Iced-coffee drinks, Vegetables for grilling, Chromium supplements

Q: Are iced-coffee drinks a sensible treat if I’m watching my weight?
Q: Which vegetables are best for grilling?
Q: Is there any research to support claims that chromium supplements may aid weight loss?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Are iced-coffee drinks a sensible treat if I’m watching my weight?

A: A simple iced coffee or even an iced latte made with skim milk isn’t a problem if you leave out added flavorings and whipped cream and choose the smallest size. A 12-ounce (oz.) iced latte or cappuccino made with skim milk usually contains about 130 calories; if made with 2 percent milk it might be closer to 160 calories. But if you add flavored syrups, whipped cream topping and other ingredients, the calorie content rises sharply. Portion size is key. The largest size at most of today’s popular coffee bars is usually 24 oz., sometimes more. Order a large, and you could be getting up to 700 calories, lots of additional fat and almost a half-cup of sugar. Even if you skip the whipped cream these jumbo servings still provide about 450 calories. While you may be looking for a light, refreshing snack, what you may get is a drink that’s equivalent to one or two portions of dessert. To enjoy iced coffee drinks without wreaking havoc on your diet, order nonfat versions, skip the whipped cream and slowly savor a small portion. If you’re very thirsty, quench your thirst with a cool glass of water first and then you’ll be able to fully savor your icy treat.

Q: Which vegetables are best for grilling?

A: Some classic vegetable choices for grilling include asparagus, corn on the cob, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Most of these can be grilled whole, as well as chopped and cooked in a grill basket or cut into chunks and skewered to make vegetable kabobs. Brush or toss veggies with a small amount of olive oil and grill at medium-high heat. Most vegetables will be ready after about three to five minutes per side. More dense vegetables like onions, sweet potatoes and eggplant may need double the grill time or more, depending on how large the pieces are. You can even grill vegetables ahead and serve them cold, on their own or in salads. Grilling brings out marvelous flavors in vegetables and will not create the cancer-causing substances that can be formed when meat and poultry are grilled.

Q: Is there any research to support claims that chromium supplements may aid weight loss?

A: Chromium, an essential mineral found in meats, whole-grain products and some fruits and vegetables, has received lots of attention from weight-loss researchers thanks to its apparent role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. But for several years, the research has failed to show a weight control benefit from taking chromium supplements, despite claims that it can enhance fat loss and help build lean muscle. Two recent trials in which chromium supplements were compared against inactive (placebo) pills again showed no weight loss benefit among those getting extra chromium. And, while some studies show small benefits in blood sugar control for people with diabetes, the benefits are inconsistent and do not seem related to weight control. While chromium itself may not increase weight loss, choosing chromium-rich foods like whole grains and broccoli, will provide additional dietary fiber – a strategy that has been shown to help with weight control.

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