Gagging. Tears. Shouted pleas for mercy. Big-time drama is what Gladwyne mom Jill Kauffman faced every time she tried to feed vegetables to her 8-year-old son. After years of failed attempts, Kauffman decided that, before her child developed scurvy or rickets, she’d ask for help from an expert. Little did Kauffman realize that Erin Winterhalter would change her family’s relationship with food.
A registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, Winterhalter is the nutritionista behind Eat with Erin, an Ardmore-based consulting service. Through home visits, guided supermarket tours and more, she helps folks rehab their refrigerators, purge their cabinets, and, in turn, transform the way they eat.
Last January, Matt Walsh, then 26, sought Winterhalter’s advice. A roster of medical tests couldn’t explain why he was steadily gaining weight and had both reflux and sleep apnea. Walsh opted for Winterhalter’s supermarket tour, even though he believed his food choices were basically nutritious. He was wrong.
When the two met at the Giant in Havertown, Walsh realized that, while he’d been there thousands of times, he’d never really seen it—at least, not through Winterhalter’s eyes. “She told me about shopping the perimeter of a supermarket, because that’s where refrigerated products are kept—produce, meats and dairy—to keep them fresh, and fresh is always best,” Walsh says. “The inside aisles are things that maintain their shelf life with preservatives—canned items, chips, cookies—and are, for the most part, high in the bad stuff and low in the good stuff. In other words: junk. That was an awakening for me.”
Winterhalter taught Walsh to read labels. His biggest takeaway? “Serving size,” says Walsh. “I had no idea what constituted one serving size and, therefore, had no idea how many calories, sugar, fats and sodium I was eating.”
Peanuts are one of Walsh’s favorite snacks, and it’s true that they’re healthy when eaten in moderation. “But when she came to my house, Erin asked me to pour into a bowl the amount of peanuts I’d eat at once. Then she measured, and it turned out to be three times the serving size that was listed on the label.”
That was an easy fix, but Winterhalter still didn’t ban all snacks from the house. That would’ve been tough to abide by, because Walsh lives with his partner, Chris Colucci, and they have a common problem: Colucci can eat whatever he wants without gaining weight. But Walsh can’t.
As it turns out, Walsh was consuming his biggest no-no outside the home: Starbucks Frappuccinos. “I’d have one for lunch,” he says with regret. “No sandwich, no salad—just a Frappuccino, as a meal. I thought I was saving calories.”
Instead, Walsh was getting more calories, sugar, fat, carbohydrates and sodium than he’d ever imagined. Starbucks posts nutritional information for its beverages online. And while the details for a plain Frappuccino aren’t available, a 16-ounce cup of the pumpkin-spice variety has 290 calories, 59 grams of carbohydrates, and 260 mg of sodium. Compare that to a single bar of Hershey’s milk chocolate, which has 210 calories, 26 grams of carbs, and 35 milligrams of sodium.
And then there’s cereal. Nine-year-old Jay Adams looked forward to his favorite, Reese’s Puffs, every day—until he started complaining of headaches at school. Jay was eating three times the ¾-cup serving size listed on the box, overwhelming his body with so much sugar, carbohydrates and sodium that he was flying-and-crashing throughout the day.
Winterhalter helped Jay and his family change their ways. “She looked in our refrigerator and cabinets to see what foods we already like, then gave us good substitutions for them,” says his mother, Karen Fiore. “For example, she looked at what my son eats and realized that he must like cinnamon. Now, my son eats healthy cereal that has cinnamon flavor, and he eats it with fresh fruit.”
What constitutes a serving size, how many fruits and vegetables should be consumed in a day, the difference between insoluble and soluble fiber, protein’s role in a balanced diet, why sodium is sugar’s evil twin—Winterhalter lays it all out in easy-to-understand terms.
As a result, the Puffs went poof—and so did the Lunchables and Capri Sun juice drinks. Jay now lunches on freshly cut deli meat, soup or dinner leftovers. He also drinks what his mother calls “a river” of water. Fiore, too, took Winterhalter’s advice and changed the brand of snack bars she eats.
All baby steps, Fiore says. “It wasn’t a complete overhaul, which would’ve been too overwhelming to accomplish,” she readily admits.
In Walsh’s case, preparing food at home and bringing it to work has put the kibosh on his grab-and-go eating pattern. He now eats five small meals a day and has gone cold turkey on Frappuccinos. He feels great, is losing weight, and has gained energy.
Perhaps the biggest transformation came with Kauffman’s son. Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, baby kale, carrots—he now eats them all. “Erin bought a cookbook geared toward family dinners and went through it with him,” says Kauffman. “She encouraged him to select what he wanted to eat and be involved in meal planning. She also gave him assignments, like eating from his school’s salad bar twice a week and challenging him to select new items.”
The changes have impacted the entire family. “We now sit down to eat together every night,” Kauffman says. “My husband and I have been eating healthier because we cook from-scratch meals. We’re definitely closer—and healthier—as a family.”
You Are What You Drink
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (16 oz.): 310 calories, 230 mg sodium
Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha (16 oz.): 400 calories, 240 mg sodium
Wawa Pumpkin Spiced Latte (16 oz.): 350 calories,160 mg sodiumâ€‹
Wawa French Vanilla Cappuccino (16 oz.): 300 calories, 400 mg sodium
â€‹Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Chai (14 oz.): 330 calories, 180 mg sodium
Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Caramel Coffee Coolatta (medium):500 calories, 140 mg sodium
Coca-Cola Classic (12 oz.): 140 calories, 45 mg sodium