Soda tax cuts purchases, health impact harder to discern

Those who blame sugary beverages for America’s obesity problems have often advocated for a tax on such items to cut consumption. Philadelphia enacted such a tax in January and signs are it has definitely cut purchases of sugary soda in the city.

My Super Big Gulp days are over when it comes to diet soda, I given it up for water on the advice of nutritionists...who didn't mention arsenic in water could be a cause of my heart troubles.
Should suhgar-sweetened beverages be taxed?

Indeed, a local Pepsi bottler announced layoffs this week, blaming decreased sales in the 40-50% range on the Philadelphia tax. Some critics say it’s just scare tactics to get the tax rolled back while others tout the amount of money the tax has raised for local schools. Continue reading “Soda tax cuts purchases, health impact harder to discern”

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Low-salt, Low-fat recipes for Super Bowl

The Big Game is almost upon us, that day when everyone else is eating fried, greasy, salty, fatty snacks. But if you’re on a  low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet as I am, my first suggestion would be you host the party so you can control the menu.

These mini cups are low in fat and salt and sugar-free. Fill them with salt-free treats for Super Bowl munching.
These mini cups are low in fat and salt and sugar-free. Fill them with salt-free treats for Super Bowl munching.

If that’s not possible, bring your own food along. Pack up everything from salt-free potato chips to a main dish like swordfish steak.

I’ve written extensively on low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar items you can create for the game, here’s a quick rundown: Continue reading “Low-salt, Low-fat recipes for Super Bowl”

Eating less doesn’t always mean doing more for yourself

Dieting is not primarily what this site is about. But in the course of eating less fat, salt and sugar, it seems you inevitably will eat less and lose weight. I know I did. Cutting out processed foods and restaurant foods with too much salt, fat and sugar meant I was eating less since there aren’t many substitutes for such offerings.

I loved this sign
I eat a lot of lettuce these days but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to lose weight.

But does eating less help you? In the long run, it can impact your metabolism and actually make it harder to drop pounds when you want to. Former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels makes that point in a recent posting on her website.

“It is absolutely 100 percent essential to eat enough calories! If you don’t, it will destroy your metabolism. It’s like telling your body that you’re starving. If your body thinks it’s starving, your metabolism will shut down,” she writes. Continue reading “Eating less doesn’t always mean doing more for yourself”

Nick’s Famous Coney Island — a Portland gem

I ordered the Old-fashioned Dog, classic guy that I am, which was a hot dog covered with cole slaw and the Coney sauce, and of course mustard.

My recent trip to Portland, Ore., to visit with my daughter included some great places she picked out for us to eat. Knowing that I grew up in Coney Island, she decided to take me to a Portland classic locale — Nick’s Famous Coney Island Food & Cocktails.

IMG_2867Portland is a funky town, no doubt about that, and Nick’s fits right into its artsy cum blue-collar waterfront vibe. The bar has been on the same street for 85 years, most of those in the same spot and it looks it with its old-style bar and stools on one side and its dark interior. It reminded me of a place that could have been along the Brooklyn waterfront circa 1950.

We were there for the hot dogs and I was not disappointed — nor was my vegetarian daughter who tried their veggie dog offering. Note, of course, that hot dogs are not on my usual low-fat, low-salt diet.

But this was a vacation treat, much as Nathan’s is when I’m in NYC. Plus, oddly enough I was just getting over a bout of food poisoning the week before I visited that caused me to drop nine pounds in seven days, so I thought a food splurge was in order. Continue reading “Nick’s Famous Coney Island — a Portland gem”

More evidence on the difficulty of keeping lost weight off

Losing weight is a challenge many American struggle with. Keeping weight off after losing large amounts is an even more difficult challenge. Our bodies are fighting against maintaining weight loss, it turns out, according to a new study written about recently in the New York Times.

A recent New York Times story looking at Biggest Loser contestants from season 8 had a lot fo bad news for anyone trying to lose weight and keep those pounds off.
A recent New York Times story looking at Biggest Loser contestants from season 8 had a lot of bad news for anyone trying to lose weight and keep those pounds off.

Someone decided to look at Biggest Loser Contestants after they left the show. I used to love that show, but year after year of reading how contestants regained their weight, and more sometimes, finally caused me to stop watching it.  Continue reading “More evidence on the difficulty of keeping lost weight off”

Pasta portions — the companies that sell it and Strega Nona disagree

Strega Nona had a magic pasta pot that could make as much pasta as she directed it, what Italian boy wouldn’t want one of those?

When my children were young, I would read them the adventures of a character called Strega Nona. I loved the book because Strega Nona is Italian, the book was written by an Italian, and I hoped it would give my children a sense of their Italian side. It also had a goofy character named Big Anthony who remind me of my cousin Anthony, so it worked in so many ways.

Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.
Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.

Strega Nona had a magic pasta pot that could make as much pasta as she directed it, what Italian boy wouldn’t want one of those?

Pasta, which we actually called macaroni in my Italian-American home in Brooklyn, was a ubiquitous part of our weekly menu. It was always part of Sunday dinner and probably served at least one weekday every week as well.

Since my heart surgery in 2012, I’ve been told by nutritionists to stop eating regular pasta altogether and switch to whole grain and multigrain varieties. that’s meant almost no pasta at Italian restaurants anymore since so few offer whole grain varieties. So when I make the multigrain type at home, I tend to eat a lot of it, just like I did as a kid.

A box of Barilla whole grain penne says a portion size is two ounces, or 56 grams, of dry pasta. I can usually eat half a box which is 6.5 ounces,so I decided to measure out two ounces recently on my food scale to see how much it was.

Adjusting the scale to zero with a measuring cup on it, I started adding pasta. Two ounces didn’t even fill a one-cup container, so I ended up with four ounces on the scale, filling the cup and putting the rest on the scale itself.

Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.
Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.

I cooked that up and put it on my plate. What had been 4 ounces dry filled the plate, barely, but it did not really fill me. It left me wishing Strega Nona’s pasta pot was somewhere nearby.

John

Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives

I think for me, Asian food will continue to mean items I cook at home myself.

Chinese food, more correctly old-fashioned Chinese-American restaurant offerings like fried rice, spare ribs, egg rolls and lobster-filled fried wontons, is perhaps the cuisine I miss the most since switching to a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet after my 2012 angioplasty.

My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.
My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.

I went back to it on a birthday in 2014, with unpleasant results. And I’ve found some ways to make Asian dishes at home with a salt-free teriyaki marinade.

So I was interested to read a post on former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels’ site headlined “Learn Healthy Options at Asian Restaurants.” I generally think there are none, but she started out with one that I can actually agree with — sashimi instead of sushi at a Japanese place.  Continue reading “Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives”