Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is the deal with the cupcake craze?

In the last few years, cupcake shops have opened up everywhere. My first experience with a cupcake shop was the "Teacake Bake Shop" in Emeryville, CA. I was out with my three daughters and they noticed the cute shop with pink and brown colors. There was something about the color scheme that drew me in. I ended up buying 4 cupcakes, 1 for each child and one for myself. I believe I spent about $12.00 that day.
I still can't believe I spent that much money for 4 tiny cakes with frosting. They put the cupcakes in a cute little brown box with pink accents. And as far as taste goes, they were very delicious. As some one who bakes all of her cakes from scratch, I can truly appreciate a cake made from real ingredients. However, as a dietitian I have some concerns.
1) These cupcakes can pack a punch in terms of calories. Depending on the bakery, the type of frosting, and the size of the cupcakes, they can contain anywhere from 200 to 500 calories. For example, the "Sprinkles" Red Velvet Cupcake with cream cheese frosting contains a whopping
497 calories and 27 g of fat and 16 g of saturated fat and 45 g of sugar.
2) Since they are so small, can you just eat one?
3) These cupcakes do not have any nutritional value at all. At least ice cream contains calcium, a nutrient important for bone health.
4) Cupcakes really appeal to children. And at 45 g of sugar for one cupcake, it's like feeding your children 9 teaspoons of sugar at one time. At least soda, only contains 6 teaspoons of sugar. Well, I don't recommend soda. That was a joke.
5) Eating a food item with sugar causes your blood sugar levels to rise sharply. Your pancreas responds by producing insulin which later causes an increased uptake of blood sugar leaving you feeling fatigued or lethargic. Not a fun feeling. And not ok for a diabetic.
6) Let's say a person needs about 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight and be healthy. Of course calorie needs are multifactorial. The recommended fat intake for this person would be about 67 g of fat per day. The Red Velvet Cupcake mentioned above provides 39% (26g) of fthat person's fat needs for the day. This is significant.
7) Let's say this person has elevated blood cholesterol levels (>200mg/dl), she should not eat more than 22 g of saturated fat a day, if any. This cupcake provides 16g of saturated fat - 73% of the upper limit. JUST IN ONE TINY CAKE.
My suggestion: Don't eat them. LOL. Ok, if you are going to eat them, have them after running a marathon or competing in a really long distance event. However, the empty calories won't help with your recovery. Seriously, have one. Don't make it a habit, but at least know what is in them.

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