February 2008

This month we aren't sizing up competition, instead we are sizing up our portions. Gone are the days with one serving for each of you in your family, and in has come super sized or family sized meals for one. It is time to start rethinking the way we approach our meals. I invite you to size up your food this month.
-Amy Vermeer-

"People who laugh actually live longer than those who don't laugh. Few persons realize that health actually varies according to the amount of laughter."

~ James J. Walsh

This month's issue

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Sizing up your food choices

I continue to be shocked as I walk through the aisles in grocery stores at the size of products on the shelves. I would expect to see these larger products if I were shopping in a Sam's Club or Costco but the food we buy today in the regular stores can easily be three or even four times larger than was once introduced into the market. The same goes for the portions when eating out or even eating at home, we have allowed our portions to get bigger and studies have shown that the bigger the portion, the more we will eat.

Let's define two important terms - servings and portions as they are not equal. A portion size is based on how much you choose to eat, whether at home, or out at a restaurant. A serving is typically listed on packaged food we purchase and can be set by government standards, be based on a recipe or by a diet plan. An example to better understand this would be to look at the label of a bottled juice. On the label it will list how many calories per serving, assuming this is 120 calories and there are 2 servings in the bottle, you would be consuming 240 calories as the average person drinks the full bottle (or portion). In another circumstance where labels don't exist, if you eat a muffin at your local bakery, you may think you are only taking in one serving, but because the size of muffins vary greatly you could very well be taking in 4-5 servings in one sitting, which is almost an entire day's worth. Again, this is dependent on how much you consume (portion size). To help keep your eating habits under control, I have listed below everyday objects that will help you to better evaluate your portion sizes:

  • cup of Pasta = Tennis ball
  • Serving of poultry or meat (3 oz) = deck of cards
  • Serving of fish (3 oz) = check book
  • cup of nuts = golf ball
  • Eat Serving of vegetables = size of your fist (but I don't like to limit you in this category).
  • Serving of bread, waffle or pancake = compact disc

Please note that I provide the above list solely to educate you on how to help curb this phenomenon of over-eating and over-abundance in portion sizes. You may have grown up being told to clean your plate but nowadays you have to reverse that thinking and focus more on getting the nutritious food your body needs without eating three or even four times more than is actually needed.

Food Focus: Dark Chocolate

You may think that making this month's food focus about dark chocolate is unusual; however, did you know this delicious treat can help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by an impressive 21%? I want to be clear, this does not mean you can run to your local convenience store and buy any regular chocolate bar off the shelf. Those don't contain the healthy ingredients that provide healthy benefits. You need the benefits of flavonoids found in real cocoa, which means buying dark chocolate with a high-cocoa content. You may be asking yourself what flavonoids are - they are compounds also found in cranberries, red wine and tea. There are various types of flavonoids and the type found in cocoa are called flavanols. The flavanols in cocoa prevent fatlike substances to get clogged in your arteries. Additionally, cocoa contains magnesium, an important mineral for a healthy heart. So eat organic chocolate and the darkest you can find, preferably with 60% real cocoa or higher. More cocoa means less sugar and fat, so go ahead and enjoy an ounce or two every few weeks. Additionally, you can head down to my recipe of the month and try a new twist on the brownie.

Recipe of the Month

Vegan, Wheat-Free Fudgy Brownies

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: About 24 brownies (depending on how you divide up your pan)


2 cups natural cane sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I utilize barley flour here to create a wheat free version)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup soft tofu
3/4 cup chocolate soymilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  2. Combine applesauce, tofu, soymilk and vanilla in food processor, and process until well blended.
  3. 1.
  4. Add tofu mixture to dry ingredients, and mix well. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until batter is set and top is dry, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan; cut into bars and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Vegetarian times, tailored by Amy Vermeer for wheat-free version

Action Items:

  • Don't get bogged down with calorie counting, start to train your eye to help you control your portion sizes as well as prevent over eating. If nothing else, you'll be the talk of the table as you hover a deck of cards over your plate
  • Thanks to some feedback received, next month I will be talking about High-Fructose Corn Syrup helping keep you an informed consumer. Keep the questions and feedback coming by emailing me at amy.vermeer@eatlivelaugh.com
  • Valentine's day or not, it's nice to treat ourselves to a little sweet from time to time. Try a different twist to an all-time favorite and surprise yourself at the decadent flavor while your friends with sensitive tummies thank you

Giving Back: Good Search

An online search tool powered by Yahoo, GoodSearch donates 50% of its revenues to a charity of your choice each time you search. So whether your cause is to support finding a cure for cancer or helping save the environment you can do so by simply performing your online searches at www.goodsearch.com. Sounds like a win-win situation to me, find what you're looking for while helping out those in need. Happy searching!

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