The Diet Detective: Cut Calories and Lose Weight

Here are my latest Calorie Bargain findings:

1. LifeStraw

The Why

OK. This isn't one of my traditional calorie bargains – but it's something I think is worth your attention. Especially if you're a hiker, biker or traveler. LifeStraw is one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. Specifically, it's an inexpensive way to solve a major public health problem.

According to LifeStraw, an estimated 884 million people in the world, 37 percent of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa, still use unimproved sources of drinking water. "Lack of access to safe drinking water contributes to the staggering burden of diarrheal diseases worldwide, particularly affecting the young, the immune-compromised and the poor. Nearly one in five child deaths—about 1.5 million each year—is due to diarrhea. Diarrhea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined."

Thorough laboratory testing of LifeStraw conducted by the University of Arizona found that its performance exceeded U.S. EPA water-filtration requirements for bacteria and parasites, including Escherichia coli. The filtering tube measures about 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, and weighs less than 2 oz. It removes virtually all bacteria (99.9999 percent) and protozoa parasites (99.9 percent) that can contaminate water, and it reduces turbidity (muddiness) by filtering out particulate matter. So drinking through this straw can save many lives.

The Health Bonus

When used properly, each LifeStraw will filter at least 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water.

What We Liked Best

Vestergaard Frandsen Inc., maker of LifeStraw, is an incredible company that focuses on creating products to improve the public health of our society. What an incredible business model.

The Price: $19.95 plus tax, shipping and handling.

Where to Buy

Consumers can purchase LifeStraw exclusively through online e-tailers Eartheasy for the U.S. and Canada and Green Beetle for the U.S.

2. Treadmill and Elliptical Trainers

The Why

Home treadmills and elliptical trainers can help keep you stay fit all year—no more excuses.

The Health Bonus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercise can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles, and help you lose and control weight.

What We Liked Best

Actually, it's not what "we" liked best, but what Consumer Reports liked best! "Consumer Reports put 35 treadmills and 18 elliptical exercisers through the paces. The top-rated non-folding treadmill, the Precor 9.31, costs a cool $4,000 and offers excellent construction. But consumers on tighter budgets can find solid choices in the non-folding Sole S77 at $1,900 and the folding ProForm Performance 600 and Horizon T202, both $800. All three are Consumer Reports Best Buys.

The top-scoring elliptical, the Octane Fitness Q37ci, costs $3,100 and is solidly built, has four heart-rate programs, comes with a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, and earned very high marks for safety. If you don't need the heart rate monitoring and can forgo certain other features, Consumer Reports recommends the Octane Fitness Q37c for $500 less.

The Price: Varies.

Where to Buy: Amazon.com, Dick's Sporting Goods, sportsauthority.com.

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