Beware Nutritional Trap of Salad Dressings

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, nutrition, weight loss

This week, a little 411 on salad dressings (and share this with any friends in the restaurant business).

Ahhh, salad. Low calorie roughage, healthy veggies … sounds healthy. Intentions are great, but guess what? If you add “regular” salad dressing, you might as well skip the salad and just eat the burger you really wanted. Salad dressings are a real nutritional trap.

Let’s look at restaurants. A typical salad dressing ladle holds 2 ounces, or 4 tablespoons of dressing. The average restaurant uses two ladles, or eight tablespoons of dressing on your salad.

I normally recommend only 2 tablespoons of dressing, which would be one half of one ladle. Remember, a typical restaurant is giving you FOUR TIMES as much. You’ll see, by the chart below, that the low-cal or fat-free dressings make a measurable difference in how your week stacks up, nutritionally.

Keep in mind that an average woman needs to hold her daily fat intake to less than 60 grams of fat, and a man, to less than 80 grams.

    2 tablespoons of salad dressing (my recommended portion)

Ranch Regular -148 calories, 15.6 g fat (4x = over 60 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Ranch Lite (low-fat) – 80 calories, 6 g fat

Ranch Fat-Free – 48 calories, 0.3 g fat

Creamy Italian – 110 calories, 12 g fat (4x = 48 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Lite Italian – 50 calories, 5g fat

Fat-free Italian – 20 calories, 0.3 g fat

Balsamic Vinaigrette – 90 calories, 8 g fat (a better choice)

Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette – 45 calories, 3.5 g fat

Bottom line: one salad, with two ladles of dressing, once a week, can easily be the equivalent of a whole day’s worth of fat intake. Ingest a little fat at breakfast and from your other meal, and that salad dressing can take you over your daily allotment – the exact opposite of your intentions.

Instead, ask for salad dressings “on the side” and order the “low-fat” version. Then either dip your fork or salad in the dressing rather than pouring it on. You’ll save hundreds – or thousands – of fat grams in a year.

How can you guesstimate the 2-tablespoon serving size I’m recommending? The top of your thumb is equal to about 1 tablespoon. A ping-pong ball or shot glass or an Oreo cookie is about 2 tablespoons. At that quantity, even the biggest offender – regular ranch – is only one fourth or less of your daily recommended fat allotment.

Restaurants average 10 cents in cost per 2 tablespoons of regular dressing. Two ladles is thus .40 cents worth; a 2-tablespoon serving on the side would save .30 per salad (and 45 g of fat, per salad, per customer).

If, for example, 94 restaurants implemented salad dressing awareness they could save customers 38,070,000 grams of FAT and $296,100.00 in just 30 days. One restaurant has potential quarterly savings of $9,450 (and saves its customers 1,215,000 grams of fat).

I declare August, not only back to school month, but Salad Dressing Awareness month!

Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Kitchen Wall Color has Diet Impact

Your kitchen is the center of your nutritional hub. It’s where you make your decisions on how (and how often) to fuel your own body, and the bodies of others you may be responsible for feeding. For some of you, it’s also the place where meals are served and consumed: at a bar or island, for example, or a casual kitchen table.

You’ve already taken control of what goes in your refrigerator; now summer’s your chance to take control of the mood your kitchen sets. Believe it or not, the color of your kitchen walls can have an impact on your diet. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you want your kitchen to make you feel, and seize the day.

First of all, there’s a reason that McDonald’s, Burger King and every fast food restaurant known to man incorporates red and yellow in their logos and décor. Want to guess why?

Let’s start with yellow. This cheery hue is good for optimism and hope. But it also stimulates the appetite, pure and simple. You just thought you wanted a salad … now you want a Big Mac with fries.

Yellow is happy, but to overweight people, it can also be a tad dangerous when applied to kitchen walls. Better to let a good workout stimulate the appetite than the mere presence of a color. Unless, of course, you are underweight.

Need to beef up? Head for the yellow section of the paint store and slather it on. Think butter, egg yolks, lemons … mmm, I’m getting hungry already. But yellow helps the memory, so it could be useful if mom’s not available for a recipe consult.

Orange stimulates learning. If you’re a new cook, or aspiring chef or nutritionist, opt for orange.

As for red, it is a complex color, perhaps the most of all. Red engages us and brings out our emotions. Here’s the amazing thing about this color: to calm people, it is exciting, in a good way, a little thrilling. But for folks who are more anxious in nature, red is disturbing. The last thing you want is to be disturbed eight to 12 times a day, so be honest with yourself about your nature, and that of others with whom you may live.

Red walls trigger the release of adrenaline (which can be good for cooking, I suppose). And like yellow, it also stimulates the appetite, while simultaneously stimulating the sense of smell. Red walls can also increase your blood pressure and breathing rate.

Blue is opposite of yellow, on the color wheel, and in terms of appetite. It decreases blood pressure, the breathing rate, and the desire to eat, as do indigo and violet. So if you’re determined to drop 20, 30, even 40 pounds … coat your walls in hues of blueberries, grapes or plums. This will also remind you to eat antioxidants, which is a good thing. You win on two counts!

Pink is also proven as a winning weight-control color, at none other than prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.

Violet is known for its ability to create balance. So as you’re planning your menus or dishing out portions of lean protein, fresh veggies and multigrain bread, look to your walls for inspiration. (Violet is also good for migraine sufferers).

This brings us to green, the color of all things fresh and good for our bodies. Green is relaxing, and also creates a sense of balance. It relaxes the body, and helps those who suffer from nervousness, anxiety or depression. Green may also aid in raising blood histamine levels, reducing sensitivity to food allergies. Antigens may also be stimulated by green, for overall better immune system healing.

Placing your sunlit fresh herbs near a green wall brings the outdoors in. That might also make you think about starting a garden, going for a walk or run, or cycling around the neighborhood.

Brown enhances a feeling of security, reduces fatigue and is relaxing. Black is a power color. If you have six-packs and you know it, raise your hand. Gray is the most neutral of all colors for the kitchen: not much happening there. Brighter hues inspire creativity and energy, while darker colors are peaceful and lower stress. Beige and off-white are “learning” colors.

Make good choices, on your walls, as well as your plate. What color should your kitchen be?

Read today’s News-Press column: Good habits vital in pregnancy

Posted October 6th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Whether you are pregnant, preparing for pregnancy or you know someone who is, good nutrition is vital to a healthy pregnancy. By following simple guidelines of good nutrition, a pregnant mother can help ensure the health and proper development of her baby.

The old saying about eating for two during pregnancy doesn’t mean you need to eat double the calories. In fact, you need only 300 extra calories per day in the second and third trimesters to support proper growth and development of your baby.

By monitoring your caloric intake and eating a prenatal diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, you can prevent unnecessary weight gain that may lead to health complications later on.

While pregnancy doesn’t mean giving up foods you enjoy, you should avoid empty calories and limit fats and sugar. Give in to a pregnancy craving now and then, but in moderation. Limit sweets to one small portion a day so you won’t feel deprived or tempted to overeat.
Some examples of nutrient-dense foods that you should incorporate into your pregnancy diet include yogurt, peanut butter, chicken, eggs and dairy products that are higher in protein, calcium and iron. Lean pork and lean beef also contain protein, vitamin B, iron and zinc, which are essential to a healthy pregnancy. Orange juice offers folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, and vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron from foods such as fiber-rich black beans and spinach.

In addition, a healthy pregnancy diet should include whole grains, a great source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Calcium is especially important to a pregnant women’s diet. Mothers-to-be need approximately 1,500 mg of calcium daily to support the baby’s bone growth and to prevent the mother from losing her bone density. It is important to remember that most women do not get enough calcium even when they are not pregnant. Therefore, extra effort has to be made to get the right amounts of calcium throughout pregnancy. Calcium-rich foods include tofu, salmon, green leafy vegetables and dairy products.

In addition to getting enough calcium, folic acid is important to proper fetal growth. Natural foods such as dark green vegetables, oranges, grains, beans, lean meat and liver are rich in folic acid.

Eating four small meals and making healthy snack choices can help you control hunger during pregnancy. The best way to make sure that you’ll get all the proper nutrients is to eat the following recommended servings daily:
- Six to 11 servings of whole grains such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta
- Two to three servings of protein-rich foods including meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts;
- Four or more servings of vegetables;
- Three to four servings of fruit; and
- Three to four servings of dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

In addition to eating the right foods, you should drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water daily to help prevent dehydration. You should avoid alcohol and caffeine during pregnancy.

Be sure to take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 100 percent to 200 percent of the recommended dietary intakes for vitamins and minerals. Always discuss vitamin and supplement choices with your health care provider or registered dietitian before you start taking them.

Developing healthy eating habits during pregnancy can help ensure the proper growth and development of your baby, not to mention the health benefits for mom too. Eating well during pregnancy and continuing those habits after your baby arrives will set the stage for your child to have healthy eating habits too and potentially reduce his or her risk for certain illnesses.

Give your baby the best start at life by eating smart and living well.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. Contact her at or Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy:

Fit in fun on Friday!

Posted September 25th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

Fit in Fun on Friday is my weekly blog on ways that you can stay fit with the family. Here are a few ideas for the weekend, rain or shine:

As fall approaches and the weather begins to change, it’s a great time to enjoy a hike or walk through your neighborhood, local parks, trails or the beach. A three mile walk at a leisurely pace can burn up to 300 calories per hour. Take this opportunity to establish a family exercise routine and add daily walks to your family calendar.

If the weather is not in your favor, it’s time to get creative with your family fitness plans. There are plenty of options for indoor fun right in your own home. How about a family dance party? Let everyone choose their favorite dance songs and get your groove on.  You can burn approximately 300 calories while dancing at an aerobic pace so burn baby burn!

Remember, combining exercise and a balanced diet will help your family develop good habits to support a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition tips for young athletes

Back-to-school means back to the courts and fields for student athletes. Reaching peak athletic performance doesn’t mean you have bulk up on carbohydrates or chug the latest sports and energy drinks. Student athletes have unique nutritional needs, requiring approximately 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day, depending on body composition, amount of exercise and other health factors.

Here are some tips for fueling your body for optimal strength and energy:

-Eat a variety of foods including protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, minerals and vitamins; lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and dairy for calcium provide a balanced diet

-Avoid supplements and steroids, which can have negative side effects on your health

-Avoid extreme diets. Youth athletes require the proper amount of nutrition and depriving your body of proper nutrients can cause decreased energy, muscle loss and sometimes, more serious health problems

-Hydrate with water; avoid caffeine and sugary drinks
Before practices and games:

-Be sure to eat a small, balanced meal approximately 2 to 4 hours before the event and include proteins and carbohydrates such as a turkey sandwich, or pasta and tomato sauce

-No time for a meal? Eat a light snack less than 2 hours before the event such as low-fiber fruits, crackers or yogurt

-Hydrate by drinking plenty of water before, during and after sports activities; avoid caffeine

Because body sizes and activity levels vary from person-to-person, you need to alter your diet to fit your individual needs. For more information, visit and create a personalized plan that works best for you.

Check out my latest News Article on fast food. Good tips for busy lifestyles!

Posted August 18th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Nutrition: Good food can be had at drive-through window of fast-food joint

Are you always on the go? Do you frequent the drive-through, resigned to make unhealthy eating choices?

What if I told you that some simple planning can go a long way in building healthier eating habits into a busy lifestyle? It really doesn’t have to be complicated or require you to spend long hours preparing meals in your kitchen.

When you know that you are going to be in a car most of the day, you can pack some essentials into a cooler ahead of time, avoiding the need for that fast food fix. Select healthy snacks that will give you an energy boost during the day and prevent you from overeating at meals. A few suggestions are frozen grapes, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sliced apples.

For an easy lunch, pack one cup of yogurt, 1 to 2 ounces of low-fat string cheese, a small cucumber, one cup of strawberries and about 40 pretzel sticks.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. If you drink water throughout the day instead of soda, you will cut out many empty calories.

What if you forgot to pack lunch (or didn’t have time to grocery shop) and fast food is your only option? Luckily, thanks to an increasing demand from health-conscious customers, more restaurants are offering healthier choices. If you are going to a drive-through, always avoid deep-fried foods and high-calorie sauces.

Here are some better choices that will fill you up without packing on the pounds:

McDonald’s – Asian Salad with grilled chicken, Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait (no granola) 470 calories, 36 grams protein, 52 grams carbs, 15 grams fat and 5 grams fiber.

Wendy’s – Mandarin Chicken Salad, low-fat honey mustard dressing, low-fat strawberry yogurt (no granola) 420 calories, 29 grams protein, 66 grams carbs, 6.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Arby’s – Chicken Fillet Sandwich (grilled, hold the mayo), fruit cup. 344 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Burger King – BK Veggie Burger (hold the mayo and cheese) and Mott’s strawberry flavored apple sauce. 430 calories, 23 grams protein, 69 grams carbs, 8 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Pizza Hut – 2 slices 12″ Fit ‘N Delicious Pizza-diced chicken, red onion and green pepper. 340 calories, 18 grams protein, 46 grams carbs, 10 grams fat and 2 grams fiber.

Subway – Turkey Breast 6-inch Sandwich, Veggie Delite Salad, fat-free dressing. 375 calories, 22 grams protein, 65 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Chick-fil-A – Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, large fruit cup – 370 calories, 29 grams protein, 59 grams carbs, 3.5 grams fat and 6 grams fiber.

All of the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A come in below the 500-calorie mark, but the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the lowest in calories at 270.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. Continue to read her series Tuesdays.

Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition .com,, or call 275-2132.