As the weather heats up, it's easy to reach for ice-cold fraps and sugary drinks to quench the thirst, but artificial sweetners are a sure way to slow down your summer fun. Registered dietician Danielle Omar and nutrition counselor Katherine Tallmadge share their top tips for satisfying the sweet tooth while cutting out added sugar.
If you’ve hit that 3 PM slump and you’re reaching for your wallet to hit up the coffee shop on your block, be forewarned: you may be packing in a meal’s worth of calories and fat in those 16 ounces. While any drink that’s more cream and sugar than coffee isn’t a healthy choice, these drinks and pastries are particularly deadly.
With the help of local registered dietician and nutritionist Rima Kleiner, we got the skinny on the worst drinks and pastries from Starbucks, Corner Bakery, Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s, and Au Bon Pain.
Here’s a spoiler: anything with “chocolate” or “donut” in the name is likely a no-no.
White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream (Grande, 16 oz., 2% milk)
The name sounds delicious, but the whipped cream alone packs a calorie-laden punch. “(This drink) contains nearly 500 calories, which is equivalent to the maximum amount of calories most of us (particularly women) need at a meal,” says Kleiner. “With 18 g total fat and 63 g carbohydrate, this drink isn't the worst of the offenders, but you won't be doing your waist any favors by sipping this drink.”
Old-Fashioned Glaze Doughnut
Just like your grandma’s cooking, this old fashioned treat is packed with sugary, fatty, when-did-these-pants-get-so-tight goodness. “This doughnut contains nearly 500 calories, with 27 g of fat and 1 measly gram of dietary fiber, which means that you can bet most of the 56 g of carbohydrates come from sugar,” says Kleiner.
Truffle Hot Chocolate with whipped cream (Medium, 16 oz., whole milk)
If you’re going to drink something with “truffle” in the description, you might as well just go straight for a Big Mac. “This drink contains nearly 500 calories and contained by far the highest amounts of saturated fat (12 g) and sugar (a whopping 72 g) of all the medium drinks,” say Kleiner.
Cinnamon Crumb Muffin
Have you ever seen a fit-looking Muffin Man illustration? Neither have we. “This muffin took the cake for the least healthy numbers--650 calories (260 of those from fat) and 90 g of carbohydrate (more than half of those carbohydrates from sugar), with only 1 g of dietary fiber,” says Kleiner. “In other words, this muffin will bulk up your calorie intake without filling you up.”
Frozen Caramel Coffee Coolatta with Cream (Medium)
As the temps warm up outside, sugary, frozen beverages get all the more tempting. “This is by fat the worst drink of all the offenders with more than 700 calories, 35 g of total fat (mostly saturated) and 97 g of sugar,” says Kleiner. “This sweet splurge supplies nearly four times the amount of sugar most adults should eat in one day with zero nutrients.”
Butternut Donut and the Blueberry Crumb Donut
We have a tie! “The only nutrition prize these donuts will win is ‘highest in empty calories.’ Each of these donuts contain about 500 calories and about 50 g of sugar,” says Kleiner.
Coffee Free Caramel Javiva (Medium, 16 oz, 2% milk)
Go ahead and drink this if you want all of your teeth to rot. “Even without the whipped cream, this drink contains nearly 450 calories,” says Kleiner. “While other drinks at this coffee shop contained more calories and fat, this drink contained almost twice as much sugar (90 g) as the other drinks.”
Apple Cinnamon Chip Muffin
Just because it has apples in it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. “This muffin contains a whopping 780 calories (with 230 of those calories from fat) and only 1 g of dietary fiber, meaning you'll feel hungry soon after eating a meal and half's worth of calories,” says Kleiner.
Hot Chocolate (medium)
You may need to think your winter warm-up go-to. “A plain hot chocolate sounds innocent enough, but this long-time favorite topped this coffee shop's worst offenders at 360 calories, 14 g total fat, 46 g of sugar and no dietary fiber,” says Kleiner.
If you’re trying to eat a couple ounces of nuts a day, don’t start here. “This list's second worst option tops out at 740 calories and a whopping 43 g of total fat. While this pastry provides a little fiber (due to the nuts), it contains 48 g of sugar and little nutritional value,” says Kleiner.
“Best picks at a coffee shop? Stick with a nonfat latte or cappuccino. If you're hungry, share a treat with a group of friends or opt for a carton of yogurt or a bag of trail mix,” says Kleiner.
Now that Valentine’s Day is behind us—and most of the clearance chocolate has been scoured from grocery aisles—it’s time to focus on a healthier celebration for the heart: American Heart Month.
Heart disease is one of the top deadly diseases in the US, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly 50 percent of Americans have either high blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol, or they smoke—all of which can lead to heart disease.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Registered dietitian and longtime American Heart Association advocate Nancy Chapman shares easy tips for cutting back on bad fats and salts to make the switch a little less painful.
Focus on making it simple.
Chapman recommends filling half your plate with fruits and veggies and then adding lean or plant-based proteins. “Starting with fruits and vegetables will lower the saturated fats you add to your plate,” she says.
Using frozen fruits and vegetables is recommended, as they are easily stored, have a long shelf life, and are easy to add to lean-protein dishes, soups, or smoothies.
Be aware of portion size.
“A lot of excess sodium and fat from our diet just comes from eating too much food,” Chapman says. “If we eat more calories than we burn, we gain weight, and that extra weight puts stress on your heart and can raise your blood pressure.”
Also think about balancing your food groups. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, and proteins (especially plant-based proteins) should make up a meal.
Take a look at where you get your oils and fats.
“That which is liquid is better than that which is hard,” Chapman says. Basically: Avoid hard fats, such as the ones you'll find around meat, or the buttery fats in dairy products. Olive, coconut, and peanut oil are all heart-healthier options to cook with.
To quickly get an idea of the amount of fat your food has, Chapman recommends placing your food on a paper towel, which will wick up the excess fats and oils. “If the food is really greasy afterward,” says Chapman, “that’s a good sign that your food is particularly higher in saturated or trans fats.”
Use more herbs and spices.
“Over two weeks, your taste buds can lose the taste for salt,” Chapman says. To get through those two weeks when you're trying to cut down on salt, she recommends reaching for powerful flavors like garlic, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, and chili powder.
Be aware of your bad habits.
“We’re frequently influenced by the people we eat around,” Chapman says. If you know your friends or coworkers are going to persuade you to eat that extra cookie or go for the fries, she suggests doing healthier activities with those social groups to balance out the bad eating habits. “Try seeing if they’ll go for a walk with you after lunch—that way you can socialize and get in some exercise to counteract consuming higher-calorie foods.”
Focus on one meal at a time.
“Folks try to change a total day’s menu, and it makes the switch so much harder,” Chapman says. “Take a look at where you have the most amount of control, and then look at where you have the most difficult time making healthy choices.”
Focus on one meal, like lunch, where you can start brown-bagging a healthy salad or sandwich instead of eating out. Once you feel you have that habit under control, tackle something else, like those 3 PM snack attacks or breakfast on the go.
5 Heart-Healthy Recipes to Get You Started
These recipes all have components of a heart-healthy meal: lean proteins with omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based proteins, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich fruits (and chocolate).
On February 14, feel free to indulge in that box of chocolates.
Chocolate is actually pretty good for you. For one, it’s a good source of magnesium: One ounce of dark chocolate supplies about 20 percent of your daily needs, says Nicole Ferring Holovach, an integrative registered dietitian in Frederick.
“Magnesium is one of those minerals that is notoriously hard to get,” Holovach says. “It’s estimated that half of Americans don’t get enough.”
Dark chocolate has also been found to benefit cardiovascular health due to its high levels of flavanols, she says. Several studies have shown that flavanols are associated with significantly lower risks of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke, according to the National Confectioners Association. There’s also been some initial evidence that chocolate may help improve your mood and reduce anxiety, the association reports.
But not all chocolate is created equal. That’s why it’s important to read the labels. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the chocolate that’s healthiest this holiday.
1) Look for the fewest ingredients. Many large chocolate-makers add soy lecithin, milk powder, and other fats to their chocolate, says Adam Kavalier, cofounder of Undone Chocolate, the District’s first bean-to-bar chocolate-maker. This process “dilutes the health properties that are inherent in the natural cocoa bean,” says Kavalier, who has a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry. Holovach recommends brands such as Equal Exchange, Theo, Pascha, Enjoy Life, and Alter Eco because they contain only four ingredients: cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
2) Eat craft chocolate. The term “craft chocolate” means it’s made from bean to bar under one roof. Craft chocolate is also usually created with cocoa beans that are lightly roasted and carefully ground, which keeps the antioxidants intact in the final chocolate bar. Local companies that follow this bean-to-bar process include Dandelion Chocolate, Madre Chocolate, DickTaylor, and Taza Chocolate. Eating craft chocolate also helps you avoid chocolate processed with alkali, which is used to tone down the bitterness of chocolate but also reduces the level of antioxidants.
3) The more cacao, the better. Most dark chocolate is 50 to 60 percent cacao, but the higher the percentage of cacao, the higher the flavanol and antioxidant content, says Holovach. “I find 70 percent is what most people enjoy,” she says. “It’s right around the range chocolate is still sweet, with just a little bitterness.”
When the weather gets colder, it makes sense that we crave a warm bowl of chili or soup instead of a cold salad—but it’s not just because these foods make us feel cozier. Our bodies are telling us what we need to eat in the winter, when there’s less sun exposure, the air gets colder and drier, and we’re more prone to getting sick.
“Some people are very affected by the longer days, waking up in the dark in the morning and feeling more fatigued or depressed than usual,” says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Fairfax.
Eating particular types of foods, Omar says, can help us stay energized and healthy through the winter. Read on for the ingredients to look for, plus a few of our favorite recipes.
1) In-Season Produce
It’s especially important to be eating with the seasons, Omar says. “Winter foods contain natural immune-boosting nutrients,” she says, which is important during cold and flu season. That means lots of winter squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and fruits such as pears, apples, and citrus—all of which contain vitamins B and C and magnesium. Pomegranate seeds, another winter favorite, are also good for your heart.
2) Complex Carbohydrates
It’s normal to crave carbs in the winter because they boost levels of serotonin, a mood-lifter, says Omar. But instead of reaching for baked goods or a plate of pasta, opt instead for complex carbs, which give you energy and keep you fuller longer. You might stock up on legumes and whole grains such as rye and quinoa, and swap out white pasta for whole-grain or bean pastas, which offer more fiber and protein.
3) Vitamin D Foods
Less sun exposure also means a decrease in vitamin D, which affects both mood and immunity. Egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified foods are all solid sources of the nutrient.
4) Omega-3 Fats
Foods such as salmon, other fatty fish, and walnuts contain essential omega-3 fats, also help stabilize mood swings. Other options include flax, chia, and hemp seeds—try throwing them into a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal in the mornings, Omar says. Another plus: Omega-3s moisturize skin, which tends to dry out in the winter.
Amy’s, Kinnikinnick, Udi’s, Glutino, Bob’s Red Mill: These are some of the many gluten-free brands you might find on grocery store shelves these days. Some stores have entire sections dedicated to the diet, offering everything from gluten-free breads, cakes, and cookies to frozen meals and pizzas.
Though it’s becoming more popular for companies to offer GF items—great news for those allergic to gluten—it’s also frequently the case that brands are slapping a “gluten-free” label onto products simply to make them appear healthier, even on items that were gluten-free to begin with . . . such as bottles of water.
“This happens all the time and is really irritating to those of us living a gluten-free lifestyle,” says Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod, executive editor of Delight Gluten-Free Magazine and the author of several gluten-free cookbooks.
While packaged GF foods may appeal to health-conscious consumers, the reality is they tend to be chock-full of sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, largely because adding these ingredients makes the food taste better, she says.
“The rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet has led the general public to believe that gluten-free means better for you,” Weisbrod says. “While these packaged products are safely gluten-free and a wonderful replacement for people who need to maintain a gluten-free diet for health reasons, they aren’t necessarily better for you when it comes to nutritional qualities.”
A good rule of thumb: If the item wasn’t healthy as a “regular” product, the gluten-free version won't be, either. In other words, a gluten-free cupcake or doughnut is going to be just as unhealthy as its gluten-containing counterpart.
GF packaged goods also tend to rely on non-fortified—though naturally gluten-free—flours such as almond, sorghum, and buckwheat. These, says Weisbrod, have “nowhere near the same nutritional value as traditional wheat flours.” Although some of those flours may contain fiber, protein, and amino acids, most gluten-free products are made with ingredients like rice flour and cornstarch—which offer very little, if any, health benefits, Weisbrod says.
The healthiest way to eat gluten-free is to stick with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean proteins, and naturally gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and amaranth. If you do buy packaged goods, look for ones that use gluten-free whole grains and flours that are fortified, Weisbrod recommends. Fortified gluten-free flours will provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron.
A few examples of good gluten-free items to look for the next time you’re at the store: Bob’s Red Mill makes whole-grain rolled oats, Udi’s sells whole-grain gluten-free bagels, and 1-2-3 Gluten Free offers fortified gluten-free flour mix.
If there’s one thing that gets runners through that last mile of a race, it’s the thought of brunch afterward. Loading up on pancakes, waffles, bacon, and mimosas after months of early morning runs and training? There’s no better reward.
Here, we share our top brunch spots for runners based on Washingtonian’s list of 50 Great Breakfast and Brunch Spots. Got a favorite brunch place of your own? Share it with us in the comments section!
For runners with bottomless appetites, head to: Liberty Tavern
On the weekend, Liberty Tavern in Clarendon is a hot spot for the post-race crowd, thanks to its $20 all-you-can-eat buffet. Think crispy bacon and fried chicken, French toast, yummy beet-and-goat-cheese salad, and a table piled high with house-made pop tarts and desserts.
For a good old-fashioned breakfast, head to: Silver Diner
The word “diner” may imply greasy plates of eggs and homefries, but expect a healthier twist on your favorite breakfast meals at Silver Diner with just-right portion sizes. Another perk: a hefty list of tasty smoothies and milkshakes to top off your meal.
For a quick grab-and-go, head to: Bayou Bakery
If you’re short on time and don’t want to deal with crowds, order a breakfast sandwich on a flaky biscuit at the counter of this Courthouse restaurant. Also worth a try: beignets, house-made croissants, and a muff-a-lotta sandwich.
For the vegetarian runner, head to: Busboys and Poets
If you’ve got a vegetarian or vegan runner in the group, Busboys and Poets has a good number of meatless dishes. The Oaxacan-style omelet with black beans and guacamole never fails, and most meals are $10 or less.
For a true celebratory brunch, head to: the Hamilton
For the music-loving type, head to the Hamilton near the Metro Center for its $30 Southern buffet with a free alcoholic drink. Then chow down on all-you-can-eat buttermilk biscuits and gumbo to the sound of live music.
Removing meat from your diet may lower blood pressure and therefore reduce your risk of heart disease, according to a new study conducted by a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
In the first meta-analysis of its kind, Dr. Neal Barnard and his team of researchers compared the blood pressure of more than 21,000 people involved in various observational studies and clinical trials. They found that participants who maintained a plant-based diet, from vegan to pescetarian to semi-vegetarian, were associated with lower blood pressure readings.
A healthy person should have a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mmHg—any higher doubles the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
In the study, vegetarians reported a systolic blood pressure about 7 mmHg lower and diastolic blood pressure 5 mmHg lower than participants who ate meat. The lower blood pressure readings mean huge health benefits: A reduction of 5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure leads to a 9 percent reduced risk of heart disease and a 14 percent reduced risk of stroke.
Why is a vegetarian diet so effective at lowering blood pressure? For one, vegetarians often have lower BMIs compared with omnivores, thanks to the higher fiber intake and lower saturated fat levels of plant-based diets. In addition, vegetarians typically consume a high amount of potassium, which, along with exercise, directly correlates with lower blood pressure.
The findings support the idea that those who suffer from hypertension don’t have to rely solely on medicine, said Barnard in a statement. “Let’s write prescriptions for plant-based foods,” he said. Switching to a plant-based diet promotes healthy side effects, such as weight loss, lower blood pressure, and the presence of good cholesterol, he added.
However, more research is needed to find out whether certain vegetarian diets are more effective in reducing blood pressure than others, researchers noted.
The full study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The Skinny on Diets
If all goes according to plan, nutrition labels will be getting a big makeover, thanks to a proposal issued by the US Food and Drug Administration and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Yesterday the FDA announced its proposal to update the Nutrition Facts label in order to better reflect the latest health and dietary research and allow consumers to make healthier food choices. “You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” Obama said in her announcement at the White House.
If the proposal gets approved, it would be the first time the labels have been updated since 2006. The Nutrition Facts labels first appeared on food packages 20 years ago.
The proposal is the First Lady’s latest efforts to prioritize healthy eating as part of her Let’s Move! initiative, which recently celebrated its four-year anniversary.
Here are some of the major changes proposed by the FDA:
• Include the number of grams of added sugar
• Increase the font size of number of servings per container and calories. The serving size requirements will be updated to reflect how much people actually eat today.
• Include information about certain nutrients the US population typically does not get enough of in their diets, such as potassium and vitamin D. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required on labels.
• Remove “calories from fat,” as “research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount,” the FDA wrote in its proposal.
The changes will not go into effect immediately. The FDA is accepting public comment on the proposal for the next 90 days.
Between morning workouts, a stressful job, and shuttling kids from school to practice, how does one find the time to plan and prepare healthy meals? Busy Washingtonians have turned to services that whip together nutritious food, often delivered to their door. As a plus, all of the following services use local meat and produce as much as possible.
If You Have No Time at All
DC, Montgomery County, Arlington, Fairfax County. Meals are also available for pickup at 5329 Georgia Avenue, Northwest.
How it works
Users choose from a Lite Bites or Veggie Bites menu each week. The meals are delivered fresh to your home and come with the option of snacks. Kid-friendly meals are also available.
Recent menu choices
Ginger shrimp with mango, green beans, and brown rice; roasted-red-pepper chicken with sautéed spinach and quinoa; turkey meatballs with whole-wheat pesto pasta and veggies.
Three-to-seven-day packages range from $33 to $275; healthybitesfood.com.
If You’re a Gym Rat
DC; Northern Virginia; Baltimore; Montgomery, PG, Howard, Anne Arundel counties.
How it works
Chefs create Paleo and vegetarian lunches and dinners, gluten- and dairy-free. Order meals online and pick up Monday through Thursday at more than 55 gyms and fitness studios.
Recent menu choices
Buffalo chicken with cumin-carrot salad; Paleo corned-beef-and-sauerkraut Reuben with parsnip hash and grilled zucchini; stuffed-grape-leaves casserole; Hawaiian chicken salad with sautéed garlic kale.
Lunches and dinners range from $9.50 to $15.50, with the option of three or five days of meals; dc.mypowersupply.com.
If You Want to Feed Your Inner Chef
DC, Alexandria, Arlington.
How it works
Monday through Thursday, Scratch DC posts a nutritionist-advised dinner on its website; users can order online and set up a 30-minute delivery window. The package contains the recipe and fixings required to create that day’s meal. To save time, all ingredients come chopped, measured, and marinated.
Recent menu choices
Mushroom-and-goat-cheese beef stroganoff; mozzarella chicken caprese and asparagus in a balsamic reduction; butternut-squash-bacon-and-Gruyère risotto and spinach vinaigrette salad.
$25 to $30 per meal, which feeds two; scratchdc.com.
This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Washingtonian.