Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are We Sending Mixed Messages?

 I received this picture in my email the other day, among several from a group called "Friends of Irony"... Yes, isn't it ironic, the seriousness of the billboard declaring that childhood obesity is a real health issue, with the happy girl underneath proudly displaying two bags full of fast food! The fast food picture features--not a yogurt parfait or a carton of low-fat milk (no, that might be a decent message)--but a huge order of fries, a soda, and a sandwich that looks like it contains a fried chicken patty.
Are we sending mixed messages?
Do we tell people to eat healthy foods and then rationalize why burgers and fries are okay sometimes? Are you telling your kids one thing but then showing them something else? Should the schools go back to serving a balanced meal without letting kids have the choice of burgers from the grill or chips from the vending machine?
Post your comments and let's get a discussion going: How do you think we can help raise this generation to make healthier choices and live longer without chronic diseases popping up in their 20's!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Surrounded by Food--No Wonder We're Fat

One of the reasons our society is struggling with obesity is because of our innate drive to obtain food, coupled with the present-day availability of food. It makes sense that we want food whenever we see it; this is part of what has kept the human race surviving for so long. We get the energy and nutrition we need from food, and in the remote past (thankfully not recently for most of us) food wasn't always available. We had to eat it when we saw it.
Now, however, it's become a different story. Food is wherever we are. We store food from the grocery store in our house indefinitely, perhaps in pantries, and perhaps on the table next to where we watch TV.
For the times we are out of the house we stash some in our purse or backpack or in our desk drawers at work.
If we're going to be on the road, we stash a snack in our glove compartment. That's just in case there isn't a convenient fast food drive-thru window nearby on our daily travels.
If we stop to get gasoline, we can run into the attached market to get a high-calorie coffee drink, some pizza, donuts, or packaged snacks for the road.
When we go to school--from primary grades through college campuses--we can find hot food stands, fast food counters, and vending machines overflowing with a vast selection of mini-meals and snacks.
If we visit a sick friend in the hospital or stop by an office building there's usually a cafeteria available--if not there are certainly vending machines.
And now, this weekend, I have really seen it all--not just a vending machine with snacks in the hotel where I stopped to spend the night in Springfield, Illinois; not just a vending machine to dispense a drink in case I needed something to quench my thirst in the hours between having dinner and retiring for the night. No, gentle readers, it was a vending machine that dispensed hot fast food.  Just in case I awoke during the night, before the continental breakfast service started at 6 am, and was too befuddled to make my way across the street to the Bob Evans or the McDonald's... or perhaps they were closed at this hour? Just in case, there is a vending machine in the hotel that will dispense for me a plate of hot wings, or a chicken sandwich, or french fries smothered with cheese.  On the outside chance that I had forgotten to pack some snacks to tide me over, or if I didn't find in the vending machine selection of candy bars and pretzels anything that I thought could possibly satisfy my hunger, and just in case I couldn't survive waiting the few hours until toast and cereal were available... thank goodness, I can get some hot and filling food RIGHT NOW!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dinner For Busy Moms!

Check out the new book, "Dinner for Busy Moms" by Jeanne Muchnick, now available.  I am proud to have contributed :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good Nutrition for Small Children

Did you know that by the time a child is six years old they have more than likely developed the eating habits that will last throughout their life? If you have children, one of the best lessons you can teach them is how to eat healthy and have a good attitude about food and nutrition. Setting an example is even more important than telling them to "eat your veggies", so get on board with good eating habits yourself and keep the whole family eating well.

Here's a great article from Melissa Halas-Liang's site,, about how to feed your kids nutritiously while teaching them to make choices and form habits that will be great for them to continue as they grow up:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Orthorexia: Another eating disorder

The newest recognized eating disorder is actually not yet medically classified as diagnosable in the classic psychological diagnostic manual (The DSM). Then again, bulimia wasn't officially classified until the 1980's. Orthorexia is a disordered type of eating where the person focuses on avoiding foods and ingredients they believe are bad for them.

In a balanced life, people enjoy foods they like to eat and limit foods that aren't good for them.  Some people, of course, eat what they like regardless of whether it's good for them or not. People with orthorexia do not see food as something enjoyable. They eat because they want to be nourished. They avoid certain fats or additives or food components because they want to be healthy. Ironically this condition leads to poor health in many ways.

Some foods are excluded to the extent that the person may suffer a deficiency of fat, protein, vitamins, or minerals. Usually too much weight is lost and the person suffers some degree of malnutrition. Emotionally, much of the person's time is spent figuring out what to eat, reading labels, reading about the latest "bad" food and feeling near phobic about ingesting something they view as toxic.

Their social life is affected because they can't eat in restaurants and they can't eat what other people might be serving. They become obsessed with healthy eating to the point that it's not healthy anymore.

Signs that someone is orthorexic include focusing hours a day on purchasing and planning meals, staunch avoidance of certain classes of foods (eg, no fat, or no dairy, or no processed food, or no additives), obsessively reading labels, and often having the same food every day for each meal.  For example it would be common to hear someone say, "I have whole grain cooked hot cereal for breakfast with rice milk, organic yogurt and carrot sticks for lunch, grain-fed chicken with brown rice for dinner, and an apple or rice cake if I want a snack". At first glance this may sound healthy, but the diet is actually quite low in calories (less than 800), low in protein (less than 45 grams) and almost devoid of fat and vitamin C.

It is unfortunate that the initial goal to be healthy actually leads to health problems in many of these people (more commonly they are women, as is true for other eating disorders as well). If you or someone you know fits some of this description it's important to find a trusted health professional to speak with. You can get back on the right track and get your health back!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Delicious Jerky Flavors!

You may remember about a year ago I told you about this great pineapple jerky I had tried from that was sooo delicious! This week I had the opportunity to try two of their new products, Sweet and Spicy Orange Beef Jerky and Sweet and Spicy Mango Beef Jerky from Spencer's Jerky products. Wow!

First of all, as a dietitian I love the fact that a serving is just 100 calories. It's a great alternative to many of the popular100 calorie snack packages that contain just a handful of little cookies or pretzels that doesn't keep you full for much longer than 10 minutes. For just 100 calories, a full ounce of jerky (about 4 or 5 strips) provides 15 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat and 4 grams of carbohydrate. It's really going to tide you over until the next meal.

Second, the flavor is absolutely savory! Enjoy the sweet taste from the fruit mixed with the spicy taste from the seasonings, all melded together with the chewy beef texture. It's not tough or dry like some other jerkys I have tried, but has a great consistency that's as enjoyable as the tang of whichever variety you choose.
You can order some at beef jerky and find dozens of options to suit your personal taste.

They also have turkey jerky if you, or someone you know, prefers turkey to beef!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taking the Steps to Lose Weight

One of the greatest steps anyone can take in the journey to weight loss is to incorporate habits into your lifestyle that burn more calories or lead you to consume fewer calories. Examples include keeping a food diary, going for a morning walk, planning your meals ahead of time, carrying healthy snacks with you, or taking the stairs whenever possible.

Let's look at taking the stairs: Are there stairs where you work or where you live? Do you usually opt for the elevator if there is one? Skipping the opportunity to run up a few stairs could be the reason you gradually put on two or three pounds each year!  Not noticable at first, these few pounds creep up until suddenly you can't fit into your clothes and wonder how this could have happened.

Taking one flight of stairs barely burns 10 calories. Realistically, going down 10 steps might just burn one single calorie.  However that is one more than you burn by taking the elevator ... and if you're doing it every day, these calories add up!

If you take a flight of stairs every chance you get, how many flights would you climb in a day? If it's too overwhelming to walk 15 flights to your destination you could you walk up 5 flights and then take the elevator the rest of the way!  Does this sound more appealing knowing it burns off 5 pounds a year?!

If this seems too insignificant to notice, think again: This is just one example of 5 flights of steps.  Review all the opportunities facing you each day, as you step up a flight to a friend's apartment, up to the next floor of offices at work, up to a doctor's appointment in the medical building, or up to the shoe section in the department store.

Every flight each day adds up to one pound a year you could lose: Five flights = five pounds; ten flights = ten pounds.... how would you feel next year at this time if you were ten pounds lighter and all you had to do was take the stairs?

Try starting a log for yourself: give yourself one "point" for each flight you take.  Watch how quickly you get used to taking more and more flights without being short of breath. Soon it becomes habit. Next year you're in a smaller pants size, voila!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The National Salt Reduction Initiative

New York city is leading a number of cities, states, and national health organizations in the initiative to lower sodium in prepared foods. The goal is to lower added sodium by 25% over the next few years to result in reducing the average American's daily sodium intake by 20%.

The daily value for sodium intake is 2300 milligrams. The average American eats more like 4000 milligrams per day, with some people eating twice this much.  Contrary to popular belief, most of the sodium we get in our diet doesn't come from adding salt to our food. Rather it comes from the sodium added by food manufacturers to frozen foods, canned foods, prepared packaged foods, and restaurant foods with fast foods being particularly high. It's not tough to exceed the recommendations if you eat any kind of prepared or processed foods: A fast food meal can contain 2000 milligrams--the amount in an entire teaspoon of salt--and a can of soup or a frozen dinner can easily provide 1000 milligrams. This doesn't leave much room to sprinkle a bit of salt on your eggs or mashed potatoes.

Why is it healthy to limit sodium in the diet? Large amounts of sodium on a daily basis contribute to developing high blood pressure in many people. High blood pressure can lead to strokes and kidney failure. Many others have reasons to limit their sodium intake for health reasons involving their heart, lungs, or kidneys.
Is it possible for manufacturers and fast food establishments to make their food with less sodium? Absolutely. Many soups provide a "low sodium" alternative (which means--by FDA regulations--it contains less than 140 milligrams) as well as a "lower sodium" variety (which reduces the original content by a certain percent--perhaps 400 milligrams instead of the usual 600 milligrams--and people often prefer the taste of this to the can with much less sodium).

Many brands of frozen food dinners purposely manufacture their products with less sodium than others, and lots of snack foods like chips, crackers and pretzels have a line of lower salt snacks for those who are interested.

Ideally, over the next couple of years more companies will be featuring lower sodium recipes for their soups, stews, lunchmeats, and fast food burgers. Other countries, including the UK and Canada, have already begun working to reduce their overall sodium content in prepared foods. This initiative could go a long way in reducing the number of people who end up with high blood pressure and the resulting complications.

In the meantime, check your food labels. Do comparison shopping. When you find a similar product with a significantly lower amount of sodium (say, 100 or more milligrams difference) you can begin to reduce your sodium intake with your own initiative!