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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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mynetdiary.. A great free site to help with weight loss

My new favorite site: It's also an app for IPAD and IPHONE. And it rocks. Here's why:

1. Depending on your weight loss goal, it estimates how many calories you should be eating daily calculated based on your height, weight, and activity level.

2. It then provides you with an easy online food diary whereby you enter the foods you eat and it tracks your calories, fat, carbs, and protein levels.

3. The diary is super easy to use because almost any food you can think of is already loaded into the database. For the ones that aren't, you can enter them yourself (I've entered most of my favorite foods into the database).

4. Ummm. It's free. You go to and sign up, entering a username and password. Done.

Here's how it looks in pictures:
Here's an example. For a 140 lb woman, lightly active, who is 5"4 who wants to lose 20 lbs by Mar 1 (4 months from now), she'd have to eat 1331 calories per day, which would result in 1.5 lbs loss per week. Remeber, it's your goal. If you want to lose a pound of week, set it up as such. If you want to lose 2 lbs, per week, go ahead. I don't recommend more than 2 lbs per week though.. slow and steady wins the race to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

Next, you hit food and your food diary appears:

Now's the fun part. Start typing the food you ate and you'll see that it's probably there. It can be frustrating in the beginning to find the food that best matches, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. The database is huge. Almost all foods can be found. And the ones that aren't there, you can enter into the database yourself. I'll show you how in a minute. First, let's enter one of my fave breakfasts when I'm in a rush (I also have this as a bedtime snack sometimes **I'll often have egg white poppers on the side to up the protein content ** see my first blog entry for recipe):

As you can see, I've entered Nature's Path Kamut Puffs cereal (1 cup) which has 50 calories; 3 tbsp blueberries which has 15 calories; and 1/2 cup Blue Diamond Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk which has 20 calories. So, this meal has a total of 85 calories (pretty good hey.. considering most cereals have double that before you even add the milk..)

Let's say, you can't find the food you ate. No prob. You just enter it yourself. You click new food and then you enter the nutritional info for the food and voila, it's in the site for everyone to benefit from. As you'll see, I've added a lot of my favorite foods recommended in The Rebel Diet so they should be easy to find.

This is a really helpful and user-friendly program/app. It can really help you keep track of what you're eating and may help reveal certain problems in your diet (i.e. too many unaccounted for calories or too little protein or too many carbs, for example). You may realize that you're eating nutritiously but consuming way more calories than you think; or maybe your ratio is all off and you're eating way too little protein and this is throwing off your hormonal balance. I'd recommend you play with the program and experiment. You have nothing to lose. Well... maybe a few pounds. Ha ha ha.

Have fun!

p.s. Thank you to one of my patients who introduced me to this program. Very cool.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eclectic eating..

Alright, so in this post I'm going to suggest Kraft Dinner. Yes, good ol' KD. But.. I'm going to mix it with some other ingredients to design an overall healthy, delicious meal. No longer is the art of mixing and matching high end with low just for fashion and design. I mean it's not fair. If the best stylists and interior designers can do the 'H&M with Lanvin' thing with praise, so to can the best diet foodies. A few mass produced items won't ruin a look, nor a palate, nor a healthy body and trim waistline.

K, so here are a few of my fave things to do with KD:

KD with Shirataki:

Here are the two ingredients I start with. One microwavable KD Original (I like the microwavable because it's portion controlled and so easy to grab on the go). One bag House Foods Tofu Shiritaki Noodles (I buy at Whole Foods or Longos/Grocery Gateway or

* If anybody has read my last book, The Rebel Diet, you know I LUV shirataki noodles. They're awesome. A whole bag of House Foods Tofu Shirataki noodles has only 40 calories and is basically carb free, consisting of protein, water, and fiber. It keeps you full for virtually no calories and it can take the place of pasta in any recipe*

 I make the KD according to instructions. Remove lid, put cheese packet to the side, add water to fill line, nuke for 3.5 minutes.

While this is in the microwave, I make shirataki. I cut open the bag, dump the noodles into a strainer and rinse with warm water. Done. Then I pat them dry and cut them because they're really long.

This is how you rinse the noodles. You should rinse them for a minute or so tossing so that by the end the noodles basically taste and smell like nothing so that they'll take on the taste of any dish you put them with.


When the KD is ready and the noodles are washed, you simply add the cheese packet (I only use half) to the KD and then mix the two sets of noodles together...

And Voila!

This bowl of pasta is quite big so it's filling, yet it has only 260 calories! To up the protein content, mix in half can of tuna (total now is 320 calories). It's delicious. Or enjoy a piece of fish or chicken on the side.
When I'm in a rush, I let KD be the the H&M of my Whole Foods world.

In my books, I often suggest a lot of fresh and high quality food products. But I'm no snob. I think it's important to learn how to make cheaper, easier foods work for your health and diet as well. I'd way rather someone grab this on the go than a fast food burger and fries citing no time to cook as the excuse.. (although burger and fries sounds good too.. future post.. healthy twist but of course..)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kickstart Breakfast - Cheesy Egg Muffins and Toast.. Delish!

There's no doubt that egg whites are a super food when it comes to weight loss. Ask any bodybuilder trying to lean out to virtually no body fat before a show.. egg whites are a diet staple. They're basically a combo of protein and water, which means they fill you up and keep you full for hours for very few calories. Further, the high protein content keeps your metabolism nice and revved. FYI: Typically in an egg, the yolk has the fat (about 60 calories worth) and the whites have the protein (about 20 calories).

When trying to lose weight, protein is essential and I see so many clients who are eating few calories yet not losing weight and often it's because the ratio of protein is simply too low. Adding egg whites to the diet is often a simple fix that can really help. But.. who wants to constantly be cooking omelets or harboiling eggs.. no one.. too much effort. So here's a simple solution. Make Egg Muffins in the microwave.

 * This muffin tray is awesome. I bought it fom Loblaws.. silicone.. so it's floppy and goes in microwave and then I just throw it in the dishwasher to clean.

* Spray muffin pan with Pam cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup liquid egg whites into each. Add 1 tbsp shredded Part Skim mozza/cheddar cheese into each. Add salt, pepper, spices to taste.

* Put in microwave for 5 minutes. Done!

Here's how cheesy egg white muffins come out. Delicious! I put two of these on a bed of spinach and voila.. a high protein, low calorie snack. I keep them in the fridge and grab one on the go. They're great to pack for work.

Kickstart Breakfast Idea (280 calories; approximately 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbs):

Have 2 of these cheesy egg white muffins with 2 slices of low calorie Weight Watchers Wheat bread (or any thin sliced lower calorie bread) toasted and topped with 2 tsp of any lower calorie butter or non hydrogenated margarine (some of my faves are light Becel or PC Celeb or Gay Lea Light Spreadables). Enjoy with a tbsp of ketchup.

This is a great and easy breakfast or lunch on the go that will keep you full and satisfied and it's cheap and easy so no excuses!!

Ingredients Recap:

- Liquid Egg Whites
- Park Skim shredded cheese
- Cooking spray
- salt, pepper
- Ketchup
- Thin sliced bread like Weight Watchers
- Reduced calorie margerine or butter