save cash by cutting calories

How Counting Calories is Like Saving Money

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

How much money would you be willing to lose in order to avoid gaining 20 pounds? According to a survey of Consumer Attitudes Towards Food Safety, Nutrition & Health, more than half of Americans (56%) “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed with the statement, “I would rather lose $1,000 than gain 20 pounds.”

Fortunately, there is no one coming to collect this $50 a pound if you happen to gain a few, but there is a way to make a connection to money here. Just think about what it costs to buy larger clothes and pay for a weight loss program if you do gain weight. Now consider the fact that by not gaining weight you can save all that money. And when you include the savings from the improved health you’ll have by not gaining weight, your savings can quickly add up to much more than $1000!

The Dollars and Cents of Counting Calories

An easy way to put this concept to work is to view your Daily Caloric Allowance like a financial payment for a job you are doing. Getting the most out of your calories (or money) is the goal, without exceeding your allotted budget. That means you must shop around for good deals and plan ahead so you can afford what you want while still being able to balance your calorie (or bank) account at the end of the week.

The good news is there are many lower calorie foods and beverages available to help you do just that. Products that are labeled fat-free, low-fat and reduced-fat are almost always lower in calories than their full-fat versions (check the Nutrition Facts to be sure). Those labeled sugar-free are often made with a low-calorie sweetener, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, in place of sugar, and that saves you calories, too.

Just check the Nutrition Facts Label and compare the caloric content and serving size of the foods you buy to similar items in order to see how you can save calories while controlling your weight.

Here’s a couple of excellent sources explaining how to interpret the Nutrition Facts Panel:

Here’s an example of how you can save almost 750 calories in this 2000 calorie menu:

Calories Saved SPLENDALiving(3)

Note: Calorie savings are approximate, based on standard serving sizes and an average of similar products. They are not only the result of the SPLENDA® Sweetener substitution for sugar; other ingredients may provide calorie savings as well.

 

 

Don't let myths about potatoes keep you from benefiting from this nutritious vegetable

Top 5 Potato Myths

This blog was originally written as a guest blog for the Alliance for Potato Education & Research. You can see the post here.

Some foods have been in the human diet so long that the history of our survival is inseparable from theirs. The potato is one of them. Yet even with this shared legacy, some myths persist about the value of the potato in our diets. Letting the facts speak for themselves is the best way to put these myths to rest so we can all continue to enjoy America’s favorite vegetable!

MYTH #1. POTATOES HAVE NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE; THEY’RE NOTHING BUT CARBS.

This myth would disappear if fresh potatoes were sold with a Nutrition Facts panel like those found on all packaged foods. The Nutrition Facts panel to the right shows what one would look like for one medium baked potato, flesh and skin, without salt.

The Nutrition Facts panel [i] shows that a medium baked potato is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6; plus, it’s a good source of fiber, folate, and the essential minerals phosphorus and magnesium. Add to that the 4 grams of protein and you have a nutrition powerhouse!

potaot facts

These Nutrition Facts provide plenty of evidence that there is no truth to the myth that potatoes are “nothing but carbs,” but there’s more. Most of the carbohydrate found in potatoes is the complex type, so it delivers a steady source of energy to our bodies. And emerging research shows that some of the carbohydrate in potatoes is a type called “resistant starch,” which may help regulate blood glucose levels and favorably alter bacteria in the large intestines, among other health benefits.

MYTH #2. SWEET POTATOES ARE THE ONLY NUTRITIOUS POTATOES DUE TO THEIR BRIGHT ORANGE COLOR.

Color is an easy way to identify nutrient-rich vegetables, but that doesn’t mean the white, tan, and brown ones are not as good. Potatoes, onions, and cauliflower are just a few of the “white” vegetables that provide us with key nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. But white vegetables can be overlooked if we only focus on the dark green and red and orange vegetable subgroups named in USDA’s MyPlate. White vegetables are also an important source of many phytonutrients that do not yet appear in food composition tables, but are believed to have significant health benefits, such as the colorless flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol found in potatoes.

All types of potatoes can make big nutritional contributions to the diet, so don’t limit yourself to any one type or color. Enjoy them all as part of your healthy diet!

MYTH #3. THE SKIN IS THE ONLY NUTRITIOUS PART OF A POTATO.

There are essential nutrients in every part of the potato—flesh and skin—so enjoy the whole vegetable to get the best nutritional value. The nutrients aren’t just skin deep; potatoes provide key nutrients, including fiber and potassium, whether eaten with or without the skin. A medium baked potato with skin contains 920 mg potassium and 3.6 g fiber, and without skin, 676 mg potassium and 2.6 g fiber. You can prepare potatoes peeled or unpeeled to increase your culinary options in dishes like potato salad or mashed potatoes.

MYTH #4. ONLY FRESH POTATOES ARE NUTRITIOUS; OTHER VARIETIES ARE TOO PROCESSED.

All of the potatoes we enjoy are processed to some degree before we eat them because even cooking is a type of processing. Whether you start with fresh potatoes or one of the other more convenient forms available, they all provide us with key nutrients, like fiber and potassium. Food companies that freeze or process potatoes use similar methods we would use if preparing them that way at home, just on a larger scale. A big advantage to having all these different types of potatoes is that it makes it easier to eat them more often. As a result, potatoes are among the best nutritional values in the produce aisle or frozen vegetable case.

MYTH #5. FRENCH FRIES ARE TOO HIGH IN FAT TO BE PART OF A HEALTHY DIET.

The good news about French fries is that leading manufacturers and most restaurant operators are now cooking them in oil that is trans-fat free and a source of beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Industry reports also show that new frying techniques can reduce fat absorption by as much as 50% compared to traditional frying methods. And market leaders are going the extra step to provide consumers with even more choices, like the new SATISFRIES™ at Burger King that have 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories per serving.

We’ve just scratched the surface of potato myths and will be sharing more myth-busting facts about potatoes in a future post!

Disclosure Statement: Robyn Flipse was compensated by the Alliance for Potato Research & Education for her services as a guest blogger, but all opinions expressed here are her own.


[i] Nutrition Facts panel information calculated from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26, 2013. Potato, baked, flesh and skin, without salt (11674).

Some product labeling claims are not supported by the nutrition facts on foods

Nutrition Facts on Foods & Product Label Claims

SOME PRODUCT LABELING CLAIMS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY THE NUTRITION FACTS ON FOODS

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

We’ve all seen the nutrition facts on foods. The official looking panel has been part of the product label since 1994 and lets us know how much of this or that nutrient is in a serving of that food. The standardized format lends a certain credibility to the information it contains.

But what about the claims made on the front of the package and in food ads?

Stretching the Truth in Product Labeling Claims

When the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was passed by Congress in 1990, it included regulations for the nutrient content claims that can appear on food labels. These regulations cover the words and phrases that be used to describe the nutrient content, whereas the Nutrition Facts panel contains the actual amounts.

Did you know a food can’t claim it’s “high” or “low” in a nutrient unless it meets strict definitions set by the government for use of those terms? Same for “light,” “low,” and “lean.” The nutrient content claim regulations for what can be said on a food label also include the terms “good source of,” “excellent source of,” “contains,” ‘provides,” “more,” “rich in,” “reduced” and “free.”

Each of those words or phrases means a serving of the food has a certain amount of the nutrient it’s being used to describe. For example, “low fat” means there are 3 grams or less of fat in a serving while ”rich in calcium” means it contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for calcium.

As thorough as these regulations seem, copy writers have found a way around them. Some descriptive language I came across while reading the circular from a national grocery chain today made that clear. If you see any of these while shopping, be sure to check the nutrition facts on the food label to find out what’s really in there.

Unregulated Nutrient Content Terms on Product Labeling

  • packed with
  • jam-packed with
  • bursting with
  • loaded with
  • full of
  • chock-full of
  • stuffed with
  • best source of
  • greatest source of
  • filled with
  • brimming with
  • abundant source of
  • plentiful

Also worth reading: Imagine Food Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

Nutrition facts label and good nutrition websites need activity information

New Coke Ad Goes Beyond the Nutrition Facts Label

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.

NUTRITION FACTS LABEL AND GOOD NUTRITION WEBSITES NEED ACTIVITY INFORMATION

There is plenty of good nutrition information in the world today, but we aren’t necessarily any healthier as a result, or any slimmer. We’ve got Nutrition Facts labels that tell us what’s in our food and nutrition websites that explain everything that happens to it once we eat it.

Maybe we need to start looking elsewhere for guidance?

A new Coke ad called Be OK spends 33 seconds equating the 140 calories in a can of Coke with fun and physical activity. It depicts someone walking her dog, getting into a groove while dancing, and doing a victory jig after throwing a strike in a bowling alley. With each fun activity we’re told how long we’d have to do it to burn off the calories in a can of Coke.

Research shows that’s a message people respond to.

What’s the Problem?
Calories are a difficult concept for Americans to grasp. Results from numerous consumer surveys done to test our knowledge of the connection between calories and weight provide all the evidence we need.

These studies have consistently shown the majority of us don’t know how many calories we are currently eating every day, how many calories we should be eating for our height, weight, activity level and health status, or how many calories we should be eating to lose weight — something the majority of us need to do.

Equally important, we have no clue how many calories we burn off each day, or more properly stated, how much energy we use to fuel the many functions our bodies perform 24/7. That is a key piece of the “energy balance” equation.

Who’s to Blame?

Caloric information has been on food labels since 1990. Books, brochures, and websites also provide detailed lists of the caloric value for everything we eat. And since 2008, chain restaurants in several big cities have been posting the caloric content for their menu items right up there along with the price.

To make it even easier for people to see the caloric content of their purchases, some food and beverage companies began putting the calories per serving on the front of their labels in 2011, not just on the Nutrition Facts panel found on the back or side of the box. But still, we have grown heavier.

What’s Been Missing?

Some researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) may have found a missing link. They designed a study to test what type of information might encourage diners to order differently from fast food menus. It compared four menu options: 1) just calorie information, 2) calories plus minutes to walk to burn the calories, 3) calories plus miles to walk to burn the calories, and 4) no calorie information.

The participants were 802 middle-aged women who were randomly assigned to one of the four groups. All were asked what they would order for themselves from a menu that featured fast food burger meals, sandwiches, salads, side orders, desserts and drinks. The only difference on the menus was the calorie and walking information.

Those who ordered from the menus with the calories and the number of miles needed to walk off those calories showed the biggest difference in their ordering preferences compared to those who had no information on their menus. Their orders contained 194 fewer calories, while the group that had calories and minutes of walking ordered 104 fewer calories, and those who had just calories ordered 93 fewer that the group with no information.

When asked which type of information they would prefer on menus, 82% of the participants said they preferred menus that showed physical activity, as minutes or miles walked, over menus that just had calories or no nutritional information at all. In their conclusions, published in the journal Appetite, the researchers state that it may be easier to imagine oneself walking a certain distance than trying to figure out what percentage of our daily caloric intake a menu item is worth.

It looks to me like The Coca-Cola Company has put the ball in our court with their new ad. What’s your next move?

Serving size on food label holds a key to weight control.

Serving Size, Portion Size and Body Size Are Connected

Learn how to estimate portion sizes using serving sizes on food labels

No matter how nutritious a food is, you still need to control the portion size to make it part of a portion size balanced diet. Or as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is not always good! The same holds true in reverse – a little bit of (almost) anything won’t kill you.

Knowing the amounts for everything you eat is your ticket to knowing things like how many calories you are consuming – an essential factor in weight control – and how many of the recommended servings you’ve had from each food group – a key to following the Dietary Guidelines. So as important as it is to your health to select the right foods to eat, it is equally important to know how to dish them out.

First some background.

The “serving size” that appears on the Nutrition Facts panel of a food label is based on government regulations established for food manufacturers. The intent was to have similar foods use the same serving size for their nutrition information so it would be easier for consumers to compare products.

It does not mean that it is the suggested amount to eat, although the government did base them on the average amount of each food usually eaten at one time.

The “portion size” is the amount you actually eat of a given food or beverage. So if you take a bit more or less than the serving size listed on a food label, that is your portion. The same is true when eating in a restaurant. They can dish it out anyway they want, but you get to decide how much of it you eat.

If you want to know how much you eat, you need to learn the basics about serving sizes so you can better estimate your portion sizes. Follow these Six Steps to get it right.

Six Steps to Sizing Up What You Eat

  1. Determine the capacity of the cups and bowls you normally use at home by filling them with water then transferring the water to a measuring cup. Measure the diameter of the plates with a ruler.
  2. Use measuring cups and spoons or a food scale for one week to measure and/or weigh everything you eat at home using the serving sizes given on the food labels to see what those amounts look like.
  3. Put the measured servings in the cups, bowls and plates you normally use to see how much space each food occupies relative to the size of the container.
  4. Compare the measured amounts of each food to a common object to create a visual reminder of each serving size. Common examples are to compare the amount to the size of a computer mouse, DVD, lipstick, bar of soap, golf ball, dollar bill or palm of your hand.
  5. Look at the cups, bowls and plates when you eat out to see if they are bigger or smaller than the ones you use at home.
  6. Estimate the total amount of each food served to you when eating out so you can decide how much more or less that is from the measured serving sizes.

Knowing how much you eat matters for a healthy diet and healthy body weight. What have you got to lose?

Nutrition Facts don’t override taste when it comes to making food decisions.

Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels!

WHAT WOULD YOU BUY IF THERE WERE NO NUTRITION INFORMATION ON FOOD LABELS?

This post was written during my 2 1/2 years as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in 2013, but you can see the original post here.

Food manufacturers have included ingredient lists, nutrition information and health claims on their packaging ever since they discovered it helped sell their products. The information wasn’t always accurate or ethical, but was always good for sales.

Recognizing the inherent danger in letting these practices go unregulated, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in 1990. The current version of the Nutrition Facts panel has appeared on packaged foods and processed meats and poultry since 1994.

In addition to requiring nutrition labels on most foods, the NLEA also requires that nutrient content claims, such as “low fat” or “high fiber,” satisfy criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, all health claims describing a relationship between a food and a disease must be approved by the FDA. That is how statements such as, “Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk for high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors” get on labels.

To make the job of finding the best food for our buck even easier, we now have “Front-of-Package” labels with abbreviated nutritional data and a variety of food rating systems, like NuVal, that use complex algorithms to rank all foods.

There is now an entire generation of Americans who have never seen a packaged food without a declaration of the serving size, calories per serving, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugar and protein it contains. Are their diets better as a result? Not really and here’s why.

Taste continues to hold its position as the number one influence over our food purchasing decisions, according to the 2011 Food & Health Survey. Even though we have more information than ever about what’s in our food and what we need to eat to stay healthy, we aren’t making most of our decisions based on that.

This led me to wonder what we might put into our shopping carts if all those metric units, daily values and carefully worded claims suddenly went away?

Putting aside for a moment the concerns of those with serious food restrictions, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing if all we had to look at in the supermarket was food. Labels could tell us the basics, like “White Bread,” “Tomato Soup” or “Strawberry Yogurt.” We could still compare prices and look for good values and favorite brands, but what would end up on the check-out counter is what we think tastes best.

And that’s pretty much what we’re doing now. The only difference would be that without the hard sell we might actually enjoy our food a little more.

See related article:

Getting Motivated to Eat Right