. But lowering your fat intake from 100 grams to 50 grams (even without the aid of a diet pill) will reduce your calorie intake by at least 450 calories--enough to lose nearly a pound each week. I say "at least" because the foods we eat that contain fat usually contain calories from carbohydrates, too, like donuts and cake and candy bars and ice cream.

The bottom line: If you are used to eating large amounts of fat on a daily basis, try reducing the fat in your diet. You can lose weight by doing this alone. If Alli helps as a gentle reminder to avoid extra fatty foods, then it may be the diet pill you've been looking for after all.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Should I Take B12 Shots?

Hi Laurie,
I'm a 58-year old man in good health. I don't take any medications, I eat relatively healthy, and stay active. Recently I've been getting tired easily and I wonder if B12 shots would help. I've heard people say they give you energy, but is this just another myth of a vitamin magically making you feel better? Do B12 shots really help?
Thanks, Jim S.

Hi Jim,
Good question, since vitamin B12 shots actually do help some individuals--those who can no longer absorb vitamin B12 when taken orally.

Vitamin B12 has a complicated absorption process. The acid normally present in the stomach is necessary for absorption of this vitamin, as is a healthy portion of the small intestine. So if a person has certain intestinal diseases or specific surgical procedures, they may not be able to absorb B12 from food, and they require monthly B12 shots to prevent a deficiency. 
Reduced stomach acid can occur from a long regimen of antacids, required by some people with GERD, reflux, or peptic ulcer disease. People with this set of circumstances may also require B12 shots. Normally, as people age they also produce less stomach acid. You may be approaching the age where there just isn't enough acid present to do a good job of absorbing B12.

If someone has a diet poor in Vitamin B12, such as a vegan (B12 is found only in animal products and vegans are vegetarians who consume no flesh, eggs, or dairy products), they could simply take a pill containing vitamin B12, so they would not require the vitamin in injectable form.

The first step to take is to see your doctor and describe your symptoms. There are different kinds of anemia (iron-deficient anemia is the most common) and other conditions that can cause fatigue (thyroid imbalance and other hormone level changes). Vitamin B12 will only help correct a B12 deficiency. If you are deficient in B12, aside from taking injections your physician may perform a series of diagnostic tests to find out why. These begin with a simple blood test, so it can be easy to determine whether B12 is involved or not.

Either way, a noticeable change in your usual physical condition warrants a check-up to rule out anything that might be serious, and to fix any number of conditions that can be easily treated to get you back to your usual active life.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is "Eating for your Blood Type" a Good Diet?

I've been looking for some good diet advice so I can eat better and lose weight. There are so many different types of diets it's overwhelming. I'm wondering if there is any science to back them up. What is your opinion about "Eating for Your Blood Type"? Is this really science-based? This one in particular sounds a little flaky to me.
Thank You, Robert B.

Hi Robert,
There are a whole lot of diets out there that make no sense at all, and this is one of them. Following is a post from my blog "Balanced Diet, Balanced Life" which is a parody this diet deserves:

Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the popular book, “The Blood Type Diet”. In fact, blood types are identified in case you need to receive blood one day to prevent you from having a serious reaction. Period.
There is absolutely no significance of your blood type as it relateds to your diet, your food tolerances, allergies, or reactions to food! The fact that someone wrote a book called “Eating for Your Blood Type” is akin to writing a book called, “Eating for your Eye Color”. So, I will tell you now how to best eat for your eye color to help you lose weight:

There are groups of people who have blue eyes, others who have brown eyes and some who have green. If both of your parents have blue eyes, so will you--just as if both of your parents have type O blood, you will. Therefore, these characteristics can be seen among others in your family—just go ahead and ask them!
Okay, so first of all, any of you who have blue eyes, listen up! You have light colored eyes and you really like snacks; especially those high in carbohydrates. Am I right? You enjoy having a donut or coffee cake late in the morning. It acts as a real pick-me-up to keep you going until lunch time, and of course, donuts taste so good to you (because your eyes are blue!) You love having some chips or cookies in the afternoon from the vending machine. You just get a craving for something sweet or salty a couple of hours after lunch, and that little munchable treat satisfies you until dinner time. Finally, you often crave something to snack on in the evening while you are watching television. How do I know this? Your eyes are blue! Mine are too. I like to snack.
How can we lose weight? Here’s how: find a lower calorie substitute for the snacks you are presently consuming. There are fantastic 100 calorie snack bags so you can have a hostess mini-cake package late morning, some wheat thins or cheese nips in the afternoon, and a skinny cow ice cream bar in the evening. Yes, even though you have blue eyes and you like to snack, you can still lose weight --just get your snacking under control.

Now for those of you with brown eyes: you like sweets, especially chocolate. And you like peanut butter. Of course you do; I know that because your eyes are brown. I have friends with brown eyes—they like chocolate and peanut butter. So, you like to eat peanut M & M’s, snickers candy bars, chocolate ice cream with nuts in it, and other treats that have a lot of calories. This makes you gain weight. You gain weight when you eat chocolate and peanut butter because your eyes are brown! And because these are very high calorie foods. What can you do about it?

First of all, realize that liking chocolate or peanut butter is not really a physiological craving. You do not need chocolate. You just like it because it tastes good. You need to know that if you can wait until the craving passes and not wolf down a king-sized Snickers bar or double Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, you will be okay. For every 300 calories you can pass up (check the labels on those candy bars), you’ll lose three more pounds by the end of the month. This could be nine pounds a month if you’re indulging three times a day!

If you still want the taste (of course you do!) then learn to control the portions. Again, many of the 100 calorie snack bags are foods you would enjoy; chocolate covered pretzels, nutter-butter cookie crisps, and chocolate chip cookies. There are lower calorie brands of ice cream and you need to measure out a ½ cup portion when you eat it, instead of scooping ice cream into the bowl until it’s full (yes, I know that’s what you do, because your eyes are brown).

And, finally, we get to the smaller percentage of the population—those with pretty, green eyes. Unfortunately, you are predisposed to a taste for foods that have fat in them! This is unfortunate because fats have twice the calories of carbohydrates. You like donuts, potato chips, cakes, and pie. Cookies, brownies, and ice cream are also sources of fat, as well as sour cream, butter, and salad dressing. You have green eyes, so I know you are not someone who likes a dry baked potato or an undressed salad. You usually order French fries or a milkshake when you go out for fast food.

What can you do to get that weight off? Start limiting your portions of these foods. Write down everything you eat for a week. See how many times each day, on average, you indulge in one of these high fat foods. Now make the decision to reduce this to only one time a day, at most. If you have a donut, you do not also get a milkshake later that day; if you get fried fish you do not also have French fries; if you have pie after lunch you do not also get ice cream after dinner. You have green eyes: you need to find other ways to treat yourself during the day besides eating these high-fat foods!

To everyone with colored eyes, best of luck with your weight loss efforts! I’m confident you will be able to lose weight after you choose lower calorie snacks, reduce your portion sizes, decrease the calories consumed from treats, and find other ways to de-stress besides eating high-calorie foods.

I must add here, that this is a spoof, just in case someone believes these tips are true. The good news is these tips actually will work for you no matter what your eye color!
Have I gone too far? Let me know!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I don't have time for breakfast

I have a problem eating breakfast in the morning due to lack of time. I know it's a healthy start to the day and gives you lots of nutrients and all that, but even a bowl of cereal takes a good 10 minutes to pour, eat, and clean up. What's faster than that, besides driving through the fast food window and getting something unhealthy?
Justin R.

Hi Justin,
That has to be the number one reason people say they don't eat breakfast... they just don't have time. Who wants to get out of bed 10 minutes earlier just to scarf down a bowl of cereal?!
My answer is to make something you can eat in the car--probably how those great fast-food sandwiches became so popular. But if you have 10 minutes to sit in the drive-through lane, you'd have time to eat at home.

I like to pop some toast in the toaster oven while I'm grabbing my coffee and going to dry my hair. By the time I'm ready to leave, the toast is ready and still warm. I take a piece of cheese, slap it between the toast (and it might be an English Muffin or bagel for variety), and it's melted into a nice, hot breakfast sandwich before I'm backed out of the driveway.
I've also made French Toast on the weekends and saved some slices to toast-and-take on weekdays. Just pop the French Toast in the toaster and it's warm and ready to eat on your drive to work.

Having a breakfast with egg or cheese in it will provide some protein. This not only contributes to your daily protein intake, but helps your breakfast stay with you a bit longer. Plain carbohydrates or sweets (like grabbing a banana or pop-tart) may find you hungry within 2 hours and that can get annoying when you're at work and can't find a healthy snack to grab.

There are other quick breakfasts that you can take on your drive to work. Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink was made specifically for this purpose. It has added protein, vitamins and minerals to give you that nutritious start to your day.

String cheese is another snack that's easy to eat while you're driving, and you can just pre-bag a few whole grain crackers ahead of time to grab-n-go.

Some of the 'energy' or 'protein' bars are okay for breakfast too. They are definitely great for on-the-go, but compare the food labels to plain old candy bars, like a snickers, and you might not see much difference other than added vitamins (read: Take a vitamin pill and eat an Almond Joy... not so healthy).  Try to look for one with whole grain and less sugar, with protein added for staying power.
If you aren't concerned with your calorie intake (happy with your weight) you can choose one that has 300-350 calories. Otherwise, try to keep it under 200 calories and add a piece of fruit to keep you full for longer (fruit is a natural source of water and fiber, both of which help you feel more full for the short term).

Don't limit yourself to 'breakfast' foods either. If you're game for a pbj or turkey sandwich in the early am, go ahead and have a less traditional breakfast.

For more breakfast tips, order my e-book "Choosing The Best Breakfast" which covers most scenarios, including breakfast making you more hungry mid-morning, and not being hungry enough to eat early in the day. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why Do I Stay Fat?

For a change, today, I'm going to answer a question I haven't been specifically asked... but one many people ask themselves: Why Do I Stay Fat? 
I've had the pleasure of attending webinars by  Bill O'Hanlon, a professional mental health counselor, who has presented some ideas I find applicable for my weight-loss clients. He treats patients with depression and shows them how they continue to keep themselves depressed by their actions: they isolate themselves, stay in bed, avoid exercise, ruminate, and basically perpetuate their depression by keeping themselves in it. While the advice for people suffering from depression includes getting some exercise, fresh air, and human contact, he uses a "reverse psychology" technique, asking them, "Teach me how to be depressed. You are so good at being depressed and knowing how to stay there--if I wanted to learn to be depressed, what would you tell me to do?". The patients can realize their predicament as they explain how to stay depressed, telling Bill to 'stay inside, don't answer your phone so you won't even speak to people who reach out to you, remain in your bed clothes for most of the day and don't brush your hair or do anything to improve your appearance'. The light bulb goes off over their head as they see how they've been feeding their depression, and see that if they do the opposite they may help themselves out of their situation.

He asks his patients who are overweight the same thing: Teach me how to be fat
So let me ask you: You're an expert--you've been overweight for a long time now--if you wanted to explain to me how a person could stay heavy and not lose weight, what would you tell them?

Chances are, your list might look like this:
- "Take every opportunity to eat! Even if you aren't hungry, if someone has cookies or candy out, take advantage and eat it.
- When there is food left, finish it. Even if you've had enough for dinner--even when you feel stuffed!--be sure to have the rest of the food so it won't go to waste.
- Use high-calorie foods and cooking methods: Never bake or broil, but fry most of your food. And add butter or oil to everything you can.... potatoes, salad, bread, and even vegetables which are naturally low-calorie.
Before bed time when you're relaxing, don't let this time go by without something to eat! You shouldn't have any down time when it comes to ingesting calories. A nice bowl of ice cream or a piece of cake will help you settle down to sleep.
- Never plan ahead when it comes to meals or snacks. If you bring your lunch to work it might be something portion-controlled or healthy. Wait until it's time to eat and then grab whatever is fast--it will usually be something from a fast-food restaurant and these are normally high-fat and high-calorie selections. They also don't have anything to choose from for side dishes except french fries or onion rings, so you'll be sure to get an extra 400-calorie item.
- Never cook your own meals at home! You can control your cooking methods and portion sizes when you do that. Eat all your meals in restaurants where they add lots of fat (read, calories!) to make the food taste extra rich and creamy. Always include a beverage like soda or sweet tea that has extra sugar-laden calories, and be sure to order dessert and not to split anything with anyone! Eat it all yourself and clean your plate!

The other side of the equation is exercise, of course. 
- Don't burn calories if you want to stay overweight! Never set foot in a gym. As a matter of fact, it helps not to even own a pair of comfortable shoes so you won't be tempted to walk very much.
- Use elevators and escalators instead of stairs, even when going down. Park as close as you can to your destination. Some stores have those riding carts so you don't even have to walk and push a shopping cart!
- And forget about doing anything remotely active: Don't ride a bike, play frisbee with your dog or catch with your kids; never pick up a tennis racket or go to a bowling alley.
- Automate everything you can: Riding mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, heck--pay the neighbor kid to rake leaves so you don't have any more activity than just sitting if you can help it!

You know, the list goes on. How do you stay fat? Keep doing things that increase your calorie intake and reduce any actions that result in burning calories. Make a list and post some of your ideas here to share!

When you realize what you're doing that's keeping you overweight, you'll be able to target some changes to make to get the weight loss results you've been looking for!

Now they say Fat is Okay Again? And Carbs are Bad?

I am sick of this fat vs carb debate. For years my husband tried to lose weight on a very low carb diet. What happened? His weight crept up and so did his cholesterol and blood pressure. His doctor kept telling him that he had to eat less fat, that was the position of the medical community, and the countries that ate less meat and fat like China and India had less obesity and heart problems. I am Italian and grew up eating pasta and bread and pizza-mostly plain or with a bit of sauce. Me and my family are slim.
It was only after his friend died from a heart attack my husband decided to give low fat a try. This time he counted all grams of fat and stayed very low. Surprise surprise, he is losing weight, and his blood pressure is now normal! Waiting to see cholesterol numbers but I bet they are now good. So where the heck do the experts get off saying that carbs are now bad and meat/fats are now good? I bet its the meat/dairy industry behind it. Thanks for your thoughts!   Karen L.

Ah yes, Karen, the age old debate of "fat" versus "carb" calories. And there are still those who say, it's just the calories, regardless what food they are from!

The low-carb diet has been around at least as early as the 1960's. Fat got a bad rap shortly after that and a lower fat diet has been recommended for many populations since the 1970s, especially people with coronary artery disease.

Now some in the medical community are coming out and saying 'It's not fat after all, it's sugar'.

The fact is, it's not one type of food or one food component that is the culprit: It's a whole lot of things, including overall diet, lifestyle, and health of the individual. As registered dietitians we emphasize a diet including 'everything in moderation' and finding what works for each person. There are those who follow the Atkins diet and do well with a low-carb regimen. It sounds like your husband did not. Others follow a fat-restricted diet (made famous in the 1970's by Dr. Pritikin and, later, Dean Ornish).

Perhaps the diets work better for some individuals because they are easier to follow for some people. Eliminating carbs is a helpful technique for those who can't stop once they get started with pasta, bread and snack foods. Many find it hard to stick to for long. But others need those "rules" that just say no to a whole list of food.

A low-fat diet works for many, and still others follow the Mediterranean diet, with reasonable amounts of both carbs and fats, the majority coming from fish and plant-based oils.

We can't say what works for one person will work for another, or even that everyone who eats a healthy diet will be a healthy person. We can just encourage people to find something that works for them, and stick with it.

It sounds like your husband has figured out what works for him. In that case, he should stick with it and enjoy the benefits!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Are Home-Made Granola Snacks Better than Store-Bought?

My three kids play soccer and soft ball several days a week and we often carry snacks to be sure they have something to eat for extra energy while we're driving all over the place, especially since we sometimes eat late dinners and not always the best choices. A couple of the other kids' mothers insist that making their own snacks are so much healthier than store bought granola bars or trail mix. Is this a fact?
Thanks, Karen F.

Hi Karen,

The fact is, home-made items are not automatically more healthy than store-bought, especially with the large selection of pre-packaged snacks available now. Some people dislike foods with additives and preservatives and would rather make their own granola bars and trail mix. But unless they are choosing healthy ingredients, simply making a snack at home does not make it better.

Lots of granola-type snacks are high in fat, and many of the trail-mix blends are full of candy such as sugar-coated chocolates.
If you make your own recipe with healthy nuts and oats and some dried fruit, and limit the fat and sugar, you can end up with an energy-packed, high-fiber snack. If, however, the recipe includes candy and peanuts and sugar-coated dried fruit, it's just going to be a high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat treat.

Consider what "home-made" means to some people: It could be opening packages of cereals and nuts and candies in their house and tossing them together with melted butter--not a healthy treat by anyone's standards!

Some companies now offer the option to make your own granola bars by choosing from their ingredients and then they ship you the product--made from scratch, but not cheap!

It's very possible to find a reasonable snack that is pre-packaged. Look at the nutrition facts panel for those that limit added sugars and added fats, and pay attention to portion size and calories per serving... too much of even a good thing is, well, just too much!

Monday, January 26, 2015

What to Drink Besides Diet Soda?

Hi Laurie, I am 59 years old and fairly healthy.  I go to the gym 3 times weekly. I feel very healthy. I have an active job as an Emergency RN. 
My question is concerning diet drinks. I have gone from regular sugar soft drinks to diets drinks(Coke Zero) and occasional ice tea sweetened with Splenda. I would like to now find a substitute for sweetened drinks. I have read plenty of info concerning non-sugar sweeteners. Would you know of any suggestions?
Sondra N.

Hi Sondra,
It's a great move, getting off of sweetened drinks; So many calories that are just wasted!

There hasn't been shown to be any harm in consuming artificially sweetened drinks, in moderation (say, less than 6 per day). Especially now that there is a variety of sweeteners (so you would likely be getting some nutrasweet, some sucralose, some stevia, and not a big amount of any one). But some people don't care for the taste, or just don't want one more unnecessary ingredient added to their drinks.

I, myself, am always seeking a beverage that has neither sugar nor a non-nutritive sweetener, and they are difficult to find. 
Here are a few options:

Tea: There are hundreds of varieties of teas. It doesn't have to be a black tea or a green tea or a caffeinated tea. You can get peppermint or blueberry or jasmine teas. I brew a bag in a small amount of hot water and then add ice (be sure to put a metal knife in a glass with ice before you pour in a hot beverage to keep the glass from cracking). Any tea aisle in any grocery store will surprise you with all the fruity, flowery, and minty flavors. I've had licorice, gingersnap, and my current favorite is mango! So you always have a different flavor to try, or an old stand-by to enjoy. They don't need sugar because of the mild sweet taste of the plant used (it's not really from a tea plant--it's from flowers or herbs so there's no caffeine), but if you like you can add a bit of sugar, honey or agave nectar for a little sweet taste with only 10 or 15 calories.

Water: You can flavor water yourself with a small amount of juice. You can even cut up fruit and keep it in the bottom of a water pitcher for the day. Think citrus, strawberries, even kiwi. Sliced cucumber gives water a refreshing taste as well.

Flavored seltzer/carbonated water: My current favorite to replace soda. Check the label carefully--there are many brands that say "zero calories!" or "just fruit-flavored carbonated water" but they contain artificial sweeteners. Brands with no sweetener include Seagrams, Canada Dry, Perrier and La Croix and include flavors like lemon, lime, grapefruit, raspberry and even coconut. 

Sometimes I'll find a "lightly sweetened" option like "Honest Tea" or a few random others that provide just 80 calories in a large bottle instead of the typical 180 or more. 

These are some good places to start looking for your next favorite thirst quencher. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Can I Get Sick from Eating Sushi?

Hello, and thank you so much for your time. What are the odds of me contracting a parasite or salmonella poisoning from eating sushi at the local Japanese restaurant? How often do people get sick eating sushi on a daily basis? 
I love sushi but I'm in fear every time I eat it!
Andrea F. 

Hi Andrea,

I don't have any statistics but I can tell you it's extremely rare that anyone gets sick eating sushi in a restaurant. 

Every restaurant in the US is required to take safety precautions with all the food and by all the foodservice workers. This includes safe receiving temperatures, detailed storing practices, compulsive handwashing, and many other instructions to prevent food poisoning. Fish intended to be consumed raw (sushi) has even more strict temperature controls.

Safety inspections are conducted by the health department, unannounced, and if a restaurant is not keeping up with the strict protocol they are shut down. You can always ask to see the latest health inspection, which many eating establishments keep posted in the front of the restaurant.

Furthermore, if there is a case of food poisoning, it must be reported to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), and the local health department also gets involved. This is very bad publicity for the restaurant, so they definitely do NOT want anyone getting sick from their food!

If you still aren't sure about eating raw seafood, there are plenty of items on the menu that aren't raw: California rolls are usually cucumber, avocado and cooked crab (or imitation crab); eel and shrimp are usually cooked (you can tell when shrimp is pink that it has been cooked); and there are lots of vegetable and fruit sushi items.

I can tell you that I've personally never gotten sick from sushi, and have never known anyone else who has either. You probably have as much chance getting sick from eating in any restaurant (or anyone's home, for that matter) if they don't have sanitary cooking practices, so don't let sushi scare you :)


Monday, January 19, 2015

Are Chips With Avocado Oil Better?

Hi, Thanks for taking my question! 
I bought some potato chips that were 'cooked in 100% Avocado oil' which I had never seen before. I know that kind of oil is considered better for you than other saturated fats, so are these chips any less harmful? Thanks, Larry M.

Hi Larry, 
Well, that's an interesting question. 
The "bad" part about chips isn't just the oil they are fried in (and usually it's corn, a polyunsaturated oil). It's the amount of "empty calories" they contribute to the diet. Because an ounce of chips usually provides about 150 calories and not a whole lot of nutrients (a small amount of vitamin C is usually about it), it's not usually a healthy addition to your diet.

Chips fried in avocado oil will still have the same calorie and fat content as chips fried in any other oil. It's true, we know mono-unsaturated oils--avocado, olive, peanut, canola-- are slightly better than polyunsaturates because polyunsaturated fats have somewhat of a lowering effect on HDL's, also known as the "good" cholesterol in the body. People are encouraged to include sources of mono-unsaturated oil in the diet, so changing your chips to this brand that uses avocado oil is a smart move.

But overall, if this is the only change made in your diet it's not going to have any major effects. And if you consume large amounts (especially if you are overweight or need to be limiting your sodium intake) that will cancel out any of the "good" effects of using the mono-unsaturated oil.

One thing you are doing that is great for your health is reading food labels and asking questions. Paying attention to what you eat is a great way to improve your diet!


Food Label Information for PreDiabetes

Dear Laurie,
I have prediabetes so am trying to lower my carbohydrates, including switching from white pasta to whole wheat. But I looked at the boxes and the white pasta has 41 grams of carbohydrates, while the whole wheat pasta has 39. They both have 2g of sugar. That's such a tiny difference, I thought it would be more. Am I missing something? How can the whole wheat pasta be that more beneficial, as far as carbs go?  Thanks, Marvin W.

Dear Marvin,
What you're probably missing is the grams of fiber per serving of each pasta.
Carbohydrate grams from fiber do not provide calories because humans cannot digest fiber. The material passes through our body untouched, except by 'good' bacteria that live in our gut.

And fiber helps slow absorption of a meal, delaying the rise of glucose in your bloodstream.

There are numerous benefits of consuming a diet high in fiber (25-35 grams per day). In this case, fewer calories per serving of pasta; slower absorption after a meal--which can make you feel more full sooner and longer; and slower rise in glucose after eating.

Aside from the benefits for diabetes control, fiber intake can prevent colon cancer, help regularity of bowel movements, and certain types of fiber help lower cholesterol.

Keep reading those food labels, and make the better choice every time you can!