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?


Movie Friday: Frito’s not for today’s lunchbox

November 14, 2008

When I was growing up, it was great to be a kid. Petroleum based cheese products like Squeeze-a-Snack could be squirted right into your mouth(!) and Tang crystals gave us permission to drink Kool Aid for breakfast. If the food didn’t harm us, we could play with any of a number of dangerous toys such as Clackers and Lawn Darts; all these easily purchased food and amusement options made life for the under 12 set a daily adventure. Today’s kids live in Boresville by comparison! 

In fact, according to this article, childhood foods are becoming downright healthy and increasingly less childlike.  While I applaud this movement when I have my motherly hat on, I do get a kick out of remembering the wacky way marketers spoke to me as a kid. In my day, potato chips were almost a food group and lunch was supposed to be fun, not stylish or good for you. 

So, in the spirit of nostalgia, I present for your viewing pleasure, this commercial jingle that I often sang while dangling, 5-feet above concrete, upside down from rusty playground monkey bars.


Super foods on the menu

May 6, 2008

For quite some time now, smoothie joints have been highlighting the wonderful nutrient benefits in super foods such as blue, acai, goji and now even yum berries. This model is so successful that now other food service outlets are following course.

I recently stayed at a Westin Hotel where super foods were called out at the top of menu as a means of giving travelers permission to order the great tasting foods they crave. Likewise, how many times in the last half year have you been urged to order the chocolate cake because chocolate is a health food? How can any movement that positions a craving (that many people consider a weakness) as a health food fail?

What worries me is that we’ll justify ourselves into serious health problems. Does knowing that a moderate intake of red wine can have cardio vascular health benefits allow you to justify a glass of cabernet you wouldn’t otherwise drink on Tuesday night? Have you succumbed to the allure of super foods to justify ordering a chocolate smoothie that could just as easily be called a shake? Please don’t tell me I’m alone in falling into these traps.


Nibbler’s pantry

January 29, 2008

wineloverspantry.jpgWhile reading about how Canadians have become information snackers who use mobile technology to take in bite-size, easy-to-digest portions of information (think about the ticker that crawls along the bottom of the screen on news channels or the 60-second news breaks so many radio stations offer), I was reminded of the great joy provided by snack food.

Whether it’s a mobile activity or the more conventional couch variety, snacking on little bits of food is actually compatible with snacking on information. Although there’s research that shows chronic snacking is linked to obesity, there’s also a body of evidence that suggests eating more frequent, smaller meals can be good for you.

For me, as long as snacking is done consciously and accounted for as part of your daily calorie intake, there’s nothing wrong with nibbling. In fact, I think snacking should be considered when you make your grocery list since a satisfying snack life can lead to reduced cravings and a general sense of happiness (I speak purely from personal experience!)

-The first step to having a fulfilling snack life is to define your snacking profile.
Step 2 is to buy the snacks.
Step 3 is the crucial step that will prevent snacking from having negative results: Divide snacks into appropriate servings so that you can grab them quickly and easily and so that you know when to stop. Pre-portioning snacks means that no matter how engrossing Grey’s Anatomy may be, you won’t unconsciously eat more than you should.

Not sure what kind of snacker you are? Check out these profiles to decide:

Wino nibbler
-Cheeses
-Dried fruit such as: cranberries, figs, dates, raisins, apricots
-Crackers
-Unsalted Nuts
-Dry cured sausage

Healthy nibbler
-Edamame (immature green soybeans) in or out of the pod
-Green pumpkin seeds
-Bittersweet chocolate
-Veggies
-Hummus
-Nori
-Dried fruit

Comfort junkie
-Potato chips
-Frozen French fries
-Olives
-Pickles
-Roasted red peppers
-Sour cream/dip
-Tortillas
-Salsa
-Popcorn

Sweet tooth
-Chocolate
-Candies such as Smarties, ju-jubes, etc.
-Marshmallows
-Dry breakfast cereal
-Fruit
-Cookies

Which profile fits you and, tell me, what are you craving right now?

Check out these neat snacking articles at homemakers.com:
6 healthy homemade snacks
Healthy snacks at work
Post-workout snacks