Tag Archives: nutritional data

USDA’s My Plate compared to Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate

Note from Slimvictory: I found the following article from Harvard Medical School (www.health.harvard.edu), comparing their “Healthy Eating Plate” to the growing-in-popularity “MyPlate” found at www.choosemyplate.gov. It’s interesting to see how two well-respected authorities can come to different conclusions on basic nutrition guidelines (although they do have areas of agreement).

If I HAD to choose between the two, I’d pick the Harvard version; it gives more info, and  I like their idea of adding a bottle of heart-healthy oil to the dinner table. But I wouldn’t replace the glass of low-fat milk with tea or coffee, as the protein-punch the cow-juice packs can provide extra satiety. Also, since the USDA is trying to educate parents about preparing healthy meals for the entire family, a low-fat dairy item would be a better choice than caffeine-laced beverages included in Harvard’s choices (of course, water’s always good).  And a middle-of-the road option between the Harvard plate’s use of oils without restricting serving sizes, and the USDA plate, which ignores vital oils altogether would be beneficial.

Of course, a simple one-page plate diagram (meant to be a quick guide for making healthy choices) can’t take the place of detailed nutritional data (like serving size guides, how some “vegetables” should be considered as a grain or a protein source, choosing a variety of colors, and such). But by spending time on both these sites, savvy consumers can find more information to help them make informed choices.

What are some of your go-to sources for advice on healthy eating?

And now, here’s the Harvard article intro and link:

Back in June, federal authorities unveiled MyPlate, an icon designed to help Americans follow healthy eating patterns. Its a nice, colorful image that was a welcome successor to the misguided MyPyramid. But it doesnt offer much in the way of useful information.

via Harvard to USDA: Check out the Healthy Eating Plate.



Filed under decision-making, food, healthy weight loss, making changes, meal preparation, Uncategorized

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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Filed under breakfast, calorie reduction, counting calories, decision-making, food, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, label-reading, meal preparation, mindset

Super-simple Tilapia Recipe

Fish and other lean protein can help produce weight loss. (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

I had made up my mind I would not like tilapia…until I tasted some cooked in a rich, spicy, butter sauce. Deciding to try my hand at a healthier recipe, I came up with this:

  • Tilapia fillets (3-4 ounces each)
  • Parkay buttery spray
  • Cajun spice (I use Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic)
  • Lemon pepper

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Line pan with foil. Lightly spritz fillets with buttery spray on both sizes, and dust with spices. Cover and bake about 15 minutes; uncover and bake about 10 more minutes or until done.

I had also decided I was not going to like Mrs. Dash, but I made one fillet with the buttery spray and a good sprinkle of the Original Blend of Mrs. Dash, and found it to be incredibly tasty as well. Either way, a heart-healthy dish, for sure!

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


Filed under calorie reduction, counting calories, food, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, meal preparation, menu planning, nutrition data, recipes

Gotta love those discretionary calories

Into every healthy eating plan, a bit of discretionary calories should be permitted. (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

I’m not gonna be satisfied with a piece of dry toast when a teaspoon of low-fat margarine-type spread and a teaspoon of jelly will work wonders on such! Today I made some muscadine (AKA scuppernong) jelly from the grapes that grow wild in my back yard, and immediately fixed my mid-morning snack: a piece of my 50-calorie whole-wheat bread with a light coating of the spread and delectable jelly. The tasty toast-toppers added about 30 calories. 

Sometimes we are so conscious of cutting calories that we deprive ourselves of the little pleasures that would take months to add up to a pound. Let’s see…3000 calories that are required to add a pound divided by 30 calories for spread and jelly equals 100 days, in this case! Certainly self-control is needed, but extreme self-denial makes it hard to stick with one’s plan.

Now that I’ve stated my case, please excuse me while I lick these last lovely purple calories off the side of my mouth! 

What are some of your favorite discretionary calories?

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Fruits…sweet and delicious…nature’s “candy”

God loves to give good gifts, and fruits are one of the edible kinds I enjoy most! (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

Ahhh, summertime…don’t you just love the abundance of fresh fruits? There’s something about slicing into a ripe kiwi fruit or a juicy orange that reminds me of God’s creative genius. Fruits, the delectable sweets than could be referred to as “nature’s candy”, are part of the blessings God gives us to keep us healthy and well nourished.

 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Yes, our heavenly Father definitely “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), and when we consider the rich variety of fruits available for our selection, won’t you agree He outdid Himself in that area?

 Most of us don’t need any coaxing to bite into a ripe peach, top our cereal with slices of golden banana, or make a smoothie with our favorite berries. But have we considered why fruit is such a vital part of a healthy diet? Here’s some data gleaned from a site with a wealth of dietary information – www.mypyramid.gov:

 “Health benefits:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain cancers, such as mouth, stomach, and colon-rectum cancer.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and may help to decrease bone loss.
  • Eating foods such as fruits that are low in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.”

 The site also points out that “people who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.”

Thought for the day:

For more fiber, and staying power, “eat” your fruit instead of drinking it.

Question: What are you top three favorite fruits?


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Filed under calorie reduction, counting calories, food, fruit, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, meal preparation, menu planning, snacks, summer meals

More on tracking calories with exchange lists


"Tracking" your food will keep you "on track". (Photo by Ann Maniscalco)

 If you haven’t read my post from July 31st, please take a minute to check it out. The focus of the previous article was on using exchange lists to track calories instead of tracking each item of food eaten and its count. This blog will expand upon the last one a bit.

            When you’ve found some exchange lists (web sites in previous article), you may have gone through the different food categories to see the foods listed, and picked out those you eat most often. You might want to make a master list of these foods, to facilitate your menu (daily meals) plan. Here’s an abbreviated example, based on my faves:


  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • ¾ cup Cheerios
  • 4 slices melba toast
  • ½ cup brown rice


  • ¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 ounce baked chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ounce deli ham

        Then, to track these items, you could create a spreadsheet, or a simple chart (food journal). For example, I’ve chosen to follow a 1400-calorie meal plan. So I will list the different food groups and number of exchanges for each:

Starch: 1.                   2.                  3.                  4.                  5.                  6.

Meat/protein: 1.                     2.                  3.                  4.                  5.                  6.

Non-starchy vegetables: 1.                 2.                  3.                  4.

(Continue for the Fruit, the Dairy and the Fat groups)

         Now my actual chart doesn’t look like this, but it can give you a guide if you’d like to try the idea. By looking at my chart (food journal), I know I’m going to consume up to six starches, six proteins, etc. I can write in the foods as I eat them or plan my day’s meals and snacks in the morning. If I know I’m going to enjoy supper out, I’ll adjust the earlier meals to save enough “exchanges” for the evening. If lunch will be late, I’ll eat a bigger breakfast. I incorporate snacks, too, and avoid skipping meals to avoid becoming overly-hungry (a big weight-loss saboteur).

            The exchanges are a guide that helps me plan well-rounded meals from the basic food groups. Some days I may go over on the meat, and cut back on the milk. Or I’ll have an extra fruit, and not as many veggies. Over a week’s time, I may have some slip-ups, but with a plan written out, I’m more likely to “just say no” to choices that aren’t going to lead me toward my goal.

 Thought for today:

“The road to success is always under construction.” (copied)

***A note from Slimvictory: your comments are invited and appreciated. if you’d like to receive new blogs by email as they post, please sign up on my home page.



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Filed under calorie reduction, counting calories, food, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, menu planning, nutrition data

Counting calories not needed with exchange lists

You'd find these foods under the "starch" exchange list.

            When you hear the word “diet” (I don’t like that word, but that’s a subject for a future blog), do you conjure up the boring, detailed task of counting calories? Some weight-watchers do thrive on the challenge, but I’d say they’re in the minority.

            Calories – whatever their source – do count, but they don’t have to be “counted” in a regimental way. Nutrition experts and medical professionals have created what are commonly known as “exchange lists”. The various groups of healthy foods: meat/protein, starches, fruits, vegetables, dairy and fats, are divided into categories, with an average calorie count assigned to each food in that category. Say, in the fruit group, a 60-calorie serving of fruit is standard fare. So, in this list, you’d find serving sizes of fruits that equal around 60 calories; for example: half a banana, 17 grapes, a small apple, or ½ cup fruit juice.

            If you are following a plan that includes a well-balanced variety of foods from the groups comprising the basic food pyramid (see notes at bottom of my 1400-calorie chart below), you could scan the exchange lists to find a wide selection of foods to keep your meals varied. I’ve put together a day’s menu that uses the exchanges that I’ve found works for me. NOTE: I’m not a nutritionist, dietician, or health care professional; I just follow what would generally be accepted as a healthy eating plan. Many professionals encourage limiting protein choices to four to five ounces (or the equivalent) a day for those on a low-calorie diet, but personal experience has shown me that my appetite stays more satisfied with around six ounces of lean protein daily – and other professionals concur with this different viewpoint.   

            I’ll write more about this topic later, but here’s my sample “no-calorie-counting” menu:


A 1400-calorie food plan…what does that look like? (Exchange list info)

  • 6 starches (cereal, grains, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables; 70 – 80 calories)
  • 6 proteins (lean meat or fish; about 45 calories per ounce or serving) *
  • 3 fruits (small servings of fresh fruit or ½ cup fruit juice; 60 calories)
  • 4 non-starchy vegetables (½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw, ½ cup juice; 25 calories)
  • 4 fats (oil, mayo, bacon, nuts; 5 grams of fat with 45 calories)
  • 2 milks (cup of skim or 1%, or serving of non-fat yogurt**; 80-100 calories)
  • Free: items that have 20 calories or less per serving; choose up to 3 a day

* Other protein sources include cheese, dried beans, peanut butter, eggs and many soups. Serving sizes vary.


 Breakfast and mid-morning snack:

2 Starches: 1 cup Cheerios (or an egg or other protein – see supper) and a 50-calorie toast

1 Milk: 1 cup skim or 1% milk

1 Fruit: ½ banana or ½ cup fruit juice

½ Fat: 1 ½ tsp. light margarine-type spread

Free: 1 tsp. jelly or honey

 Snack: 1 fat – 10 almonds

 Lunch and mid-afternoon snack:

3 Meats/protein: 3 ounces roast chicken

1 Vegetable: 1 ½ cup lettuce-type salad

1 Vegetable: ½ cup cooked carrots or green beans

1 Bread: 1 slice bread or ½ cup potato or pasta

1 Fruit: 1 small apple (with skin) or a handful of grapes

1 to 1 ½ Fat: dressing on salad, oil used in veggie prep, spread on bread

Free: dill pickle spear; 1 cup low-sodium broth – vegetable, chicken or beef; mustard, catsup

 Snack: 1 whole graham cracker or 4 melba toasts, with ½ cup milk

 Supper and evening snack:

3 Meats/protein: 3 ounces stir-fry meat (2 ounces if you had a protein choice for breakfast)

2 Vegetables: 2 half-cup servings of stir-fry veggies – your choice

1 Starch: 1 small roll or ½ cup rice

1 Fat: 1 tsp. olive or canola oil

Free: small bowl of radishes, celery, cucumbers

 Snack: ½ cup milk and 1 slice cinnamon toast (or ¾ cup cereal with milk) OR 100 to 125-calorie (non-fatty) snack of choice

 Here are two Web sites than can help you find other foods for the exchange lists (there are countless sites, but these are very good and easy to navigate): www.mayoclinic.com; www.nhlbi.nih.gov (go to site and type “exchange lists” into search box)

 ***Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. If there are topics you’d like to see covered, I’ll be glad to consider researching and addressing them.

Thought for today:

Calories count, but we don’t need to “count” them!


Filed under calorie reduction, counting calories, food, healthy eating, healthy weight loss, meal preparation, menu planning