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Posted on Friday, 19 December 2014, 11:10 PM

The winter holidays tend to bring an increase in social gatherings and liquid calories. Whether it is from an alcoholic or coffee beverage these indulgences can add up quickly. The good news is information is power, so before you make your next decision on what to drink, always investigate. Here is quick list of some holiday favorites to get you started.



Sugars  (grams)

Starbucks - chestnut praline latte - grande - 16oz

~ 330 calories

~ 39 grams

Red wine - all varieties - 5oz

~ 120 calories

~ 1 gram

Beer - lager - 12oz

~ 150 calories

~ 0 grams

Hot Cocoa w/milk - 8oz

~ 150 calories

~ 28 grams

Second cup - candy cane latte - 16 oz

~ 420 calories

~ 55 grams

Cola - 12 oz.

~ 140 calories

~ 40 grams

Mcdonalds - peppermint mocha - 14.5oz

~ 310 calories

~ 42 grams

Apple cider - 8 oz

~ 120 calories

~ 27 grams

Eggnog - 8 oz w/p alcohol

~ 340 calories

~ 21 grams

* 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp.

Posted on Thursday, 20 November 2014, 4:15 PM


Most likely the first of many recommendations for weight managment is always to reduce liquid calories. So why do healthcare professionals continue to target drinks as the first step in calorie reduction when there are many foods that are higher in calories, sodium and fat?

Before I address this question, I think it is important to highlight how many calories and grams of sugar are hiding in your favorite beverages.

Here are some examples:




1 can of cola



1 medium latté (without whip)



1 cup (250ml) orange juice



1 cup (250ml) chocolate milk



1 bottle Gatorade



1 energy drink



4oz wine



1 bottle of regular beer




As you can see, these commonly consumed beverages contain a tremendous amount of calories and sugar, which can add up very quickly throughout the day.

The major concern with drinking your calories, versus eating them, is that liquids do not have the same effect on satiety or fullness as solids. Research has shown that when people eat their calories, they naturally compensate by reducing the rest of their food intake for the day. Alternatively, when people drink liquid calories, they do not compensate by eating fewer calories. Therefore, the beverages you have throughout the day will likely be extra calories on top of the food you are consuming.

To put this into perspective, let’s imagine you had a glass of orange juice with breakfast, a latté mid-morning, chocolate milk at lunch, a pop mid-afternoon and a beer with your dinner à that is a total of 698 calories and 89 grams of sugar!!!! If you were to consume these drinks every day for a year, that would equal 254770 calories, or 73 (theoretical) pounds!!

The good news is that since liquid calories don’t contribute to a sense of fullness, decreasing them shouldn’t result in feelings of hunger. What can you drink instead? Tap water should be your go to drink as it is a calorie, sugar and cost free beverage. If you do feel like having a sweet drink, try one that is artificially sweetened. These drinks are calorie and sugar free, regulated by Health Canada, and scientifically proven to be safe in the quantities that we would normally consume them*.

All of this is not to say that you can never have your favorite sweetened drinks again, just that you should be mindful of how much and how often you are having them.  At the end of the day, if you’re trying to lose weight, eat your calories, don’t drink them. 


*Products that are not safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding are: SugarTwin® (Cyclamate), Sweet’N Low® (Saccharin, Hermesetas®)


Posted on Wednesday, 5 November 2014, 11:30 PM

If you are an avid reader of BMI’s blog then you already know that a famous Starbucks’ Grande (medium) pumpkin spiced latte has a whopping 380 calories and 49g sugar. I’m sure this must have been quite a shocking and disappointing post for those of you (like me!) who look forward to the comforting sensation you feel from a warm latte on a crisp fall day.

Here is a homemade alternative that will not only save you the calories but also cash.

 Ingredients (1 serving)

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) brewed coffee
  • ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (can also use cow’s milk or vanilla soy milk)
  • 3 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tsp sweetener of choice (I use splenda)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon


  1. In a cup or sauce pan, mix together almond milk and pumpkin. Cook on medium heat on the stove top or microwave for 30-45 seconds.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, spices and sweetener, place in a cup and use a frother to foam the milk. If you don’t have a frother you can also use a blender - just process for 30 seconds or until foamy.
  3. Pour coffee into a large mug, add the foamy milk mixture on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!


Nutrition Info

Calories ~50
Protein ~1g
Carbs ~5g
Fibre ~2g

Emily Spencer RD

Posted on Thursday, 30 October 2014, 6:30 PM

A few neat alternative ideas to ease the overflow and excess of candy on halloween.

  1. Check out this excellent campaign which is getting kids out to collect donations for the food bank instead of collecting candy.

    • The campaign has three organizations in Ottawa to join, as well as many others around the country. Below are the organization you can link with in Ottawa who have already joined the program.

      • Cusa Food Centre

      • Ottawa Vanier Young liberals

      • Student Federation of the University of Ottawa

    • Check out the website here for more info.

    • Tweet to raise awareness with the hashtag #trickoreat


“Trick or Eat® is a youth-led national event that puts a new spin on the annual night of giving – Halloween. Instead of candy, thousands of Trick or Eaters across the country raise money online and go door to door to collect non-perishable food items for local food agencies. We also raise awareness about hunger in Canada through household flyers, educational materials and online resources.”

2. Try alternative homemade treats. Making homemade treats will undoubtedly increase the quality of the ingredients eaten and can also significantly reduce the calories per treat.  Given that halloween is not a one day event anymore, these can provide some respite from the added sugar onslaught.

  • Banana Ghosts!

  • Orange (literally) pumpkins

  • Ghost eggs

  • Cheese bats

Posted on Thursday, 23 October 2014, 2:55 PM

Certainly not blatant deception as it is a chocolate pecan square, but one that caught yours truly off guard.  I often hit Bridgehead for a weekend mid morning cappuccino or espresso accompanied with a treat.  My treat is usually their small (~2.5 square inches) chocolate pecan square.  In the past I checked for nutrition info and didn’t find it, so simply forgot about it, but decided to check again this past weekend and was happy to see that they started to post nutrition info online (only a handful of items right now). Well, to my surprise this “little” treat was nearly 600 calories per serving, I knew it was indulgent but would have never guessed that much so, especially given the size of it.  I wanted to share this story to show that yes even Dietitians get duped sometimes, and it is always good practice to: 1) check routinely for nutrition info &  2) overestimate (by minimum 30% more calories guesstimated) food eaten out if you don’t know the nutrition info. I would love to see Bridgehead label all their items with nutrition/ingredient info :)


Bridgehead Chocolate Pecan Square

551 Calories

28g Fat

75g Carbs  (from mostly sugar)

6g Protein


Rob Lazzinnaro, RD

Posted on Wednesday, 15 October 2014, 12:00 PM

I did my weekly menu planning, prepared my grocery list, hit the gym after work and am now heading into the grocery store. I haven’t eaten since my last snack at work and guess what? I’m starving!

No big deal. I can still stick to my list, right?

Wrong….I end up wandering down the snack aisle and grabbing 4 different items that weren’t on the list. Not only were these foods not on my list but they were also “choose less often” foods that I previously decided I wouldn’t keep in the house.  Jeeze, don’t I have enough will power to resist these foods?!

 If this has happened to you, you’re not alone – and it is NOT about willpower. Research out of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab has shown that people who grocery shop when they’re hungry have a much higher likelihood to overspend, stray from their list and choose high calorie foods than people who had a snack or meal pre-grocery outing. It is a natural reaction for you to gravitate towards high calorie food when you’re hungry because your body kicks into survival mode and wants quick energy.

Sure, you think, but what about the days when you didn’t plan to be without food for a lengthy period of time and life got in the way of your daily food planning? The answer lies in having a car survival kit for days when you are on the go and didn’t have time to plan your snacks. I would recommend keeping this kit in the trunk so it is not within arm’s reach every time you get into your car.

What kind of foods should you include in your kit?

  • Nuts (any kind will do – unsalted are best)
  • Protein bars
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Water – to wash it down!

Sometimes it’s the small changes that can produce great results!

Emily Spencer, RD