The Calorie Evolution

“How many calories should I eat a day?”  I get this question on a regular basis.  The answer is – it depends.  Recently, the almighty calorie has been elevated to primo status as people begin to realize that it’s not about carbs, fat, or protein, but about the combination of all three (+ alcohol) — that balances the ledger book of energy intake and expenditure.  For those with the due diligence to count every morsel of food and drink consumed – if you are in the “green” with less calories in versus out, than weight loss will ensue over the course of time (~ 1 lb week, if it’s 500 calories less taken eaten everyday versus expended) or the opposite end of the spectrum, you are in the “red” with more calories in versus out, than a gain will creep up…about 1 lb/week with an additional 500 calories per day. 

Let’s face it, calories are essential for life — of every living thing.  However, it is the QUALITY of the calories that fend off cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.; help us live longer lives and keep us looking and feeling younger!  I could put someone on a 1,500 calorie a day meal plan, but it would be remiss (and unethical) if I didn’t mention the importance of fiber, omega-3 fats, and plant-based foods  — instead of allowing that person to flounder on a diet of Twinkies, burgers and fries (as long as it equalled 1,500 calories!)  The quality counts, respecting how many calories you take in (there is a vast body of research supporting calorie restriction for disease prevention and longevity) and understanding that you do not have to be ‘orthorexic’ – or self-righteous about eating only “healthy” foods, to maintain a calorie balance that allows you to be your best today! 

So revel in the fact that choice still reigns supreme.  I dare you to elevate the meaning of calories in your head.  You have a choice:  a 500-calorie muffin or 500-calorie jog?  You might choose both – then today is a wash, which is better than most….

How many calories did you eat today?  Send your food log to me and I’ll let you know what I think – expert advice only, of course. :- 

Locavores vs. Vegetarians – Which is More Eco-Friendly?

The more I read about how eating less red meat and dairy products saves the planet, the greater my conviction becomes.  From an eco-friendly standpoint, eating fewer animal products, specifically of bovine origin (i.e., cattle), leads to using less fossil fuel to grow, transport and process feed for cattle.  Recent research from Carnegie Mellon University  in Pittsburgh found that if an average family substitutes chicken, fish or eggs for red meat and dairy products one day a week for a year – this would save greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving 760 miles!  It gets better, using NO animal products for one day a week for a year reduces emissions equivalent to driving 1,160 miles!!  

Although a locavore lifestyle – eating only locally grown foods, might seem environmentally superior, the Carnegie Mellon research found that food production can impact our carbon footprint more than how far food must travel to get from field to plate.  In other words, making dietary shifts such as eating less red meat and dairy can equate to about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally…!      

To read the study in Environmental Science and Technology , go to  http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2008/apr/science/ee_foodmiles.html.  

Either way, whether you choose to eat fewer animal products or support your local farmers, your steps toward sustainability will not go unnoticed – for both yours and our planet’s health. 

As always, I’d love your thoughts on this important topic…..

Dark Chocolate: An Ounce A Day Is All You Can Afford

Who would think that my introductory post would be about chocolate, well, actually, the heart-healthy part, cocoa?!  With food costs across the board skyrocketing, people cannot afford ‘luxury’ food items.  Chocolate will be among those items –  as the price of cocoa has soared to the crazy amount of $3,150.00 per tonne, according to www.foodanddrinkeurope.com.   Well, it’s basic economics, when the demand is higher than the supply the increased prices are passed along to us, the consumers. 

Well, let’s look on the bright side – this is good news from a nutrition/weight management perspective.   The message that dark chocolate contains powerful flavonols, which have been found to be good for heart health and blood pressure – not to mention can satisfy a sweet tooth, has the risk of being blown out of portion control.  So rising chocolate prices at the cash register may thwart overeating and encourage the one-ounce a day limit.  Thus, managing your budget can work from both a personal fiscal and caloric standpoint!   That’s my hope, at least (as long as stores do not start giving away FREE chocolate).