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Flying on Airlines Without High Calorie Baggage

Posted by Joan Salge Blake November 28, 2012 12:54 PM

Source:  FDA
Are you one of the millions of airline passengers who will be traveling this holiday season? Since it is likely that you are flying to be with family and friends where there will be tons of festive foods throughout your stay, you may want to think twice about consuming excess calories during an in-flight meal.    

In a recent survey of 12 major airlines, Dr. Charles Platkin, PhD, aka The Diet Detective, uncovered that, on average, airline food contains about 380 calories per serving, ranging from 50 calories for a petite bag of pretzels on Southwest and a 186 calorie fruit tray on Air Canada to a hefty 840 calorie Chicken Caesar Wrap on Delta airlines.  Platkin’s annual airline food investigation uncovered that some airlines are more health conscious than others. “This year Virgin America wins the top spot with the "healthiest" food choices in the sky, with Air Canada a close second and Alaska Air not too far behind,” claims Platkin.

Here are some of his recommendations for lower calorie meal options when flying:

Air Canada:  Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomato Dressing and Chicken Strips  (330 calories)

Alaska Airlines:  Chicken Cacciatore Skillet (292 calories)

American Airlines:  Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table Turkey and Chutney Sandwich (453 calories)

United Airlines:  Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad (360 calories)

Virgin Airlines: Roasted Pear and Arugula Salad (360 calories)

(For a complete list of the survey findings, visit the

Unfortunately, you always take the chance that they will run out of these items by the time they get to your row.  Since most airlines will make you pay for your in-flight food anyway, you may want to rethink where you spend your money and calories when you fly.   To exercise more control over your airport food options and calories, consider arriving three hours, rather than the suggested two hours, prior to your scheduled takeoff and enjoy a meal of your choice at one of the airport eateries.    

At Logan Airport, there are eateries at each of the terminals where you can obtain healthier fare including gourmet sandwiches (split the sandwich with a friend if they are huge), salads (watch the dressing and cheese), soups (order veggie based and bypass the creamy chowder), and even a sit-down steamed lobster dinner (go easy with the drawn butter).  Here are a few:

Fresh City:  Salads, soups, burritos, wraps, and stir-fries.  (Terminal A) 

Lean & Green Gourmet:  Fresh fruit cups, salads, and gourmet sandwiches (Terminal C)

Legal Seafood C Bar, Restaurant, or Test Kitchen:  Salads, seafood entrees, and steamed lobster.  (Terminals A, B, or C)

Wolfgang Puck Express:  Soups, salads, and gourmet sandwiches (Terminal C) 

Click here for additional eateries at Logan Airport. 

For the return flight, check the website of the departing airport for a list of available eateries in order to plan your meal option in advance.  Plan ahead to avoid needless high calorie baggage when you travel.

What are your healthy eating tips when you travel?  Please share below.

                                              Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Shop to Drop Some Holiday Pounds

Posted by Joan Salge Blake November 20, 2012 11:00 AM
Photo: Flickr, Marc Samsom
Who knew that shopping was considered a form of physical activity?   It may not be a high-intensity aerobic workout but if you are pounding the pavement at the mall with a lengthy holiday shopping list, you could be burning a fair amount of calories.

According to the USDA’s SuperTracker, shopping, which includes both walking and standing in line (and unfortunately, could be lengthy this time of year), can cause you to burn about 200 calories an hour depending upon your weight.  While shopping is considered only a light-intensity activity, surprisingly, a three-hour shopping adventure can have you burning about 600 calories.  If you forgo the escalator and take the stairs to the second level of the mall, you will burn another 12 calories for every minute of climbing.

To find out how many calories you can burn while holiday shopping, go to the SuperTracker.  Set up your personal profile by entering your age, gender, and weight.   Then, click on “Physical Activity Tracker.”  Search for “shopping” and enter the amount of time, in minutes, that you were out and about.   Choose the day of the week and then click, “Add.”  The estimated calories that you burned for your shopping outing will appear.

Word of Caution:  Don’t shop on an empty stomach.  Appeasing a ravenous appetite at the mall food court could have you eating as much or even more calories than you burned shopping.  Eat a sensible meal before you leave the house. 

Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Twinkies Trivia

Posted by Joan Salge Blake November 16, 2012 07:23 PM
Photo Source: Flickr: roberthuffstutter
Black Friday came a week early this year when it was confirmed this morning that Hostess Brands, Inc., has been forced by a Bakers Union strike to shut down their operations and sell all of their company assets.  Goodbye to Hostess, Drakes, and Dolly Madison and all of their products, which means that many fans of Twinkies are in mourning today.

With the Hostess website shutdown, I scoured the Internet to find any crumb of trivia I could to help you ease the pain of this iconic passing.

Take this quiz to test your Twinkies Trivia:

A serving of Twinkies provides:
a)    50 calories
b)    75 calories
c)    150 calories
d)    300 calories

c) One Twinkie will serve up 150 calories.  However, if you thought the entire package was a serving and chose d) 300 calories, your answer is correct…but your portion size isn’t.

Which United States president called the Twinkie an “object of enduring American symbolism” and deposited it in the National Millennium Time Capsule:
a)    George W.  Bush
b)    Ronald Reagan
c)    Bill Clinton
d)    None of the above

Answer:  b.  President Clinton decided that the beloved Twinkie was a must, along with other objects, in the time capsule a “gift to our heirs one hundred years from now.”   The million dollar question is: what will these Twinkies look like in 2100.

The shelf life of Twinkies is:
a)    25 minutes
b)    25 days
c)    25 weeks
d)    25 years

Answer:  b.  According to the Twinkies Cookbook (yes…you can buy it on Amazon), contrary to urban legend, this sponge cake gem will last only about 25 days. 

The original flavor of the filling was:
a)    Chocolate
b)    Strawberry
c)    Coconut
d)    Banana

Answer:  d.  Banana was the original flavor of the filling before it was switched over to creamy vanilla.

What are your favorite memories of Twinkies?  Please share below.

                                       Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Coffee 101: From The Can To The Barista

Posted by Joan Salge Blake November 13, 2012 12:07 PM

Americans have a love affair with their coffee with the average java drinker consuming 2.5 cups daily.   According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, there are over 27,700 coffee cafes, kiosks, carts, or roasters across the United States able to brew up a multitude of java delights in a multitude of sizes.  Specialty coffees are coffees made from beans grown in geographic specific areas that are flavorful, well prepared, freshly roasted, and carefully brewed.

But, do you remember when the only way to get a cup of coffee was to brew it in your kitchen and that the coffee came in a tin can that you actually had to open with a key?   Immediately after breaking the seal of the can, the initial whiff of the ground coffee beans smelled absolutely delicious.   What?  You don't remember this?  Was this before your time? Watch this fun video for a little Coffee 101 that will also bring you back to a time when coffee was, well, just coffee:


Times have changed and so has the size of a "cup" of coffee. While a 4-ounce cup of coffee was the standard decades ago, this classic size has gone by the wayside along with the tin coffee can and key opener:

Photo:  Lucia Littlefield, Boston University, Sargent College
While black coffee served in a petite coffee cup (left) pours up only a mere 2 calories, unfortunately, the larger sizes and the cream, milk, sugar, and flavorings added to today's designer coffees can have you gulping the caloric equivalent of a mini meal:

To reduce the calories in your daily java, order it more often with just skim or low fat milk and watch the size of any designer coffees you may want to order.   Enjoy your daily coffee but without the jolt of a lot of extra calories. 

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Do Sugar Substitutes Cause Cancer?

Posted by Joan Salge Blake November 2, 2012 01:01 PM
Source: Nutrition and You
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the latest position paper by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the body of research evidence to date suggests that none of the commercially available, no-calorie, sugar substitutes -- saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium -- are associated with an increased risk of cancer when consumed at the acceptable daily intake level established by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  So where did this concern about sugar substitutes and cancer start?

Depending upon your age, you may recall that in the 1970’s and up until 2000, those little pink sugar substitute packets, which were found in restaurants and coffee shops had to carry a warning on the label stating that….“This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”  At the time, studies showed that when rats were given high doses of saccharin, the critters had an increased risk of bladder cancer.  In 2000, the warnings on the labels stopped when, after an extensive review of the research, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences determined that the mechanism that caused bladder tumors was unique to rats and not relevant to humans.  The lesson learned was:  though you can safely consume saccharin in moderation, you should not feed it to your pet rat.

So what’s the relationship between other commercially available sugar substitutes and your health?  Read on for the latest from NCI and AND:

Aspartame (NutraSweet®, Equal®)
Source: Nutrition and You
Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two amino acids found in proteins.  Aspartame actually contains 4 calories per gram, but because it is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar, only a tiny amount is needed to satisfy a sweet tooth so is considered calorie-free.  Contrary to the enormous Internet buzz about its potential ill effects, the research evidence to-date has not found any association of its consumption and cancers of the brain or blood nor any neurological issues, such as seizures, headaches, memory loss, and mood changes.
Those with the genetic disorder, phenylketonuria, cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine so must moderate the amount that they consume of this amino acid from all food sources. Phenylalanine is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs, milk, and nuts.

Sucralose (Splenda®)
Approved as a sweetener in 1998 by the FDA, the majority of sucralose you consume is not absorbed by the body but rather excreted unchanged in your stool.  The small amount that is absorbed is excreted in your urine.   Sucralose is 600 times as sweet as sugar so a little goes a long way.  According to NCI and AND, there isn’t any research evidence that sucralose is associated with increased risk of cancer or any other adverse effects in the general public.

Acesulfame Potassium (Sweet One®, Sunett®)
After completing more than 100 safety studies, the FDA approved acesulfame potassium as a sweetener in 1998.   Also known as acesulfame K (the K stands for potassium), this no-calorie sweetener is a combination of an organic acid and potassium and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Since your body does not metabolize acesulfame K, it doesn’t contain any calories. 

Stevia (Truvia®, Sweetleaf®)
The newest addition to the world of sugar substitutes is stevia, which contains an extract from the plant Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni.   This zero-calorie sweetener is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.  It doesn’t affect blood glucose levels so can be used by those with diabetes.

The Take-Home Message:  All of these sugar substitutes have been approved by the FDA for use by the public.

                                              Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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