Why Knowing Your Number is Important--especially when it comes to restaurant food.

I don’t count calories. Though I know calorie-tracking apps are hugely helpful for some people, I tend to veer down an unhealthy path of food fixation when I use them.

But I know my number: 1,600.

That’s roughly the number of calories I need daily to maintain my weight. Because I’m a woman, just over five feet tall, and not exactly 25 years old or as active as I’d like to be, that number is lower than the general 2,000 calorie guideline listed on food labels. Which is good to know, because if I ate 2,000 calories a day–even if it was “clean”, high-quality food–I would probably gain weight. I know this because it has happened to me. (Read: Too Much of a Good Thing: Why Calories Still Count.)

I don’t think too much about my number, but knowing it helps put things into perspective–like calories in restaurant food. I’m thrilled about the new FDA rules that will put calorie counts on menu boards and menus by December 2015. The new rules cover restaurants and food establishments with 20 or more locations, including popcorn at movie theaters, take-out pizza, and baked goods at coffee shops.

Thanks in part to mega-sized portions, restaurant food is notoriously higher in calories than what you’d cook at home. So high that most people grossly underestimate the calories in their order (because who would assume that a plate of seemingly harmless pasta could pack more than 1,000 of them?).

Because some chains have started posting this information, it’s already making a difference for me. Out to lunch recently at Noodles & Company with my six year old, I was about to order the regular Pad Thai. Until I saw the posted info: 800 calories was half my day! I opted for the small size instead, and guess what? I was totally satisfied.

Looking at posted calories is a good way to learn that the Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta at Panera has fewer calories than a basic bagel with cream cheese. And that a Starbucks Grande Eggnog Latte is the calorie equivalent of a slice of Iced Lemon Pound Cake.

Considering that Americans eat one-third of their calories away from home and that two out of three Americans are overweight or obese, posting calories on menus and menu boards has the potential to be hugely helpful. Not everyone will use this information–but some people will. And even if you don’t frequent any chain restaurants (and prefer to BYOP–bring your own popcorn–when you go to the movies), most of us can probably agree that giving consumers more information about what they’re eating is a good thing.

Want to find out YOUR number? Use this equation from the Mayo Clinic.

What are your thoughts about restaurants posting calories on menus? Will you use this information?

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{Recipe} Naturally Colored Frosting

by Sally on December 16, 2014

Naturally-Colored Frosting by Real Mom Nutrition

Is decorating sugar cookies a holiday tradition for you? If you’d like to use natural hues to tint your frosting instead of artificial dyes, I’ve got two recipes to help you achieve red and green.

Yes, naturally colored frosting takes more time than squeezing dyes from a store-bought tube. But think how much fun your kids will have watching spinach and beets transform into festive frosting! (Read about why I’ve tried to eliminate most artificial dyes from our house: Are Artificial Food Dyes Safe For Kids?)

The basic idea: Let plants lend their naturally bright shades. These two recipes make colorful liquids you’ll sub in for the water or milk called for in your frosting recipe. If you don’t have a go-to frosting recipe already, I’ve included one at the bottom of the post.

 HOW TO MAKE RED FROSTING

Naturally-Colored Holiday Frosting from Real Mom NutritionBeets offer an intense color–and if you simmer them way down, you can create red. Simmer them for less time, and you’ll get pink. Keep in mind that it’s hard to get a very deep, rich red (even with the store-bought dye) but this hue works just fine for me.

Red Food Dye
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 fresh beets
  • 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Rinse, trim, and chop beets. Place pieces in a blender or food processor and grind to a pulp.
  2. Combine pulp and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Set a strainer over a bowl. Pour mixture through strainer, pressing ground beets against the strainer to squeeze out all extra liquid.
  4. Use the liquid as a replacement for the water or milk in your frosting recipe.

HOW TO MAKE GREEN FROSTING

Naturally-Colored Holiday Frosting from Real Mom NutritionFor green, make a spinach puree in your blender. If your blender isn’t powerful enough to completely liquify the spinach, strain the liquid to remove any remaining pieces of spinach, then add it to your recipe.

Green Food Dye
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups (unpacked) fresh spinach
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine spinach and water until smooth.
  2. Replace the water or milk in your frosting recipe with equal amount of the spinach mixture.

Naturally-Colored Holiday Frosting from Real Mom NutritionHere’s the basic recipe I use for frosting. I use shortening instead of butter because I want a clean, white color as the base. (I use Spectrum Organic Shortening, which is non-hydrogenated.) Shortening also gives the frosting the firmness you need for piping it through a pastry bag for decorating.
Basic Frosting for Decorating
Author: 
 
If you want both red and green frosting, make two separate batches of this so you can tint each a separate color.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup shortening (I use Spectrum Organic Shortening)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons liquid (milk, water, or the spinach or beet purees)
Instructions
  1. Combine powdered sugar and shortening and beat with hand mixer.
  2. Add vanilla and almond extracts. While beating, add liquid, 1 tablespoons at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.

Naturally Colored Frosting by Real Mom Nutrition

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product through this link, your cost will be the same, but I will receive a small commission to help with operating costs of this blog. Thanks for your support!

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Let’s Give Parents A Break

December 11, 2014

I try very hard to make this blog a no-judgments zone. Except when it comes to food marketers. I have no patience for junk food marketing that tries to lure kids with cartoon characters, video games, and thinly veiled promises of being cool. But a funny thing happens whenever I gripe about this: Some readers immediately jump to […]

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7 Holiday Gifts For Your Favorite Foodies

December 8, 2014

Gift giving can be tough stuff. And between presents for family, friends, teachers, and gracious holiday party hosts and hostesses, it can also take a bite out of your budget. These seven ideas are here to help. They’re all perfect for people in your life who love good food. All but one are things I own or […]

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About That “Real” in Real Mom Nutrition…

December 3, 2014

When I began this blog nearly six years ago, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going. But I knew this: I wanted to keep it real. I had read too much on the internet that made feeding kids sound so easy. But it’s not always easy. I wanted to be honest about that. Since then, my […]

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What Your Child Wants to Tell You About Picky Eating

December 1, 2014

Picky eating can drive even the most patient parent totally bonkers. If you’re in the thick of it, take heart: According to fellow dietitian Maryann Jacobson, who writes the blog Raise Healthy Eaters, kids between the ages of 2-6 tend to drop some of the foods they used to eat and become resistant to foods they view […]

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{Recipe} Cherry & Almond Brussels Sprouts Salad

November 24, 2014

Now that Brussels sprouts are in vogue, they might be showing up alongside stuffing and mashed potatoes this week for Thanksgiving. (These Roasted Balsamic Brussels would make a killer side dish.) But you could also serve them raw in a Brussels sprouts salad. I got this recipe from a friend of mine, who brought a bowl full […]

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My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks

November 19, 2014

As a home cook, I’m a little bit lazy and a whole lot frugal. If there is a way to save money or time, I will try it. Not every effort is successful, but once in a while I stumble upon a kitchen trick that’s a real keeper. Here are my ten favorite: 1. Do-It-Yourself Chocolate […]

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4 Foods I’ve Changed My Mind About

November 17, 2014

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have a lot of opinions about food and willingly share them, even if they’re not popular with everyone (case in point: “My Kid Likes Junk Food. And That’s Okay.“) But reading back through the last five years’ worth of posts, I also see ways that I’ve […]

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Homemade Grape Fruit Leather

November 12, 2014

Fruit Roll-Ups are a regular fixture on the kid circuit, showing up at soccer games, parties, and even school snack time. But most of them have multiple added sweeteners, oil, synthetic dyes, and juice concentrate instead of actual fruit. So I make my own in the oven as an occasional treat. I’ve tried all kinds of fruit, […]

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