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Nutrition Wise By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN



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Nutrition Wise By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q: Are cappuccinos from vending machines and convenience stores loaded with fat and calories?

A: An 8-ounce cup of most of these plain or flavored cappuccino drinks made from a mix contains 140 to 150 calories, 4 to 6 grams of fat, and 12 to 18 grams of sugar (3 to 4.5 teaspoons). Compared to a traditional cappuccino made with skim or reduced-fat milk, these drinks from mixes contain an extra 50 to 75 calories, 2 to 5 grams of fat and 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar. And the bigger portion sizes of convenience store cappuccinos means bigger trouble. In fact, the 16- and 20-ounce cups have almost as many calories as a light meal –– without all the nutrients. Because the mixes contain nondairy creamer with hydrogenated oils, the convenience cappuccinos are higher in unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Enjoying one of these drinks for an occasional treat is fine. Just don’t tell yourself it’s simply a cup of coffee.

Q: What is process cheese?

A: Process cheese is the combination of one or more natural cheeses with an emulsifier. The resulting cheese product melts evenly, slices easily and has a more stable keeping quality. Process cheese also develops an extremely smooth texture. Like natural cheese, process cheese may be fat-free, reduced-fat, or of standard fat content (8 to 9 grams of fat per ounce). Although the protein and mineral content of both types are similar, the ingredients added to process cheese usually nearly double the sodium content.

Q: Does adding cereal to a baby’s bottle help him or her sleep through the night?

A: Doctors and experts on infant nutrition discourage adding any cereal or solid food to a baby’s bottle. Solid foods such as cereal are generally not recommended in any form until a baby is five or six months old. Adding new foods earlier increases the chance that a baby will develop food allergies. Before this age, their digestive systems are not mature enough to properly handle these foods. For these early months, stick to breast milk (the preferred choice), formula, and water. Besides, cereal does not make babies sleep through the night. Young babies have such small stomach capacity compared with their nutritional needs that they need calories coming in every few hours. For babies that display true wakefulness at night, experts recommend feeding with dimmed lights and without any playfulness to help your little one settle down.

Q: Is corn a vegetable or a grain?

A: Botanically and nutritionally speaking, corn is a grain. Corn is more concentrated in starch (a type of carbohydrate) and calories than true vegetables, like broccoli, cucumbers, and green beans. If you think corn is a vegetable, however, you can use it that way in meals. But if blood sugar or excess weight is a concern, include lower-calorie vegetables as well and cut back on higher-calorie starchy foods. Sometimes, people build too much of their meals around starchy foods, serving potatoes and rolls or bread and starchy vegetables. Without abundant servings of green, red, and orange vegetables, these people may have trouble controlling their weight or blood sugar.

Q: How much do regular and light olive oils differ in fat and calories?

A: All oils have equal amounts of fat and calories, although different kinds of oil vary in the types of fat they contain. Unlike regular olive oil, light olive oil is processed to have a light color and a subtle flavor, more like vegetable oils. Either variety of olive oil makes an excellent choice. Both are considered heart-healthy selections. They also do not appear to promote cancer development, unlike some fatty foods. Just use moderate amounts to avoid getting too much fat and calories.

Q: My elderly mother seems to have lost her appetite. What can I do?

A: Appetite changes can be caused by a wide variety of factors. If your mother is taking any medications, check with her physician to see whether any of them affect appetite. Extra herbs and seasonings may be needed to provide appealing flavor, if her taste buds have been hampered by medications or age. Maybe she has trouble chewing or swallowing food. If the problem can’t be remedied, a registered dietitian can help plan meals she can handle. Perhaps, your mother is used to foods other than what you usually serve. If she is alone during the day, see about home-delivered meal programs. It’s also possible that she is suffering emotionally for some reason. Talk to her doctor about possible signs of depression that might call for counseling or medication. Finally, remember that as people get older, especially if they are inactive, calorie needs decrease. Just because she is eating less than you doesn’t mean her diet is inadequate. There may be no need for worry at all.

Karen Collins is a nutritionist with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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