Monthly Archives: September 2015

Eat These Instead, Part 2

Lunch and snack time are one the biggest opportunities for making healthy choices.  Most people want something quick and convenient to eat at these times without having to think about the health impact on their decision.   You can still enjoy your soup and crackers, your cracker topper, your carbonated beverage and your chips and eat healthy!  Comparing similar foods will help you apply this knowledge to other similar foods.

Eat These Instead:  Health Valley Soups Over Campbell’s or Progresso

Campbel'ls soup Vs Health ValleyFirst of all when you compare any label you want to make sure you are looking at similar serving sizes. All these soups are based on 8 oz, even the Campbell’s because it is condensed.

One of the most important things to consider with canned soups is sodium. Canned soups tend to be really high in sodium and the USDA recommends people over 51, with diabetes or high blood pressure not exceed 1500 mg of sodium in a day.  Even though the Campbell’s soup says 25% less sodium than their other brands, their serving still contains 660 mg of sodium.  Most people would have that whole can for lunch, which means nearly 1700 mg of sodium – and that is supposed to be low!  Don’t think that Progresso is looking much better.  If someone were to eat a whole can of the Lentil soup, even with its respectable 320 calories, they still would be getting 1620 mg of sodium.  But if you look at the Health Valley, even eating the entire can or 2 servings, would still give you only 60 mg of sodium, 240 calories, 52 grams of carbs, a whopping 16 gms of fiber, and a respectable 18 gms of protein.

Eat These Instead:  Triscuits Thin Crisps Over Cheez-its or Ritz

healthy crackersEating crackers are a great opportunity to eat some heart healthy whole grains filled with fiber that will keep you fuller longer.  And there is evidence  that the fiber from whole grains improves insulin sensitivity for those who are insulin resistant (think metabolic syndrome or prediabetes).

Not all crackers are the same.  When choosing a cracker you want to look at the amount and type of fat per serving as well as the ingredients. The labels above consist of different serving sizes.  Since the size of the cracker is different the best way to examine the servings size is to look at the grams or weight of each serving.  The Triscuits and Cheez-Its servings are both 30 gms, while the Ritz label is based on 16 grams, essentially half of the weight of the other two per serving.  In fairness to the Triscuits and Cheez-Its the food nutrients on the Ritz need to be doubled in order to compare similar serving sizes.

With this is mind, 10 Ritz crackers will have 8 gms of total fat, with 2 coming from saturated fat making it equal to 27 Cheez-Its crackers.   While 15 of the Triscuits Thin Crisps only have 4.5 gms of total fat with only .5 gms coming from saturated fat.

Since crackers can be an opportunity to get a serving of whole grains, you need to look at the list of ingredients.  If the first words under the ingredients is the word “whole” or “100% whole”, then you know the cracker is made from the whole wheat berry – the bran, the germ and endosperm, in their proper proportion if it is processed in any way – cracked, rolled, etc.   Triscuits have the first word “whole” under ingredients while the others don’t at all (take my word for it).  Often times the packaging might say, “contains 12 whole grains” but not have the first word “whole” in the ingredients.  So 12 different grains may have been used but only part of those grains are contained in the food item, and usually mixed with white flour.  Because the Triscuits are made with whole grains, they also have more fiber – 3 gms per serving compared to none and 1 gm in the other crackers.

Eat These Instead:  Low-Fat Cheese over Full-Fat Cheese

Comparing Food Labels in Cheese

The biggest thing to be concerned about with any dairy, which includes cheese, is the heart clogging saturated fat content.  Even keeping cheese to low-fat, doesn’t mean you can eat all you want.  The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 5-6% of your daily calories come from saturated fat.  Based on a 2000 calorie diet that amounts to about 130 calories and if you divide that by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) that amounts to about 13 gms total per day.  That can easily add up if you are not careful and would be less if you were eating fewer calories.

When comparing full fat cheese to low-fat cheese you want to make sure you are looking at similar servings sizes.  Cabot’s label is based on a 28 gms serving, while Sargento’s label is based on 21 gms or one cheese stick.  So to be fair to Cabot, we would need to reduce the nutrient values by 25%.  Even after adjusting, you can still see that for the same gram weight, the Sargento cheese delivers 4.5 gms of total fat with 3 gms coming from saturated fat while the Cabot cheese delivers 7 gms of total fat with 5.5 gms coming from saturated fat.  With 13 gms being the recommended daily limit on saturated fats, (and that’s not including the saturated fat found in meat, crackers, chips, chocolate and other dairy), even one cheese stick gets you a quarter of the way there.  At least cheese sticks reduce temptation with the individually wrapped portions.  Personally, I eat hummus for the most part.  I love it and it has no saturated fat.  But I’ll save that topic for the next blog.

Drink These Instead:  Seltzer Over Soda

Seltzer bs CokeI know it is really hard to give up strong bubbly flavors.  For a long time I drank Diet Pepsi thinking it was much better for me than regular soda. Then I realized that all the chemicals in the diet soda were not really helping my body and there is evidence that diet soda can alter the gut microbes – probably those same microbes that enhance insulin sensitivity.  So what is a carbonated lover to do?  Switch to seltzer water.  Seltzer now comes with noncaloric natural flavors that satisfy that need for flavor with your bubbly.  It has zero sugar, no carbs, and no calories unlike a 12 oz serving of coke that has 55 gms of sugar making up the 55 gms of sugar-spiking carbs and 200 calories.  We all need a little pick me up at times, but why not get it from some ice coffee or better yet, a stretch and walk around the office instead.

Getting Healthy One Step At A Time

Becoming healthier doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It starts with gradually switching to healthier foods by looking at the labels of some of your favorite foods and slowly making better choices.  Choosing the recommended food item over the alternative will help reduce your daily consumption of sodium, saturated fat, unhealthy carbs and increase your dietary fiber.  No one is expecting perfect, but moving along the continuum of making healthier choices will pay you back in the future.


Eat This Instead

Trying to eat healthy can be a very confusing endeavor.  The packaging of many food products try to make the food item sound and look healthy, but when you get to the nutrition label and ingredients you can see how it’s easy to be fooled.  A cracker label might say it has whole grains in it but when you get to the back you see that the first ingredient is enriched wheat flour which means the wheat berry grain has been decimated and most of the good fiber and protein has been taken out.  Or you might think you are doing yourself a favor drinking 100% Florida orange juice as part of your breakfast but you are really getting quite a bit of sugar to start off your day.  And for many people this is at a time of day when they are the most insulin resistant- meaning their body can not handle that sugar as well.

Lets look at five common breakfast items and compare labels to demonstrate why you might choose one over the other.

Eat This Instead

Low Sodium V8 instead over fruit juice.

 V8 vs orange juiceWhen you compare Tropicana juice to V8 you’ll see that Tropicana has 26 grams of carbohydrates with most coming from sugar.  The same 8 oz serving of V8 has only 10 grams of carbohydrates and even has a little fiber.  Choose the low sodium version because it has far less sodium.  The USDA recommends those with hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease or even over age 51 to limit sodium intake to 1500 mg daily.  If you love juice to start your day then switching to V8 is the better choice.


Try Oatmeal Bread over White Bread

white bread vs oatmeal labelNot everyone is ready to part with “white bread”.  A tanned version of white, Oatmeal bread is made with whole grains (check the list of ingredients to make sure the first word listed is “whole” or “100% whole”).  You will get more fiber and even a bit more protein by eating the oatmeal bread instead of white bread.  One slice of oatmeal bread has 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein compared to less than 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein in the white bread.


Try whipped butter instead of stick butter. 

less saturated fat in whipped butter

So you are a butter lover.  You like to top that crunchy, crispy lightly browned toast with butter!   Yummm.  You can still enjoy the flavor of butter with much less of the artery clogging saturated fat by switching to whipped butter.  Whipped butter is stick butter whipped with air making it lighter without compromising on taste.  One tablespoon of whipped butter has 3.5 grams of saturated fat while the same amount of stick butter has 7 grams of saturated fat.  The USDA recommends no more than 20 grams of saturated fat based on a 2000 calorie diet.  One tablespoon of butter and an ounce of cream cheese on toast of a bagel will deliver nearly 2/3 of your daily limit of saturated fat, and that’s not including the cream you might be adding to your coffee.

Top your bagel or toast with peanut butter instead of cream cheese.


Peanut butter has much healthier fats than cream cheeseOne ounce of cream cheese has 6 grams of saturated fat and only 2 grams of protein while two tbsp of peanut butter has only 2 grams of saturated fat and 8 gms of peanut butter.  Although it has more total fat than cream cheese, most of it is the heart-healthy unsaturated fat.  Peanut butter also has 3 grams of fiber.  Have that along with your oatmeal toast and you will be getting a much greater amount of protein and fiber with less bad fat than you would with white toast, topped with cream cheese.  This is a much healthier and more filling way to start your day.  Avoid peanut butters that contain palm oil or hydrogenated oils since they are bad for your heart.  Teddy makes a great peanut butter and contains just dry roasted peanuts and salt.

Eat fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead of sweetened yogurt.

Greek yogurt vs yoplaitGreek yogurt delivers much more protein than other yogurts – about 15-17 grams in 5 oz versus 6 grams in regular yogurt.  Buy plain Greek yogurt and add your own fruit instead of buying the ones with fruit because sugar is being added as well.  Choose non-fat or low fat over full fat to reduce the saturated fat.

If you want a little crunch you could mix a half cup of whole grain cereal like Uncle Sam’s in with the yogurt, along with some fresh or frozen berries.  Berries are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and will give the sweetness your mouth is looking for.  This kind of breakfast would give you about 20 grams of protein and some great fiber.  And it’s quick to assemble if you are in a hurry.


Find Your Pace To Healthy Eating

Eating healthy is about making gradual substitutions that don’t compromise your taste.  Often times the hardest part of making food changes is just knowing what choices are out there and why they are better for you.  Making sure you are getting a good amount of protein, some fiber from whole grains and minimizing the unhealthy fats will make you feel fuller and improve your health.  And you might find that the choices you make are not a compromise, but actually tastier!!