From the Desk of The Nutty Nutritionist

Archive for the ‘Snacking’ Category

The Latest on Popcorn

In Snacking, Weight Loss on May 6, 2011 at 6:58 PM

Like most Americans, I love watching a good movie.  Whether at home or in a cinema, movies serve as a great way to unwind and escape to another world.  This sounds like a healthy way to relax and rejuvenate, except for the fact that watching a movie is usually associated with inhaling an oversized tub of popcorn.  In a theatre, that generally means slathered in salt and artificial “buttery” topping.  At home, it could mean a microwaveable bag (usually with salt and artery-clogging hydrogenated fat), air-popped corn, or corn popped in oil on the stove. 

Popcorn can be a healthy treat.  It is a whole grain, loaded with fiber, and naturally low in calories and fat.  Plain, air-popped corn contains only 30 calories per cup.  For a mere 120-150 calories, 4-5 cups of air-popped corn makes a sensible snack.  (FYI: 2 tbsp unpopped corn yields about 4 cups.)  If eating plain air-popped corn sounds more lackluster than watching The English Patient again, consider adding some butter-flavored spray and one of Mrs. Dash’s seasoning varieties.

When making popcorn at home, I like to use white corn in a Whirley Pop pot on the stove, similar to the old-fashioned stovetop method. This requires the use of a small amount of oil, such as canola.  One cup of oil-popped corn has about 55 calories per cup.  Limiting the serving to 3-4 cups will keep this snack under 200 calories. Adding butter-like spray will contribute minimal calories, but if you use the real thing, a tablespoon of butter provides another 100 calories and a rather unhealthy dose of saturated fat.

As for the microwave, stay away from the traditional “butter”, “kettle corn” or “movie theater style” varieties, as they are not only calorie bombs, but will get you well on your way to suffering a heart attack or stroke should you eat them too often.  Fortunately, there are many low-fat, “trans fat free” varieties from which to choose.  Better yet, limit your overall portion size by choosing the new single-serving bags containing only 100 calories.

Speaking of heart attacks and strokes, have you been out for dinner and a movie lately?  It is amazing how many people will eat a large restaurant meal and then head straight to the theatre and chow down on a ginormous tub of popcorn!  Seriously, people?  That’s like eating two full meals back to back! Or did you just nibble on celery at the restaurant?  If you hit the theatre before dinner, I can understand why you might be hungry, but you better count that tub of corn as dinner…here’s why:

First of all, many theatres are still popping their corn in coconut oil, which is the worst oil for clogging up your arteries, as it is loaded in saturated fat.  Secondly, the “small” size may contain 6-8 cups (depending on the theatre), totaling anywhere from 370-500 calories and 20-26 grams of saturated fat, and that is without any added butter.   If you add a measly tablespoon of the “buttery” topping, (just a single pump on the dispenser) it adds 120 calories and 2 more grams of saturated fat.   Sounds like a full-sized meal to me… and I haven’t even mentioned the larger sizes yet! A “medium” could have between 9-12 cups, padding your belly with 590-800 calories and boosting your cholesterol with 33-44 grams of saturated fat, again without the butter topping.  These numbers are scarier than Children of the Corn!  At this point, I don’t think I even need to share what the large tubs throw your way.  Hopefully you get the picture by now: the larger the tub, the more pumps of butter topping you add, the more trouble you get yourself into…  Angela?  Mark?  Are you listening? 

So, what do I do?  Astutely aware of the dietary hazards of movie-theatre popcorn, I never buy a tub of popcorn for myself, and my popcorn-loving movie companions would tell you I generally avoid dipping my hand into their popcorn tubs.  I might grab a handful or two, but rarely ever more than that.  To be perfectly honest, I prefer white popcorn, and since yellow corn is used in theatres, it is not even a temptation for me.  Plus, I find it way too salty.  Then I end up drinking more.  Then I have to either suffer in pain until the end of the movie or risk missing some critical scene to relieve my overflowing bladder.  I never bother eating calorie and fat-laden foods unless I truly enjoy them, especially when there are such great risks to my health as well.

To add insult to injury, I recently learned that the National Association of Theatre Owners successfully lobbied against the FDA’s mandate for posting calorie counts on menus, which is soon to be required of all food-selling establishments with 20 or more outlets.  Theatre owners make a fortune on popcorn and want to keep their patrons in the dark, not wanting to lose profits by scaring health-minded people away.  I take umbrage at the FDA for protecting the food industry interests to the detriment of the American public.   Shouldn’t our health be protected first and foremost by allowing us to make informed decisions about what we put in our mouth?  Isn’t that the reasoning behind the new health policy to begin with?  Ugh.  We are supposed to be fighting our current obesity epidemic, not encouraging it.   It is one thing to willingly choose to put garbage in our mouths despite the health risk, but to deliberately leave us in the dark about it?  Sends shivers down my spine.

Here’s my suggestion:  Chew gum (quietly) throughout the movie and avoid snacking all together.  Or, if snacking is a must, make yourself a quart-sized bag of homemade popcorn, as mentioned above, and stash it in your coat pocket or purse to enjoy during the movie.  Nothing you can buy at a theatre is a suitable snack.   Please heed my words of caution and avoid movie theatre popcorn as often as possible. Those salted lard tubs of joy will not only pad theatre owner wallets but also your waist, hips, thighs, veins, and arteries.  Stay informed and stay well.


Kids Gotta Eat Too!

In Feeding your kids, Snacking on February 9, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Most moms will agree that feeding children well is quite a challenge.  Cooking for a “picky eater”, encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, cutting down on junk food, or juggling busy schedules are just some of the concerns women face in trying to provide a healthy, balanced diet for their families.   These obstacles can be easily overcome with just a few changes in YOUR behavior…  sometimes it is “just the kid”, but in many cases, it is because the parents do not understand the significant role they play in shaping their children’s eating habits.

The secret to teaching children healthy eating habits is for parents and other caregivers to serve as good role models.  When children see their parents eating healthy foods, they are more likely to enjoy them too.  A kid is not going to willingly eat broccoli unless he or she has seen mom or dad eat it and enjoy it.  It may take ten or more tries before a new food is accepted, but it is bound to happen if healthy foods are always on the table.  For example, my two year old niece’s favorite vegetables are broccoli and asparagus.   Actually, she seems to enjoy ALL fruits and vegetables. (This makes her dietitian auntie very proud!)  Why does my niece prefer two pungent, bitter-tasting vegetables over mild tasting corn or green beans?  Her mom and dad serve and eat broccoli and asparagus regularly at family meals, setting a great example.   The bottom line is…..if the parents are picky eaters, the kids will be picky too.  If the only vegetable you like is corn, and that is the only one you serve at family meals, then your children are never going to be interested in trying any new vegetables.  If this sounds like you, your family will be well served if you try to expand your personal list of acceptable foods.  Set a goal to include one new food or recipe each week that the whole family can try together.

Another common mistake is tailoring the family meal choices around what you know the kids will eat.  You need to be the one in charge of their options, not them.    When you serve a meal, your son or daughter can CHOOSE to eat it or not.  Kids love to be given choices, right?  Don’t force them to eat anything.  Just present the foods and let nature take its course.  As I mentioned earlier, you may need to keep offering new foods over and over again before they are accepted, but it is well worth the effort.  If your child refuses to eat the family meal, do not offer to substitute it with a bowl of cereal, grilled cheese, or peanut butter sandwich.   YOU ARE NOT A SHORT-ORDER COOK!!!  Once children learn “this is what I get”, they will be more willing to try new foods, thereby expanding their own tastes and preferences.  Another suggestion is to involve your kids in meal planning and preparation.  They are more likely to eat what they help to make!

Want your kids to eat less junk food?  Then you need to set the example and stop eating all the junk yourself.  The best strategy to accomplish this is by not bringing it into your house in the first place.  Having only healthy foods available for kids to eat when they are hungry will ensure that those will be the choices they make.  Serve a vegetable or fruit with every meal AND at snack time.  Encourage kids not to equate “snack time” with “junk time”.  This is a common misconception.  You would not believe how many of my adult clients think I am suggesting junk foods (like candy or chips) when I encourage snacks between meals!!!  Stash healthy snacks in your pantry, fridge, purse, car, or even your desk at work—peanut butter crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, pretzels, fresh fruit, whole wheat crackers, and popcorn.  From the fridge you can grab lowfat yogurt, raw veggies, string cheese, or some rolled up turkey or ham.  As you head out the door, these nutritious items are easy to grab and will keep little tummies satisfied while on the go.

Along the same vein, cutting back on added sugars is another smart way to improve the quality of your child’s diet.  Choose cereals and granola/snack bars with low (less than 9 grams) or no added sugar.  Offer water or low-fat milk at meals and snacks rather than sugar-sweetened sodas, juices, and fruit-flavored drinks.  (Bye-Bye Sunny D!) Allowing sweets in small amounts is perfectly fine as long as your child is eating fruits and vegetables too.  Less nutritious foods certainly have their place in an overall balanced diet, and limits feelings of deprivation.  To prevent any emotional attachment to sweets and other junk foods, however, be careful not to use them as a “reward” for good behavior.

Short on time for shopping, cooking, and having sit-down family meals?  Eating well requires time-management and preparation, no question about that.  Plan grocery shopping into your schedule once a week.  Before you go, figure out which nights the family can eat together and write out a meal plan/grocery list.   Allow kids to add their own healthy favorites to the shopping list, even if they don’t actually come to the store with you.  Planning for family meals may require you to change the time of your meals to accommodate everyone’s schedules, but it is important to fit it in.  If this involves a family picnic or tailgate before or after a practice or game, so be it.  Make it fun and make it your tradition!

Love your children.  Feed them well 😉

Preventing Sugar Overload

In Holiday Eating Strategies, Nutrition Basics, Snacking on December 13, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Aaaahhhh.  The joys of Christmas:  tree trimming, card writing, gift giving, over-eating…and the inevitable sugar buzz!!!  Some of you may consider it cruel of me to broach this subject at a time of joyful indulgence…  Others may be glad for the friendly reminder to go easy with all the sweet treats of the season.   I have received a variety of questions from my readers regarding sugar intake over the past year, and thought it wise to summarize the answers in this special holiday edition 😉

Who can honestly afford the roughly 400 calories’ worth of added sugars that the typical American consumes each day?  Holidays or not, we as a population are addicted to sugar.  There is an abundance of evidence suggesting that added sugars, from sweetened beverages, coffee drinks, candy, chocolate, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, ice cream, cereals, granola bars, etc., may raise the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and gout.   Have an interest in preventing these formidable diseases?  Cutting back on sugar is one positive step towards doing so!

Exactly what are added sugars, you ask?  They include high-fructose corn syrup, ordinary table sugar (sucrose), honey, agave syrup or nectar, apple juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, grape juice concentrate, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, Confectioner’s sugar, and beet sugar.   High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has developed a negative reputation in the media over the past few years.  Many people have become so conscious of avoiding HFCS that they forget about avoiding all these other added sweeteners too!  Eating a granola bar that lists “brown rice syrup” on the ingredient list has added sugar. 

The greatest problem with added sugar is that it is a source of “empty” calories—essentially no nutritional value.  Added sugars either crowd out healthy, nutritious foods (such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains), or they make you gain weight if you eat them in addition to healthy foods.  The American Heart Association suggests that a  typical woman should get no more than 100 calories (about 6 1/2 tsps or 25 grams) a day from added sugars, and typical man no more than 150 calories (about 9 1/2 tsps or 38 grams) per day.  Less than these recommendations is even better!!! 

To help you stay on top of your discretionary sugar intake, sugar content is quantitatively (in grams) provided on the Nutrition Facts label.  Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no distinction between natural sugars and added sugars.  As a general rule of thumb, if a food contains little or no milk or fruit (which have natural sugars), then the “Sugars” number on the package will let you know how much added sugar you are getting in each serving.  (make sure to check the serving size at the top of the panel)  Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in whole fruit, milk, and plain yogurt.

One sure-fire way to exceed the added sugar recommendations is to consume sugar-sweetened beverages.  Soft drinks are the number-one source of added sugar in the American diet.  Not only do liquid sugars contribute an exceptional amount of extra calories, they do not curb your appetite for more food.  Reasearch has shown that people do not compensate for liquid sugars by eating less solid food at meals and snacks, like one would if he or she ate the same number of calories from solid food.  (i.e. eating 100 calories worth of an orange will fill you up more than 100 calories worth of orange juice, allowing you to eat less food overall)  It’s not just soda pop either…beware of sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, Propel), energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, Glaceau Vitamin Water), sweetened teas (SoBe, Lipton, Snapple, Arizona, Nestea, Tazo), fruit juice/drinks, coffee drinks, hot cocoa, egg nog, and alcoholic beverages containing sugars and juices (flavored martinis, after-dinner liqueurs, Daquiris, Pina Coladas, Margaritas, Mojitos).  The more nutritious 100% fruit juice, such as orange, grape, or grapefruit, should be limited to no more than 1 cup per day.

It is important to realize that most sugary foods are JUNK foods—high in sugar & calories, and low in nutrients.  Many are also packed with virtually worthless white flour (refined from wheat) and come in sizes not suitable for just one person watching his or her waistline.  That tempting “breakfast muffin” at Panera or Starbucks is essentially a large piece of cake.  Not the best way to start your day…

For the remainder of the holiday season, see if you can avoid drinking sugar-laden beverages in favor of diet soda, calorie-free flavored water (“Metromint” water is a new favorite of mine), and/or unsweetened coffee and tea as often as possible.  You can then cut down on the solid treats come January 😉

Here’s to a Happy New Year of good health and good eatin’!

Get Nutty With Me!

In Managing cholesterol, Snacking, Weight Loss on July 19, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, the majority of health experts emphasized the need for a low-fat diet to achieve weight-loss success.  Anything containing high levels of fat, natural or otherwise, was considered “off limits”.   Hence, the boom of “fat free” foods was born.  This excited the average person trying to watch their weight, as they were given PERMISSION to stock up on FAT FREE cookies, cakes, and ice cream, with new choices becoming available year after year–SnackWells made a fortune during this time!  The widespread belief was that if a food did not contain fat, then you wouldn’t get fat eating it, regardless of portion size—WOO HOO!  Well, after about 10 years of eating an abundance of processed fat free foods, our waistlines were bigger than ever.  Oops…what happened here??

Fads come and go, but the basics of weight control remain the same:  a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from carbs, protein, OR fat; calories in must equal calories out in order to maintain our weight.  Have you ever taken a look at the calorie content of fat free or reduced fat junk foods?  Often times, the fat-modified product is similar in calories to the original product—this is often due to added sugars used in place of fat.  So, if they have the same number of calories, yet we allow ourselves to go gangbusters with the fat free variety, we are looking for trouble and a bulging waistline.

In response to the fat-free/high sugar dieting debacle, carbs developed the bad reputation for the remainder of the 90’s and into the new millennium.  High protein diets ruled—bring on the meat, eggs, and bacon, baby!  As more studies revealed that the TYPE of fat consumed has an impact on cholesterol levels and overall heart-disease risk, health experts began emphasizing the value of including moderate amounts of heart-healthy fats in the diet.  This is the train I have been riding since becoming a dietitian over 11 years ago: including foods rich in the “healthy” fats  (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats–such olive oil, avocados, nuts, and nut-butters) in a balanced diet is a smart thing to do!!   Particularly, I am a big fan of nuts and nut butters—they are loaded with nutrients, protein, and fiber, and make for a very portable snack to get me through the busiest of days.  To convince you to do the same, I’d like to share some other notable-nut-nutrition-nuggets with you:

-at least 3/4 of the calories in nuts come from fat, which is mostly mono- and polyunsaturated, the kind that improves cholesterol levels.

-people who eat nuts regularly have lower blood cholesterol, are at lower risk for heart disease, and are less likely to develop diabetes.

-nuts are all cholesterol-free.

-other healthful substances in nuts include potassium, copper, magnesium, fiber, arginine (an amino acid that helps relax blood vessels), sterols (which also help lower cholesterol), and phytochemicals that have antioxidant effects.

-people who eat nuts regularly tend to weigh less than those who don’t—or at least they don’t weigh more, studies show.  The protein, fat, and fiber in nuts help make you feel full longer, so you are less hungry, and presumably, eat less later.

-to get the heart-health and weight control benefits of nuts, eat 1 oz (1/4 cup) per day—approximately 150-190 calories depending on the nut variety.  Dry roasted nuts typically have as many calories as oil-roasted.   If your weight is well-managed, eating up to 3 0z. per day is reasonable and healthy.

-nut butters have the same nutritional advantages as nuts—just be careful to purchase one made without hydrogenated (trans) fat and sugar. 

-people who eat nuts are NOT more likely to develop problems related to diverticulosis, contrary to popular belief—if you are concerned, chew your nuts well before swallowing, and/or choose smooth nut butters.

-nuts are naturally low in sodium—the salt is added during processing, so it is wise to purchase nuts without the added salt.

-walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fats, known to lower triglyerides and keep blood flowing smoothly.

-peanuts have the most protein of all nuts.

-ONE Brazil nut provides a whole day’s worth of selenium—55mcg.  (be careful not to eat too many to avoid selenium toxicity!)

-almonds help meet your calcium needs–74 mg per ounce.

Are you convinced yet?  Assuming you are not allergic to nuts, they are essential to a healthy diet—grab a handful today!

The weather is warming up and I want ice cream!!!

In Snacking on March 31, 2010 at 9:37 PM

If you are like me, warmer temperatures stimulate your desire for cool, refreshing treats, namely in the form of ice cream or iced, frothy drinks.  Not surprisingly,  a multitude of options abound to provide you with whatever your heart desires: Dairy Queen dip cone, Starbuck’s Frappuccino, Dunkin Donut’s Coolata, Baskin Robbins or McDonald’s hot fudge sundae, or something right out of the freezer at home.   Hopefully you already know, if you are trying to control your weight, blood sugar, or cholesterol, that ice cream is an unfortunate bomb of calories, fat, and sugar—three major enemies of a healthy diet.  To help keep your summer months “guilt free” as you attempt to maintain or achieve a bikini (or Speedo) friendly body, let me help you sort out the smart choices from the occasional indulgences.  (By occasional I mean like on your birthday or something extra special like that…)  Keep in mind that drinks with calories qualify as “snacks”, and as I have emphasized time and time again, it is smart to limit a snack to 150-200 calories  for optimal weight management.

Smart choices contain less than 200 calories and are listed for each category:

Dairy Queen: small chocolate or vanilla soft serve cone (3.3 oz)

AVOID:  Blizzards, sundaes, hard-shell dipped soft serve 

Haagan Dazs: single scoop of Dutch Chocolate Light ice cream; any sorbet variety (including lowfat chocolate!);or berry flavored frozen yogurts

AVOID:  premium ice creams and chocolate coated ice cream bars

Baskin Robbins: single scoop (1/2 cup) of low-fat or no sugar added ice cream, ices, sherbets, or sorbets (in a cup or on a cake cone)

AVOID:  Sundaes, milkshakes, smoothies, Blasts, premium ice creams, roll cakes, lowfat yogurt and soft serve yogurt (over 200 calories per 1/2  cup)

Smoothie King/Jamba Juice/Tropical Smoothie Cafe: even though smoothies sound healthy, they are loaded with calories—even the “slim and trim” smoothies have more than 200 calories…

TCBY: many smart choices here—just be mindful of portions… 96% fat free soft serve yogurt “kids cup” size; non-fat soft serve yogurt in junior cup; small cup Low Carb Lovers soft serve yogurt; hand scooped frozen yogurt in kids, junior, or small cup; hand scooped no sugar added vanilla in small or regular cup; kids, junior, or small cup of sorbet.

AVOID:  “Fruithead” smoothies and Frappes

Starbucks:   (tall or grande size)  Espresso, Caramel, Coffee or Mocha Frappuccino Lights (no whip);  Tazo Shaken Iced Tea; Unsweetened Tazo Iced Tea; Iced Caffe Latte, nonfat; iced Caffe Mocha, nonfat milk (no whip)

AVOID:   Iced Mochas with whip cream, regular Frappuccinos and Blended Cremes, Vivanno Smoothies

Dunkin Donuts:  (16-24 oz size)  Iced Skim Latte; Iced Vanilla Latte Lite

AVOID:  Iced Mochas, Frozen Cappuccinos, Coolatas, Iced Vanilla Chai 

McDonald’s:  Iced nonfat Latte or Cappuccino; Nonfat Latte w/ sugar free syrup; fruit & yogurt parfait; vanilla reduced fat soft serve cone

AVOID:  Iced coffee with syrup & cream; Iced cappuccinos/Lattes w/flavored syrups; Iced Mochas w/ whip; McFlurrys; Sundaes(strawberry has 280 cal;  hot fudge has 330); Triple Thick Shakes  (12 oz had 430 calories)

Wendys: 4 oz. original chocolate Frosty (170 calories)


Ice cream bars: Most “Fudge Bars” have less than 140 calories—Healthy Choice and Skinny Cow brands are yummy; Starbuck’s Frappuccino Java Fudge or Mocha Bar

AVOID:  Eskimo Pies, Haagan Dazs, Dove, Godiva, Klondike, Good Humor ice cream bars

Ice cream cups, cones, and bites:  Breyers Double Churned 100 calorie cups; The Skinny Cow cone; Weight Watchers Sundae Cone

AVOID:  Nestle Drumsticks, Klondike Cone, Ben & Jerry’s single cups, Breyers Ice Cream Poppers, Edy’s/Dreyers Dibs

Ice Cream Sandwiches:  Breyers Double Churned Light; The Skinny Cow; Klondike Slim a Bear; Weight Watchers; Healthy Choice; Soy Dream Lil’ Dreamers

AVOID:  Good Humor Giant Vanilla sandwich, and all varieties of ice cream cookie sandwiches

Fruit & Cream Bars:  Blue Bunny Yogurt Smoothie; Yoplait Double Fruit Smoothie; Haagan Dazs fat free sorbet and yogurt (the chocolate one is AMAZING); Weight Watchers Sherbet & Ice Cream or Sorbet Swirl; Edy’s Fruit Orange & Cream; Healthy Choice Premium Sorbet & Cream; The Skinny Cow Vanilla & Strawberry Sorbet Swirl; Creamsicle; Edy’s Smoothie; Tropicana Real Fruit Orange & Cream

Fruit Bars & Cups: Breyers Pure Fruit; Tropicana Real Fruit; Blue Bunny FrozFruit; Edy’s Whole Fruit; Whole Foods 365 fruit bars

Hopefully you have discovered some choices that interest you from the list above—jot them down and keep it handy in your purse or wallet for your next venture “out for ice cream” or stop at the grocery store.

Enjoy and be well!

Are Those Two Little OREOS Worth It?

In Exercise, Snacking on March 14, 2010 at 4:01 PM

You pop that second cookie into your mouth, savor it for a few seconds, chew and swallow.  Then you start to think about the calories.  You say to yourself, “It’s OK. I’ll just walk an extra few minutes tomorrow to work it off”.  Hmmm…

Although it is true that regular exercise is key to maintaining a healthy weight, the amount of exercise required to burn those extra snack calories might not be worth the few moments of enjoyment you got from eating the cookies in the first place:

Say you eat two Oreo cookies, equivalent to about 140 calories.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you will have to walk more than an hour at a leisurely pace (2.0 mph), or about 45 minutes at a brisk pace (3.5 mph), just to burn off those two measly cookies.  That is quite a time and effort commitment for just a few minutes of pleasure, don’t you think?  (As a side note, the more you weigh, the more weight you have to push around, so you will burn more calories in the same amount of time as a smaller person.)

If you are a sweets lover, as I am, don’t let these figures completely discourage you.  By adding more activity to your life, you CAN allow yourself a few indulgences once in a while.  Just be conscious of how much time you are being active during the entire day.  Activities can be done all at one time, or intermittently over the day.   Let’s take a look at how many calories a 150 pound person would burn off doing a number of activities for 30 minutes:

Pacing while talking on the telephone:  70 calories  (much more than texting!)

Walking the dog : 120 calories  (provided there are not too many “sniff” stops…)

Doing your own housework:  100 calories  (150 calories if you are scrubbing floors, washing windows, heavy vacuuming)

Gardening:  150 calories

Water aerobics:  150 calories

Brisk walking at 4.0 mph pace:  140 calories

Jogging at a 10 minute mile pace:  300 calories

Hill hiking:  200 calories

Ice skating:  240 calories

Dancing:  200 calories

Now, what if you ate a peach instead of the cookies?  Because a small peach only has about 50 calories, it would take a mere 10 minutes of brisk walking to work that off.  Fruit can satisfy a sweet tooth while providing your body with essential nutrients as well.

Making smarter snack choices is just part of the equation.  You also need to exercise regularly, not just when you’re trying to burn off a snacking binge.  Don’t feel like walking today?  Then pick some other activity that is enjoyable to you.  Exercise should not be drudgery because you won’t stick with it.  What is important is that you keep moving, no matter what it is that you are doing.

Don’t think of exercise as just a way to burn calories either.  Physical activity provides a host of health benefits besides helping you keep your weight in check:  relieving stress, controlling blood pressure, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, aiding digestion, strengthening bones and muscles, boosting energy, and improving sleep.

Another key point:  engaging in an activity that gives you pleasure can alleviate some of the tension and boredom that may trigger mindless and/or compulsive eating.

If you already engage regularly in physical activity, it is probably OK for you to indulge in your favorite cookie now and then.  But remember, being aware of what you are eating and how hard you’ll have to work to get rid of those extra calories can help you make better snack choices and keep pounds from creeping up.

Get up and get moving already 😉

Is Popcorn a Healthy Treat?

In Snacking on January 31, 2010 at 3:05 AM

Like most Americans, I love movies.  Watching movies, whether at home or in a theatre, is often associated with chowing down on a tub of popcorn. At home, I like to cook up a pot of Whirley Pop to share with my friends.  As for going to the theatre, my popcorn-loving friends (ahem…) would tell you I generally avoid dipping my hand into their popcorn tubs.  I prefer white popcorn, and since yellow corn is used in theatres, it is not a temptation for me.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I don’t bother to eat calorie & fat-laden foods if I don’t truly enjoy them.

Popcorn CAN be a healthy treat.  It is a whole grain, loaded with fiber, and naturally low in calories and fat.  Plain, air-popped white or yellow popcorn contains a mere 31 calories per cup.  So in following my 100-150 calorie “rule” for snacks when trying to lose weight, you can eat 4-5 cups of popcorn prepared in this manner.  (2 Tbsp unpopped corn yields about 4 cups popped)  Some of you are already squirming in your seats thinking “Why bother?  That is so boring!!!”.  To add flavor while keeping the calories to a minimum, try tossing a butter-flavored cooking spray (like PAM) or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray into the popped corn.  If you want to limit your salt intake as well, sprinkle on one of the many Mrs. Dash seasoning varieties.

Whirley Pop requires the use of a small amount of oil—I suggest Canola.  One cup of oil-popped corn has about 55 calories per cup.  To keep the total snack under 150 calories, you wouldn’t want more than a 2.5 cup serving.  To maintain my weight, I generally allow myself 200 calorie snacks—about 3-4 cups of Whirley pop.  Should I decide to add melted butter (as I did the other night with a couple of my girlfriends), it would add another 100 calories.

“Girls’ Movie Night Out” often takes place at AMC Theatre for my friends and I.  The bad news is that they pop their corn in coconut oil (the worst oil for clogging up your arteries—loaded in saturated fat).  The good news is that this theatre’s popcorn sizes are smaller than most others.  A “small” contains 6 cups, 370 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat.  If you add 1 tbsp. of the “buttery” topping (ick), it adds 120 calories and 2 grams more saturated fat…  FYI:  a single “pump” of the dispenser is 1 tbsp worth.   A “medium” has 9 cups, 590 calories, 33 g saturated fat (without the butter topping);  a “large” has 16 cups, 1,030 calories, 57 grams saturated fat without topping.  The larger the tub, the more pumps of butter spread you add, the more trouble you get yourself into…enough said;-)

My suggestion?  Chew gum (quietly!!) throughout the movie and avoid snacking all together.  Or, if snacking is a must, make yourself a quart-sized bag of homemade popcorn, and stash it in your coat pocket or purse to enjoy during the movie.

Snack Ideas for Kids

In Feeding your kids, Snacking on January 8, 2010 at 10:48 PM

What are some healthy snacks my whole family can enjoy?

The friend asking this question says her kids are tired of the “veggies and dip” option.  The best thing you can do to keep kids interested in eating healthy is to make fun and creative snacks, combining different foods to expand their taste horizons.  Kids are more likely to develop sound eating habits if their parents also enjoy a variety of healthy foods and model such behavior on a regular basis.  Including a source of protein in the snack is worthwhile especially if the next meal is likely to be delayed.

Here are some ideas to try today:

1/2-1 cup mixed fresh fruit with a dallop of light Reddi Whip  (looks more fun, right??)

1 mini blueberry muffin with 1/4 cup of orange sections

1 pretzel rod wrapped with a thin slice of lean turkey or ham  

1/2 cup canned peaches with 1/3 cup lowfat cottage cheese

1 tbsp. peanut butter on celery sticks

1 slice raisin bread with 2 tsp. apple butter

5-10 blue corn tortilla chips with salsa

1/3 cup sliced apple with mozzarella cheese stick

1-2 mini pita breads with 3 tbsp. hummus

4 oz. yogurt cup

Let me know what your family thinks of these ideas!

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