Nutritional Help at Your Fingertips

While Googling recently, I found a link to Soul-Food-Advisor, a website devoted to “African American cuisine and soul food, mostly known as Southern or comfort food.” It sounded, frankly, delicious. But as someone with pre-diabetes, I am trying to eat fewer carbs, avoid anything fried, and turn the other cheek when I see macaroni and cheese-my favorite comfort food since I was a little kid. So instead of looking at Soul Food Advisor, I turned my attention to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) MyFoodAdvisor online tool.

MyFoodAdvisor is a free online service that helps do the math when it comes to calorie and carb counting, comparing foods, managing your diabetes, and figuring out nutrition. It was created because the ADA felt that other free online tools don’t help people educate themselves about food choices and nutrition in a user-friendly way. The website lets you enter the name of any common food that you want to learn more about-perhaps you have it in your fridge at this very moment and are wondering if eating it would be a good idea. I entered the fruit “kiwi” and learned that one serving (a large fruit without the skin) has 55 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. (The site also gives information on saturated fat, sodium amounts, vitamins and many other details.)

Once you’ve selected a food, you can then click one button to find a healthier alternative or a second button to compare the selected food with another food. I elected to compare the kiwi to a banana. I learned that a six-inch or smaller banana has 72 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. So, the kiwi is a better choice if I want to spend more of my carb allowance on something else during this meal.

MyFoodAdvisor has over 5000 different foods in its searchable database. You can search for foods using any of five criteria, including the amount of carbs and calories, and locate healthier alternatives to something you’re tempted to eat. I wanted to see the stats for a Hostess apple pie, which I know has a huge load of carbs. It wasn’t listed, so instead I selected “Dutch Apple Pie” from Burger King. Egads! It has 300 calories and 45 grams of carbs. That would be your entire meal allotment if you were following the ADA’s recommendations of 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate at each meal.  Then I compared the Burger King pie to McDonald’s “Baked Hot Apple Pie.” I know you’re wondering, so I’ll tell you: the McDonald’s apple pie came out the winner, with 50 fewer calories at 250 calories and 13 less carbs with a count of 32 grams. (Obviously, however, neither will fill you up, and you shouldn’t eat anything that consumes your entire carb meal allotment in just one item.)

MyFoodAdvisor also offers help in finding recipes for ingredients you have at home. I entered “egg” and was offered recipes for Chopped Veggie Salad with Feta, Deviled Eggs, Provencal Stuffed Eggplants, Veggie Pizza, and Ziti with Eggplant. You’ll notice that only deviled eggs actually have eggs in them, so my search for a dish with eggs in it also picked up recipes with eggplant. (If I’d put “eggs” in the search box, I could have avoided that.) You can also create recipes from ingredients you’d like to use. To save a recipe, however, you must first log on to the ADA site. 

I found the site to be a little clunky because you can’t use the “forward” or “back” features in your browser, although the “Help” section notes that they are hoping to add this functionality in the future. All in all, however, it’s a neat tool, despite the fact that it could use some tweaks and a larger (or maybe “smarter”) database of foods. I, for one, am interested to see how much better it gets as the ADA works on it.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines, published by the United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion are in effect until the 2010 version is published.

Read more about what the ADA says about carb counting

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