Archive for the tag - fat

Myth: Low Fat Foods Are Healthy.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASkittles are a low-fat food. But if you eat a lot of skittles, I promise that you’ll still get fat.

Just because something is labeled “low fat” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And conversely, not all foods containing fat are unhealthy.

Limiting trans and saturated fats is important. In fact, current dietary guidelines recommend that less than 7% of your total calories should come from saturated fat. But fat is just part of the equation.

When we talk about weight management, the formula is pretty simple. To maintain weight, you need to eat the same amount of calories that your body burns. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that there are many unhealthy, calorie-dense foods with little or no fat. Like skittles.

Beyond saturated and trans fat, pay attention to carbohydrates. While complex carbohydrates are essential, many low fat foods are packed with simple carbohydrates including table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, white flour, etc.

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day, and no more than 1,500 mg for high risk groups. To add flavor, manufacturers often pump low fat or reduced fat foods with sodium – so read the nutrition label carefully.

Last but not least, remember that fat isn’t always a bad thing. Unsaturated fats – like those found in olive oils, nuts, avocados, etc. – are essential for proper bodily function.

7 Tricks to Cut Calories.

How-to-Cut-CaloriesWeight loss happens when your body is in a calorie deficit. That is, you take in fewer calories than your body burns. For lasting and sustainable weight loss, the calorie deficit is created by moving more and eating smarter.

Cutting calories sounds like a daunting task. But the truth is, just cutting a few hundred calories per day is enough for most of us to make significant progress toward our weight loss goals. It doesn’t need to be a difficult, expensive or time-consuming process.

For some easy calorie cutting, put these tips to use for you!

  1. Drink your coffee black. You’ll cut out 120 calories without cream and sugar (not to mention 18% of your daily value of saturated fat and 12 grams of sugar).
  2. Leave the cheese off of your sandwich. And don’t use mayo or butter. Guess what? It’ll still taste great. You’ll slim your sandwich by 200 calories – and you’ll still feel just as full!
  3. Order a glass of water in between drinks. If you’re out or enjoying happy hour, remember that many alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories but devoid of nutrition. While eliminating alcohol altogether may seem unrealistic, space out your drinks by having a glass of water in between.
  4. Replace soda with mineral or sparkling water. It will still give you some fizz and flavor, but without any empty calories. A single cup of Coke has more than 180 calories.
  5. Don’t eat the pie… crust. We all need to live a little. Clearly, pie isn’t the healthiest dessert choice – but if you do indulge, do so sensibly. By not eating the crust, you slice nearly 100 calories out of your pie serving. Similarly, if you do have ice cream, get it in a cup instead of a cone. Or top your dessert with a few berries instead of globs of chocolate syrup.
  6. Get a smaller dinner plate. Not only do smaller plates hold less food, which translates to fewer calories, but research shows that smaller plates trick our minds into feeling fuller. By moving from a 9″ dinner plate to an 8″ dinner plate, you can cut an average of 200 calories out of your meal.
  7. Substitute in your recipes. If you’re making meatballs, replace half the meat with brown rice. If you’re baking, substitute avocado or applesauce instead of butter.

While these tips might not apply to all people everywhere, the strategy works and is universal. In your everyday life, it’s very easy to cut a moderate amount of calories while still maintaining the quality of life that you enjoy. Making smarter choices here and there can (and does!) add up over time.

What are some other tips you have for cutting calories? Let me know in the comments below!

Do Genes Make You Fat?

ObeseFamilyCartoonDear Davey,

Most of the people in my family are overweight or obese. When I look at my relatives, I can’t help but think that there must be a genetic component to me being overweight. Is it possible that I’m just genetically destined to be fat?


Hey Chris,

Thanks for the honest question.

economix-23OECDobesity-custom1Over the last several decades, obesity rates in this country – and many others – have risen dramatically (see chart). Clearly, this huge increase can’t be explained entirely by genetics.

As I’ve said before, weight loss, gain or maintenance is determined by calories in and calories out. If we take in fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. If we take in more calories than we burn, we gain weight. And if we take in the same amount of calories that we burn, we’re in a neutral state of maintenance.

Though our genes may have some influence on our predisposition to obesity, all of us can manipulate both ends of the calories in/calories out equation to reach a healthier weight. On the “calories in” side of the equation, it means eating healthy, clean and nourishing foods in appropriate quantities. On the “calories out” side of the equation, we need to move more and get active. To make weight loss happen, the caloric total of the foods we eat must be less than the total calories burned.

Clearly, this is a vast oversimplification of the process – and, indeed, there are many other factors involved in weight loss. Some of these factors are emotional and psychological – and some of them can be difficult to deal with.

But to answer your question, the Harvard School of Public Health notes that:

Only a very small percentage of people have such a strong genetic predisposition that they will be obese no matter how hard they try. Even people who are genetically predisposed to obesity can reduce their risk of chronic disease by eating a healthful diet and staying active.

In my humble opinion, it’s far more likely that your relatives are similarly overweight because they’ve adopted similar habits. We know that obesity is contagious; a study by Harvard researchers found that “having four obese friends doubled people’s chance of becoming obese compared to people with no obese friends,” and that the more obese people you come into contact with, the more your risk for obesity increases.

In other words, we tend to pick up the habits of the people around us.


Late Bedtimes and Less Sleep Lead to Weight Gain.

couch potato catYou’ve probably heard the age-old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I’m not sure about the wealthy or wise part, but healthy – at least, according to a growing amount of research – has some truth.

Researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the July issue of SLEEP; it’s the largest and most diverse healthy-sample study ever conducted in laboratory conditions. For the study, 225 healthy participants were recruited for up to 18 days in the laboratory. The participants were broken into two groups and either spent only 4 hours in bed for five consecutive nights or 10 hours in bed for five consecutive nights. Throughout the study, meals were served and food was readily available.

When researchers crunched the data, they discovered that the sleep-restrictive group ate a significantly larger amount of calories due to late-night calorie consumption. During their extra awake time, the participants ate… and ate. And ate some more. Moreover, the proportion of calories from fat was higher during late night snacking.

Though it’s totally possible and very healthy to snack on celery sticks or carrots, the data shows that we’re less likely to make those choices late at night. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s not when you eat, but what you’re eating – and how much of it – that counts most.

In other words, it’s always important to be mindful of your food choices, but this is especially true at night. Don’t fall for a case of the mindless munchies!

18 Empty Calorie Foods.

251726The other day, I referenced empty calories in a post – and I received a number of emails asking about the term.

The USDA defines empty calories as:

Calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature like shortening, lard or butter. Added sugars are sugars or syrups that have been added to foods during preparation or processing.

In order to stay in a calorie balance and avoid weight gain, it’s important to stay within your daily calorie allowance. For example, many people may aim to eat 2,000 calories in a day. While this number may sound lofty, those calories can go fast; it’s important to get the vast majority of calories from foods that provide the essential nutrients our bodies need. Let’s spend our calories on foods that actually nourish us!

With all that in mind, here are 18 foods and beverages loaded with empty calories; these should be consumed sparingly. Empty calorie calculations provided by the USDA:

  1. Soda – 100% empty calories
  2. Fruit drinks – 100% empty calories
  3. Beer – 100% empty calories
  4. Cheddar cheese – 66% empty calories
  5. Frozen yogurt – 53% empty calories
  6. Ice cream – 76% empty calories
  7. Fried chicken – 80% empty calories
  8. Chocolate chip cookies – 68% empty calories
  9. Chocolate cake – 77% empty calories
  10. Fruit flavored low-fat yogurt – 61% empty calories
  11. Cinnamon sweet roll – 61% empty calories
  12. Onion rings – 58%
  13. Butter – 92% empty calories
  14. Margarine – 89% empty calories
  15. Frozen whipped topping – 92% empty calories
  16. Cream cheese – 88% empty calories
  17. Glazed doughnut – 67% empty calories
  18. Beef bologna – 57% empty calories

This list isn’t exhaustive – but you get the idea. In a nutshell, it’s all about replacing foods that are high in solid fats or added sugars with healthier options.

27 Fast Food Items with 1,000 Calories or More.

War-on-fast-food-006The thing about calories is that they tend to add up.

We know that a calorie deficit is required for losing weight – which means that you take in fewer calories than you burn. For those of us looking to maintain our current weight, we need to be in a calorie neutral state where we’re consuming the same number of calories that we burn.

Regardless, counting calories means being very mindful of the foods we consume and avoiding the calorie bombs on many fast food menus. Case in point, the below infographic shows 27 different fast food items with more than 1,000 calories – including a nearly 10,000 calorie burger and a 2,140 calorie order of cheese fries.

Are any of your favorites on this list? Any surprises?


Does Fast Food Make You Fat? [Study]

ronaldfcdonaldsmallA few weeks ago, I posted about Subway – and how their menu is deceptively unhealthy. Today, I’m kicking up the rhetoric by sharing a fast food study that was published by the science journal The Lancet.

Following 3,000 young adults for a period of 15 years, researchers found that those participants who ate fast food more than twice per week gained an extra 10 pounds of body weight and were twice as likely to be insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between fast food and both obesity and diabetes.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t make sensible selections at fast food restaurants. Indeed, McDonald’s has apples on the menu. But this is to say that most of the people who eat fast food aren’t opting for apples – and that healthy selections are difficult to find or far and few between.

I don’t share this study because I’m against fast food. I’m not. I share this study because I’m for nourishing food – and most fast food isn’t that. If your health is a priority (and I hope it is – after all, we only get one body), then focus on eating well instead of eating fast.

Eat well. Feel well. Be well.

Can You Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?

Dear Davey,

Is it possible to gain muscle while losing fat?


Hey Chuckie,

Thanks for the question. At face value, the goals of losing fat and building muscle seem to contradict each other. In order to lose fat, we know that a calorie deficit is required. That is, fewer calories are taken in than burned. To build muscle, on the other hand, a calorie surplus is required. In general, people engaged in a muscle-building workout program are advised to take in 250 – 500 more calories than are burned.

This is why you’ll see many body builders cycle through a “bulking phase” wherein they increase muscle mass through a calorie surplus and then a “cutting phase” wherein they lean down with a calorie deficit.

Personally, if I was training a client who both wanted to lose weight and build muscle, I’d focus on the goals one at a time. First, I’d use a calorie deficit and workout program that targets fats loss. Once the goal weight was reached, I’d use a calorie surplus and a workout program that produces muscle gain.

But what about for the average exerciser who isn’t interested in counting calories or who isn’t that serious about their exercise commitments? Can the average exerciser lose weight while building muscle?

There are actually a few studies on the subject. For one study, researchers put women through a six-month fitness program that included both cardio and strength training. On average, the women lost 10% of their body fat and increased their muscle mass by 2.2%. A separate study of men came to the same conclusion.

In other words, if you eat well and exercise, you’ll likely lose fat and gain muscle. At the same time. It might not be the most efficient process, and it may not produce maximal results, but it happens all the time with typical gym-goers.

I hope that helps!

Davey Wavey

How Much Fat Should I Eat Per Day?

Eating the right amount – and the right type – of fat is crucial in supporting a healthy lifestyle. The easiest way to monitor fat intake is to track the number of grams consumed per day.

The dietary guidelines for healthy adults advise a total fat intake of no more than 20% – 35% of total daily calories. To get that number in grams, follow these simple steps:

  1. Calculate your calorie intake. If you’d like to know how many calories you should eat in a day, use this simple formula to determine your recommended caloric intake. My number is 2,840 calories.
  2. Multiply your caloric intake by .20. I get 568 calories.
  3. Then, multiply your caloric intake by .35. I get 994 calories.
    These two numbers give you a recommended calorie range for daily fat intake. In other words, the number of calories from fat that I eat should not exceed 568 – 994 calories per day.
  4. Since there are 9 calories in a gram of fat, simply divide the number of fat calories by 9. For me, the resulting numbers are 63 and 110.

Based on these calculations, my daily fat intake should not exceed 63 – 110 grams. It might sound like a lot, but it’s not. At a whopping 64 grams of fat, for example, it’s the equivalent of eating a foot-long chipotle steak and cheese sandwich from Subway.

Moreover, keep in mind that this number represents total fat. While we’re advised to limit our calories from fat to 20% – 35% of our total calorie intake, experts recommend that less than 7% of our calories come from saturated fats. To that end, ensure that your eating primarily heart-healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts and olive oil.

Once you have your daily recommended fat limit, keep track of the fat grams in the foods you eat. Monitoring your fat intake and sticking to the recommended range will help you realize your health, nutrition and fitness goals.

Using the above formula, what’s your daily recommended fat limit in grams? Let me know in the comments below.

One Pound of Fat: Visualized.

Some say that a pound of fat represents 3,500 calories—but I’d suggest that a picture of a pound of fat is worth a million words.

Behold, one pound of fat.

What’s the big deal? Why am I sharing this picture with you?

It’s because I’m sick and tired of people complaining that, even after eating smarter and exercising, they’ve only lost a pound or two. As you can see from the above picture, every pound of fat lost is a pound worth celebrating. There’s nothing “only” about it.

And those single pounds lost have a way of adding up. Though everyone wants a quick fix, losing a pound or two per week is actually a safe and healthy goal. Besides, you can’t lose weight with the same mind that gained it – and it takes time to shift your beliefs and perspectives in such a way that they can support the new you.

I also like to remind folks to not give the almighty scale more credit than it deserves. Since scales don’t differentiate between pounds of fat and pounds of muscle, it’s important to use other measures of success – like inches lost or gained, changes in the way your clothes fit or how you feel after walking up a few flights of stairs. Think beyond the scale.

But after viewing today’s picture, I have to ask: Do you still think losing a pound of fat is no big deal?