Calorie Bargains: Books, Products, and Services

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Calorie Bargains: , , and Services

: 400 Calorie Fix, Slim Is Simple: 400 Ways to Eat 400 Calorie Meals by Liz Vaccariello

The Why: This is a very simple concept. You eat three to four meals per day that are 400 calories each. The book is filled with beautiful color photos and not too much text — in fact it is similar in style to another Rodale book — Eat This, Not That. I like the way the publisher describes the book: “The 400 Calorie Fix provides the necessary tools to see food through the ‘400 Calorie lens’ and navigate meals and snacks ranging from Chinese takeout to salad bar selections, vending machines and concession stands, and even party platters and bar beverages.” Just by browsing through this book you will learn something about making good food choices. And now that I think about it, all these “photo learning” books are reminiscent of Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss by Dr. Howard Shapiro.

The Bonus: If you’re limited to 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, you will almost certainly lose weight.

What We Liked Best: Love the layout and design. It’s simple to read and understand this diet.

What We Liked Least: Is weight loss really only about food? What about physical activity? What about long-term behavioral changes? Also, the book is only available online, not in bookstores, so there’s no discount, and at $32 it’s a bit pricey.

What It Replaces: Complicated, text-heavy diet books.

The Price: Four easy monthly installments of just $7.99 each

Where to Buy: 400 Calorie Fix website

Calorie Bargain: Zoku Quick Pop Maker

The Why: It really is wonderful to make your own healthy frozen pops. Kids love it, and it truly encourages healthy eating. I make these pops with my daughter, and it’s amazing how well it works to engage children.

The Health Bonus: Make a smoothie with nothing but fresh fruit and a bit of no-sugar-added apple juice and freeze so that you’ll have something healthy and sweet on hand to satisfy those cravings.

What We Liked Best: These allow for almost instant gratification by freezing fairly rapidly.

What We Liked Least: It’s a bit pricey. You could simply buy ice cream sticks and use ice trays. Also, I learned from the reader comments and the manual that it does not work with artificially sweetened liquids — how strange. Plus, there is no recipe book — although you can simply make a fruit smoothie and freeze it. Another problem: You can’t purchase additional sticks.

What It Replaces: Unhealthy, high calorie desserts.

The Price: $49.95

Where to Buy: Williams Sonoma

Calorie Bargain: Habitwise

The Why: It is not easy as you go about your busy days to remember to eat all the right foods. Habitwise makes it easier for you to remember by wearing color-coded bead or rubber bracelets. Each color represents a food group — for instance, green represents — you guessed it — veggies. The idea is that you wear the bracelets on one wrist, and then transfer them to the other once you eat a serving of the targeted food. The concept began as a simple weight-loss tool called A-Wrist-A-Trac that was devised by a team of clinicians at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The technology was then licensed from the university by a group of entrepreneurs. When I looked online to see if would be less expensive simply to buy plain bracelets in various colors, I couldn’t find any better deals.

The Health Bonus: Eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables will help you stay healthy and lose weight. Vegetables are the most important foods in our diet.

What We Liked Best: This is an easy-to-use concept that will help you get the right amounts of the foods you need to eat. I also love the idea of scrapping the entire food-groups concept and simply using the bracelets to count calories. Habitwise suggests that, depending on your calorie level for weight loss, you simply use the bracelets as counters. Each bracelet represents 50 calories (there are 30 in all), so you pick the number of calories you should have each day to lose weight, (for instance, 1,200 calories would require 24 bracelets) and for every 50 calories eaten, move the appropriate number of bracelets from one wrist to the other. When you have no bracelets left on the starting wrist, you’re done eating.

What We Liked Least: I like using the green veggies and pink fruits bracelets, as well as blue water, but I don’t really agree with the “pyramid” concept that Habitwise espouses. That said, you can still use the bracelets as a reminder to eat veggies and fruit and drink water. The other problem is that most people are not sure what a typical serving size is for many of these foods, so they’ll still be relying on their own judgment.

What It Replaces: Using your memory.

The Price: $28

Where to Buy: Habitwise website

Calorie Bargain: USDA National Nutrient Database

The Why: Calories and nutrients matter. It’s a treat to be able to look up the calories and important nutrients in the foods you eat. Now you can download the software and keep it on your desktop, and even download to your Palm OS Windows-based PDA. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22, includes more than 7,500 food items. Among the 2009 updates are 3,000 values for vitamin D and a few restaurant foods — only 38, but at least it is a start.

The Health Bonus: The database is managed by the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. For each food item there is an information profile that provides data for up to 140 components, such as vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. The information is derived from a variety of rigorously evaluated sources, including USDA-sponsored laboratory analyses, food-industry data and available scientific literature.

What We Liked Best: It includes all the nutrients and can be easily downloaded to your desktop.

What We Liked Least: The nutrient information doesn’t include the recommended daily values in addition to the values in the specific food.

What It Replaces: Not knowing any nutrient information, or using Internet databases that aren’t accurate.

The Price: Free

Where to Find: USDA website

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