Category Archives: Dr. Joanna Dolgoff – Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right

Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. is a Pediatrician, Child Obesity Expert, and Author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right (Rodale, 2010). Dr. Dolgoff’s child and adolescent weight loss program has been featured on The Today Show, Nightline, Discovery Health, CNN, Good Morning America Health, Extra!, WABC News, WNBC News, Fox 5 Morning Show, My9 News, and WPIX News. She is an official blogger for The Huffington Post, and is the official doctor for Camp Shane, the nation’s longest-running weight loss camp. Children from 46 different states and four countries are losing weight with Dr. Dolgoff’s online weight-loss program.

Dr. Dolgoff attended Princeton University and the NYU School of Medicine. She completed her Pediatric Residency at the Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital of New York. She is a Board-Certified Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a former certified fitness instructor. Dr. Dolgoff resides in Roslyn, New York, with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 7.

Are Sports Drinks Healthier Than Soda?

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, adolescents in states with strict laws regulating the sale of snacks and sugary drinks in public schools gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such laws. This is great news! However, while half as many U.S. adolescents as in 2006 can still buy high-calorie sodas in schools, other sugary beverages remain easily available at schools, a recent survey showed. University of Michigan Ann Arbor researchers found the trend in a survey of more than 1,900 public schools, which has grown as the institutions banish sodas from vending machines, school stores and cafeterias.

It is concerning to me, as well as, many other public health experts and medical professionals that there is very little regulation of other sugary beverages sold in schools. Schools should be setting the example of making healthful choices for life. The fact that fruit drinks, sports drinks and other beverages with added sugar and calories that could lead to obesity over time can still be bought easily in schools reflects a nationwide trend that consumers view these drinks as healthier alternatives.

What kids and adults alike need to realize is that these drinks that can still pack excess calories and sugar. Consider this statistic: Consuming one 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day increases a child’s risk of obesity. Research shows that these sugary drinks directly relate to higher incidents of obesity and many youth – and adults – are still consuming them unnecessarily. They were designed for athletes who have been sweating for an hour or more, not for children as they walk across campus or eat their lunch. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), added sugar is defined as any sugar or syrup that is added to foods during processing or preparation, and sugar or syrup that is added at the table during meal times. Soft drinks and sweetened beverages are the number-one culprit in Americans’ diets, with one can of soda containing 8 teaspoons and almost 130 calories of sugar.
Additionally, sodas and other beverages high in sugar are among the most prominent factors contributing to our nation’s obesity epidemic. Consider this: A 32 ounce sports drink has 14 teaspoons of sugar!

The AHA recently released new guidelines limiting the amount of added sugar considered acceptable for a healthy diet. Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn’t consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. As your child grows into his pre-teen and teen years, and his caloric range increases to 1,800 to 2,000 a day, the maximum amount of added sugar included in his daily diet should be 5 to 8 teaspoons. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting juice intake to 4-6 ounces – which is less than 1 cup (118-177 milliliters) – for kids under 7 years old, and no more than 8-12 ounces (237-355 milliliters) of juice for older kids and teens.

Specifically, sports drinks or electrolyte replacement beverages are designed to replace fluids after vigorous exercise and generally contain sodium and potassium to help fluids absorb in the body. Even after strenuous exercise (continuous vigorous exercise for more than 60 minutes) research indicates that sports drinks serve no added benefit over water. Additionally, studies show that consumption of too much added sugar can make kids have a harder time learning and can cause erosion of tooth enamel from the acidity and dental cavities (or caries) from the high sugar content.  

Such drinks should be regulated in schools in favor of water, low-fat or nonfat milk and 100 percent vegetable juices with no added sugar. The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Sciences which advises the U.S. government on related issues, has already called for the elimination of regular sodas, allowing sports drinks only for certain student athletes, and limiting other diet or caffeine-free drinks to high schools students. USDA’s pending rules are supposed to cover food and drinks sold in school vending machines, snack bars, school stores and cafeteria “a la carte” lines. In the meantime, some school districts across the United States have already sought to make voluntarily efforts to push healthier vending machine options.

These voluntary efforts are much needed and hopefully continue to become commonplace. In the meantime, here are some tips to limit soda and sugary beverages in your child’s diet:

-Kids are very visual. Show them how many teaspoons of sugar are actually in a can of soda. It is basically like eating straight up sugar packets!

-Infuse water with fun fruits and veggies that your child likes. For example, cucumbers, strawberries and watermelon all make great choices.

-Add a splash of 100% fruit juice to seltzer water for a healthy fizzy drink.

-Make a fruit smoothie with frozen bananas, low fat yogurt and 1 tbsp of reduced fat peanut butter.

Focus on the Food – Not the Delivery Method

While it’s true, more women today are opting for C-sections than in previous generations, they may be contributing to their child’s risk of obesity.  A new study reports babies born via Caesarean section are twice as likely to become obese by age 3 as infants delivered vaginally.  If you have no specific medical need for a C-section, choosing one may do more harm than good.

This is an important element for women to consider if they are contemplating an “elective” C-section for convenience.  However, if a section is medically necessary, the increased risk of obesity is not enough to override the need for surgery.

The study included more than 1,250 mother-child pairs admitted to the Massachusetts hospital between 1999 and 2002.  Twenty-five percent of babies were delivered by C-section, the rest were delivered vaginally.  The babies were measured at birth, 6 months and again at 3 years old.

Nearly 16 percent of children delivered via C-section were Obese by the age of 3, while only 7.5 percent of those delivered vaginally.  Also, about 19 percent of the C-section kids were overweight compared to just less than 17 percent of the others.

As usual, further research is needed to confirm these findings.  What is causing the increased risk is not quite clear, however, researchers and physicians believe that the different modes of delivery may influence the gut bacteria at birth.  According to the researchers, the gut bacteria may influence obesity by affecting the calories and nutrients absorbed from the diet and may also stimulate cells in a way that boosts insulin resistance, inflammation and fat.

While C-sections may be associated with increased risk of obesity, it is not the cause of the obesity epidemic.  We still need to focus on what we are feeding our children, regardless of mode of delivery.

What this study failed to consider is the types of foods these kids were being raised on and the amount of physical activity they did or did not participate in.  It’s no secret that American children are getting heavier, but taking the responsibility away from the parents and placing blame on the way in which the mother gave birth is crippling our children even further.

With so many resources at our fingertips it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle forgetting what really needs to be taken care of – our health.  Today’s generation wants everything now and that may not be the healthiest choice when it comes to our diet.  Processed foods and fast food restaurants are filled with excess sugars, fat and calories contributing to our kids [and our own] expanding waistlines and increasing stress levels.  While time and convenience rule over other considerations when making a decision, it’s usually not the right choice.  Taking the time to prepare a nutritious meal for you and your family will get you further in all aspects of your life.

Whether or not you deliver your baby via C-section, we as parents need to teach our children how to lead a healthy lifestyle and eat right from day 1.  Starting early with your kids will empower them to be in charge of their own weight and health related destiny providing them with the tools to keep them out of risk of becoming overweight or obese as an adult.  If you’re unsure of what to do, start by introducing nutritious foods early and focus on making food fun.  Choose fruits and vegetables from all colors of the rainbow and get your kids involved in planning the weekly menu, grocery shopping and preparing foods.  If your kids are having fun with food their mind will be open to eating [and liking] a wider variety of nutritious options.

Healthy Processed Foods: Do They Exist?


It’s unrealistic to think that the average person, who’s faced with fast food and processed food on a regular basis, can start following a completely rigid diet of 100% “clean”, fresh, or local foods. While it may work for some people, it’s not reasonable for the masses as issues of seasonality and transportation make it difficult for all of us to access fresh and local foods all the time.

The 2010 Better Homes and Gardens Food Factor Survey revealed just how dependent today’s cooks are on convenience foods. Of 3,600 women surveyed from across the United States, 71% of them purchased convenience produce (eg, prepared salads, chopped fruits and vegetables), and 81% purchased convenient forms of fresh poultry and meats regularly.

According to Health and Human Services, the quest for convenience is leading more people to consume away-from-home quick-service or restaurant meals or to buy ready-to-eat, quickly accessible meals to prepare at home. When the wrong choices are made, the trend contributes to obesity, especially among children. However, while most people might think of processed food as something that comes wrapped in plastic from a factory across the country, many processed foods can deliver lots of nutrition without doing you any harm.

The best way to assess a food’s value is to decipher its nutrition facts panel. Besides the basics of paying attention to calories and serving size, here are tips to guide you from the Food and Drug Administration:

●Choose products with high daily value percentages (20 percent or more per serving) of fiber and of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron.

●Look for low daily value percentages (5 percent or less) of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

●The following terms signal added sugars, which contain lots of calories but little nutrition value: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup.

Healthful Processed Convenient Foods Here’s a roundup of foods that, though processed and packaged, pack a nutritional punch.

Yogurt: The yogurt making process is probably also what makes it so good for you. In addition to the calcium and protein, vitamins and minerals yogurt delivers, the active bacteria cultures that give it its tangy taste are probiotics that are thought to provide digestive health benefits.

Canned beans: Beans are an excellent source of protein (especially for those who don’t eat meat) and fiber. Sure, you can buy, dry and soak them (thereby processing them yourself). But you can’t beat the convenience of canned. Look for reduced-sodium brands, or drain and rinse your beans before eating.

Jarred spaghetti sauce: The process of cooking actually improves the quality of the antioxidant carotenoids that give tomatoes their color, making jarred sauce a healthful choice. Sauces are also seasoned with herbs, which add vitamins and minerals such as potassium.

Canned salmon: We all supposed to be eating more fish — at least two four-ounce servings a week, according to federal dietary guidelines — and fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna are tops because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain. But buying fresh fish can get expensive. Canned varieties provide the same nutrition.

Frozen fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak and immediately frozen retain all their nutritional value, allowing us to enjoy their benefits year round. They’re often less expensive than fresh produce, too.

Brown rice: In a bag or frozen, this healthful choice takes only eight to 10 minutes to prepare compared with about 45 minutes the traditional way.

Individual cups of hummus: High in protein, it’s good for lunch or a snack. Hummus can be used for dipping carrot or celery sticks, or whole-grain crackers for an added nutritional punch.

Edamame: Frozen edamame can be toasted or stir-fried or added to any casserole, soup, or stew for added fiber and protein.

Prepackaged guacamole snack packs: Guacamole packets are great for topping off a prepackaged salad with healthy fats without the hassle of peeling, mashing, and seasoning fresh avocados.

Eggs: Eggs are an incredible source of high-quality protein and are also one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring sources of Vitamin D, a nutrient that most individuals are deficient in. Boil them or crack them open and scramble or make a quick omelet or frittata with precut vegetables for a healthy, convenient meal.

Nuts: Roasted peanuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, macadamias, and Brazil nuts are portable, nutritious, and, on a per-serving basis, very affordable.




One of the most difficult times of the year for those trying to lose weight is the holiday season. While the holidays are a time to get together with family and friends, every party and gathering is also an excuse to take a holiday from your healthy heating habits. A cookie here, a chocolate there, washed down with some egg nog, and before you know it your pants are too tight.

The good news is that with a little foresight, those holiday pounds can be easily avoided while still enjoying the holiday season.

To start off, here are our tips for getting through Thanksgiving:

  • Start the feast on a healthy – and filling – note. Instead of caloric dips and fatty appetizers, have low-calorie pre-dinner munchies available during food preparation and pre-dinner socializing.

  • Place bowls of different-colored veggies without sauces on the table first, either at the start of the buffet or as the first dishes passed around the table. That will allow people to cover a good portion of their plates with healthier choices before serving calorie-denser foods like stuffing and mashed potatoes.

  • Serve salad as a first course. Go heavy on greens, light on non-veggie add-ins like cheese.

  • Make the vegetable side dishes the star of the show – or at least the co-star. Try new, eye-appealing and interesting veggie recipes that pack plenty of flavor without extra calories.

  • Avoid adding hidden calories during food preparation, such as adding butter to mashed white or sweet potatoes, or butter, oil or cheese to veggies.

  • Sneak a few veggies into the dressing, such as diced onions, celery, leeks, shallots, carrots, even cauliflower.

  • Make gravy a choice, not the default. Instead, the default serving should be turkey without gravy. If someone wants gravy, they should add it themselves.

  • Be mindful of served portion sizes; someone can always ask for more.

  • Get everyone up and moving before dessert. Always have plain fruit options along with traditional choices.

  • Have plenty of water on the table and readily available. Make non-caloric beverages the default option.


Holiday meals don’t have to pack such a high calorie punch.  Simple makeover tips can lighten a meal and keep the taste just as good:

  • Baked turkey – choose a plain bird over a self-basting bird to lower the sodium content.  To ensure a moist bird, bake un-stuffed, leave the skin on while roasting and remove from the oven when internal temperature reaches 170 degrees in the breast.
  • Gravy – use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices (to harden the fat) and skim the fat off before making gravy.  Save around 656 grams of fat per cup!
  • Candied yams – leave out the margarine and marshmallows.  Sweeten with a little fruit juice, such as apple and flavor with cinnamon.
  • Green bean casserole – cook fresh green beans with chunks of potatoes instead of cream soup.  Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
  • Mashed potatoes – use skim milk, roasted garlic, and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
  • Bread – serve smaller pieces or omit it altogether.
  • The plate method – imagine your plate divided into thirds.  Use the first third to fan out white meat turkey, no skin.  Use the second third for salad and low-fat vegetables.  Finally, the last third is for all the starches (sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce).


A typical Thanksgiving Meal

  • Roast turkey (dark and white meat) with skin (4 oz)
  • Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows (1 cup)
  • Green bean casserole
  • Jellied cranberry sauce (½ cup)
  • Caesar salad
  • Mashed potatoes with milk and butter (1 cup)
  • Apple pie with vanilla ice-cream
  • Pecan Pie

TOTAL CALORIES:                  2,796 calories OR 7 RED LIGHTS!

Green Light Thanksgiving Meal

  • Roast turkey (light meat only), no skin (4oz) (2 GREENS)
  • Small Baked sweet potato (1 GREEN)
  • Sautéed green beans (1 GREEN)
  • Green Light cran-berries sauce (½ cup) (1/2 GREEN)
  • Mixed green salad with fat-free Italian Dressing (FREE)
  • Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and skim milk (1 cup) (2 GREENS)
  • Green Light pumpkin pie (1 GREEN)

TOTAL CALORIES:         750 calories or 2 RED LIGHTS


Green Light Pumpkin Pie

This pumpkin pie saves 244 calories and 14 grams of fat per slice from the traditional version and it tastes identical!


1 cup Fiber One

16 oz. can pumpkin

½ cup egg whites (about 4)

½ cup sugar OR 3 ½ teaspoons Splenda for Recipes

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves)

12 oz. can evaporated skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grind the cookies in a food processor.
  2. Lightly spray a glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray.  Pat the cookie crumbs into the pan evenly.
  3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Store in the refrigerator.
  4. Allow to cool and slice in 8 wedges. Optional: serve each wedge with fat free whipped cream.

Serves 8

Each slice (made with sugar):

128 calories, 0g fat, 05g saturated fat, 2mg cholesterol, 249mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 6.5g protein. (1 YELLOW)

Each slice (made with Splenda):

79 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 2mg cholesterol, 249mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 6.5g protein.  (1 GREEN)


Traditional Pumpkin Pie: 557 calories, 33g fat

Traditional Pecan Pie: 680 calories, 35g fat

Green Light Cran-Berries Sauce

This easy to follow recipe is the BEST cranberry sauce you have ever tasted!  You will be hooked!  It is also great with roast meats, fish and as a dessert topping!

Most cranberry sauce recipes call for one cup of sugar – 774 calories. Instead replace the sugar with splenda and cut the calories in half.


1 10-oz bag fresh cranberries

1 cup of water

1 cup Splenda

1 10 oz. bag frozen blueberries (defrosted) or mixed berries

1 small can crushed pineapple in natural juice (optional)

  1. Place cranberries, water and Splenda in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Bring ingredients to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from stove and add blueberries and pineapple.
  4. Place in a container and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Green Light Cran-Berries Sauce (made with Splenda):

48 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 1g protein. (1/2 GREEN)


Traditional Cranberry Sauce (1 cup):

418 calories, 1g protein, 107g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, <1g fat. (1 RED + 1 GREEN)


Dr. Dolgoff offers advice to a Facebook friend and viewer



Hi Robin. My name is Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. and I am a pediatrician and child obesity specialist.  I am sorry to hear about your complications related to your gastric bypass surgery, but am so happy to hear how motivated you are to make healthy choices, live a healthy lifestyle, and be an excellent role model for your kids.  It is so great that your are encouraging your kids to engage in regular physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 60 minutes of vigorous exercise most days of the week. This would be a great goal to set for your kids.

In terms of diet, the bottom line is that you need to find a diet that works for you and your kids, one that you can live with.  I have provided the following recommendations that may help you and your kids lead a healthy lifestyle in light of their struggles with their medical conditions.

Eat breakfast: Many people make the mistake of skipping breakfast, this commonly results in a sluggish metabolism and decreased energy stores until you eat next. In the case of many people,this is lunch time. To compensate for skipping breakfast they may eat a very large lunch, which will result in further slowing the metabolism and making the individual feel drowsy and sluggish. DO not think there s not time for breakfast- there is. Whether you have to get out of bed ten minutes earlier or opt for a quick and easy breakfast option such as cereal or a breakfast bar;breakfast is essential in controlling your metabolism.

Drink water: In order to optimize your diet and lose weight it is essential to drink sufficient amount of water each day. Most people drink insufficient amounts of water in a day. This has the negative effect of making the person feel as if they are hungry, resulting in them eating unnecessarily. This introduces extra energy into the body which is consequently stored as fat. Ensure you drink plenty of water to avoid unnecessary energy intake.

Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sticking to the basics will ensure you eat sufficient healthy food for normal functions, and will ensure you limit any fats in your diet.

Select lean meat: Replace any fatty cuts of meats with lean cuts. Ensure you remove all visible fat or remove the skin form chicken. Avoid sausages, salami, and other processed meats as these tend to be very high in fat.

Select skim/trim/reduced fat dairy:Dairy products are high in fat and thus high in energy. Consuming full cream dairy products will only result in unnecessary energy being introduced into the diet. Opting for skim, trim or reduced fat milks, cheeses and yoghurts will ultimately result in a decrease in overall energy in the diet, thus making weight loss easier.

The Red Light Green Light Eat Right program has helped thousands of children and adults alike with similar situations.  If you have nutritional concerns regarding yourself or your children, please feel free to contact us anytime at

Is It Okay To Get Healthy the Stealthy Way?


Let’s be honest, most of us could use more vegetables in our diet. In fact, studies show that a mere 27% of adults get the recommended 3 servings of vegetables per day.

Kids get even less! A past study found that only 22% of children ages 2-5 met recommendations for vegetable intake, and in children ages 6-11, only 16% met recommendations for vegetable intake. In addition, a recent study found that between a third and a half of all the fruits and vegetables served to youngsters at some school cafeterias last year wound up in the trash. Similar situations are occurring at schools nationwide, as well.

What gives?!

Oftentimes, encouraging the addition of vegetables to one’s diet results in a rolling of the eyes or a patronizing, “Yes mom,” but what if there was an easy way to consume more veggies and lose weight even if you didn’t like the taste of veggies?

A study out of Pennsylvania State University incorporated pureed vegetables into participants’ meals, effectively doubling their fiber intake, lowering the caloric content and adding nutrients without sacrificing taste! Researchers served 41 volunteers breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner on three occasions; each time they provided the same meals, but the main dishes contained different amounts of steamed and pureed carrots, squash, or cauliflower. When given a dish that was 25 percent vegetables compared with one that had none, the participants consumed 360 fewer daily calories on average but reported no differences in hunger, and fewer than half realized that the dishes had been altered. Consuming 360 calories per day less equals roughly a pound of weight lost in just ten days without even dieting!

The cookbook author, Jessica Seinfeld, who has encouraged parents to sneak vegetables into foods like spaghetti, had popularized this strategy. However, it is important to keep in mind, that when serving the foods to young children, you must continue offering whole vegetables on the side so children develop a taste for vegetables.

If you’re striving to help your family live a healthier lifestyle, you’ve probably already made some reduced calorie swaps, like low-fat in place of whole milk or veggie burgers for quarter-pounders, but there may still be some food substitutions that you haven’t tried. I have also included some of my favorite strategies I use to cut calories but keep the taste, including easy ways to add puree vegetables
to your diet:

At Restaurants:
If I order a salad at a restaurant and none of the dressings seem appealing, I will often ask for a little dish of salsa on the side. This non-traditional topping adds a lot of flavor and is usually less processed than industrial salad dressings.

At Home:

Buy puree vegetable baby food or frozen vegetable purees and add them to sauces, soups, casseroles and even lean ground beef burgers!

When it comes to baking, the possibilities for cutting down on fat while retaining flavor abound. If a recipe calls for a half-cup of oil, try replacing the oil with canned pumpkin, applesauce, or puréed prunes. Although it sounds a little odd, puréeing dried prunes and a little hot water in your food processor is an easy way to add sweetness and reduce calories in baked goods. 

Another favorite baked snack is the onion. Chop an onion into quarters without cutting all the way through in order to create the “blooming” effect. Drizzle on a little olive oil and season with a little salt to taste. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast away! When its done just separate the layers one by one and eat them like chips.

Olive oil is a healthy fat, but you can have too much of a good thing. It’s easy to add two-plus tablespoons of oil while making a stir-fry — and that can add up to 250 calories. Instead, try sauteeing your veggies in a little chicken or veggie broth.

Are Our Kids and Their Diets Too Sweet?

It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t love sugary foods, and chances are the processed or packaged food your child eats has some amount of added sugar. New research suggests that this trend has spiraled out of control and is causing serious health consequences for families. Foods that are high in added sugar (soda, cookies, cake, candy, frozen desserts, and some fruit drinks) tend to also be high in calories and low in other valuable nutrients. As a result, a high-sugar diet is often linked with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

A recent American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement containing specific guidelines on limiting sugar intake has sparked conversation about just how much sugar people should consume and how to make cutting back less bothersome.

How Much Sugar Should You and Your Kids Consume?
The guidelines, published in the August 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, state most women should consume no more than 100 calories, and men no more than 150 calories, of added sugar. These numbers average out to about 6 to 9 teaspoons, or 25 to 37.5 grams, of sugar a day.

Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn’t consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. As your child grows into his pre-teen and teen years, and his caloric range increases to 1,800 to 2,000 a day, the maximum amount of added sugar included in his daily diet should be 5 to 8 teaspoons.

A study conducted by the AHA found children as young as 1-3 years already bypass the daily recommendations, and typically consume around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. By the time a child is 4-8 years old, his sugar consumption skyrockets to an average of 21 teaspoons a day. The same study found 14-18 year old children intake the most sugar on a daily basis, averaging about 34.3 teaspoons. That is about four times the recommended amount!
For this reason, it is extremely important to be able to recognize sources of added sugar in your diet, understand why consuming extra sugar can be harmful to health, and how best to limit added sugars.

Beware of Hidden Added Sugars
Added sugars are sugars and syrups included in foods during processing or preparation, as well as sugars and syrups that consumers add themselves. According to the AHA statement, a healthy and well-balanced diet contains naturally occurring sugars present in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and many grains. Naturally occurring sugars supply healthy nutrients while still fulfilling people’s cravings for sweets.

The best way to determine whether a food contains added sugar is to read the ingredient list. Although added sugars may appear in a variety of ways, in terms of calorie content, all added sugars are essentially the same. The names for added sugars used on food labels include those listed below:
Brown sugar
• Corn sweetener

• Corn syrup

• Dextrose
• Fructose

• Fruit juice concentrates

• Glucose

• High-fructose corn syrup

• Honey

• Invert sugar

• Lactose

• Malt syrup

• Maltose

• Molasses

• Sucrose

As of now, sugar grams listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels don’t distinguish naturally occurring sugars from added sugar so it is important to scour the ingredients list for hidden sources of sugar.

The main sources of added sugars in the Western diet include soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages such as fruit juices and sports drinks. In fact, according to the AHA statement, between 1970 and 2000, the per-person daily consumption of caloric soft drinks increased by a whopping 70%! While you may know that such foods are sugar sweetened without reading labels, there are other items that may not be so obvious. Examples include ketchup, barbeque sauce, baked beans, and even some salad dressings.

The Problem With Sugar Overload

High intakes of added sugar have been linked to overweight and obesity, a lower intake of essential nutrients, increased triglyceride levels, hypertension, and inflammation. All of these are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which is what the AHA scientific statement addresses on specifically. In addition, too much added sugar in the diet can also “take up space,” leaving little room for healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and lean sources of protein.

Defeat the Sweets 

Start out small, and note that beverages are often a great starting point for change. Beverages are especially problematic because research shows that liquid calories are not as satiating as calories consumed as solid food. As a result, people don’t compensate for liquid calories in the same way they do calories from solid food. Quench your thirst with these healthier alternatives:
• Plain or carbonated water being the best choice
• Add a splash of your favorite fruit juice to a glass of sparkling water

Although there’s no added sugar in 100% fruit juice, the calories from the natural sugars found in fruit juice can add up. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting juice intake to 4-6 ounces (118-177 milliliters) for kids under 7 years old, and no more than 8-12 ounces (237-355 milliliters) of juice for older kids and teens.

Candy is another sweet treat that many may find difficult to relinquish. Try substituting candy with these healthier alternatives:
• Mixed nuts, dried fruit (made without added sugar), and low-sugar cereals for candy
• 1 square of 70% dark chocolate
• Apple slices with 2 Tablespoons Almond Butter

Remember, enjoying a treat now and again is not a bad thing, which is exactly why 2 red light foods are allowed on the Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right meal plans. Those who allow themselves an occasional indulgence rather than trying to abstain often find success making healthy lifestyle changes. Those who attempt to deny themselves all sweets may not have as much success, especially if they previously consumed a lot of sugar. By taking small steps, you can begin to cut back on the sweet stuff and get on track to a healthier, green light, lifestyle.

Movie Theater Tips


When you are at the movies the aroma of popcorn hits you as soon as you walk though the door. For many people, the experience of going to the movies includes popcorn, soda, and candy. These high calorie treats could be scarier than the next blockbuster horror flick! With a little planning, you can still enjoy a yummy snack that doesn’t sabotage your diet.

You may wonder just how bad a tub of popcorn could be. On average, a large popcorn (which contains 20 cups) contains approximately 100 grams of fat- the equivalent of more than six fast food hamburgers. With about 1,300 calories, that large popcorn packs almost a full day’s supply of calories for the average dieter.

If you have more of a sweet tooth chocolate bars and boxes of candy might be your downfall. Although you may think that you are able to eat only half of a candy bar in actuality it is very difficult at the movies. Studies show that while watching television or a movie people tend to consume more calories because they are distracted. If you bring health pre-portioned snacks to the movies you will not have to worry about over eating. The best way to avoid temptation at the theater is to eat a balanced meal beforehand full of lean protein and fiber rich carbohydrates. This will keep you satisfied for several hours.

One way to enjoy a treat at the movies without destroying your waistline is to bring your own snacks from home. Here are some health alternatives you can choose:
• Bottles water, club soda, or crystal lite
• Flavor and Fiber Gnu bar or Chocolite Protein Bar
• Dry cereal: Fiber One, Kashi Go Lean or Puffins
• Low fat mozzarella string cheese
• Orville Redenbacher’s 100 calorie mini bags
• 1oz pistachios
• Baby carrots or Sliced Peppers
• Pretzels
• Fruit such as apples, strawberries, raspberries
• Emerald coco roasted almonds 100 calorie pack
• Shelled, salted edamame
• A mix of almonds, raisins, & mini marshmallows
• Jicama matchsticks, tossed with lime juice & chili powder
• Frozen red or green grapes

Going to the movies is a social experience-and that means eating for many people. But you don’t have to miss out on the fun just because you’re watching your diet. By bringing your own portion-controlled snacks from him the only things you’ll be missing are the inches you’ll lose from your waist!

Healthy Food For Less: So Cheap, You’d Think It’s Fast Food


Increasing food prices have more and more shoppers looking for ways to save money at the grocery store without sacrificing nutrition. For those of you who fall into this category, you’ll be happy to know that eating healthier foods can actually save you money. Savings can come from reducing portion sizes and from buying fewer of the high-calorie foods that tend to increase the amount spent at the grocery store. People tend to spend a lot on those “extras” — foods that add calories but little nutritional value, like sodas, bakery items, and chips.

There’s no magic formula to buying or cooking healthy foods on a budget. It takes a little planning and creativity. But if think of the rewards— better health and more money—you’ll find it’s worth the effort.  After all, health is wealth! Here are few ideas that will save you a little green (while also being green lights themselves):

  • Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper: With the advent of Sam’s Club and Costco, you can save big time because the discount for bulk items beats the cost of purchasing individual products. You can either become a member yourself and pay the annual associated fees or you can ask a friend who has a membership to add you to their account. You will have the same benefits for less overhead.
  • Buy generic: Generic brands can provide a great savings! Stores deliberately place the highest-priced brand-name items at eye level, so be sure to literally look high and low for cheaper store brand labels.
  • Go frozen or canned: Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are healthy choices with a long shelf life. Skip ones packed in sauces and sugary syrups and look for low-salt options.
  • Buy sale items: Only if you know what to do with the food! Take advantage of specials on staple—broth, soups, pasta, rice, canned veggies, even bread and meat. Many of these items have a long shelf life or can be frozen for short periods of time.
  • Buy produce in season: Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week, based on fresh produce in season. Food in season is usually priced to sell. During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much. Also, shop your local farmers’ market for great deals on local produce; the prices won’t include shipping costs.
  • Brown-bag it: Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination. Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but you can control all the ingredients so they are healthy and low in calories. Pack a simple sandwich, salad, soup, wrap, and use freezer packs and containers to keep food at the proper temperature unless you have access to a refrigerator.

Wait….There’s more! You can get more for your money if you consider the nutritional value of food for the price. For example, sodas and flavored drinks deliver mostly empty calories and could easily be replaced with less expensive sparkling water with a splash of a 100% fruit juice. When comparing food prices based on the number of servings you’ll get, along with the food’s nutritional contribution, you’ll find many healthier foods give you a big bang your buck. For example, a pound of peaches yields three to four servings. So when you divide the cost per pound, the cost is usually quite reasonable. Here is a list of a few healthy foods you can find in your grocery store for under a dollar that reap huge nutritional rewards.

Prices may vary based on the store, location, and time of year.


  • Price: Approximately $1.99/pound.
  • Great for: Snacks, salads, and fruit salads.
  • Price: 60 cents. This is usually the price for an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
  • Great for: Smoothies, yogurt parfait, dips, and dressings.

Canned Beans (low sodium)

Ø  Price: You can buy a 15-ounce can for about $1 on sale.

Ø  Great for: Salads, soups, and chili.

Yogurt (lowfat, or fat-free)


  • Price: You can buy about a half dozen of eggs for $1
  • Great for: omelets, frittatas, egg salad sandwiches for lunch

Salads: What to Add and What to Toss


Eating salads is a great way to curb your appetite and add nutrients to your diet. However, lurking in restaurants, the salad bar, or your fridge are salad staples that may up your fat and calorie intake more than you realize. If you want to know what to keep and what to toss, check out this advice on how to make healthy salads.

Healthy Salad Basics

Restaurants/Salad Bar: Most restaurant salads would be healthy if it weren’t for the way they were prepared. At a restaurant and/or a salad bar, take a moment to look over the selection before you start preparing your plate. First things first: When you do begin assembling or ordering your salad, ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces or pile up a large amount of leafy greens. For an added nutrient boost, swap iceberg lettuce for darker greens, such as, romaine lettuce or spinach, as they pack more vitamins and minerals. Try to take up about three-fourths of your plate with greens, then pile on lots of other veggies — sliced peppers, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, sliced beets, and more. Avoid marinated veggies that look super-shiny — those are probably loaded with oil.

Fridge: Be sure to keep loads of fresh veggies on hand so that you can make healthy salads at meal times or make Ready-to-Go Salad Bags. These portable salads are made to eliminate dirty dishes, save time, keep you healthy and losing weight! Making salads every time you want to eat one can be a deterring factor, since it takes a lot of prep time.

First, prep all your veggies by washing them thoroughly, then cutting them up into bite-size pieces. Next, lay all of your veggies out on a long counter or table top so that you have your salad assembly line ready to go. Then, take a zip lock bag and start at the end of the counter that has your greens. Put greens into the bag first, then move down the line filling it with veggies. End with toppings (not dressing), then squeeze any extra air out. Zip and put into the refrigerator. Dressing can be added at meal times by pouring the dressing into the bag and shaking thoroughly.

Healthy Salad Toppings

Toppings and dressings can turn a healthy salad into a diet disaster, but not if you choose wisely.

Crunchy toppings: Skip the croutons, tortilla chips, Chinese noodles, and anything else that might be fried. Add some crunch to your salad with things like sliced water chestnuts, thinly sliced almonds (just a tablespoon or so), and crispy raw veggies.

Dressings: By now we all know that creamy salad dressings, such as ranch and blue cheese, really pump up the fat and calorie counts of our salads. Finding a reduced- or low-fat dressing isn’t always so easy. Not only do you have to taste test until you find one you like, but as with all other food choices, you will need to always check and compare the nutrition labels. It’s possible that a reduced-fat dressing could have more calories than a regular kind. Typically, when fat is removed from a reduced-fat product, something else is added to compensate, such as sugar (which accounts for the extra calories) or salt. Look for reduced-fat dressings with 100 calories or less per 2 tablespoon serving.

If you don’t find a light dressing that suits you, consider making your own. Oil and vinegar is a good choice, if used in moderation. Simply combine one part olive oil to two parts vinegar, adding additional herbs and spices to taste.

Other calorie-cutting options include adding the juice from a few lemon wedges to your salad or using picante sauce or salsa as dressing. If you really crave regular dressing, you can dilute it with either lemon juice or vinegar to cut calories and fat.

Another problem with salad dressing is that few of us use the standard 2-tablespoon serving and instead land somewhere between drizzling and dousing our salads. Dipping your fork into a small container of salad dressing before you spear your salad, rather than pouring it on, is a good way to use less. And now that spray dressings are available, automatic portion control is even easier. Try a light spray variety, such Wish Bone and Ken’s Salad Spritzers, which provide only one calorie per spray (about 10 spritzes are suggested for every cup of salad).

Give Your Salad Protein Power

Stick with lean protein to keep the calories, total fat, and saturated fat to a minimum.

Good lean protein choices include:

  • egg whites
  • grilled chicken
  • boiled or steamed shrimp
  • grilled salmon
  • roasted turkey breast
  • water-packed tuna
  • low-fat or fat-free cheese

If you don’t eat meat, remember that you can get protein from other food sources such as:

  • tofu
  • lentils
  • garbanzo beans
  • black beans
  • nuts (watch portion sizes)
  • avocado (watch portion sizes)