Healthy or Not: Halo Top Ice Cream

This low-cal ice cream is taking the diet world by storm. Healthy eating enthusiasts are swooning over the concept of eating an entire pint of ice cream in one serving. But does the bright glow of Halo Top deserve angel status? We are crunching the numbers and breaking down the ingredient list to get the skinny on this lighter frozen treat.

By the Numbers

In a few short years, the passion project of a California lawyer has become one of Walmart’s best sellers. Early batches of this treat came from a home kitchen, but pints of Halo Top can now be found at grocery stores throughout the country. The numbers are impressive, but the nutritional facts are what really need to be considered.

A pint of traditional vanilla ice cream contains 1000 calories, 64 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein and no fiber. A pint of Halo Top vanilla comes in at 240 calories with 8 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein and a staggering 20 grams of fiber — that’s 80 percent of the daily goal. This is where most folks will shout “hallelujah” and reach for a spoon! But before you get to the bottom of your Halo Top container, you may want to get to the bottom of what’s really in those pints.

Traditional vanilla ice cream is made from cream, milk, sugar, eggs and stabilizers like guar gum. Halo Top ingredient list starts off in a similar fashion with milk, cream and eggs; there’s also guar gum in there. What sets Halo Top apart is what’s used to displace much of the sugar and fat. This means the use of the indigestible substances including the sugar alcohol called “erythritol” and supplemental fibers. You will find some sugar added, but much of the sweet flavor comes from the artificial sweetener Stevia. Since these types of ingredients aren’t digested normally, eating large amounts of has been found to sometimes cause stomach upset. They also help bind the low-calorie ingredients together without copious amounts of fat. For this reason, the texture of low calorie ice creams are nowhere near as creamy. Many of the flavors have very small pieces of add ins like cookies and chocolate chips to keep the calories in check – understandable, yet still a bit disappointing.

Bottom Line

A few bites of a light ice cream like Halo Top may help you cut back on higher calorie treats. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it may help while trying to shed a few pounds. But don’t get too excited about the promises of weight loss when downing pints a day, or even one pint in a sitting. This is not a healthy, balanced or recommended way to eat.

 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Can You Really Slash Sugar From Your Diet? 

Trying to tame your sweet tooth? You may have heard, “sugar is in everything.” So how can you cut out sugar — and why is it a good idea?

First, narrow your target to “added sugars” versus natural sugars found in fruit and dairy foods. Starting in July 2018, “added sugars” will be clearly marked on food nutrition labels. Until then, look for these words on ingredient lists: syrup, honey, cane, agave, fruit juice concentrates and words ending in ‘ose.’ These are simple sugars. “Simple sugars can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. This, in turn, triggers a swift increase in insulin, which signals your body to store more fat – especially belly fat,” explains registered dietitian nutritionist Kristina LaRue, author of the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.

That spike in blood sugar can wreak havoc on your emotions too. And your hunger cues: when your blood sugar goes way up, it tends to come crashing way, way down, so you may feel hungrier than you would have, had you not consumed that sweet tea.

Crushing your sugar habit is about re-wiring your taste buds. You want to try to get to a point where some really sweet foods and drinks actually taste too saccharin. Surprisingly, this can happen in about a month.

Here’s our plan on how to strip some of the sugar from your day:

 

At Home

If it’s not in your house, you can’t eat it when you’re stressed or tired, which is when we tend to crave sugary hits. On the contrary, if your pantry is stocked with foods that provide energy and satisfaction, you’ll be less likely to stop for a caramel-drenched latte on the way to work.

  • Purge your house of sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas, even sweetened “healthy” drinks like fizzy probiotic beverages. Instead, purchase flavored seltzer waters with zero sugar or artificial sweeteners or drink plain water.
  • Dump condiments like barbecue sauce or low-fat salad dressings with high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
  • Dial down the sweetness in yogurts and milk alternatives; sweetened soy milk can have 15 grams of added sugar per serving. Get your taste buds used to plain yogurt sweetened with fruit. (Yes, really!)
  • Always keep frozen fruit on hand to cure sweet cravings. Frozen raspberries are one of the fruits lowest in natural sugar content and have more fiber than any other berry (9 grams per cup). And, with only 80 antioxidant-rich calories per 1 whole cup, they will likely make your sweet tooth smile.
  • Start your day with something savory. When the first thing you eat is a white chocolate covered granola bar, it tends to set you up for a day of sweet treats. Instead, grab a cheese sandwich, or a couple hardboiled eggs with a few shakes of curry powder.

 

At Work

To state the obvious, ditch the donuts. Then focus on ways to stay satisfied throughout the work day to avoid sweet splurges.

  • Don’t forget about fats. Make sure your lunch contains some satisfying fat to ward off afternoon cravings. Omega-3 fats are especially satisfying and have even been found to decrease belly fat, says LaRue. Pack flax seed or chia seed topped yogurt for desktop dining. Order omega-3 rich fish for lunch.
  • Type this into your calendar: “Snack on 23 almonds at 3:00 pm,” for good monounsaturated fats and 6 grams of satisfying protein. If it’s in your calendar it will probably get done.
  • Plan for sweets. Stress triggers sweet cravings. Keep individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate in your desk. Compared to candy or milk chocolate, dark chocolate keeps your palate focused on less-sweet tastes.
  • Steer clear of soda. Non-diet soda is an obvious no-go, but even diet soda has crazy-sweet flavor. Remember, you’re trying to titrating down your taste buds’ love of sweet. Ask to stock the soda machine with some seltzer.

 

At Parties

There will be birthday parties, celebrations, and dinners out with friends. No need to make a scene about sugar avoidance. Instead:

  • Eat before you go. The best way to keep your metabolism functioning at its peak is to eat every three to four hours. So don’t go starved, and sugar avoidance will be easier.
  • Enjoy it! No #foodguilt here. Don’t let staying away from sugar become an obsession.
  • Practice success. “People who are successful at making healthy eating part of their everyday lifestyle are the ones who occasionally treat themselves while also transforming some of their favorite sweet foods into healthier options,” explains LaRue. Practice getting back on track.

 

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Are You a Healthy Snacker?

We have become a snacking nation, but that doesn’t mean everyone snacks healthfully. Snacking on high calorie foods with few nutrients can lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating habits. And mindlessly munching on a bag of chips (yes, even veggie chips!) in front of the TV at night is not a healthy habit either. So how can you tell if you’re a healthy snacker? See how you answer the following 5 questions.

1. Are you having a snack or a treat?

A snack is a mini meal that provides nutrients you may not be getting enough of during regular meals, such as fiber, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. A treat is a food that provides very little (if any) nutrition, but contains a lot of calories such as a doughnut or bag of potato chips.

To become a healthy snacker: Think before eating. If it’s a snack, then enjoy it! If it’s a treat, ask yourself if you really need it and if not, swap it for a healthier choice.

 

2.Do you really need the snack?

Snacks shouldn’t be eaten just for the sake of having something in your mouth or to alleviate boredom. They should be eaten if you are truly hungry, like if you go five or more hours between meals without food (not counting sleep time).

To become a healthy snacker: Pre-plan snack times one to two times per day when you find yourself the hungriest

 

3. Are you carb-overloading?

Although whole grain pretzels or crackers sound like a healthy snack, they’re more satisfying when combined with a protein or healthy fat which helps slow down digestion and keep you satisfied for longer.

To become a healthy snacker: Combine carbs with protein or healthy fat such as Greek yogurt topped with berries, or whole grain crackers topped with peanut butter.

 

4. Are you controlling your portions?

Having the right foods and the right time is important, but you also need to eat these foods in appropriate portions. Some foods are very healthy, but when eaten in large quantities can add hundreds of unnecessary calories to your day.

To become a healthy snacker: Aim to have snacks between 125 to 200 calories each. Review the nutrition facts panel of packaged foods for recommended serving sizes and calories per serving.

 

5. Are you a packaged food snacker?

Many packaged foods aren’t as healthy as they seem. Some may contain few calories…but few vitamins and minerals too. Other can be laden with artery clogging fat and loads of calories.

To become a healthy snacker: Control the ingredients by preparing a few snacks at home. Here are DIY snack recipes to try:

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Why When You Eat May Be as Important as What You Eat

If you’re struggling to lose weight (and really, who isn’t?), it may be a matter of when as much as what you eat. Eating at the “right” time of day may be more key to weight loss than the number of calories you consume, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center fed five groups of mice a diet about 30 percent lower in calories than their usual diet, but found that only those who ate during their normal active feeding time (at night for mice) lost weight. Those that ate at the wrong time (during the day for mice) gained weight, even though they consumed 30 percent fewer calories than normal.

The findings may indicate that, for humans as well as mice, dieting may only be effective if we eat at the “right” time (for humans, during the day, when we are normally awake and active) rather than the “wrong” time (for us, at night, when we would normally be sleeping), says Joseph S. Takahashi, chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who led the study.

“The time at which you eat may be as important as what you eat,” Takahashi tells Healthy Eats.

The time we eat may affect our circadian rhythms and the way our livers metabolize nutrients, he explains, adding that previous studies have also provided evidence that, for humans, rethinking the calorie content of our three meals a day may be beneficial for weight loss.

“In these experiments a comparison was made between having a heavy meal at breakfast and a light meal at dinner versus a light breakfast and a heavy dinner,” Takahashi says. “Those people who consumed the most calories at breakfast lost more weight.”

So maybe cut down on the night eating then? Unless you’re a mouse.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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5 Ways to Up Your Protein at Breakfast

For years dinner was considered the “meat-heavy” meal, while breakfast was associated with foods like oatmeal, cereal, pancakes and muffins. Instead, each meal of the day should be balanced with both whole grains and protein. Whole grains include fiber, which helps fill you up and has numerous health benefits. Protein also has numerous benefits including satiety, which may be lacking at breakfast meals. Here are 5 ways you can include more protein at breakfast so you can less hungry in the morning.

New Research on Protein

A new landmark systematic review recently published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that consuming protein above current recommended levels helps prevent age-related bone loss, a condition known as osteoporosis.  “Current protein guidelines focus on preventing muscle loss as we age, but our study suggests we need substantially more to keep our bones strong,” says Dr. Taylor Wallace leading food science and nutrition researcher on the study and professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University. “The study showed a 16% reduced risk of hip fractures with higher protein intakes (we found no difference in animal vs. plant proteins).”  That’s a large dose of prevention for over 2 million osteoporotic fractures that occur annually in the United States.  That is why Wallace recommends forgoing low fat or low carb breakfasts, and rather focusing on eating more protein at breakfast to stay healthy and energized.

Chicken and steak may not be what you’re craving at breakfast, but don’t count it out. Here are five ways you can up your protein in the morning.

Add Beans

Eggs are a great source of protein in the morning, but adding beans to an omelet or burrito can up your protein and fiber even more.

Recipe to try: Breakfast Burrito (pictured above)

Try Quinoa

Whether it’s hot quinoa cereal or a bowl of quinoa and beans, this whole grain adds a healthy dose of protein at breakfast.

Recipe to try: Mexican Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Play with Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt provides double the protein compared to traditional yogurt due to the straining process it goes through. Add it to smoothies, spoon it over pancakes and waffles, and use it to make overnight oats. The possibilities are endless.

Recipe to try: Papaya Banana Smoothie

Welcome Sardines

This underappreciated omega-3 filled protein is a delicious addition to any breakfast repertoire. Add to omelets or enjoy with toast.

Recipe to try:  Sherried Sardine Toast

Top with Peanut Butter

Two tablespoons of peanut butter provides 8 grams of protein and about 188 calories. Swirl a spoonful into oatmeal, smear over toast, add to smoothies, or use it in a batter for pancakes, muffins or breakfast cookies.

Recipe to try: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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The one supplement you need to be taking: Vitamin K2

If there’s one vitamin you need to know more about, it’s vitamin K2. Unlike it’s vitamin K1 counterpart, vitamin K2 is rare in the Western diet and therefore hasn’t received much mainstream attention. However, emerging research shows that vitamin K2 may play an essential role in preventing bone loss, improved vascular health and reduced cancer risk.

Let’s start by differentiating between the two forms. Vitamin K1, phylloquinone, aids in blood clotting and is found mostly in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli. Vitamin K2, menaquinone, is the form produced by intestinal bacteria and found in natto and some fermented cheeses and animal products.

Preventing Bone Loss

In discussing bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis, most of us are familiar with the role that calcium plays as a building block for strong bones and teeth. However, when we take a deeper dive, we see how vital vitamin K2 is as well in the overall process.

Osteocalcin is a vitamin K-dependent protein that helps create the bone matrix upon which calcium crystallizes. Essentially, osteocalcin helps to provide the ‘glue’ that holds the calcium in the bone. Without the presence of osteocalcin, the bone would be fragile and prone to breakage. Vitamin K2 is needed to activate this osteocalcin protein and regulate where calcium ends up in the body.

In studies where vitamin K2 was given along with other essential bone-building minerals, high consumption of vitamin K2 resulted in better levels of activated osteocalcin and a reduced risk of fracture.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Since often the first symptom of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack, doctors and researchers are constantly evaluating ways to detect earlier warnings. Blood cholesterol levels were used for decades, followed by measurements of c-reactive protein. Now, it seems that looking at how much calcium you have in the arteries can be just as, if not more, effective.

Calcium build-up, especially around the heart, is a huge risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Therefore, reduced accumulation of calcium in the arteries may help prevent heart disease and risk of heart attacks. In the Rotterdam study of almost 5000 men and women, those who had the highest intake of vitamin K2 were 52% less likely to develop calcium deposits in the arteries and were 57% less likely to die from heart disease over a 7-10 year period.

Food Sources and Supplementation

Unless you regularly consume liver, certain fermented cheeses or natto (a fermented soy product), then chances are you aren’t getting enough of this important nutrient. For this reason, a supplement is often recommended.

There are two main types of Vitamin K2 available for supplementation: MK-4 and MK-7. While both are forms of vitamin K2, MK-7 has been shown to be more effective than MK-4 at producing osteocaclin and reducing overall cardiovascular risk. In the studies referenced above, vitamin K2 was most often found in the MK-7 form over MK-4.

Of course, before taking any new supplements, it’s always a good idea to discuss your health history first with your doctor. Depending on your needs and current diet, adding a vitamin K2 supplement may be helpful in reducing risk of both cardiovascular incident and bone fractures.

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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5 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight

How frustrating is it when you just can’t lose weight? You’re trying to eat right and exercise, but the numbers on the scale don’t move. Many registered dietitian nutritionists work one-on-one with clients and have experience as to why your waistline isn’t shrinking. I asked 5 dietitians the most common reason folks don’t lose weight and you’ll be surprised by what they had to say.

1. You’re cutting too many calories
“When you diet and restrict calories too low, your body’s metabolism starts to slow down, necessitating a larger caloric deficit to lose weight. Meanwhile, your hunger hormone (ghrelin) gets out of control, which simultaneously leads you to overeat,” says Abbey Sharp, RD, blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen.

Instead: Sharp recommends stopping the good food, bad food mentality, and focusing on your body’s unique hunger and satiety signals. Once you stop restricting, your body will stop feeling the need to overcompensate and binge whenever it gets the chance. When you eat mindfully, you eat in response to your body’s true needs, which helps prevent episodes of overeating.

2. You’re eating too much of a healthy food
“My clients often have trouble losing weight because they are consuming too much of a good thing,” claims Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “When I share that 1/5 of an avocado is one serving, people gasp.” Other good-for-you foods that are high in calories include nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and hummus.

Instead: Measure portions of higher calorie good-for-you foods until you get the hand of it.

3. You’re eating more than you think
Oftentimes folks underestimate the amount of food and calories they are eating. They forget about the handful of nuts or half a homemade muffin they were offered by their officemate. Drinks also tend to fall off the grid, and if you’re downing specialty coffees or numerous cocktails during happy hour you’re for sure taking in hundreds of calories there.

Instead: “When I first started in private practice 22 years ago, I found that without fail, my clients who consistently kept a food diary were the ones who were more successful in their weight loss efforts,” says Colleen Gerg, MA, RDN, a nutrition and mindfulness coach. Writing down everything you eat and drink creates awareness of habits and keeps you honest.

4. You’re stressed out
“Stress affects our eating, exercise, and sleep habits-most often in negative ways. Stress also affects our cortisol levels which makes it hard to lose weight,” declares Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD owner of Nourish Nutrition. Clyde explains where “I have so many clients who are trying to be perfect at following restrictive diets who just are terrified to ‘fall off the wagon’ and stressed out about sticking to their diet.”

Instead: If your diet is stressing you out, it’s time to find a better way to eat healthy and lose weight. There is no need for you to be miserable when trying to lose weight.

5. You’re not getting enough sleep
Most people don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. “Lack of sleep can make us feel foggy headed and lethargic the next day,” explains Lauren Manganiello MS, RD, CDN owner of Lauren Manganiello Nutrition & Fitness in NYC. “Our body then craves food, especially sugar, to help combat our lack of energy. It’s very difficult to eat mindfully and listen to our hunger cues when we’re sleep deprived.”

Instead: Get to bed at a decent hour and remove things keeping you awake. This means turning off the television and charging your electronic devices in a separate room so you don’t have the urge to get on them in the middle of the night.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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