Dec 30, 2010

What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Ten: Alcohol

This final installment brings you the good, the bad, and the ugly in consuming alcohol. Add, "What you drink” to your 2011 New Year’s Resolution list.

As we conclude 2010 and begin a new year, alcohol is usually part of the celebration. But before you pop that cork and "party on," let's stop and briefly take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly surrounding this beverage.

The Ugly:
Even though this is not the focus of our beverage expedition, the dark side of alcohol should be noted. Other than that nasty hangover after a night of drunkenness, this beverage choice causes poor judgment, behavioral problems, and for millions it leads to alcohol abuse, and even death. Sadly, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who "serves a victim or survivor of drunk driving every 10 minutes," statistics are grim: "every minute, one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash." And alarmingly, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that "10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2009 –– that's one every 50 minutes."

The Bad:
As far as the fitness aspects, you should be aware that alcohol has short-term effects on health and body fat; its nutritional value is nil –– as in tons of empty calories, and those mixed drinks pack on more calories than you think. Drinking a lot of booze can also cause dehydration, create electrolyte imbalances, and alcohol can indirectly make you fat –– "while your body uses up all the alcohol circulating in the blood, the oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and protein becomes suppressed." Translation: these macronutrients are not used for their intended purpose and are "forced into storage."

The Good:
Now, you may not be a heavy drinker, which is a good thing, but perhaps you are under the impression that "moderate drinking –– about one drink a day for women, about two for men –– is a central component of a healthy lifestyle." Are you are convinced by what some "experts" have been touting for years? That alcohol is good for your health –– reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia –– mainly. Not so fast my friends because the New York Times shed "doubt" on the case in 2009; highlighting that some scientists take issue with these claims, and in reality "it may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy." Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic, who lists some of the health benefits of moderate drinking, also points out that "the evidence about the possible health benefits of alcohol isn't certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks."

Yes, you may snag some antioxidants and a "sense of relaxation" from that red wine, but then again, it's possible to benefit more from a glass of grape juice, a massage, and soothing music. Keep in mind too, that 1 glass (3.5 fl oz) of wine is 85 calories and if you consume a glass a day; that adds up to 595 calories per week. Beer on the other hand, ranges from 95 to over 200 calories, while cocktails can top 700 calories for just one. And for those "watching their weight," calories do count.


Before we complete our beverage journey, let's recap. First and foremost, water is essential to life and critical for health, wellness, and weight loss. Coffee is good in moderation if you skip the cream and sugar and tea (without the sugar) offers countless health and wellness benefits, while green tea helps fight obesity and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Milk is highly overrated. Consuming too much soda has dire consequences to your overall health and fitness level. Some sports drinks as well as fruit and vegetable juices can be a good way to hydrate and catch a few vitamins and minerals while you're at it; however, sugar and other additives may be in the mix too. Meal replacement drinks have their place in our fast-paced society, providing you read labels or make your own. Lastly, good news for our beloved abstainers, if you are serious about losing fat, alcohol must be off limits. However, alcohol (in moderation; as in a few a week, not a day) can be a beverage choice when you are on a maintenance plan.

In closing, it's important to understand that "what you drink does impact your diet" –– good and bad –– when it comes to overall health and weight loss. An occasional detour from healthy and fit beverage choices will not harm your efforts, but staying on the wrong path for a long period of time will.

Add this to your 2011 New Year's Resolution list: "I will drink more water and clean up my other beverage choices." Place it on your frig and other places as a reminder and motivator. I guarantee you will feel and look much better.

May you have a safe, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Article first published as What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Ten: Alcohol on Blogcritics.
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 29, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Dec 22, 2010

What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Nine: Meal Replacement Drinks

Beware: Just like meal replacement bars, meal replacement drinks are used to entice the consumer, via quick-fix scams and false promises.

In closing Part Eight, we discovered that veggie drinks are an excellent meal replacement choice, providing you choose appropriately or build your own. However, veggie drinks are not the only way to get health-on-the-go; we are saturated with hundreds of diet and protein shake options. Unfortunately, the billion-dollar fitness industry makes its money off quick-fix scams and false promises. Beware: just like meal replacement bars, meal replacement drinks are used to entice the consumer, using the aforementioned techniques.

Next time you pick up a so-called “diet or protein shake" or vegetable drink, make sure you carefully examine the ingredients. This is because, like most commercial beverages, many of these pre-made drinks contain a lot of sugar and other sweeteners, fat, and an array of preservatives and additives. In many diet and protein shakes, the "protein blend" used is questionable, as are the claims touted in their advertising and on their labels.

For example, let's take a peek at Slim-Fast diet shakes, with over 50 ingredients—the third of which happens to be sugar. While one can of this drink is low in calories (180), it still contains 23 grams of carbs, of which 18 grams comes from sugar. The number one ingredient is fat-free milk (a liquid choice covered in Part Five)—not necessarily bad, except for those who are lactose intolerant. But considering that it is not organic milk, it's a red flag for those of us who care about cows. Even though they have thrown in some vitamins and minerals, enhancing its nutritional value, you only get 10 grams of protein out of the Slim-Fast can, yet you'll consume 6 grams of fat (1.5 grams saturated), which, at the end of the day, may not be worth it.

After a brief analysis of the nutrition label, the next step is to dig deeper into the ingredients. For the sake of time, we'll just probe into the protein blend (the sixth ingredient) used in Slim-Fast. It is
Milk Protein Concentrate (known as MPC), a commonly used additive in products like processed cheese (Kraft singles), coffee creamers, frozen dairy desserts, crackers, energy bars, and nutritional drinks. MPC's "are created when milk is ultra-filtered, a process that drains out the lactose and keeps the milk protein and other large molecules. The protein components are then dried and become a powder."

Apparently, in 2009, the dairy industry was (is) suffering a "crisis" which is neither my concern nor the focus of our "expedition." According to Ethecurian online magazine, this dairy crisis is not just a result of the recession; it also has to do with MPC. For the most part, MPC is imported, and from countries "with very poor food safety records (China, India, Poland, the Ukraine)." Moreover, ironically MPC is an ingredient "used to make glue" and is not approved by the FDA, yet "it somehow manages to be included in the ingredient list of over $10 billion worth of food, primarily fast food and junk food."

So, Slim-Fast may be "fast," but will it make you slim? Only in your head, because in reality, the bad outweighs the good it offers. Now, we could spend hours dissecting all of the bad pre-made meal replacement drinks on the market, but that would be a waste of time. More important is to become skilled in reading labels—setting you free to make "good" choices all of the time.

While we addressed green drinks at out last stop, protein shakes and smoothies (the good ones) usually start with water, ice, real juice, organic milk, soymilk, sugar-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, and/or fresh fruit. Additionally, protein powders are sometimes included in the mix. Most commonly used are whey, casein, egg, soy, and rice, or a combination—each carrying their own "pros and cons." According to Web MD, "protein is one of the body's main building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and other tissues" and is essential to your daily diet for overall health and wellness. It is critical for athletes' endurance and strength, as well as for fitness enthusiasts and for those seeking to lose weight. This leads to a commonly asked question: how much protein?

Most nutritionists and those in the medical profession "recommend daily intake of protein for healthy adults [of] 0.75 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 45 to 56 g of protein a day, while exercisers' range should be 1.4 to 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily." For those trying to gain weight or increase lean body mass, you may consider siding with the higher figure, and it is better to "feed the muscle"—around 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

Fortunately, most of us can obtain enough protein via our daily diet; meal replacement drinks could be your guarantee. Protein shakes and smoothies also offer an avenue for other "nutrients on the run" and a vehicle for providing energy throughout the day, especially if they are of superior quality. They are much better solutions than skipping a meal or resorting to fast food or junk food.

What about meal replacement drinks for weight loss? Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. reminds us that "protein shakes aren't a magic bullet"—there is none—but they may help you reduce your caloric intake, and as we know, "burning more calories than you consume is key to losing weight." That said, a balanced diet of natural, whole foods (not processed, man-made foods)—lean protein (animal and plant-based sources), fruits and vegetables, whole grains as well as foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (fish and plants)—is ideal for all health and fitness goals.

Therefore if you are considering a pre-made protein shake or smoothie, either in a can (not ideal) or at your local fitness center or juice bar like Jamba Juice, make sure you know what is in it—ask questions. Or construct your own using pure and wholesome ingredients. Here are two ideas to get you started:

Power Protein Shake (makes one)


2 scoops of quality protein powder (Living Fuel Living Protein is one of the purest on the market, and they produce a number of other sound products like Living Fuel Super Greens)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 banana
1/4 cup mixed berries (fresh)
1/4 cup water (or juice, but it will add more calories)

Preparation: Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender or Magic Bullet, add water and mix until well blended.
Nutritional Value: 334.5 calories; 24 g protein; 58 g carbs; 1.6 g fat; 10 g fiber; 170 mg sodium
Note: If you want to add more value to your shake, try 1 Tbsp. of flaxseeds: 48 calories; 2 g protein; 3.3 g carbs; 3.3 g fat; 2.7 g fiber; 3.4 mg sodium.

High-Fiber Vegan Smoothie (makes one)


1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup soymilk
Ice if you are not using frozen (additive-free) fruit.

Preparation: Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Nutritional Value: 175 calories; 5.4 g protein; 35.5 g carbs; 2.6 g fat; 13.4 g fiber; 61.4 mg sodium

Drink to (for) your health, and "I'll be back" for the final installment of our beverage journey. Oddly enough, we are in the middle of the Holiday Season, where "'Tis the Season to be jolly"—marking our last STOP fitting: alcohol, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nevertheless, I won't be a "party pooper" until after Christmas. In the meantime, "drink responsibly," and Merry Christmas!

Article first published as What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Nine: Meal Replacement Drinks on Blogcritics. Author: Christine LakatosPublished: Dec 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm @ MY DIVA DIET: Fitness Flash

Dec 14, 2010

What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Eight: Juice (Fruit and Vegetable)

"Should I have a V8" or any commercial fruit juice or veggie drink? It all depends.

Considering that fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients and should be a large part of any sound diet –– for weight loss and protecting health, consuming juice (fruit and vegetable) seems like a "no-brainer." However, most "commercial juices" are high in calories and low in fiber –– the opposite of fruits and vegetables in their natural complete states. Worse, these beverages are high in sugar and contain very little of the fruit or vegetable they are supposedly derived from, which means that their nutritional value and purpose is suspect.

The naturally occurring sugar (fructose) found in fruit and some vegetables like carrots and beets is not at issue (excluding diabetics and those sensitive to sugar); it's the extra refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as well as the preservatives and additives –– ingredients used in most commercial juice and vegetable drink recipes. And have you been down the juice aisle lately? Companies are making juice out of "everything but the kitchen sink." Consequently, at this juncture in our beverage expedition, we'll just analyze a few to make a larger point.

Let's take for example the kid-pushed Capri Sun drink, which was labeled as "All Natural" when the ingredients were (are) water, high-fructose corn syrup, small amount of juice, and flavoring natural –– an additive best avoided. That was until a lawsuit erupted in 2007, forcing them to rethink and withdraw their "All Natural" claim. Since, Capri Sun has undergone a makeover, embracing drinks without high-fructose corn syrup, but they still use refined sugar and other additives. To confuse the issue, Capri Sun, owned by Kraft Foods, marketing strategy touts "25% less sugar" (6-ounce pouch equals 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar) and a deceptive slogan of "wholesome."

On the other hand, in an 8-ounce cup of Minute Maid orange juice (Home Squeezed Style + Calcium and Vitamin D), the ingredient list is much purer (NO added sugar and the like); still you'll drink 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar. Furthermore, even though there is no fat and a minimal amount of sodium in Minute Maid beverages, they do lack the fiber found in fresh fruit, which is vital for a healthy diet and helps with fat loss. In contrast, a large orange has the advantage of 4.4 grams of fiber. The same can be said for apple juice –– and most commercial fruit juice for that matter. For the same amount of calories (around 100) you get 5 grams of fiber with a large apple vs. zero in a cup of apple juice.

Commercial vegetable drinks (juices) are a little trickier to decipher, and there are decent choices on the market these days. Even though veggie drinks do contain vegetables, many add fruit, sugar, and additives to make it more palatable as well as preservatives to extend shelf life. Some like Bolthouse Farms contain Spirulina (a blue-green algae, offering "nutrients, amino acids, and health benefits," yet not without its "skeptics and cautions to consider") to their Green Goodness –– AKA "green drink."

This brings us to the familiar V8 veggie drink, invented back in the 1930's by W.G. Peacock, and acquired by Campbell Soup Company in 1948. Over the years, it became popular with its infamous marketing line, "I could've had a V8" –– still used today, even popping up on an episode of Family Guy. V8 has evolved, adding many other so-called healthy beverages to their product line. While some of the V8 fruit juice blends contain high-fructose corn syrup, their 100% Vegetable Juice is not bad –– it's low in calories (50 for 8 oz.), yet high in sodium (420 mg in 8oz.). Maybe that is why they developed a low-sodium version with 140 mg.

So, when it comes to health and fitness, the real question must be preemptive and without the "regret head bang" –– "Should I have a V8" or any commercial fruit juice or veggie drink? It all depends. Read labels; skip the ones with added sugar and sugar derivatives like HFCS, too much sodium, and carefully analyze preservatives and additives. Try to choose fruit and veggie drinks that are freshly made or better yet, "juice it" yourself. Here is a quick and simple veggie drink recipe: Take 1 beet, 2 carrots, and 1 cup broccoli, blend in your Jack Lalanne's Power Juicer, and enjoy! Nutritional Value: 200 calories, 8.8 grams protein, 39.6 grams carbs, 0.8 grams fat; 12 grams fiber, and 220 mg (natural) sodium.

While natural and fresh juice, for the most part, serves as a thirst quencher or a beverage with a meal, they are also an immense aid when you are sick or fasting for health or spiritual reasons. But for those counting calories, beware, juice calories add up quickly. Even so, veggie drinks are a positive alternative to "fast food," an avenue for those lacking vegetables in their diet, an awesome way to boost nutrient intake, and a substitute for any meal of the day –– only if you choose the right one or make your own. And for those eager for more "meal replacement" ideas (protein shakes, smoothies, and green drinks), stay tuned –– it's our next STOP in our journey toward health, wellness and a fit physique.

Article first published as What You Drink Impacts Your Diet, Part Eight: Juice (Fruit and Vegetable) on Blogcritics. Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm / Part of Fitness Flash and My Diva Diet blog spot!
This is Part Eight of Weight Loss: What You Drink Impacts Your Diet 10-Part Series
This ten-part series, a "beverage expedition" of sorts, will uncover how liquid consumption affects your weight, health and wellness, for better or worse.

Dec 8, 2010

"World of Diets" Interviews Me!

A while ago, World of Diets interviewed me and recently it has been posted. World of Diets is not only a great place for "terrific interviews" from fitness experts as wells as diet reviews, but also has an array of articles ranging from diet, health, foods, exercise, fitness equipment and so much more...
"Choosing the right diet plan is probably the most important factor in determining whether or not you will lose weight and be able to keep it off for many years to come.

Here on, we provide hundreds of diet reviews, interviews with fitness and fat loss experts and a variety of articles and tips about how to eat right, burn body fat off quickly, and be healthy. Check out a variety of our reviews and posts at"
EXCERPT From my interview with Jonathan:

Question: I’m here today with Christine Lakatos, the author of the popular My Diva Diet. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Christine. What can you tell us about your background and qualifications in the fitness industry?

Answer: Well, Jonathan, I’ve been in the fitness industry since 1980 when I became an aerobics instructor –– lol, with the leg warmers and all the crazy attire and back when you didn’t have to be certified. I was also an athlete growing up –– a track star mainly, running a 5:40 mile and great at all sports . Then in 1988 –– when I was about 26, I saw a photo of Rachel McClish (later I met her at Gold’s Gym Palm Desert, CA) and that inspired me to compete in bodybuilding. I won my first competition, Ms. San Luis Obispo 1989 (with 6.9% body fat) and placed in a few others. However, due to the fact that in the 90’s women in bodybuilding were getting bigger and were taking steroids I switched to fitness shows and I went on to place in the top-ten Ms. Fitness USA in 1990 and Ms. Fitness San Diego 1995 –– just to name a few. I was also a competitor on American Gladiators in 1990.

It was about that time that I decided to become and ACE Certified Fitness Trainer, training thousands of clients with a very, very high success rate. Ever since, I have continued my education in health and fitness with my main focus on nutrition as well as one of the most well-respected fitness organizations to date –– the C.H.E.K. Institute.

As a woman in my late forties –– almost 50 –– I can say that even though I competed at 5 to 9% body fat, with a frame size of a teenager, I still maintain around 12 to 16% body fat year round and between size 2 and 3. And that is after having children –– two of the most wonderful daughters on the planet!

Question: You refer to My Diva Diet as the last diet book a woman would need. What makes this diet so special?

Answer: First and foremost, My Diva Diet is based on sound nutrition and IT WORKS! It is not like many of the other diet programs that offer quick-fix solutions to a problem that requires a lifestyle change of proper diet and exercise. It is also tailored JUST for women. Since women have different body types, goals, energy requirements, and health and weight-loss concerns than our male counterparts, MY DIVA DIET’S fat-loss diet book provides a precise method for women (of all ages) to reach their health and fitness goals. Also, it is jammed packed with tons of information (in a user friendly format) so that women have all the tools they need to lose fat the safe, healthy and lasting way –– including a diet quiz, complete directions, workbook, special guides, tips and charts, meal options and recipes, restaurant eating guide and grocery shopping tips, and information about foods, reading labels, nutrition, exercise, body fat, calories and more.
Click here to read the entire interview and my thanks to World of Diets and Jonathan!