The Saturday Skinny: Read food labels to balance nutrition

By: Don Chaddock, Gold Country News Service
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I am frequently asked questions regarding my weight loss. They range from the basics, "How did you do it?", to, "What's the difference between pinto beans and black beans?" Let's tackle the second question. Pinto beans aren't "bad" for you, but black beans are a better choice. Why? Read the label. Pinto beans offer about 80 calories per 1/2 cup serving with no fat. They boast 5 grams of dietary fiber (19 percent of recommended daily allowance) and 6 grams of protein. But when you get down to the vitamins and minerals, they only have 10 percent of your iron and 6% of your calcium. Black beans, on the other hand, have 70 calories per 1/2 cup, with no fat. They also have the same 5 grams of dietary fiber but also offer 45 percent of your iron, 6 percent of your calcium and an additional 2 percent of vitamin C. Just based on nutritional punch per calorie, black beans win with a knock out. That's the key for me: What gives me the most nutrients for the least amount of calories as I try to shake off these remaining pounds. I started this weight loss journey a little more than 18 months ago, topping the scale at 303 pounds. As of July 20, I surpassed my goal, losing 103 pounds with a weigh-in of 200 pounds. I have set myself a new goal, since I'm still considered overweight for my 6-foot tall frame. I'd like to get down to 190 and then I'll probably stop there. I'm also trying something new -- a protein powder for my smoothies. I happened across a brown rice protein powder that isn't too terrible. I'm no fan of these sorts of things, but I'm trying to step up my game, knowing each pound I pry off my body will be more difficult. Another frequent question I get is, "How do you know what to buy at the store? It's just overwhelming." Here's a quick reference guide for my shopping cart. Feel free to use it for yourself. SHOPPING Fresh vegetables (avoiding "starchy" veggies like peas) Leafy greens (kale, lettuce) Sweet potatoes (white or yellow exterior, NOT red or orange as those are commonly labeled as yams and contain more sugar) Yams (a healthy "treat" when cut in half lengthwise and roasted in 400-degree oven face down on a cookie sheet until soft) Baby spinach (in bag) Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli) Broccolini, asaparagus (when in season, great for roasting or grilling) Carrots, tomatoes Fresh fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, cherries, grapes, plums, peaches, apricots) Frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots) Cereal (Nutty Nuggets at Raleys, Quaker Oatmeal Squares) Yogurt - nonfat plain, nonfat vanilla (great for adding to smoothies) Cottage cheese - lowfat Milk, nonfat Tortillas (low calorie, low fat) Black beans (canned, but I rinse them before serving) Refried black beans (low fat or nonfat) Veggie Patty (from Trader Joe's) Oatmeal Quinoa (can be found in the bulk aisle at Raleys or in a box at Trader Joe's, sometimes found at Costco) Brown rice (sold everywhere, avoid "instant" kind) Fish, frozen or fresh (not processed, but from the meat section) Ground turkey (for the occasional burrito night or to make turkey chili) Dreyer's Slow Churn brand ice cream (for an occasional treat, half half the fat and fewer calories) Buy what you like, but read the labels. Avoid processed and salty foods. RECIPE OF THE WEEK Grain bowl 1 cup kale 1 cup quinoa or brown rice 1/2 cup black beans Handful of cherry tomatoes Handful of lettuce (romaine or other good "leafy" kind) Handful of baby spinach Prepare your kale a few hours beforehand by tearing it from the stalk and placing in a food storage container with lemon or lime juice, salt and a little olive oil. Shake until all leaves are coated. Line bottom of bowl with kale. On top of that add lettuce, baby spinach, quinoa or brown rice, and top with black beans and tomatoes. Dress with a low calorie salad dressing (I use a 35-calorie per serving yogurt dressing, found in the area near the salads). Serve. I eat this regularly as an entire meal. If I'm still hungry, I opt for a piece of fruit. Sometimes, I'll pack a smaller version with my lunch, as shown in this week's photo. Reach Don Chaddock at or follow him on Twitter @anewsguy. His column, The Saturday Skinny, publishes every Saturday and contains nutrition and exercise tips for losing weight.