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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bracelet system, '400 Calorie Fix' target eating

By Charles Stuart Platkin

Here are a few of my latest Calorie Bargains foods, drinks, books, products and services that will help you live a healthier life.

Calorie Bargain: "400 Calorie Fix, Slim Is Simple: 400 Ways to Eat 400 Calorie Meals" by Liz Vaccariello

The why: This is a very simple concept. You eat three to four meals per day that are 400 calories each. The book is filled with beautiful color photos and not too much text in fact it is similar in style to another Rodale book, "Eat This, Not That." I like the way the publisher describes the book: " 'The 400 Calorie Fix' provides the necessary tools to see food through the '400 calorie lens' and navigate meals and snacks ranging from Chinese takeout to salad bar selections, vending machines and concession stands, and even party platters and bar beverages." Just by browsing through this book you will learn something about making good food choices.

The health bonus: If you're limited to 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, you will almost certainly lose weight.

What we liked best: Love the layout and design. It's simple to read and understand.

What we liked least: Is weight loss really only about food? What about physical activity? What about long-term behavioral changes? Also, the book is only available online, so there's no Amazon.com discount, and at $32 it's a bit pricey.

What it replaces: Complicated, text-heavy diet books.

The price: Four monthly installments of $7.99 each

Where to buy: www.400caloriefix.com

Calorie Bargain: Habitwise

The why: It is not easy as you go about your busy days to remember to eat the right foods. Habitwise makes it easier for you to remember with color-coded bead or rubber bracelets. Each color represents a food group for instance, green represents, you guessed it, veggies. You wear the bracelets on one wrist, and then transfer them to the other once you eat a serving of the targeted food.

The health bonus: Eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables will help you stay healthy and lose weight. Vegetables are the most important foods in our diet.

What we liked best: This easy-to-use concept will help you get the right amounts of the foods you need to eat. I also love the idea of scrapping the entire food-groups concept and simply using the bracelets to count calories. Habitwise suggests that, depending on your calorie level for weight loss, you simply use the bracelets as counters. Each bracelet represents 50 calories (there are 30 in all), so you pick the number of calories you should have each day to lose weight, (for instance, 1,200 calories would require 24 bracelets) and for every 50 calories eaten, move the appropriate number of bracelets from one wrist to the other. When you have no bracelets left on the starting wrist, you're done eating.

What we liked least: I like using the green veggies and pink fruits bracelets, as well as blue water, but I don't really agree with the "pyramid" concept that Habitwise espouses. That said, you can still use the bracelets as a reminder to eat veggies and fruit and drink water. The other problem is that most people are not sure what a typical serving size is, so they'll still be relying on their own judgment.

What it replaces: Using your memory.

The price: $28

Where to buy: www.habitwise.com

Calorie Bargain: USDA National Nutrient Database

The why: Calories and nutrients matter. It's a treat to be able to look up the calories and important nutrients in the foods you eat. Now you can download the software and keep it on your desktop, and even download to your Palm OS Windows-based PDA. The current USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference includes more than 7,500 food items. Among the 2009 updates are 3,000 values for vitamin D and a few restaurant foods only 38, but at least it is a start.

The health bonus: For each food item there is an information profile that provides data for up to 140 components, such as vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.

What we liked best: It includes all the nutrients and can be easily downloaded to your desktop.

What we liked least: The nutrient information doesn't include the recommended daily values.

What it replaces: Not knowing any nutrient information, or using Internet databases that aren't accurate.

The price: Free

Where to find: www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=5720

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of http://DietDetective.com.