August 29, 2010

Burger King's Whole Grain Ciabatta Bun: Where's the Fiber?

By way of a press release, Burger King recently announced that its Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich will now be served on a ciabatta bun made with whole grains. While the new bun makes for a sandwich lower in calories, fat and sodium than the original - there's not really any significant fiber boost. 

Burger King's press release touts the revised bun has "eight grams of whole grains", but no info on how many grams of fiber this equates to or how it compares to the original. The bun no doubt remains your typical highly-refined white bread product with some whole grains thrown in for good measure.

Their online nutrition information tracker (pictured above) does not include dietary fiber and as of this posting, the  company's web-based nutrition information does not reflect the new changes. 

While Burger King can be commended for focusing on increasing the number of choices under 650 calories available in their BK Positives Steps program, they're not breaking any ground with fast food fiber content.

August 20, 2010

McDonald's "Real Fruit" Smoothies

Things in smoothie-world have been on fire with the recent introduction of Real Fruit Smoothies from McDonald's. But how much "real fruit" is actually in a McDonald's smoothie? 

Both flavors - Strawberry Banana and Wild Berry - have fruit puree as their first ingredient, followed up by sugar in 2nd place, low fat yogurt (which also has added sugar) and ice.

A large (22 oz) Wild Berry Smoothie has 320 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 69 grams of added sugar. If you're not sure what 69 grams of added sugar looks like, it's slightly more than a 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Compare that to a McDonald's small Chocolate Triple Thick Shake which only has 63 grams of added sugar!

McDonald's Real Fruit Smoothies are basically fat free milkshakes. They're lower in calories than the shakes, but they are by no means a health food! There are 2-4 grams of fiber in a smoothie - but for 210-330 calories, it's hardly worth sucking that down just for the fiber. Your average piece of fresh fruit has 4 grams of fiber for less than 100 calories. 

McDonald's does sell Apple Dippers - which even after the smoothie introduction - remains their only "Real Fruit" offering.

August 19, 2010

Celebrating National Potato Day

Today is National Potato Day. Potatoes are a high-carbohydrate starchy food providing about 130 calories and 3 grams of fiber in a small potato (1 3/4" - 2 1/2" in diameter). All potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. People often wonder how much "better" sweet potatoes are for them than white potatoes: from a calorie and fiber standpoint white and sweet potatoes are about the same, with sweet potatoes being a significantly better source of vitamin A and beta carotene.

According to the United States Potato Board the average American consumes 125 pounds of potatoes per year. Potatoes often get a bad nutritional rap: in their original form they're fine - but most Americans like their potatoes fried in oil and salted to the max. The majority of US potatoes are turned into frozen french fries:
  • 34% of American potatoes are consumed as frozen french fries
  • 27% as Fresh potatoes
  • 13% as potato chips

Not surprisingly Idaho is the top potato producing state, followed by Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Dakota.

If you like potatoes, keep them baked or boiled and away from the salt and fat. Potatoes are a rather nutrient rich carbohydrate choice, but the calories can creep up if portion sizes do. 

On this National Potato Day, expand your potato horizons by trying this easy, nutritious and delicious Roasted Sweet Potato recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

August 18, 2010

Kellogg's Bumps up Fiber in Some Special K Cereals

 With its "Special K Challenge", Special K has gone to great lengths to advertise the link between its cereal and weight loss. The "Challenge" is to make 3 of your 4 small daily meals either Special K cereal or one of their bar or shake products. The problem is, that while its low in calories (110 cals per cup), regular Special K has almost no fiber - it leaves you feeling hungry shortly after eating.

This week though, Kellogg's has announced that it is reformulating some of its cereals with added fiber. The FDA says that in order to call your product a "good source of dietary fiber", it has to have 2.5 - 4.9 grams per serving. (A "high fiber" food has 5 or more.) The newly revised Special K cereals have 3 grams of fiber.

There will be no changes to the original Special K product, so that product will go on letting you down shortly after breakfast! For some better breakfast ideas, check out these previous posts on oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches and high fiber muffins.

August 6, 2010

What's Up With Sun Chips?

People trying to lose weight know that chips probably shouldn't be a big component of their diet. But what's the deal with Sun Chips? If you have to have a chip, aren't Sun Chips the best bet?

I - along with most registered dietitians - am confused as to how Sun Chips obtained their "health halo". Sure, they have 30% less fat than regular potato chips, but that alone does not a health food make! 

Sun Chips have the same basic recipe as all chips: starch fried in fat. Granted, Sun Chips went to the effort to include whole wheat and whole oat flour as the starch they're frying (along with corn).

When it comes to fiber, Sun Chips traditionally had 2 grams of fiber for the 18 grams of whole grain they advertise (per 1 oz serving - you try stopping at 1 oz, about 16 chips). You can see the 2 grams of fiber reviewed in a 2009 blog review by another dietitian

Now, in 2010, I noticed that Sun Chips are mysteriously touting 3 grams of fiber, for that same 18 grams of whole grain and 1 oz serving. Understanding how this happened probably requires an advanced degree in Food Manufacturer Sorcery - but more likely, it has to do with decreasing white flour and increasing whole grain flours (but still frying it all up in sunflower oil).

While Sun Chips aren't the worst of the worst when it comes to nutritional profile for chips (Frito Lay's Fritos are) - keep in mind that Sun Chips are a SOMETIMES food. An occasional one-ounce serving of Sun Chips with 140 calories, 6 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber isn't going to kill you. But don't think they're going to be the basis of a healthy whole-grain based diet. 

You should be looking for minimally processed, naturally occurring whole grains to fill the base of your diet. For a list of whole grain ideas, check out this previous post with its list of whole grains and not whole grains.

August 5, 2010

Small Victory: Whole Wheat Bread Sales Outpace White Bread in the Past Year

Finally: wheat bread sales outpace white bread!

An August 1, 2010 Chicago Tribune article covered bread sales in the past year, citing a Nielsen Co. report that for the 52 weeks ending July 10, wheat bread sales increased 0.6% to $2.6 billion as white bread sales declined 7% to $2.5 billion. White bread still leads in volume of loaves sold - but because whole grain and whole wheat breads cost more per loaf, their total sales came out on top.

The primary impetus for the boost in sales appears to be increasing consumer knowledge about the benefits and sources of whole grains. But there is obviously a lot more educating to be done...

This story's victim is Kendra Frost, a first-time single mom with her own small business who says, "I like the whole grain, but I usually try and go with the least expensive whole grain...I look for the thick pieces that you can see the grains on the top of the bread." 

Kendra - darling, you have fallen for the oldest trick in the book! Manufacturers LOVE to take (cheap) white bread, dye it brown & sprinkle it with grainy-looking stuff to make you THINK it's whole grain. It might have a speck of whole grain in the recipe, but the likelihood of that bread being 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat is nil! 

The proof is in the Nutrition Facts panel and the Ingredients List. If your bread doesn't say at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice and if the first ingredient isn't Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Flour - put it back on the shelf! 

But congratulations to all of you out there who HAVE your learned your lesson and who are making highly refined grain processors think twice about littering our aisles with  worthless white bread!