Physician in white lab coat speaking to middle aged obese woman

Pro or Con: Is Obesity a Disease?

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.

CLASSIFYING OBESITY AS A DISEASE IMPACTS WHETHER WE SHOULD FOCUS ON PREVENTING IT OR PAYING FOR THE TREATMENT OF OBESITY

Members of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution at their annual meeting this week that could be as significant as anything being considered by the US House of Representatives. The AMA Delegates voted in favor of classifying obesity as a disease, moving it up from its former designations as either a behavioral problem, chronic condition, health concern or complex disorder.

This vote was in direct opposition to the recommendations of their own Council on Science and Public Health.

The Council studied the issue and concluded obesity should not be considered a disease because there’s no good way to measure it. Body Mass Index is the measurement now used, but is considered too simplistic, especially since it cannot distinguish between excess weight from fat versus muscle.

As it turns out, obesity isn’t the only thing the AMA has a hard time defining. There is no universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease, either.

This action by the world’s largest physician’s group is largely symbolic since the AMA has no legal authority over the insurance industry, which gets to decide which claims to pay. The resolution was, however, supported by other health groups including the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Cardiology, and American College of Surgeons.

After reviewing the widespread coverage of this decision, it was immediately evident that not everyone in the public health and policy arena agrees with the decision. To put it into perspective I’ve rounded up some of the Pros and Cons to help you decide whether this new designation will help or hurt our national problem with energy imbalance.

PROS: If obesity is a disease the benefits are it may

Reduce the stigma that it’s caused by poor personal habits

Result in expanded coverage by health insurance

Force physicians to raise the issue with their patients (more than half of obese patients have never been told by their doctor that they need to lose weight)

Encourage more obesity prevention programs in schools and the workplace

Support efforts to restrict the sale of certain foods and beverages to those receiving food assistance

Increase research to find a cure or more effective treatment for obesity

Qualify expensive treatments for IRS tax deductions

CONS: If obesity is a disease the disadvantages are it may

Increase stigma towards those who don’t seek treatment

Raise health insurance premiums paid by individuals and employers

Run up the cost of care for the 1/3 of Amercians who are obese and seek treatment

Increase the sales of ineffective and untested products

Support taxes and restrictions on certain foods and beverages

Undermine personal responsibility to change one’s eating habits and activity level

Shift attention towards expensive drugs and surgery and away from programs aimed at preventing obesity

If you’d like to read more about this evergreen issue, here are some past posts worth revisiting:

  • Prejudice Against the Overweight and Obese
  • Obesity and What We Buy at the Supermarket
  • 3 Anti-Obesity Drugs Now Available in U.S.
  • Reflections on Obesity and Weight of the Nation
  • Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity
  • Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity
  • Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News
Yellow chick peeps

What to Do With Leftover Easter Candy?

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

EAT THE EASTER CANDY EGGS AND CHOCOLATE BUNNIES, BUT SAVE THE MARSHMALLOW PEEPS FOR THESE FUN ACTIVITIES

Who says Americans have lost their competitive edge? The iconic Easter candy fondly known as Peeps is made right here in the U.S.A. and growing in popularity around the world. In fact, if you lined up all the marshmallow peeps made in one year beak-to-tail, they could circle the globe twice!

The tradition of filling baskets with hand-painted eggs and chocolate bunnies continues, but Peeps have moved beyond the basket. Their cult status is due in large measure to the endless creative and competitive ways people have found to use them. And it’s my guess this creativity arose out of the need to do something else with them besides eat them.

The good thing about using Peeps for creative endeavors is they have a two-year shelf life, so you can buy them on sale after each holiday and collect all the seasonal colors and shapes to have on hand for future projects. They’re also nearly indestructible. Scientists at Emory University claim they would not dissolve them in anything, including acetone, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide.

If your competitive spirit is stirred by the sight of uneaten Peeps hidden in the plastic straw in the bottom of Easter baskets, you may want to enter the annual Washington Post Diorama contest . You’ll have a whole year to come up with a smashing idea since the 2013 winner has already been selected. It was titled, “Twinkie: Rest in Peeps” and portrayed Peeps in a funeral parlor mourning a deceased Twinkie in a coffin.

There are also eating competitions. The reigning winner of that managed to eat 102 Peeps in 30 minutes. The winner in the shorter contest swallowed 7 peeps in 30 seconds.

 

Fun Food Ideas Using Marshmallow Peeps

  • Decorate cakes and cupcakes
  • Put on a stick for LollyPeeps
  • Melt onto graham cracker and chocolate for S’meeps
  • Dip in chocolate for Peepsicles
  • Garnish pudding and parfaits
  • Layer with fruit and cake cubes on kebabs
  • Nestle into meringue nests
  • Dip into chocolate fondue
  • Melt into Rice Krispie Treats
  • Spread on bread with peanut butter for a Peepsernutter
  • Float in hot chocolate
  • Bake into brownies
  • Top a Cookie Peepsza

Cool Craft Projects Using Marshmallow Peeps

  • Adorn Easter bonnets
  • Design bouquets
  • Create dioramas for book reports
  • Add to vase to stabilize flower arrangements
  • Use in mosaics
  • Inhabit a doll house
  • Stage duels in the microwave oven
  • Form sports teams
  • String together for garland
  • Hang from holiday tree
  • Create topiary
  • Make candle rings
  • Mount on wreath frame to hang on door
  • Stick on drink straws to hold them in place
  • Use as place card holders
  • Create scenes from movies or stories

What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done with Peeps?

Traffic light symbol used to help count calories in restaurants

Counting Calories in Restaurants

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 the post here.

CHANGES IN MENU LABELS SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO COUNT CALORIES IN RESTAURANTS

When you see a red light you know it means “stop.” With that in mind, a study was designed to test whether using a traffic symbol on menus would help people select lower calorie options over just providing their caloric values.

It produced some surprising findings.

There’s no denying that we eat more when eating out. In an effort to slow us down (make that an “amber light”), the Affordable Care Act requires posting calories in restaurants. If you’re into counting calories, this might help.

But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who don’t have a clue how many calories you need each day, those extra numbers next to the price on menu labels won’t mean much.

Traffic Lights and Calories on Restaurant Menus

The study was done by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in February 2013. To conduct the experiment a restaurant was divided into three sections, all with the same food and menu descriptions. Different information about the caloric content of the items was on the menus in two of the sections. One section had no caloric information and served as the control group. One section had calorie-only information for each item on the menu. The third section had menus with the calorie information and a traffic light symbol. The Green Light indicated 400 calories or less, the Yellow Light meant 401-800 calories, and the Red Light items had more than 800 calories.

Over a two week period, diners were seated at random in one of the three sections during lunch service. They could choose from the 51 options on the menu or the daily special, and had no idea they were participating in a study.

At the end of the meal they were asked to complete a survey that included questions about their demographic characteristics, health consciousness, reason for dining out and frequency, method of item selection (taste, price, healthfulness, etc.) and menu label preference when given the choice between calorie-only or calorie+traffic light. They also completed a checklist indicating everything they ordered. At this point they were informed they were part of a research project.

The Big Surprise

The biggest surprise for me when I read the results had to do with the way people with different levels of “health consciousness” were influenced by the calorie information provided. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • calorie-only labels had the greatest impact on the least health conscious
  • calorie+traffic light menus had greatest impact on the most health conscious
  • calorie-only labels had their greatest impact on the selection of the main entrée
  • calorie-only and calorie+traffic light menus resulted in more extra calories (sides, desserts, drinks) being ordered than by those with no information on their menus
  • calorie+traffic light menus resulted in total calorie reduction of 69 calories

Summary of Key Findings:

At low levels of health consciousness, the calorie-only label led to larger calorie reductions; however, as health consciousness increased, the calorie+traffic light was more effective at reducing entrée calories. The results suggest the calorie-only label does not really tell those who are the most health conscious any new information, so their entrée choices did not change. But the calorie+traffic light label did appear to provide some new information, leading the most health conscious to choose entrée with fewer calories.

Diners who received menus with calorie information actually ordered more extra calories than those who received none. This suggests they may have experienced a “licensing effect,” meaning they felt that by ordering a lower-calorie entrée that had “license” to order an extra side item or dessert.

Lower calorie entrees were chosen by women, people over age 55, and those who ranked health as the most important characteristic when ordering.

Those with higher education ordered slightly fewer extra calories, while those in larger parties ordered more.

The preferred menu information by 42% of the participants was calorie-only, with only 27.5% choosing the calorie+traffic light. The researchers said this could be interpreted to mean the diners want more calorie information on their menus, but do not want to be told what they should or should not consume (i.e., green = good, red = bad).

What helps you make the best selection when ordering from a restaurant menu?

A quick healthy meal made with pasta is penne with vegetables and fresh herbs

Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta

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 read it here.

THE BENEFITS OF PASTA INCLUDE THE QUICK HEALTHY MEALS YOU CAN MAKE BY ADDING VEGETABLES, LEAN PROTEIN AND FRESH HERBS

Remember the days when we were told fat was killing us, but we could eat all the carbohydrates we wanted? Of course, that backfired. You can never eat all you want of anything and remain healthy. But back then, pasta was considered a superfood as long as you didn’t put any olive oil on it.

Then the tides turned on food high in carbohydrate, and protein became top dog, along with whatever fat clung to it. Soon people who hadn’t sunk their teeth into a piece of prime rib in ages were hitting the carving station again.

We have now entered the era of the good fats. The marbled meats are gone, and the healthy fats found in the foods of the Mediterranean, like olive oil, almonds and sesame seeds, are in.

Since the Mediterranean Diet has been linked to better health, you might be wondering where pasta fits into the plan?

I’m here to deliver good news. There are many nutritional and culinary benefits of pasta, and we were wrong to abandon the quick healthy meals we can make with it.

The problem was never the pasta; it was how much we were eating. Let’s try to get it right this time around. With all the new shapes, sizes and types of pasta on the market, there are more ways than ever to enjoy it.

Pasta Does Not Make You Fat!

Neither pasta in particular, nor carbohydrates in general, can make us gain weight any faster or easier than any other food containing calories. All of the excess calories we consume contribute to weight gain if we don’t burn them off, no matter what the source.

If you love pasta, the key to keeping it in your diet without exceeding your daily caloric allowance is to portion it properly. Two ounces of dry pasta is considered one serving, and it has about 200 calories. There’s no law against cooking a 12 ounce box and eating half of it yourself at one meal, but you must be able to use those 600 calories, and any that were clinging to it, or they will be stored as fat.

If you have a hard time estimating what 2 ounces of penne, fettuccine, or any other pasta looks like after it has been cooked, Barilla Pasta has a great chart that tells you how to measure it both before and after cooking.

Health Benefits of Pasta

  • Source of enriched and whole grains – Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 6 servings of grains a day, with half of them whole grains and half enriched
  • Low in fat and sodium – You don’t have to salt the water to cook pasta; let your sauce provide the flavor.
  • No cholesterol or saturated fat – If you use only plant-sourced toppings, like vegetables and beans, your dish will remain cholesterol free.
  • Enriched with thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, folic acid, and iron – Including enriched grains in the diet is an important way to meet requirements for essential nutrients.
  • A low Glycemic Index food – This means pasta makes us feel satisfied longer than other food high in carbohydrate and it doesn’t cause blood sugar to surge.
  • Available in nutritionally enhanced varieties – The list includes whole grain, vegetable, high fiber, high protein, ALA omega-3 fatty acids, and gluten free.

Culinary Benefits of Pasta

  • Partners well with every other food group – It’s the foundation for endless quick healthy meals when prepared with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, beans, nuts, or cheese.
  • Quick and easy to cook – Depending on size, it only takes 6-12 minutes to cook pasta to “al dente”, so follow the directions on the box.
  • Variety of shapes and sizes – The names on the boxes mean different things in Italian, but the shapes are basically long or short, ridged or smooth, thin or thick, hollow or solid, flat or filled.
  • Versatile serving options – One of the few foods you can enjoy hot or cold and reheated.
  • Inexpensive and widely available – Pasta provides a valuable way to stretch food dollars without compromising on value at meals.
  • Tastes great – A favorite of children, teens and adults alike, so everyone in the family can enjoy more meals together.
People fill their grocery shopping carts with foods they like.

Obesity and What We Buy at the Supermarket

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 see the post here.

MANY FACTORS INFLUENCE WHERE WE BUY GROCERIES AND WHAT WE PUT IN OUR SHOPPING CARTS

Do you like to check-out what other people have in their carts when doing your grocery shopping? I admit it, I do, but then I’m a nutrition expert. For me, watching what people buy at the supermarket is like looking through a microscope for a biologist.

One of the most interesting observations I repeatedly make is that having a higher income and access to better quality food does not necessarily mean you buy better groceries.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed this.

Some fascinating new research has taken a look at what people eat when they live in so-called “food deserts” – typically poor urban areas with few grocery stores – and those who live in the burbs with endless choices. As it turns out, no one is filling their cart with the right stuff.

Quality of the American Diet

A study published in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics described how well the diets of Americans from different groups across the country stacked up when compared to the recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. The authors concluded that regardless of socioeconomic status, the diets of everyone 2 years and older were far less than optimal.

Of interest, children in the lowest income group had higher dietary scores than those in the higher income groups due to their participation in national School breakfast and Lunch Programs and Summer Food Service program. Also of note, suburban families ate more fast food meals because they were often in the car during the dinner hour traveling between various after school activities.

Availability of Better Quality Food

Another study compared the diets of more than 8,000 school children and how much they weighed to the number of food outlets in the different residential neighborhoods where they lived. The goal was to see if there was a connection between available food sources and obesity in children.

The researchers found poor neighborhoods had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores and more than three times as many corner stores compared to wealthier ones, but they also had twice as many supermarkets per square mile. When they analyzed all of the data the researchers concluded that exposure to the all of these food outlets does not independently explain weight gain in school age children.

A similar study conducted with more than 13,000 children and teenagers in California found no relationship between what type of food students ate, what they weighed, and the type of food available within a mile and a half of their homes. The researchers concluded living close to a supermarket did not make students thin and living close to a fast food outlet did not make them fat.

What’s On Your Shopping List?

These studies are important because there are still people who believe the only thing keeping overweight and obese Americans from losing weight is the availability of more fresh fruits and vegetables where they buy groceries. I never believed it based on what I saw other people putting in their shopping carts. Maybe the solution is a better shopping list?

Find other ways to shop smart when you buy groceries here:

  • Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Labels
  • Want to Save Time and Money in the Supermarket?
  • Can Too many Food Choices lead to Obesity?
  • Eating Healthy on a Budget
Myths about dieting and best weight loss diet make news

Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News

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.

MYTHS ABOUT DIETING AND BEST WEIGHT LOSS DIET MAKE NEWS

News about how to lose weight is always newsworthy, even when there is nothing new to say. But that doesn’t matter. We are fed a steady stream of information about dieting and weight control to keep the conversation going. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a broadcaster say just once, “There will be no weight loss news tonight.”

I know I’ve had my fill.

Last month we had the unique opportunity to hear about the best weight loss diet and the top obesity myths in the same news cycle. You can’t beat that for intrigue!

What’s True About Weight Loss?

The annual list of the best diets from U.S. News & World Report arrived with the usual excitement, followed by reflexive disappointment. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get healthy or control disease, the best diets in each category still require making better food choices and keeping track of them. Nothing new there.

The top weight loss diets were all about common sense things like eating more vegetables and less meat, taking smaller portions of food and bigger amounts of exercise, and being more focused on your food than your social networks when eating. Is there anyone left who doesn’t know that?

What’s Not True About Weight Loss?

The other story grabbing headlines last month was about obesity myths. Apparently everything we’ve told about dieting and weight loss isn’t true, or at least it hasn’t been scientifically proven.

Researchers at the University of Alabama wanted to set the record straight, so looked for the studies to back up the most popular beliefs about obesity. They reported their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and said “false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive.”

Did you know there’s no proof that taking more physical education classes will curb obesity in kids or that eating more frequently throughout the day will help? With or without proof, it seems pretty obvious to me that the advice isn’t working. But it’s still news.

What Can We Do About Weight Loss?

Why not take a break from all the weight loss news and act on what we already know? There are no game-changing discoveries around the corner. Nothing new is in the pipeline that will make the task easier. And there is never going to be a magic potion that will melt our fat away.

It’s time to stop talking about dieting and weight loss and start doing something about it. We could really surprise all those researchers if we were successful in spite of the myths!

Some other thoughts on the issue can be found here:

  • Technology Beats Temptation in New Weight Watchers Plan
  • 3 Great Tips for losing Weight
  • 5 Sure Steps to Achieving Weight Loss
  • Choosing the Right Diet Plan
  • 8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring
  • 10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss
  • What Fads Diets for Weight Loss Have You Tried?
Heart disease research shows eggs unfairly blamed for clogged arteries in cardiovascular disorders

Clogged Arteries Are Not Due to Eggs

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.

HEART DISEASE RESEARCH SHOWS EGGS UNFAIRLY BLAMED FOR CLOGGED ARTERIES IN CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS

One of the first things I remember learning about cardiovascular disorders as a student dietitian was that clogged arteries was the common cause. I vividly recall the illustration in my textbook of a heart attack triggered by a blockage in the flow of blood. The heart disease research available at the time hinted that it was the cholesterol in eggs that was responsible for that blockage.

I’d like to revisit the subject of eggs, cholesterol and heart disease as we celebrate American Heart Month.

Eggs were first linked to the rising rates of cardiovascular disorders in this country back in the 1970s. As a result, dietary guidelines started recommending that we limit our consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3 per week.

That triggered a lot of diners to add egg white omelets to their menus, but it didn’t slow down the rates of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for men and women alike, and has held that distinction for over 60 years. More Americans will die of heart disease this year than all forms of cancer combined.

600,000 deaths a year can’t possibly be due to eggs.

What’s Do You Like With Your Eggs?

Some of the earliest evidence used to blame eggs for heart disease was based on research that showed the people who ate the most eggs had a greater incidence of heart attacks than those who ate few eggs. But as we should all know by now, that kind of data does not prove causation.

A closer look on the plates of the egg eaters revealed they liked their eggs with bacon or sausage, fried potatoes, buttered toast and cream in their coffee, followed by a cigarette. When more diligent researchers took a look at what else the big breakfast crowd was eating, they found plenty of other incriminating evidence. Their diets were filled with meats high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, yet eggs took all the blame for their chest pain.

Then there was the research that showed heart disease was caused by clogged arteries, and the plaque clogging our arteries was formed by cholesterol, and eggs were high in cholesterol. The advice that followed was to eat fewer eggs to stop plaque formation. But the dots hadn’t been connected yet that could prove the cholesterol in eggs was the same cholesterol that found in heart-stopping plaque.

As it turned out, those dots didn’t connect. The dietary cholesterol we get from egg yolks, liver and lobster is not the same cholesterol that ends up causing clogged arteries. Instead, we make our own custom cholesterol, mostly from saturated fat, and eggs are low in saturated fat.

Vindication of the Egg

A large scale study published this month in the British Medical Journal provides a much-needed defense of the egg. Scientists did a meta-analysis of 17 previously published reports on egg consumption and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. The analysis included over 12,000 cases of either heart disease or stroke and follow up that covered more than 7 million “person years.” The conclusion was that consuming up to an egg a day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among non-diabetic people.

Getting to The Heart Truth About Heart Disease

Just like eating eggs does not cause heart disease, wearing red doesn’t stop it. The Heart Truth campaign uses the red dress to promote awareness of the risk factors for heart disease in women so we will take action to lower our risk. The first step is to know these numbers:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood glucose
  • Body Mass Index (based on height and weight)
  • Waist circumference

If your numbers are too high, work with your health care team to lower them. At least you won’t have to worry about giving up eggs to do it!

You don’t have to serve diet snacks if you use these healthy snack ideas

Need Healthy Snack Food Ideas for the Super Bowl?

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.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SERVE DIET SNACKS IF YOU USE THESE HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS

When the Taco Bell advertising team came up with the idea to bash veggie platters at Super Bowl parties, they weren’t just knocking vegetables. The ad implied that all healthy snack food ideas are unwelcomed at the biggest gridiron event of the year. Now that the ads have been pulled, it has left many people wondering whether any diet snacks can be safely served on game day.

Do not despair! There are other ways to curb your party food consumption without trying to sneak broccoli into the chili con carne!

Beware of Halos

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when faced with lots of food choices is to separate the choices into “good” and “bad” foods. No matter what criteria we use to make the distinction, it always leads to the same illogical conclusion that if we eat mostly good food, it’s okay to eat some bad food, too.

This is called the Halo Effect, where we believe the good food – they’re the ones wearing the halo – can somehow magically cancel out the risks of the bad foods.

Mathematically, this just doesn’t work out in our favor. The amount of fat, sodium and calories in 20 potato chips submerged in a half cup of onion dip cannot be cancelled out by a 20 baby carrots dabbed in hummus. Same is true about eating the celery sticks served with the Buffalo wings. The numbers just don’t jibe.

This does not mean we can never eat the chips, dips and wings. We just have to be more realistic about how many we can afford to add to our fat, sodium and calorie tally for the day.

“Watch” What You Eat

As much as we all feel drawn to food by its smell and taste, our vision plays a role in what and how much we eat, too. I’m not talking about attractive plating arrangements, but the color and size of the plates and bowls its served in. Food marketers use this information to get us to eat more of their products, but we turn the tables on them and use it to eat less.

A study done in the Department of Social and Economic Psychology at the University of Basel Switzerland found people ate less snack food from a red plate and drank less soft drink from a red cup than they did when blue or white plates and cups were used. The researchers hypothesize that the color red serves as a subliminal stop sign that helps to reduce how much we eat.

That’s good news for San Francisco 49er’s fans who can use the team’s red and gold colors for their party ware.

Tackle the “Hidden Persuaders”

Even if there won’t be any diet snacks at your Super Bowl spread, there are ways to deal with mindless eating so you don’t overindulge. Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Brain Wansink, a consumer behavior psychologist, we now have proof that how we serve food is as important as what we serve.

Use these Healthy Snack Food Ideas to Eat Less at Your Super Bowl Party

  • Use tall slender glasses for drinks instead of short wide ones
  • Fill a basket with single-serving bags of chips instead of having big bowls filled with chips
  • Offer only 1 or 2 types of chips instead of 3 or more
  • Place some of the snack food just out of reach so guests have to get up to have more
  • Provide small plates for guests to fill with their own snacks and place scoops and tongs on platters so they can serve themselves
  • Offer snacks that require some effort to eat, such as peanuts or pistachios in shells, cheese you must spread, and candies you must unwrap
  • Fill candy dishes with single-colored treats, like M&Ms or Jellybeans, featuring your team’s colors rather than offering mixed colors
  • Provide medium-sized (9 inch) paper plates for the half-time buffet instead of larger dinner plates
  • Put plain names on your buffet dishes, such as “Chili,” versus more appetizing descriptions, such as “Rosie’s Three-Alarm Homemade Chili”
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?

Cheap diet solutions for safe weight loss if trying to diet on a budget

10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

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

Trying to diet on a budget can seem impossible when you see the price tags on the latest gluten-free foods and shiny new gym equipment that promise safe weight loss for those with fat wallets. As a challenge, i took a walk through the nearest discount dollar store to identify cheap diet solutions for those with good intentions, but modest means. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are ten items you can buy for ten dollars that will help you eat right and get in shape so you can lose and save at the same time!

Blank Notebook: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

The most valuable part of any healthy makeover is a blank book. Use it to record your goals, weight, measurements, and daily food intake and physical activity. If you faithfully and honestly fill the pages each and every day, you’ll soon discover the book was the most effective weight loss program you ever tried.

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Tape Measure: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Stepping on a scale is not the only way to measure your progress, or the best. A simple cloth tape measure can be used to get some baseline measurements that will help you see the loss of inches in places where it really counts. Be sure to include: waist and hip circumference, thigh, calf, upper arm and chest.

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Index Cards: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

It may seem old school to write recipes on index cards, but not if you use them for a collection of your favorite fool-proof, quick, easy, and tasty dishes that are diet-friendly. Take the time to try new recipes and be selective about which ones you allow into your collection. If you just find one new recipe a week there will be 52 winners in the box by this time next year.

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Measuring Cups: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Like it or not, all food contains calories and the serving size of the food you eat determines how many calories it contains – no matter how nutritious the food may be. Using measuring cups to both prepare your food and portion it at home will help you stick to your calorie budget and train your eye for the meals eaten away from home when you have to guesstimate.

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Measuring Spoons: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Just like the foods measured in measuring cups, there are calories in the smaller things we eat that are measured with measuring spoons, like cooking oils, salad dressing, and soft spreads. It isn’t easy to free-pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, so it pays to measure it since each additional tablespoon adds another 110 calories.

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Food Storage Containers: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating is eating out regularly. By having a complete set of food storage containers you can take your breakfast, lunch and snacks with you to work with you, if needed. It’s a great way to use the leftovers from all those meals you’ll be preparing at home, too.

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Insulated Lunch Sack: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Now that you’ve got a set of food storage containers, you need and insulated sack to carry them in when filled with food. These sacks come in enough different styles you’ll never have to guess which lunch is yours in the office refrigerator, and they’re flexible enough to slip into your shoulder-strap bag or back pack for hands-free travel.

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Freezer Packs: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Keep an assortment of these freezer packs in different sizes in the freezer so they’re ready to add to your lunch sack. Remember, there’s nothing healthy about food that hasn’t been kept at the proper temperature.

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Egg Timer: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

No matter how many features you have on your smart phone, they can only help you if you know how to use them. A simple kitchen timer is a no-brainer way to build short bursts of activity into your day. Set it to ring once every hour then, then get up and stand, walk, or stretch for 5 minutes.

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Handheld Mirror: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Give yourself some words of encouragement each and every day, you’re worth it!

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