By Sheryl Kayne

My friend Joe is learning how to shop and cook healthfully. He’d like to lose some weight and he’s started working out at a local gym with three friends. It’s working for him. He’s slowly losing weight. His energy level is much higher since he’s started fueling his body with healthier food choices and appropriate exercise.

This afternoon he was going on and on about how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast. He used to eat two or three bagels with cream cheese or a few croissants for breakfast but he’s changed his ways.

“This morning I ate the best breakfast and I’m still not hungry, three hours later!” he grinned broadly. “You should try it.”

“What’s your secret?”

“I ate a South Beach Diet High Protein Cereal Bar. It was really very good, cranberry almond, and drank a SlimFast shake, rich Dutch Chocolate Royale, my favorite flavor.”

“Both?” I calmly asked.

“Yes,” he beamed. “That is the best breakfast. I’m going to start eating that every day. It was most satisfying.”

“Glad you enjoyed it,” I tried not to upset him but wanted to be honest. “You ate two meals for breakfast.”

He was shocked. “Two?” he gasped.

“Yes, two. Guess you need to work out twice as long to make up for your double breakfast.”

Joe was terribly embarrassed and upset with himself. He didn’t know! His mistake was not uncommon.

If you think about it, a breakfast bar goes very nicely with a smooth, rich, cold, chocolatey shake. All of the new diet products make it even easier than ever before to overeat in kind of a healthy way, but it’s still overeating. And in fact, the calorie counts of some of the healthy snacks are probably far higher than many of the not-so-healthy-choices you once snacked on.

It’s all terribly confusing. There are breakfast bars, snack bars, protein bars and power bars, to name a few. Snack bars and granola bars tend to be lower in calories than a bar designed for meal replacement. My favorite snack bar is the Luna Bar, a nutritious, delicious 170 calories.
But many of the meal replacement products, like Pro Bars are about 400 calories designed as meal replacements for athletes needing to maintain or gain weight, not for dieters.

A funny thing happens to me around snack bars. When I buy a few Luna Bars to have “in case of emergency,” I eat them up, quickly, just because they are accessible.

The average orange has 37 calories. I love oranges! Even the humongous navel oranges average 100 calories. I could eat two small oranges and one large instead of one sweet, dessert like snack treat.

It’s almost too easy to tear open a meal replacement, munch it down and forget how much you really ate. When a product says that it actually replaces a meal, like both the South Beach Cereal Bar and SlimFast shake, each product averages about 300 calories with approximately 40 grams of protein that is truly meant to be eaten instead of a regular meal. That’s a lot of food equivalency in tiny packages that make the eater think he’s doing something great for himself, when in truth, he, or she, may be eating way too much. Joe, beware!

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