US Dietary Guidelines: More or Less

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Last week, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued a report related to the upcoming national dietary guidelines. The report forms the basis for the US Dietary Guidelines and the Food Pyramid, which are revised every 5 years. Although the guidelines are not final, the report presented some interesting findings on what Americans should be eating.

Overall the preliminary report outlines 8 things related to our diet/health that average Americans should be doing more or less of.

↑Americans need more:

  • Plant-based foods like vegetables and whole grains
  • Fish
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy (as opposed to full-fat)
  • Exercise

↓Americans need less:

  • Calories
  • Added sugars and solid fats
  • Sodium and refined grains
  • Lean meats, poultry and eggs

If you’ve every read a government report, you know how long they can get and how confusing they can be. I often wonder if people don’t pay attention to dietary guidelines because they just don’t understand them. Hopefully, when the official guidelines come out later this year, they will be reported in such a simple fashion that all Americans will be able to understand them and easily implement them in their daily lives.

Got Fiber?

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A few months back, I received a complimentary copy of the book, The Full Plate Diet. The main premise of the book is that by adding more fiber to your meals you will essentially lose weight (because you will feel fuller, eat fewer calories, etc.). Since I received the book, I’ve been reading it intermittently. Although I do not believe that just eating more fiber can help you lose weight – and keep it off – I think that how much fiber we eat does impact how much we eat and, therefore, how many calories we take in.

In the past few days, I have been trying to add more fiber to my daily meals. On average, I was eating about 15 g of fiber a day, which is actually below average – most Americans eat around 20 g. The authors of The Full Plate Diet stress that our bodies need 40 g of fiber each day to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Wow, that meant that I had to add 25 g of fiber to my daily meals! I was convinced that I would have to eat prunes, sticks, and rocks in order to get that much more. That is, until I read more of the book. The Full Plate Diet gave me a great overview of foods and their fiber content, which was extremely helpful. I mean – who knew that raspberries have one of the highest fiber contents of all fruits?

So, yesterday was the big day. I attempted to reach 40 g of fiber without eating tree bark and without turning into a bloated monster….let’s see how I did:

Jen’s Fiber Intake for Monday


  • 1 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal – 8g
  • 1 cup raspberries – 8 g
  • 2/3 pear – 4 g


  • 3 cups mixed spinach and romaine – 6 g
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes – 1 g
  • 1 cup strawberries – 3 g


  • 3 cups mixed spinach and romaine – 6 g
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes – 1 g


  • 1/2 cup strawberries – 1.5 g

Total – 38.5 g of fiber

Just to clarify, this was not ALL the food I ate yesterday, just the food that had a significant amount of fiber. Because I ate other things during the meal, like couscous, I’m sure I surpassed the 40 g mark. Not too bad! But, I have to admit, getting this much fiber in my diet was a real challenge. I don’t normally eat a cup of raspberries at one sitting, nor do I eat two spinach salads in one day. I really think that a good way to jump start your fiber-filled day is with your breakfast. Just by eating the high fiber cereal and the raspberries, I was able to knock of 16 g of fiber – that was more than I would normally eat in a whole day. But, if it weren’t for Kashi and the fruit, I’m fairly certain my fiber intake would have been much lower for the day.

So how did I feel? Well, not too much differently than I normally feel. Although I did feel a more full throughout the day and I felt like I had more energy. I also did not crave food at my normal “snack times”, which I’m totally happy with.

If you’re curious about how much fiber you’re eating throughout the day, go to The Full Plate Diet online. The site has a great tool where you can select the food you’ve eaten at each meal and it will calculate the fiber intake – so easy and kind of fun in a weird “I heart fiber” kind of way. And, if you need to add in more fiber to your diet – let’s face it, we all do – check out the free e-book version of The Full Plate Diet. The books gives the top fruits, veggies, grains, etc that contain the most fiber and essentially give you the most bang for your calorie/fiber buck.

So, before your next meal, ask yourself – Got Fiber?

Why Whole-Grains Are Healthier

Two seagulls are fighting for a piece of bread. The first bird overpowers the second bird, quickly snaps of up the bread, tastes it, then immediately spits it out. Looking astonished, the second bird says, “Why did you spit out that perfectly good piece of bread?” The first bird replies, “It’s not whole-grain.”

Last night, I ran out to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of whole-grain bread. Unfortunately, it was nearly 9 PM and all of the fresh whole-grain bread was gone or had been hardened from sitting out all day. Against my better judgement, I settled for two medium size loaves of French bread straight from the baker’s oven.

French bread loaves

Back in the Wonder Bread day, I would be happy as a clam to get fresh French bread. But these days, I should know better. French bread, although soft and tasty, is essentially white bread, full of “bad carbs” and not much nutrients. Besides, you’d have to be living in some remote village to not know that whole-grain bread is better for you than bread made with refined grains (white flour). On a side note, I had a sixth grade teacher who was way ahead of the times – he often told our class that eating white bread (aka Wonder Bread) was no better for us than eating paper. I think we all consumed less paper after that.

Why whole-grain is better

Whole-grain bread is made with…well, whole grains. Unlike white bread, whole-grain bread hasn’t had its germ and bran – what gives the bread its fiber – removed by milling and processing. Although, slice by slice, whole-grain bread and white bread have approximately the same number of calories, whole-grain bread has 3 times the amount of fiber and 6 times the amount of protein. And by now, most of you know that eating foods that are high in fiber can aid digestion and help us lose weight because it keeps us feeling fuller longer.

Spotting a whole-grain

If you can’t tell a whole-grain bread from a white flour processed bread, have no fear! Look for the whole truth when trying to spot a whole-grain, fiber-rich bread. A true whole-grain bread (or any whole-grain product) will list whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, or some other whole grain cereal as the first ingredient. According to the Mayo Clinic, if the  label says “made with wheat flour”, the bread or product may be an intact grain product or it may just be an advertising gimmick, since even highly processed cake flour is made with wheat flour.

Choose Wisely, Choose Whole

So if you’re looking to add more whole-grain to your diet, look for the word “whole” on packaged bread and cereal products – whole grains should be listed as one of the first ingredients. As an extra bonus – go for products that have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

Want to know more about whole grains and whole-grain products? Check out the Whole Grains Council.

On second thought…Eggs

I am not a huge fan of eggs. I probably eat them twice a month, if that. I definitely don’t dislike eggs – but rather I don’t give them a second thought. Years ago, eggs were thought to be “bad” for your health – they were high in fat, cholesterol, etc. But in recent years, research has actually shown that eggs are, in fact, good for us when eaten in moderation. They may even help us lose weight.

A recent study in the journal Nutrition Research showed that men who ate an egg-based breakfast consumed significantly fewer calories during the day compared to men who ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. Although both breakfasts had the same amount of calories, the protein-packed egg breakfast seemed to keep the men fuller throughout the day, resulting in 400 fewer calories consumed. And we all know that consuming fewer calories on a daily basis can lead to weight loss, which for most Americans, would be a good thing.

Still a little skeptical, I decided to test out the egg waters. After my fast 4-mile run, my husband made me an omelette consisting of:

  • 2 egg whites and 1 egg
  • 3/4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup broccoli
  • 2 tbs salsa
  • 1 slice of bacon

The omelette was perfect and just what I needed after a hard run. In addition, I seemed to feel full all the way to lunch and beyond. In fact, I had absolutely no snacks today! I’m not sure if my snack-free day was the result of my egg breakfast, but I’m definitely willing to give eggs a second thought.

Greek Vs. Regular Yogurt

Hello everyone! Thanks for all our kind words regarding yesterday. Not sure how it was by you today but it was absolutely gorgeous here! I woke up around 6 AM and checked out temperature gauge – it said 60 degrees!! It eventually got up to 83 degrees today which I think is a record for the Chicago area.

And what did I do to celebrate this wonderful April Fool’s weather? I went out for an awesome run of course. I ran for about 30 minutes and walked for about 15. I would have gone longer but I needed to get home to get ready for work.

Breakfast was a nutrition-packed cup of Dannon blueberry Greek yogurt with walnuts…in my new Tiffany-esque blue teacup!!!

Greek yogurt in a blue cup with walnuts 2

How cute is that? I bought it from a little tea store by our house called Gala Tea. It’s such a cute little shop with all kinds of teapots, cups, loose leaf teas, etc. When I saw this matching blue cup and saucer I just had to buy it. My yogurt fits so nicely in it, don’t you think??

Greek yogurt in a blue cup with walnuts 1

To round out my protein/MUFA rich breakfast, I added a juicy pear. I got a little fancy with the design…

Sliced pear in the shape of a star 1

I love pears when they are really ripe and this one was perfect.

Anyway, back to the yogurt. I came across some interesting stats on Greek yogurt. I know many of us eat Greek yogurt, not just because it tastes good but because it’s full of protein and calcium. But did you know that regular nonfat yogurt actually has 3 times the amount of  calcium than Greek yogurt?

Cooking Light did a side-by-side comparison of Greek and regular yogurt and found that the two yogurts have the same amount of calories, but are VERY different in terms of calcium, protein, and sodium. Take a look…

Greek nonfat yogurt
(8 ounces)
121 calories
151 milligrams calcium
20 grams protein
83 milligrams sodium

Regular nonfat yogurt
(8 ounces)
127 calories
450 milligrams calcium
13 grams protein
175 milligrams sodium

So, if you want more protein and less sodium, opt for Greek yogurt. But if you’re looking to boost your calcium intake, then regular yogurt is the way to go. However, no matter which yogurt you choose, a cup of either will give you one of the three recommended daily servings of dairy.

Which do you prefer Greek or regular yogurt? What is your favorite yogurt brand?

When Organic Is Better

We all know that organic foods provide no additional health or nutrition benefits  compared with nonorganic foods. But eating organic can often help reduce the amount of pesticides and other chemicals we consume directly through our food intake. I am quite aware that many fresh fruits and veggies contain harsh chemicals. However, like many Americans, I can’t always afford to buy organic produce, which in most cases, is more expensive than nonorganic.

The Dirty Dozen

According to the latest report by the Environmental Working Group, there are actually nonorganic fruits and veggies which may contain very low amounts of pesticides. In the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, the EWG lists 12 fruits/veggies to always buy organic because of their tendency to contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Likewise, they list 15 types of produce (the Clean 15) which contain low amounts of pesticides, and, therefore, would be safe to buy in the nonorganic form. Let’s take a look…

As reported by the EWG in its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides:

The Dirty DozenWorst Fruits/Veggies (those that contain the most pesticides and would be better to buy organic)

  1. Peach
  2. Apple
  3. Bell Pepper
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarine
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Kale
  9. Lettuce
  10. Grapes (imported)
  11. Carrot
  12. Sweet Potato

The Clean 15 – Best Fruits/Veggies (those that contain the lowest amounts of pesticides and would be safe to buy in the nonorganic form)

  1. Onion
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli

You can actually download the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides for free. It’s a great cheat sheet to take with you to the grocery store to remind you which fruits and veggies to buy.

Happy Organic Shopping Everyone!

We Need to Eat More Beans

Tonight, Scott sent me an email that said “We need to eat more beans.” – hmm, speak for your gassy self honey. This statement was followed by a link to a Men’s Health article about the Top Weight Loss Foods for 2010. I don’t normally read Men’s Health articles, but I was intrigued to see what foods made the list. Of the nine foods listed, there were a few regulars, but also a few surprises.

Take a look at these top weight loss foods and see how you measure up…

Top Foods for Weight Loss in 2010

  1. √ Full-fat cheese – This is a great source of the muscle-building casein protein and protein helps you feel full, which will, hopefully, lead you to eat less. I’ve got this one covered – hands down!
  2. Pork Chops – Helps preserve muscle during weight loss. Sorry, not a big fan of these and never have been – not even with applesauce. 
  3. √ Iced Coffee = This cold beverage may help reduce your appetite while also increasing metabolism. I wonder if Starbucks’ mocha fraps count? Ice, coffee – it’s the same thing -it’s just blended. That’s it, I’m counting them.
  4. Grapefruit – Researchers speculate that the acidic nature of this potent fruit may help slow digestion, which keeps you feeling full longer. Again, not a fan, but I love the scent of grapefruit. Too bad the scent alone can’t help with weight loss.
  5. Apple – The forbidden fruit is loaded with fiber which keeps you feeling full. This is definitely on my list to eat more of.
  6. Eggs – Studies show that those who high protein foods, like eggs, for breakfast felt fuller longer and were less likely to overeat during the day than those who didn’t eat a high protein breakfast. I do like eggs, but I don’t eat them very often. Probably because I feel that they are more of a breakfast food, and during the work week, I don’t have time to make them in the morning.
  7. Beans – Legumes may help fight hypertension, but this fiber-rich food also keeps your belly full.  I do like beans but choose not to comment on the after effects.
  8. Salmon – Foods high in Omega-3s, like salmon, may have a satiating effect on our appetites. No deal – I don’t care how pretty it looks on a plate, I’m not eating salmon.
  9. √ Milk – We all know milk is a great source for vitamin D, but it’s also rich in protein, which keeps you feeling full. Milk is good – now, if I could just stop eating cookies with it!

See a pattern yet? Almost all of these foods are linked to keeping you full longer, which helps you eat less and lose weight. So, how many of these weight loss foods are you eating?

Where Are All The Healthy Vending Machine Snacks?

As I walked into our staff lounge this morning to fill up my water bottle, I happened to glance in the vending machine to see if it magically had anything new to offer. But no – it was the same old chips, candy, cookies, bear claws, etc. And we wonder why Americans are so fat!!! Why can’t vending machines in the workplace actually stock healthy food for a change?

Although I eat breakfast every day and typically bring my own snacks, sometimes I’m forced to head to the vending machine to avoid significant hunger pangs. And, it’s during these rare times where I wish I had healthier selections of food to choose from.

Dr. Kracker

If I had my way, the vending machine in my office would:

  • a) Have individual hot/cold sections that kept foods super fresh, and
  • b) Be restocked every few days or at least once a week to ensure freshness.

I would also make sure the machine was stocked with all of my healthy favorites like…

Jennifer’s Top 11 Healthy Vending Machine Snacks (in my dreams!)

  1. Fresh Granola with walnuts and almonds
  2. Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  3. Mexican snack pack of fresh guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips
  4. Fresh pears and apples
  5. Hummus and baby carrots
  6. Tillamook white cheddar cheese and whole grain crackers
  7. All-natural creamy peanut butter
  8. Old-fashioned oats (not the instant kind)
  9. Dr. Kracker flatbreads
  10. Low-cal popcorn
  11. Tazo Awake Tea

Come ON people, how hard can it be???

So, if you had your way, what healthy snacks would you include in your office’s or school’s vending machine?