The EALM Blog Shelf

While Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Team work on some new and exciting projects, you may notice less posts on the Eating and Living Moderately Blog. We have created a “blog shelf” below to keep you entertained and educated. Get caught up on the latest nutrition education by clicking on each year below. We will send you nutrition updates, but we will not be inundating your mailboxes on a weekly basis. If you want weekly “love” and inspiration, subscribe to our Mom Dishes It Out blog for weekly posts and recipes. Mom Dishes It Out provides expert advice from mom Registered Dietitians and mom Speech Pathologists on the “how to” of health promotion!

LLC badge

The EALM Blog Shelf

Please feel free to peruse our posts organized by year below. Or take a look at the categories listed at the bottom of the page to find a post in the desired.







Weight Shaming is Such a Shame

Weight Shaming is Such a Shame

By Lauren Cohen and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Photo Credit: ashley rose, via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ashley rose, via Compfight cc

There are a series of phrases out there so vile that I am embarrassed by the following sentence. They include; “thigh gap,” “food shaming,” “FUPA,” and “butterface.” These are just a few of the grotesque ways we have manipulated the English language to diminish the beauty of another person. A person.  A person who is made of cells, and matter, and muscle, and fibers, and water, and feelings, and emotions, and self-hate. We don’t need your help to belittle ourselves—we do just fine on our own. But we don’t have to.


Weight shaming—or perhaps better described as body shaming—is something we all fall victim to. It’s easy to accidentally offend. When I was thirteen, gangly and tall with a rough case of acne, a woman pulled me aside while I was bathing suit shopping. I was in a bikini and she asked me, with a soft and serious tone, if I was eating enough and if I would like her to speak to my mother. I was horrified, confused, and virtually naked. I am sure she had good intentions; but I can still feel today that sensation of brutal exposure.


Body shaming is a real life nightmare. It feels like walking into to your high school cafeteria completely nude. The room falls silent and everyone laughs. I don’t need to explain it to you—no doubt you have felt it at one point or another. But… why?


It comes from all over. From our parents and our friends, from the media and from ourselves. As a society, we forget that people are built just the way they are built. Everybody is different and every body is different. Sometimes they’re small; sometimes they’re large. Sometimes busty or curvy or lean or petite. There are extremes, of course, and those often require nutrition intervention for both over and under nutrition. But for the majority of the population—we need to work on some serious body loving.


There is a theory out there—the set-point theory—arguing that individual bodies maintain a certain weight and frame for extended periods of time. If you think of your lifespan as a graph, this would be a plateau. Provided that the plateau is not in an extreme, I like the idea behind this theory. To me, it is a scientific way of asserting that your body is all your own.


Your body is very smart. Think about it. It knows how to take care of itself, when to ask you for more food, when to enforce more sleep, when to suggest an appealing exercise or crave a specific meal. Your body takes care of you—now it’s time for you to take care of your body. Give it some lovin’.



How do you show your body love? What can we do to help prevent body shaming?


A Reflection on BMI | Part 2 – BMI Report Cards

A Reflection on BMI: Part 2 BMI Report Cards
By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Screen shot 2014-06-07 at 11.59.22 PM

Just to recap what we learned in Part I, BMI is a measurement based on an individual’s height and weight. It is used on a scale to reflect one’s status as underweight, normal and underweight. While using measurements is essential for statistical reasons and diagnostic tools, BMI is being utilized as a marker of health rather than focusing on behaviors and a cluster of measurements. We have said it before and will say it again; BMI is only one measurement and it’s not always reflective of a person’s state of health.


After collecting all of this information on BMI, does this change how we look at it for our growing children and adolescents?


Adolescent bodies, the time of development just after childhood, are growing at a rapid pace. Mentally and physically. Teens deal with an increased level of hormones in their bodies, which contribute to the many different growth spurts they will endure. They struggle with self-identity and the desire for independence. This combination often causes teens to be deeply self-conscious, which can inhibit decision-making. It could cause them to become defiant and often times unresponsive to parental guidance.


Puberty arrives at different times, stages and intervals for every child but usually happens around age 11-14. On average, teens experience a 20-25% growth increase during this time—35 pounds for girls and 45 pounds for boys. In an average one-year spurt, girls grow roughly 3.5 inches and boys about 4 inches. Using a measurement such as BMI, which is already so marginalized to determine the health status of a rapidly changing youth seems counterproductive.

Screen shot 2014-06-07 at 11.53.57 PM

Over the past few years, you may have heard of BMI Report Cards or, as they are more harshly referred to, “Fat Letters.” They are letters sent home from schools reporting on a child’s BMI and suggesting to seek out a physician if results are above normal. Needless to say, parents did not respond well to this. It caused a national outrage. In 2004, Arkansas was the first state to send BMI report cards home to parents and/or guardians. Children and adolescents with a BMI indicating they were “overweight” were suggested to consult a health care professional. Today, the program is implemented in over a quarter of United States school districts.


A cover story from the New York Post last week chronicled (with pictures!) this same concern. Click here to read the article in full and see the letter that a young girl was sent home with from the NY Department of Education. Unfortunately, this is happening with more regularity in New York City schools than the article chronicled. It isn’t just front cover news; a friend of ours recently received “obese” range marks for two of her three children who are nowhere near overweight. Now it becomes clear that we cannot possible classify these kids as overweight or underweight without taking into consideration other factors such as fat distribution, family history and the child’s behavior. This leads us to a very important question—if BMI calculates the relationship between height and weight, in a time when height and weight are rapidly changing at different paces and intervals, how can we justify using this as a determinant of adolescent health?


Knowing everything that we know about BMI, is this really something that will be beneficial for children and adolescents? Shouldn’t we be focusing on their habits through this time to pave the way for a lifelong positive relationship with health and food?


Perhaps even more important, we should be considering how these letters impact the children receiving them. We know that adolescence is the time that individuals are molded into adults. So what happens when a child is told they are fat? A recent article published by the LA Times discusses a study at UCLA that researched this question. Their data reflects “10-year-old girls who are told they are too fat by people that are close to them are more likely to be obese at 19 than girls who were never told they were too fat.” (LA Times, Deborah Netburn) The research goes on to emphasize the danger of “Weight Labeling” at this age. With our understanding of adolescent development, it’s easy to see why.


The major flaw with BMI calculations continues to be that it cannot tell you an individual’s habits. Those high in muscle weight are considered overweight, petite individuals are underweight and normal range individuals could be harboring unhealthy eating habits. BMI is limiting. It doesn’t ask the big questions; have you started menstruating? Are you feeling pressure to experiment with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or sex? How often do you think about food? Are you eating a balanced diet? These are the thoughts and habits that, overtime, determine the health of an individual.


Has your child received a BMI report card known as a Fitness Gram? What are your feelings concerning weight stigmas and children?


For more information on this subject, check out the Academy of Eating Disorder’s stand on BMI reporting in schools and Examiner’s take on Fitnessgrams.

A Reflection on BMI

A Reflection on BMI
Part 1 – In The Media
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Photo Credit: Barbara.K via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Barbara.K via Compfight cc

We’ve been hearing a lot about BMI recently in news. Between The Biggest Loser controversy and a recent article recounting a Yale student’s struggle with her school’s perception of health, BMI seems to be the hottest new weight assessment. Mom Dishes it Out covered BMI in 2012 (the article can be accessed here) emphasizing the importance of good and healthy behaviors over the use of a flawed scale of measurement. Since then, we found that it continues to be used in the media as a fact determining obesity. But what does BMI really tell us about our bodies? Body Mass Index—or BMI—is a measurement of body fat based on an individual’s height and weight. To determine your own BMI, you can use this easy equation.

BMI = weight (kg)/ height (m)2 

Screen shot 2014-05-12 at 12.11.39 PM

Determining BMI is not specific; it’s general. An individual’s BMI is just one part of the puzzle when health care professionals work towards improving an individuals habits and it should not be used as the sole determinate to suggest that an individual is either under or overweight. It is merely a clue as part of a larger nutrition and health assessment.  In recent years, the parameters for BMI have changed, causing more people to fall into certain categories.

Consider this – muscle weighs more than fat. So are Tom Brady, Michael Phelps, and many of the female Olympic gymnasts overweight? Their BMI says yes, though we know this is not the case. Bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and masses and it is important to remember this.

The fueling argument behind The Biggest Loser contestant, Rachel Frederickson’s, weight controversy was her BMI of 18, a value considered just underweight and malnourished. Without considering her BMI, it’s easy to understand how and why a driven and competitive individual involved in a nationally televised weight-loss competition (who would win $250,000) would be so intent on dramatic weight loss. However, we don’t think her weight was healthy. But not because of her BMI, rather her report of exercising 6 hours a day while only consuming 1600 kcals daily in addition to losing 266 pounds in such a short period of time. This is not realistic to continue nor healthy for a lifestyle. If an Olympic athletic were in training, they may exercise for so many hours but they would also be likely consuming 4000 kcals/day. Since the final weigh-in, and after resuming her “normal lifestyle” with the tools she learned from the show, Rachel has a BMI of about 20.

What is more important to consider, is that she reports she is finding time to exercise everyday for about 60 minutes. She loves cooking and is enthusiastic about her meals. She has a renewed sense of her athleticism. She has invested in behavior modification and it is working for her. Instead of using her BMI as a tool to ask the larger questions, we used it’s against her stating that is was a fact that she was unhealthy and now that her BMI is in normal range it is a fact that she is healthy. When, in reality, none of us truly have access to that information. Particularly since none of us know the mental and physical impact that social scrutiny had on her—that’s certainly not information we can get from her BMI. We wonder, is she menstruating, is she thinking about food all of the time or some of the time? We don’t need Rachel to answer these questions, but rather, for us to understand that a mid-range BMI and decreased exercise still does not equate health. More questions need to be answered.

Photo Credit: -Paul H- via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: -Paul H- via Compfight cc

A similar scandal arose when Yale student, Frances Chan, reported in an article later picked up by the Huffington Post, that Yale was forcing her to gain weight, at risk of mandated medical leave from school, based on her BMI. Chan, 5’2” and 90 lbs has a BMI of 16.5. Says Chan;

The University blindly uses BMI as the primary means of diagnosis, it remains oblivious to students who truly need help but do not have low enough BMIs. Instead, it subjects students who have a personal and family history of low weight to treatment that harms our mental health. 

While we are given access to Chan’s height and weight and, therefore, her BMI—she is not our patient. We do not have her medical history or understanding of her body’s development overtime. Most importantly, we are not made aware of Chan’s habits and behaviors. With all of that said, her BMI is quiet low. This is a red flag to health professionals suggesting they dig deeper into one’s medical status and mental health to determine if there is an issue, perhaps behavioral, that needs addressing. Chan suggests that Yale used her BMI as the sole determinant during her nutrition intervention. Whether or not an intervention was required remains unclear to us, but we would hope that more than one’s BMI will be used in future assessments and they would take into account her medical status, her mental health and her behavior/habits.

The above scenario is particularly true when visually assessing others. The point here is size is not the only measurement of health especially that of BMI. Some people qualify as healthy with a BMI of 20 yet their behaviors say otherwise by implementing dietary restriction, smoking, over exercising and even purging. While others, with a BMI of 26 could be healthy, exercising, not smoking, and eating normally yet be considered overweight. The same holds true for someone in the extreme margins of BMI. There are many nutrition clients that we have counseled with BMI’s greater than 29 who have made dietary and lifestyle behavioral changes yet their weight does not reflect the media’s representation of health. And so the same goes for someone who is naturally thin and healthy. For women, regular menstruation, adequate nutrition intake and lack of food thoughts/obsessions along with a normal blood pressure, EKG and more, may be a better indicator of true health. So don’t judge a book by its cover.

Stay tuned; there is more information to come about BMI and how it is being used in our culture and society.

EALM reviews: "PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide"

In honor of National Nutrition Month, EALM reviews: “PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.26.04 PM

Specializing in both eating disorders and endocrine disorders, I often encounter women with an ambiguous diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Some of these clients have struggled with weight issues for years and doctors have mentioned PCOS, but they do not have an official or clear diagnosis. When looking for resources to help these clients, I came across Angela Grassi’s The PCOS- Workbook and PCOS- The Dietitian’s Guide. Whether you are a woman with a potential diagnosis of PCOS or a dietitian looking to brush up on the condition, these books are much needed additions to your bookshelf.


Having been diagnosed with PCOS herself, Angela Grassi understands just how difficult it is to receive the correct diagnosis, as well as the complexities of living with the syndrome. Her first-hand experiences and knowledge as a registered dietitian help to offer a mind, body, and soul perspective to her readers.


It is estimated that PCOS affects between 6-10% of women worldwide, but getting diagnosed may be difficult. Many more women may be living without a diagnosis. A diagnosis typically requires two of the following criteria: Irregular or absent menstrual cycles, clinical or biochemical signs of increased androgen production, and polycystic ovaries (Rotterdam, 2003). Women may struggle for years before these symptoms are recognized. As dietitians, a client may present with weight struggles, disordered eating, or glucose abnormalities even before she knows she has PCOS.


What most women don’t know is that a lot of the symptoms of PCOS, such as hunger and weight gain are a result of their condition.  For example, did you know “women with PCOS have pre- and post-meal ghrelin impairments” (Page 31)? Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. Complications of PCOS, such as infertility, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, can be reduced with lifestyle changes, making nutrition critical to the treatment of PCOS. However, “despite the benefits of weight loss, losing weight and maintaining weight loss is difficult in the general population and especially for women with PCOS (Page 31).”


Grassi reviews common diet trends and offers information on supplements that may be useful in this population. Did you know 1 tsp (3g) of cinnamon has been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose and improve long-term glycemic control (Page 52)? Pick up a copy of Grassi’s book to find more information about supplements that may help with the insulin resistance commonly found in women with PCOS.
The book goes on to describe challenges women may face throughout their lifetime.  It also touches on the psychological aspects of PCOS, including eating disorders. Because individuals with PCOS are at a higher risk for disordered eating and body image disturbances, dietitians must be aware of the signs and symptoms of disordered eating. Grassi offers dietitians and professionals various ways to screen for eating disturbances and tips for working with these clients.


This book summarizes current research, making it a great tool for any one looking to learn more about PCOS. It provides context to the disorder, offers practical advice, and reviews evidenced-based nutrition therapy in order to address treatment for the “entire” person. This particular book is intended for dietitians and health care professionals, but Grassi also offers a workbook for women with PCOS.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.25.44 PM For more information on both Angela Grassi and her books click here.

From Supersized to Downsized

Photo Credit: KRoark via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: KRoark via Compfight cc

From Supersized to Downsized
By Laura Cipullo and the Whole Nutrition Services Team


7-Eleven proudly offers a 44-ounce “Super Big Gulp”. KFC has something called the 64-ounce soda bucket – an entire gallon of liquid that is sold as a single portion. According to Reader’s Digest, this is the caloric equivalent of a KFC Honey BBQ sandwich, a house side salad with ranch dressing, macaroni and cheese, and half an apple turnover (roughly 780 calories and 217 grams of sugar). When did drinking an entire gallon of soda in one sitting become commonplace and acceptable?


Outrageous soda sizes like these and others prompted former Mayor Bloomberg’s health board to pass a law in March of 2013 prohibiting the sale of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces in New York City. This “soda ban”, as it was widely known, was immediately met with criticism, especially from the American Beverage Association and fast-food restaurants. Critics argued that drinking gallons of soda is a personal choice and the government shouldn’t be allowed to regulate that choice. After much deliberation, the Supreme Court ruled against the ban and by August of the same year, New Yorkers were free to eat, drink and be merry – but at what cost?


These issues were debated at the very first MOFAD Roundtable event, a new program from the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) which aims to bring together experts and advocates to debate current controversial food issues. The event took place on December 5 and featured the following diverse panel of experts:


  • Joel Berg, Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger
  • Nicholas Freudenberg, Faculty Director, NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College
  • Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
  • J. Justin Wilson, Senior Research Analyst, The Center For Consumer Freedom
  • Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University


Nicholas Freudenberg, Faculty Director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College moderated the discussion and started off with the following facts: Over the past 20 years, sugary beverages have contributed to a 60% increase in overweight among 6-11 year olds and teens consume half their calories from sugary drinks. In very recent years, the soda trend has diminished slightly but it is still predicted that this generation will live less years than the previous one. So what is the solution? Is it more education? Unfortunately, pro-ban panelists argued, by itself, health education does little to change behavior; we need to do more and the soda ban is a good place to start. While critics argue that removing a choice created a “nanny” state and even went as far as calling the mayor “Nanny Bloomberg”, aren’t “Nanny Pepsi” and “Nanny Coke” doing the same thing? Wouldn’t a real nanny offering a gallon of sugary soda to a child on a regular basis be charged with negligence?

Pro-ban panelists also raised a good point in saying that when people think that limiting the power of government influence increases individual power, what it really does is increase the power of big business. “Obesity is directly related to larger portion sizes,” explained Lisa Young, a professor at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan, “It’s time to reset the environment; we need an environment that promotes healthy choices.” Pro-ban panelists also argued that the ban is not really a ban at all – people can still buy four smaller cups if they are really craving more soda. Rather, it’s the idea of not giving people the option of mindlessly drinking 64-ounces in one sitting. If someone is genuinely thirsty after the first 16 ounces, they have to actively make the decision to purchase more.

Photo Credit: poolie via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: poolie via Compfight cc

Choice was a big issue with anti-ban panelist J. Justin Wilson, Senior Research Analyst for The Center For Consumer Freedom, arguing that the government trying to remove our choice is only sending a message that people aren’t smart enough to make healthy decisions on their own. “With these policies, we’re removing all personal responsibility for one’s health,” he said, “and dramatically changing one’s weight requires a whole lifestyle change.” Joel Berg, Executive Director for New York City Coalition Against Hunger countered that it’s the “economic environment that’s preventing personal responsibility. When you’re poor, you don’t have a personal choice. Soda is cheaper.” Young also raised a good point in saying that with $190 billion in healthcare costs, are the choices being offered to us really choices at all? Is a choice of a 32-oz, a 44-oz, and a 51-oz at the movie theatre really a choice? None of those are healthy choices in her book.

With an issue like this, one that scares people into thinking their personal choice is taken away in the “land of the free”, there is no easy answer. In the end, it is certainly up to the individual to make healthy choices but when there are so many unhealthy ones being thrown our way, our judgment may certainly be clouded. A soda ban would have at least removed the mindless gulp of a gallon’s worth of sugary water just because it was there. Here at EALM (Eating and Living Moderately Blog) we strongly encourage our readers to make mindful choices and recognize the consequences of these choices.


What do you think?

Is food always on your mind?



5 Signs You May Be Eating When You Don’t Need To

  1. You sneak food.
  2. You eat every time you come home regardless of your hunger level.
  3. You eat in bed.
  4. You always eat when you are sad or angry.
  5. You eat food just because it is there.
If you answer yes to any of the questions above, read the article below. 


By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDS

You’ve finished eating dinner. You’re satisfied and feel good. But coming from the other room is a voice. It whispers, “Eat me. You’re tired, and I will make you feel better. You gorged last night. . . and every night the week before—why not tonight?” So you get off the couch and sink, bite by blissful bite, to the bottom of a pint of your favorite ice cream.

Moments later, your feeling of bliss is gone. Guilt, remorse, shame and loss set in. You just ate an entire pint of ice cream when you weren’t even hungry. You feel that food is controlling you and that you just can’t win.

Well, you can win. Food needs to be balanced with your physical needs and sometimes your emotional needs. You can break the cycle of behavioral eating by giving yourself time and working in phases. This article outlines six phases to end the internal food fight and gain a neutral relationship with eating. Each step focuses on a small behavioral change designed to prevent the feeling of deprivation. The continuation and accumulation of the new habits can lead to big health and lifestyle changes for your future. Give yourself a week or two to move through each phase.

This article addresses night eating of previously restricted foods and builds off the ice cream example above, but these phases can be applied to many other eating habits. Other non-hunger reasons for eating include eating to comfort yourself, eating something after a meal because you grew up eating dessert, and eating socially because your friends are eating. Using the steps below as a guide can help you break these too. Before you begin, however, you have to first identify and accept your counterproductive habit. Only then can you begin the journey toward freedom from your internal struggle.

Phase 1 (Weeks 1 & 2): Once you’ve identified your behavior, embrace your habit or forbidden food. Give yourself permission to eat ice cream past your point of fullness. Allowing yourself the food or behavior removes the guilt and releases you from the internal struggle. Enjoy the food/habit, recognizing how your body feels as you are indulging. In our example here, remember how good that first bite of ice cream tastes (it’s often what your body remembers most, because as you continue to eat, your senses are dulled).

Phase 2 (Weeks 2 & 3): It’s time for another small change. Start by reducing your portion to three quarters of its original size. While you’re modifying your behavior in a healthy way, you’ll still be allowing yourself to enjoy the food. You aren’t depriving yourself, and you’re beginning to be mindful of your physical needs.

Phase 3 (Weeks 4 & 5): Decrease your portion to half the original size over the next two weeks. While slowly reducing the portion, you shouldn’t feel restricted or deprived. Savor your food; notice the color, the texture, the taste, and how it makes you feel during and after eating it.

Phase 4 (Weeks 5 & 6): You have experienced your food fully and have probably realized that a smaller portion satisfies you. Now change the food you are eating. Using our example, try a creamy sorbet. If nuts are your night food of choice, try switching to another salty finger food, like popcorn.

Think about why you are eating. Do you want to keep this habit? While you’re continuing to eat at night, you’re now doing so with a neutral food (one that was not formerly restricted), which is less numbing. Your relationship with food should feel more balanced.

Phase 5 (Weeks 6 & 7): Get ready to reintroduce your original food. Alternate eating the halved portion of regular ice cream with one of sorbet. When you crave the ice cream, eat it. And when you want the sorbet, dig right in. Try to alternate your snack every other night and eat your food at the kitchen table with no other stimuli (watching TV, talking on the phone). This creates an environment that allows you to be mindful, and intuitive. Hopefully you feel freer and are better able to enjoy both foods.

Phase 6 (Weeks 7 & 8): Incorporate your night foods in moderation. Enjoy the food while paying close attention to your body’s needs. Remember that your night eating should be stimulus-free and at the kitchen table. Alternate your foods, follow your cravings and, most important, if you aren’t hungry, find something else to do.

Follow this proactive plan, and after 12 weeks of gradual changes, you will be eating less and feeling more empowered and less controlled by food. Don’t be tempted to race through phases. There’s no reward for finishing first, so remember to take your time. Doing so will help make your new habit a permanent one, and you’ll be more in tune with your body’s needs.

Moving forward, you can repeat the phases if you feel the need to further reduce your portions or if your old habit recurs. Finally, remember that you can always receive additional support from trusted friends, family, self-help books or a registered dietitian.

Phases 1 through 6, in Brief

Phase 1: Allow yourself your chosen food or behavior for the first one to two weeks.

Phase 2: Reduce your portion size to ¾ its original size.

Phase 3: Decrease your portion further to ½ its original size.

Phase 4: Choose a different food. Change the food you are eating.

Phase 5: Alternate eating the halved portion of original food with its healthier counterpart. Remember to eat in a stimulus-free environment at the kitchen table.

Phase 6: Incorporate all foods, in moderation. Choose ice cream one night, sorbet one night and perhaps nothing another night (if you are not hungry), maintaining your new healthy habit.


The above is not intended for those suffering from eating disorders.



Energy Bars: The On-the-Go Nosh

In today’s society, we are constantly on the run. If we’re not students rushing to class, parents rushing to pick up their kids or dropping them off, then we’re probably rushing to meet our friends or medical appointments. Sometimes, we are so busy and exhausted that many of us just do not have the time to sit down for a bite. So what happens to those of us who finally sit down but are crunched for time? Whether consumed as a snack or meal replacement, many of us opt for an energy bar. With so many options, which bars give a healthier boost? Here are 5 of our favorite energy bars for an on-the-go nosh:

1. Zing

This gluten and soy-free bar is so tasty, we almost forget it’s an energy bar. With about 20 grams of carbohydrates per bar, Zing may be ideal for those who have diabetes, have celiac disease or food intolerances.

2. LaraBar

These bars generally contain less than 8 ingredients and are made of fruits, nuts and spices. Flavorful, but some varieties can contain up to 14-17 grams of sugar so beware. However, we do love the sweet and saltiness of the Roasted Nut Roll, which at 7 grams of sugar per bar, contains half the amount of sugar than the others. The raw nuts make this bar a tasty choice for those following a raw food lifestyle.

3. Kind Bars

These bars are generally made with about 10 rather simple ingredients, many which include nuts, honey, puffed rice and dried fruits. The use of whole, not ground nuts, contribute to the texture and “homemade” feel.

5. Health Warrior Chia Bars

Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids! When we discovered that these vegan bars were made with chia, we were glad to see them successfully added to more foods! Every bar is 100 calories and contains 4 grams of sugar. With 15 grams of carbohydrates, these chia bars may be ideal for someone who has diabetes.

In spite of a hectic schedule, the busy individual should never feel like they need to rely on energy bars to meet calorie or nutritional needs. Although energy bars can be incorporated as a healthy part of a meal structure, there’s nothing quite like fresh or wholesome foods.  Moreover, many of these bars appear nutritious but can have hidden levels of high sugar, additives, carbohydrates and calories. Keep in mind that many of these energy bars were created for athletes, and not for those who do minimal to no exercise.  If given the option between an energy bar or meal when crunched for time, it is best to grab a quick meal. However, if there’s absolutely no way around to grabbing a quick meal (let’s face it, sometimes that’s just not practical) follow this bar code when searching for an on-the-go chew:

  1. Keep it simple – Don’t be tricked by the word “energy bar.” When it comes to figuring out the nutritional value of an energy bar, a consumer’s best bet may be to first scan the back for a list of ingredients, then look at the nutrition label. If there is a long, running list of unfamiliar ingredients that you are unable to pronounce, another bar may be a better option.
  2. Consider your energy and activity needs – Think about your activity for the day. If you will be going on a long run, you may chose a bar with a different nutritional content than an individual who will be doing minimal activity.
  3. Create your own, healthy & homemade energy bars – If you have time, consider making a large batch of bars ahead of time. Not only are they easy to make, but you will also know exactly what ingredients went into them. You can even make them ahead of time and store them for an easy, on-the-go chew! For an even easier and quicker recipe, try packing a homemade trail mix.
  4. Think outside of the box – If you’re looking for energy bars to be your meal replacer, consider grabbing a Greek yogurt and enjoy it with a banana or top it with fresh berries.


The Weight of the Nation

Did you know that 1 out of 5 of kids drinks three or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, accounting for an extra meal? With Mayor Bloomberg proposing a ban in New York City over sugary drinks and the Disney channel banning junk food advertisements, it’s no secret that America is facing an obesity epidemic. Along with childhood obesity rates on the rise, chronic heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes have also increased over the past few years. Type 2 Diabetes, which  was once primarily diagnosed in old age, is now a common medical concern in children. While obesity-health related problems have been a looming crisis for quite some time, recently HBO launched a documentary, drawing quite a lot of attention to  the nation’s obesity crisis. The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic, is a four part series focusing on consequences, choices, children in crisis, and challenges. To those who believe that the root of childhood obesity stems from a lack of parental responsibility in educating their children or a lack of exercise, Weight of the Nation presents viewers with an all-around perspective on the complexity of the issue.

Obesity is very complex and the documentary does a good job highlighting the many factors that contribute to the issue like poverty, genetics, food culture, personal responsibility, environment, issues of diet and lack of exercise. Issues with childhood obesity are caused in part by a lack of nutrition education, over-processed school food lunches, the overwhelming access to nutrient-poor foods conveniently located everywhere you go, and how video games and electronics have replaced outdoor and sport activities as a means for childhood entertainment. If the weight epidemic is not addressed,  Americans will eventually wind up paying even more for the cost of treating obesity-related illness. As obesity contributes to 5 of the 10 leading causes of death in America, it has added a whopping $150 billion to health costs now and according to the documentary, may hit or exceed $300 billion by 2018.

While the various factors that make solving the obesity epidemic seem nearly impossible, the biggest take-away from the series is that the nation’s weight crisis can be reversed. While some critics point out that the series is “too blunt” or “too graphic,” The Weight of the Nation is a wake-up call, drawing awareness to the depth of the problem and most importantly, a chance for us to fix it. Whether it’s taking the stairs or walking to work, change begins with the individual and we can start by integrating physical activity into our daily lives. In fact, the documentary points out that losing as little as 5% of your weight can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and also lowers diabetes risk by nearly 60% in people with pre-diabetes. The show’s statistics, backed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and the Institute of Medicine among others, shows hope that even small improvements can make a difference.




The Epidemic of Diabetes

Hydrate with water, not soda

Regardless of weight and age, America is heading towards a Diabetes epidemic. Americans must change their lifestyles by moving more, and eating less.

Diabetes does not discriminate based on overall weight. America needs to focus on decreasing belly fat, specifically, eating less processed food and moving more.


Based on the study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, Diabetes is increasing in our teen population. There was a 14% increase in prediabetes and diabetes in a ten year period. In 1999 – 2000, there was a 9% incidence of prediabetes and diabetes in teenagers between ages 12- 19. In 2007- 2008, there was a 23 % incidence of prediabetes and diabetes. This is more than two fold. However, the study also revealed this was regardless of weight. Across the weight spectrum, all teens had an increase in the incidence of Diabetes. In my mind, this is a Diabetes Epidemic not an obesity epidemic.

Obesity did not increase in our youth during this ten year period from 1999 – to 2008. One study from the NHANES reports an actual decrease in teen obesity, despite an increase in prediabetes and diabetes. Also, half of the participants in the study had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which means everyone needs intervention.

So what is the intervention? It depends on who you ask but the many agree America must move more, eat less processed food, and practice stress relief. America is eating too much and not moving enough. We are a culture of convenience. People need to eat because they are hungry rather than bored. We need to eliminate highly processed food such as chips and soda. We need to feel full with fiber and drink for hydration. Simple solutions are to replace chips with fiber rich berries and soda with bubbly water like Perrier. Ideally, we need to decrease insulin resistance and belly bulge (aka abdominal obesity).

The study admits to flaws. One of the flaws is the tool BMI – Body Mass Index. This measurement tool uses overall weight and height, not accounting for muscle mass and frame. Football players are considered obese when using BMI. A better tool to assess for obesity, belly fat, insulin resistance and or risk for diabetes would be the waist to height ratio. This tool would not qualify the typical football player as obese.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to share some of these thoughts with the HLN audience. Click here to see the clip.


May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999−2008. Pediatrics. 2012;peds.2011-1082.