Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Scoop on Sodium

This past week I was talking with a member, and she made a comment about how much sodium there was in diet soda. Frankly, this surprised me. When people pooh-pooh diet soda, it's generally not because of the sodium content. I am by no means an expert on sodium - I've never had to really pay attention to my intake - it's something that's just background noise for me. So I decided to look into it, and I'm sharing some of my findings with you.

Sodium - it's an element that our bodies need to function properly. The body uses it to regulate blood pressure and blood volume. Our muscles and nerves also apparently need it. But too much sodium can have negative effects. It can raise blood pressure, and for those with congestive heart failure or kidney disease it can lead to fluid build-up. Those with high blood pressure are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, so sodium is definitely an area of concern.

How much is enough? The dietary guidelines published by the US Government recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Folks with high blood pressure and other at-risk groups should have even less. 2,300 milligrams of sodium is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of table salt. That's not a whole lot!

Now that I've set the stage, let's get back to the diet soda. It turns out that the USDA has a nutrient database (that you can see for yourself here) and you can view sodium content for all sorts of foods sorted either alphabetically or by sodium content.

I set out to find not only the diet soda, but some other exciting examples. From lowest to highest, here are some selected items:

0mg - 1.5 ounces of 90 proof alcohol (gin, vodka, whiskey, rum)
15mg - 12 ounces of cola containing caffeine
28mg - 12 ounces of low calorie soda containing caffeine
39mg - 1 boiled beet
50mg - 1 raw carrot
104mg - 1 slice reduced-calorie white bread
206mg - 1 plain hamburger bun
316mg - 1 ounce feta cheese
402mg - 2 slices dry salami
513mg - 1 beef frankfurter
718mg - 1 cup canned garbanzo beans
918mg - 1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1010mg - 1 cup canned vegetable soup
1108mg - 1 fast food cheeseburger (with condiments and vegetables)
1323mg - 1 cup home-prepared potato salad
1560mg - 1 cup canned sauerkraut
2325mg - 1 teaspoon table salt
3132mg - 1 packet dehydrated onion soup mix**

So there you have it. Diet soda? Not sodium-free, but in fact it is low enough in sodium per serving that the FDA allows the manufacturers to claim it is a low sodium beverage - check for it the next time you see a can of Diet Coke. But some of these items above surprise me. I think most people figure canned soup and sauerkraut is going to be salty. But cottage cheese? And even a raw carrot! Most fruits and vegetables show up on the database way at the end, with fewer than 10mg of sodium.

The biggest contributor to sodium content is salt that is added - mostly during food processing, rather than salt that occurs naturally. Frozen foods, canned foods, prepared foods and the like are pretty much uniformly higher in sodium than their fresh counterparts. If you need to reduce your sodium intake, those are the labels you definitely need to be reading.

And that, kids, is what you get when I do about 30 minutes of high quality internet research! Got a health-related question like this that you'd like me to tackle? Let me know, and I'll do the Google legwork for you. :)

** This amuses me - I know the serving size is different, but all I can think of is "Onion soup mix - it's saltier than salt!" I'm sure the ad wizards at Lipton will be stealing that from me shortly.

Sources of information include the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of Agriculture websites. I also discovered you can download the full 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - an 80+ page PDF - from the Department of Health & Human Services website. I haven't read it all yet, but just you wait!

Newsletter, week of August 2nd

Last Week

Lose your weight FOREVER. Think about eating and moving in a sustainable way. This is a lifestyle, not a temporary solution.

This Week

FOOD SWAP! Virtually, not really. But bring in labels, containers, or at the very least specific details about your favorite foods. If you're in a food rut, this is not to be missed.

Week 4 of the Fruits and Veggies challenge - get 5 servings of fruits & vegetables a day - AKA our Good Health Guideline. For advanced members, try getting ALL the guidelines met this week.


Sharon got her first 5 pound star, Kim received a 15 pound star, Trina hit 45 pounds, and Kim got her 10% target award. Strong week for our ladies.

WW Product of the Week

Since we're talking food, let's highlight all of the WW food products. Whether it's a snack (check out our bars or baked snacks), a breakfast (check out our smoothies and our oatmeal), a dinner (remember our sides?) or even something to chew on (think Fruities and Cappuccino Melts) there is something for everyone. Portioned out, Points values figured, what more could you want?

Weekly Potpourri

I'm going to do something a little different this week. A conversation about sodium got me curious, and I'm going to hold off putting anything in here in favor of a longer, separate entry. Look for that maybe by the end of today - my "real job" beckons for now....

What's Hot at

There's never enough time in a 30 minute meeting to really discuss everything. So in honor of last week's topic, this is a fantastic article that really fleshes out why looking at this process as a permanent lifestyle change is the way to go. It also busts some myths that might be keeping you in that diet mindset.

Quote of the Week

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. - John Wooden

Weekly Recipe: Indonesian Rice

We're going in the Way Back Machine today for this recipe. This is from the Simply the Best cookbook, which came out in 1997 when Points were first introduced - it also happens to be the year I became a Lifetime Member. August marks my 12 year anniversary at goal! So here's a bit of nostalgia....

Indonesian Rice
Serves 4
5 Points value

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 Tbsp mango chutney
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp curry powder, or to taste
4 cups hot cooked brown rice

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring as needed, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the bell peppers, celery, chutney, soy sauce and curry; cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables are tender, 5-6 minutes. Stir in the rice and fluff with a fork.

Per serving: 304 calories, 5g fat (1g sat fat), 5g fiber, 253mg sodium

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Newsletter, week of July 26th

Last Week

Keep your exercise plan consistent this summer. That might mean having backup plans for when it's too hot, or just having fun outside because you can.

This Week

Are you still in the diet mindset? This week we'll make sure you're all here For The Very Last Time (if you know what I mean).

Fruit & Veggie Challenge - this week's challenge is to try a fruit or vegetable you've never tried before. I think I'm going to hit up 99 Ranch or Zion Marketplace to see if I can find something interesting. Be ready to report your findings!


This week's winning losers are Kendria, Kaithlyn and Elizabeth who got their week 2 bookmarks, Nellie who is at 16 weeks, Erica who reached her 5% target, Trista who has lost 40.6 pounds, Velma who has now lost 55.2 pounds, and Kim who is a Lifetime member back at goal!

WW Product of the Week

Sustainable weight loss means a lifetime of healthy eating. If you're bored with your meals, check out our cookbooks. I personally own probably 99% of the cookbooks we've sold in the meeting room in the last 5 years, and I can tell you they are full of GREAT recipes. (Pro Tip: a lot of the recipes I post here come from my huge stash!)

Weekly Potpourri

I know I've posted this product before (and even did a blog entry about a recipe I used it in here, but it bears repeating. The folks at Bell Plantation have found a way to make powdered peanut butter that is WAY lower in calories and fat than the regular stuff.

You take a spoonful of this stuff and mix it with water. Voila, you've got real peanut butter. And if you read about those peanut butter cookies, you'll know that I think it tastes like the real thing. I'm posting about this again because now they have a chocolate peanut butter that leaves me beside myself with anticipation.

You've got to order this stuff online, and you will pay for shipping, so it might be best to gather your buddies and order in bulk. You can also order a sample to see if it's really to your liking.

What's Hot at

Ah, summer. There can be pitfalls when it comes to your eating, but this article will help you steer clear of them.

Quote of the Week

Every man is the architect of his own fortune. - Sallust

Weekly Recipe: Strawberry-Raspberry Granita

Strawberry-Raspberry Granita
Serves 8
1 Points value

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup raspberries (about 1/2 pint)
1 (1-pound) container strawberries, hulled
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; refrigerate until cool, about 20 minutes.

Put the raspberries in a food processor and puree until smooth. Press through a sieve set over a medium bowl and discard the seeds; add to the cooled syrup. Puree the strawberries in the food processor; add to the syrup. Stir well; pour into a 9-inch square baking pan.

Cover the pan with foil; place in the freezer until the fruit mixture is frozen around the edges, about 2 hours. With a fork, stir the frozen edges in toward the center of the pan. Cover and freeze until completely frozen, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Let the granita stand at room temperature to soften slightly, about 15 minutes. With the tip of a spoon, scrape across the surface of the granita, transferring the shards to chilled dessert dishes or wineglasses.

Per serving: 75 cal, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 2mg sodium

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Newsletter, week of July 19th

Last Week

Vacation doesn't need to be a dirty word when it comes to weight loss. It can be a great excuse to take care of yourself or get more active!

Your fruit & veggie challenge for this week - fill your plate half full with fruits and vegetables!

This Week

It's been warm lately, but that doesn't mean your activity has to suffer. No matter what the forecast, we can Move More. Be there this week to learn how!


Maureen and Jeff both reached their 5% targets. Candy received her 65 pound star.

WW Product of the Week

Whenever we talk of activity, it's a good excuse to remind you all of our helpful products. Given the weather, maybe an indoor workout is in order. Check out our DVD that can give you a variety of workouts year-round no matter what the temperature is outside.

Weekly Potpourri

This is by any stretch of the imagination completely unrelated to Weight Watchers. But did you know that this weekend is the annual US Open Sandcastle Competition? My "real job" is a sponsor, which is how I caught on to this. Get outside and enjoy the day - strap on some good walking shoes and we can call it WW-related!

What's Hot at

Since we were talking travel this past week, here's an article with some travel tips. We covered the food part in the meeting room, this will help you with the actual act of traveling.

Quote of the Week

If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won't, you most assuredly won't. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad. - Denis Waitley

Weekly Recipe: Zucchini Crust Pizza

Zucchini Crust Pizza
Serves 6
4 Points value

3 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 small tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup julienned green pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine zucchini and egg substitute. Stir in flour and salt. Spread onto the bottom of a 12-in. pizza pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 450° for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Sprinkle with the mozzarella, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, oregano, basil and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until onion is tender and cheese is melted. Yield: 6 slices.

Per serving: 190 calories, 8g fat (5g sat fat), 2g fiber, 431mg sodium

This is a great recipe to help you meet our weekly fruits and vegetables challenges.

Find more recipes like this one at Taste of Home.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Newsletter, week of July 12th

Last Week

We kicked off the 4 Weeks to 5 Servings by talking about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, how to get them in, and why we might want to shoot for a variety of colors. Your challenge this week - 3 different colors every day.

Next Week

For many of you, summertime is vacation time. We'll talk about how vacations can actually help your weight loss efforts, and discuss strategies for success.


Ana and Ettie received their first 5 pound stars, Sara, Erica and Jeff reached 10 pounds lost. Our huge celebration for the week was for Heidi - she's now lost 102.6 pounds, and is mighty close to goal. Awesome!

WW Product of the Week

If you're away from home, you might want to bring along some Weight Watchers tools. Something like our Points Clicker or Points Calculator can help you track and calculate, even when you're not in your normal routine.

Weekly Potpourri

In our discussion of vegetables (and whether or not they are funny), Marianne posed the question "why is it called eggplant?" Well, I did a quick bit of research (aka see if the folks at Wikipedia have already addressed it) and here you go: The name eggplant developed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada because the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs.

What's Hot at

I sometimes hear about people jazzed about buying an "at goal" wardrobe. But what happens if you're not there yet? Depending on how much you have to lose, you're going to need some clothes along the way. Here's an article with some tips.

Quote of the Week

Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try. - Dennis DeYoung

Weekly Recipe: 10-Alarm Turkey Chili

I'm taking the lazy route today and linking you to the recipe, which comes from Hungry Girl.

It's easy, it's tasty, it uses the crock pot. And it got tastier the more days it sat in the fridge. That's my kind of recipe! Plus, it will help you get those 3 colors this week!

One modification I made - I used ground chicken instead of turkey. It bugs me that ground turkey only comes in 1 1/4 pound packages, so when I saw that Henry's carried ground chicken in 1 pound packages, I was sold. I hate having 1/4 pound of ground meat leftover. And while I'm usually good at organization, the thought of smooshing together a 1/4 pound chunk 4 times to have a full pound the 5th time I use ground turkey just isn't my bag, baby.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Newsletter, week of July 5th

Last Week

Summer celebrations are a perfect excuse to break out the grill. They're also no excuse for blowing it, since summer foods can be tasty and light! Have fun and be healthy.

This Week

We're introducing a July challenge this week - 4 Weeks to 5 Servings: A Fruits-and-Veggies Challenge. The goal is to get you up to speed on the benefits of these foods health-wise AND weight-loss-wise.


This week we celebrated a 10 pound star for Kim and a 60 pound star for Candy. There may have been more celebrations on Monday, but since I was behind the counter - I didn't get to hear one peep of the meeting! Sorry if I've left you off this week's list.

WW Product of the Week

If we're looking to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, we might need some recipes. Take a look at the Weight Watchers magazines and our various cookbooks. You'll find plenty of ideas to up your intake!

Weekly Potpourri

If you weren't at the meeting this week, here's what you missed:

Yep, I added yet another headband to my arsenal. Incidentally, during this "photo shoot" my husband suggested that I wink at the camera. The result is just too absurd not to share:

What's Hot at

I love baseball, so I was tickled to find an article on it here. Remember, if it's fun, you'll be happy to exercise!

Quote of the Week

Many people like to think that they'll find balance AFTER they find success. But in reality, achieving balance IS success. - Brian Koslow

Weekly Recipe: Beet Salad with Avocado and Goat Cheese

Beet Salad with Avocado and Goat Cheese
Serves 4
2 Points value

4 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 cups mixed baby salad greens
14.5 ounce can sliced beets, drained
1/2 small avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
1 ounce fresh (mild) goat cheese, crumbled

To make the dressing, whisk together the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.

Put the salad greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the dressing; toss to coat. Divide the salad greens evenly among 4 plates; top with the beets and avocado, dividing evenly.

Drizzle the remaining dressing over the beets and avocado; top with the goat cheese. Serve at once.

Per serving: 102 calories, 7g fat (2g sat fat), 4g fiber, 341mg sodium