Calcium – how do you know if you’re getting enough?

Ever wonder how much calcium you’re actually getting from your calcium supplement?

It’s the amount of elemental calcium that’s important when deciding how much calcium you’re actually getting from a supplement.  If you’re taking calcium carbonate, you’re getting 40% elemental calcium.  Taking a citrate version?  You’ll actually only see 25% elemental calcium from a citrate supplement.  So if your goal is to take 500mg of calcium a day, be sure to calculate the amount you take in terms of how much elemental calcium you can expect to get from your supplement.

And remember…our bodies can only absorb about 300-500mg of elemental calcium at a time, so be sure to space your supplements throughout the day for optimal absorption.  Our favourite?  Exact brand CAL-CHEW’s. These are chewable little 20 calorie yum yums (available at the Superstore) that make taking calcium fun – the perfect afternoon treat!  They also contain vitamin D which helps your body better use the calcium in your supplement – Enjoy!

Kraft dinner healthy?

This product touts all the benefits of a whole grain product; high in fibre, B vitamins and iron so let’s see how this KD measures up!

Half a box prepared provides 100% of your daily Thiamin and folic acid intake and takes care of 30% of your daily iron needs – very important for brain development in the little ones!  You’ll also get 360 calories, 14 g protein and 6 g of fibre, that with some raw veggies or a salad with low fat dressing is a perfect lunch!

You can save 160 calories in this recipe (80 calories for a 1/2 box serving) by using 1% milk and low fat margarine.  REMEMBER: Not all margarine is created equally – be sure and pick a margarine that is made with 100% NON – HYDROGENATED vegetable oil. I recommend becel lite (the blue tub).  Enjoy!

What should you be eating to fuel your exercise?

As spring approaches, it’s time to get outside and get your body moving.  So why isn’t your waistline shrinking with all that added activity? It could be what you’re eating!  When your body is working hard, it needs energy.  Energy = glucose. That’s right: sugar, starch, the dreaded carbohydrate! So why is it that nuts seem to be the snack of choice? Nuts are energy dense to be sure, but how much energy ‘density’ do you really need: 1 cup of nuts (about the size of a ladies fist) = 1000 calories! Something to think about the next time you’re wondering why you’re not losing weight…not to mention nuts are predominately made up of fat and protein, both take hours to give you that energy boost you needs NOW when exercising.

What I recommend instead is this: have a carbohydrate rich snack about every hour during heavy activity (such as hiking) to keep your sugar levels up. Try a Fibre one or fibre source granola bar, a Sun Rype fruit bar, a banana or even a slice of whole grain bread. These snacks only contribute 100-150 calories to your daily intake but the difference you’ll feel in your energy levels will be enormous – making your hike all the more enjoyable…after all that is why we exercise isn’t it ;)

Salad dressings can really add up; especially if you’re trying to watch your weight

Salad dressing can be a blessing or a curse for those of us watching our figures. There are many store bought dressings that are reasonable in calories such as Presidents Choice Caesar Yogurt Dressing: 40 calories per tablespoon (Tbsp) or about 50% less calories than traditional Caesar dressings made from oil instead of yogurt. Incidentally, the goal for any store bought salad dressing is 40 calories or less per Tbsp and use only 2 Tbsp on yoursalad portion.

But what about making it yourself?  Diligently count those calories because for every Tbsp of oil, you’re adding 120 calories to your salad! Not to mention 1 Tbsp of honey ‘costs’ 60 calories, 1 Tbsp of sugar ‘costs’ 45 calories and the list goes on…  So what do I suggest?  Get an oil sprayer.  Lightly spritz your salad with oil instead of mixing oil into the dressing and then add other ingredients such as vinegar and spices separately. Alternatively, you can use a balsamic ‘glaze’ (balsamic vinegar that has been reduced to a more syrup like consistency by simmering for 12 minutes) on your salad. Glaze can also be purchased at most grocery stores, ’costs’ about 25 calories per Tbsp and provides a sweeter, fuller mouth feel which mimics the weight of oil based dressings without the added calories.

If creamy dressings are more your thing, try replacing the oil in your favourite salad dressing recipe with Quark light.  Quark is a soft, spreadable cheese that can be purchased in most grocery stores and when using the ‘light’ version, will only contribute 1 calorie per gram used; so each Tbsp of Quark only contributes 15 calories per Tbsp used – compare that to 120 calories for a Tbsp of oil and the choice is obvious, or at least is should be ;)   Enjoy!

La Tortilla Factory Wraps: the BEST wraps for everyday and while trying to lose weight!

Have you ever heard of La Tortilla Factory?

They are a high fibre, low calorie wrap that should be in everyone’s cupboard!  With only 130 calories per wrap and 12g fibre, these gems will keep your meal lasting and your waistline in check for sure!  Compare that to typical wraps that contain ~180 calories and only 2-3g fibre, these truly are a ‘miracle’!

Wrap this around some skinless chicken breast, coleslaw and low-fat ranch dressing and you’ve got yourself the perfect quick lunch on the go!

How much salt is in that?

Products like salsa, tomato paste, stewed or canned tomatoes and pasta sauce; any product made with tomatoes as its base, tends to pack a lot of salt. The trouble with these salty foods is that you can’t taste the salt…so more is usually added.

I recommend purchasing these products with no salt added. For example Presidents choice salsa has 85 mg of sodium per 2 Tbsp; compare that to Pace Chunky Salsa which has 230 mg of sodium for the same 2 Tbsp. Similarly, regular canned tomatoes contain 350 mg of sodium per half cup and the product doesn’t even taste salty! Start with a clean slate; why not buy canned tomatoes with ‘no added salt’ and add just a touch of your own salt at the table. That way you can actually taste the salt that’s being put into your food rather than starting out with a whole bunch of sodium that you don’t appreciate, and then adding more… just some food for thought.

Dieting? You don’t need to give up the cheese!

Cheese is one of the things we think of giving up when we think of reducing our calories. There is good reason for this; a 1 oz chunk of cheddar cheese (which is approximately 1 inch squared) will run you 120 calories! Not a lot of bang for your buck if you ask me… So if you’re looking for a good alternative, I recommend giving the following low-fat cheeses a try: Allegro 4% MF skimmed milk cheese or Dama 12% MF light brie. Both of these cheeses can be found at stores such as IGA or SaveOn Foods and will only run you 50 to 60 calories for the same1 ounce serving.

A good rule of thumb for any cheese is to keep the percent milk fat (%MF) to 15% MF or less. Cheeses that fall into this category are: Low-fat feta, ricotta, low-fat bocconcini and partly skimmed mozzarella cheese. It is always a good idea to choose light cheeses even if you are choosing something like a cheddar or Havarti which will not fit into the 15% MF or less guideline even in the light form. So if you do go for these higher fat cheeses, make sure you choose the light version.  You will be saving yourself on calories and saturated fat without giving up cheese completely… bon appétit!

Fruit truly is natures candy

Even if the sun doesn’t seem like it’s here to stay, a good indication that summer is coming is all the yummy fresh fruit in the grocery store. Although fruit is an excellent source of nutrients, antioxidants, fibre and not to mention fun, you still need to be mindful of the calories. They don’t call it “nature’s candy” for nothing! So while one cup of blueberries or strawberries may only run you 60 calories, juicing up a whole 2 pound box might be giving you more calories than you bargained for!

A good rule of thumb for most fruits is to account for approximately 60-70 calories in each “serving”. By serving, I mean one cup of berries or one medium-size fruit like a pair or peach.  There are a couple of fruits however, that will give you more calories than you may have bargained for; Mangos, cherries, grapes and large bananas will all contribute about 100-150 calories to your daily total for the same serving size… just some food for thought.

What’s for desset tonight – YES, we said dessert – you can eat it and ‘diet’ too ;)

And dessert tonight is…

Ahh dessert… that guilty little pleasure that we all love to hate to indulge in. But the simple fact is, we do indulge once in a while… and why shouldn’t we? So the next time you’re feeling guilty about indulging, try one of the following little yum yums: a no sugar added Kozy Shack pudding for 60 calories (found in the dairy case), A Cadbury’s ‘thins’ bar for 100 calories, a good old-fashioned Fudgsicle bar for 90 calories, A Vita Muffin chocolate muffin for 100 calories (found in the frozen aisle of your grocery store) or a Curves or Praventia granola bar for 100 calories.

There is something incredibly satisfying about actually finishing a dessert, which is exactly why the above desserts all come pre-packaged and perfectly contained to 100 calories or less – Guilt Free! So go ahead… have dessert! And have it every day. The only thing you’ll be missing… is the guilt ;)

Tuna and mercury: Is it possible to eat too much?

We are very lucky in Canada that mercury levels in canned fish are tightly controlled. However, there still are some guidelines to help keep you safe. In general, the larger the fish the more mercury can accumulate within its flesh.  Albacore tuna is one of the bigger fish that is often found as a canned product. As such, health Canada recommends no more than four “servings” per week. What is a serving? Basically it’s half a can or 75 g.

What if you’re one of those folks who eat canned tuna every day… no worries! Other fish used in canned tuna such as skipjack generally tend to be much smaller than albacore tuna and therefore has not been given an upper limit on how much of this tuna you can consume in a week.  The size of this type of fish prevents it from accumulating more mercury than is considered safe for consumption, even at high intake levels.  Sometimes the type of fish is not specified on the label; the less expensive tuna labelled chunk, flaked, or light also falls under this category and can be safely consumed in larger quantities than four servings per week.

So, my recommendation is to go with a cheap stuff and enjoy this healthy food couple of times a week!

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