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Foolish or Not?

April 1st, 2011 - By Lari Robling

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Understanding some basic principles about how we eat can make it easier to “beat the system” and make healthy choices. Dr. Michael Lowe of Drexel University offers sound advice based on his research.


Exciting news in the nutritional headlines today. Candy makers report a new cream-filled chocolate egg bar hits store shelves in time for Easter. While they have the same taste as regular candy, the new bars BURN 200 calories when you eat them.

Dr. Michael Lowe

Yeah, right… April Fools indeed! Sadly, there’s no easy road to navigate what Dr. Michael Lowe of Drexel University calls our “toxic food environment.” He says, “food is almost everywhere now. It’s in hardware stores, it’s in gas stations, of course it’s in movie theaters, ball parks, etc. It’s all around us in ways that it never used to be.” And, turns out the worst place to have this availability is your home. “We would recommend that you still allow yourselves these treat foods, but only have them when you are out of the house.” In other words, that pint of specialty ice cream calling your name from the freezer, turns into a walk to the corner for a single cone.

Funded by the National Institute for Health, Dr. Lowe’s research centers around the Nutritrol program. It looks at ways to manage our environment’s super-sizing, variety and easy availability. There are many aspects to this program, but one interesting concept is caloric density. Dr. Lowe says, for example, grapes and raisins are the same food except that the raisins have the water removed. “If you eat a bunch of grapes that might be 150 calories. An amount of raisins size-wise comparable to the bunch of grapes it would have three or four times the calories. The caloric density is very different. The bunch of grapes has a lot of water in it and they are sweet and filling all for a 150 calories.”

This idea of caloric density says Dr. Lowe is strategic because research shows we all tend to eat the same VOLUME of food from day to day. Swap those raisins with grapes, skim milk instead of whole, or a tablespoon of low calorie mayo instead of regular, and we are eating the same amount of food but fewer calories. How important can that be? “These caloric savings of 50 here, 35 there, and so on add up, while still allowing you to eat a satisfying amount of food, and stay on this kind of plan long-term.”

And that’s no April Fools!

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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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High Tunnel farming caught my eye because its extended growing season adds to the amount of local produce we get. While farm manager Aviva Asher was tidying up the winter crop to make way for spring, I discovered another benefit of local growing: use what you’ve got.

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December 2014
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