TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 Things You Should Know About Shrimp

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Why you should eat them for more than just taste

Shrimp cocktail is on practically every holiday menu, but many of my clients aren’t sure if they should avoid shrimp or dig in. If you’re a seafood eater and you enjoy these crustaceans, either chilled or in hot dishes, here are seven things you should know.

They’re low in calories

One medium shrimp provides about 7 calories, which means a dozen add up to less than 85 calories—roughly 15 less than a 3-ounce chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards in thickness and width). One jumbo shrimp, the type often served in shrimp cocktail, contains about 14 calories, and a teaspoon of cocktail sauce provides 5, so three jumbo shrimp, each with a teaspoon of cocktail sauce as an appetizer, adds up to less than 60 calories, about 10 less than just one pig in a blanket, and 20 less than two mini empanadas or two mini quiche.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Most Filling Foods for Weight Loss

They’re protein-rich

In addition to their water content, shrimp are primarily made of protein. Three ounces of baked or broiled shrimp provides about 20 grams of protein, just a few grams less than that a 3-ounce chicken breast. Each jumbo shrimp provides about 3 grams, and contains very little fat and carbohydrate.

They provide key nutrients

Aside from protein, shrimp provide a pretty impressive array of nutrients. Four ounces steamed contains over 100% of the Daily Value for selenium, over 75% for vitamin B12, over 50% for phosphorous, and over 30% for choline, copper, and iodine. And while we don’t typically think of animal proteins as sources of antioxidants, shrimp contain two types. In addition to being a mineral that plays a role in immunity and thyroid function, selenium is an important antioxidant that helps fight damaging particles called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, leading to premature aging and disease. Another antioxidant, called astaxanthin, which provides the primary color pigment in shrimp, has been shown to help reduce inflammation, a known trigger of aging and disease.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

They’re a common allergen

As a member of the shellfish family, shrimp are among the top allergens, which in addition to shellfish include milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. Exposure to shrimp by those who are allergic to shellfish can cause a severe reaction, including life threatening anaphalyaxis. More mild reactions may include a stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy skin, hives, tingling in the mouth, abdominal pain, and nausea. A food allergy can develop at any age. If you think you may be allergic to shrimp, or any other food, see an allergist for testing right away.

Yes, they’re high in cholesterol, but…

The current guidelines from both the USDA and American Heart Association state that dietary cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 300 mg per day, and three ounces of shrimp provides about half that amount. There are two kinds of cholesterol. The first is called dietary cholesterol, which is the cholesterol found in foods. Only foods from animals contain cholesterol, because the animals’ bodies produced it. The second kind of cholesterol is blood or serum cholesterol: this is the cholesterol inside of your body. Blood cholesterol is produced by your liver and released into your bloodstream.

If you eat animal-based foods, the cholesterol you absorb can also contribute to blood cholesterol. However, the impact of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol has been an issue of debate. Research shows that high intakes of saturated fat and man-made trans fat have the greatest impact on blood cholesterol. Shrimp is very low in saturated fat and doesn’t contain trans fat—unless it’s been fried or cooked in a way that adds trans fat. But if you already have high cholesterol, follow the advice of your doctor about dietary cholesterol. And for more on how to eat seafood healthfully, check out my previous post on 5 Healthy Cooking Tips for Fish.

HEALTH.COM: 22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat

Shrimp fraud is common

A recent report from Oceana found that 30% of 143 shrimp products tested from 111 nationwide vendors were misrepresented. For example, farmed shrimp was sold as wild or Gulf. This means you may be unknowingly eating shrimp produced in a farm that uses antibiotics, fungicides, and other harmful chemicals. Unfortunately there isn’t much you as a consumer can do about this, but for more info about choosing shrimp that is properly labeled, checkout out this handy resource from Seafood Watch.

Even wild shrimp may contain contaminants

A recent Arizona State University study analyzed 27 samples of seafood, including shrimp, from 11 countries. Researchers found detectable amounts of five different antibiotics, including in wild shrimp. This is a critical finding, since the use of antibiotics in food production has contributed to a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, a major public health concern.

Bottom line: nutritionally speaking, shrimp is a bit of mixed bag, and Americans eat more shrimp than any other seafood item. If you’re one of them the best advice is to know the pros and cons, enjoy shrimp in moderation, and do your best to shop for, prepare, and order the healthiest options. For more info check out 5 Rules for Buying and Storing Seafood.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Crazy Things That Happen to Food Before You Buy It

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Kalettes: A Brand-New Veggie You Should Know About

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Kalettes, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts, are the latest hybrid vegetable to hit the U.S. market.

The new veggie was created by Tozer Seeds, a British vegetable-breeding company that brought the vegetable to the United States in fall 2014. The non-genetically-modified vegetable took 15 years to perfect. “The inspiration behind Kalettes came from a desire to create a kale type vegetable that was versatile, easy to prepare and looked great,” Kalettes’ website reads. “Crossing kale with brussels sprouts was a natural fit since they are both from the brassica oleracea species, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.” Kalettes, like many dark leafy greens, are very high in vitamin C. They’re also high in vitamin K.

In the early stages of Kalettes’ development, Brussels sprouts were dropping out of popularity in the U.K., and the new hybrid was thought of as a potential way to increase the veggie’s popularity, Modern Farmer reports.

Kalettes look similar to a small cabbage and are available at Trader Joe’s nationwide, as well as at some regional groceries like Whole Foods and Costco. Kalettes are are simple to prepare and cook quicker than Brussels sprouts, the company says. Taste wise, Kalettes have a nutty, savory flavor.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Lunch Brought From Home is Unhealthier Than Cafeteria Food

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Lunch boxes are light on veggies and packed with sodium

Most lunches brought from home don’t meet the nutritional guidelines set by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), finds a new study.

Over the last few years, school lunches have undergone a makeover in hopes of curbing adolescent obesity and helping kids get healthier. Schools now provide more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk. Soda and sugar-sweetened beverages have been dismissed and vending machines restocked with healthier snacks. Even breakfast options are better for young people.

But the lunch revolution hasn’t yet reached the home front. Researchers Karen Cullen, a professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine, and Michelle L. Caruso of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services discovered that kids who are bringing their lunches from home are nutritionally much worse off than those who are buying school lunches.

“We were in the schools doing other observations and noticed the lesser quality of meals from home, so we decided to look closer and actually measure it,” explains Cullen.

To figure out what exactly what’s being packed at home, Cullen and Caruso looked at the brought-from-home lunches of 242 kids at eight elementary schools and 95 kids in four middle schools in the Houston area over a two month period. They calculated the nutritional content of the home lunches compared to the NSLP guidelines, as well as how much the home lunches cost.

They found that lunches brought from home had more sodium, fewer servings of fruit, fewer vegetables, fewer whole grains and less milk. Perhaps the most staggering finding was that around 90% of the lunches from home had a sweetened beverage, snack chips and dessert in them. None of those items are permitted in school lunches.

“We saw a lot of pre-packaged meals, pouches of sweetened beverages, and popular chip products,” says Cullen.

And among the elementary school kids, lunches from home were more expensive than the school lunch offering. For middle school kids, that wasn’t consistently the case. Still, Cullen and Caruso say more research is needed in a larger population size to see just how great the disparities are between home and school lunches.

The study couldn’t conclude whether students or parents packed the lunches, but either way, Cullen and Caruso think that parents have a role in teaching their kids what’s healthy for lunch. “Parents need to involve their children more in planning meals and learning what makes them healthy,” says Cullen. “Food at home needs to be a joint collaboration.”

TIME health

Coming to Our Senses on Education and Nutrition

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Taste and smell can be powerful tools in the classroom

As classrooms “go digital,” educators should consider smell and taste as underutilized teaching tools, especially for teaching kids nutrition.

There’s strong evidence for smell and taste being central to nutrition education dating back a century to the pioneering work of physician Maria Montessori, whose schools worldwide continue to prioritize what Dr. Montessori referred to as the “education of the senses.” There is also recent evidence that multisensory nutrition education reduces classroom absenteeism and improves standardized test scores, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine’s task force on childhood obesity. Changes in health behaviors, such as hand washing, hydration and reducing sugar intake, lead to fewer sick days. And activities such as cooking with recipes, reading nutrition labels and counting calories appear to greatly improve math test scores, possibly because they utilize more senses than does most math classwork.

There’s a biochemical basis for incorporating taste and smell into nutrition education. Taste and smell, which are referred to as the chemosenses because they “talk” to the brain via molecules, guide our behavior and level of motivation. Studies using functional MRI map chemosensory brain activity in the brainstem, a control center for instinctual behaviors like sleeping, eating and the fight-and-flight response. (In contrast, sight and sound are largely registered in the neocortex, the part of the brain used for cognition.) Food scents and taste are powerful influencers because of food’s central role in species survival. The gaming and cosmetic industries use food fragrances to incentivize behavior and purchases. In other words, the nose knows–less in the test-taking way we usually assess knowledge and more through pathways linked closely to behavior change and lifelong learning.

Chemosensory learning does not stop in elementary school. In fact, taste acquisition and adult food preferences are honed during early adolescence.

The case for incorporating chemosensory learning into middle and high school curricula has never been stronger. The sophistication of fast food marketing requires today’s youth to be especially discerning. Children and teens also have more discretionary spending and a wider array of food choices. Given the epidemic of nutrition-related chronic diseases, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to equipping our nation’s youth.

A rise in chronic diseases in youth has led to a rise in the use of prescription medications to treat them. One in 4 insured American youth takes a prescription medication on a regular basis, according to the Medco 2010 Drug Trend Report. Many of these medications have not been studied in youth, and those that have been studied exhibit nuanced, individualized and sometimes adverse effects on food selection and appetite. Appetite-related side effects are not limited to the medication’s duration and can be long-lasting. However, teaching kids to fine-tune their senses of smell and taste can minimize these side effects by helping people realize when they’re full, and is also key to mindful eating.

The digital age makes new and innovative ways of incorporating the chemosenses possible. One example is “flipped classrooms,” where technology-driven learning can be used at home or in during extracurricular activities, which then frees up class time for student discussion and presentations. The flipped classroom approach makes it possible to use smell and taste in virtual classrooms as well, and in settings where food allergies may limit such experiences in the classroom. Encouraging students to engage in nutrition activities in the home has long been used in public health interventions known as a “child-as-change-agent approach.”

Community partnerships have long been a way for public health nutritionists and educators to work together to achieve sustainable behavior change among youth. The web has also become a catalyst for more diverse stakeholders in nutrition education: STEM programs using nutrition as a gateway science, athletic groups seeking to improve the sports performance of youth, agriculture programs such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and the National Park Service linking healthy parks with healthy people for their upcoming centennial.

Peer leadership is another well-established method for engaging adolescents in positive health behaviors. The web and social media have allowed youth peer leaders to expand beyond traditional roles such as camp leaders, afterschool tutors and buddy program participants. In NutriBee, an early adolescent nutrition intervention I researched and developed at Johns Hopkins, high school students come up with projects relating their personal interests to nutrition, which then comprise the online component of NutriBee’s curriculum. The curriculum, aimed at slightly younger kids, incorporates the chemosenses, touch and social interaction.

The chemosenses can help translate nutrition education into healthful behavior changes and positive actions. Getting taste and smell back into the teaching toolbox can therefore impact public health. And the digital age is fertile soil for sprouting the innovation necessary to do that.

Ingrid Kohlstadt, MD, MPH, is a physician graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Kohlstadt is a Faculty Associate at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and double-board certified in preventive medicine and nutrition. She edited textbooks Food and Nutrients in Disease Management and Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrients, Second Edition. Dr. Kohlstadt has worked for the CDC, the FDA, the USDA, the Indian Health Service and the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, and serves on the review board of Nutrition Journal.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Another Reason to Try the Mediterranean Diet

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Bring on the nuts and veggies

The Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil, has once again proven itself worthy of our plates.

People who maintained a version of the Mediterranean diet had a 50% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of rapid kidney function decline, according to a new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Over about seven years, researchers scored 900 participants’ diets on a scale based on how closely their eating habits resembled the Mediterranean diet. They found that every one-point increase in Mediterranean diet score was linked to a 17% decrease in their likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease—a disease that afflicts around 20 million Americans.

Though the researchers are not entirely certain why the Mediterranean diet is successful in warding off kidney disease, they believe it might have to do with the diet’s effects on inflammation in the kidney cells and the lining inside the heart and blood vessels. Past research has shown that the Mediterranean diet has positive effects on inflammation and blood pressure, which in turn benefits the kidneys.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown consistently to benefit the body; studies suggest it can keep you healthy in old age, ward off memory loss, fight diabetes, and lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, and childhood asthma. Of course, no diet is a cure-all, especially if it’s not accompanied by other healthy behaviors like exercising, drinking in moderation, and avoiding smoking. Still, the Mediterranean diet is certainly a good place to start.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Fast-Food Chains Are Cutting Calories, But Does Anyone Care?

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What's really behind the drops in chain restaurants' calories

Large chain restaurants have lowered their calories, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health used a database of menu items from the 100 largest United States restaurant chains. The numbers showed that from 2012 to 2013, there was a 12% decline, about 56 fewer calories, in newly introduced menu items overall. The calorie cuts were largely in main-course items.

But resist the urge to rush to the nearest drive-thru. The researchers also report that in restaurants with a single food responsible for their identity—a burger, say—the calorie drops were more likely to be in new items added to the menu unrelated to their core business. In other words: More salads, not lower calorie burgers. Restaurants in the U.S. with 20 or more locations are supposed to be listing calorie counts on their menus, which might be why some are adding more healthy items. That’s a good thing, of course, but in the real world, people tend to want the fried stuff when they dine at a fast-food joint.

Take the sad fate of Burger King’s Satisfries, for instance. The restaurant tried to introduce a lower-calorie, lower-fat fry, but customers didn’t want it. In August 2014, Burger King announced that due to months of poor sales, the fries were being pulled from two-thirds of North American locations.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior—a very difficult thing to do,” study author Sara N. Bleich, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School said in a statement.

Still, historically speaking, merely adding healthier options to a menu renowned for its junk food hasn’t incited huge changes, since people will opt for foods they’ve grown to crave. Making it easier for people to get healthy food and combating marketing for the unhealthy stuff might move us closer to a healthier restaurant ecosystem.

TIME health

15 Tiny Tweaks for an Instant Health Makeover

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We’ve compiled a list of super-simple healthy tweaks you can realistically make. Really. Like, starting tomorrow.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

It always struck me as slightly odd that we make health resolutions in January. Sure, a new year is a theoretical blank slate — and our holiday habits provide us with ample inspiration for things we’d very much like to change about the way we treat our bodies. And, it helps that everyone around us is making the same resolutions (which, coincidentally, are identical to the ones we made the year before).

But, I’d like to argue that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the New Year’s Resolution model: We set ourselves up to fail by committing to massive life changes in the middle of winter. Environmental factors contribute to a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as lower energy and decreased motivation, that undermine even our best efforts in the colder months. Sure, we’d all like to eat cleaner and get to spin class a few mornings a week. But, starting that habit in 20-degree weather? Good luck. And, as we’ve said many times before, the more ambitious your resolution, the less likely you are to accomplish it — baby steps, it seems, are really the way to go.

With these thoughts in mind, we’ve compiled a list of super-simple healthy tweaks you can realistically make. Really. Like, starting tomorrow. Look at it this way: At this point in the year, you’re already eating better. Why not take your wellness game up a few more notches? Your body will thank you when January 1 rears its ugly head once again.

Tweak: Ditch artificial sweeteners

Switching out the sugar in our morning coffee for Splenda and Stevia seems like a no-brainer — they provide the sweetness we crave without any of the metabolic chaos that comes with a sugar habit. But, Shira Lenchewski, registered dietitian and nationally recognized nutrition expert, says that while the fake stuff seems better for your calorie intake, you’re actually making it harder to avoid real sugar. “Artificial sweeteners like Splenda contain a synthetic chemical called Sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than natural sugar. Because Sucralose is so much sweeter than natural sugar, it overstimulates the taste buds, causing people to crave intensely sweet foods throughout the day.” And, recent research suggests that sucralose itself may be messing with your body’s insulin response. Try reaching for an apple to go with your coffee: Not only will it neutralize your sugar yen, but the fiber will help keep future cravings at bay throughout the day.

Tweak: Get the right amount of sleep

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep. As New York-based physician Dr. Frank Lipman puts it, “From serotonin production to blood sugar management, immunity, and heart health, sleep impacts every aspect of your health.” Says internationally recognized cardiologist Dr. Kevin Campbell, “Sleep is essential for our bodies to recharge and for our brains to repair important pathways associated with memory and learning new things.” But, as Campbell points out, more isn’t always better. He points to new research suggesting that the “perfect” amount of sleep may be 7 hours a night — although some people need more than others. Experiment to figure out how much sleep makes your body feel its best, and then commit to that number of hours — even if it means resisting the urge to hit snooze.

Tweak: Wash your hands

Here’s an easy one. Wash your hands more — especially after using the ATM. According to recent research, “ATMs harbor the same organisms seen in a public toilet,” Campbell explains. “It is important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching ATM buttons in order to avoid exposure to nasty microbes and [to avoid carrying] them into your car or home.”

But, be sure to look for a soap that’s triclosan-free. A common ingredient in anti-microbial soaps, triclosan has been shown to seriously mess with hormone production and increase the risk of breast cancer. Luckily, there’s no need to reach for an anti-microbial: Research shows that products claiming to have anti-microbial properties are not better at preventing disease than regular old hand soap.

(MORE: The Truth About Your Post-Workout Snack)

 

Tweak: Snack smarter

We’re all familiar with the 3 p.m. snack attack — and how it can wreak havoc on our clean-eating intentions. But, as Campbell points out, there’s a right way and a wrong way to snack. “Research shows that eating two to three healthy snacks throughout the day can improve your metabolism, improve weight control, and reduce obesity. Snacks should be limited to 100 to 200 calories and should be rich in nutrients, such as fruits and veggies.” Lipman suggests incorporating hummus and avocado — the healthy fats in each go a long way toward keeping you full until your next meal.

Tweak: Stop “thirsty”

We’ve heard it before: Adequate hydration is essential to proper function of every body system, especially in the summer. But, it’s all too easy to get dehydrated — as Lipman points out, “if you wait until you’re thirsty to drink, then you’re already dehydrated.” Instead of letting that dry-mouth feeling come on, get into the routine of drinking eight to 10 ounces of water every hour or so, whether you’re thirsty or not. And, if you need extra incentive to keep refueling, try out a new hydration habit — flavor your water with lemon, cucumber, herbs, or in-season berries.

Tweak: Try jogging

We know, we know: Who wants to run in face-melting heat? Well, it doesn’t take much of a step up in the cardio department to generate a major net health benefit. According to Campbell, “Recent research shows that even jogging for as little as five minutes a day has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, prolong life, and decrease heart attack risk.” Think about running around the block once or twice after dinner. In addition to the cardiovascular health benefits, getting your heart pumping will help kickstart your metabolism, giving your digestive system a serious boost.

Tweak: Increase probiotic intake

From Greek yogurt to kombucha, it doesn’t get much hipper these days than probiotics. Luckily, there’s some health science to back up this particular fad. As board-certified internist and weight-loss specialist Dr. Sue Decotiis points out, “Probiotics are a crucial part of a daily routine of healthy eating, supplementation, and physical activity. Probiotics help naturally “cleanse” our bodies by processing and eliminating toxins from our digestive tract. When our digestive tract is functioning efficiently, so are our hormones and metabolism.”

But, there’s more to the probiotic party than yogurt. Lipman suggest that you “develop a taste for…unpasteurized, fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, [which] feed your gut with trillions of healthy bacteria.” Try to incorporate one fermented food or drink into each day to keep your gut biome in tip-top shape.

Tweak: Replenish B vitamins

Winter isn’t the only time to be concerned about your vitamin intake. One easy wellness fix: Make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins. As Dr. Decotiis points out, B vitamins, like folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, are essential for proper metabolic function, but they get depleted quickly and must be consumed daily. And, alcohol depletes B vitamins in the body — “All the more reason to increase intake especially after a long summer of social drinking.” Rather than popping supplements, load up on fruits and veggies (especially dark greens like kale), whole grains, fish, and eggs.

(MORE: 7 Harmful Diet Lies You Probably Believe)

Tweak: Cut back on alcohol

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been partying just a little bit harder these past few months — and we don’t blame you. After all, there’s nothing quite like drinking outside on a warm evening. But, consider cooling it a bit on the booze for the rest of the season. As Dr. Decotiis points out, “Besides the obvious that alcohol adds more to your daily caloric intake, it also affects hunger hormones.” Specifically, research has shown that alcohol decreases the amount of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone made by your endocrine system. This makes it harder for your body to register that it’s had enough to eat — leading you to overconsumption.

Tweak: Replace nonfat yogurt

In the past few years, nonfat yogurt manufacturers have made a killing on our collective fear of that short little “F” word. But, it turns out that avoiding fat like a deadly plague isn’t doing us as much good as we might think. Because it takes longer to digest, fat stays in your stomach longer, helping to keep you full after meals. And, as Lenchewski points out, “One of the most pervasive food myths is the idea that consuming dietary fat makes you fat. But, truthfully, consuming any macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, or fat) in excess will result in weight gain. The fact is, fat adds flavor, and when it’s removed, sweeteners and artificial flavors are typically added in its place.” Then there’s the recent research suggesting that full-fat dairy is better for reducing body fat than nonfat options. Go ahead: indulge. Your metabolism will thank you.

Tweak: Plate your food

Research has already shown that the size and color of your plate can make a big difference in terms of how much you eat. But, here’s another plating-related trick to consider. While many of us go out of our way on presentation to impress our guests, pulling out all the tips and tricks we’ve learned from our Food Network marathons, we tend to get lazy when it’s just us. Think about spending a little time on the aesthetics of your dinners for one. A bit of effort can go a long way toward teaching us to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies. Lenchewski says, “When food is plated beautifully and thoughtfully, it makes the meal or snack more appetizing and enjoyable, and as research suggests, can even prevent overeating.”

Tweak: Put food away

Even when you try to eat well by cooking something healthy, you’re not out of the woods. Sometimes, there’s nothing more tempting than that second helping. But, if you find yourself reaching for a refill — whether you’re hungry or not — here’s a no-brainer fix. Board-certified internist Dr. Pat Salber suggests removing temptation altogether. “After you plate your food, immediately put the rest in the fridge so you won’t be tempted to help yourself to seconds.” Out of sight, out of mind. Added bonus: This way, cleanup gets done beforedinner.

Tweak: Set goals for fall

One way to deal with the seemingly inevitable downturn in wellness in the fall and winter? Be deliberate about setting specific goals before bad weather (or seasonal affective disorder) gives you an excuse to crank up the lazy. Dr. Decotiis suggests a proactive approach to your wellness goals by taking accountability before things start to go south. “Start tracking your eating and exercise habits again, and you might be surprised with your findings. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, there’s no better time to get back on track than right now. You’ll go into the fall and winter feeling better about yourself.”

Tweak: Befriend vinegar

Vinegar has long been a favorite in alternative medicine circles for treating everything from acne to ear infections. But, one proven benefit should take the sour stuff into the spotlight for good. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help regulate blood sugar, which helps keep your most intense food urges under control. Lenchewski says, “Vinegar helps fight sugar cravings by inhibiting the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and preventing blood sugar from spiking after a meal.” Try incorporating ACV into your daily routine with an afternoon cocktail of 1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey and 8 ounces of grapefruit juice.

(MORE: 6 Hydration Myths And What You Need to Know)

Tweak: Re-think dessert

Eating better doesn’t have to mean giving up dessert. It’s all about putting a little bit of thought into how you indulge. As Lipman points out, “The quickest way to whip up a sweet and healthy treat is to make your own popsicles. Freeze your favorite smoothies or juice with a few chunks of fruit or berries.” Even better? Throw a little kale into the mix for a super-healthy, refreshing, and fiber-packed dessert.

 

TIME

The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Production Inside A Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. Plant
Empty Coca-Cola Classic cans move along a conveyor to be filled and sealed at a Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. production facility in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.

Agreeing to decrease soda consumption by 20 percent is easy to do when demand is already falling rapidly

The recent pledge by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group to reduce calories that Americans consumd from their products by 20 percent by 2025 elicited torrents of praise from the Global Clinton Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the national press.

The real news: soda companies are at last admitting their role in obesity.

Nevertheless, the announcement caused many of us in the public health advocacy community to roll our eyes. Once again, soda companies are making promises that are likely to be fulfilled anyway, whether the companies take any action or not.

Americans have gotten the word. Sodas in anything but small amounts are not good for health.

Although Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association have funded studies that invariably find sodas innocent of health effects, the vast preponderance of research sponsored by the government or foundations clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Think of sodas as candy in liquid form. They contain astonishing amounts of sugars. A 12-ounce soda contains 10 (!) teaspoons of sugar and provides about 150 calories.

It should surprise no one that adults and children who habitually consume sugary drinks are far more likely to take in fewer nutrients, to weigh more, and to exhibit metabolic abnormalities compared to those who abstain or drink only small amounts.

And, contrary to expectation, diet sodas don’t seem to help. A widely publicized recent study suggests that artificially sweetened drinks affect intestinal bacteria in ways, as yet undetermined, that lead to metabolic abnormalities–glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This research is largely animal-based, preliminary, and requires confirmation. But one thing about diet drinks is clear: they do not do much good in preventing obesity.

People who drink diet sodas tend to be more obese than those who do not. The use of artificial sweeteners in the United States has gone up precisely in parallel with the rise in prevalence of obesity. Is this a cause or an effect? We don’t know yet.

While scientists are trying to sort all this out, large segments of the public have gotten the message: stay away from sodas of any kind.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. per capita consumption of soft drinks has dropped by about 20 percent. If current trends continue, the soda industry should have no trouble meeting its promise of another 20 percent reduction by 2025.

Americans want healthier drinks and are switching to bottled water, sports drinks, and vitamin-fortified drinks—although not nearly at replacement levels. The soda industry has to find ways to sell more products. It also has to find ways to head off regulation. Hence: the promises.

To deal with sales shortfalls, the leading soft-drink brands, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have expanded their marketing overseas. They have committed to invest billions to make and promote their products in Latin America as well as in the hugely populated countries of Asia and Africa where soda consumption is still very low.

From a public health standpoint, people everywhere would be healthier—perhaps a lot healthier—drinking less soda.

In California, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have placed soda tax initiatives on the November ballot. The American Beverage Association, the trade association for Coke, Pepsi, and the like, is funding anti-tax campaigns that involve not only television advertising and home mailings, but also creation of ostensibly grassroots (“astroturf”) community organizations, petition campaigns, and, when all else fails, lawsuits to make sure the initiative fails. These efforts are carbon copies of the tactics used to defeat New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s portion size cap proposal.

If the soda industry really wants to help prevent obesity, it needs to change its current practices. It should stop fighting tax and size initiatives, stop opposing warning labels on sugary drinks, stop lobbying against restrictions on sodas in schools, stop using sports and music celebrities to sell products to children, stop targeting marketing to African-American and Hispanic young people, and stop funding research studies designed to give sodas a clean bill of health.

And it should stop complaining, as PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi did last week, that nobody is giving the industry credit for all the good it is doing.

If the government really were serious about obesity prevention, it could ban vending machines from schools, set limits on the size of soft drinks sold at school events, define the amount of sugars allowable in foods and beverages, and, most of all, stop soda marketing aimed at children of any age.

Because neither the soda industry nor the government is likely to do any of this, public health advocates still have plenty of work to do.

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. She is currently working on a book titled Soda! From Food Advocacy to Public Health.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Is How Many Calories You’d Eat With Olive Garden’s Pasta Pass

Jeffery Patrick—Darden

You could consume more than 100,000 calories taking advantage of the offer

It sounds like a good deal: for $100 you can eat all the pasta, salad and bread you want at Olive Garden for 49 straight days. But taking advantage of the offer has its downsides—perhaps up to 113,190 of them. That’s the number of calories you would likely consume if you were to have a standard dinner nightly at the restaurant for the 7-week period of the offer. That works out to eating about 2,100 calories for dinner alone. Americans’ average total daily caloric intake is between 1,800 for women and 2,600 for men, according to recent government data.

TIME’s estimate assumes you’re eating a fairly standard Olive Garden dinner: a chicken Caesar salad, one order of bread sticks, a spaghetti and sausage entree and a Coke to wash it all down. All of those items are included in the offer, and this estimate assumes you don’t continue to scarf down food after the first serving of each item (the offer is technically “all you can eat”).

“No matter how much we talk about epidemic obesity and diabetes, we have not yet caught up with the times,” says Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and editor of a journal on childhood obesity. “The last thing we need is more refined pasta at no extra charge. It seems like a great deal until the money you saved goes to the endocrinologist.”

Of course, there are less caloric dinner options at Olive Garden. For instance, you would consume 1,670 calories per meal if you subbed in seafood alfredo instead of the sausage pasta—and you could shave off even more if you skipped the Coke.

But, says Katz, that’s beside the point. “Everybody overeats at an all you can eat buffet. You’re missing out the bargain if you don’t eat all you can eat,” Katz says.

Recent research has suggested that the caloric content of many sit-down restaurant chains makes them just as unhealthy as their fast food counterparts. The average size of a meal at these restaurants, according to the study, is 1,400 calories.

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