Category Archives: label-reading

Choosing your calories wisely

It’s not as necessary to eat less to lose weight as it is to eat better. Consider the decadent and delicious treats available at your local Krispy Kreme shop,  and a healthier meal option.

Suppose you are planning tomorrow’s breakfast. Let’s say you want to have a meal of about 350 calories. Here are two choices:  the first option – one Krispy Kreme Chocolate Iced Custard Filled donut and a half cup of skim milk; option two –  a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast with a light coating of margarine-type spread and your favorite jelly, a small piece of fruit and a cup of skim milk.

Option one would satisfy your sweet tooth as it sends your blood-sugar level skyrocketing, only to plummet soon after, possibly leaving you fuzzy-headed, cranky, and craving another fix in about an hour. Option two gives you a tasty, healthy, and filling meal with offerings from all the food groups, providing sustainable energy and keeping you satisfied for most or all of the morning.

I consider my daily calorie-quota as a bank of sorts, with the foods I eat as “purchases”. I can “spend” my calories in ways  that’ll nourish me throughout the day, or I can dole them out carelessly, and find, before bedtime, I’ve run out and am hungry. In that case, I’ll have to face the music: try to sleep with a growling tummy, or eat more calories than I wanted to.

This is just one comparison. Favorite fast-food restaurant meals can easily pack 1,000 calories or more, and often the fat and sodium content are through the roof!  We can definitely benefit by reading the nutritional info of our favorite less-than-healthy foods, and consider better trade-offs. For me, it’s a fun challenge to see how much bang I can get for my calorie buck, and to feed my body with fuel that’s good for it as well!

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When does 100 equal 10? (small changes matter)

You never know when you’re going to hear a brief tidbit of info that can be of significant importance. Recently, our local YMCA offered a program on healthy lifestyles with a focus on weight loss. As the dietician shared, I wrote down her info, much of which I already knew. One thing, however, stood out.

If we are overweight, most of us want to lose it quickly without much being required in the way of change, right? But if we’re honest, we could probably look back and see that our weight gain didn’t happen over a three-month period, or even a year’s time. You might notice that you added ten pounds every year or two, which didn’t make a noticeable change because it was so gradual (“Hmmm, these old pants are out of style anyway, I’ll go find some new ones that fit better”). Years ago, I came across a couple of my maternity outfits, and decided to try them on. To my chagrin, I couldn’t even zip up the back of the dress, and the pants wouldn’t fit over my thighs!

Ten pounds annually over a four to  five-year period…the simple math shows that to be a noticeable weight gain. But the truth is (as the dietician pointed out), we can easily lose ten pounds a year without any significant lifestyle change. How is that possible? Two ways: Cut 100 calories a day out of your food consumption or burn 100 extra calories daily through exercise (depending on your current weight that could be as little as a 15-minute walk at a decent pace).

100 calories is just about nothing! Serving sizes and calorie counts vary by brand, but here’s a rough estimate of items that are about 100 calories each: a piece of toast with spread, eight ounces of regular soft drink, ¾ ounce of a chocolate candy bar, two hot wings, ¼ cup ice cream, or (gasp!) ⅓ of a slice of pepperoni pizza.

So, since 3,500 calories equals a pound, if we do the math, subtracting this amount from our daily calorie intake will allow us to lose around 10 pounds in a year, or…adding these extra calories daily will make the scale show a 10 pound increase this time next year (and the next…). Just a little bit of time learning about calorie counts of your favorite foods can help you make wise decisions that’ll whittle the waistline; an easy-to-navigate site I often use is www.calorieking.com.  What choices will you choose to implement this week?

Note from Slimvictory: if you’d like to receive new articles as they post, you can subscribe on my homepage. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

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On-the-run breakfasts can still meet nutritional needs

Breakfast on the run can still jumpstart your day (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

A bowl of steaming oatmeal with a fresh-cut orange and a side of cinnamon toast, eaten leisurely with a couple of mugs of coffee is my choice of a day-starter. However, many people probably consider a “day-starter” the time their ignition keys make their car engine turn over.

And often, we don’t take time to eat. Yes, we all know how important a good breakfast is. The word comes from “break the fast”, which is exactly what the morning meal does. We may have not eaten for close to twelve hours, our physical engine is running on empty, and our metabolism is definitely stalling out.  Fuel is needed, but the morning time-crunch can prevent that from happening.

It’s so easy to grab a sugary treat as we breeze through the local fast-food joint, or run in the gas station. A fuzzy brain and some hunger pangs about 10:00 a.m. will probably be the results of this choice. However, a little pre-planning at the grocery store can help us fuel up and get our metabolism revving. A protein/carb duo is a wise morning choice, but in lieu of scrambled eggs and a whole-wheat muffin, the pictured breakfast can hold you in good stead. The Fiber One Chewy Bar provides a whopping portion of fiber to keep you satisfied (with only a few grams of sugar), the “pre-packaged, ready-to-eat” banana  is easy to consume and provides additional fiber, and a cup of milk (skim or 1%) provides needed calcium and also a chug-a-lug of protein. So in this quick “meal” (which you could grab-and-go, and  consume in five minutes before entering your workplace), you have good portions of healthy carbs, fiber, protein and calcium, all for about 325 calories.  

The fruit and milk are a healthy given, and there are many choices of breakfast-type bars on the market. Careful label-reading is advised, though, as some are loaded with sugar.

All in favor of a quick, healthy breakfast, raise your keys!

(A note from Slimvictory: if you’d like to receive my new articles as they post, you can subscribe on my home page. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.)

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Filed under calorie reduction, counting calories, food, fruit, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, label-reading, meal preparation, menu planning, nutrition data

“Weighing” the calorie trade-offs

All calories are not created equal! Consider the pictured packet of dressing: it contains 250 calories of delicious creaminess to enhance a sizeable salad. Now let’s say you’re looking for a quick lunch, and you stop in your workplace cafeteria, pick up a greens-based salad and a pack of dressing, and chow down. As tasty as it will be, how many hours of hunger-relief are you going to get? By mid-afternoon or earlier, will your stomach be rumbling, sending you down the hall to peruse the vending-machine offerings?

Probably so. But consider the other food choices in the photo. A cup of this hearty chicken-and-dumplings and a medium-sized apple would “weigh-in” at about the same calories. (Now, I’m not talking about the glycemic index here, only a calorie-comparable, filling meal, and one that could be conveniently brought from home and quickly-nuked.) This would likely keep many of us with an average appetite satisfied longer, especially if we had a substantial breakfast, which is always a good idea.

Let’s take it a step further. When figuring your daily food-intake “budget”, suppose you want to stay around the 1400-calorie range. Many restaurant meals (often just an entrée) will come close to or exceed that number. Since most of us get hungry at least three times a day, if we choose to indulge in one of these mega-calorie meals, we have two choices: stay hungry or exceed our goal-intake. Spending a little time learning calorie counts of your commonly-consumed foods/meals can help you get more bang for your calorie-buck!

 (Note from Slimvictory – if you’d like to receive new posts by e-mail, please sign-up on my home page. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.)

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All canned beans are not created equal!

Daily decisions determine our destination.

One of my health-focused New Year’s Solutions (instead of resolutions) is to eat more dried beans and legumes. I love to cook up a batch of one of our area’s specialties – red beans and rice – using the dried beans, but have been enjoying trying canned varieties, as well.

I was in the mood for a bit of a sweet indulgence this evening, so I warmed up a can of Home Style Baked Beans to go with a tuna sandwich and baby carrots (no eye-rolling…I’m sitting pretty contentedly at my goal weight!). This brand has 140 calories in a half- cup serving (of course, it contains regular sugar and brown sugar, so I lowered the calorie count by draining off most of the syrupy sauce). A can of red beans that also occupies space in my pantry contains 130 cals in half a cup (contains a bit of cottonseed oil), while the same-sized serving of canned cannellini beans weighs in at just 80 calories!

To rephrase a familiar phrase…a bean by any other name…may just have more calories! Label-reading may not provide an endorphin rush, but it sure makes good sense for those trying to carve more calories off their daily food budget.

 (A note from Slimvictory…if you’d like to get emails of my new articles as they post, you can subscribe here on my home page. Your comments are welcome and appreciated!)

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Making a leaner sandwich

Checking out the calories in your bread can make for a "lighter" sandwich! (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

Many who have stumbled upon this post are surely voracious readers. And for those of us watching our caloric intake, some of the most important reading we can do is in the grocery store aisles.

 

Call me weird, but I enjoy crunching the numbers from labels to get the most for my nutritional buck, and have noticed quite a difference in “servings” of breads. Now I realize some buy the thin-sliced – or “diet” – bread at around 45 calories a slice, so they can have a full sandwich. But I’ve found standard-size bread slices that are .9 ounces that are only 50 calories per slice, and make a hearty sandwich (1 ounce is considered a serving in most food exchanges I’ve seen). But right next to these whole-wheat treats are other loaves that have the same size slices, but they are 70 calories. So what gives?

 

Sugar, for one thing. The 70-cal ones I’ve seen have two grams of sugar per slice, and the 50-cal brand has only one gram. Now perhaps you are shaking your head and thinking, “What difference does 20 calories make”? Well, I love bread, so for me, I can have seven slices of the lower-calorie brand (same serving size) for the same caloric expenditure as five slices of the 70-calorie one. And when I’m craving a piece of cinnamon toast with my milk for a bedtime snack, that extra might just come in handy!

 

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Food nutritional labels – read ’em and gasp!

Our success here may be determined in part with how much attention we pay to the fine print in food nutrition labels. (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

How well (meaning completely) do we read labels? Some can be deceptive if we don’t check out the fine print. Here’s an example: “No sugar added 100% white grape peach juice”…then, on the back, this info is added: “contains 100% juice”.

No sugar added…100% juice…sounds great, right? Well, let’s look a little closer at the nutritional info – an 8-ounce serving contains 40 grams of sugar! How can that be?

No sugar is added because the juice itself is plenty sweet. By comparison, since 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar is 4 grams, this 8-ounce serving of 100% juice contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of the sweet stuff (or 3 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon, which edges close to 1/4 cup). Would we consciously add that amount of sugar to our children’s beverage? Yet it can happen regularly if we aren’t attentive to label-reading.

Of course, this is one good reason – in addition to the wonderful fiber – that it’s better to eat our fruit instead of drinking it! Also, a cup of this juice contain 160 calories; a large peach or a huge handful of grapes has less than half this amount.

Have you read any interesting labels that caused a jaw-drop lately?

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