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updated: 11/9/2010 11:49 AM

Wraps not always a calorie saver

Ask the Nutritionist

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Q. Is it true that wraps are a lower calorie choice than regular sandwiches?

A. At some restaurants, the wraps are lower in calories than the traditional sandwich choices, but not always. A wrap reduces the excess calories that can come with oversize sub or sandwich rolls. However, just as important are total portion size and what's inside.

At restaurants offering both traditional sandwiches and wraps, when wraps are smaller, they are usually lower in calories. But at restaurants where the two end up in equal size portions, the calorie comparison varies with what's inside. You can often check chain restaurant's calories online or at the restaurant.

When you make a wrap at home, it might be easy to think of each tortilla as a piece of bread, which would make two wraps the equivalent of one typical sandwich. But check your tortilla package: a 10-inch (plate-sized) regular tortilla or 8-inch thicker "gordita-style" tortilla is likely to contain 140 to 170 calories, making just one the equivalent of two servings of grains.

As long as you're not piling on other grains by adding rice or eating it with chips, that's nutritionally sound for a healthy meal, particularly if you choose whole-grain tortillas.

For most of us, however, two wraps that size would push calories inappropriately high.

If you like the feeling of abundance from having two wraps in a meal, choose the smaller six-inch corn tortillas, which are also excellent choices because they are whole-grain and low-fat.

Q. Would Pilates exercises be an effective way to get rid of my belly fat?

A. Pilates-type exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles. They also improve flexibility and joint mobility and build strength.

Primarily using one's own body weight as resistance, participants are put through a series of progressive, range-of-motion exercises, which also include attention to the mind/body connection. According to its adherents, Pilates can help you develop long, strong muscles, a flat stomach, a strong back and improved posture.

But this doesn't take care of the problem of layers of fat on top of those muscles.

If you have an unhealthy amount of fat there, you probably need to change the calorie balance in your diet. Take a look at your eating habits to see where you might be eating or drinking a couple hundred extra calories a day that you could omit.

Also, since Pilates-type exercises are generally done just two days a week, look for other types of exercise to do on the other days for overall health and to burn off some of that excess body fat you've stored.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at aicr.org.

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