October 10, 2010

October 10, 2010
Counting Calories

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Sunday and I hope you are having a safe and great weekend so far. It is another busy weekend for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

As you know Dab the AIDS Bear and I travel a lot doing events around the world. So it is not always easy to eat healthy as we are traveling around every where.

If you're counting your calories, do not rely too heavily on those calorie numbers on your favorite packaged food or restaurant website. Those numbers can be off, even way off, a recent Tufts University study found. That is troubling news, considering that next year new health regulations will require that a wide range of restaurants and businesses post the calorie counts of the foods they sell.

While the fast food restaurant dishes were off by an average of 18 percent and the packaged foods by an average of 8 percent calories for some, including diet foods, were underreported by 21, 28, even 200 percent, the study found.

But before you get mad at the companies, consider this: According to the government, even a 20 percent margin of error is acceptable under current nutrition labeling guidelines. That means a 200 calorie frozen diet dinner, for example, could really be 240 calories not a huge difference, but definitely something that could sabotage your attempts to lose weight or even maintain it if you are eating a frozen entree several times a week.

Hidden calories add up

Tufts nutrition professor Susan Roberts, lead investigator for the study, calls these hidden calories a real problem for those over 50 and watching their weight. Eating 10 percent more calories than you think is enough to cause 10 or 20 pounds of weight gain a year.

In fact, Roberts got the idea for the study when she could not lose weight while researching her own weight loss book, The Instinct Diet. The book's two track menus allow dieters to either eat at home or eat restaurant or packaged food. Roberts lost weight on the home cooked food, but when she was on the eat out track, "I completely stopped losing weight," she says. Suspicious of the stated calorie counts on the prepared foods she was eating, she decided to test them in Tufts' Energy Metabolism Laboratory.

You can not count on the calorie counts.

She and her researchers found about 18 percent more calories than the stated value in foods served at 29 quick serve and sit down restaurants, as well as an average of 8 percent more calories than stated in 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets. Some of the restaurant dishes had up to twice as many calories as reported other foods had fewer calories than reported.

Many of the foods were marketed as diet meals. The researchers found that Lean Cuisine shrimp and angel hair pasta, for example, had 28 percent more calories than stated on the package, while Weight Watchers lemon herb chicken piccata had 21 percent more calories than listed. The biggest calorie bonanza: Denny's grits with butter packed a whopping 200 percent more calories than stated, the study reported.

Key Diet Tips

A few simple shifts can have an enormous impact on the calories we consume.

* Rethink restaurant eating. Take lunch to work, schedule meetings that don't revolve around food and invite friends to your house for dinner.

* Get more bang for your calorie buck. Focus on nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean protein.

* Limit liquid calories. Soft drinks with sugar and alcoholic beverages can be huge sources of calories.

* Plan your plate. Mentally draw a line down the center of your plate, then fill half with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with a whole grain or starch, and one quarter with lean protein. Most people significantly underestimate the amount they eat, so try using a smaller plate, too.

Will continue on this subject in tomorrow's blog. Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab