October 31, 2008

Numbers Game: Answer

How many pistachio nuts make up a 1-ounce, 158-calorie serving?

Answer: 49

That's more than double the amount of almonds that make up a 1-ounce serving!

Although all nuts are wonderful additions to a diet and share similar caloric values per ounce (between 140 - 150 calories), pistachios stand out because it takes a LOT of them to add up to that weight.

They are particularly helpful for people cutting back on total calories who psychologically need to see a lot of food in front of them to feel "properly full."

Consider this: you can get the same amount of calories in 49 pistachios in just three Oreo cookies! It also doesn't hurt that you get 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 7% of the Daily Value of iron.

FNCE 2008: Free of Gluten, Not Flavor

Although many European and South American countries sell a mulitude of products geared to individuals with celiac disease, the United States is only recently beginning to cater to this growing market with tasty, healthy, widely available alternatives.

Many people with celiac disease have a hard time finding snack foods high in fiber and whole grains, which is why two manufacturers of gluten-free products stood out at the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo: Mary's Gone Crackers and Crunchmasters.

Mary's Gone Crackers offers a variety of wonderfully crunchy gluten-free whole grain crackers and twig-shaped snacks.

Made from brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, sesame seeds, and millet, each 1-ounce serving offers anywhere from 3 to 5 grams of fiber and no more than 150 calories.

Some of the flavors -- particularly with the twig snacks -- can offer a relatively high 300 milligrams of sodium per serving, so be sure to check the nutrition label for information (the crackers tend to stick to 150 milligrams or less.)

Crunchmasters, meanwhile, sells multigrain and multiseed whole grain crackers that are incredibly crunchy and flavorful.

Each one-ounce serving provides 140 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and no more than 140 milligrams of sodium (the rosemary flavor manages to pack in a lot of taste in less than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving!)

No wheat? No problem.

October 30, 2008

In The News: Taking Back "the C Word"

Let's do this Vagina Monologues style. Ready?

Say it with me:

c-c-ca-ca-ca-calo.... calor-calor-caloriesssss!

How wonderfully liberating!

After a long period of foolishness where mainstream weight loss rhetoric focused on fat grams, carbohydrate grams, or what time of day you stopped eating, The New York Times -- in an article beautifully titled "Calories Do Count" -- reports that "good old calorie counting is coming back into fashion."

That's right -- after being dismissed by the likes of Gary Taubes and his ilk, calories are the new black!

Consumers are simply beginning to re-embrace the idea that successful, long-lasting weight loss comes with familiarizing themselves with calorie contents of foods, as opposed to eating unlimited amounts of foods that are simpy very low in carbohydrates or fats.

It is worth pointing out that this heightened caloric awareness is a direct result of labeling laws that take the guesswork out of ordering at many restaurant and takeout chains.

Meanwhile, restaurants -- profits firmly in mind -- are "jumping on the latest bandwagon."

"Dunkin’ Donuts recently added a low-calorie egg white breakfast sandwich, Così is using low-fat mayonnaise and McDonald’s large French fries have dropped to 500 calories this year from 570 last year."

Additionally, "Quiznos is testing smaller sizes and less-caloric sandwich fillings in its New York stores. At Le Pain Quotidien, which has 17 outlets in New York... the popular quiche Lorraine was trimmed to 6 ounces from 11, with extra salad filling out the plate."

Food manufacturers, meanwhile, will soon be catering to the "calorie trend" by printing calorie values on the front of their packaging.

Don't be surprised if, a few years down the road, mandatory chain restaurant calorie labeling laws go national.

You Ask, I Answer: Ostrich/Bison Meats

An "upscale" burger place I like to go to offers ostrich and bison meat.

I like the taste of both and have heard they are better for you than beef.

Is that true?

-- Robert (last name withheld)

New York, NY

Ostrich (popular in Asia and Southern Africa) and bison/buffalo meats are considered a rarity in the United States.

In case you're having a Jessica Simpson moment, remember that buffalo wings are made from chicken (they originated in the city of Buffalo, hence the name.)

Compared to traditional (cow's) red meat, both of these options are healthier alternatives.

Whereas three ounces of beef clock in at 240 calories and 15 grams of fat, that same amount of ostrich adds up to 97 calories and 1.3 grams of fat, while three ounces of bison contain 140 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.

Since bison subsist only on grass -- the overwhelming majority of cows in the United States are on a literally lethal corn-based diet -- their meat offers low amounts of saturated fat and higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid.

Although ostriches do not eat grass, their meat is very lean since fat builds up outside their muscle tissue, making it very easy to remove prior to cooking.

October 29, 2008

FNCE 2008: Flavor Magic

One upcoming product that caught my eye was the Flavor Magic portion control sheets -- dry marinade sheets that are pre-cut to reflect the recommended portion size of fish, chicken or beef.

Rather than weigh foods or eyeball portions, you tear a 4" by 3" sheet, place your protein of choice on it, and let it marinade for approximately 20 minutes (the time it takes for the spices on the sheet to transfer over to the piece of food.)

At that point, you simply rip the sheet off, throw it out, and cook your protein to your liking.

It's quite an inventive tool, as it takes care of portion control and healthy flavoring in one easy step that does not require cleanup.

The sheets are available in a variety of flavors -- each providing only four calories and one gram of sugar, and ranging in sodium content from 120 to 160 milligrams (a mere 5 percent of the recommended daily maximum value).

This is precisely the creativity that is desperately needed in the nutrition field.

For more information, please visit the Flavor Magic website (NOTE: You may begin ordering the product via the company's website on November 17.)

I truly wish these innovators the best of luck and hope their product catches on.

FNCE 2008: Diet Coke and Splenda Drop The F Bomb

Fiber and whole grains were undisputed royalty at this year's American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.

Cereals, corn chips, crackers, cookies, and protein powders breathlessly advertised their inclusion in ingredient lists.

I certainly was not expecting, however, to come across fiber in Splenda and Diet Coke.

The Splenda folks -- who, oddly enough, suggest sprinkling their non-caloric sweetener over fresh fruit -- are making the case that this is one easy way for Americans (who are currently getting, on average, half of their recommended fiber intake) to boost their fiber consumption.

With each packet containing 1 gram of fiber, two packets in your morning coffee and another over your breakfast cereal puts you at the 3 gram mark (as much as an apple, they exclaim.)

Coca Cola, meanwhile, will be releasing Diet Coke Plus With Fiber around March or April of 2010.

Apart from the vitamin and mineral combination found in Diet Coke Plus, this beverage will contain 5 grams of soluble fiber (all derived from corn) per 20 ounce bottle.

Splenda and Coca Cola have their marketing pitch perfected.

"We're simply helping people get the amount of fiber they need!" they explain (with puppy dog eyes, I'm sure.)

I'm not as optimistic.

While the idea of including fiber in Diet Coke may appeal to some people, it serves as a complete deterrent to get it from unprocessed, whole foods that offer multitudes of other nutrients, phytochemicals, and health benefits.

As much as Splenda wants to make the case that three packets of their sweetener contain as much fiber as an apple, it's a meaningless comparison.

An apple is more than just fiber in a round shape.

It contains vitamin C, potassium, and a significant number of antioxidants, among them quercetin and epicatechin (the former has been associated with reduced cellular damage, the latter with improved blood flow.)

By relying on fortified empty calorie foods for specific nutrients, you are missing out on hundreds of health-promoting components.

What's most mind-boggling to me is that these products give the false idea that fiber is just so gosh darn hard to find, that there's no choice but to stick it inside a soda bottle.

October 28, 2008

Shame On You: The Blueprint Cleanse

After receiving favorable publicity in Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and New York Magazine, the New York City based Blueprint Cleanse is increasing in popularity across the United States.

As you may imagine, I am not a fan.

Long story short: the founder of The Blueprint Cleanse had “a savage cold” on January 1, 2000, which she recuperated from a week later after following a seven-day juice cleanse.

Don’t most colds naturally run their course in a week? I digress.

As happy as she was to have her health back, she thought that particular cleanse was too extreme.

Well, lucky us -- this inspired her to start a nutritional cleanse company “customized to [each client’s] level of nutritional awareness and dietary history.”

Mix that idea with a cutesy website, trendy advertising, and promises of “normalized weight” and “physical rejuvenation,” and the latest "wellness" nonsense is born.

Beginners can opt for a 3 day program, while more advanced folks looking to flush their hard-earned dollars down the toilet -- oops, I mean, the toxins out of their system -- can opt for 5, 7 or 10 day cleanses.

For $65 a day, the 6 beverages you need to drink each day are delivered to your home or office in the insulated cooler picture at top (as you may notice by looking at that photo, each juice is labeled in suggested order of consumption.)

Mind you, these are fruit and vegetable blends (as well as one cashew milk drink) that cost no more than $10 a day to make.

Despite Blueprint’s claim that this is different from other cleanses, we are dealing with the same flawed logic (except this time the intellectual excrement is covered in a glossy shimmer, kind of like an episode of MTV’s The Hills.)

A few choice examples:

Can we please finally put to rest the myth that if you don’t eat a lot, you’ll lack energy? Unless one is undergoing a water fast, which, should only be done with a coach, energy levels will skyrocket!

I suppose. But how about finally putting to rest these inane notions that we need to subsist on nothing but liquefied fruits and vegetables to cleanse our bodies?

While "we" are at it, can "we" please learn some basic human physiology and realize that the kidneys and pancreas already get rid of "toxins"?

Disturbingly, The Blueprint Cleanse folks claim it is absolutely possible to exercise while undergoing any of their fasts (3, 5, or 7 days.)

The energy that is usually spent on digestion is now yours for the taking, so grab it and go for a jog! Remember- you are feeding your cells, not stuffing your belly.

Newsflash -- solids AND liquids go through the digestive system. Just because you are drinking six juices a day does not mean your body takes a break from digestion.

According to the creators, this cleanse contains nothing but “food that's packed with enzymes [and] will allow your body to clean.

Oh, the enzyme argument. Cute. Too bad it’s baseless.

A three-day Cleanse helps the body rid itself of old built up matter and cleanses the blood. A five-day Cleanse starts the process of rebuilding and healing the immune system. A ten-day Cleanse will take care of problems before they arise and fight off degenerative diseases.

I would love to know how they came to this conclusion. Not to mention, how exactly does a cleanse "take care of problems before they arise?"

Am I supposed to believe that, magically, on the tenth day, I have enough power in my immune system to prevent a scratchy throat? If so, for how long?

Wondering when you should be cleansing? Here it is from the horse's mouth:

A good rule of thumb is whenever you experience any of the following: fatigue/general lack of energy, sleeplessness, anxiety/depression, digestive problems, at the first sign of a cold and of course, before and after holidays or any special events that lead to overindulging.

Yes, because I am sure someone with depression is just itching to give up a hot plate of food and instead subsist on nothing but cold vegetable and fruit juices for a week.

Okay, okay, I'm being unfair. The Blueprint Cleanse allows you to cheat by sinking your teeth into.... celery sticks.

You might as well throw two ice cubes onto your plate and have yourself a party!!

Back to the suggested times of use -- I'm very weary of attempting to correct issues of fatigue and lack of energy by going on a liquid diet that barely grazes the 1,000 calorie mark.

And then there's the most extreme cleanse – “the excavation cleanse” – which does away with most fruits and instead “focuses on foods that trigger detox and elimination, such as citrus (spicy lemonade), which act as “cleaners” and green vegetable tonics which act as “healers.

And, clearly, this cleanse goes in the "complete and utter nonsense" category.

Numbers Game: Strength In Numbers

How many pistachio nuts make up a 1-ounce, 158-calorie serving?

a) 17

b) 49

c) 26
d) 30

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Friday for the answer.

October 27, 2008

You Ask, I Answer/Quick & Easy Recipes: Vegan Alfredo Sauce

I became vegan about two months ago.

I don't really miss many things since I find perfectly tasty substitutes, but yesterday night I found myself craving alfredo sauce (maybe it's the cold weather).

Since I have seen some vegan recipes on the blog, I wondered if you had any ideas as to how I can have alfredo sauce without dairy?

-- Shannon Gibson
St. Paul, MN

You've come to the right place, Shannon!

Although I am not vegan, I enjoy vegan cooking -- it is creative, healthy, and always offers a new experience for the tastebuds.

After several experiments, I crafted a vegan alfredo sauce I have been enjoying for approximately two years.

YIELDS: 6 servings (1 serving: 1/2 cup)


3/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
4 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (optional)


Place cashews in food processor. Pulse for 20 - 30 seconds.

Add water and pulse until cashews and water are evenly mixed.

Combine rest of ingredients in food processor until blended.


150 calories
1.5 grams saturated fat
380 milligrams sodium
4 grams fiber
8.5 grams protein

Good source of: B vitamins (including B12!), magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, iron

October 26, 2008

Administrative Announcements: Chicago Update

Whew! I am absolutely exhausted.

I have just spent four and a half hours at the 2008 American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo visting hundreds of stands from a variety of companies.

I should mention that I am also lugging around forty pounds of food samples. Yes, forty pounds.

The samples range from individual size bags of walnuts to a pound of Barilla Plus pasta to a new line of alternative potato chips from a company by the name of Brothers All Natural.

I have LOTS to blog about when I return to New York City late Monday evening.

There is, however, one little tidbit I must share with you right now.

Guess what the buzz was at the Coca Cola booth? None other than their new variety of Diet Coke set to be released in 2010 -- Diet Coke Plus with Fiber!

That's right -- 5 grams of soluble corn fiber per 20 ounce bottle. Oy.

Although the product will not be released for another year and a half, they had tasting samples. Taste wise, it is the exact same as a non-fortified Diet Coke.

I will detail my issues with adding fiber to Diet Coke in a future posting.

Oh, did I mention that the high fructose corn syrup folks also had a stand here? Wait until I tell you about THEIR "educational materials."

October 25, 2008

Administrative Announcements: In Chicago

Dear readers,

Greetings from Chicago!

I am in the Windy City for the American Dietetic Association's Annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo.

Last year, you may recall my postings from the 2007 FNCE (held in Philadelphia),which included such gems as the Beer Board trying to make the case that their beverage is a smart caloric option.

Beer at a nutrition conference. Anyone else find that to be more than a little odd?

Anyhow, I will provide full reports during the coming week on what foods companies are pushing as their latest healthy products, so stay tuned!

PS: Last night I saw a television commercial for Splenda with fiber. Oh, boy. Watch for a posting on that very, very soon.

October 23, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Dyes/Farmed Salmon

Are the synthetic dyes [fed to farmed salmon] harmful?

I googled astaxanthin and found a website talking about how it's an antioxidant and prevents cancer and is necessary for the healthy growth of the farmed salmon.

Surely that can't be true.

-- Kristin

Via the blog

That is technically true, but there is more to this story.

While both astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are deemed safe by the Food & Drug Administration (although people trust that organization to varying degrees), certain concentrations of canthaxanthin have been associated with eye defects.

Interestingly, different countries have different ideas of how many parts per million of that synthetic dye are "safe."

That being said, the vast majority of salmon farmed in the United States and Europe is only fed astaxanthin.

In other parts of the world, though, farmed salmon is only fed canthaxanthin (it is the cheaper of the two dyes.)

I still would not be too worried. You would need to be eating a LOT of salmon dyed with canthaxanthin to be affected.

What all of this ties into, though, is another controversial topic – COOL (Country of Origin Labeling.)

Although it is required for all fish sold in the United States, I have seen it very sparingly in supermarkets.

As far as I am concerned, the core issue surrounding these food dyes isn't so much possible health repercussions, but rather truthful advertising to consumers.

If farmed salmon were to either remain gray or be dyed another color (say, white), then consumers would immediately know they are not purchasing a wild variety, and there would be no room for mislabeling (remember this infamous study by Marian Burros of The New York Times?).

Since farmed salmon is nutritionally inferior to its wild counterpart (more saturated fat, higher Omega 6 fatty acid content, lower Omega 3 fatty acid content), people should not be left in the dark.

This is not to say farmed salmon should completed avoided or viewed in the same light as deep fried fish nuggets, but consumers have a right to know exactly what they are putting on their plates.

Twisted Logic

For many people, "yogurt" equals "health food."

Although there are cases where this is far from true (i.e.: flavored yogurts that, despite already being sweetened with two tablespoons of added sugar, provide crushed Oreos or tiny M&M's to be added as toppings), plain yogurt is a wonderful source of calcium, protein, and -- in most cases -- probiotic bacteria.

It is no surprise that food companies are always eager to add a pinch of a healthy (or at least healthy sounding) ingredient to their own proucts in hopes of attracting the eyes -- and wallets -- of health-conscious consumers.

Case in point: yogurt pretzels.

Let's begin by keeping in mind that an ounce of regular pretzels adds up to:

110 calories
0 grams of saturated fat

0.5 grams of sugar

Now, consider the nutrition values -- and ingredients -- offered by the yogurt-covered variety.

A 1-ounce serving of Flipz (a prototypical brand of yogurt pretzels) contains:

130 calories
4.5 grams of saturated fat

13 grams of sugar

Although the caloric difference is minimal, we are talking about 20% of a day's worth of saturated fat and a tablespoon of added sugar.

And if you think the yogurt provides calcium, think again.

A serving of Flipz only offers two percent of the calcium daily value -- only as much as one and a half tablespoons of actual yogurt.

It all makes sense when you look at the ingredient list and see that the first ingredient in these pretzels is "yogurt coating," which is mainly made up of sugar and palm kernel oil -- a saturated fat.

Alas, yogurt pretzels undoubtedly fall into the "sweet treat" category.

Consider this: eight Nabisco Nilla Wafers (that's considered one serving) contain only 10 more calories than a serving of yogurt pretzels, as well as a third of the saturated fat and a few less grams of sugar.

Some more food for thought?

Four Nilla Wafers accompanied by a cup of skim milk provide just 40 more calories than a serving of yogurt pretzels, but also half the added sugar, one tenth of the saturated fat, and a third of the calcium daily value.

October 22, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Food Dyes

I was trying to think of things that are artificially dyed red and salmon came to mind.

Farmed salmon would be gray without the dye they are fed because they don't eat their natural ocean diet of krill.

I know some other meats are dyed red to make them look more appetizing to people.

What are these dyes made of?

-- Kristin

Via the blog

For the most part, farmed salmon are simply fed synthetic versions of two pigments of the carotenoid family -- astaxanthin and canthaxanthin.

Wild salmon take in the naturally occuring versions of these carotenoids by virtue of their aquatic diet.

Farmed salmon -- subsisting mainly on grains and corn -- need these dyes added to their feed so they can have a pleasing rosy color.

This is mostly done for aesthetic purposes.

Would you be interested in taking home a filet of salmon that was completely gray? No, you wouldn't. And salmon farming companies know this very well.

Numbers Game: Answer

Cosi patrons, take note.

Opting to have your salad of choice dressed with the house vinaigrette tacks on 357 calories.

This partially explains why people sometimes express confusion when, despite substituting many of their regular foods with salad, weight loss does not occur.

It is even more difficult to gauge how many calories you get from salad dressing at salad bars, where you use enormous ladles to dress your individual concoction (one full ladle can contain up to 600 calories of some dressings!)

If you opt to have full-fat dressings, ask for them on the side, and aim to use no more than half of the amount you are provided.

This is not to say that fat-free dressings can be poured liberally.

Most dressings lacking fat provide flavor by throwing in higher amounts of sugar, thereby still containing a good number of calories.

I suggest using a small amount of full-fat dressing and mixing it with other low-calorie ingredients (think balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice.)

October 21, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3 Fortified Eggs

What is the process exactly in adding Omega-3 to eggs?

How is this done?

I know the eggs are "fortified" but what does this mean?

-- Lori (last name unknown)

Via the blog

Before I get to your actual question, this is a good time to point out the difference between fortification and enrichment.

When enriching a food or ingredient (for instance, white flour,) food manufacturers are adding back nutrients that were already present in that food or ingredient prior to processing.

Fortification, meanwhile, entails the addition of one or more nutrients that are not inherently part of that food or ingredient.

Similarly, adding higher quantities of a nutrient than what is naturally present in a food or ingredient also falls under the "fortification" umbrella.

As far as Omega-3 fortified eggs, it is very simply done by adding food sources of Omega-3 to chicken feed -- usually fish oils or flax.

Food For Thought -- Literally!

Kellogg's has just launched Live Bright -- a "brain health bar."

What leads them to make this claim? The inclusion -- through fortification, of course -- of 100 milligrams of DocosaHexaenoic Acid (DHA, the same Omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.)

This is a perfect example of nutrient isolation gone awry.

Does DHA play a role in cognitive health? It very much appears that way.

Then again, so do vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, zinc, iron, and a variety of polyphenols and antioxidants.

In other words -- orange juice companies and blueberry farmers could, I suppose, also make brain health claims.

As could the most sugary of cereals, for that matter, as long as it is fortified with the above mentioned nutrients.

These types of health claims end up having very little meaning because they make up only portion of the total puzzle.

While DHA can help with cognitive health, so does maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood pressure at desired levels, and limiting saturated fat intake (neuroscience research studies have shown a link between high saturated fat intake and a decline in cognitive function over time.)

Including one of these bars in a diet generally low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- and high in saturated fat and sodium -- isn't going to be much help.

If you're going to reach for a DHA fortified food, I would rather you pick up DHA fortified eggs, which contain a superior nutritional profile to what is, essentially, a candy bar.

October 20, 2008

In The News: An Odd Solution

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in India are leaving citizens looking for healthier alternatives to mithai -- "sweet, fudgy goodies rich with cardamom, pistachio and saffron... eagerly eaten, given as gifts, [or] offered to the gods]" during annual Diwali celebrations.

Partially due to an improved economy, many Hindus are opting to replace the sugary treats with clothes, electronics, and jewelry.

Two interesting points stand out here.

Number one: sales of sugar-free mithai are improving.

Number two: the government has taken action by releasing "millions of tons of sugar into the markets... in a bid to drive down prices."

As you may imagine, both of these developments leave me shaking my head.

First of all, sugar-free varieties of candies are not necessarily lower in calories.

The overwhelming majority of sugar-free candies contain higher amounts of fat than their standard counterparts, often times resulting in mere 10 or 20 calorie differences.

Remember, whereas sugar adds 4 calories per gram, fat contribues 9 calories per gram.

Of course, the average consumer is not aware of this, and often finds themselves thinking they can eat more simply because sugar is absent. Not quite.

And lastly, why on Earth is the government's solution providing more sugar at lower prices?

If a large percentage of the country is concerned about obesity and diabetes, cheapening sugary food is not the optimal solution!

Why not look into long-term policy that can begin to address some of the population's needs (for instance, calorie labeling)?

October 19, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Nut Butters

I am allergic to peanuts, so peanut butter is out of the question for me.

Of all the other nut butters, which is the most nutritious?

-- Danielle Spolner
San Francisco, CA

All nut butters share similar nutritional profiles.

Peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, and soynut butters all offer protein, healthy fats, and between 175 and 200 calories in a 2 tablespoon serving.

One big plus about almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butters is that they are only available in natural form (meaning they exclusively made of crushed nuts and, in some cases, salt), whereas some brands of peanut and soy butters add partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and sugar.

That said, there are a few differences worth pointing out.

Almond butter is the most caloric, but it also offers the highest amount of monounsaturated (heart healthy) fat, vitamin E, and manganese. Of all the nut butters, it has the lowest protein content (4 grams per serving.)

Cashew butter offers the same amount of calories as peanut butter but offers the least amount of vitamin E per serving (2 percent of the Daily Value.)

Sunflowerseed butter is very similar to peanut butter, but offers half the monounsaturated fats.

Soy butter is the highest in protein and lowest in calories. It also, however, provides the lowest value of monounsaturated fats.

Since the differences are quite minimal, I suggest you simply pick the one you enjoy most.

October 18, 2008

Numbers Game: Dress of Excess

Cosi patrons, take note.

Opting to have your salad of choice dressed with the house vinagreitte tacks on _______ calories.

a) 196

b) 238

c) 310

d) 357

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.

October 17, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Protein/Abs

One of my friends wants to lose some excess weight from his stomach and have visible abs, so last week he started eating pretty much nothing but lean protein, protein shakes, and steamed vegetables.

He doesn't work out or eat any kind of carbs (apart from the steamed vegetables.)

He says he is already seeing results.

What do you think?

-- Tom (last name withheld)

New York, NY

I think your friend is absolutely misguided and approaching the situation with very little thought.

While it is true that abs "are made in the kitchen" (meaning that your diet must be very carefully managed, since visible abs are the result of low body fat, rather than endless crunches), eating nothing but protein and steamed vegetables is not the answer.

I don't know what your friend's diet was like prior to this, but it is very likely he will lose weight with this particular way of eating, as I am sure his total daily caloric intake has decreased.

Remember, though, that low-carb diets get rid of water weight in the first few days, which is what I think he refers to when he claims he is "already seeing results."

The fact that he does not work out is a significant problem.

Building muscle tone helps speed up metabolism, thereby facilitating weight loss while maintaining muscle mass (this way, you are losing mostly fat.)

These kind of ultra low-carb diets are also impossible to sustain for more than a few weeks.

If your friend wants to have visible abs, he has to keep a few things in mind:

1) Genetics play a role. Some people have an easier time achieving a six pack, while others can "only" show off a "four-pack" with that same amount of effort.

2) We all have abs. They are invisible, though, when they are hidden by a layer of fat. If you'd like to proudly display them, you must get your body fat down to approximately 6 or 7 percent. That absolutely requires vigorous physical activity several times a week.

3) In order to engage in vigorous physical activity several times a week, he certainky needs to take in more carbs than he is now. Otherwise, he will not have sufficient endurance, and his body will start breaking down muscle to provide him with sufficient energy!

His goal should be to increase physical activity, eat as few processed foods as possible, and maintain a pre-determined caloric range.

Otherwise, I see him lasting two more weeks and then simply going to the other extreme -- declaring this "too difficult" and "not worth it."

October 16, 2008

Numbers Game: Answer

At McDonald's, an order of small fries and a small soda contains 420 fewer calories than a large order of those same two items.

The purpose of this particular "numbers game" was to show that no matter where you eat, you always have the ability to make better choices.

Many times,
when people go to fast food restaurants (especially if it's by choice), they resign themselves to large portions and high calorie amounts, thinking "hey, it's not supposed to be healthy."

Similarly, a lot of people balk at the idea of calorie information being posted at fast food restaurants, claiming people don't go to a burger and fries joint to eat healthy.

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean these customers aren't interested in knowing how they can integrate a food they enjoy into a healthier way of eating.

The example provided in this answer is proof that a craving for fries and a soda doesn't necessarily have to add 810 calories to your day (large fries clock in at 500 calories, while a large soda contributes 310 calories.)

October 15, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Alpha Tocopherols

I have seen alpha tocopherols on a lot of ingredient lists, especially for packaged products.

What are they, and what purpose do they serve?

-- Andrea Chalen

(city withheld), SC

Alpha Tocopherols are a completely harmless form of Vitamin E.

They are mainly added to human and pet foods to delay spoilage and prevent alterations in taste (that's why "for freshness" is usually added after alpha tocopherols on an ingredient list.)

Much like ascorbic acid (the fancy name for vitamin C), alpha tocopherols are a food additive you shouldn't be concerned about.

In The News: Missing In Action

Ronald McDonald has some 'splaining to do.

His fast-food chain has been "awarded" the most violations for not posting calorie information on various of their New York City stores' menu boards.

In total, 682 violations have been handed out since April.

"About 300 citations were issued during the first six weeks the rules took effect, which was considered a grace period, and did not carry fines. Since then, 388 violations were issued that carry fines between $200 and $2,000 each," reports Crain's New York Business.

McDonald's has acquired 103 violations, Dunkin' Donuts is not far behind with 89, and local fried chicken chain Crown Fried Chicken rounds out the Top 3 with 39 violations to its name.

"Some citations were given for non-compliance and others punished restaurants for not posting information the way the regulations require. For instance, a few restaurants were fined for putting the information in the wrong place or using lettering that was too small."

I notice the linked news article displays a sole comment from someone named "Joe" who claims calorie labeling is "nannying" and "a violation of... life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness."

Considering the amount of people I have heard voice a similar statement, Joe is joking.

For the life of me, though, I have no clue what civil liberties are violated by asking restaurants to post calorie content information.

I also fail to see how such a request can be considered "nannying."

Nobody is being forbidden from buying an 1,100 calorie milkshake. It isn't taxed more heavily than a less caloric option. There isn't a limit on how many times you can order it, or at what time of day.

So where, exactly, is the "you can't tell me what to eat!" defensiveness coming from?

October 14, 2008

Man, Oh Man...

Have you heard of Taco Bell's Big Bell Box value meal?

According to the nationwide chain, it's "the meal that's made for men"!

Gender roles defined by fast food companies. How... evolved.

Anyhow, for as little as $4.99 (or as much as $5.99, depending where you live), hungry men all over the United States can feast on a volcano taco, a burrito supreme, a crunch wrap supreme, a side order of cinnamon twists, and a large drink.

Or, if you want to talk numbers:

1,670 calories
19 grams of saturated fat (suggested daily maximum*: 20 grams)
2.5 grams of trans fat (no suggested daily maximum, guidelines call for 0 grams)
3,470 milligrams of sodium (suggested daily maximum: 2,400 milligrams)

* = for a 2,000 calorie diet

Calorically speaking, this is equal to THREE Big Macs!

You know, this could very well be the nutrition version of Pandora's box...

You Ask, I Answer: Fish Oil Supplements/Metal Toxicity Cleansings

Yesterday I attended a talk given by an "applied clinical nutritionist" who works at a local pharmacy.

She really advocated the use of supplements for everyone (probably because the pharmacy she works at generates a lot of revenue through the sale of herbs/supplements and homeopathic remedies).

She recommended taking fish oil instead of flax because she said that flax requires an extra step to be processed by the body.

She said that some people's bodies aren't able to perform this extra step and you would never know one way or another, so she just prefers to stick with fish oil.

Since you often recommend flax, what are your thoughts?

She also talked about "cleansing" (the colon in particular).

Her recommendation wasn't about losing weight, but rather to flush out toxins, no matter how healthy your diet.

She said this is needed to flush out "toxins" that accumulate in our bodies from pesticides in food, air pollution, etc.

The cleanse involves eating certain kinds of foods (she wasn't specific) and taking some sort of supplements that help flush your colon, like magnesium (I think).

All of this sounded sort of unnecessary to me.

Is there any evidence that this type of cleanse is beneficial for people whose diets are already consist of nutritious, whole foods?

-- Kristin (last name withheld)

Austin, TX

Before I begin, let me thank Kristin for following up her question with an e-mail revealing the results of her own investigative research.

Turns out that acquiring the "applied clinical nutritionist" title is a simple task.

"It's a self paced certificate program through the Texas Chiropractic College. To earn the certificate, you must be a health care professional, or the staff or student of a health care professional (I suppose you could be a dental receptionist). You have to attend 7 seminars (100 hrs), take a test and pay $1400. In return, you get a shiny wall plaque," writes Kristin.

Sigh. Of course.

This is precisely why I strongly (I'm talking "The Incredible Hulk" strong) believe the American Dietetic Association needs to launch a multimillion dollar campaign raising awareness of what makes Registered Dietitians different from all these other empty titles.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of individuals in charge of booking and hiring speakers for wellness events, health fairs, and media outlets have absolutely no clue what the difference is between a Registered Dietitian, a "naturopath," or an applied clinical nutritionist.

Anyhow, time to answer Kristin's question.

As far as the fish vs. flax issue, I agree with the speaker... to a point.

It is true that the Omega-3 fats found in flaxseed (ALA) need to be converted by the body to DPA and EHA.

It is also accurate to say that the majority of people do not convert ALA efficiently.

A significant factor inhibiting conversion is that Omega 6 fatty acids compete with Omega 3 fatty acids for the same desaturase (conversion) enzymes.

Keeping in mind that our current food supply contributes an abundance of Omega 6, you can see why ALA --> DHA/EPA conversion isn't happening as optimally as we would expect.

That being said, I still recommend ground flax simply because most people don't consume much of ANY Omega-3's.

Simply put, ground flaxseeds are an effortless way to add some Omega 3's to a variety of foods (not everyone likes fish or wants to eat it.)

I also hope that the speaker's recommendation of taking fish oil supplements was mainly targeted at people who do not consume fish.

I would much rather you get your DHA and EPA from actual food (i.e.: tuna, salmon, sardines) first, and consider supplements a "second best" choice.

Furthermore, I hope she stressed that non-DHA/EPA sources of Omega-3's offer a wide array of nutrients.

Ditching walnuts and flaxseed and instead swallowing a spoonful of fish oil every morning isn't necessarily a smart swap.

What I COMPLETELY disagree with her on (and why I doubt she is an RD) is her colon cleanse recommendation. Ugh. Ugh. UGH!

It is unnecessary and not particularly healthy.

If people want to "flush out" their colons, all they need to do is consume more insoluble fiber and liquids. Plain and simple.

Not to mention, I would love to ask this woman how exactly toxins accumulate in a body with a regularly functioning liver and kidneys.

There is no evidence whatsoever supporting the belief that we need to cleanse ourselves of toxins.

What I find most illogical is that people who furiously support colon cleanses are self-proclaimed "health experts," who apparently fail to realize that colon cleansing eliminates all the HEALTHY bacteria in the human gut and can cause electrolyte imbalances!

If you'll excuse me, I now need to go center myself.

October 13, 2008

Stop the Proteinsanity!

Think food manufacturers had run out of places to add soy protein? Guess again!

Say hello to Kosmo Protein Coffee, "a specialty [performance] coffee with 4 grams of plant-based soy protein per serving to keep your muscles strong."

Did I mention it was created by a Registered Dietitian??

I am amazed at how strongly the "you need tons of protein every day!" marketing has stuck, even half a decade after the low carb 2.0 craze.

I simply don't get what audience this product is aimed at. Protein-obsessed bodybuilders? Atkins addicts?

If you want an extra 4 grams of protein with your coffee, simply add half a cup of soy or dairy milk to it.

Or, accompany it with a toasted slice of whole grain bread (for an EXTRA four grams, spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on it).

Although protein is an essential nutrient, the average person in the United States is getting more than they need.

Besides, extra protein doesn't necessarily mean extra healthy. It simply tacks on a few extra calories.

Numbers Game: Go Small, Lose Big

There you are, driving down the highway.

You zoom by one McDonald's, two McDonald's, three McDonald's. ENOUGH! The craving for fries and a Coke can no longer be silenced.

You pull up to the drive-thru window.

You're not that hungry, but you figure, if you're going to have fries, you might as well go all out and get the large size, right?

Well, consider the following:

Satisfy your craving with a small order of fries and a small soda (rather than large fries and a large soda) and save _______ calories.

a) 198
b) 275

c) 362

d) 420

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Thursday for the answer!

You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Vitamin D requirements

I read today that the recommended amount of vitamin D has doubled due to a new study.

I thought most people get enough of it.

How much vitamin D do we get from dairy as compared to being out in the sun?


Via the blog

The issue of Vitamin D requirements being too low has been a hot topic in the nutrition field for years.

According to current recommendations, children and adults up to the age of 50 should get at least 200 International Units, adults 50 to 71 years of age should aim for 400 IUs, and anyone above the age of 71 should be taking in 600.

The new guidelines you are referring to bump up the 200 IUs figure to 400 IUs.

Even so, many researchers think everyone should aim for 1,000 IUs a day!

The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but this can get complicated.

After all, we get this vitamin from exposure to UVB rays, which are not as powerful in winter months and have a harder time getting through on cloud-covered days.

Additionally, the massive use of moisturizers and creams that block out UVB rays prevents many people from absorbing a good deal of "solar powered" vitamin D.

Some fortified foods (i.e.: cereals, soy milks, and dairy milk) provide vitamin D, while others (tuna, salmon, and... ugh, cod liver oil) do so naturally.

Despite this, it can be very difficult to meet the Vitamin D recommended intakes without some sort of supplementation.

For example, a cup of fortified dairy milk provides a quarter of a day's worth of Vitamin D (using 400 IUs as the goal).

Not bad, but unless you're planning on downing four glasses of milk a day, you will come up short.

Keep in mind, too, that many dairy products (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream) are NOT fortified with vitamin D.

Going back to the sun, the general recommendation is that 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight twice a week provides sufficient levels vitamin D.

Interestingly, research studies earlier this year concluded that individuals living in countries near the equator tend to have higher vitamin D levels than their counterparts to the North and South.

October 12, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Quinoa Cookies

This weekend at a health food store I saw that a company called Andean Dreams sells quinoa cookies!

I have tried quinoa in the past and think it's bland.

If I was to snack on just one of these cookies a day (only 140 calories), would it count as a serving of quinoa?

-- Natalie (last name withheld)

Hackensack, NJ

That would certainly be convenient, wouldn't it?

I'm going to have to burst your bubble and tell you that no, two of these cookies don't come close to a serving of actual quinoa.

Let me explain why.

First up, the ingredient list:

"Organic Royal Quinoa flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, non-hydrogenated palm fruit oil, sugar cane juice, brown sugar, Quinoa pop grains, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), orange peel."

Although quinoa flour is a whole grain (offering approximately 4 grams of fiber per quarter cup), these cookies contain a mix of quinoa, tapioca, and rice flour.

Thus, they are technically "cookies made with quinoa flour" rather than "quinoa cookies," but that's marketing for you!

Notice, too, that there are two ingredients contributing sugar (sugar cane juice and brown sugar.)

Now, let's look at the nutrition facts.

Two cookies contain less than a gram of fiber, and a mere gram of protein.

Again, this is inferior to eating half a cup (one serving) of pure quinoa, which adds up to 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

Seeking healthy ingredients in otherwise nutritionally empty foods is exactly what many food companies want you to do.

I, however, would like you to enjoy a cookie because of its flavor, rather than a healthy ingredient that, as a result of either being heavily processed or mixed with refined grains and sugars, ends up contributing very little to the product's nutritional profile.

If you find quinoa bland, try topping it with sautéed vegetables or adding chopped walnuts and raisins to it.

If you find it bland after implementing those ideas, then just enjoy other whole grains.

Although quinoa offers plenty of nutrition, so do many other foods.

October 11, 2008

Numbers Game: Answer

A cookies & ice cream milkshake from the California-based fast food chain Fatburger contains 1,180 calories and 26.5 teaspoons of added sugar.

For those of you keeping track, that's 32 more calories than eight cans of Coke and as much sugar as one and a half pints of Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream.

What I find most frustrating -- and annoying -- is that Fatburger only offers this beverage in a 16 oz serving.

As we know from Brian Wansink's research, most people ordering this will indeed drink the entire thing, even if by the twelfth ounce they feel full.

Why not make this size the "large" and also offer 8 and 12 ounce varieties?

Were that the case, a "small" would pack in a more reasonable, although still significant, 590 calories.

I suppose they need to live up to the chain's name...

October 10, 2008

Survey Results: Seasons of Change

The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they tend to put on weight in the winter (or during colder months.)

60% of respondents clicked "yes," while the remaining 40% answered "no."

If you find that weight management is more challenging in the winter months, you are not imagining things!

Many people who do not enjoy the gym environment take advantage of the outdoors for physical activity in the Summer months, whether it be jogging, swimming, walking, or rollerblading.

Once winter comes along, though, these activities are often completely stopped.

Meanwhile, caloric intake remains steady. The end result? Not surprisingly, a few extra pounds.

One of the best strategies (other than moving down to Venezuela during cold months) is to attempt to develop long-term habits, rather than short-term solutions.

Strictly cutting calories and denying yourself your favorite junky foods for two months in order to look good in a swimsuit may be effective, but once beach season is over, you're back to old habits -- and your old figure.

Rather than compartmentalizing your eating plan by season, make it a point to keep similar eating habits throughout the year.

After all, going through overly regimented dietary patterns makes it that much more likely that you will eventually "give in" and binge.

If "weather appropriate" substitutions must take place, always keep your goals in mind.

For example, starting off dinner with a cool and crisp side salad may work in the sweltering August heat, but not when it's 25 degrees out.

Soup can be an excellent replacement, as long as you choose wisely.

Avoid cream-based concoctions -- as well as watery ones!

While a cream-centered soup can pack a significant amount of calories, I find watery broths to be useless, as they are are rarely filling and do not offer much nutrition.

Instead, opt for bean soups. Half a cup of black bean or lentil soup is low in calories and high in fiber, helping you feel fuller faster.

October 9, 2008

You "Ask", I Answer: Modified Corn Starch/Constipation

My dietitian at the gym said that modified corn starch is not good because it is a strong "binding" agent and can cause constipation.

Cheerios [have] modified corn starch as [the second] ingredient.

[The dietitian said this] has an impact on toddlers- many of [whom] eat a lot of cheerios cereal.

And, a lot have constipation problems.

-- Anonymous

Via the blog

I have no idea what your dietitian is referring to. Seems to me there is some flawed logic going on.

Although there are several factors that can cause constipation, a significant one is a lack of insoluble fiber in the diet.

Cheerios -- and any oat-based product, for that matter -- largely contain soluble fiber.

Remember, soluble fiber is the one that helps lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol AND achieve a longer-lasting feeling of satiety.

Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, helps keep things moving through the digestive tract.

If someone is constipated, you would never suggest they consume soluble fiber, which slows down gastric emptying.

The lack of insoluble fiber (NOT the presence of modified corn starch) is why Cheerios can exacerbate (notice I am not using the word "cause") constipation.

I want to stress that foods do not cause constipation in and of themselves. Rather, it is a lack of insoluble fiber in the overall diet that does.

Eggs, for instance, are a popular binding agent that contain no fiber.

That doesn't mean, however, that they "cause constipation."

As long as your diet is rich in insoluble fiber, the addition of eggs will not cancel out fiber's digestive system benefits.

October 8, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Tilapia

I understand the importance of eating fish that have good levels of Omega 3's for heart health.

I always read about salmon, tuna, and sardines, but not about other fish.

I like to eat tilapia. Is it a good source of Omega 3's?

-- Melissa Oswald
Buffalo, NY

Tilapia isn't generally a fish I recommend to people looking to improve heart health through higher intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids.

It's not that tilapia is inherently unhealthy. My recommendation simply comes back to the issue of fish farming.

You see, it's very rare to find wild tilapia, so you can bet that whether you're buying it at the supermarket or ordering it off the menu at a restaurant, you are getting a farmed version.

That's NOT good news. Rather than consuming their regular aquatic diet, these fish are being fed cheap, dependable corn.

This ultimately results in negative health consequences for consumers.

Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the average Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio in a 3.5 ounce portion of farmed tilapia was a disconcerting 11:1 (wild salmon, meanwhile provides a 1:1 ratio.)

As I have explained in previous posts, dietary Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio plays a significant role in heart health (Cliff's Notes version: too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3 promotes inflammation, thereby increasing the risk of a number of diseases).

This is probably why you don't ever see tilapia mentioned in articles on heart-healthy fish.

Numbers Game: If The Name Fits...

A cookies & ice cream milkshake from the California-based fast food chain Fatburger contains ________ calories and __________ teaspoons of added sugar.

a) 967/19

b) 1,014/29

c) 1,308/21

d) 1,180/26.5

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Saturday for the answer.

October 7, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Raw Diets & Calories

I've heard that part of the reason raw foods seem to aid so much in weight loss is because they take more energy to digest.

[Meaning], a raw carrot will, in the end, give you less caloric energy than a cooked carrot because it takes more energy expenditure to chew/breakdown/digest when raw?

Is this legit or bogus?

-- Lizzy

Via the blog

Yet another bogus claim from raw food enthusiasts.

It's not that raw foods in and of themselves aid in weight loss, but that by opting for a raw lifestyle, you are cutting out a significant number of foods, thereby reducing your total caloric intake.

This is akin to low carb diets, where you can have all the butter and oil you want, but just not on bagels, dinner rolls, or pasta.

What are people supposed to do at a restaurant? Refuse the bread basket and instead nibble on pats of butter?

Since that's not an appetizing option, people end up eliminating bread AND butter from their restaurant meal, saving themselves as much as 300 calories!

Although many raw restaurants are able to create high-calorie dishes by creatively using nuts, seeds, coconut, and other ingredients, it is hard to produce these labor-intensive meals at home.

Try out the following experiment, if you're interested.

Plan to go raw just for one day.

Live your life as you normally would (going to work, running errands, etc.) but shun cooked foods (this includes items you may not immediately think of, such as breakfast cereals, milk, yogurt, roasted peppers, and corn chips).

You'll be surprised at just how many less calories you'll be consuming compared to your non-raw days (lunch and dinner at raw restaurants will be considered cheating).

Yes, nuts are high in calories, but you can only munch on so many before you're sick of them.

You Ask, I Answer: Isolated Fibers

I ran across a juice from Bolthouse Farms and was shocked when I saw that it packs in EIGHT grams of soluble fiber in one 8 fl oz serving!

My eyes went to the ingredient list right away to see just what, if anything, was added to get that impressive number.

What I found was dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum all added and listed as "dietary fiber".

Are these treated by the body in the same manner as more "raw" food would be when it comes to the benefits the soluble fiber can provide?

Are they mainly tossed in to get that impressive number and in reality not as effective for the body as soluble fiber from fruits or some other "raw" source?

Other than that, what are you general thoughts on some Bolthouse Farms drinks?

I still try to grab something that doesn't have a bunch of sugar in it when I just feel like something refreshing to drink while watching a movie or something but as juice goes, does Bolthouse seem slightly above the others?

-- Andrew Carney

Richland, WA

You have to love those isolated fibers -- food manufacturers certainly do!

After all, how else would you manage to get eight grams of soluble fiber in 8 ounces of a drink that is nothing more than a medley of fiber-free, sugar-loaded juice concentrates?

Although dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum are real fibers that exist in nature, I am not a fan of consuming nutrients in isolated form.

Food science research has demonstrated on several occassions that, for optimal performance, nutrients need to play off each other (and other phytochemicals in food.)

This is precisely one reason why clinical trials involving vitamin E supplementation show different results than those in which vitamin E is consumed in the diet from food sources.

Similarly, while oatmeal offers LDL-cholesterol lowering properties thanks to soluble fiber (in particular beta-glucan, which is not in this Bolthouse drink), it also offers manganese, selenium, and magnesium at the tune of 145 calories per cup.

The drink you are asking about, meanwhile, packs in 350 calories' worth of concentrated juices and then throws in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to provide a healthier image.

The fact that one bottle contains 15 grams of soluble fiber is also worrying, as this can result in some very painful bloating for those unaccustomed to taking in such large amounts in one sitting.

My verdict? You might as well be drinking Kool Aid, stirring in some Metamucil, and popping a Centrum.

That being said, if you enjoy the drink and can afford the calories, enjoy it... as a sweet treat.

On that note, one word of caution. When it comes to juice drinks, don't hunt around for fiber, Omega-3's, or added buzz-worthy nutrients.

How come? I find that it is usually the drinks highest in calories and sugars that tack on these nutrients in order to trick consumers into thinking they are doing their health a favor.

The best thing to look for when it comes to these beverages is a small bottle.

October 6, 2008

In The News: Is Fat Acceptance Acceptable?

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine ran a short piece on the "growing" fat-acceptance movement (although it's been around for approximately three decades and has yet to catch on, but I digress.)

"Fat-acceptance activists insist you can’t assume someone is unhealthy just because he’s fat, any more than you can assume someone is healthy just because he’s slim. "

In fact, this movement firmly believes that "it is possible to be healthy no matter how fat you are."

No matter how fat? Really?

So how do they explain, then, the countless research studies that have observed reductions in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, type 2 diabetes risk, and blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals who lose weight, even just five pounds?

Well, they point to a report published in The Archives of Internal Medicine this past August, which "reported that fully half of overweight adults and one-third of the obese had normal blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar — indicating a normal risk for heart disease and diabetes, conditions supposedly caused by being fat."

Too bad that study didn't examine levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.

Remember, most diseases -- especially cardiovascular ones -- have cellular inflammation as a precursor.

And guess one of the factors that increases C-reactive protein levels? Overweight and obesity!

Additionally, one of those study's co-authors was quoted as saying that "among people of healthy weight in the study, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors were more common for people with larger waists or potbellies" and that "among overweight and obese adults, those in the “healthy” category tended to have smaller waists than those with at least two risk factors.

Need I say more?

The problem with this entire "movement" is that it attempts to kill two very different birds (social acceptance of overweight/obese physiques and the health consequences of being overweight/obese) with one stone.

It is one thing to denounce the media's obsession on borderline unhealthy bodies, but how anyone can believe weight has nothing to do with health status is beyond me.

All you have to do is speak to formerly obese people.

Ask them how they feel walking up a flight of stairs now as opposed to when they were carrying an additional 60 or 70 pounds on them.

Ask them how their lipid profiles have changed.

Ask them, very simply, if they miss carrying that excess weight.

Similarly, people who are extremely underweight (purposefully or not) are also at increased risk of mortality.

I point that out to show that nutrition and weight management are not inherently "anti fat," it's just that with the obesity rate doubling in the past 30 years in this country, it is not surprising that most public health nutrition efforts are concentrated on that particular problem.

Back to the Times article, I can't help but roll my eyes at the mention of "a new book out this fall, Health at Every Size, by Linda Bacon, a nutritionist and physiologist at the University of California at Davis, which is less about dieting than a lifestyle change that emphasizes “intuitive eating”: listening to hunger signals, eating when you’re hungry, choosing nutritious food over junk."

What exactly is so revolutionary? The guidelines mentioned above are precisely the same ones advocated for permanent weight loss and increased health awareness by many Registered Dietitians.

In fact, if any of you have ever been to a Registered Dietitian, you know the focus is on establishing healthy dietary patterns. It's not about six packs, fitting into size 0 clothes, or looking like the cast of the new Beverly Hills 90210.

To place the nutrition field on the same level as a celebrity diets segment on The Insider is preposterous and extremely reductive.

I don't see the damage in advocating for a healthy medium, where the end goal is to not be underweight or overweight.