Author Archive for: ‘Sherri Meyer, Corporate Dietitian’

Health Doesn’t Have a Size

Recently my young son asked me “do people get fat from eating French fries?” innocently reiterating our society’s simplistic notion that we are overweight from eating too much food. Even as a healthcare professional, I was taught that being overweight is a simple matter of eating too much food; never taking into account that thin isn’t always equivalent to healthy. Furthermore, with over 95% of diets failing (and we all know someone who is on a “diet”) we clearly are not accomplishing our goal of everlasting thinness. While I have witnessed great improvements in our society’s false belief that thinness is the only way to a life of health & happiness, we still have a long way to go. As a dietitian, I have worked with numerous athletes; while in the best shape of their life, still strive to achieve a weight that will be counterproductive to their athletic performance. This theory of thinness has troubled me for some time, leading me to search for science-based information regarding weight & health. My search for body acceptance led me to the HAES organization-Health at Every Size. HAES is a science (i.e. evidence) based approach to supporting the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes, while rejecting the notion that weight is the only indicator of health. I fully support this movement that celebrates the health & diversity of our bodies, breaking us free from the never-ending struggle to achieve a body habitus that is simply unachievable.
 

The Health At Every Size® Principles are:

1. Weight Inclusivity:

Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.

2. Health Enhancement:

Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.

3. Respectful Care:

Acknowledge our biases and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.

4. Eating for Well-being:

Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

5. Life-Enhancing Movement:

Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

 

Sources: Empowered Eating Health at Every Size

Simply Fresh Spring

As I sit here on this dreary rainy day, I am dreaming of sunshine and spring menu planning. Fresh strawberries, crisp lettuce & of course asparagus, just to name a few of my spring favorites. Last week at the farmer’s market I saw signs of spring popping up with fresh ripe strawberries for sale (granted, they were from North Carolina, not Virginia, but it is a sign of what is to come). As I have gotten older, I have developed a much greater appreciation for the simplicity of fresh, local food. Additionally, fresh produce is loaded with vitamins & minerals & offers a whole host of health benefits. This recipe will most definitely be prepared in my house after the first sighting of asparagus at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest & Cheese

Ingredients:

· 1 pound asparagus (skinnier may be better)

· 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

· 1-2 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese, such as 3-year gouda or parmesan

· 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus lemon slices for garnish

· Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Fit a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut the last inch from each stalk of asparagus and discard. Spread stalks out on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, using a pastry brush to coat each stalk, or simply turning the stalks over with a fork until they are well coated. Sprinkle with cheese and lemon zest, and then season with salt & pepper.

3. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until tops of the asparagus, start to turn crisp and stalks are bright green. They should be tender through. Serve hot, with lemon slices for garnish.

Source: Foraged Dish

Simply Fresh Spring

As I sit here on this dreary rainy day, I am dreaming of sunshine and spring menu planning. Fresh strawberries, crisp lettuce & of course asparagus, just to name a few of my spring favorites. Last week at the farmer’s market I saw signs of spring popping up with fresh ripe strawberries for sale (granted, they were from North Carolina, not Virginia, but it is a sign of what is to come). As I have gotten older, I have developed a much greater appreciation for the simplicity of fresh, local food. Additionally, fresh produce is loaded with vitamins & minerals & offers a whole host of health benefits. This recipe will most definitely be prepared in my house after the first sighting of asparagus at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market.


Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest & Cheese

Ingredients:

· 1 pound asparagus (skinnier may be better)

· 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

· 1-2 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese, such as 3-year gouda or parmesan

· 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus lemon slices for garnish

· Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Fit a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut the last inch from each stalk of asparagus and discard. Spread stalks out on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, using a pastry brush to coat each stalk, or simply turning the stalks over with a fork until they are well coated. Sprinkle with cheese and lemon zest, and then season with salt & pepper.

3. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until tops of the asparagus, start to turn crisp and stalks are bright green. They should be tender through. Serve hot, with lemon slices for garnish.

Source: Foraged Dish

Food Messaging.. What does it tell us?

As I was prepping dinner one night, my 5-year-old sauntered by and declared in his most dramatic voice “wow, she lost a lot of weight.” My initial thought was utter cluelessness and then I realized he had caught sight of the Nutrisystem TV commercial showcasing drastic weight loss. Mind you, this is a happy go lucky 5 year old who is generally unaware of the pressures of everyday life, so his comment gave me great pause. This was followed by my 4 year old daughter quoting “bye-bye belly fat” followed by a flurry of giggles. Why did this weight loss commercial catch their attention? I pondered; what are we teaching our youth about their bodies? Already, two young ones, who in reality probably never gave their own body weight much thought, are picking up the messages that fat = bad and skinny = good. Already receiving messages of shame regarding our food choices & body weight. Yet, despite the shame & constant messaging that our life will magically improve with weight loss, we as a nation are still overweight, still depressed & still sedentary. We have turned food into the enemy, putting it in the same category as other addictive substances. The catch is, food is essential for life; we cannot sustain ourselves without it. Yet, we still are unable to make peace with food & stop thinking of food as the one barrier to our life of everlasting skinniness.

The intuitive eating & mindful eating movements have made great strides in changing our toxic relationship with food. However, they don’t offer the quick fix of diets & many people are simply unwilling to put in the long-term effort (i.e. slow results) required for healthy lifestyle weight loss success. Next month’s blog will highlight some of the main principles of these eating movements (notice the absence of diet) and how we can incorporate them into our life.

Lastly, it is useful to remind ourselves, that health isn’t always about weight. An extreme crash diet, may achieve your weight loss goal, but does it accomplish your long-term health goals?
There is obviously a reason diets are advertised over and over, they do not achieve sustainable weight loss. Sustainable being the key word.

Love Food, Love the Experience

After reading Loving Your Food, I thought long and hard about my current eating habits. While I enjoy the process of cooking, I admit the pleasure I derive from eating pleasure is less than desirable. My eating life has turned into a multi-tasking marathon; it is far easier for me to stand up and complete unfinished tasks as I mindlessly shovel food in my mouth (OK, maybe not shovel, but certainly not eating in the most dignified manner). Obviously, as an RD, this is certainly not good practice as half the time I don’t even realize what I am eating. This article was a good reminder that the act of eating is one of pleasure that should truly be enjoyed. When we rush and multitask while consuming food, that pleasure is gone. Furthermore, we miss the benefit of making mindful choices that not only taste good, but also are also good for us.

The last few days I have tweaked some of the habits that crept into my daily life. I actually sit down and look at my food., I take the time to drink water throughout the day & am taking time to make foods that I alone enjoy. I’m rediscovering that eating is for sustenance and pleasure.

“Good” or “Bad” Food

Driving in a car with four children with varying musical tastes doesn’t give me much time for educational podcasts; however, there are a few stolen moments where I can listen to topics of interest without background commentary. This recent podcast by the Foodist really peaked my interest. How to Stop Moralizing Your Food Choices by Darya Rose. This is topic is something I believe many of us can relate too, how many times have we deemed our food choices “good” or “bad”. Demoralized ourself for eating too much or making the wrong food choice. Additionally, Rose talks about not demonizing real food (she uses the example of sweet potatoes and oatmeal). This is a topic that comes up all too frequently in the world of nutrition. Many diet plans mislead consumers to believe that certain whole, plant based foods are not beneficial, perhaps even harmful. Nutritious real foods should never be avoided unless one has a food intolerance of allergy. Additionally, avoiding real food in favor of weight loss shakes or other food substitutes takes away the pleasure that we should all derive from eating food.

Check out this podcast next time you have a free moment (or in the car with a child, who knows you may bring out the budding scientist in them).

Eat Well, Be Well Returns!

The Eat Well, Be Well blog is officially back. The blog was on an unofficial hiatus after my family welcomed our daughter home in March 2016. Life has now settled into a new normal and it’s time to get back to writing about one of my passions, health & nutrition. My hope in re-starting this blog is to provide useful, reliable information regarding current nutrition trends. The world of nutrition is ever changing and it is certainly not always easy to decipher the science behind it (and honestly sometimes there is absolutely no science behind it). I would love to hear from you dear readers, what do you want to learn about? What questions do you have regarding current nutrition trends? Fitness? Wellness? Please email me at smeyer@merig.com and tell me your ideas.

Food Branding, Is it All a Mind Game?

grocery-store

Anyone who has ever been grocery shopping with a child knows how enticing a food package can be.  My 3 year old is fascinated by Curious George and squeals in delight when he sees that curious little monkey’s picture on boxes of “fruit” snacks.  Needless to say, if that box didn’t feature his favorite monkey, he probably wouldn’t even take notice.  Marion Nestle, a food political writer brings up the topic of food packaging in one of her recent blog posts.  

Is there any evidence that plain packaging for unhealthy foods would reduce demand? Research has focused on marketing’s effect on children’s food preferences, demands and consumption. Brands and packages sell foods and drinks, and even very young children recognize and desire popular brands. When researchers compare the responses of children to the same foods wrapped in plain paper or in wrappers with company logos, bright colors or cartoon characters, kids invariably prefer the more exciting packaging

Plain wrappers, no more marketing gimmicks?  Do we see that in our future?  I know many parents out there would certainly rejoice.

Battling Nutrition Misinformation on the Internet

nutri-facts-label

As a registered dietitian I am constantly battling the nutrition misinformation (i.e. quackery) that is published on the Internet.  Luckily for me I have many esteemed colleagues who are in this fight right along with me. …. 

5 Things a Dietitan Would Never Say

As a registered dietitian, I spend much of my day helping clear up confusion around which foods are healthy (and which are not). As more and more people hit the Internet to consume and share (via social media) food and nutrition information, misinformation is spreading faster than the latest Grumpy Cat meme: One week, maple water is the best thing for your health; the next it’s coconut oil, and now …bone broth.

So, where does all this nutrition hype come from? Many times it stems from a popular blogger, celebrity or website that highlights a new food trend. The buzz is generally based on preliminary or flimsy (poorly designed) research or simply anecdotal information.

Unfortunately, because anyone can claim they’re a “nutritionist,” this misinformation can pose a health threat. In some cases, adding trendy foods to one’s diet may elevate risk factors for chronic diseases. And eliminating entire food groups, as is often recommended without justification, can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Here are five common phrases I’ve heard five “nutritionists” say (these are things a dietitian would never say):

1. It works for me … so it will for you, too.

Just because the so-called expert lost a lot of weight or improved his or her health doesn’t mean their trick will work for you. A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition generally works for no one. Nutrition recommendations should be individualized, based on one’s genetic makeup, age, sex, food preferences and lifestyle.

Anyone who believes that a particular type of diet would be beneficial for everyone makes no scientific sense. As a dietitian, I don’t expect an Olympic athlete or cardiac rehab patient to eat like me. Instead, I provide a personalized approach to help each client achieve his or her individual health goals.

2. I have no formal training in nutrition.

While all registered dietitians can be called nutritionists, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. To be a registered dietitian nutritionist, you must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in nutrition science and supervised training in an accredited program that includes clinical and community settings. In addition, all RDNs have passed the national comprehensive exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. RDNs must also complete continuing education requirements to maintain our RDN credential.

The term “nutritionist” is not accredited. In fact, it may represent someone who has taken an online certification course, or it could be someone who feels entitled to call themselves a “nutritionist.” If your nutritionist isn’t qualified to work for a hospital or physician’s office, that’s cause for concern.

3. You can’t trust the medical “establishment.” When someone uses charged statements such as “If you want the real truth…” or “The FDA is using us as guinea pigs,” it’s most likely not credible. Trusted health organizations such as the American Heart Association, Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health develop nutrition recommendations based on overwhelming peer-reviewed evidence and can, in fact, be trusted. While it’s true that as the science evolves, recommendations may be updated, reputable health organizations make evidence-based recommendations.

4. The food industry fills our foods with toxic, addictive and cancer-causing ingredients that are essentially unregulated.

“Toxic.” “Cancer-causing.” “Made from petroleum.” These are terms often used by so-called nutrition experts to describe ingredients in the foods we eat every day. The statements are often misleading and an exaggerated s-t-r-e-t-c-h of the truth designed to raise fear about our food supply and the government agencies that oversee the safety of our food.

However, a real nutrition pro will focus on your personal diet, and assist you in finding the right foods – in the right amounts – to help you achieve your health goals. When you follow healthy eating principles, it’s great to be aware of what’s in your food, so you can make informed food choices, but no one should be fearful of the U.S. food supply. For the most part, ingredients singled out by some watchdog groups are generally found in soft drinks, fast food and other foods that aren’t on most RDs’ recommended lists of foods to enjoy.

5. This ____ (fill in the blank recommendation) helps “brain fog,” “elevate energy,” “leaky gut, “adrenal fatigue,” “acid-base balance.”

Often, I can identify non-dietitians just by the terms they use to promote a food or their diet philosophy. They will use non-medical terms that sound intriguing but can’t be proven effective, as there is no standard diagnosis for terms they use, such as leaky gut or adrenal fatigue. In fact, these highly subjective terms are not even recognized by most qualified medical professionals.

As dietitians, we are trained to treat risk factors for chronic conditions that have been proven effective through research. These include risk factors such as overweight and obesity; elevated blood glucose and insulin; high blood pressure, elevated LDL-cholesterol or C-reactive protein; and other clincally measureable risk factors for diseases.

By: Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD
http://www.usnews.com/topics/author/julie-upton

Focus on Eating Real Food

veggies

Even a science based professional finds their head spinning with all the contradictory information about dietary fats.

Recently another study was published disputing years of recommendations to keep our total fat consumption to less than 30% and saturated-fat to less than 10% of our calorie intake. Although this particular study I am referring to was not the ideal way to measure the effect of dietary fat on cardiac mortality (i.e. death), it helps put things in perspective. Rather than demonizing one specific macronutrient, be it carbohydrate, fat, or protein, we should focus on eating whole food. When we consume whole food we naturally eliminate processed foods with little nutritional value. Perhaps this is another lesson to teach us that it is far better to focus on real food rather than individual nutrients. When you eat a balance of real food there is no need to count carbohydrates, protein or fat because you naturally get what you need.

Bottom line, consume whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits and whole grains; and limit (or avoid) consumption of processed foods. You don’t need a science background to understand that.

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