Sunday, October 26, 2014

The How-to Guide to Your Meal Size

Over the last few decades, portion sizes have increased considerably. In fact, some research suggests that Americans are consuming an average of 10% more calories than they did in the 1970's. It's no wonder obesity is a huge public health crisis in the US! Not to worry, Bon'App is here to help you figure out how you can eat the proper portions of your favorite foods so that you stay on track with your healthy eating goals!

To give you a comparison of the dramatic changes in portions over the last twenty years:

      20 years ago                               Today
  (3-inch diameter)                   (5-6 inches in diameter)

Movie Theater Popcorn

20 years ago                                Today
(5 cups; 270 Calories)           (Tub; 630 Calories)


20 years ago                              Today
(333 Calories)                          (590 Calories)

When McDonald’s was founded in 1955, its only hamburger weighed about 1.6 ounces. Now, the largest McDonald's hamburger patty weighs 8 ounces, an increase of 400%!

What is a portion size?
portion size refers to the amount of food that constitutes one portion, or serving, of that food. Different foods can have very different portion sizes, even within the same food groups! For example, the serving sizes of broccoli and peas are different. Portion sizes are based on how many calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates a given food contains as well as how much of that food one should consume on a given day (daily recommendation).

How to better calculate your portions:
Serving sizes are always listed on packaged food, so make sure to read the label before snacking away! Note, portion sizes should be viewed as guidelines, not recommendations. Use these tips to help you control your portions:
  1. What are proper portions? As a general rule, a serving of fruits and vegetables is as follows: 1 fruit, 1 cup of berries, or 1 cup of vegetables. A serving of protein-filled foods, including meat, chicken, and fish, is generally 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards!). 
  2. Brown bag it! When you go to a restaurant, cut your meal into the proper portion and then ask your server to put the rest into a doggy bag. This way, you won't be tempted to eat more than your proper portion.
  3. Use smaller bowls and plates! You can trick yourself into thinking your portion of food is more than it actually is by simply using a smaller plate or bowl. 
  4. Track your food! Use Bon'App to track what you eat for meals and snacks so that you can measure how you are doing on your daily goals for Calories, Sugar, Salt, Bad Fat, Protein, and Fiber! When your batteries turn red, you know you should pay more attention to the foods you eat for the rest of the day so that you don't exceed your daily goals!
Remember, no food is off limits as long as you eat the correct portion size! If you want to learn more, visit WebMD. This website has compiled a resource for portion sizes of countless foods, broken up into categories such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, meat, and beans.

Remember Your Portion Sizes!

1 cup of cereal = size of fist
1 pancake = size of CD disc
1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta = 1/2 baseball
1 baked potato = size of fist
2 tablespoons of butter = 1 ping pong ball
1/2 cup ice cream =  1/2 baseball
3 ounces of meat = deck of cards

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fat-Free, Sugar-Free, Healthy-Free, Really?

Walking down the aisle of any supermarket, consumers are plagued with front-of-package label claims. From “Less Sodium” to “Low-Fat,” deciphering what these claims actually mean can be tricky. Below is a guide to what these advertising claims actually entail. Using Bon’App to check the content of your food will put these claims into a simple, clear language that you can easily understand.

The Claim: Free

Synonyms: Zero, No, Without, Insignificant Dietary Source. 

Meaning: As the saying goes, nothing in life is ever free (including with foods). To boast this label, products must contain either less than 5 Calories,  < 0.5 g rams of Sugar or Bad Fat, or < 5 mg of Salt. 

The Label Lowdown 
  • Fat Free: There are two problems with "fat free". In foods like baked goods, fat-free typically means more added sugar. In terms of satiation, fat slows down digestion and keeps you fuller for longer, so products that replace fat with sugar aren't necessarily great dietary bargains. Secondly, fat free foods sometimes don't taste all that great, and if the foods aren't appealing, you may overeat them to make up for the lack of satisfaction. However, with dairy products, fat free may be the way to go because it removes bad fat and reduces calories. 
  • Sugar Free: Though picking sugar free foods reduces caloric intake, the sugar is replaced with an indigestible food additive that duplicates sugar's taste. Some people react differently to these, or claim they taste different.  If you don't mind the taste, opting for sugar free may be a good option, otherwise, just eat a smaller portion of the sugar-containing product. It will be healthier and easier to digest. 

The Claim: Low

Synonyms: Little, Few, Contains a Small Amount. 

Meaning: Either less than 40 Calories, under 1 gram of Bad Fat, and/or under 140 mg of Salt. This term may not be used for Sugar.

The Label Lowdown
  • Low Fat: low fat can be a great option for many foods because it generally removes the Bad Fat, keeping your Bon'App batteries in check. As with "fat free" claims, be careful with added sugar. Also, be sure to remember that not all fat is created equal, and consuming healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats is important for overall health.
  • Low Sodium (Salt): Low sodium alternatives within processed foods are a great way to enjoy the taste you want in a food without added salt. If you are watching your sodium intake, low sodium is therefore a great option for when you eat processed foods. 

The Claim: Reduced
Synonyms: Lower, Less, Fewer. 

Meaning: To be marked with the term reduced, the product must contain at least 25% less of a given nutrient in comparison to the normal item (of the same brand). 

The Label Lowdown

Though reduced items are usually a better option than the original, the claim can be deceiving. Even with 25% less of a given substance, processed foods may still contain a significant amount of Bad Fat/Calories/Sugar. Unsure if the product is a good option? Just ask Bon'App!

The Claim: Excellent Source

Synonyms: High, Rich in. 

Meaning: Must contain 20% or more of the daily value for that nutrient (i.e. Fiber, or Calcium for instance). 

The Label Lowdown 

These foods may be an excellent source of one nutrient, but be careful the product isn't also high in Calories, Sugar, or Bad Fat. For example, chocolate milk may be an excellent source of calcium, but the milk will also contain a lot of sugar. On the other hand, fiber filled foods typically contain whole grains, and are healthy options.  
The Claim: Good Source 
Synonyms: Contains, Provides. 

Meaning: Must contain 10% to 19% of the daily value for a given thing. 

The Label Lowdown

Here is where labels really get deceiving.......Though a food may contain a good amount of a vitamin or mineral, if the food is high in Bad Fat, Sugar, or "empty" Calories, chances are any healthy effects are negated by the unhealthy nature of the food. Before you eat that Pop Tart for its high vitamin and mineral content, make sure you also check the Bad Fat, Sugar, and Calories in it.    

The Claim: Enriched
Synonyms: More, Fortified, Added, Extra, Plus. 

Meaning: At least 10% of the recommended daily value. May only be used for vitamins, minerals, Protein, Fiber, and potassium.

The Label Lowdown

Caution: foods may not be as healthy as they appear.  This front-of-package label claim often distracts from other, less healthful aspects of the food like Bad Fat or Sugar content. Though being enriched is a good thing, don't be duped by these labels. Check with Bon'App before you buy and before you consume those products. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

CFI: Campus Food Investigation

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

The “CFI: Campus Food Investigation” was started by a small group of Bon’App Campus Ambassadors who wanted to document the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of their college dining halls.

Their aim is to conduct extensive research into what food options are available to college students and to improve the variety, quality and access to healthy meals. Initially the group started off with three ambassadors, now there are over fifteen and the team continues to grow as more students find out about the opportunity to represent their University’s dining options. We have started to spread the word about our investigation by creating a Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as using the Bon’App Pinterest and Twitter pages.

The Investigation also involves a 2-minute survey that has been sent out to Universities across the US and the data collection to date has informed us of what college students like and dislike about their dining halls. This information was crucial in the brainstorming session of the “Dream Dining Hall” menu. This ideal dining hall has a flexible meal plan and no “dead hours” (times without service and unhealthy options only). It allows for variety, giving the students ingredients they can creatively combine in order to create meals that suit their taste and health preferences. As well as nutritious food choices, there would also be signage (with photos) all around the dining hall to offer guidance to students who need help crafting more individualized or healthy meals. This signage would also tell students transparently what is in their food (ingredients and main nutrients in simple Bon'App language - Sugar, Bad Fat, Salt) and how much of it, especially the sides of veggies, where it’s often hard to tell the ingredients.

Ideally, the presentation of the food would be nice, thoughtful, not just thrown into big bowls, making the veggie options more enticing. Accurate portion sizes would be served (meaning generally smaller or ad libitum). All of these aspects of the dream dining hall are aimed at creating a standard for all schools,  empowering college students to eat healthier and thus live healthier. It’s all too easy for college students to eat pizza at 3 AM every night and skip breakfast the following morning; instead, we want to encourage healthier eating decisions. A well-balanced diet is crucial for student’s every day performance, whether it’s in class, meetings or workouts. CFI wants to work with college dining halls to help students have nutritious and delicious food choices, which will result in much healthier lifestyles.

This menu was conceived with a cost-conscious approach that relies of 275 surveys filled out by students so far and three brainstormings by a group of 21 students from 16 schools. It will continue to be refined to improve food options on campuses. More details are below.
>>> Each week, the salad bar would display 3 salad guide menus to help students compose a variety of delicious salads with proper portion sizes and a step-by-step process on how to make the salad. (The Bon’App Chapter at U Penn is developing examples.) >>> The greens and toppings would change over time, with the cycle of the dining hall food (for example, two weeks), so that students do not get bored with the salad options. >>> On the Dessert Station, instead of a jug of hot fudge, display a tub of fresh fruits and nuts. 

Many of the above recommendations and Dream Dining Hall menu have been recently implemented by the new Bruin Plate dining hall at UCLA. This proves it can be done! Another great initiative is to reduce the usage of disposable to-go containers. U Penn Dining introduced this new program in its residential dining cafes.

We are looking forward to the day when ALL colleges nationwide will have a Dream Dining Hall menu, environmentally friendly, locally supplied when feasible, and with healthy options throughout campus!