Thursday, July 21, 2011

Use restaurant calorie labeling as a guide, not the only factor when choosing a meal.

A team of scientists recently purchased food from 42 fast food/ chain restaurants (including Olive Garden, Outback, Burger King, and McDonald’s) in Indiana, Arkansas, and Massachusetts and compared the calorie content of the foods purchased with the restaurant’s calorie labeling. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The major findings were:

  • Only 7% of the 249 foods were within 10 calories of the posted calories
  • Almost 20% of foods actually contained >100 calories more than listed
  • Sit-down restaurants seemed to be the most inaccurate, averaging a 225 calorie discrepancy between the actual and posted calories
  • Boston Market’s dark meat chicken listed as 358 calories, but was actually >500
  • A cranberry pecan chicken salad at Bob Evans listed as 841 calories, but was actually>1,100
  • Fast food chains averaged a 134 calorie discrepancy for each menu item
  • Foods listed with higher calorie contents tended to contain fewer calories, while foods listed with lower calorie contents tended to contain more calories.
  • Overall, restaurant calorie labeling was usually pretty accurate, but large discrepancies did occur for individual food items (as shown above).
The take-home message here is to use the calorie information as a guide… but also use common sense. If something sounds like it’s worse for you than the calories posted, it probably is. Be sure to keep dressings on the side, order the lean way (light dressings on side, no cheese, no mayo, etc.), and choose foods that you know are nutritious (vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grains). Restaurant calorie labeling is definitely a positive step... even if some of the numbers are off, oftentimes it can be an eye-opener just to see an estimate of how many calories are jammed into such a small dish!

 L. E. Urban, M. A. McCrory, G. E. Dallal, S. K. Das, E. Saltzman, J. L. Weber, S. B. Roberts. Accuracy of Stated Energy Contents of Restaurant Foods. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011; 306 (3): 287 DOI:,0,3492869.story

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July is National Blueberry Month!

Toro Blueberry Plant -Huge Berries-Early - Self Fertile

On May 8, 1999 the US Department of Agriculture proclaimed July as National Blueberry Month… as if we need another reason to enjoy the delicious fruit! At just 80 calories/cup, virtually no fat, and jam packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, and other phytonutrients (all antioxidants/anti-inflammatory agents), blueberries make a healthy addition to any breakfast cereal, yogurt, smoothie, and are just delicious on their own. They are consistently ranked among the highest in terms of antioxidant content (compared with other fruits, veggies, spices & seasonings). Studies suggest that blueberries may help to improve memory, blood glucose values, cardiovascular health, vision, and have many anti-cancer properties.

When it comes to blueberries, bigger is usually better since they tend to be sweeter. Look for large and plump blueberries with a vibrant color that are not shriveled up or wet looking. Once purchased, you can store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days in a covered container (leaving out may cause them to mold quicker). I do not recommend following Rachael Ray's advice of washing before storing (this will increase the chance for mold to grow). If you get a great deal on blueberries, you can simply freeze in a container, although this will change the texture slightly. Always wash briefly immediately before eating unless you are eating wild organic blueberries (then you do not need to wash- this will leave the protective bloom on the berry).

Low-fat Blueberry Muffin Recipe


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup non-fat milk or soymilk
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with re-usable muffin sleeves or spray with PA<. In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients (except for blueberries). In a small bowl, combine milk, canola oil, egg, and vanilla extract.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add milk, oil and egg mixture. Stir until just moist and then fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake 18-20 minutes until golden. Cool on wire rack.
Makes 12 muffins.
Per Muffin: Calories 140, Total Fat 3 g, Cholesterol 18mg, Sodium 160 mg, Carbohydrate 24 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 3.5 g
Recipe adapted from:

World's Healthiest Foods, Blueberries:
US Highbush Council:
North American Blueberry Council: