The Diet Detective: Calorie Bargains

Here are my latest Calorie Bargain findings.

1. The USDA's Food and Nutrition Information Center's Interactive DRI for Healthcare Professionals

The Why: This is a useful tool that can calculate daily nutrient recommendations based on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). You put in information such as height, weight, age, activity level, and the tool tells you what nutrient levels you should be getting on a daily basis. These numbers represent the most current scientific knowledge on nutrient needs developed by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine.

Not sure what DRI means? Dietary Reference Intakes is a set of four reference values: Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Adequate Intakes (AI) and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL).

EAR is the average daily nutrient intake level estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. RDA is the average daily dietary nutrient intake level sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group).

AI is the recommended average daily intake level based on observed or experimentally determined approximations or estimates of nutrient intake by a group (or groups) of apparently healthy people that is assumed to be adequate. It is used when an RDA cannot be determined. And UL is the highest average daily nutrient intake level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population.

The Health Bonus: The tool also gives you your body mass index and your daily calorie needs.

What We Liked Best: It's not always easy to determine the amount of nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids, etc.) a person should get on a daily basis.

The Price: Free

Where to Buy: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/interactiveDRI/

2. Starbucks Bistro Box Chipotle Chicken Wrap

The Why: It tastes great and is relatively low in calories.

The Health Bonus: Not only is it low in calories, it is also high in fiber and protein.

What We Liked Best: Taste and convenience. When they put their mind to it, Starbucks does a great job making low-calorie tasty foods.

Nutrition: 380 calories; 15 g fat; 35 g carbs; 6 g fiber; 26 g protein; 970 mg sodium

The Price: $6.95

Where to Buy: www.starbucks.com/store-locator

3. Calorie Bargain: Super Sprowtz

The Why: It's not easy to find entertaining and engaging nutrition information for kids. However, Super Sprowtz, a new media company focusing on childhood nutrition education through story, adventure, music and play, fits the bill.

The Super Sprowtz picture book series introduces kids to the Super Sprowtz heroes using fun adventures in which the Super Sprowtz battle the "bad guys" Pompous Pollution, Processa the Processed Queen and their henchmen Junk and Greasy. The Super Sprowtz have super powers that are directly related to the nutritional benefit of the vegetables they represent (i.e., Colby Carrot has Super Sight), and children learn about the importance of leading healthier lives without being told to eat their vegetables.

The Health Bonus: At the back of each book are recipes donated by celebrity chefs and a glossary with photos of real vegetables to reconnect kids to their food.

What We Liked Best: A creative and cute way of showing the fantastic power of veggies. In November 2011 Super Sprowtz is also launching four Super Sprowtz puppets to play with at mealtime.

The Price: Baby board book: $7.99; Picture books: $13.99; puppets: $24.00 (available Nov. 1).

Where to Buy: www.supersprowtz.com

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