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The Best Frozen Desserts for Less Than 125 Calories

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 30, 2013 09:46 AM
Photo Source:
Last week, I blogged about how to avoid the humongous portions (and calories) at local frozen yogurt eateries.  This week, I have moved to the frozen dessert aisle in the supermarket. 

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), frozen novelties, better known as single-serving frozen yogurt and ice cream sticks, cones, cups, and sandwiches, garner about 20 percent of the supermarket frozen dessert market.   This is good news as the beauty of these babies is that they are portion-controlled so the hazards of over-scooping from a large container or dispenser are eliminated as long as you don’t eat multiple single servings in one sitting.

Alas, not all single serving frozen novelties are low in calories or heart-healthy.  According to CSPI, a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bar averages 320 calories, 12 grams of heart-unhealthy saturated fat, and 5 teaspoons of added sugars.   (For comparison, individuals who need to consume 2,200 calories daily to maintain their weight should consume no more that 24 grams of saturated fat and 6 teaspoons of added sugars a day.)  Interestingly, dairy desserts are one of the top five sources of added sugars in the diets of Americans, and they actually provide more added sugars than candy.

So which are the healthier novelties to buy and enjoy?  Here’s a sampling of CSPI’s better picks, which are featured in the June issue of their Nutrition Action Healthletter:

Source: CSPI

If you really get ambiguous, you can make your own.  Click here for a recipe.

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

Your Guide To Grilling Fruits and Veggies

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 23, 2013 01:46 PM
Source: AICR
If you are finding it challenging to fill half your plate each meal with fruits and vegetables – a recommendation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Institute for Cancer Research encourage Americans to add both color and nutrients to their cookouts by grilling with a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables.

“Fill up on fewer calories with nutrient-rich, low-calorie produce,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Judy Caplan. “It’s not only good for your waistline, but water-rich produce will also help keep you hydrated on hot summer days.”   A quick, easy and colorful way to pack nutrients into your grill-centered meal is to skewer marinated vegetables like red, yellow or orange bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and onions into a tasty kabob. Simply brush the vegetables with olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices, and grill over medium heat; turning until marked and tender (about 12 – 15 minutes and 8 – 10 minutes for cherry tomatoes and pre-boiled potatoes).

“For a sweet treat, grill sliced watermelon for about 30 seconds on each side,” says Caplan.  “Some of the water will evaporate over the heat, which leaves an intensely flavored watermelon slice to savor and enjoy.”   Grilled sliced pineapple and fresh mango slices can double as a side dish or a  dessert topped with a scoop of light vanilla ice cream. 

Here are some more tips from the American Institute for Cancer Research to help you become a veggie grill master: 

Asparagus – Plunge spears into boiling water for 1 minute. Blot dry with paper towels. Line up 3-4 spears like soldiers and insert a toothpick through them 1-inch below the tips. Insert another toothpick 1-inch above the bottom. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grill for 2 minutes, turn and grill 2 minutes.

Broccoli – Select spears with fat stems. Cut off the stems 2 inches below the crown, then stand spears on end and cut them vertically into 3/4-inch slices. Blanch for 1 minute. Blot dry with paper towels. Brush slices lightly with olive oil. Grill for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes on each side.

Carrots – Cut off the top and bottom of a fat, medium-large carrot. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grill slices for 3 minutes, turn and grill for 2 more minutes.

Onions (red, yellow or sweet) – Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Insert 2 toothpicks crosswise into slices to hold them together on the grill. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grill for 2 minutes on each side.

Portobello Mushrooms – Select mushrooms about 3-inches across. Discard the stems and use a small knife to pare away ragged edges. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grill the mushrooms gill side up for 2 minutes, turn and grill for 2 minutes, or until no longer raw-looking inside at the thickest point.

Sweet Peppers – Choose peppers that are as square or triangular as possible, with sides that are flat. Standing a pepper on its bottom, hold a large knife and vertically cut off each side as a slab. Brush pepper pieces lightly with olive oil. Grill for 3 minutes, turn, and grill for 2 minutes.

Zucchini Squash – Cut off the top and bottom off a fat, medium-large squash. Cut the squash lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Brush lightly with olive oil. Grill for 2 minutes on each side.


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

The Chilling Facts About Frozen Yogurt

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 21, 2013 11:36 AM
What’s not to love about soft serve frozen yogurt?  It can be a delightful way to enjoy a frozen dessert and reap some bone-strengthening calcium to boot.  According to the USDA, a half cup of soft serve vanilla frozen yogurt can be enjoyed for only about 115 calories yet also provides 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium. 

Unfortunately, if you visit a frozen yogurt shop where you have the liberty to choose the amount of frozen yogurt from a variety of dispensers, you may be portion-size challenged by the humongous size containers available.  (See the photo below of the containers from a local frozen yogurt shop.)

The container on the left in the photo holds 16 ounces while the hefty one on the right holds 32 ounces, both of which dwarf the ½ cup serving size that is pictured in the middle. Even if you only fill either container halfway, your portion size would be about 1 to 2 cups of yogurt, which translates into about 230 to 460 calories. 

These huge containers can be a calorie nightmare as research suggests ice cream bowl sizes can impact how much you eat.  In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 85 adults who were given a large ice cream bowl (34 ounces) served themselves over 30 percent more ice cream than those who used a medium bowl (17 ounces).   It appears from this study that when using a large bowl, individuals unconsciously increase the “appropriate” serving size in relationship to the size of the container.   Since it is estimated that individuals consume about 90 percent of the food that they serve themselves, the bigger the container the more you will likely eat.

Then, there are the toppings, which can also make your frozen dessert top heavy in the calorie department.  Here’s a listing of the calories in a variety of popular toppings:
Source: TCBY

If you fill a 16-ounce frozen yogurt container halfway, which will be about a cup of yogurt (230 calories) and decorate it with two candy or cookie toppings and some syrup, your dessert now weighs in over 400 calories. 

So, how can you enjoy frozen yogurt without compromising your waist?  Try these tips:
  1. Pick the smallest container available.
  2. Fill the container at least halfway with sliced berries, chopped manages, or whatever fresh fruit that is available.
  3. Then top it off with the frozen yogurt.  You will be surprised how much less yogurt you will take when the container is already stuffed with fruit. 
  4. Go easy on the toppings.
Doing all of the above tips will help keep your frozen yogurt dessert under about 175 calories (minus the toppings).  PS:  For fun, TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) has an interactive, build your own frozen yogurt sundae on their website, which will give you the calorie content of your favorite flavor and toppings.  Click here to start building.

                                         Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Study: An Eating Out Trick to Help You Order Less

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 16, 2013 10:54 AM
Source: NEJM
If you grab your breakfast from a drive-thru, order lunch at a local sandwich shop, and/or dine out for dinner on a regular basis, please read on. 

New research suggests that Americans are consuming approximately 35 percent of their daily calories chowing down at these types of eateries.  With Americans’ love of eating out and restaurant portions expanding, along with our waistlines, the Affordable Care Act has required that chain food establishments with 20 or more locations begin disclosing nutrition information for their standard menu items.   Research has shown that providing consumers with calorie information upfront can alter their menu choices and aid them in ordering lower calorie options.  But is there an even more effective way to change eating habits?

In a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have proposed not only displaying calories on the menu but also posting the physical-activity equivalents that would be needed to burn off the amount of calories in the food item.  (See above illustration.)  Research supports this clever idea.  In a study of over 800 individuals that was published in the journal, Appetite, researchers uncovered that showing folks a menu with both the calories and the number of miles they needed to walk in order to burn those calories was more effective in influencing lower calorie meal selections than just showing the calories alone.

To get an idea of what this would look like, here are some selections from local eateries.  The BOLD items are leaner choices.

Would displaying the calories along with the physical-activity equivalents influence your food choices more than just viewing the calories?  Please post your thoughts below. 

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

What You Need to Know about Gov Chris Christie’s Weight Loss Surgery

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 9, 2013 11:42 AM
Source:  National Institutes of Health
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey made a very personal decision this year to undergo weight loss surgery to help him win the battle with the bathroom scale.  His choice of weight loss strategy could prove to be effective as, according to research, patients can expect to lose from about 30 to over 85 percent of their excess body weight, depending upon the type of surgery performed.

In the Governor’s situation, he chose a procedure that involves using an adjustable band that is surgically inserted and wrapped around the juncture of the esophagus and stomach.  Once inserted, the band is tightened creating a smaller stomach pouch at the entrance of the full-size stomach (see illustration).  The smaller pouch can hold about 1 cup of food whereas the stomach typically holds 4 cups.  When a person eats, this petite pouch fills up fairly quickly causing a feeling of immediate fullness so that the individual stops eating. 

With fewer calories entering the stomach and ultimately the digestive system, weight loss occurs in the body.  According to Kellene Isom, a registered dietitian and Bariatric Program Manager at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a person who was typically consuming 3,000 to 4,000 calories daily prior to the procedure will be restricted to 1,200 calories a day once the surgery is done.

While weight loss surgery may sound like an intriguing solution to shed pounds, there are some nutritional and lifestyle issues to consider.  Ironically, many obese individuals are actually malnourished prior to the procedure as their diets tend to be high in calorie-rich foods (sweetened beverages and desserts) but low in vitamins and minerals.   This puts them at risk for further nutritional deficiencies after the procedure when their calories are so drastically reduced it is impossible to meet one daily needs.   In particular, obese individuals are at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency due to not only a poor diet but also because this fat soluble vitamin gets buried in the body’s fat stores so it is not readily accessible to be utilized by the body.  In other words, the vitamin is in the body but can’t be activated and utilized so vitamin D blood levels are low.

After the procedure, your diet will be forever altered.  Isom’s patients are instructed not to drink liquids with meals to avoid stretching the pouch.  They must give up caffeine as it can be dehydrating and an irritant to the stomach, and they must also forgo carbonated beverages as it often causes discomfort.  A multivitamin and mineral supplement must be continued indefinitely to ensure that deficiencies don’t occur years after the procedure.

Lastly, the weight loss isn’t necessarily permanent.  “Patients typically gain back about 10 to 15 percent of the weight loss," claims Isom.  “However, the procedure can be helpful for some people.  It can help individuals develop  a reconnection with their body as to when they are truly hungry, and even more importantly, when they are full in order to better manage their weight.” 

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

Sipping Tea for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 7, 2013 11:53 AM
Photo Source:  Lipton
I was lucky enough to receive the entire three seasons DVD collection of Downton Abbey as gift from a friend.  After being totally immersed and hooked after the first DVD, I found myself habitually watching the remaining eight DVDs mimicking the English characters continually sipping on a soothing pot of tea.  I have to thank the writers of the series for this new tea drinking habit, which I have since uncovered has the power to fight against heart disease.

Both black and green teas contain certain flavonoids called catechins, which are phytochemicals that have been shown to help maintain healthy blood vessels.   According to Baiz Frei, PhD, a researcher at Oregon State University, the catechins appear to work their magic by increasing the nitric oxide production in the blood vessels.  Nitric oxide is a substance in the body that can increase the dilation or relaxing of the blood vessels and inhibit the clumping of platelets that are part of artery-clogging plaque as well as the formation of blood clots.  The combination of the constriction of the blood vessels, the buildup and rupture of the plaque, and the presence of a blood clot are the causes of most heart attacks and strokes, according to Frei. 

While tea is the major source of flavonoids in the diets of Americans, the longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids in your brew.  With the warmer weather approaching, a tall glass of iced tea can be a cooler way, rather than hot tea, to get these flavonoids, according to Frei.  (But go easy on the added sugar.) 

So how much tea do you need to sip daily to reap some of these heart health benefits?  The exact amount is not known but a review of over 15 studies found that the incidence of a heart attack among individuals was reduced by 11 percent in those consuming at least 3 cups of hot tea daily.

While Downton Abbey fans may have to wait until January 2014 for the next season to start, brewing up a pot of tea daily may not only help you stay emotionally connected with the series but may also help soothe your heart.
Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Produce on the Cheap: Local Farmers' Markets (Part 2)

Posted by Joan Salge Blake May 2, 2013 12:17 PM
Photo Source: USDA
This blog is Part 2 of a 2-part series about obtaining locally grown food to stretch your produce food dollar.    If you missed Part 1 focusing on growing a garden in your backyard for fresh produce on the cheap, click here.

This week’s blog will focus on utilizing local farms, farm stands, and farmers’ markets to stretch your food dollar.  According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has more than tripled in the last 15 years.

As with a backyard vegetable garden, produce grown at a local farm will taste seasonally delicious as it is picked and sold at its peak.  From a savings standpoint, since the fruits and veggies have not incurred the additional fuel, shipping, and packaging costs to transport them great distances to be sold, these cost savings can be passed on to the consumer.

A study done at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture showed that the prices of produce at local farmers’ markets were the same, if not less, then those at local supermarkets.  Another study conducted by NOFA-VT showed that the majority of organic produce at nine farmers’ markets was less expensive than similar organic choices sold at local grocery stores. 

From an environmental cost standpoint, the carbon emissions associated with the transport of food from farm to supermarket can be substantial.  Greenhouse gases, which include the carbon dioxide and other gases released when fossil fuels are burned for energy, are an environmental concern.   The gases absorb and trap the heat in the air and re-radiate that heat downward, contributing to the trend in global warming.

The lettuce that you put in your grocery cart at the supermarket may have traveled 1,400 to 2,400 miles to reach you.  Thus, buying locally grown produce has environmental benefits, as the less your food travels, the less energy is being used, and less carbon dioxide gas emissions are being created in getting the food to you.

To encourage more local farming, the USDA, through their Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, has made nearly $10 million in grants available for farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, and road-side stands to help assist and expand opportunities for local farmers.   These funds and efforts can help make nutritious, affordable, and locally grown foods available in your community.  To help you find a local farmer’s market or farm stand near you, both the Local Harvest and Know Your Farmer, Know Your Farmer websites allow you to enter your zip code to find sellers in your area.

The following chart can also help you determine when your favorite produce will be locally in season so that you can plan your selections accordingly:

For produce on the cheap, it pays, both monetarily and environmentally, to buy local.

Where in your neighborhood do you buy locally grown produce on the cheap?  Please share your finds below.

                                       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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