by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Calories

Feb 27 2009

Calories count (duh?)

Researchers, bless them, have done the obvious at last and published it in the February 26 New England Journal of Medicine (and here’s how USA Today explains the study).  They put some intrepid volunteers on 1400-calorie diets varying in content of protein (15-25%), fat (20-40%), and carbohydrate (35-65%) and waited to see how much weight they would lose by the end of two years.  Ta-da!  The participants all lost a lot of weight in 6 months, but slowly gained it back.  By the end of 2 years, they lost about the same amount of weight regardless of the mix.  Conclusion: when it comes to weight loss, how much you eat matters more than what you eat.  Or, as I am fond of saying, if you want to lose weight, eat less!

Jul 16 2008

My new column in the San Francisco Chronicle

I start a new column today – Food Matters – in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Food section. It’s a Q and A, with room for comments on the online version. I will answer a question or two whenever it runs (how often? I’m not sure). This first one deals with the editors’ question: “What’s the most pressing nutrition issue today, and why?” In a word: calories.

And while we talking about calories, today’s New York Times printed my letter about  last week’s post on the 500-calorie cookie recipe.

Jul 10 2008

Nathan’s hot dogs: a winner

Thanks to Andy Bellatti of Small Bites for announcing the winner of the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. 64 hot dogs? The contestants do not look like happy campers, alas.

Jul 10 2008

One cookie is 500 calories?

Yesterday’s New York Times published a gorgeous recipe for chocolate chip cookies but I was stunned by the size. The recipe calls for pounds of ingredients but only makes 18 cookies (5 inches in diameter). I couldn’t resist looking up the calories on the USDA’s food composition data base. If I added them up right, they came to about 500 calories each. If you want to understand the vast change in the food environment that has taken place in the last 30 years, take a look at an old (1964 or 1975) edition of the Joy of Cooking. Its recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for almost exactly half the ingredients of the one in the Times but makes 45 cookies. Two batches would be the same as the Times’ recipe and would make 90 cookies! These would be just under 100 calories each.

Jul 9 2008

Calories: more than you ever wanted to know?

Mark Schrimsher writes to tell me that his CalorieLab site has just posted a U.S. map indicating the states with the highest levels of obesity.  The site has a calorie counter for a huge number of items and meals, and does things like adding up the calories expected to be consumed in the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest–19,600.  Did this happen?

Mar 8 2008

Baseball food: lots of it!

Yesterday’s USA Today had a front page story on the latest method for selling bad seats at baseball games: raise the price and give people all they can eat. According to the Aramark manager at Atlanta’s Turner field, the typical customer takes 3.35 hot dogs, one 20-oz soda, one 7.9 bag of peanuts, one 3-oz nachos, and 32 oz popcorn. Anyone want to take a stab at adding up the calories? Hint: a 20-oz soda is 275.

Jan 14 2008

Low-calorie restaurant meals: really?

I’m just getting caught up with the Wall Street Journal’s report on calories in “low-calorie” meals served in chain restaurants. It’s worth a look. The reporter sent meals to a laboratory to test for calories. The good news: most calorie contents were as advertised. The not so good news: the calories are as advertised if–and only if–you don’t eat side dishes or additions like bread, cheese, or salad dressing. If you do, the calories go way up. And calories count. Alas.

Dec 31 2007

whole grains: philosophy

It’s the end of the year and snowing in upstate New York and a good day to respond to some questions. How about this one from Migraineur about whole grains: “What I would like to see is evidence that shows that whole grains are a better place to spend part of our daily calorie budget than are vegetables, meats, dairy products, fish, eggs, high quality fats, and fruits. That is to say, am I better off consuming whole grains or omitting grains entirely?”

My philosophy: the answer, of course, is “it depends.” Nutrition is about two things–calories and nutrients. Humans are omnivores. We can get calories and nutrients from just about anything we eat, plant and animal. If getting enough calories is the problem, grains are a big help because they are relatively concentrated in calories. Whole grains are better choices because they provide more nutrients than processed grains. But: if eating too many calories is the problem, then foods with fewer calories are better choices. Whole grains may have more nutrients, but they are just as caloric as processed grains. The science shows that people who eat whole grains are healthier, but good health practices track: people who habitually eat whole grains tend to eat better diets, stay active, and behave in other healthier ways. So it is impossible to tease out the effects of whole grains or any other single food or nutrient from dietary patterns as a whole. What does all this mean? If you like eating grains (and I do), then it’s fine to eat them. If you do not or don’t want to, you don’t have to. I cannot think of one single food or food group that is essential in human diets. And single foods and nutrients always have to be considered within the context of calories. That’s how I see it. Happy new year!

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