Diet Detective’s Calorie Bargains: “400 Calorie Fix,” “First Foods,” Cedarlane Stuffed Manicotti, SPIbelt, Brain Armor and More

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Calorie Bargain: 400 Calorie Fix: Slim Is Simple: 400 Ways to Eat 400 Calorie Meals by Liz Vaccariello (Rodale 2010)

The Why: This is a very simple concept. You eat three to four 400–calorie meals per day. The book is filled with beautiful color photos and not too much text. In fact, it reminds me of 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.” If you browse through this book you will learn something about food choices.

The Health 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 easy to read the book and understand this diet.

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

The Price: Four monthly installments of $7.99 each.

Where to Buy:

Calorie Bargain: Cooking Light First Foods: Baby Steps to a Lifetime of Healthy Eating (Oxmoor House 2010)

The Why: Parenting can be hard. Feeding your baby delicious, nutritious food shouldn’t be. Cooking Light is a wonderful, healthy living magazine, and the editors also produce wonderful books. This unique book takes the guesswork out of preparing and choosing foods for your child ­ from veggies at age 4 months to snacks for your 2–year–old. It’s in an easy–to–use spiral–bound format and includes more than 100 precious, helpful and guiding photos as well as drawings that simplify important matters such as food allergies and intolerances and food charts for each phase of a baby’s growth.

The Health Bonus: The early years are where healthy eating begins — and often continues throughout life. Follow this book, and you can give your children a great start.

What We Liked Best: That the recipes are dietitian approved and tested in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen. They even had a baby and toddler tasting panel whose photos are in the book — cute!

The Price: $19.95 retail, but is available for less online.

Where to Buy: Most major bookstores, including and

Calorie Bargain: Cedarlane Stuffed Manicotti

The Why: Cedarlane Stuffed Manicotti is a symphony of spinach and mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta cheeses stuffed into manicotti pasta and covered with an authentic Italian red sauce. Even your children will love it. It’s quick to heat, low in cholesterol, high in protein and, most important, great tasting. One serving has 21 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

The Health Bonus: Spinach. It’s a great source of vitamins A, B2, C and K, as well as folate, potassium, magnesium, beta carotene and fiber. Spinach can help control blood pressure, keep blood vessels healthy, reduce cancer risk and slow the development of age–related eye damage.

What We Liked Best: For a frozen dinner, the ingredients list is pretty clean — meaning words you can pronounce.

What We Liked Least: High in saturated fat.

What It Replaces: Frozen dinners that have lots of added chemicals.

The Price: $4.49 per package.

Where to Buy:

Ingredients: Lasagna pasta (water, semolina wheat flour, egg whites), ricotta cheese (whey, skim milk, vinegar, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum), mozzarella cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), spinach, water, tomato puree (vine-ripened tomatoes, salt and citric acid), onions, tomato diced in juice (whole tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, and trace of calcium salt), cream (pasteurized manufacturing cream, carrageenan), oil mix (canola oil, olive oil), wheat flour, non fat dry milk, milk, corn starch, basil, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), salt, cane sugar, garlic, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano. Contains: eggs, milk and wheat.

Nutritional Information: Serving Size 9.5 ounces (269 grams); 380 calories; 13 g fat; 45 g carbs; 5 g fiber; 660 mg sodium; 21 g protein.

Other Calorie Bargains:

The Essential Diabetes Cookbook: Good Healthy Eating from around the World (Kyle Books; November 2010; Hardcover: $35.00) by Antony Worrall Thompson and Louise Blaire.

Antony Worrall Thompson, one of UK’s best–loved chefs and host of Daily Cooks Challenge, wrote this book after he developed diabetes. The recipes are inspired by foods from around the world — Africa, Turkey, the Middle East, Latin America and South America, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean.


SPIbelt: If you’re an avid runner or biker, or simply going to the gym, you’ll love the SPIbelt — a new product to hold your belongings. It’s sleek, not bulky, fastens around your waist and has an expandable pocket big enough for your keys, phone, iPod or whatever else you need to carry around. It’s available for $19.95 at

Brain Armor: Not a big fish eater? If you’re active, Martek, the company responsible for creating omega–3 DHA from algae, has a brand new product specifically designed for athletes. Basically a souped–up version of their existing product line, Brain Armor delivers 1,050 milligrams of DHA per serving and helps ensure that the athlete has enough of this important omega–3 fatty acid to support brain and cardiovascular health. According to the company: “Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a naturally occurring, long–chain polyunsaturated omega–3 fatty acid found throughout the body. Scientists have discovered that DHA is incorporated into the membrane of every cell in the body and is especially concentrated in the gray matter of the brain, the retina of the eyes and heart tissue. DHA represents 97 percent of the omega–3s in the brain and 93 percent of the omega–3s in the eyes, playing an essential role in both brain and eye function. In these tissues, DHA is involved in neurotransmission, energy utilization and homeostasis. Emerging research suggests DHA supplementation benefits heart health by supporting normal triglyceride levels, heart rate and blood pressure. A growing body of research indicates that DHA is important throughout life for brain, eye and heart health.” A 60–day supply is about $50 from www.brain–

SinuCleanse: Have you heard about nasal cleansing? I know it sounds weird, but it feels pretty good, and if you have allergies or you’re trying to improve your athletic performance, you might consider it. According to the folks at SinuCleanse, nasal washing improves athletic performance by “draining the sinuses with a saline solution to wash away constricting irritants, allergens and mucus. This allows air to exit and enter the nasal passageways efficiently. Nasal irrigation also helps to calm inflamed sinus and nasal tissue, making it easier to breathe. During aerobic exercise the body uses oxygen to help supply the energy needed for exercise. Breathing through the nostrils improves the quality of the air entering the lungs, putting it at the optimum temperature and humidity, optimizing lung performance. The more oxygen to the cells and muscles, the more one can sustain aerobic activity.” Try it for about $15 at

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