Author Archive for: ‘smeyer’

The School Lunch Debate

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When my son Oliver started public school this year, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind about the lunchroom offerings.  Sadly, my preconceived notions about the food were right on target.  Admittedly there is some healthy food to be had; it is just not prepared in an appealing manner.  Furthermore, my son is only eager to buy on the most unhealthful days of the week, hot dogs, prepackaged peanut butter and jelly (really) & of course chicken fingers.

Granted, I don’t want to appear to be the food police, but I consider these foods to be “fun” and not ones I am happy to see on the regular lunch rotation.  Though I believe in food choice, my almost 7 year old would happily eat M & M’s for dinner, washed down with a cup of Gatorade.  So how can my son make proper food choices at school if there are so many more appealing, yet very unhealthy options?  Is it possible for schools to offer more healthy appealing choices and stay within their budget? I recently read a very insightful column by Mark Bittman discussing these issues.  Click the link to read.

Save Our Children

The Doctor’s Always Right, Right?!

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Recently I had the privilege of hearing a very well respected physician speak on the topic of health and nutrition.  However, when this physician started quoting Dr. Oz, my inner skeptic went on overdrive.  All credibility was lost on me when this speaker began quoting NYT reporter (and major propagandist) Gary Taubes.

Sensationalism. That is the word I think of when I hear Gary Taubes (not a physician by the way), Dr Oz and other “experts” speak about nutrition and weight loss.  The quick fixes, the pills, the supplements, no sugar, no gluten, no grains, no wheat, hey how about no food!

Not to say that these physicians and reporters don’t give us something to think about; science is ever changing and these “experts” certainly give us food for thought.  However, no matter the credentials a practitioner has we need to be skeptics of the quick fixes and promises that simply do not work.

For a very enlightened view on this topic, check out Drop it and Eat by credible health & nutrition expert Walter Willett.

Internet Nutrition Information is Often Misleading—or Worse

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Recently I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.  One theme that kept popping up was the endless amount of nutrition misinformation on the Internet.  Do a Google search on the latest nutrition hot topic and you will find an extraordinary amount of “expert” information which in reality is simply a layperson giving their opinion.  Next time you conduct a health related search remind yourself that anyone can create a blog or website with a catchy name.  Follow these helpful tips by true nutrition experts from Appetite for Health to find the most reliable and evidence (i.e. science based) health & nutrition information.

 

Five ways to Get Better Internet-Based Nutrition Information

 

Look for peer-reviewed references:  Almost every nutrition article we write on our blog, we provide the references and links to the abstracts or full research articles, when available. Of course, there’s a big difference in the quality of research with human clinical trials being the gold standard while animal studies or laboratory analyses don’t carry the same clout.

Check the writer’s bio:  A quick search about the writer can turn up all kinds of useful information. You can see if she/he holds a research or clinical position at a hospital or university; or you can see if they have degrees that make them qualified to be able to provide the most accurate information. You can also see the relationships the writer may have with corporations that may influence his or her point of views on various nutrition issues. For example, a writer who consults with Monsanto or DuPont may have a strong pro-GMO stance.

Use .gov sites:  We have a lot of wonderful government resources on the Internet that have accurate information, so use them.  As a dietitian, I turn to Health and Human Services, FDA, USDA and many other government-based sites when I’m researching topics.

One study or source isn’t enough:  Credible, peer-reviewed science needs to be replicated several times–and from various research labs–before you change eating habits based on the results.  Often times, Internet stories fail to note that the study was preliminary or the results have only been found from one laboratory.  Unless there is consistency in results with several studies, it’s probably not worth making changes based on the results.

Be a healthy skeptic:  Probably the best piece of nutrition advice I can give to anyone is to be a critical thinker and if something sounds too good to be true, know that it’s 99% likely to be a sham. The Internet today is full of modern-day charlatans that may have degrees or even TV shows, but they too can have hidden agendas, and may have a financial incentive to mislead consumers.

Does Willpower Equal Weight Loss?

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Given the topic of my previous blog I thought it was fitting that I stumbled upon this article. Many of us (falsely) believe if only we had better willpower we would surely eat less, and then surely we will be “bikini body” ready or weigh the same we did in high school (20 years later).
Statements that really stuck with me from this article:

 “Many people go through life believing that they can’t stick to a diet because they have no willpower. They believe that some innate force is keeping them from resisting food temptations,” The truth is that the ability to stick to a weight loss diet has little to do with will — and everything to do with changing the way we think about food.


Believing that willpower is at work only serves to make you feel less in control of your eating habits, experts say.


 One of the best ways to avoid eating too much of the foods you don’t want, is, ironically enough, to allow yourself to eat them. “The more you deny yourself what you want, the weaker you will feel when you’re around it, and the harder it will be to resist.”

 

This last statement is one I firmly believe. Before you go another day (or minute for that matter) berating yourself about your lack of willpower to avoid eating that brownie, I encourage you to read this article and re-frame your thoughts about willpower.

 

Ways to Love Your Body

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Though you wouldn’t know it by the weather, summer will be upon us in the next few months.  The change of season is evident by the bombardment of articles promising to get you a “bikini body” in just a few months. Though my deliveries from the mailman have dropped significantly in the electronic age, I still manage to get obscure catalogs featuring scantily clad women on the beach.

Normally I don’t think much about these marketing ploys, but since I have had the opportunity to work one on one with college students, my eyes have been opened to the world of body dissatisfaction. I have seen young females in all shapes & sizes; the one thing they have in common is they are not happy with the way they look.  Focus on the flaws seems to be the mantra.

Although it is easier said than done, I want to spread the word that we should focus on the strengths of our body.  Rather than worrying whether the food we eat will add pounds, shouldn’t we be concerned that the food we eat is healthy and benefits our bodies in the long-term?

 

In honor of the upcoming “bikini season” I am including some adapted tips on Ways to Love your Body.

1.    Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Rest when you are tired.

2.    Change the messages you are giving yourself. Identify the negative ways that you speak to yourself and make a decision to replace that self-talk with more realistic, loving, and positive statements.

3.    The number on the scale does not determine your worth. You are much more than a number on a scale. Instead focus on the most important things about yourself like your unique talents, qualities, skills, and characteristics.

4.    Think of your body as an instrument instead of as an ornament. Be thankful every day for all of the wonderful things you can do in your body such as dance, play, run, and enjoy good food.

5.    Exercise to feel good and be healthy, not to lose weight or punish your body. Find fun ways to add more physical activity in your life.

6.    Walk with your head held high. If you act like someone with a healthy body image and good self-confidence, the “act” will eventually become reality.

7.    Wear comfortable clothes that fit. Clothes that are too large or too small tend to create physical discomfort and may make you feel even worse about your body. Clothes that fit you well are designed to complement your figure.

8.    Question ads that perpetuate unrealistic standards for our bodies. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with me,” say, “What’s wrong with this ad?” Set your own standards instead of letting the media set them for you.

9.    Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your body, not critical.

10.  Every day tell yourself, “I am worthy.”

Adapted from: Judy Lightstone, RD. “Improving Body Image”

Diet vs Exercise…what is better for weight loss?

Weekly Wisdom
  • If you really want to see the scale number drop, what you put in your mouth matters most
  • Active lifestyles may not protect against obesity if people continue to consume a “Western” Diet (i.e. high in sugars, salts & processed foods)
  • Exercisers, however, are more successful keeping the extra weight off than non-exercising couterparts

Source: Michael Pollan Food Rules

Food Label Makeover

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By now you have probably heard that the FDA has recently revamped the food label. A long overdue makeover (far from perfect) but it is a start. Ideally, we wouldn’t need food labels if all our food came directly from our garden & local farmer, but alas, in today’s world this is not always possible. So, what to make of the new food labels?

 

First, marketers are geniuses at creating misleading health claims that lure consumers into buying products that they perceive as healthy, so buyer beware.  The best remedy for this deception, look at the Nutrition Facts label.

 

When reviewing the label, here are a few things to consider: (source What to Look for on Food Labels)

Calories: Consider how the food fits in your daily calorie budget and compare with similar products. Pay attention to serving size.

Fats: While the focus is no longer on the amount of fat, check out the type of fat. The goal for saturated fat is less than 7 percent of your calories, generally around 15-20 grams. How much does this food contribute to your saturated fat intake? Does it contain trans fat? Best advice is to avoid buying if it contains trans fat (otherwise know as partially hydrogenated oils).

Sodium: The goal for sodium is to keep under 2,000 milligrams per day and that’s probably the biggest eye opener when looking at labels. If you choose a food that contains a fair amount of sodium, make sure the rest of your daily intake is lower. Often you will find a big variation in sodium content among brands.

Fiber: Fiber is beneficial for heart health and digestive function, so choose foods with higher fiber content. This generally comes from whole grains, legumes and beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables, so favor these to meet the goal of greater than 20 (ideally 25-35) grams of fiber per day.


Things to be aware of on food labels:

Gluten-free: It’s the current buzzword and it is essential that you avoid gluten if you have celiac disease, but don’t assume gluten free means healthier as some options are highly processed.

Natural: This tends to be popular for marketing purposes, but has no formal definition. Natural chips or beer don’t necessarily have any added nutritional benefit.

A green label: Yes, it is a selling point as people assume foods are healthier when the label is green as opposed to other colors. (not true)

Low fat: By definition, the product must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, but keep in mind that it can still be high in sugar, sodium or calories.

Whole grain versus multigrain: Choose 100 percent whole grain to be assured it truly is whole grain. The “multi” label means that the product contains more than one grain, however, all of them can be refined.

Stress Busting Foods…a healthy diet can counter stress, Part 2

Weekly Wisdom
  • Fatty fish: High in Omega 3 (essential fat) & possible depression combatant. Aim for
    3oz 2 times per week.
  • Nuts: (almonds, pistachios, walnuts): chock­full of helpful vitamins. Snack on ~1 oz per day.
  • Exercise: The best stress buster yet. Aim for 30 minutes 3­-4 times per week.

Stress Busting Foods…a healthy diet can counter stress, Part 1

Weekly Wisdom
  • Choose Complex carbs (are digested more slowly): whole grain cereals, breads, pastas & “old­ fashioned” oats.
  • Citrus foods (orange) are high in Vitamin C which can curb levels of stress hormones.
  • Leafy greens(spinach): rich source of stress busting vitamin magnesium.

Gluten Free, is it Worth it?

It seems like everywhere you look, from the grocery store to the bookstore, there are articles and books claiming “gluten free” is the way to go.  For example, books such as Grain Brain and  Wheat Belly, report that by cutting gluten from our diet, we would not only be full of energy but that our brain function would improve significantly.  Does this sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it probably is and all this misinformation about gluten free diets often gets in the way of educating consumers about the real reasons for following a gluten free diet.  Celiac Disease? Gluten Allergy?  Gluten Sensitivity?  What are the differences and the true incidence of these diseases? Celiac disease is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that sets off an immune response that causes damage to the small intestine.  Celiac disease is life long & the only treatment for true celiac disease is a gluten-free lifestyle, a diet free of wheat, barley, rye & oats. Diagnosing celiac disease requires blood tests & an intestinal biopsy. Celiac disease is not to be confused with gluten sensitivity, which unfortunately has no tools to diagnose this condition.  Gluten sensitivity describes persons who exhibit symptoms similar to those with celiac disease, but test negative for celiac disease. It is important to note that these individuals do not have the antibodies and intestinal damage seen in celiac disease.

 

So, why do people report feeling so fantastic after going gluten free? First, the Standard American Diet, dubbed S.A.D., is high in sugars, refined flour & processed foods.  Many of the health benefits people claim from going gluten free are simply from eliminating the processed food in our diets.  Speaking of processed food, going gluten free does not mean an automatic elimination of these types of foods.  Browsing through our local grocery store I was amazed at the amount of highly processed gluten free products available.  The basis of gluten free diet is inherently healthy, no processed flours, high in fruits, vegetables & lean sources of protein.   It is important to note, however, that research does not support elimination of gluten from the diet unless diagnosed with one of the conditions described above.

 

So, what to do if you suspect an issue with gluten tolerance?  First, avoid self-diagnosis, which may result in unnecessary elimination of certain food groups.  It is best to make an appointment with a trusted physician and discuss your options for getting  an accurate diagnosis.

 

Resources:

Gluten Intolerance Group of North America

Glutenfree.com

Celiac Support Association

 

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Yield: 13 cookies

Total Time: 20 minutes max!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup bananas, ripe and mashed, about 2 large bananas
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips,

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and mix well. With a medium cookie scoop drop cookie batter onto the lined cookie sheets a few inches apart. Flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand and bake for 10 minutes.

Let them cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 days.
Source: eatgood4life.com

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