What About the Twinkie?

Professor Mark Haub of the Kansas State University human nutrition department has recently found himself in the news by completing a junk food diet experiment.  He decided to test out the idea that if calories in are less than calories out, weight loss will occur no matter what foods those calories come from.  For two months, Professor Haub  followed a diet of less than 1800 calories per day, with the calories coming from foods like Twinkies, Doritos and Little Debbie Snacks.  While he admits to also eating healthier snacks such as carrots and celery, he purposely avoided whole grains, fruits and meats to keep his calorie count down.

Haub lost 27 lbs over the 2 months, lowered his LDL cholesterol, increased his HDL cholesterol and decreased his total triglycerides. 

This may seem especially frustrating to those who are trying to lose weight “the right way”, but it ultimately isn’t shocking.  The key to this story is the fact that Professor Haub was overweight prior to beginning his experiment, and the 1800-calorie plan he followed represents half of the calories he took in before the diet.  Professor Haub decreased the total amount of calories he was taking in, which will of course result in weight loss.  While the health benefits associated with losing weight are innumerable, in Professor Haub’s case, we aren’t seeing the long-term impact of consuming high-calorie, high-fat snack foods.  Not to mention the negative side effects from not taking in enough beneficial fruits and vegetables.  The other interesting piece of this story is that Haub himself is not recommending his diet for others, admitting that there are likely unseen long-term effects of eating in this manner.

So, should you be lowering your total caloric intake? Most likely, yes.  Should you be filling those calories with snack foods like twinkies? No! Stick to nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.  Happy (and healthy) snacking! 🙂

Nutrition and Health Claims

You probably know you should be checking the Nutrition Facts label on food items you are eating.  But with all the health claims and nutrients listed, sometimes it’s tough to figure out what exactly you should be looking for! What does it mean if something is “low-fat” or a “good source of _____”? The Food and Drug Administration has established guidelines on what food products can claim on their packaging. 

Here are the common health claims you’ll see and what they really mean:
“Reduced”= 25% less of the calories or nutrient than the normal product
“Light”= 1/3 of the calories OR 1/2 of the fat of the normal product
“Low-calorie”= Less than 40 calories (per serving)
“Fat-free”= Less than 0.5 gram of fat (per serving)
“Sugar-free”= Less than 0.5 gram of sugar (per serving)
“Low-sodium”= <140mg of sodium (per serving)
“Good source of”= Provides at least 10% of the Daily Value of a nutrient (per serving)

The FDA is taking a step in the right direction to further clarify food labeling through the “Front-of-Package Labeling Initiative”.  This program will target products with food labels that give misleading messages of potential health benefits.  The initiative is working to ensure that claims made on the front of food packaging are truthful and useful in helping consumers make healthier choices.  Companies that are found to be in violation are given warnings and must respond within 15 days with how they are or will be taking action to make corrections.

So next time you’re out stocking up on groceries, beware of the health claims on the front of packaging, and be sure to check out the Nutrition Facts label as well! Happy shopping! 🙂