Friday, July 29, 2011

A Happier Happy Meal

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by Madelyn Fernstrom
In the real world, when it comes to fast food, many families find it hard to “just say no.” Now, a visit to McDonald’s provides some REAL change in their kids’ meals as an authentic step to healthier eating. Starting in September, 2011, all kids’ meals will contain a serving of sliced apples (1/4 cup – a 1/2 serving) and a downsized fries (half of the present serving – about 125 calories); fat free chocolate milk and 1% whole milk round out the selections. The small burger or chicken nuggets remain the same. You can even choose to skip the fries altogether, and opt for double apples.

While McDonald’s has offered sliced apples as an optional choice since 2004, most consumers did not select them. In fact, a poll showed that 88% of people “were aware” of the fresh apple slices, but only 11% chose them. Now, with the apples as part of the meal, the hope is kids will eat them, along with the rest of the meal since they’re already there (more than half the battle!).

And don’t think that adults can’t enjoy this as well. A hamburger and the mini-fries, apple slices, and a low-fat milk weighs in at around 500 calories.

While fast-food should not be an automatic first choice for kids or adults, it’s sometimes easy and convenient. Now, at least one fast-food company makes healthier eating a lot easier – and I’m hopeful that other companies will follow!

Looking for other fast food options? Try steering your family to SUBWAY, where healthy options for kids’ and adults have been in place for years!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beware of “Supermarket Savings”

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
With the price of food continuing to creep up, supermarkets are using some clever marketing to provide what I call “perceived value.” You’re not actually saving money – and sometimes paying more. Here are some of my favorites.

10 for $10. It sounds like a great deal, but it only means that a single unit is $1 each. You don’t need to buy 10 for the savings (or 6 or 8, of whatever the “special” is). This is especially true for perishable items that can expire or spoil. Buy what you need.

Buy 1, Get 1 Free. Sometimes a savings, but only if the first item has not had the price increased, to accommodate the “get one free” purchase. While you don’t need to be a contestant on The Price is Right to figure this out, pay some attention to the regular price of items, when they’re not labeled as buy 1, get 1 free.

2-for $XX. This is true only if you by 2 of the item. Often in small print, you’ll see that the price for one unit is NOT half of the 2-for price, but much higher.

End of the Aisle “Specials.” You know it, the store knows it, so it must be true, right? That’s the trap we all fall into. These end of the aisle “sales” are often the same price (or sometimes higher), compared with other similar products. For the best deal, avoid these specials, and head over to the aisle, for some comparison shopping.

Nowadays, I think it’s important to stretch your food dollar whenever you can. What other money-saving tips do you have?

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Winners of the Xtreme Eating Awards

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) just awarded its “Xtreme Eating Awards” for the worst foods contributing to the overfeeding of Americans. This “dishonor” is based on calories, fat, and sodium in a single dish.

While all restaurant chains DO provide low-fat, calorie controlled choices, they also offer these belly-busters that defy common sense. Talk about portion distortion! Most of these “winners” contain the calories you need for the entire day! With saturated fat and sodium contents for 2-3 days!

If you’re still interested in these calorie and fat bombs, despite these alarming facts - be smart and share them with 3 or more other people. Just because it’s on one plate, doesn’t make it a single serving!

Here are some of the dubious “winners”:

-The Cheesecake Factory’s Farmhouse Cheeseburger (no fries): a burger topped with grilled smoked pork belly, cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and topped with a fried egg; 1530 calories, 36 grams of saturated fat, and 3210 mg of sodium.

-Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt (with fries): four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread; 1260 calories, 21 grams of saturated fat and 3010 mg of sodium.

-Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs with Fettucine: provolone-stuffed meatballs, in marinara sauce, topping 4 cups of pasta in a parmesan cream sauce and a slice of garlic bread; 1520 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat, and 3700 mg of sodium.

-The Cheesecake Factory’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake: alternating layers of red velvet cake and cheesecake, weighing in at 3/4th of a pound; 1540 calories, 59 grams of saturated fat.

-Cold Stone Creamery PB and C Shake: this 24 ounce “Gotta Have It” size shake with peanut butter, chocolate ice cream and milk; 2010 calories, 68 grams of saturated fat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Michelle Obama, Burgers, and Fries

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
Perhaps you’ve heard the recent media outcry that First Lady Michelle Obama ate a hamburger, fries, and a shake. Could this be the same First Lady who has an organic garden, eats her fruits and veggies, and advocates for healthy portions? The same First Lady who is physically active herself (check out those sculpted arms!), and encourages the nation to move more? So, what’s the story here?

I think this is just great – and an important lesson in moderation. While the food police find this shocking, I see it as an excellent example of what I call a “controlled indulgence.” Some treat foods, on occasion, are always fun and not off limits. It’s a good way to remove the thinking of “good” and “bad” foods.

My motto has always been “no bad foods, just bad portions.” And I stick to this. I don’t find any conflicting messages in Mrs. Obama’s digging in to a burger, fries, and a shake. It’s the summertime, and she’s having some fun with food. It’s not everyday – and it’s not a big deal. In fact, to me she represents the ideal kind eater. Free of deprivation, Mrs. Obama can indulge without guilt, enjoy her splurge now and then, and return to her healthy eating patterns.

I wish more people would get out of the mindset of “good” and “bad” foods. Being a “healthy” eater doesn’t mean every mouthful needs to be packed with nutrients, and devoid of treats. Healthy eating is a lifestyle – and moderation (and occasional indulgences) provides a mindset that can be sustained for the long term.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Legalize Your Trigger Foods

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
Do you have some favorite foods that taste so good they should be “illegal”? It’s time to tweak those foods with some fresh ideas of how to enjoy them, without guilt, and benefit both your health and your waistline!

Here are few of my favorites:

Instead of an extra large slice of pepperoni pizza, order a thin-sliced version, and ask them to go light on the cheese. Top with vegetables like mushroom, onions, and peppers to “bulk up” your slice. If you’re at home, start with a 12 inch whole grain tortilla and top with low-fat tomato sauce, reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, and add turkey pepperoni and veggies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Instead of a banana split or ice cream sundae, order a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and chopped nuts. Or, make your own version, using two small scoops of slow churned frozen yogurt or reduced-fat ice cream, topped with a half banana, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and a small sprinkling of chopped nuts.

Instead of a large bagel and cream cheese, downsize your serving by scooping out the doughy inside of the full size bagel, and enjoy that crusty outside. Top with reduced or non fat cream cheese. Or try some of the new bagel thins – 100 calorie bagels that look like skinny, flat bagels. Another 100 calorie option are the mini-bagels (which use to be sold as full size bagels!), just a downsized version of the more typical bloated (think 4-5 servings of grains) bagel found in restaurants and markets.

I’d love to hear about “legalized” versions of your own favorites! Post away!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Have a Very “Berry” Summer

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
We’re all familiar with the USDA recommendations to eat about 2 cups of fruit per day. If that sounds daunting to you, summer might just be the perfect time to boost your fresh fruit intake with berries. While pricey most of the year, fresh berries are now in season – translate that to low prices! They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (plant antioxidants), and fiber. Low in calories, their naturally ripe sweetness lends them to being called “nature’s candy,” so berries can really help tame a sweet tooth.

Whether eaten out of hand, sprinkled on your cereal, added to plain yogurt, or the base for a small smoothie, you can’t go wrong with the “big four” – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Try a berry puree for a flavorful topping over frozen yogurt or angel food cake. Let your imagination be your guide!

Both the supermarkets and farmers markets have an abundance of berries. But look for them now (or at least very soon). The berry season is a short one, and will be gone within a few weeks!

Please share your favorite berry recipes with us!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Are You Exercising Enough?

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

When it comes to physical activity, there’s a lot of confusion about what the “right” amount is to support good health. It’s time to set the record straight!

Guidelines for daily physical activity are translated from scientific studies, comparing duration and intensity of exercise, and health outcomes, including body weight, blood pressure, and other measures of heart health. Most of us are familiar with the recommendation of 30 minutes accumulated daily – brisk walking is a great example – as the minimum daily requirement for good health.

The good news is that this recommendation holds up well, and does support good health. The confusion comes with the interpretation that 30 daily minutes is enough, and no additional physical activity is needed. It’s important to think of this half-hour as a starting point, as your minimum daily activity – and you can strive for more.

More recent studies support the idea that 45-60 minutes daily is a better health promoter than 30; and 75 minutes daily is optimal for weight loss or maintenance. When people hear these numbers, it often seems daunting, so they do nothing, rather than what they are willing and able to do.

If you’re new to exercise (with your doctor’s clearance), start with 30 minutes daily, and aim for more when you can. The cardiovascular benefits of aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, dancing) are a major plus.

Try adding some strengthen training to support muscle health; just twice a week can be a major boost to both muscle and bone strength. Find a certified instructor to get you started, to avoid injury.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fueling Your Workout

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by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

I’m often asked what’s the best way to keep your body fueled during exercise. The answer depends on both the intensity of your exercise as well as the duration of the activity.

While many of us feel like professional athletes – we often overestimate the energy going into our physical activity – and our need for extra energy (calories). A lot of sweating is not a reliable index of a heavy workout. And neither is the time spent doing an activity. An easy rule of thumb for activities lasting one hour or less? Drink plain water, and skip the extra fuel (from sports drinks or other sources).

If you’re engaging in longer, more intense activities lasting longer than an hour - activities like biking, running, hiking, and singles tennis – you’ll need to hydrate, along with adding some extra carbohydrate calories and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium). This is easily achieved with a traditional sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.

Additional protein might be needed to refuel your muscles as well, from depletions in amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in muscle during intense exercise. A glass of low-fat chocolate milk, or a ready to drink protein shake are both easy and convenient choices for a post-work out fluid and protein boost. You might also opt for a post-workout sports drink, containing carbohydrates and protein.

Be honest with yourself when it comes to your intensity and duration of physical activity. Stick with water for the first hour – and if you go beyond that, add a sports drink. For more intense workouts, keep your protein intake up.

Get to know your body – and you’ll be able to get a better sense of when it’s time to refuel. The benefits and enjoyment of physical activity are optimal when you pay attention to your “drink tank”, and keep it filled with the right fluids!

For questions about your specific personal nutritional needs during exercise, check with an exercise physiologist, or a sports nutritionist for advice.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Safe Outdoor Eating

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Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

With the start of the holiday weekend, many of us will be firing up the grill. Is there anything better in the summertime than an outdoor cookout with friends and family?

While you’re preparing and cooking your favorites, keep in mind these important guidelines for food safety. Millions of people each year get some type of food borne illness each year – and outdoor eating is a particularly vulnerable time. It’s very easy to avoid, if you pay some attention to the basics. Check them out!

When preparing food:

- wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after handling food

- separate uncooked and cooked foods and ingredients – don’t cross-contaminate

- throw out the leftover marinade for raw foods – don’t use for the cooked version

When cooking and serving food:

- start with a clean grill – use a stiff brush to remove burnt debris

- cook foods to proper temperature – bacteria are killed at 160 degrees or higher – that’s “medium”; for best results, use an instant food thermometer

- keep hot foods hot (160 degrees or higher) and cold foods cold (40 degrees or lower)

- keep food covered outdoors to avoid dive-bombing bugs

- keep serving utensils handy for “finger foods”

- avoid leaving cooked foods outdoors for more than two hours; one hour if the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!