Here's a Nutritionist's Take on the Kind Bar Controversy

You may have heard about the brouhaha regarding a warning letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent to Kind, LLC regarding four of its bars: Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants.

In a nutshell, FDA rules state that in order for a product to use the word “healthy” it must, among other things, be low in total fat and saturated fat per serving. Since the Kind bars in question contain nuts, as well as coconut, which are high in fat, they don’t meet this criteria.

RELATED: 30 Healthy Foods That Could Wreck Your Diet

In addition, the FDA objected to the use of “+” (plus), which also has a legal definition, which entails providing at least 10% of the recommended daily intake for vitamins and minerals, or fortification in accordance with certain FDA policies. Again, some Kind bars don’t comply. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, here’s the full letter the government agency sent to Kind.

So, as a nutritionist, what’s my take on this? Here are my two major thoughts.

The legal definition of “healthy†needs an overhaul

I would be hard-pressed to find a colleague who doesn’t agree with me that nuts are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to the numerous studies on their health benefits, we also know that not all fat—and even not all saturated fat—is created equal. I’ve long been an advocate of eating more “good” high-fat foods, including nuts, dark chocolate, avocado, and coconut, which have been linked to better satiety, anti-inflammatory properties, and even thermogenesis, an increase in calorie burning in the hours after a meal.

In addition, “good” fats are bundled with other key nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and, in some cases protein, all lending to their healthfulness. On the flip side, many foods that are low in total and saturated fat, and meet the criteria for the term “healthy,” are foods I wouldn’t recommend because they don’t meet my clean eating standards.

RELATED: The Truth About Dietary Fat

Nutrition is an evolving science, and I think we’re at the point where the notion of what’s “healthy” has expanded in the minds of both experts and consumers. In my opinion, healthfulness should take into account not just new research about issues like fat, but also how food is grown or produced and its impact on the planet, as well as human health. In other words, “healthy” is more about nutrition than nutrients.

Ironically, there is no legal definition for the term “natural” and while I’m a huge advocate of natural foods, I don’t recommend many products that carry the term—for why check out my previous post 3 Ways to Tell if a ‘Natural’ Product is Actually Good For You.

Proper food labeling is important, but there should be updates and priorities

I understand why there are legal definitions for food label terms and Nutrition Facts panels. Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, food manufacturers were able to set their own serving sizes, so if a food contained a lot of something people were trying to avoid, like calories or sugar, they could make the serving size tiny (imagine a pint of ice cream being labeled as having eight or more servings). Tactics like this led to more oversight and standardization, but obviously the system is far from perfect–check out my previous post 5 Most Confusing Food Label Terms.

RELATED: 12 Food-Industry Tricks That Undermine Clean Eating

Bottom line, I think a lack of regulation altogether would be pandemonium, but this particular FDA action left many people, myself included, scratching their heads and thinking, “Really? That’s where you’re going to focus your resources?” I think there are bigger issues at hand.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

We're Giving Away 10 Copies of 'Slim Down Now' on Twitter Tonight!

Ready to get serious about slimming down for summer? We’re giving away 10 copies of Slim Down Now by Cynthia Sass, our contributing nutrition editor! In the book, she shares her healthy eating secrets to shedding pounds and staying slim all year long.

Entry is super simple and fast: Follow us on Twitter (@goodhealth) and retweet the contest tweet when it posts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern TONIGHT for a chance to win! It doesn’t get any easier than that. Good luck!

Contest rules below:

Open only to those to whom this Tweet has been addressed, provided that entrant is a legal U.S. resident age 18 or older at the time of entry. Limited to one entry per Twitter account. The first 10 to retweet the original tweet will receive one Slim Down Now book which each has an approximate retail value (ARV) of $26.99. Sponsor(s) not responsible for any damage to computer equipment related to participating in this promotion. Items being distributed are not transferable or redeemable for cash. Consumers who obtain items are responsible for any and all taxes. Promotion begins at 8:30 P.M. ET or EST on 04/21/2015 and ends at 11:59 P.M. ET or EST on 04/22/2015. SPONSOR will contact the winners by a Twitter direct message on or before 04/23/2015. Employees of Health Magazine, Time Inc., Cynthia Sass or any related companies are not eligible to enter or win. The winner(s) may be required to complete an affidavit of eligibility and waiver of liability before prize(s) can be awarded. Sponsor(s) reserve the right to disqualify any entry for any reason, including but not limited to suspicion of fraud. Void where prohibited by law.

RELATED: How to Keep the Carbs and Still Lose the Pounds

3 Reasons to LOVE Chipotle From an RD

Well, it’s official. Business analysts, health enthusiasts, and many health experts have declared Chipotle as the No. 1 healthy fast food go-to (a spot formerly held by Subway).

As a long-time fan of Chipotle, I recommend the chain to my clients, from professional athletes to new moms trying to shed the baby weight. I consider Chipotle more healthy food fast rather than fast food. Here are three fundamental reasons why.

Ingredients are everything

The ingredients in Chipotle’s chicken are simple: Chicken, water, chipotle chile, rice bran oil, cumin, garlic, oregano, black pepper, kosher salt.

I’m tempted to say enough said here, but to drive the point home, Chipotle’s chicken recipe is much, much closer to something you can make at home versus something that’s made in a factory.

As more and more consumers adopt a clean eating philosophy, the trend is toward recognizable ingredients in food, which I think is a great thing. In my opinion, we don’t know enough about the health effects of the additives commonly used in many processed and fast foods, so I always advise my clients to stick with ingredients they recognize.

The fact that Chipotle has always been so transparent about its ingredients, has made changes in response to consumer demand, and keeps them as simple as possible earns a lot of points in my book.

RELATED: 4 Healthy Meals for Under $10

Quality over calories

News reports of Chipotle’s boom often point out that the average order packs over 1,000 calories, more than half the amount most adults need daily. True.

But slashing that number is incredibly easy based on the customization of Chipotle’s menu items. Plus, they even offer you a handy online nutrition calculator to help you to see how tweaking what you ask for when you move down the line affects well, your bottom line.

For example, simply switching from a burrito to a burrito bowl, by ditching the flour tortilla, instantly saves 300 calories, including 46 grams of carbohydrate. If you order a bowl and skip both the cheese and sour cream you save another 215 calories.

RELATED: 12 Mouthwatering Meatless Meals

My personal standard order is a salad, no dressing, made with romaine lettuce, black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and guacamole (the salsa and guac are dressing enough). It clocks in at 400 calories, and provides a nutrient-rich balance of veggies, lean protein, healthy and satisfying plant-based fat, and a whopping 21 grams of dietary fiber, about 85% of the minimum recommended daily target.

Chipotle’s menu offers a wide range of calorie levels and raises the bar on quality. I firmly believe that 400 calories worth of “real food” ingredients is far healthier for your metabolism and waistline than an identical number of calories (or even less) of highly processed and/or fried food that is much lower in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Case in point: one recent study from Pomona College found that volunteers who ate processed food burned about 50% fewer calories than those who consumed the same number of calories from whole foods.

Focusing on sustainability

A few of Chipotle’s recent moves have generated a great deal of media buzz. The first involved ceasing the sale of carnitas, due to the inability to find a supplier who meets their standards for raising pigs humanely. (It’s now back in select cities.) Many consumers, including those who love eating pork, were impressed by Chipotle’s decision not to compromise its principles, even if it meant losing sales. Chipotle has also committed to serving meats raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.

Then there was Chipotle’s (admittedly controversial) decision to completely eliminate GMO ingredients, making them the first national chain to do so. GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through biotechnology gene-splicing techniques.

As a Registered Dietitian with graduate degrees in both nutrition science and public health, I believe that the impact of food production on the environment is a critical piece of the wellness puzzle. The use of antibiotics in livestock has been shown to directly impact things like the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and pesticide exposure has been linked to rates of obesity and diseases like type 2 diabetes.

Chipotle has shown that a commitment to ingredients that support food sustainability—the ability to safely grow healthy food into the future—is not only possible for a fast food restaurant, but it also helps foster a sense of trust with consumers who can feel better about their eating choices.

The fact that all of this is resonating with the public is a sign that our attitudes about food are changing, including how we define healthy, and it will be interesting to see if this affects the fast food industry as a whole. My hope is that it does, and that in turn, will lead to real, long-term health benefits for Americans.

RELATED: 13 Healthy Frozen Dinners

What’s your take on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

An RD

Whether your weakness is nonstop grazing or a “treat yourself” tendency, here’s how to clean up your office diet.

 

Your occasional splurge becomes a regular thing

The makeover: It happens all the time: An afternoon treat to break up a stressful workday—like a mocha topped with whipped cream or peanut butter pretzels—progresses from a once-in-a-while indulgence to a daily habit. If you’ve developed “treat creep,” as I call it, swap your goodie for a healthy substitute for 30 days, then reintroduce it in a scheduled way (for example, have it on the first Friday of each month). The splurge will become special again, and you’ll likely slash hundreds of calories a week.

You nibble all day

The makeover: You might graze because you’ve heard it’s good to eat small, frequent meals, but you could be overloading on calories. A University of Illinois at Chicago study found that women who snacked midmorning (between 10:30 and 11:30) lost significantly less weight than those who didn’t. Also, a higher proportion of midmorning snackers ate more than one snack a day, which can impede weight loss. Snack only when you’re hungry and to prevent going too long between meals. For most of us, that’s one snack a day, between lunch and dinner.

RELATED: 10 Healthy Veggie Snack Recipes Packed With Flavor

You never bring a snack and end up scavenging

The makeover: When you’re hunting down office grub, chances are you’ll stumble upon Cheetos rather than fruit. So get into the habit of packing a smart snack. Assemble it when you do something that’s already part of your daily routine, like cleaning up after dinner. Prep time can literally be one minute.

You lose all willpower when faced with office celebrations

The makeover: Create room for extras by reining it in elsewhere. Planning on having a cupcake? Order a chopped salad at lunch to prevent carb overload. It’s also perfectly OK to wish your office mate happy birthday without downing cake if it’s just not worth the trade-off (e.g., more time on the elliptical).

3 surprising vending machine picks

If feeding a machine a buck or two and pressing a button is your only choice (we’ve all been there!), make the best of it with these preferred options.

RELATED: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

Nuts or sunflower seeds

They’re whole foods full of plant-based protein and usually have less sodium than processed snacks.

Popcorn

It’s a whole grain and provides fiber. A single-serve bag typically packs only 11 grams of carbs, compared with about 23 grams in a single-serve bag of pretzels.

Plain potato chips

The classic kind commonly contain just potatoes, oil and salt, while you’ll find a laundry list of iffy ingredients in cheesy puffs and flavored chips.

RELATED: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

The Simplest Way to Make Pour

Have you been wondering about the pour-over offerings at Starbucks (or your local coffee house)? It costs more, it takes longer… so why would anyone order it?

Experts say this method—in which hot water is slowly poured over a single serving of freshly ground coffee—results in a better-tasting brew because, unlike standard drip, the water-to-coffee ratio is exactly right. And when done pain-stakingly right, pour-over is supposed to help extract flavor more nuances of your favorite beans.

I love a well-brewed cup of coffee, but for me, the transition to pour-over happened for a less lofty reason: I’m the only coffee drinker in my house. My 6-year-old is obviously too young to be interested, and my husband, much to my continuing dismay and disbelief, is not a coffee drinker. (It was hard to even type that sentence.) Since I drink only 1 cup a day, brewing a whole pot, or 1 cup in a large pot, didn’t make sense.

RELATED: 4 Recipes for Coffee Lovers

After much trial-and-error, I landed on pour-over, and I’ve never looked back.

True coffee purists will note my edits to this process (and probably judge me for it.) But I’ve found this is what works best for me—and I stand by it. Here’s how it’s done.

Grind the coffee

I use a hand-crank Burr grinder ($20, amazon.com) because I think the coffee comes out better, and there’s something satisfying about grinding it by hand. (Plus, I get a quick little arm and shoulder workout in, first thing—no joke.) But you can skip this step and use pre-ground or make it quicker by grinding yours in an electric grinder.

Transfer it to a filter

Because I use a porcelain Hario ceramic coffee dripper ($17, amazon.com), I use their paper filters ($7, amazon.com), too. You can buy other drippers, of course, but I prefer not to use plastic, and I think the coffee tastes cleaner with these filters than others I’ve used. Once the coffee is in the filter in the cone, give it a little shake to even out the grinds.

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Heat up the water

Do this while grinding the beans. Here’s where I deviate from the die-hards. A true coffee expert would tell you to use a special kettle with a thin spout for precise pouring. I just use my regular kettle; the same one my husband uses for (gasp!) tea.

I also skip the step of warming up the cup.

Pour over

Time to brew. Pour in just enough water to wet the grounds, then let it stand for 30 seconds to a minute. This allows the grounds to “bloom,” resulting in more even coffee extraction for the rest of the brew (you’ll see the grounds kind of puff up slightly). After the bloom, continue pouring, a bit at a time (just cover the grounds, don’t fill the filter all the way), until your cup is brewed.

Then, fix it however you like, and enjoy.

RELATED: 2-Minute Morning Workout

The Perfect Work Snack: No

You know how it goes: Once 4 o’clock rolls around, all diet bets are off. Your stomach is grumbling and you’d kill for something sweet. What you need is a healthy, homemade sweet that will satisfy this impossible craving.

Enter no-bake energy balls. You can whip up a batch (or two) of these Sunday night to take with you to work all week long. Because they provide a dose of healthy fats and natural sweetness, they’re delicious and nutritious. And bonus: each ball contains only 45 calories. So you can feel good about popping one (or two) when the urge to splurge strikes. Consider your cravings, conquered.

RELATED:

Pick Your Perfect Snack

17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

20 Snacks That Burn Fat

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Yes, the Bacon

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) made a bombshell announcement yesterday that left many bacon lovers reeling.

In a nutshell, a group of experts conducted a comprehensive review of studies that looked at the association between processed or red meat and cancer. They declared that processed meat is definitely a carcinogen, with the most powerful link to colon cancer. Based on the data reviewed, they found that every daily 50-gram portion of processed meat–that is, meat that’s been cured, salted, smoked, or preserved, including ham, bacon, and sausages–ups the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. A 50-gram portion is about 2 ounces, or about two breakfast sausage links. The WHO says it’s as certain that these foods cause cancer as they are certain that cigarettes cause cancer.

Their findings also prompted them to categorize red meat (like beef, pork, and lamb) as “probably carcinogenic”–the evidence linking red meat to cancer is not quite as strong as it is for processed meats.

If you’re feeling freaked out by this news, you’re not alone. But protecting yourself from cancer is more complicated than simply banning bacon and steak from your diet. Here are five important nuances to note about this announcement.

RELATED: 5 Everyday Foods That Fight Cancer

 

 

What the cigarette comparison really means

The International Agency of Research Into Cancer is the arm of the WHO that performed this analysis. The IARC’s job is to determine how likely foods, chemicals, and other items are to cause cancer, and then classify them into one of five categories: carcinogenic to humans, probably carcinogenic to humans, possibly carcinogenic to humans, not classifiable, and probably not carcinogenic.

Items that fall under “carcinogenic to humans” are the ones that have the most evidence supporting that they do cause cancer. Smoking, asbestos, tanning beds, and now processed meat can definitely cause cancer. Red meat is in the “probably carcinogenic” category because the evidence linking red meat to cancer is weaker.

While processed meats and cigarettes both fall under “carcinogenic to humans,” what this basically means is that the evidence that processed meats cause cancer is as strong as the evidence that smoking causes cancer.

This classification does not 100% guarantee that you will get colon cancer by eating bacon every morning–or lung cancer from smoking a pack a day. However, because we know that 70-87% of lung cancers are linked to smoking, no health expert would ever say that smoking, even just one cigarette a day, is a good idea.

The truth is cancer experts may say that bacon and other processed meats are now in the same dangerous boat as cigarettes. But frequency does play a role. The more you’re exposed to anything in this category, the greater the risk. So ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want to eat these foods, and if so how often.

RELATED: The Diet That May Fight Breast Cancer

 

 

The best advice for bacon lovers

I personally haven’t eaten red meat in many years, and I don’t miss it. (I also have a very strong family history of colorectal cancer and cancer in general, which is one of the reasons I became a nutritionist). But I have some clients who simply tell me flat out, “I don’t care what the research says, I am not giving up bacon.”

And for those people, I advise them to think of processed meats as an occasional treat. That could mean a few strips of bacon at Sunday brunch or a few slices of pepperoni pizza on Friday night–but not both, and none during the week. I also recommend they eat no more than 18 ounces of total red meat a week, preferably lean, which is the recommendation of the American Institute for Cancer Research. These two simple strategies will likely create some balance and help lower the risks.

 

 

How meat is cooked also makes a difference

Higher levels of cancer-causing substances are formed when red meat is cooked at high temperatures, like grilling, barbecuing, and frying. In this report, the WHO didn’t look at fish, but other research has shown that even white fish cooked at high temperatures may also be linked to cancer risk, especially when it’s cooked for a longer length of time.

There are a few super-easy ways curb the formation of these cancer-causing substances. First, cut meat into smaller portions to reduce cooking time, and marinate it using antioxidant rich herbs and spices. You should also avoid allowing fat to drip–this creates smoke that deposits carcinogens back onto the meat. Flipping the meat often, trimming excess fat, and cooking meat on tinfoil will all help.

RELATED: 11 Superfoods That Work Better Together

 

 

Cancer-protective foods can help

The overall makeup of your meals is still what’s most important. We can’t completely eliminate cancer risk, but we do know that certain foods protect against it. If you’re going to eat red meat, stick with about 3 ounces, the size of a deck of cards, along with at least 1 to 2 cups (think one to two tennis balls in size) of cancer-protective produce, such as tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, and cabbage.

Also include a small serving of squash or a whole grain (like quinoa), a “good” plant-based fat (like a golf ball sized portion of nuts, several slices of avocado, or a tablespoon of olive oil), and plenty of herbs and spices. The worst eating patterns, for not just cancer risk but nearly every chronic disease, are those that combine meat with other highly processed foods, excess sugar, and a lack of plants.

 

 

Don't forget to focus on the big picture

In addition to eating healthfully, we know that many habits help keep us healthier overall, including not smoking, being active, getting enough sleep, managing stress, not drinking alcohol excessively, and securing positive social support. In fact, researchers conclude that 90 to 95% of cancer risk is rooted in lifestyle and environment, not genetics. In other words, a great deal is within your control, so don’t forget to focus on the big picture, and continually make choices that keep tipping the balance toward protection.

RELATED: America’s Healthiest Superfoods for Women

What’s your take on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

6 Halloween

You already know that candy is laden with processed sugar and artificial additives, but indulging in a few of your favorite goodies on Halloween night won’t totally derail you. What may truly wreck your healthy eating track record however is giving into the ever-expanding selection of Halloween-themed foods that go way beyond candy. Here are six items that go down fast, but they may come back to haunt you!

RELATED: 7 Fitness-Inspired Halloween Costumes You Can Throw Together Fast

Burger King’s Halloween Whopper

BK’s Halloween Whopper, served on a pitch black bun, set off a social media storm and generated tons of headlines due to reports that eating it may turn your poop green. The burger, and its unfortunate reported side effect, have even inspired a couples’ Halloween costume, and there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of tweets tagged #GreenPoop on Twitter about the whole thing. In case you’re wondering about the really scary part: the burger’s nutrition facts state that it packs 710 calories, 52 grams of carb, 13 grams from sugar, 43 grams of fat (including some dreaded trans fat), and 1,530 mg sodium. Green poop aside, you’d have to spend over two hours navigating a corn maze to burn it off.

Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

This decadent DQ dessert is made with vanilla soft serve, pie pieces, pumpkin pie filling, nutmeg, and whipped topping, for a total of 980 calories, 150 grams of carb, 114 grams from sugar, and 33 grams of fat. That’s about three times the calories as one slice of pumpkin pie, and the equivalent of over 28 teaspoons of sugar, nearly five times the recommended daily cap for women.

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Crumb Cake Donut and a Pumpkin Swirl Latte

The donut alone contains 450 calories, 56 grams of carb, 35 grams from sugar, and 23 grams of fat. Pairing it with a large latte made with whole milk adds an additional 450 calories, 70 grams of carb, 69 grams from sugar, and 12 grams of fat, the calorie equivalent all together of 123 pieces of candy corn or 36 rolls of Smarties.

RELATED: The 22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat

Denny’s Pumpkin Pecan Pie Pancake Breakfast

This ghoulishly indulgent breakfast feast includes two pumpkin pancakes, made with glazed pecans and drizzled with pecan pie sauce, along with two eggs, hash browns, and either two bacon strips or two sausage links. With bacon it totals 1,100 calories, 124 grams of carb, 45 grams from sugar, 54 grams of fat, and 2,320 mg sodium, an entire day’s worth (and this is the better choice, versus the sausage, mind you). To burn this meal off you’d have to dance to the monster mash for a straight three and a half hours.

Olive Garden Pumpkin Cheesecake

OK, I know that it’s obvious that cheesecake is a serious calorie bomb, but this particular version packs 870 calories, 104 grams of carb, 67 grams from sugar, and 46 grams of fat. Even without dinner that’s the calorie equivalent of nearly 11 fun sized Snickers, a splurge that would require three hours of raking leaves to torch.

Panera Bread Pumpkin Pie Bagel

You can find a pumpkin-y version of nearly any food these days, and bagels are no exception. Panera’s version provides 380 calories, 75 grams of carb (as much as five standard slices of bread!), 24 grams from sugar, and 5 grams of fat. Schmearing it with a two ounce portion of reduced fat honey walnut cream cheese adds another 150 calories for a total of 530, the amount burned in more three hours of pumpkin carving.

What’s your take on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

RELATED: The Great Reason Why You May See Teal Pumpkins This Halloween

5 Toxic Thoughts That Get in the Way of Weight Loss

Many of the clients I work with have a pretty good handle on what they should be eating. They know which foods are the most nutritious, and they have the access and the resources to make good choices. What often gets in the way, however, is motivation; somewhere along the way the intentions to eat clean lose their “oomph.”

You might think it’s just simple temptation—the overwhelming allure of the donuts in the break room, for example. That’s part of it for sure, but in my experience the root of the problem is simply the way we think about what we eat. To lose weight for the long-run, many people have to change their entire relationship with food.

That’s easier said than done, I know. That’s why I put together a list of top food beliefs that interfere, along with the strategies for overcoming each one.

RELATED: 12 Mental Tricks to Beat Cravings and Lose Weight

“Healthy foods are a chore to eat”

I agree that eating bland “diet” foods can be torture, but a healthy, balanced meal can easily be a feast for your senses.

In order to make clean eating a lifestyle rather than a diet, you have to find food you look forward to eating. This means finding foods and recipes that are healthy, but ones you’d enjoy even if they weren’t. Avocado, veggies roasted in olive oil, almond butter, dark chocolate, hummus, and juicy in-season fruits come to mind for me. It might take some experimenting for you to find yours, but it will be worth it once you do, trust me.

“I can’t get full from a healthy meal.”

Many people I counsel don’t actually know what a “healthy” amount of fullness feels like. Because of a tendency to overeat, a lot of people associate the feeling of being too full, or stuffed and sleepy with satisfaction, so meals that result in feeling “just right” seem lacking somehow.

To overcome this, you have to re-calibrate how you define satisfaction. After you eat, you should feel physically well afterwards, like you could go dancing, or for a long walk. At the same time re-classify your former notion of “satisfied” as excessive. This one shift can change what and how much you decide to eat, not due to rules or “shoulds,” but because of how you want to feel afterwards.

When “balanced” is your new “satisfied” you won’t want to overdo it.

RELATED: 17 No-Diet Tricks to Keep Off Holiday Weight

“Food makes me happy”

We are practically taught from birth to use food to feel better emotionally. We use food to bond, show affection, reward, celebrate, and comfort. Many advertisements play up this connection, and it’s completely socially acceptable to gift the people you care about with food, commiserate over it, or eat as entertainment. Food truly is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and that’s totally normal.

What isn’t normal, though, is using food as your primary mood booster. I’ve seen clients pay a lot of money for healthy meal delivery services only to eat extras, not because they were hungry, but because they needed a boost after having a rough day at work. You can’t break this pattern overnight, but you can systematically change it.

Start by focusing on the moments you’re tempted to reach for food when you’re not hungry. Zero in on your emotions, and test out different non-food ways of addressing your feelings, whether that’s reaching for the phone to call a loved one or hitting the gym.

You may find that a total re-haul of your habits isn’t required. One of my clients who loved her ritual of brunching with friends to blow off steam learned to enjoy the experience just as much over healthier, lighter fare when she realized that spending time with friends was really what made her happy, not the stacks of pancakes or extra sides of bacon.

“I don’t have enough time”

I hear this a lot, and I can relate. As much as I love to cook and develop recipes I often only have a few minutes to make a meal. On these days, I don’t think about cooking, I think about how I can “assemble” something healthy and filling by combining a few shortcut ingredients.

One of my go-tos is a quick lean protein (like canned tuna or ready to eat vacuum sealed lentils from the produce section) tossed with a little Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and dried Italian herb seasoning, over a bed of greens topped with either sliced avocado or chopped nuts and a side of fresh fruit. Even a smoothie can stand in for a meal if you don’t have time to cook. Stocking your freezer and pantry with items that require little prep can prevent you from resorting to pizza.

RELATED: Lose Weight With a Busy Schedule

“It’s too hard to be different”

One of the most challenging obstacles my clients face is feeling like healthy eating makes them an outsider, and it’s totally natural to feel this way. When everyone around you is eating whatever they want, as much as they want, it can feel isolating to be the only one with special requirements.

I’ve been in that boat many times, but what makes it OK is believing that what I’m getting out of the effort is more valuable than the comfort of going along with the crowd. The truth is the typical American diet just isn’t healthy. You don’t have to be the girl harping on that fact at the next get-together, but you can remind yourself in the moment that you are making choices that are right for you.

When you want to be healthy and feel well more than you want to be in “the norm” you won’t mind standing out from the crowd.

What’s your take on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously worked with three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Daily Caffeine Doesn't Seem to Jolt the Heart, Study Says

TUESDAY, Jan. 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — There may be good news for coffee, tea, and chocolate lovers: Regular caffeine consumption may not cause dangerous racing of the heart, a new study finds.

The finding challenges current medical thinking, the study authors said.

However, the health risks of heavy caffeine consumption requires additional research, the researchers added.

“Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee, and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” said study senior author Dr. Gregory Marcus. He is director of clinical research in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus added. In rare cases, extra heartbeats can lead to heart problems and stroke, the researchers said in a university news release.

The 12-month study included nearly 1,400 healthy people whose coffee, tea, and chocolate consumption was assessed. They also wore a portable device that continuously monitored their heart rhythm for 24 hours.

Sixty-one percent of the participants consumed more than one of the caffeinated products a day. Those who consumed higher amounts of the products didn’t have extra heartbeats, the study found.

“This was the first community-based sample to look at the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats, as previous studies looked at people with known [heart rhythm disorders],” study lead author Shalini Dixit, a fourth-year medical student at UCSF, said in the news release.

“Whether acute consumption of these caffeinated products affects extra heartbeats requires further study,” Dixit added.

The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about caffeine and heart health.