food

pizza for lunch on a diet?

Absolutely!

Success comes more from how much you eat than what you eat, so you just need to eat the right amount.

Trying to find the exact calorie count for a slice of pepperoni pizza is an inexact science - I'm finding numbers ranging from 300 - 400 calories per slice at most places (330 for a large slice of Papa John's.) I usually eat slices from Barro's - they're near my office and they have a great lunch special, but since their slices are thicker and heavier than average, I'm going to ballpark a 400 calorie number from the high end of the range for my example.

Now, how much pizza can I eat?

400 calories for a thick slice of pepperoni pizza.

600 calories if you can stop at one and a half slices.

800 calories if you eat both slices.


You have to start by knowing what your calorie budget is for the day.

I burn about 1,900 calories per day without exercising, so allowing for 2,200 (give or take) on a day when I run is a fair number. If I drink a 350 calorie fruit juicee for breakfast, I can eat 2 slices of pizza for lunch, and still have over 1,000 calories available for snack, dinner, and dessert. This also gives me flexibility to adjust how much pizza I eat according to how much I'm going to eat for dinner, or whether I skipped a workout, or even if the scale showed a bigger number than usual that day.

If I was trying to lose weight, or if I was a 5' 3" woman trying to maintain weight, my daily calorie budget might be about 1,500. In that case, 2 full slices would probably be too much pizza on a regular basis, but 1 slice should be ok. I could even get away with 1 1/2 slices if I managed the rest of my day really well.

On the other hand, someone trying to keep their daily calorie intake down to about 1,000 calories would find a 400 calorie slice of pizza as their large meal of the day - a feast of a meal. But even in that ultra-restricted scenario, a half slice of pizza would be a filling way to spend 200 precious calories..

What I like about pizza - other than that it tastes awesome! - is that it's a filling use of calories. It's a good blend of carbs, protein, and fat, which gives your body plenty of short-term and long-term fuel.

So go ahead and eat some pizza. Enjoy it. Savor it. Just don't eat too much. And don't wash it down with a large soda!

- Chris Butterworth

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200 posts ago: running for time or distance

100 posts ago: Happy Thanksgiving - my mental, physical, and emotional approach

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which is the healthiest bread?

I started thinking about this article while enjoying the irony of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on toasted artisan-crafted bread. (believe me, it was a really good PB&J..)

What is bread, really? At it's most basic form, and it's been around for thousands of years, we're talking about milled grains (wheat), leavening agents (yeast), and water, mixed together and heated (1). Yet considering what a simple product it is, there are so many choices at the grocery store it makes my head spin!

Why so many? And which one should I be eating?





Some quick thoughts about bread:
  • Prices range from really cheap (about $1 per loaf) to really expensive ($5 or $6 per loaf). Feeding a family who eats lots of sandwiches at $6 for a small loaf seems excessive - buy the bread you can afford.
  • Cheaper options tend to have more man-made ingredients in them; this helps the bread last longer before going bad.
  • More expensive (and healthier) options tend to have ingredients you've heard of, such as flour, water, salt, and yeast. Maybe they'll add some nuts, garlic, herbs or spices, but it'll still be whole ingredients that you know what they are (2).
  • Whole wheat, fortified, organic, multi-grain, 11 grain, white, wheat, sourdough, rye, gluten-free, artisan...
  • Lots and lots of choices

More thoughts about bread:

  • Buy what tastes good. If you buy the ultra-organic, 46-grain bread with all the healthiest nuts and seeds baked into it, but then you don't eat it, why bother?
  • Eat bread with fewer, if any, man made ingredients.
  • Don't get caught up in the arms race to healthiest, because you can't win.
  • Your bread is simply a nutrient delivery tool - what you put ON your bread will have a much bigger impact than what is baked IN your bread. (plus all the other food choices you make throughout the day.)
  • If you're eating the super-healthy, most expensive bread because it has 3 grams of fiber, consider that's less fiber than a serving of broccoli (about 5 grams), raspberries (8 grams), or lentils (15 grams) (3). Maybe you could scale back the bread and pair it with a better side dish?

In the end, there is no perfect choice. There are better choices, sure, but there's no such thing as perfect. Eat moderate portions of real foods, and mix in some exercise, and you'll be on the road to healthy.

Meanwhile, all this talk about bread has me craving a turkey sandwich on sourdough with havarti, lettuce and tomatoes...

- Chris Butterworth

Sources cited:

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fruit juicee - orange banana blueberry watermelon

Here's a summer fruit juicee with some ingredients you might not think to combine, but which tastes surprisingly refreshing together:

Ingredients:
  • Orange Juice - 8 oz
  • Banana - 1, peeled
  • Blueberries - approx 2/3 cup, fresh or frozen
  • Watermelon - approx 1 cup, sliced into chunks
  • Ice (optional) - just a couple-few cubes


Directions:
  • Put all the ingredients into a Magic Bullet cup. (or any other blender device.)
  • Screw on the blade cap.
  • Blend until juicee'd.
  • Enjoy!


orange banana blueberry watermelon fruit juicee


orange banana blueberry watermelon fruit juicee


Nutritional Information:
  • Approximately 300-350 calories, depending on the amount of each fruit.
    • 110 calories from Orange Juice
    • 121 Medium Banana
    • 57 Blueberries
    • 46 Watermelon
    • Calorie counts for fruit provided by calorieking.com



A fruit juicee makes a great whole-food-ingredient replacement for a breakfast or "snack-aisle" snack. It's also terrific for refueling quickly after a good workout.

Give this one a try and let me know what you think!

- Chris Butterworth

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Mexican food - ordering small against peer pressure

We ate out for Mexican food this weekend. Ah, Mexican food - one of my favorites, but I don't think there's a more gluttonous menu out there! Eating out at a Mexican food restaurant can be a big setback; it's one of those meals where you can get to 3,000 calories without trying too hard.

image clipped from Ajo Al's website.


But I had a plan. I ate small for breakfast and lunch, saving myself some extra calories in my daily budget. And I knew we'd be cooking at home the next couple days, so I'd be able to eat smaller and healthier portions as a follow-up if necessary.

I also planned to order small, knowing there's always plenty of food on the table anyway, in case I needed a little extra. I ordered a shredded beef taco with a side of beans, estimating 300-400 calories for the taco and 150-200 for the beans. Add in the chips and salsa before the meal and whatever I sampled from my wife's and kids' plates, and sticking with water to drink, and I shouldn't be too far past 1,000 calories for the meal.

  • Dieting Note - If you limit yourself to 10-12 chips w/ salsa, then eat the beef taco w/ beans, you can walk away from the meal at about 600-700 calories - totally doable even when dieting, as long as you budget for it within your day. Just make sure to avoid the dips and heavy sauces (guacamole, sour cream, queso dip, baja sauce), combo plates, and sugary drinks (sodas, margaritas).


The hardest part about the whole meal was not succumbing to peer pressure when ordering. I ordered an a la cart beef taco w/ a side of beans, and everyone at the table (including the waitress) looked at me like I had a 3rd eye. "Is that all you're going to eat?" was the common question.

I wavered, just for a moment, thinking about how good the tacos would be and whether I should order a 2nd, or maybe add a chicken enchilada (covered in sauce) to the plate. Nope - my order was good, and I was sticking to it. Funny looks or not.

Make a good plan, and stick to it - even under peer pressure, and you'll be successful.

- Chris Butterworth

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fruit juicee - orange apple banana

I've been drinking a fruit juicee most mornings lately, ever since I received a Magic Bullet as a birthday gift last month. I say juicee rather than smoothie, because I'm not adding any milk, yogurt, granola, or anything else to the recipe. This is nothing but fruit and juice, pure and simple:

Ingredients

  • Orange Juice - 8 oz
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Apple (cored, with or without the skin. Using the skin provides more fiber and antioxidants, but it also makes the consistency/texture of the juicee a little thicker.)
  • Ice (optional) - just a bit


Directions

  • Put all the ingredients into a Magic Bullet cup
  • Screw on the blade cap
  • Blend until juicee'd
  • Enjoy








Nutritional Information

  • The juicee will have approximately 300-350 calories, depending on the size of the banana and apple.
    • 110 calories Simply Orange orange juice (I switch between Simply Orange, Tropicana, and Minute Maid - whichever is on sale.)
    • 121 medium banana (per calorieking.com)
    • 93 medium apple (per calorieking.com)
  • I've been replacing my morning bowl of cereal with a juicee, so the trade-off is about equal, only I'm adding Mother Nature's real food and I'm removing grocery-store-boxed-food-with-unpronounceable-ingredients from my mornings.


Give this Orange Apple Banana Fruit Juicee a try and let me know what you think..

- Chris Butterworth

Promotional Disclosure - This is not a product review of nor am I receiving any payments from Magic Bullet. I simply use their product almost everyday. The links to Magic Bullet in this article are, however, associated with my amazon account.

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tasty pork and vegetable stew

My wife & I made this fresh and healthy stew for dinner last week. Preparation took a little more time and effort than I would normally prefer, but the end result was awesome - absolutely delicious, and it made enough to serve a great meal and a couple days' worth of leftovers!

Pictured here as leftovers, because I rarely remember to take pictures while cooking!


Ingredients List
  • 2 lbs boneless pork chops
  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • 3 bell peppers of different colors. (we used red, yellow, and orange.)
  • 6 stalks of celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 yellow onion (you can use more; I don't really love onions tho.)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz) low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • vegetable oil


Preparation
  • Cube the pork into bite-sized pieces
  • Peel and cube the potatoes into similar sized pieces.
  • Mix the sauces and spices into a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  • Brown the pork in a large pot, with a little bit of oil; set aside once browned.
  • Brown the potatoes in the same pot until they're just a little bit crispy on the outside.
  • While the potatoes are browning, slice the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
  • When the potatoes get a bit crispy, toss the vegetables into the pot with the potatoes. Add another splash of oil if needed.
  • Cook the vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until they start to get soft.
  • Add the pork and sauces to the pot with the vegetables. Bring it all to a boil, then let it simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Serving and Nutritional Information
  • Makes 8 servings
  • 378 calories per serving (estimated using the LoseIt app)
  • Protein - Carbs - Fat Breakdown: Yes, it has all of them. I don't keep track of how many grams of each I eat; I'm more concerned about eating reasonably sized portions of real food, and this definitely fits that bill.
  • Total cost: approx $20, depending on the varying prices of the ingredients and how much of the sauces and spices you already have on hand..


Let me know what you think if you try this one, or if you have a different recipe you'd like to share. Otherwise, happy eating!

- Chris Butterworth

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too much sugar in soda

I drink a cup of coffee most mornings - sometimes black, sometimes with a little sugar. Yesterday though, I added more sugar than normal - not a lot, and not on purpose, but wow - my coffee tasted so sweet. Too sweet, actually.

Then I read the label on the sugar canister: 1 tsp of sugar has 15 calories. And then I really started thinking...

If this 15-calorie cup of coffee is too sweet, and a can of Coke has 140 calories - what else can be in a Coke that's adding a hundred or so calories?

Let's read the label: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine. Hmmm - water, color, acid, caffeine.. is it possible all the calories are coming from HFCS (sugar)?

That's when I went to the interwebs, and found a whole bunch of people had already done the research - and shown the results in pictures - and the results are scary! Check out the pictures below..

Sugar adds up fast!

Jon wrote a post on the Dad Is Learning blog, where he measured out the actual sugar consumed from drinking three cans of Dr Pepper per day:



 SugarStacks.com cubes up a picture by size of Coke:



Maybe you'd prefer to see it in Spanish, from the Alimento y Buen Vivir blog:




Or by spoonful, from the Body and Soul website:




It's all in your point of view

All this is just soda - we didn't even get into fruit juice, breakfast cereals, muffins, yogurt, and just about everything else that's been prepackaged..

The amount of sugar we're asking our bodies to process is astounding. Of course we can always fall back on the old adage "everything is ok in moderation" - an adage that I really like, by the way - but then we have to define moderation. Look back at those two glasses full of sugar from one week's worth of Dr Pepper; I wouldn't put a bag of refined sugar in front of my kids and expect them to finish it by the end of the month. Would you?

Ask me if I want a Coke, and I'll usually answer yes.

Ask me if I want a glass of carbonated water and 15 spoonfuls of sugar, and I'll pass - every time.

Maybe changing our point of view is the way to cut back on the amount of sugar we eat. I know I can't un-see those pictures..!

- Chris Butterworth

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dinner made easy - turkey burgers and sweet potato fries

Sometimes you need a quick and easy dinner that doesn't require much in the way of prep work or cleanup, but you still want to eat healthy, and you'd prefer it if the food tasted good too.

We had one of those nights last week. Late meetings at work and homework that needed help left little time for a big dinner, so we turned to the freezer: Trader Joe's Frozen Turkey Burgers and Alexia Chipotle Seasoned Spicy Sweet Potato Fries (purchased at Fry's; rated 4.8 stars on 1,733 reviews on the Alexia website) answered the call.

Preparation

The turkey burgers went straight from the freezer to the grill. I let them cook a few minutes to thaw before adding seasoning, but otherwise I grilled them the same way I normally grill burgers and turkey burgers. Then I melted cheese for those who wanted it, and everyone is welcome to grab a bun and add condiments to taste.

The fries are even easier - turn on the oven, spread the fries out on a cookie sheet/pan, and in they go.

Add in a salad with some freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers, and the whole meal took less than 10 minutes of prep time. (plus cooking time.)

Food Quality

We all know that fresh food is better than frozen, and packaged food is never as good as the food you prepare yourself (both in terms of nutrition and taste.) So how bad are these burgers and fries?

frozen turkey burgers
photo of the box - Trader Joe's Turkey Burgers


Well, the ingredient list looks safe: Turkey, Salt, Rosemary extract. We could get nit-picky about how much salt, and why didn't they just list rosemary / why extract? But compared with most pre-packaged foods that is an awfully short list, and there's nothing in that list I can't pronounce or tell you what it is.

From a calorie standpoint - 180 per burger will fit into just about any diet (unless you're trying to gain lots of weight!)

Now let's take a look at those frozen french fries..

alexia chipotle sweet potato fries
photo of the front of the bag

photo of the Nutritional Information

close-up photo of the Ingredient List


First I considered the calories, listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts.

  • 130 Calories per serving with 7 servings in the bag. However, we get about 5 servings out of the bag - we each eat a portion with dinner, and then one of my boys brings the extra fries in his lunch to school the next day.
  • 130 calories per serving * 7 servings = 910 calories in the bag.
  • 910 calories / 5 servings in our family = 182 calories per serving for our family (give or take for each person's portion.)


Next I read the Ingredient List, and while it's a longer list than I would have preferred, it's mostly powdered spices, and it's mostly things I've heard of and can pronounce. Even the things I wasn't sure about were short words and easy to pronounce, but I did have to look a couple up online:

  • Dextrin - this sounds like it could be man made, but then I found an article titled "8 benefits of dextrin" on a website called Global Healing Center, which made me feel better. Turns out dextrin is a natural fiber which can act as a binding agent. Hmmm, ok.
  • Gluconic Acid - the good news is that this is the last ingredient listed; the bad news is it shows up on a website called GMO Compass. However, even this website points out it's a naturally occurring fruit acid which accrues during the decomposition of carbohydrates. I don't know whether the gluconic acid in my sweet potato fries came from GMO carbs or not, but I'm not going to worry too much about it either. It's the only potentially bad ingredient and it's last on the list - I'll take the trade-off for my easy to prepare meal. (It's ok to just be healthy - you don't have to be perfect.)

Calorie Count

How many calories did my whole meal contain?

  • Turkey Burger - 180
  • Turkey Burger bun - 150
  • Cheese on Burger - 110
  • Condiments (ketchup, mayo, pickles) - 100
  • Chipotle Fries - 182 (per my revised calculation)
  • Salad - negligible
  • Ranch Salad Dressing - 75
  • Total Calories - somewhere in the neighborhood of 800, depending on portion sizes
    • If I was trying to lose weight and limit my calorie intake, I would skip the cheese, mayo, and ranch dressing, and I would have eaten a smaller portion of fries. That would keep the meal closer to 500 calories.
    • As it was, 800 calories for dinner works great for me as part of a 2,000 calorie diet in maintenance mode.
    • Either way, if you know what you're eating, what your daily goal is, and how much you've already eaten that day, you can plan and budget accordingly.


Meal Review

This was a good meal - maybe not something I'd crave in the mid-afternoon or travel across state lines for, but a good, fresh-tasting, full-flavored meal. It left me satisfied without feeling stuffed-full, and happy that I had eaten a reasonable amount of healthy calories. Prep work and cleanup are a breeze, too, which is a big bonus.

We'll definitely replenish our freezer and keep this in the rotation of "once every couple months when life is more frenzied than normal and we need to get dinner going in a hurry" meals.

Cheers to another easy-healthy meal.

- Chris Butterworth


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gluten-free is now gluten-free per new FDA standards

My oldest son has been on a gluten-free diet for almost a decade now, and we've seen the food landscape change greatly during that time. When we started out, my wife would go to specialty stores (or order online) to get ingredients, and then would have to bake any type of bread-like food from scratch (breads, pancakes, etc.) Today we can walk into the local grocery store and choose from several different brands, and several different varieties, of gluten-free foods.

Kind Bars are one of my son's favorites.

However, we're still pretty careful about reading labels, and we've come across a few products labeled as gluten-free but which contained oats. And there have been other times where the ingredients listed looked ok, but the food still bothered my son. We've just assumed there was some cross-contamination going on, or maybe some trace elements in there somehow. But now it makes sense...

Per the Associated Press, via Fox News:

Starting this week, "gluten-free" labels on packaged foods have real meaning. Until now, the term "gluten-free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.
Under a rule announced a year ago, food manufacturers had until Tuesday to ensure that anything labeled gluten-free contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten - ensuring that those products are technically free of wheat, rye and barley. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
Currently, wheat must be labeled on food packages but barley and rye are often hidden ingredients.
The standard will ensure that companies can't label products "gluten-free" if they are cross-contaminated from other products made in the same manufacturing facility. The rules don't apply to restaurants, but the Food and Drug Administration is encouraging them to comply.
Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last several years. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have celiac disease.
Steve Hughes, CEO of Boulder Brands, which owns leading gluten-free food companies Glutino and Udi's, says his company's products all have 10 parts per million of gluten, less than the new standard. He praises the FDA regulations for being a "stake in the ground" that can increase the integrity of the gluten-free market.

So gluten-free now means gluten-free - Thanks, FDA! (and what took you so long?!)

On a side note: the article (and the FDA) puts a big focus on celiac disease, but there is also a large percentage of the autism population whose bodies don't do well with gluten, and I've met many people without any diagnoses at all who have gone gluten-free and say they feel better because of it.

Anyway, today is a win for those counting on the manufacturers' labels being accurate - and for truth in advertising in general..!

-Chris Butterworth

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