Blog: News Bites and Feeds
 
May 18th, 2014 |

Fed Up: A Few Thoughts

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a special preview screening of Fed Up, the new food documentary at the Harvard School of Public Health. The screening was followed by a short panel Q&A with film producer Laurie David, ChopChop Magazine  founder Sally Sampson and Dr. Eric Rimm, nutrition epidemiologist at HSPH.

The film intends to piss people off about the state of food marketing and the inability of the government to make changes to protect our collective health, especially that of American children.

I came across my hand-scribbled notes I took while watching Fed Up and listening to the panel afterwards. I’ll share them here. In some cases, I wrote the author of the quote. If not, it is likely a quote or phrase from the movie’s narrator, Katie Couric. 

  • Plenty of people are non-obese but sick on the inside. This is everybody’s problem. It touches all of us.
  • A bowl of corn flakes, no added sugar. A bowl of sugar, no added cornflakes. It’s the same thing once it passes your palate.
  • Sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine. Dr. Mark Hyman, founder and Medical Director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA
  • Junk is still junk, even if it’s less junky. Dr. Mark Hyman
  • Schools have become 7-11s with books. Dr. Kelly Brownell, Dean of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy
  • 600,000 food products in grocery stores. 80% have added sugar.
  • If we have Meatless Mondays, we should have Sodaless Sundays.
  • Tomato paste is a good source of fiber. WHAT? Ketchup and tomato sauce count as vegetables. WHAT? (movie audience response)
  • Would LeBron James or Beyonce sell cigarettes? Laurie David on celebrity food endorsements (soda, Gatorade, etc.).
  • You can’t actually be on your cell phone and chop a carrot at the same time. Cooking helps us disconnect and connect with what’s important. Laurie David on the importance of cooking.
  • Eating junk isn’t effortless. Sally Sampson of ChopChop magazine on the argument that eating healthy foods costs more and takes more effort.
  • Start small, make a sandwich. It takes 3 minutes. Sally Sampson on ‘cooking’ at home.
  • Spend all the money on healthcare on teaching people how to cook. Dr. Eric Rimm of Harvard School of Public Health on shifting our priorities.
  • We have to have better spin than they do. Eric Rimm on how public health needs a public relations makeover to compete with food marketing campaigns.
  • The discussion needs to be about food. Not about weight. Sally Sampson on reframing the issue.

Go see this film and form your own opinions. Start a discussion with friends and colleagues. Rip the film apart. Compliment the parts you agree with. Get political.

As a nutrition professional, I completely agree with my fellow sports dietitian and diabetes educator Sally Hara on her recent post. Nutrition isn’t as  simple as pointing fingers. Helping change a massive system where the deck is really stacked against the good guys (public health & qualified nutrition professionals), isn’t easy. Placing blame, that’s easy.

Here’s my take away message: Don’t wait for the system to be fixed. It won’t be. Just try to make yourself better. Make a small but lasting change to your lifestyle. Motivate and engage those that you care for to do the same. That’s how you help yourself and your community.

 

 

 
March 27th, 2014 |

Who are you getting your nutrition information from?

Load Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any web site. Search for the nutrition topic of your choice. What will you find? Pages upon pages of information, meaning your simple nutrition question just became a million times more confusing.

So, how do you know what information to trust? One way is to look at the credentials of the writer.

Here is what some of the credentials of nutrition writers mean:

Registered Dietitian (also referred to as RD)

  • Registered Dietitians go through extensive schooling in nutrition and dietetics. They complete an internship (in the hospital, outpatient, and community setting) focusing on ways to counsel a wide variety of people on their diets.
  • Registered Dietitians must continue their education yearly. That helps them stay up-to-date on the current nutrition information and research.

Nutritionist

  • No education or training is required to list this credential. Some nutritionists receive extensive schooling in nutrition. Other nutritionists are simply passionate about healthy eating. Check out a nutritionist’s resume and training to determine if she or he has received an education in nutrition.

Health Coach

  • Health coaches train to council clients on healthy behaviors. They take broad courses on nutrition, fitness, and health.

Yoga Instructor

  • Yoga instructors get credentialed to teach yoga. The technique focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. This training does not include nutrition education.

Fitness Enthusiast

  • You see them at the gym or posting about it every day. They clearly enjoy staying active. But they have zero nutrition education.

Barista

  • Baristas remember your “nonfat latte with sugar free vanilla syrup” order each morning. They make all milk and milk alternatives (nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole, or soy) available for you. As part of their job, they do not need to know anything about nutrition.

If you are seeking nutrition advice online, search for the credentials of your source. Be wary of information posted by those without an education in nutrition.

By Stephanie Snell, Guest Blogger, Master’s Candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

 
February 27th, 2014 |

Coconut Water: Are you drinking the “right beverage” for your workout?

Many articles have been published on the importance of staying hydrated during physical activity. Markets have a wide array of beverages that promote “rehydration” benefits. But, how do you choose the best beverage for your workout?  Do you need Gatorade? Coconut water? Or plain water?

For the everyday exerciser, water is still the only recommended beverage within the scientific literature.

Researchers* have tested active adults’ and athletes’ hydration response to a generic sports drink, coconut water, and water after their exercise routine. All participants performed intense exercises that would dehydrate them. Following that exercise, participants consumed one of the three beverages. Their body weights were recorded prior to exercise, following exercise, and then in hourly intervals following the “rehydration beverage.” For a regular exercise regimen—less intense than an athlete—all beverages had the same effect on hydration.

Sports Drinks

Coconut Water

Pros*

  • Sports drinks are better than water during intense exercise that an elite athlete would take part in.
  • Sports drinks contain enough sodium to activate the body’s response to drink more fluids.
  • Coconut water comes from the juice of the coconut: it is all natural and contains no artificial ingredients.
  • Coconut water taste different from water and sports drinks.

Cons*

  • Sports drinks have only been proven beneficial in the elite athlete population, not for the average person going to the gym a few times a week. No evidence suggests sports drinks should be consumed for regular exercise.
  • Sport drinks have more calories than water. Watch the serving size because the calories add up quickly.
  • Coconut water can cause abdominal discomfort when it is used for rehydration.
  • Coconut water has no scientific evidence supporting it as a better rehydration beverage—the main claim of advertisements.

Whether or not you believe the hype about sports drinks and coconut water, the research states that the best beverage for your workout is still plain water. Drink water, stay hydrated.

*Research has been published in the Nutrition Journal, Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, and other peer-reviewed journals

 

By Stephanie Snell, guest blogger, Master’s Candidate in Nutrition at Tufts University

 
January 27th, 2014 |

Stay on Trend in 2014: Five Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

Check out the 5 popular foods of 2014 that will add something extra to your food repertoire while keeping it healthful and delicious.

Tea

Move over coffee, tea (in a hot or cold preparation) is front and center this year. In 2014, tea bars are opening that exclusively serve tea. But don’t limit yourself to just a tea beverage. Tea can be added to many dishes—try it on proteins—for an herbaceous flavoring similar to traditional seasonings. Along with its great taste and many varieties, tea is an excellent source of polyphenols: a type of antioxidant associated with lowering your risk for multiple chronic diseases. So toast the New Year with a delectable, hot cup of tea.

Asparagus

Roasted asparagus is a thing of the past; this year asparagus ribbons are in. Asparagus ribbons are the new base to the traditional leafy green salad. With a knife or mandolin, asparagus can be thinly sliced lengthwise to make ribbons. If high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems are a concern, the potassium in asparagus should help to reduce your risk. Try asparagus in its new or old form—it will always be delicious.

Carrots

Turns out the old wives tale of carrots improving eyesight wasn’t entirely false: carrots contain beta-carotene, which is a major contributor to vision. Along with providing beta-carotene (the plant-based form of vitamin A), carrots provide an extra flavor to dishes this year. You may think of carrots as your favorite midday snack—excellent choice by the way—but now they are being included into the savory main dish. A roasted root vegetable dish is incomplete without the slight sweetness of carrots. It is no longer your basic peas and carrots as a side, try carrots in a new dish this year.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit is much more than just a sweet addition to your breakfast. Expect to see grapefruit and other citrus fruits in entrees, desserts, and preserves—just about everywhere—this year. It is a particularly nice addition to greens based salads, too. In fact, the acidity of the grapefruit helps to take away the harshness of bitter greens, such as kale. Besides being delicious, grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C: a well-known treatment for reducing the length of your cold. In 2014, enjoy the sweet vitamin C filled treat of grapefruit.

Buckwheat

For those with gluten allergies and intolerances, (have no fear) buckwheat is the grain of the year. Along with being tolerable for those who can’t eat wheat, buckwheat is an excellent source of D-fagomine. D-fagomine lowers blood sugar spikes after eating: a beneficial effect for anyone struggling with blood sugar maintenance. If you are missing out on your favorite wheat products, swap the ingredient of all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour. For appetizers, try buckwheat blinis with the healthy topping of your choice.

 

By Stephanie Snell, Guest Blogger, Master’s Candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

 

 
December 27th, 2013 |

New Year, New Resolution, New You

At this time every year, we make resolutions for the future. Often times those resolutions are about getting healthy, losing weight, eating better, and other healthful adjustments to daily living. Unfortunately, shortly after these resolutions are made they are discontinued or placed “on hold”. This year it is possible to make the change and stick to it. All it takes is following the 5 steps of the “stages of change” within the “transtheoretical”, or behavior change, model. These steps include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

  1. Pre-contemplation- Unprepared to make a change in your behavior.
  2. Contemplation- Determine the change you want to make in your life.
  3. Preparation- Collect all of the things you need to make your resolution.
  4. Action- Make your change and keep it.
  5. Maintenance- Keep your resolution for 6 months. You have finally reached maintenance.

These are all necessary things to consider. When you make a mistake or misstep with your resolution, it is not over. The stages of change account for moving backward. If you are not maintaining your resolution and return to the contemplation stage, you can work back up to the action stage. It takes 6 months—I know that is a long time—from  the start of your behavior change to reach maintenance. However, it does takes 6 months for things to become a habit.

As you are probably in the contemplation stage right now, you should consider a few things when deciding on this year’s resolution.

  1. Make it simple.
    • A resolution with 10 changes is much harder to keep than a resolution with 1 or 2 changes.
  2. Make it specific.
    • A clear resolution is easier to keep. Instead of resolving to be healthy, resolve to include more vegetables in your diet daily, drink more water, etc.
  3. Make it feasible.
    •  A resolution should be a change that you can make. If your gym commitment is maxed out, resolve to take the stairs more often instead of the elevator at work.

I hope you will consider this food for thought when forming your New Year’s resolution. Happy 2014!

By Stephanie Snell, guest blogger, Master’s Candidate in Nutrition at Tufts University

 

 
December 26th, 2013 |

Jumpstarting Microresolutions

My young nephews, Trent (9) and Bryce (6) received tablets for Christmas. They’ve been nestled on the couch the very second the devices were fully charged. I’m hopeful  the novelty will eventually wear off, at least a little, right?

These two boys are very active. They play basketball and soccer. They play ‘tickle tackle’ outside in the yard for hours and look like they’re NFL-ready. Bryce will take your legs out from under you without fear. Trent will out run you and has cat-like agility. They burn calories at that enviable young boy rate.

They also eat very healthfully. Thanks to my sister’s insistence, fruits and vegetables are part of their vocabulary. They know what quinoa is and prefer kale chips to Lays. They love ChopChop magazine and ChopChop cookbook. Trent knows more about food labels than any dietitian I know. Bryce wants his plate to be colorful. Eating the right stuff fits seamlessly into their day.

In the name of balance, tablet-time has a place in their world, that’s for sure. I decided to chat with them about doing things a little bit differently, just for the heck of it. Motivated by Caroline Arnold’s recent book on sustainable self improvement, we discussed ‘little goals’ or microresolutions (small, specific goals that will be achieved). Here’s what they decided about tablet-time:

–They’re very excited that they have their own devices. They no longer have to barter for mom’s IPad.

–Playing the tablets can make them feel ‘kinda lazy’ like a big couch potato.

–Like candy, they get a taste of some game-time and they want more game-time.

–They like playing outside more than playing on the couch because ‘fresh air is really cool’.

So, the boys created a microresolution together: For every hour they spend on the tablet, they resolve to eat 1 serving of fruit/vegetable or jump rope for 5 minutes in the driveway. Bryce tells me he’ll eat carrots every single time because, well, they taste just like candy.

Have some fun setting your microresolutions this year. It’s never too late (or too early) for behavior change.

For more on Caroline Arnold’s book, Small Move, Big Change, go here: http://www.carolinelarnold.com/books/small-move-big-change/

For ChopChop magazine and book, go here: http://www.chopchopmag.org

CATEGORIES: Prevention
 
November 27th, 2013 |

Try some Yummly new dishes for the holidays

Still unsure of what you are cooking for Thanksgiving tomorrow? Do you want to add a twist to a dish that you have been making for years? Then check out Yummly.

Yummly is a recipe app and website (www.yummly.com) that has a variety of recipes from different web sources.  When using Yummly, you can easily access the cook time, ingredients, and direct link to the directions for any recipe. For the Yummly recipes that you enjoy, or want to try, you just click “yum” and they are saved for later. Think of this app as your portable recipe book.

Pros

  • It has a lot of recipes searchable by ingredient, dish name, or holiday.
  •  It allows you to refine food searches by…
    • Nutrition breakdown (amount of Calories, carbohydrates, fat, and cholesterol)
    • Food allergies and diet preferences
    • Specific ingredients to include or exclude
  • It recommends dishes based on seasonality and recent “yums”.
  • It has a photo for most dishes.
  • It includes a shopping list, which allows you to add foods manually or scan a products barcode.
  • It is free!

Cons

  • It freezes.
  • It does not link to all recipes online, which can limit the number of recipes for certain ingredients.
  • It does not regularly update your recent “yums” on the app.
  • It is difficult to search by nutrition breakdown because many recipes do not include it.

By Stephanie Snell, guest blogger, Master’s Candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

 
November 26th, 2013 |

10 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

  1. Enjoy. The holidays are a great time to gather with family and friends and eat incredible foods. Don’t miss out!
  1. Balance. Most people do eat more calories during the holiday stretch. Think about ways to increase your activity to balance out the excess calories. Walk more during your workday. Extend your walk or run by 5-10 minutes. Take the T or bus and get off a stop or two earlier. Small increases in activity can make a big difference.
  1. Think Mediterranean. Go for savory vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, whole grains, yogurt and olive oil whenever possible and use spices to help enhance flavor rather than an extra pat of butter.
  1. Focus on colorful vegetables. Most holiday meals are rich in vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, spinach, Brussels spouts. These foods are an excellent way to include a good dose of protective antioxidants. Make your plant  portions bigger than you normally do at holiday time.
  1. Drink sensibly. For those including alcohol, be sure to include a glass of water between drinks to avoid overdoing alcohol calories (and a horrible hangover).
  1. Keep the ‘heavy hitters’ small in portion. Some foods are packed with calories (and taste)! Keep the portions of such foods small. Cheese, bread, nuts, appetizers, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, alcohol and desserts.
  1. Try healthier versions of a few of your favorite foods. Use olive oil instead of butter. Rely on fresh and dried spices instead of extra salt.
  1. Eat! Don’t skip eating the day of a holiday. Skipping meals to ‘save your calories’ will backfire and you’ll eat at least twice as much when you come to meal time. Eat as you normally would during the day (or slightly less) to avoid feeling overly hungry.
  1. Exercise. You’ll feel better. Plain and simple.
  1. Same as number 1. Enjoy. Be mindful of your eating but don’t obsess or worry about it. Food is one of the best gifts!
 
November 15th, 2013 |

Two Facts and A Myth: Vitamin A

“Two Facts and A Myth” is a series of nutrition topics that you can share at the dinner table, around the water cooler, or in line at a coffee shop. This series will bust popular misconceptions about nutrition while highlighting little-known facts. For this week, we will focus on Vitamin A.

 

Fact Vitamin A is important to your eyesight.

Vitamin A takes part in several key steps that allow us to see. The retina (the inner part of the eye) uses vitamin A to convert light into visual signals that are sent to the brain. So, carrots may not make your vision better, but they (and other foods with vitamin A) are important to eyesight.

Fact Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness.

Night blindness is when your eyes have difficulty adapting from bright light to darkness. To treat night blindness, clinicians have prescribed diets rich in vitamin A to patients. This practice has been used for centuries. The first known treatment dates back to Hippocrates’ advice to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Myth Vitamin A supplementation is necessary for curing certain conditions.*

Because of the abundance of foods with vitamin A, supplementation is not necessary. Our Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE), the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A, is 900 mcg (micrograms) per day for males and 700 mcg per day for females. Since we do not look at food in terms of mcg, how much of each food do we need in order to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin A?

Food

Males

Females

Liver 0.96oz (almost 1   pound) 0.75oz
Fish (depends on   the fish) 1 pound 7.3oz 1 pound 2.4oz
Eggs 10 large 8 large
Fortified Milk (with Vitamin A and D) 6 cups 4.5 cups

Another way to get vitamin A is to eat foods with beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to the active forms of vitamin A during digestion. Beta-carotene is orange, so foods with beta-carotene tend to have that color as well. Some dark green vegetables also contain beta-carotene (the green covers up the orange color).

Food

Males

Females

Carrots 1 ½ large 1 ¼ large
Sweet Potatoes (5   inch) 1 potato ¾ of a potato
Kale 2 ¾ cups chopped 2 cups chopped
Apricots 5 ¾ cups 4 ½ cups
Mangoes 10 cups 8 cups

Remember it is important to have a balanced diet. So, you do not need to get all of your vitamin A from one source.

Be mindful of the supplements you choose to take. Unless otherwise recommended, you should try to get your vitamins and minerals from food sources.

 

*Before deciding to start or stop taking Vitamin A supplements, consult your doctor, registered dietitian, or other health professional.

** When you consume over certain amount, the upper limit (UL), it can become dangerous. The UL for vitamin A is 3000mcg for males and females.

***For more information on the vitamin and minerals in your food, go to http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/.

 

By Stephanie Snell, guest blogger, Master’s Candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

 
October 30th, 2013 |

Why My Food Safety Exams Made Me Skeptical About Eating Out

This week I was required to take certification exams for ServSafe and HACCP as a part of my DPD certificate program. What are these exams for exactly? ServSafe and HACCP are designed to teach employees of food service (for example restaurants or fast food vendors) the ways to protect people from foodborne illness.

These types of training programs are essential because they can help reduce the number of foodborne illnesses each year. This issue is a priority. According to ServSafe, millions of people are diagnosed with foodborne illness each year.

These exams cover many concepts: including how to properly handle food as well as how to maintain a clean work environment. Make sure to look for these key things next time you dine out.

  1. Hand Washing- All employees should be required to wash their hands after using the restroom. Unfortunately, this health practice is not as common as it should be. Make sure restaurants post signs that indicate food service workers must wash their hands before returning to work. This is an indicator that they are following food safety practices.
  2. Glove Use- All food service employees are required to use gloves when preparing food, but some restaurants have approval to use bare hands. If you are visiting a place where you can watch the preparation of your food, check that…
    • New gloves are put on before your dish is made
    • Gloves are touched minimally when they are put on
    • Hands are washed before putting on gloves (gloves do not supplement good hygiene)
    • Money and food are not touched with the same gloves
  3. Time Temperature Control- Food should be cooked and maintained at the proper temperature.
    • Be mindful if you are having something prepared underdone (rare, medium rare, or medium) that you are increasing your chance of foodborne illness.
    • When visiting buffets, soup stations, and salad bars, make sure that all temperatures are checked regularly. If they are not, you should tell the manager that he or she is increasing your risk of foodborne illness.

I know that never eating out again is unrealistic; however, I am now more aware of the establishments where I choose to eat. The moral of the story is to prepare your own food, or make sure that the restaurant you are visiting follows a food safety plan.

Make sure your food is safe. Just ask— “Are you ServSafe or HACCP certified?”

 

By Stephanie Snell, guest blogger, Master’s Candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy