Sunday, August 26, 2012

Calories... Unwrapped

Welcome back!  So, let's pick up where we left off.

What's next on the Nutrition Facts panel? - Calories

Have no fear, calories are a fancy word for energy.  We all need energy.  Like a car can't run without gas, we can't run without calories.  Now, think of calories like a seesaw.

If we take in more calories than our bodies need or more calories than our bodies use during the day for everyday activities, exercise, etc., then our bodies gain weight.  This is important of course for growing children, bodybuilders, as well as underweight persons.

We don't necessarily have to focus on our calorie intake to gain weight though.  If we reduce our activity, for example if a highly active construction worker takes time off from work, but maintains his/her normal diet, then he/she may gain weight.

On the flip side, if we consume less calories than our bodies need and use, then we lose weight.  This is the key to weight loss.  Consuming less food or calories is not necessary for weight loss, however.  We could consume our normal diet, but increase our physical activity to end up with a calorie deficit for weight loss.

So, how much do we need?  This answer is not so easy.  We assume that the average American needs 2,000 calories per day, although this number varies largely from person to person due to age, gender, physical activity, as well as someone's height and weight.  Short statured, elderly women who do minimal physical activity may need as few as 1,000 calories, while highly active, growing teenage boys may need as many as 3,500 calories.

A doctor, nurse practitioner, or registered dietitian are good resources that can help you determine your individual energy needs.

Where do we get these calories from?  We get energy from food and drinks that contain calories.  Despite what you may hear from the media or others- a calorie is a calorie, no matter its source.  To exaggerate, whether you eat 3,000 calories of lettuce or 3,000 calories of cheeseburgers in one day and you only need 2,000 calories each day, then you may gain weight.

Can calories equal pounds?  In the scientific world of nutrition, 3,500 calories is equal to 1 pound of body weight.  This means that if every day for one week you eat 500 calories less each day or use up 500 calories during exercise, then you have a 3,500 calorie deficit for the week (500 calories x 7 days), equal to 1 pound.

An easier method for some may be to split the calories in half and cut out 250 calories from food/beverages and exercise to use up 250 calories from one's normal routine each day (for a total of 500 calories each day).  Again, we would be short 3,500 calories for the week to ideally lose 1 pound per week.  The same occurs with weight gain.  Remember, we never eat to our exact calorie needs each day and we don't know precisely how much energy we use every day unless we're in a lab or the hospital, so we have to give ourselves some leeway with this goal.

So, does that help?  Maybe just a little?  Let me know what you think.  As always, if you have any questions, ask away!  Until next time at the table... thanks for meeting!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Nutrition Facts Label... Don't Be Afraid to Take a Peak!

You know, there's a lot of things in this world that are just more complicated than they need to be.  There's also many things that are meant to be super helpful, but many of us simply don't know how to use these tools for them to be beneficial.  Let's break down one of the most misunderstood tools we all face every day... The Nutrition Facts Label.

First, let's focus on the 2 things that most of us need to look at first:

1. Serving Size:
Serving Size is listed first on the panel- directly under or next to the Nutrition Facts title.

(In my opinion the most important to look at first.)  The serving size is the amount of food that the food manufacturer has said is equal to 1 serving.  The entire nutrition facts label is based on this serving size.  For example, if the company thinks that 12 crackers is 1 serving, then all of the information listed on the label is based on someone eating 12 crackers.

This can get tricky because most 20-oz bottles have an 8 fluid ounce serving size, meaning that 2.5 people are expected to share that drink, when in reality, most of us drink the entire beverage ourselves.  We just have to be aware of this.  If we eat double, triple, etc. of the serving size stated, then we have to double, triple, etc. all of the nutrition facts information, depending on how much we really eat.  Of course if we eat less than the serving size listed, say half of the serving size, then we can divide all of the facts listed in half.

Unfortunately, some serving sizes are not listed in everyday terms.  For instance, some serving sizes may be listed in grams or ounces, which is unfamiliar to most of us.  That's when we look at the Servings Per Container.

2. Servings Per Container:
Servings Per Container are listed directly after the Serving Size.
This number can be helpful when the serving size is unclear.  If the serving size is listed in grams or ounces, many of us are unaware of how much this is.  The servings per container help to explain to us how many servings the entire package contains.

This means that if you're eating a bag of cereal and there are 16 servings per container, then the company expects that it'll last you 16 meals if you eat the serving size listed every time, or that 16 people can divide the entire box of cereal evenly and each have the company's serving size listed.  It's OK if we have more or less than the serving size because we all have different needs, but it's important to be aware that we have to adjust the facts listed if we eat more or less.

Wow that's a lot for today.  As I was saying, some things are just more complicated than they need to be.  Now if only someone could explain to me the nuts and bolts of my car.  That's really something that seems too complicated!  See you next time at the table!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Island Time

A day on Block Island, Rhode Island is always a good day, especially when you have enough water, a full tummy, and your love is by your side.  Well, that got my boyfriend and me to start thinking, "What 3 foods would we request on a desert island?"  Hmm... I said to my boyfriend, "Peanut butter, sweet potatoes, and milk.... and I'll share the water you requested!"  This got me to telling him about all of the wonders of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are nutrient dense, which means they are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in each potato.  This orange, versatile veggie is loaded with vitamins A and C, which research shows may help with night vision, healing cuts, and fighting infections.  The best news is that this veggie is yummy mashed, baked, roasted, and of course, fried.  Apart from the frying on special occasions, let's focus on the mashing and baking of this veggie.  Kids love this vegetable because it's naturally sweet, but parents and caregivers secretly know it's loaded with fiber and potassium.  So how can we eat more of this veggie?  I have a few favorite recipes below:

A recipe that blatantly features sweet potatoes for sweet potato lovers:

A recipe that uses sweet potatoes in a more subtle way for encouragement to those who are not such lovers of the potato:

Bottom line: Sweet potatoes are oh-so-yummy and oh-so-good for us too!  The even better part is their price!  Raw sweet potatoes usually range from $0.50-$1.00 each, while yams (sweet potatoes) are sold canned at about $0.07/ounce.  Just remember: canned yams are usually in a thick syrup, so be sure to rinse off the extra sugar before using them in the kitchen.

Nonetheless, I didn't bring sweet potatoes with us on the not-so-desert Block Island, so here we are with our peanut butter & banana and peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches on whole wheat.  That get's me thinking about peanut butter!  We'll save that for next time at the table... thanks for checking in!

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Very First Post


Wow, my very first blogspot post.  I feel exactly like Julie from Julie & Julia with my boyfriend sitting next to me on the couch while I fervently type away at my computer.  Well, thanks for joining me here. I wanted to give you (and myself) an official welcome, well and to Eric too because I know he'll be the only one reading this for some time (such a sweetheart).  See you next time at the table!