Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced that they will introduce legislation requiring large chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. This is a good start, as most are unaware of how many calories their favourite restaurant meal contains. However, stating that a meal contains 800 calories is pretty much meaningless without knowing that the average male needs 2000-2500 calories per day and females require 1400-1800. It’s like saying that sweater you want costs $300.00 without knowing how much money you have to spend. If it results in one choosing something with fewer calories, that is wonderful. But the research is clear: calorie information alone doesn’t result in people changing what they order.
Displaying how long it would take to burn those calories via exercise appears to result in fewer calories consumed according to this study. As the authors state: it was “eye-opening” for study participants to learn that two hours of brisk walking is required to burn off a quarter-pounder. Returning to the sweater analogy, realizing that you would have to work for x number of hours in order to earn enough to pay for the sweater is far more meaningful than simply looking at the price tag.
As Dr. Sharma points out in his post on the same subject, a calorie literacy campaign may well be in order. I agree wholeheartedly as without meaningful context, the information will not be nearly as effective as the government and health officials hope.
After reading that McDonald’s will now offer salads, fruit & vegetables as meal side options instead of French fries some may be singing their praises, but I’m not one of them. The reason is simple: adding something that may appear healthy to an otherwise unhealthy meal does not make it magically better if the overall meal is still full of highly processed food that has little nutritional value. It’s like having a diet soda instead of a regular one with your greasy burger and salty fries. Sure, it’s fewer calories, but the meal as a whole is still bad for you.
McDonald’s also has a way of taking healthy items and turning them into junk e.g. offering caramel sauce as a dip for their apples or offering oatmeal with 8 tsp of added sugar. This doesn’t leave me very hopeful for future fruit and vegetable menu items.
If you examine McDonald’s Canada current side salad offerings, you’ll see that their Caesar (w/o dressing) has 120 calories and 350mg of sodium/serving. Add regular Caesar dressing and the calories increase to 380 and the sodium to 650mg. Light Caesar dressing will result in a calorie total of 250 and 630mg of sodium. For comparison, a small order of fries contains 220 calories and 170 mg of sodium.
They do offer a side garden salad with a mere 40 calories and 60mg of sodium. But that’s without any dressing. And who eats salad without dressing? Even if I choose their lowest calorie choice (balsamic vinaigrette) you’re looking at a total of 150 calories and 460mg of sodium. So having a Caesar or garden salad with your burger will still result in a high number of calories and sodium. In fact, you’re better off getting a small order of fries instead of the Caesar salad.
But don’t the vegetables in the salad count? Not anymore than the ones on their various burgers do. And who honestly thinks their burgers are healthy simply because they have a tiny amount of vegetables as toppings?
Here’s another recipe from fellow BMI dietitian, Rob. Fennel is definitely healthy as it's full of vitamin C, fibre and potassium.
2 bulbs of Fennel
3 Tbsp. of olive oil
1/2 c of Parmigiano cheese
1. Turn the oven to 400 F.
2. Chop of the top of the fennel, leaving only the bulb, and slice lengthwise. Place into a baking dish.
3. Pour the olive oil over the fennel and use your hands to coat well.
4. Add a little black pepper and then sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese evenly over the fennel.
5. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Makes 4 servings.
Move over grapefruits and cabbage soup, there’s a new way to lose weight: eat mushrooms! More specifically, replace one meal a day with a mushroom-laden meal. It’s apparently working wonders for Kelly Osborne and Katy Perry. Yes, celebrities with their vast nutrition and health knowledge are showing us the way to true health and happiness. I wonder if they’d be interested in me giving them acting or vocal coaching. As an added bonus with the M-Plan, you’ll also be able to spot reduce fat (say goodbye to your belly fat). Who knew mushrooms were so magical? While mushrooms will give you some fibre and other nutrients - and you should eat them - neither they nor any other food will help you reduce fat from a specific area of your body. If you lose weight as a result of eating lots of mushrooms it’s because they are replacing higher calorie foods in your diet. Consider that 1 cup (70g) of sliced mushrooms contains only ~15 calories. So if you reduce one meal by a few hundred calories by having less meat and rice while loading up on mushrooms instead, unless you replace the calorie deficit created, you’ll lose weight over time. But in order for this to work, you need to a) like mushrooms and b) be able to stick to it forever and honestly, if you eat mushrooms every day there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get tired of them.
Take home points:
- no food will spot reduce fat
- eat mushrooms because you like them and because they are good for you
- lifestyle changes need to be sustainable
This story came across my Twitter feed earlier today and it got me a little miffed. According to a recently released report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we may have all been duped – breakfast may not play as big or any role for that matter in helping one control their weight as we’ve been led to believe. Indeed, it has been preached to the point where it’s become common knowledge amongst health professionals: those who eat breakfast are more likely to have better weight control compared to those who don’t. The idea is that if you don’t consume enough in the morning, you’ll over-eat later on as your body plays catch-up due to the lack of calories in the AM. These calories are also likely to come in the form of refined grains, sweets and salty snacks. As a result, you’re more likely to take in more calories than if you had eaten breakfast in the first place. But according to the authors of the report, the studies that yielded this message have been biased and only one was a randomly controlled trial (RCT) which helps to reduce bias yet it was very small and no additional RCTs have been done. So the evidence is weak at best.
Of course that doesn’t mean that breakfast doesn’t help, but rather that we don’t have well designed studies proving that it does. Well aside from the 78% of the folks in the National Weight Control Registry who report a daily breakfast. Those folks, and there are over 10,000 of them now, have lost on average 67.5lbs and kept them off for over 6 years.
Personally, in my experience working with hundreds of patients, almost all I’ve worked with have benefited from eating breakfast especially from a weight management standpoint. When their breakfast is optimized in terms of adequate calories and protein, they experience less hunger and subsequently consume fewer overall calories throughout the day.
And in case you need more reasons to eat breakfast, here are a few:
1) You’ll feel better – skipping breakfast can result in feeling hungry, tired and negatively affect your mental and physical functioning.
2) It’s an opportunity to eat healthy foods – such as dairy, eggs, whole grains, nuts fruits and vegetables.
3) It’s a chance to eat together as a family – family meals may be few and far between so why not take the opportunity to eat breakfast together. If your morning is rushed, try getting up twenty minutes earlier as eating together leads to a healthier functioning family, overall.
For healthy breakfast ideas, click here.
I’m often asked about various supplements and whether or not they are worth taking. So I’ve decided to post my responses via posts entitled “Should you take…” The information I present will be evidence-based and will hopefully prevent people from buying products they don’t need and could potentially harm them.
Up first: Garcinia Cambogia (also known as Gambooge, Pazham Puzhi, Bitter Kola, Malabar tamarind, (-)-Hydroxycitric acid, HCA, Hydroxycitric acid, Brindal Berry, Gorikapuli and is the main ingredient in the product Hydroxycut).
A client recently asked if they should take this to help optimize blood sugar control after hearing about it on a popular medical show. Since I didn’t know off the top of my head, I reviewed the evidence. Garcinia Cambogia is a small fruit that is most commonly used to make food taste better. It is also touted to help with weight loss, as a way to reduce appetite, help control blood lipids, as well as affect levels of estrogen and testosterone. As far as blood sugar goes, a study of 35 participants showed that when taken with another supplement (L-carnitine) a 4% increase in blood sugar and cholesterol was observed. This is a very small number of subjects making it difficult to extrapolate the results to the general population. In addition, we don’t know whether it was the garcinia cambogia, the L-carnitine or a combination of both that yielded the results. There is also no evidence that it helps manage blood lipids or levels of estrogen and testosterone. And while studies involving rats have shown promising results for both weight reduction and appetite cessation, the results have yet to be replicated in humans as we’re different from rats in many ways including how we produce fat. In addition, humans can drop out of a study before any measurable effects (e.g. on appetite) are seen, while rats can be studied indefinitely. They can continually be fed a supplement at any dose for any length of time whereby a human may feel ill and request to be removed from the research.
So, should you take Garcinia Cambogia? Evidence to date suggests that it’s nothing more than a waste of money (unless you’re a rat).