If I had one dollar

November 26, 2009

Shredded Money Taco Too

I just love Twitter. I know it sounds lame and I used to scoff at it, but seriously, it’s turning into such a useful tool.

Just the other day, @jambutter tweeted about how many calories a US dollar could buy. I tweeted back and asked for source info and he passed on a note that the stats came from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This “research” took about 45 seconds.

I did a little further digging and I found this Time Magazine article that summarized the source data well but I’ve put it in my own format:

$1US = 1200 calories of potato chips
$1US = 875 calories of soda
$1US = 250 calories of vegetables
$1US = 170 calories of fresh fruit.

Now, the obvious point is that potato chips and soda drinks are more calorie dense than fruit and veggies so you get more calories for your dollar; however, they are not more nutrient dense and that means you eat more of them to feel satisfied.

To put these stats into perspective, I turned to my colleague professional home economist Amy Snider-Whitson who always has something to say about nutrition:

“This is why we have an epidemic of obesity and people suffering from chronic diseases that healthy diets could help to prevent (…and, no wonder people can’t grasp portion control when you buy a cheap snack and end up eating half a day’s calories!).

Unfortunately, the way we produce food today makes the nutritious choice often much more expensive. So, people choose calories over content. While many, many people consume too many calories on a daily basis, not one of us can say that we are getting too many essential nutrients. One consolation is that if we invest today in choosing nutrient dense foods, we might save health care dollars in the future.”

When you’re shopping, do you consciously plan how much of your budget is spent on nutrient dense foods? Or do the ‘chips’ (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) fall where they may?

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Rebellion at the restaurant – Healthy eating gone wrong?

May 15, 2009

cheeseburger

Check out the surprising news in this recent Reuters article about the adverse effects of healthy menu items on people’s health. Although it discusses a small study of  70 undergraduate students, the results are surprising:

•    37% chose a bacon cheeseburger when the menu alternatives included a veggie burger (other options were a chicken or fish sandwich)
•    only 17% picked the bacon cheeseburger when the veggie burger wasn’t on the menu.
Dr. Gavan J. Fitzsimons of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina led the study and observed that “Because the healthy option is there, it somehow satisfies this healthy eating goal in them and then they felt liberated to sort of go crazy and choose something really, really bad for them.”

It’s like he’s been watching me. Seriously. I’ve ordered dessert with a ‘What the hell? We only live once!’ victory cry on numerous occasions when I’ve been out with the girls. Even at home, I rebel on occasion; for instance, I buy skim milk for myself but then sneak sips of my son’s homogenized milk. Shameful behaviour, I know.

Has this kind of rebellious impulse ever thwarted your good eating intentions?


No gym required — really!

February 11, 2009

img_2487 by Guest Blogger Amy Snider

Who has time to go to the gym? I’ve always believed in the philosophy that to be healthy, you need to eat nutritious foods and incorporate lots of physical activity into your lifestyle. But like so many other people, I find it challenging to practise what I preach. After a busy day at work, trudging out to the gym to fight for a treadmill has no appeal.

That’s why I was excited to be asked to be a contributor in Key Porter’s recent fitness book  No Gym Required, Unleash Your Inner Rock Star by celebrity trainer Jennifer Cohen. Jennifer’s opinion is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or time to improve your health. Designed to “unleash your inner rock star” Jennifer offers advice on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle by setting attainable goals, choosing the right foods and getting fit. I love the visual, step-by-step instructions for exercises that you do can anytime, anywhere!

As part of Team Jennifer, we developed a two-week menu featuring fresh, wholesome foods to make it easy to get a jump start on getting lean and fit. Unlike starvation diets, the 1,500 calorie-a-day meal plan is practical and designed to keep you fueled throughout the day. Two of our terrific interns Shirley Walsh and Melanie Chislett helped out with research and it was great to be able to include them in this project. Check out the book and the website at www.ngrfit.com.

Where do you work out? At home? Outside? Or at the gym?


Kitchen math that is worth the effort

January 16, 2009

fridayAt this time of year, I know that many people (myself included) are trying to make amends for indulgent food choices we made during the holidays.

Although this writer’s approach to healthy eating requires math, I think it’s an interesting approach since it helps people to evaluate not just the calories of a food but the potential nutrient value, too.

Here’s an excerpt from her article that summarizes how to evaluate foods to determine whether they are good nutrient choices:

First, find the “Percent Daily Values (% DV)” on the right side of the label. These are the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations for how much fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need each day if you’re eating a 2,000-calorie diet.

• If the DV is 5 percent or less, it’s considered “low” for the nutrients. A 20 percent DV or more is “high.”
• So for fat, sodium and cholesterol, a Percent Daily Value of 5 or lower is good; a DV of 20 or higher is bad.
• For total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, a DV of 5 or lower is bad; a DV of 20 or higher is good.

How do you decide what to eat? Is it all about fat and calories for you or do you count carbs? Or, do you think about other nutrients, too?


Real breakfasts

June 23, 2008

We’ve all heard and acknowledge as correct that a good breakfast should be the way we start our day. In fact, a new study shows that women who eat a big breakfast lose more weight than other dieters. But, how many of us eat a morning meal that nutrition experts would classify as balanced and appropriate?

New York Magazine recently polled 60 people to see what real people were eating for breakfast. The results ranged from the expected bagels and oatmeal or coffee and Danishes to more peculiar choices. For instance, one man had a bloody Mary for his morning meal while another admitted to indulging in a gut wrenching protein binge that included four hard boiled eggs, two fried eggs and a ham and cheese sandwich washed down with orange juice. I need to lie down just after reading that menu!

What interested me was how many of the respondents had savoury food such as salads, pizza, Moroccan cous cous with grilled chicken and hummus, and chicken melt on rye.

Curious to know if New Yorkers are a breed unto themselves or a North American barometer, I held my own poll. I asked my 300 or so facebook friends what they ate for breakfast and almost 25 people replied. It turns out my friends stick to more traditional breakfast fare. Below are the results of my poll. Although I’ve excluded names, I’ve used bold text on the responses shared by people who have jobs as food industry professionals. Can you guess which entry is mine?

1. Nature Valley Instant Oatmeal (flax flavour).
2. Starbucks breakfast sandwich.
3. Flax seed bagel with greaves peach jam, almond butter and local maple butter, half each an apple and pear, glass of cranberry blueberry juice and a big cup of home roasted Ethiopian Yirgachaffe.
4. Strawberries and a glass of water.
5. Eggos with fresh strawberries and syrup, toast with peanut butter and chocolate milk.
6. Farm fresh eggs with fresh smoked bacon made the night before at Harvest Restaurant, sour dough toast fresh baked at Harvest with blackberry jelly from Prince Edward county.
7. A slice of homemade no-knead bread, toasted, with peanut butter and kawfee made from instant espresso.
8. Toasted light rye with peanut butter.
9. English muffin with bacon and tomato.
10. Homemade muesli with organic yogurt, raspberries, black berries, walnuts, grated apple and oats, dash of cinnamon and a drop of pure vanilla extract.
11. Oatmeal with 2 tbsp soy protein, 3 tbsp cottage cheese, 1 tsp non-hydrogenated margarine, 3 tbsp brown sugar and 2 cups of coffee.
12. 2 starbucks double tall, non-fat, bone dry cappuccinos and a spinach breakfast sandwich that was found sadly lacking in spinach.
13. Raisin bran and decaf coffee.
14. Coffee.
15. Slice of deli roast beef, the cold heel of my child’s abandoned, toasted buttered, whole-wheat bagel.
16. Shake made with whey protein, greens+, almond milk, sesame seeds, frozen wild blueberries and plain yogurt.
17. Toasted cashews.
18. 2 slices white toast with a bit of butter and coffee.
19. Apple and glass of water.
20. Toasted whole wheat bagel and peanut butter.
21. Whole grain toast and peanut butter.
22. Homemade muesli, 1/3 cup bran buds, ground flax, unsweetened soymilk, 1/2 cup yogurt (Dana’s note, this respondent reports losing weight since she made this her daily breakfast!).
23. A healthy bowl of cereal and a chic dark chocolate cupcake.
24. Raisin toast and earl grey tea with milk.

As you can see, my facebook friends stick pretty close to the expected breakfast menu even when they make less than stellar choices. What about you? Are you more like the New Yorkers or like my pals? Tell us what you had for breakfast today.