Sunday, July 31, 2011

Test the Age of the Egg You're About to Have!

There are 2 ways in which you can know if the egg you're about to eat is fresh or old!

Place the egg in an empty bowl and fill it up with cold/room temperature water such that it covers twice the egg's level.
>> A fresh egg will immediately sink to the bottom of the bowl
>> While an older egg would tend to float
Why? In a fresh egg, the air cells in it are very small, making the egg quite heavy compared to the water holding it. As for old eggs, more air enters the egg's shell as it ages. Therefore you could see that its curved end point touches the bottom of the bowl whereas its body points upwards. If this is the case, then the egg is fine to consume. However, if the egg you're experimenting on floats completely - no tip is touching the bottom of your bowl, well then, it's time to toss it out!

Bring that egg of yours and crack it on a plate!
>> A fresh egg with have thick cloudy colored whites, compacted firmly and close to a well leveled yolk
>> An older egg will have a less thicker & more transparent color for the whites with flat leveled yolks that could easily break
Why? Carbon dioxide (CO2) which makes egg whites cloudy and firm is present when the egg is freshly laid. As the egg loses its freshness with time, the CO2 escapes the shell thus egg whites become less thick, more transparent in color and tend to break easily from the yolk than fresh eggs would. 

So now you can experiment!
For many more cartoons, please visit Randy's site @

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's It Like Gym-ing in Curves?

Curves is an international gym for women in which you can exercise for 30 minutes a day on both strength training & cardio machines. More people are talking about it around me so I decided to decipher this worldwide known gym!

Circuit demo of 13 strength training
& recovery stations for 30 mins
  • The program starts with a pre-assessment test asking participants about their eating habits, in/active lifestyle, medical history, readiness and motives for seeking a healthier lifestyle
  • Staff members take anthropometric measurements such as weight, height, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio, etc. Then they calculate your BMI and compare the anthropometric measurements to "ideal" or healthy standards >> personalized coaching is definitely a plus! This way, the trainer will keep track of any body changes; you'll be followed up all the way!
  • Exercising is by stations. As seen in the photo above, a circuit demo with 13 strength training machines with recovery stations in between. You spend 30 seconds on each station with 30 seconds recovery for 30 minutes total.
    >> The strength machines increase your heart rate such that you can burn 500 calories per a 30-minute session. You focus on both upper & lower muscles like your
    biceps, triceps, abs, hips, chest, hamstrings, etc.
    >> The recovery stations are placed in between exercising machines on which you can run, walk or jog in place to maintain your heart rate.
    Thus both stations provide you with interval training of muscle toning and cardio.
  • Trainers work on motivating you in your 1st interview by asking you to repeat statements like "I am my own boss, I'm doing this for my own self, I am willing to exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week." They also motivate you throughout your 30-minute workout.
  • The music is new, lively and timed - asking you to change station every 30 seconds.
  • The facility provides you with showers and lockers
  • They offer you a 1st visit discount and discounts for students. This way you'll pay 32 $ per month instead of 50$.
  • They have 7 different Locations in Lebanon and 10,000 locations in 85 countries so if you want to travel , there's actually a travel card you can take to enable you to keep on exercising worldwide.
  • To start with, the Zouk Mosbeh's location has a valet parking! Well that's fine, I mean if you don't want valet, you can park it yourself. But nope! That's not the case, there's no parking so you are bound to give it to the valet. So now, gyms have valets in Lebanon.
  • The 30 minute rule is seriously strict. You can't exercise more. Now the recommendation is 60 minutes per day, so let's say you are that motivated and want to spend 30+ mins exercising, you can't actually do that! You might be short on time today but can exercise 2 hours tomorrow, like my case - Nopes!
    The 30 minutes could be considered an advantage especially if you're reluctant about exercising - it's a good strategy to at least start exercising and finish the whole 30 minutes - if you're not active at all. I mean one could say 30 minutes are achievable and reasonable to do per day and that's what could classify the "30 minutes" as pro as well
  • In Curves' Zouk Mosbeh location, there were no dietitians and no trainers - Only students working as part time trainers. Now they are in fact trained to assess & motivate you, but I really think graduate trainers & dietitians are ought to do this! I have heard that other Curves facilities have trainers and dietitians, so they could be short on staff in this location.
  • You can't enroll for one month only and renew if you like the gym/whenever you can. Memberships are by 4, 6 or 12 months only.
  • They don't open on Sundays and open from 8 till 8!

So if you're thinking of joining a gym:
>> If you are self motivated, ready to commit and you want to exercise more than half an hour per session, almost all gyms have licensed and certified coaches while some even have dietitians. Get in contact with them before enrolling in your nearest gym and ask them if an exercise could be tailored specifically for you, with constant follow up!
>> If you need the push and the motivation but lack the commitment, Curves staff will make sure you finish the whole 30 minutes you're exercising with funky music & muscle strengthening along the side! 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Big Forks Make You Eat Less?

You might be able to trick yourself into EATING LESS by using a BIGGER FORK, a new
Photo credit:
study conducted by the Business school researchers at the University of Utah suggests (published in
Journal of Consumer Research). 
The study aimed to find, in field study, whether there is a difference in intake between people provided 2 different sized forks:
  • A larger fork that held 20 % more food than the fork usually used restaurants
  • A smaller fork that held 20 % less than the usual utensil
Turns Out >> When eating out, people who used a large fork for bigger bites ate less than those who used a smaller utensil. The reason, the study authors suggested, is that people who eat out have a well-defined goal of satisfying their hunger. This makes them more willing to invest energy as well as resources to meet that goal, such as making menu selections, eating and paying the check.
    "The fork size provided the diners with a means to observe their goal progress. The physiological feedback of feeling full, or the satiation signal, comes with a time lag. In its absence, diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress." 

Note that these findings apply to restaurant customers only, not people eating at home who may not have the same goals of satiating their hunger as restaurant customers. Therefore, to avoid overeating, the researchers suggested that people are ought to learn to better recognize, understand & respond to their hunger and satiety cues rather than relying on perceived food portions or utensils sizes!


It's About Time to Rethink the Food Label!

Nutrition facts label, the rectangular box of information outlining the calories, serving size, and percent daily values you see on the back of packaged food products, can be time consuming and does actually require you to be a pro - or at least to be a health fanatic - to bother yourself in reading them.
In fact, the food label has had the same format for 20 years now! Unfortunately, some foods in Lebanon still don't carry that health label grid you yearn to find when you turn the food package around looking for it! And when, at some point, you read it once or twice attempting to check whether what you are about to munch is healthy or not, you end up lost in what all those names and mathematical numbers and percentages really mean!
So because "confusion affects the way we eat", could a new label format help people in choosing healthier and more nutritious types of foods and thus alleviating the rising prevalence of obesity & associated chronic diseases like diabetes type 2, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases??

"We need clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they've been asking for , in a format that they understand." , says Michelle Obama.
Sooo it's time to rethink the food label and thus the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of revising the nutritional facts label.

Click here to check ALL the new redesigns created by nutritionists and customers - by the people & for the people - who are aiming to change the old format to a better, more user-friendly one!

Even if you are not a health care professional or a dietitian, you're going to be reading this label on a food which you will be consuming! So go through them because there are more than 60 new designs & VOTE for what you think we need to better understand what that whole label is talking about!
* Results should be in by the 25th of July!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Skinny Drinks this Summer!

This summer time is full of concerts and partays! Fun summer times I bet, yet with hidden calories especially from drinks and beverages you may be having on daily basis.
Choosing the right drinks can help you reduce your total caloric intake, so WebMD divided drinks into 2 categories: Spoilers and Helpers and thus helping us decide what to drink and what not to when we’re watching our diets!
Soda VS Water
A can of soda can contain up to useless/non-nutritious 150 calories of sugar! You can definitely switch to diet versions of these fizzy drinks, yet research is still lost on whether this switch can actually help weight loss! While replacing soda with water can cut those calories, boost your metabolism and make you feel fuller for longer because of the distention it causes to your stomach!

Fruit VS Vegetable JuicesWell juice can have “healthy” written all over them. However, juice can have as many calories as soda (with more nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants to offer of course). So look for 100 % fruit juices (with extra fibery pulp) and mix them with water! However, with half the calories you get from fruit juices, vegetable juices like tomato for example offers you nutritious vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. At WebMD, they even compared that 1 cup of tomato juice has 41 cals while 1 orange juice cup contains 122 cals! Talk about cutting down your calories by more than half!
Smoothies VS Low fat milkWith their fruits: bananas, watermelon and strawberries can “seem” the healthy choice for your cocktail! Yea, well, not really. When you blend your own smoothie at home, whether you add alcohol or not, you can actually control the ingredients; whereas, in pubs and restaurants, smoothies can have enormously huge amount of calories especially that they could be done with honey, ice cream and lots of sugar. Go for skimmed milk when you ask for a smoothie or a cocktail containing milk. You can definitely control the content of your drink while enjoying it too!

Energy drinks VS Black Coffee - Energy drinks are “calorie bombs” like soda. Never mix your energy drinks with liquor like vodka for example, they have seriously opposite effects on your body leading to heart arrhythmia, chest pain and sweating! So when you need a shot of caffeine, coffee is a better choice than soda/energy drinks. Black coffee is calorie free and rich in antioxidants, so yea it is a much better choice than energy – useless- drinks.

Cocktails VS Beer - A shot of hard liquor has fewer calories than wine or wine coolers, but once you mix it with soda or cream, watch out for sky rock calories! A glass of white Russian made with light cream has 715 calories so a less fattening option is to mix rum or vodka with diet soda. As for light beer, well OK, so beer is not really going to help you lose weight per se but it’s always my first choice after diet soda! If you are in the mood for alcohol and you’re out with friends, a beer contains 150 cals while a light beer contains 100 cals so go for beer! 

Check here for more drinks and their caloric content!

References: WebMD

Delightful Feast for Change

“It is certainly heating up in the city right now” is the first sentence in my new RPN – Restaurants, pubs and nightclubs - Guide to fabulous and great variety of restos in Lebanon, which I got last week in “Feast for Change” dinner on the 13th of July which was hosted by the Lebanese Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon.
Fresh veggies for
a delicious tabboule!
And yes, it is quite true that Lebanon is on the roll! Whether with concerts, parties, diners, pubs, night clubs and pastries.. these have become countless. And one can’t deny that restaurants standards are becoming better and better by the day! More customer care, more online presence and interaction, more food safety concerns, more investment in restaurants interior designing with solid identities and good music and better yet, more delicious variety of cuisines! This hospitality business has been taken to a higher level alright!
So, back to the “Feast of Change”, I must say, it was delicious! To start with, I had the chance to meet fabulous tweeps in addition to enjoying some seriously good food around an exquisite taste of music! 
Smokin' delicious grill station!
The “Feast for Change” was well organized, with different sections for foods with different cuisines and live cooking, desserts and drinks thus making filling up your plate quite easy – not so good for a dietitian I must admit! I started my journey with a delicious taboule from Leila’s and I accompanied it with some smokin’ delicious shrimps and mini burgers from the grilling station! This station was what I loved the most – healthy & delicious with prompt service! I also had myself a refreshing fresh watermelon drink – a drink I really needed especially with the hot, humid temperature in Sursok Palace, which could have used some mist fans by the way!
Sam's plate of sinful desserts
The richest section was the desserts! From Mich’s knefe, mafrouke, Micho’s cotton candy, to Sam’s delicious plate filled with Gou's macarons, marshmallows dipped in melted chocolate from the famous chocolate fountain to a wide icy range of ice creams, the desserts section was sinful!
Last but not least, what matters most after the joy and fun, is the whole point behind this event! It was a "Feast for" - I'm hoping some - "Change" aiming to protecting natural sites and old buildings in Lebanon (APSAD), so I am personally waiting to see how this event can, in fact, help to protect Lebanese old buildings and natural sites!!

Thanks Mohammad & the Syndicate for this pleasant invitation!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Yourself Enough Vitamin D

Lack of vitamin D has become quite the issue among the Lebanese community nowadays and I'm hearing lots of concerns of what foods provide you with your daily needs of this vitamin especially that this vitamin is associated with good, strong bone health!
Vitamin D insufficiency can result in thin and brittle bones and thus increasing the risk of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect from osteoporosis, modulates neuro-muscular function and reduces inflammation.

So where can you provide yourself with enough vitamin D?

Sunlight helps your body to make vitamin D. But because of the skin cancer risk, there are no official "sunlight" recommendations up till now. Therefore, exposing yourself to small amounts of sunlight - 15-20 minutes - could be helpful. Keep in mind that the sun is less likely to provide your daily needs at higher latitudes, in winter, if you're older or dark skinned. So with this scorching sun during summer in Lebanon, it is important to use sunscreen when you're spending the day at the beach! Saying "I'm getting my daily dose of vitamin D" is not actually a wise decision to take!

Fatty fish such as  salmon, trouts, mackarel, tuna, eel and canned tuna & sardines can provide with you with good amounts of vitamin D as well as heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. 

Fortified milk/yogurt can be fortified with vitamin D >> the key is to read your nutrition facts label. And a good note to keep in mind is that ice creams, labne and cheeses are never fortified with vitamin D! On the other hand, some soy/rice milks can be fortified so yea, keep reading those food labels!

Egg yolks- the yellow part of an egg- is what contains the vitamin D you want. Therefore having boiled eggs can be a part of healthy diet when eaten in moderation, but make sure to adjust your cholesterol intake during your day because the American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day, and just one egg contains 200 mg!

Vitamin D can also be found in fortified cereals, fortified orange juices and in beef liver. Though I personally don't recommend that you have your vitamin D from beef liver because it's super high in cholesterol - and no you don't need that much of cholesterol in your diet!

Supplements can provide you with your vitamin needs but it shouldn't be your first option, like most doctors in Lebanon advise you to go for! Supplements are surely needed if you have low levels of vitamin D and best thing about them is that you don't have to split your supplement doses. Just don't go buying supplements, consult your doctors ahead of time because vitamin D can be toxic in large amounts.


Friday, July 8, 2011

New mommies: Puréed foods has been made super easy!

Weaning is all about getting your baby used to moving food around their mouth that is not liquid.  It will take time for your baby to perfect this new mouth action, so don’t worry if more food ends up on the floor, hands and clothes than in their mouth at the beginning! It’ll be messy but this is definitely your baby’s time to explore! When weaning, the best first foods to choose for your baby are puréed fruits and vegetables as well as non wheat cereals such as baby rice, which is hypoallergenic and thus has a low risk to promote food allergies. These are actually easy to prepare at home – fruits and vegetables are smooth when puréed and thus are of an "easy to swallow" consistency.  At first, offer few teaspoons (using a soft tipped spoon) once a day before a milk feed, and gradually increase the amount and frequency

Homemade purées
It’s easy to make purees and other foods for your baby and this way you know exactly what they are eating. You can make a variety of fruit and vegetable purees – try apple, pear, banana, mango, sweet potato, carrot, zucchini and more!  Some require the food to be cooked first (e.g. apple, carrot) but others require no cooking like bananas and mangos!

  • Wash, peel and chop the fruit or vegetable of choice.  If it needs to be cooked first, steam or boil it until it is soft but not overcooked. I honestly prefer all organic fruit and veggies for the family, especially the kids to minimize unhealthy pesticides and genetically modified components (which are not labeled yet, alas!) 
  • Blend it in a liquidiser or mash if using soft fruits like banana
  • Allow the food to cool if cooked and check its temperature before giving it to your baby.
To save time – make purees in batches and freeze them in covered ice cube trays.  Allow the puree to cool before freezing and then pop the frozen cubes into freezer bags.  This way, you have a smart, quick and ready supply of different purees to feed your baby 
When you reheat the puree, allow to defrost first and make sure that it is piping hot and allow it to cool before giving to your baby.  Do not reheat foods for your baby more than once and discard any uneaten food. For purees that do not need to be heated (e.g. fruit purees), make sure it is fully defrosted before feeding to your baby. Heating baby food in the microwave is not recommended due to uneven distribution of heat. Therefore, warm baby’s meal in a bain-marie and when choosing to use the microwave, stir well in order to equally spread the heat!
So for all new mommies out there, puréed foods has been made super easy!

Can Diet Soft Drinks Increase Weight?

Not only is regular soda crappy but we have more bad news for diet soda drinkers: Other than the fact that aspartame or artificial sweeteners are always bombarded due to their unhealthy detrimental side effects, data presented recently at the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) that diet drinks may actually contribute to weight gain and that the artificial sweeteners in them could potentially contribute Type 2 diabetes!
The study conducted in San Antonio aimed to track any association between diet soda drinking and body fat by following participants up for 10 consecutive years.
So what actually happened?
Diet soda drinkers’ waist lines expanded 70 % more than non drinkers over those 10 years. More interestingly, among frequent diet soda drinkers, those who tended to consume 2  or more diet sodas/day >> waistline growth was 500% greater!
Note that excess weight, especially that around your belly, is a risk factor for many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The brain is actually wired to expect a big load of calories when foods taste sweet or fatty. But when you decide to consume diet foods, this confuses the brain because your body hasn't received any of the energy it expected! Therefore, using artificial sweeteners, may lead to even more eating and weight gain, perhaps in part because it triggers the body to start storing more calories as fat! Your brain and body are both deceived by the taste your tongue senses, and when they realized they've been hoaxed and no energy was in fact consumed, they turn on their fat storage mode! Not good news for us!
Another reason is psychological. When people have their diet soft drink, it becomes a free pass to indulge in fatty/greasy/sugary/salty foods
So maybe, just maybeee, your diet soft drink is not serving you well?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Healthy Weight during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the time to gain weight; however, women should not use this time as an excuse to eat more than is necessary. The amount of food a woman needs during pregnancy depends on many factors such as your body mass index before pregnancy, the rate at which you gain weight, age and appetite. All pregnant women should eat a variety of nutrient rich foods every day and may also need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement if recommended by your doctor.

Many women start off pregnancy by being overweight or obese or many may gain weight in amounts more than is healthy during their pregnancy. Risks of problems during pregnancy and delivery are lowest when weight gain is kept within a healthy range and thus obesity during pregnancy is risky for both mother and child.

Weight Gain Guidelines

The latest weight gain guidelines by the Institute of Medicine are based on a women’s BMI before pregnancy. Your body mass index (BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height. It is an accurate way of telling whether your weight is within a healthy range. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by your height2 (meaning height x height) in meters.

The amount of weight you should gain depends on what category your pre-pregnancy BMI lands in:

Pre-pregnancy BMI
Total weight gain
Rates of weight gain
2nd and 3rd trimester (average range/week)
Less than 18.5
13 - 18 kg
0.5 - 0.6 kg
Normal weight
18.5 to 24.9
11 - 16 kg
0.4 - 0.5 kg
25 to 29.9
7 - 11 kg
0.2 - 0.3 kg
30 or more
5 - 9 kg
0.2 - 0.3 kg

The overall weight gain will be divided among:

  • At birth, a baby weighs about 3.3kg
  • While the rest of the weight could account for the placenta, amniotic fluid and various body changes such as increasing the uterus muscle layer, increasing your blood volume, extra fluids and 3-4 kg of fat storage needed for energy during breastfeeding.

Now if you are pregnant with twins, eating right and gaining the recommended amount of weight is even more important especially that there is a higher risk of preterm labor and low birth weight in a multiples pregnancy. Weight gain is especially important between weeks 20 to 24 of pregnancy. If a mother of twins gains 11 kg by the 24th week of pregnancy she reduces her chance of preterm labor. Early weight gain is also vital for the development of the placenta which aids in the passing of nutrients to the babies.

Most women who are carrying twins are encouraged to gain 16 to 18 kg and women carrying triplets are advised to gain 22 to 27 kg. At this time there is not enough information on quadruplets and quintuplets to suggest any guidelines. Because opinions vary, it is important to discuss your specific weight gain with your healthcare provider who will be most familiar with you specific healthcare needs.

What if moms-to-be are overweight?
If you had a high BMI before you conceived you should try to limit the amount of weight you put on. Putting on a lot more weight is not good for you or your baby. It may increase your risk of complications during your pregnancy and labor. These complications could include:
  • Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Back pain
  • Extra strain on your heart
  • Having a big baby(NCCWCH 2008b:34)
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Birth defects

However, don’t think that dieting during pregnancy is the key. It won't reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure. It's also unlikely to affect your risk of pre-eclampsia, which is related to blood pressure.  Instead, have yourself and your baby a healthy diet and gain just the right amount of “healthy” weight! Cut out snacks that are high in fat and sugar, such as chips, biscuits, cakes, sweets and ice cream, and replace them with more nutritious snacks such as fresh fruit, wholegrain cornflakes or grain, low fat dairy products (cheese, milk and yogurt) or a handful of dried fruit or unsalted non roasted nuts.

What if moms-to-be are underweight?
If you are underweight pre-pregnancy, you may be more likely to have a premature of low birth weight baby. Babies who are born early and small sometimes need extra care when they are born. (NCCWCH 2008)

Your baby is not a parasite, it will not feed off your own stores and thus your body will provide you with nutrients before your baby, who will only get what’s left. This is why it is crucial to have a balanced diet filled with plenty of nutrient rich food, in addition to a multivitamin/mineral prescribed by your health care provider. Keep in mind that the more variety there is in your diet, the less likely you are to go short on any necessary nutrient.

Calorie Intake

In general, pregnant women need between 2000 calories and 2900 calories a day, but of course the exact calorie amount should be assessed with the help of a dietitian. A gradual increase of calories as the baby grows is the best strategy to go around this. Here is an overview of how calorie needs change during each trimester:
  • The first trimester does not require any extra calories.
  • The second trimester requires an added 347 calories a day.
  • The third trimester requires 452 calories more a day. 
So you see, you don’t really need huge amounts of calories if you are pregnant (not the eat for 2 theory) so avoid extra calories by cutting down on sugary and fatty foods. Replace regular soda, sweets and fried foods with healthy options like low fat milk, whole fruit and whole grains!