February 26, 2007

Just one Tuesday burger equals 5 Big Macs

CNN went to Ruby Tuesday's and Uno Chicago Grill and -- surprise, surprise -- found outrageous portions. Even bigger than you can imagine. How about one burger that has the same amount of calories and fat as 5 Big Macs.

Or an appetizer of potato skins that has the same calories as 3 pizzas plus 3 pats of butter.

Both restaurants defend its menus, and both say it's "impractical" to expect nutritional information to be posted on its menus. "Impractical", or is it determential to its profits? Extreme portions lead to extreme profits in the restaurant business. While Americans get fatter, so do the pockets of mega-chain CEOs.

View the CNN report.

February 25, 2007

February 24, 2007

NOT eating trans fats might kill you!

How could not eating trans fats kill you?

For the past several years -- and now it's heated up with various banishments -- nutritionists have screamed, loud and clear, that trans fats are our biggest diet problem.


The entire debate about trans fats have taken our "eyes off the prize". Trans fats are bad, but just a tiny, tiny part of the problem. Most restaurants and food companies are simply substituting one bad fat for another big, bad fat. Supersized non-trans-fat french fries are still not going to be any better for you. And that's what is going to kill you. By removing trans fats, most Americans are going to think it's OK to eat more french fries, and fried chicken and gooey, extra-large muffins. And that's how not eating trans fats might kill you.

USA Today
points out some companies have removed trans fats, but added more calories and saturated fat to the product.

Kraft Foods has reportedly removed trans fats from Oreos, but in the process added 33% more saturated fat. (You can bet that McDonald's is not taking this opportunity to make its fried food any better.)

Today, trans fats account for less than 2.6% of the calories in Americans' diets. But saturated fats make up about 12%. So, RightSizing the problem means eating less fats...all of the fats, including trans fats, animal fats, even too much, olive oil fat can't be good for you. Trans fats have been "overemphasized when you consider the big picture," says Shelley Goldberg of the International Food Information Council. "My concern is as a registered dietitian is that with all this focus on trans fats, there's not enough focus on an overall healthful diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, as well as fish and vegetable oils."

Sheila Weiss of the National Restaurants Association, a trade organization, said, "We want to make sure we are moving toward a healthy alternative and not just getting a quick fix."

Goldberg worries that "if we make these changes too quickly, we may put something else in that we don't know the long-term effects of, and it might be worse."

Goldberg's concerns are coming true. Kraft could have figured out a way to make Oreos just a little more healthy, but instead, they now have added 33% more saturated fat. That's just one food, how many other foods are going to get worse for us?

February 21, 2007

Empires are not built on small portions (but large portions may topple empires)

When we Americans go overseas we can't help but feel sorry for the people that have so little to eat. Then again, maybe, we shouldn't feel too sorry. Martin Booe spent a little time in France and wrote about how small the portions are there. Here's Martin -- with his tongue in his cheek -- and his article from Epicurious.com.

Sometimes, being an ambassador of goodwill — and a food writer — is a tough job. There I was, in a café in the Provençal village of Fayence, when I spied a poor little French boy nibbling at a croissant. I felt sorry for him so I gave him a euro.

"Pourquoi?" he asked in astonishment.

"Poor little French boy," I said. "I feel sorry for you. Your French croissants are so small. Come and visit me in the United States and I will treat you to a California croissant. They are as big as king-size feather pillows. It would take five of your dinky French croissants to make one of them."

"How do they taste?" inquired the impudent little devil.

"That is beside the point," I said. "Our California croissants are so big because our self-esteem is high. And our California cookies? They're as big as wagon wheels. They make your pathetic little petits fours look silly!"

"How do they taste?"

"Listen to me. That is beside the point. All over America, our food has gotten bigger and bigger. And so have Americans."

"Yes, they are very fat."

"No, that is the critical mass of their self-esteem you're seeing! And let me tell you something else. Our meals are bigger all the way around. I just had a meal at a one-star Michelin restaurant here in France! And what a rip-off it was. Seven courses and I didn't feel the least bit sick or overstuffed. So I had two more."

"Two more courses?"

"No, I had two more seven-course meals. You see, Americans have such abundant self-esteem that they're not happy unless they get enough food for three people. And you know, our plates are bigger too," I continued. "Your wimpy European plates are only nine inches in diameter. Ours are 11! Some are 13!"

"The Americans are gluttons!" the boy snarled.

"Listen," I said firmly. "Empires are not built on small portions. And if you French had decent size croissants, you might still have your empire! And if I had a big American croissant, I would use it to knock you upside your little head. Then I would eat that croissant with immense pride."

February 20, 2007

It's Fat Tuesday...and Fat Wednesday, and Fat Thursday, and Fat...

It's Fat Tuesday.

And for most Americans who eat at restaurants it's always Fat Tuesday and Fat Wednesday and Fat Thursday, and, well, you get the idea.

Today -- on the only day named for obesity -- Milwaukee's NBC Channel 4 looked at local restaurants to see how big the portions really were. In just one salad, they found more than a 1,000 calories and enough fat for the entire day...in a salad! How about lasagna that has 1,700 calories and two days worth of fat. And Chili's Awesome Blossom weighs in with 2,700 calories and three days worth of fat. (And, remember, the Blossom is just an appetizer.)

It seems it's always FAT Tuesday when you eat out.

Here's what they found when they picked up dinners from restaurants all around the Milwaukee area:

From the Cheesecake Factory... Jambalaya and a BBQ salad.

From Maggiano's Italian restaurant... lasagna.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine from the California Pizza Kitchen.

And a huge burrito from Pedro's in Brookfield.

We took our enormous lunches to SF Labs in West Allis to have them analyzed.

The initial response from our food scientist Mark Meuer: "Man this could feed a family of four."

When we asked him to guess the weight of a particularly large entree, he told us "That's over two pounds at least. You can see that, and then this is supposed to go with it too?"

As for our salad, he guessed we'd find plenty of fat hidden among the greens.

The BBQ Chicken salad weighed in at 1,100 calories, and two pounds. A full day's worth of fat too.

The jambalaya: 1,500 calories and 100% of your fat for the day.

Maggiano's lasagna... just like mom used to make? Maybe. If Mom served two pound slices with 1,700 calories and nearly two days worth of fat.

The pasta from California Pizza Kitchen is a relative lightweight, at 1,300 calories and 135% of your day's fat.

But the big kahuna: the aptly-named three pound burrito from Pedro's. Weighing in at 2,700 calories and two full days worth of fat in one meal.

So, you think, you'll just have an appetizer? Think again. Chili's famous Awesome Blossom has as many calories as the burrito: 2,700. And three days worth of fat!

Outback Aussie cheese fries? Better plan to share! 2,900 calories, and another three days worth of fat.

At this point, maybe you want to skip dinner and just have dessert. Just one piece of cookie dough cheesecake has 1,100 calories-- ouch-- and a little more fat than you need in the whole day.

"The bigger the portion the more we eat and the more we eat the bigger we get," dietitian Laurie Meyer points out.

February 17, 2007

Restaurant food "horrors"

Some foods are so bad for you, they qualify as a nutritionist's nightmare. They are nearly always the WrongSize as well.

Last year, WebMD asked several registered dietitians and other food experts to nominate their favorite "food horrors". Their submissions ranged from empty-calorie foods masquerading as nutritious, to outlandish concoctions that tip the scales with obscene amounts of fat and calories.

Here are the foods you find outside the home. If you find them, be very afraid!

1. Frightful Fried Foods

From a nutritional standpoint, some of the scariest foods are the deep-fat fried concoctions you can find at carnivals and state fairs.

Americans have tossed everything from turkeys to Twinkies in the fryer, but have you ever heard of deep-fried cola? Debuting at the Texas state fair -- and winning the creativity honor at the Big Tex Choice Awards contest -- was this deep-fried, Coca-Cola flavored batter, drizzled with cola fountain syrup, and topped with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and a cherry.

2. Scary Steakhouse Specialty

Nutritional nightmares are readily available at many of your favorite neighborhood restaurants. Christine Palumbo, RD, nominated the deep-fried onion appetizer popular at some chain steakhouses.

One such appetizer, Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion, has more than 800 calories, 58 grams of fat and 22 grams of saturated fat, plus 1,520 milligrams of sodium. These numbers don't include the dipping sauce, which is also loaded with fat, calories, and sodium.

3. Monstrously Misleading

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, a New York University nutrition professor and author of What to Eat, takes issue with not-very-nutritious foods that are labeled or advertised with healthy-sounding terms. She nominates "kids' fruit snacks that have no fruit whatsoever and are basically candy in disguise" as one potentially misleading food.

4. Big, Bigger, Biggest Burgers

There appears to be no end to the amount of calories and fat you can fit onto a bun.

Hardee's has the Monster Thickburger, boasting 1,420 calories, 107 grams
(g) of fat, 45 g of saturated fat, and 2,740 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
Carl's Jr. takes it a step further with the Double Six Burger, featuring two burger patties and three slices of cheese -- weighing in at 1,520 calories, 111 g fat, 47 g saturated fat, and 2,760 mg sodium.

Burger King is not far behind with its BK Stacker, loaded with four burgers, four slices of cheese, and 8 strips of bacon, coming in at 1,000 calories, 30 g saturated fat, and 1,800 mg sodium.

And the list doesn't end at fast-food chains. Ever hear of the "Hamdog"?
This culinary creation from the former Mulligan's Tavern near Atlanta starts with a hot dog padded with cheese and half pound of ground beef.
That's dropped in the fryer, then loaded onto a hoagie roll and topped with chili, bacon, onions and a fried egg. Mulligan's was also famous as the home of the "Luther Burger," a giant bacon cheeseburger with a Krispy Kreme doughnut for a bun.

Someone call the food police!

Of course, "most people know when they order one of these that it is not good for them," says Jayne Hurley, RD, senior nutritionist for the watchdog group, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

If you are thinking of your health, try ordering a plain burger with sauce on the side, along with a side salad.

The bottom line is that we should eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (equal to about 1 teaspoon). If you're salt-sensitive (that is, if your blood pressure is highly affected by salt), the number drops to 1,500 mg.

5. Appalling Appetizers

Dietitian Cynthia Sass, RD, nominated TGI Friday's "sizzling triple meat fundido -- a combination of cheese, pepperoni, bacon, and sausage served with breadsticks." While nutritional information for this appetizer was not available on the restaurant's web site, the fat-laden ingredients ensure that the fundido is a nutritional no-no.

6. Calorie-Laden Cakes

As if cheesecake were not high enough in fat and calories, the Cheesecake Factory adds chocolate candy, cookies, mousse, ganache, flourless chocolate cake crust, and other equally caloric extras to the rich dessert, says Jayne Hurley, RD. Even if you're just ordering a plain slice, cheesecake will set you back 630 calories.

Looking for a little nosh with your coffee? Starbucks Old Fashioned Crumb cake looks innocent enough, but that little square packs 670 calories.

7. Diet-Demolishing Drinks

The real problem with high-calorie drinks is that they go down easily, and don't tend to fill you up.

"Coffee drinks and smoothies don't set off bells and whistles to alert you to the calorie load," says Hurley. "Starbucks' white chocolate mocha is a Quarter-Pounder in a cup; any Frappuccino Blended Crème has 490-580 calories; and a venti Java Chip Frappuccino has the equivalent of 11 creamers and 20 packets of sugar.

To reduce the calories in your favorite coffee drink, order a small size, make it "skinny" (with low fat milk), and skip the whipped cream.

8. Mammoth Mall Munchies

Most people know when they order a gigantic burger that it is not good for them. But what really scares Hurley are the not-so-obviously fattening foods that people snack on at the mall.

"The highly aromatic cinnamon used in a Cinnabon (810 calories) or the smell of Mrs. Field's milk chocolate macadamia cookie (320 calories) tempts mall goers into thinking nothing of eating a snack that has half a day's calories or fat," she says.

Bring along a 100-calorie pack of crackers, some trail mix, or raw veggies to help you resist the tantalizing aromas of such high-calorie mall treats.

9. Dining-Out Diet Disasters

"Fifteen years ago, when I first started evaluating restaurant food, I was blown away by the 1,500 calories in a serving of Fettuccine Alfredo, but the trend has gotten worse, not better," says Hurley.

Fried macaroni and cheese and cheese fries were other nominees in the category of frightening foods found on restaurant menus.

10. Stupendous Servings

It's not just fast-food meals that have been super-sized in the last couple of decades.

"Muffins, bagels, salads, sandwiches, pasta servings -- almost everything is much larger today than it used to be or needs to be," says Hurley. "You can expect most restaurant appetizers, entrees, and desserts to each weigh in around 1,000 calories."

Here's a sure-fire way to start your day off on the wrong dietary foot:
the enormous omelet sandwich at Burger King. This fork-free meal is loaded with two slices of cheese, three slices of bacon, two eggs, and a sausage patty on a giant bun, totaling 730 calories and 47 g fat.

Do Food Horrors Really Matter?

Yes, dietitians say, there are some truly frightening foods out there.
But do they really matter to the average American's diet?

Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work, thinks that once a person indulges in a decadent dessert or monster burger, it triggers the "'I've already blown my diet, so why bother?" mentality.

Beyond that, May believes, the real horror may be the American mind-set about food.

"We were raised to clean our plates so we could be rewarded with dessert, which further enhances our desire to eat sweets and eat meals without recognition of fullness," she says.

Further, consider that many of the most frighteningly fattening foods are sold in restaurants. Americans now spend 48% of their food dollars in restaurants, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. And the most popular restaurant food eaten by both men and women is the hamburger, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Hurley thinks most people would think twice about ordering food and drinks that they realize are "hideously high in fat and calories." She'd like to see nutrition information about restaurant foods become more readily available, and believes this would encourage restaurateurs to offer more healthful options.

"Let's give consumers the choice and educate them with the nutritional information of restaurant foods at the point of purchase, not the web site," she recommends.

February 15, 2007

Can you find healthy, good value food at chain restaurants?

In marketing fast-food restaurants, it's assumed that diners will associate larger portions with "value".

Michael Pollan tells the story in Omnivore's Dilemma, that David Wallerstein convinced Ray Kroc in 1968 to "supersize" portions, because Wallerstein knew most people don't want to be perceived as "piggish". Wallerstein demonstrated that the taboo against gluttony could be broken with larger portions for just a little more money. Kroc thought that if people wanted more, they just would order a second bag of fries. Kroc was wrong, and Wallerstein's dubious achievement, SuperSize, was born.

But could the tide be turning against SuperSize? Maybe the tide has turned into a tsunami!

A survey just released Monday found people don't believe chain restaurants give them value or healthy foods. Sandelman & Associates, a San Clemente, Calif.-based market research firm, looked at what people thought about 115 US-based chain restaurants.

On average only 30% of the surveyed diners thought they got value for their money at the chains. And only 23% of the people agree that the restaurants had healthy or nutritious food.

And people want healthy food for their money. Fully 43 percent of customers rated “availability of healthy/nutritious food” “extremely important” in their selection of a fast-food restaurant in 2006, up from 35 percent in 2001. In fact, it is the only attribute of 12 studied that posted increases for five consecutive years.

And 56% think it's extremely important to get value for the money.

Americans are trying to eat better; restaurants don't seem to be responding.

(Read the quarterly syndicated Quick-Track® research report here.)

Respondents provide an rating for selected chains they have patronized in the past three months on 12 key attributes that define a chain’s image, including food, service, cleanliness, convenience and value. A five-point rating scale is used, with “1” being “poor” and “5” being “excellent.”

Here are the percentages people responded as excellent for the restaurants in two categories.

Healthy/Nutritious Food
Importance 43.0%
Subway 54.9%
Submarina 50.8%
Panera/St. Louis Bread 47.9%

Value for the Money
Importance 56.0%
Chico's Tacos 64.4%
Little Caesars Pizza 58.3%
In-N-Out Burger 49.1%

February 14, 2007

Portion distortion: "You CAN'T have it your way"

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Americans' total daily caloric intakes are 148 calories higher than they were in 1980. This amount leads to a weight gain of 15 pounds every year. (See today's report from McClatchy Newspapers.)

Every year. And trend is going up.

Why? Portion distortion.

Saturday night, along with my family, I ate at the "Cookhouse", Connecticut's best BBQ. Well, you know BBQ not going to be portion-friendly, but I believe you can eat anything, just in the right portions. But restaurants continue to fight you.

My wife wanted pulled pork without the bread and without the french fries. She wanted a salad with the pulled pork. Sorry, the waiter said. Wait a minute, he didn't even say sorry. He simply said, " 'they' can't substitute salad for fries, and the pulled pork comes on a bun." It's $2.99 extra for the salad (iceberg lettuce with a little carrot and one slice of tomato). My 7-year-old son figured his options were grilled cheese sandwich and chicken fingers, and he went with the chicken.

I chose the mahi mahi and collard greens as a side.

We ate appropriate portions, but we were not served appropriate portions!

Let's see how much food was wasted, even though we tried to order "our way".

A bread basket of 3 cornbread muffins and 3 biscuits. My son ate two muffins and my wife and I shared one. My wife left the bun and most of the supersized french fries. And my son ate at most five french fries and left the rest of the 1/2 pound of potatoes.

Contrary to reports, people do not have portion distortion. Restaurants do.

February 11, 2007

Most chefs don't give a damn about calories!

When restaurant chefs consider portion size they don't think about calories at all. That's what a recent Pennsylvania State University research study found. Chefs said these factors strongly influence portion size: food presentation (70 percent), cost (65 percent) and customer expectations (52 percent). Only 16 percent said calories were a big influence.

So don't expect chefs to help out diners. In fact, while it may make diners happy to get piles of pasta and mountains of meat, they'll pay the price in pounds, said doctors at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society, where the survey was presented.

Chefs agreed that big servings encourage people to eat too much, but said it's up to the diner to decide how much to consume — and how much to take in a doggie bag.

"As you increase portion sizes or the variety of meals served, people are going to consume more calories," said Thomas Wadden, president of the Obesity Society.

"Most of the chefs thought they were serving regular-sized portions," the study said, but four out of five gave more than the recommended 2 ounces for pasta and 3 ounces for strip steak. If they were worried about competitor restaurants, they served more pasta and steak and used bigger plates, researchers found.

Portions are a touchy subject for many restaurants and some chains outright refused to discuss it.

But at Cheesecake Factory Inc., "we're known for our generous portions" and the value they offer, said Howard Gordon, a senior vice president of the chain whose signature dish is dozens of varieties of cheesecake.

One slice of cheesecake is almost 800 calories, which is 40% of your calories for the entire day. It also coats your heart with 150% of the daily recommended saturated fat.

"There is a 'wow' factor in the way that it looks," he said of the food. The chain doesn't provide information on calories and customers ask for it "very, very rarely," he said.

This is why we need to stop the portion poison in America. Don't you want your chef to at least think about calories when preparing your meal. It's only your life.

February 9, 2007

States get bad report cards

The University of Baltimore Obesity Initiative gave out report cards this week to the 50 states and graded each on how it is responding to the obesity health crisis. The news wasn't good. Just six states received A's. Nine states received D's and F's. These states are failing Americans and its children.

Idaho, Wyoming and Utah received Fs for taking no action -- that's zippo -- to combat obesity. Tennessee received an A, but that state is in dare need of some help. It has the 8th highest rate of obesity. Mississippi has the nation's highest rate of obesity. It received a C.

The Initiative looked at eight different types of legislation, some of which dealt with childhood obesity. Some of the things they looked at were:
  • controlling the types of food and drinks in schools
  • controlling the types of food in school's vending machines
  • mandatory physical education
  • establishing obesity education
The good news is that grass roots efforts are being taken by school boards and local governments to make eating away from home a healthier experience. But the work is far, far from done.

CNN reports we now spend (and it's us, as in taxpayers and higher insurance premiums) more than $130 billion on direct costs related to obesity. Indirect costs triple that to $390 billion.

February 8, 2007

On the Calif. menu: helping you choose the RightSize

When you order a Big Mac or a Whopper or Grand Slam breakfast, how can you determine what the calories are in each bite? Well, it’s not easy unless you have an internet connection right there. And in the case of some chain restaurants you must first email them, before you’ll get a response.

Now, a San Francisco lawmaker wants to make it easier for us to see what we are eating. Sen. Carole Migden has introduced legislation that would require chain restaurants to count calories and post them for each menu item.

“Californians need to know the calorie content of their meals,'' Migden said, "to make healthier decisions about the food they consume.''

The knee-jerk reaction from the restaurant industry was predictable: It’s unfair and it will cost us money. (Let’s see...McDonald’s had a profit of $3,000,000,000 during the past 12 months.)

Restaurants shouldn't take all the blame for America's expanding waistline, said Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association. He says the bill would add unfair costs to doing business -- "in the millions'' for the restaurant industry.

Condie said restaurants with fast-changing menus would bear the biggest costs in posting calorie content on menus and menu boards -- what you see above the counter at a McDonald's, for example -- as well as conducting nutritional analysis.

"Something has to be done about obesity, but the reality is that 81 percent of our meals are consumed at home,'' Condie said. "Information that people get at grocery stores isn't moving people to change their eating habits. If they don't engage in active lifestyles, that's their choice. It's easy to assign blame to the restaurant industry.''

Many fast-food chains make nutritional content available on posters, in leaflets and online, but this bill would force them to display that information more conspicuously.

"More and more people are getting their meals away from home,'' Ritchie said. "That makes it harder to know what's in your foods if you're not preparing it. This is not something everybody would use, but people will be surprised and shocked after they saw how much they're putting into their bodies.''

Migden cites studies that show children eat nearly twice as many calories when they eat at a restaurant than at home.

Would you change your eating habits, if you saw on the menu that chicken wings on a menu had more than a thousand calories on it. In the past, I loved the 99 Restaurant’s boneless chicken wings. Then I email the 99 and ask for a calorie chart. I was shocked to see that my beloved wings were the highest calorie item on the list. And here I thought chicken was good for me. I definitely changed my lifestyle based on that information. The CEO of the California Restaurant Association is definitely wrong. People will change their eating habits based on this information, and that’s what the restaurants are afraid of!

February 6, 2007

Let's burn the bread basket!

I went out to dinner with my wife, daughter and her boyfriend Saturday night. The waiter came around with fresh rolls, and asked each of us if we wanted one.

It was so easy to say no to this one offer. I enjoy the bread at Petite Syrah restaurant, but I decided my appropriate portions that night didn't include bread. Then my daughter made the economic observance regarding not putting a huge bread basket on the table, and just giving the three people at the table an appropriate portion. She said, it saves the restaurant money. How right she was.

What a great concept. One, it seemed very elegant to have the waiter walk around offering a small yeast roll or a slice of freshly baked olive bread. Two, it didn't violate "mindless eating" by having a big basket of bread on the table. And three, it saved the restaurant money.

I think I have found another perfectly portioned food, the hand-delivered slice of bread.

You have to admit that when one of those chain steakhouses flops down a whole loaf of bread, it's just the wrong portion to expect us to eat it all. And if we don't eat it all, it's wasted. And of course, if you don't eat it, well, it's included in your cost for the dinner, so you are paying for it any way.

Think about it the next time you are out. Wouldn't you prefer just one roll hand-delivered? If so, tell the restaurant.

February 5, 2007

To help Americans eat, look at the world

In order for us, Americans, to eat better, let's take a look at the best food traditions in the world.

The magazine Cooking Light came up with 5 of the World's healthiest food habits.

Healthy Habit #1
Eat Plenty of Produce and Whole Grains

Countries known for putting it into practice: China and Greece
Research finds that three servings or more a day of produce can lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. Harvard University's Nurses Health Study, for example, which examined almost 85,000 women over 12 to 14 years, found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables had a 20 percent lower risk for heart disease.

[Everyone knows that fruit -- not fruit drinks -- fills you up. But it's a rare restaurant that serves fruit for dessert.]

Healthy Habit #2
Savor Leisurely Dining
Countries known for putting it into practice: Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Japan
A meal in these countries often lasts several hours. In fact, one of Greece's dietary guidelines, its version of our usda dietary guidelines, is to "eat slowly, preferably at regular times of the day, and in a pleasant environment." Sharing a meal is so important that Greeks call someone a friend "by saying we have shared bread together."

[If only we had the time. It's probably rare for a family to eat a nice leisurely dinner together. So when we find the time at a restaurant, it's even more important that they serve us appropriate portions. See habit #3.]

Healthy Habit #3
Practice Portion Control

Countries known for putting it into practice: France, Japan
We have an abundance of delicious and nutritious food available in America; we just need to pay attention to portions. An average meal in France is 25 percent smaller than one in America, according to a 2003 University of Pennsylvania comparison, which examined portion sizes at 11 similar pairs of establishments, from pizza parlors to ethnic restaurants. The study also found that a typical carton of yogurt sold in Philadelphia was 82 percent larger than one offered in Paris, and a soft drink was 52 percent larger. In Japan, foods also come in smaller sizes and are often eaten out of bowls, rather than large plates or platters.

[Do I need to say more?]

Healthy Habit #4
Eat a Variety of Unprocessed, Fresh Foods
Countries known for putting it into practice: Italy, France, Greece, Japan, the United States
Shopping in countries such as France and Italy may also involve several stops—at the butcher, the greengrocer, and the baker—which not only increases the shopper's activity level, but also results in meals made with unprocessed ingredients. Studies show that fresh foods provide more fiber; fewer calories, saturated fats, and trans fats; and less added salt and sugar.

Healthy Habit #5
Spice Up Your Plate
Countries known for putting it into practice: India, China, Thailand, the United States
Herbs and spices add delicious, attractive, and healthful flair to your plate. In addition to being low in calories and virtually fat free, researchers are discovering that herbs, such as garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and spices, like cinnamon, cloves, and curcumin (also known as turmeric), may fight disease.

[I spice up my plate, because it makes appropriate portions more tasty and inviting.]

February 2, 2007

Everything is Super on Sunday, including our stomachs

America loves food...and football. We prove it each year around this time, by eating our way through four quarters of Super Bowl football, 50 commercials and 3 million pizzas. That's right, 3 million pizzas.

According to the book, "Mindless Eating", the Super Bowl ranks #1 in home parties and #2 in food consumption (right behind Thanksgiving). We also eat 4 thousand tons of popcorn, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.

Hungry Super Bowl snackers will chow down on a total of 30 million pounds of food, with 4 million pounds of fat. Per individual, that's about 1,200 calories with 50 grams of fat from snacks alone, the Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association says.

By kickoff most people will be in a guacamole stuper.

Robin Steagall, a dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, recommends building a pre-game strategy.

When you arrive at the party, navigate the food table carefully, looking for healthy fruit or vegetable platters. And while Andrews admits plain raw things might not be the most appetizing, he suggests spicing them up with a healthy protein dip, such as a bean or hummus spread.

If there won't be healthy options at the party, bring your own, Andrews says. The host will love that you contributed something, and you know you'll have a something besides grease-laden food.

Andrews emphasizes that if you have good nutrition day in and day out, there is nothing wrong with indulging on the traditional Super Bowl foods. Just watch your portions so you don't overdo it.

"Go eat and enjoy it. ... Eat what you want and get back on track ... the next day," he says.

Hey, I'm just like the next guy. I love love and football. But I'm not having inappropriate portions of pizza and chips. I'm fixing my famous Cincinnati Chili and substituting ground turkey for ground beef. [Here's one recipe; I like the Joy of Cooking's.]
What I have found that helps me keep my portions reasonable is lots of flavor from my spices. And Cincinnati Chili has a rich heritage of Far East spices. No one believes how good it is with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cumin, and unsweetened chocolate. We serve it 4 Way.

For those not from Southern Ohio, 4 Way is chili served over spaghetti topped with a little cheddar cheese, chopped onions and a few cooked red kidney beans. I skip the Oyster crackers which would make it 5-Way Chili.

Make it a super day, not super portions.

February 1, 2007

There is at least one celebrity against obesity

Just after I posted my latest entry, Star Wars: Anorexia vs obesity; thin beats fat, Thursday, I sat down to read the Wall Street Journal. And right there on page D7, is the headline, "Shek, a Massive Beast, Stars In Campaign Against Obesity". For a change, the government is thinking like me. That's scary.

So to make sure I give credit where credit is due here's the news release:
Shrek Flip-flops in Obesity Fight
Animated Ogre Who Shilled for Sugary Cereal Will Serve as Spokesman for Healthy Living

By Ira Teinowitz

Published: January 30, 2007

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Shrek is switching sides in the kids' obesity fight.

None other than DreamWorks Animation's green ogre -- whose promotional efforts for a sugary General Mills cereal named in his honor were pummeled by Sen. Tom Harkin ("We got rid of Joe Camel. We've got to get rid of Shrek," the Iowa Democrat said in a press conference) -- is becoming a spokesman for good health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Ad Council are hosting a press conference Thursday to announce that Shrek will be a featured addition to their Small Step obesity-prevention campaign, which encourages children and families to lead healthy lifestyles. PSAs from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, are expected to feature Shrek and his sidekicks, including the donkey voiced by Eddie Murphy in the films. (Shrek is voiced by comedian Mike Myers.)

Other Shrek promotions

The switch comes as McDonald's and Mars ready promotions tied to the May release of "Shrek 3." Mars will offer a Snickers candy bar featuring green "Shrek filling" and "ogre-sized" peanut-butter M&M's. McDonald's in July 2005 announced a two-year marketing and promotional relationship with DreamWorks that begins with the new movie. McDonald's has said it will use Shrek to promote more-healthful offerings such as Apple Dippers.

Growing controversy over the marketing of unhealthful food products to kids prompted the Walt Disney Co. in October to announce it would rein in its licensing efforts, including those of DreamWorks rival Pixar.

Disney unveiled new licensing guidelines that limit most of its characters to foods low in total fat, saturated fat and sugar. Disney also moved to make fast food in its parks more healthful.

Small Step campaign

The Ad Council's Small Step public-service campaign began in 2003 and focuses on fitness, nutrition and disease prevention. The first ads from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson were aimed at adults; a second "Can your foods do that?" campaign aimed at kids launched late in 2005.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, DreamWorks Chairman Roger Enrico and Ad Council President-CEO Peggy Conlon will unveil the Shrek ads in Washington, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Star Wars: Anorexia vs obesity; thin beats fat

I see all the celebrities talking about anorexia on TV, the news shows, the morning shows, the red carpet; but I don't see anyone talking about obesity. Is the O-word, an obscene term in Hollywood? Well, we know the A-word isn't. Just take a look at how everyone is outraged by the thinness of supermodels.

Reading newspapers, magazines, and blogs you would have thought anorexia had replaced heart disease as the #1 killer in America. It seems that every celebrity has something to say. Tyra Banks, Dr. Phil, Paula Zahn, Katharine McPhee, all have come out against anorexia recently.

In fact at the end of this month is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Anorexia nervosa kills between 100-950 people a year, that's the same as lightning or accidental discharge of guns. That is horrible. But no more horrible than obesity.

Obesity kills between 100,000-365,000 people a year, and costs about $130 billion in direct medical care. (How many it kills is a huge political and scientific issue.) There's little doubt however that the rate is rising, as is heart disease and diabetes.

Why is it OK to talk about anexoria? However, I've never seen a celebrity on the red carpet come out against huge food portions and obesity. And it would be so easy. They don't have to endorse a particular diet program, or diet food, or tell people that obesity doesn't look good. They don't have to endorse gastric bypass. All they have to do is tell people to eat appropriate portions, and ask restaurants to serve the RightSize.

Of course we know the answer why. No celebrity wants to be associated with obesity. Who wants to be the poster boy or girl for that addiction. Even former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee -- who lost more than 100 pounds, and promotes appropriate food portions and exercise -- didn't mention that topic on "Meet the Press" last week. Too bad. He had probably the biggest audience in America he'll ever have. What a good message he could have sent to Americans.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that we stop fighting anorexia, because more people are dying of obesity. But because hundreds of thousands are dying, because our children are getting diseases and illnesses, and because it's the right thing to do, I am advocating we do something about food portions in America.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said, "We can't afford to be complacent about the epidemic of obesity." Note, she's chief of preventive medicine. Obesity is one of the few completely preventable diseases. Unfortunately, nearly everyone thinks you are the problem, not the government, not farmers, not restaurants, not Kraft or Nabisco or the beef industry. It's only our problem.

Let's share the blame, and the solutions. Let's have a Star War against inappropriate portions. Maybe Jubba the Hut could be the spokes...alien.