Saturday, March 22, 2014

Eat, Don't Drink Your Calories!

Before you read this week's post, I'd like to introduce you to The Awakening Center's newest nutritionist, Michel D. Harris, RD, LDN, CDE!

Michel D. Harris is a Registered Dietitian with 14 years of experience as a clinical and outpatient dietitian.  Her areas of practice include eating disorders, weight loss and management, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and food allergies/gluten sensitivity.  As an exercise physiologist, she also assists individuals of all fitness levels in planning exercise programs.

At the Awakening Center, Michel provides individual nutrition consultations, as well as multiple group classes and workshops.  Individual sessions include the development of a comprehensive wellness plan that focuses on establishing a healthy relationship with food and exercise, as well as identifying and changing detrimental eating behaviors/patterns.  The nutrition counseling and mindful eating groups allow individuals to share and receive help with the recovery process via discussion of certain topics and activities.  If you would like to speak with Michel regarding your interest in any of her services, please contact her at 773-929-6262 x24 or

 Eat, Don’t Drink Your Calories

Liquid nutrition in the form of juices and smoothies has grown in popularity over the past few years.  Many popular fast food facilities have added what they claim to be, “fresh-squeezed” juices, and thick, blended produce concoctions to their offerings.  One particular chain, Jamba Juice©, specializes in this juicing and smoothie craze.  Sales for juicing appliances have also risen. 

While some use these beverages for pure refreshment, many have alternative reasons for their use, in which the most common is for weight loss.  In addition, clients that seek nutrition counseling services have shared that they feel “better”, “natural”, or “clean” when going on a “juice fast,” or using it as part of a weight loss plan.  Then there is the handful of clients that use juices and smoothies for extra calories when trying to gain weight or as post-workout fuel.

The big question is, do these beverages really help with weight loss, and deliver the promised antioxidants and other health benefits?  Ideally, a food or beverage that is part of a weight loss meal plan should include fiber and protein, with a reasonable amount of calories.  Therefore, a person following a 1500 calorie meal plan would allow 400-500 calories per meal.  Fiber expands when it enters the stomach to provide a feeling of “fullness,” while protein provides satiety, a.k.a., the sense of satisfaction.  Researchers suspect that protein slows or stops the activity of ghrelin, a hormone that communicates to the brain that we are hungry.

Another consideration: several recent studies have shown that calorie-containing beverages, when provided with a meal, do not promote satiety because subjects consumed similar, or in some cases more calories, when compared to those who drank a zero-calorie beverage at the same meal.  From this, we can question if a juice or smoothie as a “meal” would lead to early hunger pains, and actually promote excess snacking or over-eating at meals.  Doesn’t this also support the fact that the process of chewing contributes to the satisfaction of the eating process?

So how does this apply to our liquid nutrition?  Juicing and blending processes break down the fiber in fruits and vegetables, reducing their effectiveness as a stomach-filler, and neither is a significant source of protein.  Calorie-wise, it may take four pieces of fruit to make one glass of juice for a total of 240-480 calories, depending on the size, and type of fruits used.  Smoothies usually contain yogurt, peanut butter, and other add-ins that provide protein, but additional calories.  After investigating, it was found that a fresh-squeezed juice from a popular establishment contained 210 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber, while a medium smoothie had 410 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.

In the case of juicing, adding the pulp back into the juice for fiber and protein powder, as well as substituting vegetables for less calories, will make an improved drink.  The smoothie example may sound reasonable in regards to calories, fiber, and protein, but instead of these liquids, one can do much better with one of the following solid breakfasts…

A Greek yogurt parfait with 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 cup of fresh blueberries, and 1 ounce of slivered almonds provides 370 calories, 6 grams of fiber, and 30 grams of protein.

A breakfast sandwich made with 2 egg whites, 1 tomato slice, 1 turkey sausage patty, and one whole wheat sandwich thin with a side of fresh berries provides 325 calories, 9 grams of fiber, and 18 grams of protein.

As far as antioxidants, fresh produce when blended or eaten whole contains these valuable nutrients!

To conclude this debate, from a dietitian’s perspective and experience, consuming solid foods provides more satisfaction than drinking calories, especially when trying to lose weight.  Many clients try the liquid meal approach to lose weight, but quickly abandon it because they feel hungry hours before their next meal.  Also, people with diabetes often experience high blood glucose levels with either juices or smoothies because of the high carbohydrate content.  For both of the solid meals above, one gets a significant amount of fiber, protein, and antioxidants, with more satisfaction and flavor variety.

The jury agrees…Eat, don’t drink your calories!!!

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