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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buyer beware… Health Claim or Advertising Strategy

Choice is a wonderful thing. Too much of it though can be gosh darn confusing. Case in point - have you ever found yourself sitting at a restaurant reading through an encyclopedic menu, confused, and just wishing there was a little hint or claim beside the best dishes, saying, “Pick me! I’ll make your taste buds happy.” Of course you have. We all have. Well, marketers know this – and this is why health claims on food and supplement labels are so prevalent. 

As we consumers have become more and more aware of the relationship between diet and health, there has been an increasing demand for health-enhancing foods and supplements in the marketplace, i.e. foods that help lower cholesterol, promote heart health, help prevent osteoporosis, or promote bowel health and regularity to name a few. It’s trendy for food to be healthy. But can we trust that it really is just because it suggests an association on the box or package?

A health claim is any representation in labeling or advertising that states, suggests, or implies that a relationship exists between consumption of a food or ingredient in the food, and a person's health. In other words, if a cereal has fiber the package may state something like ‘eating fiber can help with regularity and lower cholesterol.” The trouble is, people don’t pay enough attention to the dose. And dose is everything. Let’s consider an analogy to make this point. Imagine that you purchased a bottle of wine and the bottle said, ‘drinking alcohol can lead to liver cancer.’ You would probably think that the claim didn’t apply to you since you were only going to have a glass or two. Yet, when it comes to health benefits and food, we’re all too eager to eat them up! And this can fool us into thinking we’re being healthier than we are. Perhaps this is why despite all of the supposed healthy foods on the shelves, obesity and obesity related illnesses are on the rise.

Health claims on natural health products such as supplements and vitamins can be similarly challenging. Again, dose is extremely important. Many products out there purport health benefits associated with the vitamin or nutrient but do not contain sufficient concentrations of those vitamins or nutrients to do any good whatsoever. It’s therefore much more important to choose quality brands with good reputations for supplying sufficient doses of quality ingredients than simply believing a catchy label.

Bottom line: Be an informed consumer and spend a few extra minutes reading the fine print, ingredients, and doses. It’s worth it to spend a few extra dollars on a quality product that does what it’s supposed to, than a few less on a placebo with a fancy label.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blah blah blah..then blog!

So I'm not going to lie. This past week I've been blah. Blah, blah, blah. Couldn't even blog blah. Christmas songs even sound blah, blah. So-blah! But then a few things happened to cheer me up:

1. I read this article in the Globe called Schmeck the Halls: How Jewish Songwriters Created Christmas. It was interesting. Talked about how most Christmas songs have been written by Jewish songwriters (couldn't they/we have done a better job with Dreidel-Dreidel??). Anyhow, it linked to Sarah Silverman's satirical song: Give the Jew Girl Toys. And I have to admit, it made me laugh. Check it out:

At :57 she says.. So-yah!. Okay fine, it may be Oh-yah! but close enough (to the point of this blog as you'll see below). And now... this leads me to the real smile on my face... drum roll...

I was then introduced to the product "So-Yah!" Anyone who has read my books knows I love Shirataki noodles. I love adding them to microwavable healthy dinners to expand the portion size - fills you up, pleases your stomach and your eyes, without adding calories. For the past year I've been wondering.. why don't they use these in microwavable dinners and soups and prepared foods.. Well, now they do.

House Foods, the maker of the brand of Tofu Shirataki noodles I love, has now come out with So-Yah! a super low calorie microwavable dinner that uses Shirataki noodles.

This meal has only 150 calories - 3 grams protein, 4 grams fat, and 24 grams carbs. So, to make it a little more substantial for a meal, pair it up with a protein like a breast of chicken, or a piece of fish, or toss some precooked frozen shrimp in a pan and add the cooked dinner on top. You can find this prepared food at T&T supermarkets in stores across Canada.

(Dreidel dreidel dreidel I made it out of clay.. and when it's dry and ready, that dreidel I should play... Nope. Not radio material).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why weight loss is called a cleanse

We store energy reserves on our body mainly as 1) fat under the skin..jiggle jiggle; and 2) glycogen (a type of carbohydrate) in the muscles and liver.

Fat is hydrophobic..meaning it doesn't like water (remember from science class.. oil and water don't mix). Fat is therefore stored as dehydrated globules and often appears cottage cheese like under the skin. Glycogen though is hydrophilic..meaning it loves water. What this means is that when we store glycogen, we store water along with it. Specifically, when we store 1 gram glycogen, we store 3 or even 4 grams water alongside it. Here are a bunch of cool reasons why this is important...

1) When we lose weight initially, we first lose our glycogen stores. Remember, carbs are the body's preferred fuel source so we must rid our glycogen stores before shedding our fat stores. So this is why people can lose up to 10 lbs in the first week of a diet. And it's also why the first week is called a detox and cleanse. When we lose 1 part glycogen from our muscles and liver, we lose 3 parts water as well. This water is released in to the body. The body is hydrated and cleansed. The kidneys then rid the body of this excess water filtering out toxins along with it.

2) It explains why men tend to lose more weight quickly on diets. They have more muscle and therefore more glycogen and water stored to lose.

3) It helps us understand why overeating can puff us up. You've been doing great on your diet and then all of a sudden, you go to a few xmas parties..have lots of high carb desserts..and the following week you're up 5 lbs and bloated like crazy! This is glycogen and water weight. The good news is you can reverse it quickly by eating clean the following week and exercising. Speaking of exercise..

4) A very cool study was referenced in the Globe and Mail last week ( It basically explained that the age old theory that the amount of weight lost post exercise directly reflected the amount of water lost from the body, may be false. In fact, the body does a great job hydrating itself naturally during exercise. How? Because glycogen is burned as a fuel. And remember, when we burn up 1 part glycogen, we release 3 to 4 parts water into the body. The body is one heck of smart machine. It helps hydrate itself!

5) It reminds us that we have carbs stored in our body. Carbs have 4 calories per gram. Let's say our body needs 2000 calories to function, and we only feed it 1500 calories, the balance of those 500 calories has to come from somewhere.. and it does.. from our carb stores, our glycogen! If we want to lose weight, we need to create this caloric deficit in the body so that our bodies are forced to use up the glycogen so we can then burn the fat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mini Cukes.. great for hand to mouth addicts

Do you ever come home from work famished and want to put something in your mouth instantaneously.. you know dinner is soon but you just need something NOW?

Have you ever been bored at night and you're not hungry but find yourself just opening the fridge and closing it.. and opening it.. and closing it.. out of habit?

Do you ever prepare dinner and find yourself having difficulty not munching on something while you cook?

Have you ever just wanted something.. regardless of what it is.. just something needs to go from your hand to your mouth NOW?

Have you ever wanted something to tide you over until your next meal or snack but didn't want it to be calorie costly?

Do you like to crunch?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I highly recommend you keep mini cucumbers in your fridge at all times. They are the perfect solution to all of the above siutations. Just grab one and eat it whole like a pickle. Have one, have two, have three... mini cucumbers are basically crunchy water. Eat up. YUM!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Eat pizza, lose weight.

I found you! Hurray! Yesterday, I made a trip down to Th Big Carrot on the Danforth to check out the merchandise. And boy am I glad I did. I was reunited with A.C LaRocco. My long lost bestie. We found each other. "A.C, I've missed you!!!" Okay obviously it isn't A.C the person I'm referring to..better.. A.C the super-awesome, healthy pizza!

A.C. LaRocco Pizza is hands down my favorite frozen pizza and the only one in fact that I recommend for healthy eating when watching your waistline. Why? Well duh.. because you can eat the whole thing and feel good about it. Most frozen pizzas have upwards of 1000 calories - way too many for one meal. And moreover, we all know it's virtually impossible to only have a little quarter - it ain't gonna happen. Enter A.C LaRocco into your life.

The bruschetta style pizza has 340 calories for the whole thing, and the ratio of carbs, protein, and fat is actually quite good. If you're following U Weight Loss meal plans where you need specific ratios of protein, carbs, and fat, you'll need to up the protein a bit. Opt for a piece of grilled fish or chicken breast on the side of half the pizza.

As you can see above, this meal has 306 calories, 11 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs, and 28 grams of protein. 

Or have the whole pizza with 4 slices Canadian Bacon, like Maple Leaf brand. 

This meal has 420 calories, 18 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbs, and 33 grams of protein.

So how does A.C LaRocco do it? How does it keep the count so low for their ultra thin crust pizzas? They use sprouted whole wheat berries and whole wheat flour. And, they use part skim cheese.

This pizza is hard to find. Like I said, I haven't seen if for a while. But if you go to their website, there's a store locator. I think it can be found at Noah's, Big Carrot, and Whole Foods (sometimes) in Ontario. And.. you have to be sure to buy the Ultra Thin crusted ones (the Bruschetta style pizza and the Old World Veggie.

**Even if you never try this pizza, I still recommend you use the logic. In other words, it's often helpful to think of worst case scenarios.. i.e. what if I eat the whole pizza/whole box/whole bag, how many calories is it? People have trouble stopping midway and this is why 100 calorie snack sizes portioned items are such good sellers. You get to eat the whole thing. If they sold them as 200 calorie snack sized packages and told you to eat half.. yah right! Always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Hope you eat half, but plan for eating the whole thing. With A.C LaRocco pizza, even if you hope to eat half but end up eating the whole thing, it's not that bad.. and won't derail your efforts; whereas with other frozen pizzas, you'll be set back hundreds of calories for the 'oops, the rest just fell in my mouth' mistake.