The SparkPeople Blog

All Entries For Before You Bite

The 15 Worst Foods of the Year


Each year many people make food-related New Year's resolutions or goals. Figuring out how to make dining out fit in with those goals can be a big challenge. Over the years, we've highlighted many of the healthier options in our Diet Friendly Dining series. Last year we were encouraged by the increased number of nutrition conscious restaurant options that were available.

This year, we've seen all sorts of new foods hit the market. Some, like the recently invented Cronut, throw nutrition caution to the wind. Others, like Satisfries, are an attempt to create tasty lower-calorie favorites. We scoured restaurant menus to find the biggest nutrition disasters so you'll know what to avoid when eating out in the new year.  
Posted 12/27/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 31 comments   73,217 views
Read More ›

The Top 10 Worst Restaurant Salads




Everyone loves a top 10 list and many of them provide a good chuckle or two. Today we bring you a more serious top 10 list that instead of a chuckle, may make your gasp. Why? Here are 10 seemingly innocent salads that contain more than 1,000 calories each!





Posted 10/5/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 380 comments   248,976 views
Read More ›

We Tried It: Frozen Greek Yogurt


Greek yogurt is all the rage because of its high protein content and versatility. It can be eaten like traditional yogurt (sweetened with fruit or honey, if you like), whirled into smoothies or used in place of sour cream in recipes. It's become so popular and has such a good reputation as being "healthy," that it's even showing up outside of the yogurt tub. You'll find the buzz words "Greek yogurt" outside of the dairy case these days in some unusual places like coating packaged granola bars, inside cereal boxes, mixed with store-bought hummus and even in frozen desserts.
 
We decided to take a look at this trend and see whether frozen Greek yogurt desserts offer any health benefits when compared to regular frozen yogurt. Plus, we wanted to answer the most important question of all: How does it taste?!
Posted 8/21/2013  8:00:00 AM By: Megan Patrick : 49 comments   51,865 views
Read More ›

The Best and Worst Sips for Your Hips


Made with wholesome fruit, milk and ice, what's not to love about a healthy smoothie on a hot day? Not so fast—although they may sound innocent enough, these summer sippers could actually be massive calorie bombs in disguise. Many common selections at smoothie chains and fast food restaurants pack two times more sugar than a candy bar and more calories than a burger and fries! Before drinking up, read on for the best and worst picks from popular smoothie establishments across the country. 
Posted 8/14/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 47 comments   40,027 views
Read More ›

Have Restaurants Gone Too Far with the Unhealthy Offerings?


When it comes to the healthfulness of menu items and information shared by restaurants, just think about how far we've come in just the last decade. Nutrition facts for most restaurant foods are available not just online, but on menu boards in many states. Happy Meals can be bought with apples and milk instead of fries and soda. And we're no longer limited to greasy burgers when we stop at a fast food joint: salads, yogurt parfaits, and even oatmeal are standard these days. Healthful options abound where once there were none!

Sometimes it seems like restaurants are listening to consumers who want healthier options. But are they taking two step backwards when they release items like the KFC's Double Down or promote the inclusion of a "fourth meal" in their commercials (as if we really need to eat more than we already do)?

This week I read about a new menu item from Friendly's, a burger that replaces the bun with TWO GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES for a reported 1,500 calories and 79 grams of fat. Have they gone completely mad?
Posted 6/25/2010  11:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 187 comments   22,005 views
Read More ›

'Organic' Labels May Lead to Overeating


It's no secret that I am a strong supporter of organic foods and agriculture. Probably 95% of the food I buy is organic. While research on the health benefits of organic is mixed, I don't think it could hurt to limit my exposure to pesticides and genetically modified organisms, but more importantly, I believe in the environmental benefits of growing food organically.

It was about 10 years ago that I first discovered organic food and started shopping at "natural" foods stores. I didn't know much back then about nutrition or healthy eating, but all the new-to-me foods I encountered in those small markets piqued my interest. I would fill my cart with organic cookies, soy ice cream (I never knew that existed!), and other goodies, fully believing that these foods were "healthier" for me than the products in my local grocery store. And of course, healthy meant "lower in calories," as far as I was concerned. I'd munch away on exotic flavors and new foods, certain I was doing something good for my health.

I've since learned, thanks to my own research, a little more experience, and a good college education that also included nutrition classes, that the term "organic" doesn't necessarily mean healthy. Unfortunately, "organic" is yet another label that falls under the health halo, meaning that consumers read into it, well, things that aren't really there, like that it's healthier, lower in fat, lighter in calories, or promotes weight-loss.
Posted 5/21/2010  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 66 comments   11,576 views
Read More ›

Poll: Do Calorie Counts on Menus Affect Your Order?


Both California and New York City have led the way with health-promoting laws that require certain chain restaurants to post calorie counts (and other nutrition information) on their menu boards. And coming soon, thanks to the recent passage of the healthcare bill, chain restaurants will have to follow suit nationwide.

Here in Ohio, I have yet to see calorie counts posted on menu boards, but I admit that I am scarcely in a restaurant that actually has a menu on the wall (I prefer "sit down" restaurants or simply cooking at home). I was in Panera the other day and noticed calorie counts posted with three new smoothies they offered and much to my surprise, they had fewer calories than I would have guessed.

Whether these nutritional facts really make a difference has been up for debate. Some research shows that they do not promote changes in ordering behavior, especially in low-income areas where people want more (food, calories) for their money. More recently, I read about a newer study that showed calorie counts on menus do affect people's choices for the better, although the demographic researched (Starbucks patrons) was quite different than the aforementioned study (fast food goers in poor neighborhoods).

This led me to wonder: Have posted nutrition facts on a menu board affected your order?
Posted 5/12/2010  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 466 comments   18,049 views
Read More ›

Are You Eating More Because of Health Claims on Food Labels?


Low fat. Reduced calorie. Zero trans-fat. All natural. Organic. Is it possible that choosing foods advertising these and other similar health claims can actually increase overeating and lead to unhealthier food choices?

Apparently so, according to a growing body of research.

The concept of “health halo” has been around for several years now. Basically, the idea is that packaging that makes health claims about food items (or brands, restaurants, etc) often results in people eating more total calories, and more unhealthy foods, than they otherwise might.

As you can see from this article, there are several ways that health halos can lead to undesirable effects. One is that people tend to seriously underestimate the number of calories actually in a food item that’s labeled “low-fat” or "reduced calorie." This may lead people to increase the portion size they think is appropriate, or to add additional items to their meal, as when someone orders a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a bacon double cheeseburger, but then adds a large soda and a desert because they assume they can “afford” these extras and still come out ahead on calories. Either way, the research indicates that many people often end up eating up to 50% more total calories when choosing foods with health halos.

Posted 3/2/2010  6:10:39 PM By: Dean Anderson : 73 comments   10,992 views
Read More ›

Is Agave Nectar Really a Healthier Option?


Agave syrup has become a popular natural sweetener especially by vegans as a honey alternative. More and more people are becoming drawn to it because of the claims that it is "diabetic friendly" because of the low glycemic impact.

Here is some information that may help you see beyond the marketing hype as we debunk the agave myth.

Posted 2/22/2010  8:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 210 comments   87,448 views
Read More ›

When Your Sweet Tooth Strikes, What Do You Reach For?


Most days, right around 3 or 4 o'clock, they spring up out of nowhere. Others are surprised by them at night, usually in the few hours before bed. They come without warning and you can't really explain why they're there. Sugar cravings—they drive you nuts! Why must they appear, temping you at every turn, persuading you to give up on this whole "healthy lifestyle" thing?

I definitely have a strong preference for sweet foods. When they were handing out that gene that makes people think some desserts are "too sweet" or "too rich," I must have been sleeping (or off somewhere eating dessert), because no food is ever too sweet for me! Sometimes I give in, but other times, I find ways to squelch it without turning to sugary junk foods.

So what do I reach for when sugar cravings strike?
Posted 7/8/2009  3:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 247 comments   21,758 views
Read More ›

Poll: What's Your Definition of Moderation?


Moderation. It's a word that you'll often hear when you're trying to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle. The more you read and learn about healthy habits, the more this word comes up. We're told to eat in moderation, drink in moderation and even exercise in moderation (or at a moderate intensity level. Moderation means that nothing—not even the foods that you know are bad for you and might even hurt your efforts—is off limits. You can lose weight and eat ice cream, too—as long as you do so in moderation. Sounds doable, right?

Why moderation? Well, it works for most people. It's difficult to give up foods you enjoy (after all, food should be pleasurable) forever; and making certain foods completely off limits often causes you to want them—and obsess over them—even more, which could derail your diet. Moderation may sound ordinary or boring, but it's a great way to lose weight, eat better, and still have some fun along the way.

Lately though, I've been thinking about this whole concept of moderation quite a bit. I'm wondering if moderation is very good advice. After all, no one ever really defines it for you. What YOU think is moderation might not be what all the health and nutrition experts have in mind when they counsel you to eat fill-in-the-blank in moderation. Does moderation mean eating a 2,000-calorie fast food value meal once a week or is that still too often? Does eating ice cream in moderation mean having a smaller 100-calorie serving most days? Is a single diet soda per day moderation, or should you drink it less often? If you're applying the concept of moderation to LOTS of food or food groups (high-fat foods, trans fats, desserts, sweet snacks, salty foods, high-fat cuts of meat, etc.) you could be eating small amount of several different unhealthy foods regularly, which means you're not really eating unhealthy foods (as a group) in moderation at all.

So I've been wondering: What does 'moderation' mean to YOU?
Posted 7/1/2009  9:58:29 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 193 comments   25,081 views
Read More ›

What’s the REAL Price of Junk Food?


Warning! Rant Ahead.

Have you ever wondered why healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are more expensive than junk food? Or if there's anything you can do about it?

Think about it for a minute. That bunch of carrots for sale in the grocery store is basically yanked out of the ground in some remote location, hosed off, thrown in a truck, and delivered to your grocery store. Sure, that costs money. The land, the seeds, the pesticides, the water, all the labor, the transportation, the grocery store itself—none of this comes cheap. It costs even more, apparently, if you want to leave the pesticides out and go organic.

Now consider the humble Twinkie. As Michael Pollan puts it:

“ Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?”

Good question. Especially these days, when a global economic meltdown is making the cost of healthy eating even more of an issue for many people. Just how does your supermarket sell Twinkies and other “junk” foods so cheaply?
Posted 3/5/2009  6:29:00 AM By: Dean Anderson : 130 comments   9,403 views
Read More ›

Before You Bite: A Valentine's Day Guide to Chocolate


Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Whether you're celebrating with a sweetie or you're celebrating with friends, you're probably going to encounter sweets and treats, particularly chocolate.

In honor of the day, the dailySpark is giving you a chocolate lesson. You know dark chocolate is the "good stuff," but what should you look for before you take that sweet first bite?
Posted 2/12/2009  2:05:21 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 92 comments   4,288 views
Read More ›

Poll: Are Menu Descriptions 'Food Porn' or Just Good Marketing?


You see them all over the place.

Enticing photos of beautifully prepared foods and treats, complete with descriptions designed to make your mouth water. Even the cheaper chain restaurants get in on the act. You’ve seen the TV ads showing those great-looking burgers that look like they’re fresh off your backyard grill and overflowing with fresh, nutritious veggies. And you’ve probably seen the real thing, which often looks much more like something someone accidentally stepped on, but wrapped up and tossed in your take out bag anyway.

And then there’s those restaurant menus, with nice glossy pictures and seductive descriptions of the menu items. Take, for example, this description of the Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie, from the menu at Chili’s restaurant: “We start with a warm, chewy bar layered with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut. Topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge and caramel.”

I don’t know about you, but that one would be pretty tough for me to resist. Unless I happened to read the nutrition information on the company website: one slice has 1,590 calories, 76 grams of fat, 37 grams of saturated fat, and 950 grams of sodium.

What’s going on here? Is this just effective marketing, the sort of thing we should expect from any business? Or is there a problem here?
Posted 2/5/2009  6:10:17 AM By: Dean Anderson : 252 comments   8,298 views
Read More ›

Does it Really? The Truth about Açaí


We've all seen the ads.

Rachael Ray lost weight with açaí berries!

Lose 20 pounds in 2 days with açaí!

Açaí flush is the secret to weight loss.


Is it true? Does açaí, a berry native to Central and South America, hold the key to weight loss?
Posted 12/18/2008  3:15:03 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 120 comments   23,506 views
Read More ›

Read More Entries ›