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Dear TV Doctors: Please Stop Making Up Diets

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There is a wide body of dietary research that gets reviewed when coming up with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The guidelines are based on actual scientific research, and the committee charged with the development of updated recommendations go through serious review of the literature and have thorough discussions steeped in science.

But who pays any attention to this? Not too many people I guess, including some medical doctors who enjoy coming up with the next gimmicky diet plan. Enter: Pegan. I was hoping it was a quick fad news story that would go away, but it hasn’t.

On the surface it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. Just the fact that it’s a combination of the Paleo diet craze and a Vegan diet – creates absurdity, since the paleo diet is all about living like a caveman and eating a lot of meat (while a Vegan diet eliminates all animal products – food and otherwise). The premise is to eat as those in the Paleolithic era did (2.5 million years ago), as hunter-gatherers.

The Paleo diet focuses on animal protein. It also emphasizes eating a variety of vegetables (this is always a good thing, and of course a Vegan diet shares this aspect of Paleo). Paleo is all about food products such as “clarified grass fed butter”, coconut products, and some healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. A Paleo diet shuns wheat, favoring almond meal and coconut flour. Other than your clarified butter, you have to say goodbye to dairy foods too if you want to “go Paleo”. It’s essentially a gluten-free diet, that eliminates grains, including corn, oats, rice, rye, wheat and quinoa. The craziest thing about the Paleo diet is that eliminates beans, peanuts, and legumes – all nutrition powerhouses!

So how in the world can a Paleo diet mesh with a Vegan diet which is heavy in beans, legumes, soy, grains and vegetables? Who thinks up this stuff?

The pegan diet focuses primarily on fruits and vegetables — specifically, filling 75 percent of your diet with plants, and rounding out the other 25 percent with animal protein and high-quality fats”

myplateWhat? The principles of the so-called Pegan Diet are essentially the same as both the USDA’s My Plate and the well-researched, and evidence-based DASH Diet, with one exception – Pegan eliminates dairy and legumes. If you are dairy-intolerant, fine, limit dairy. But do we need another fad diet term? (It doesn’t help that celebrity doctors such as Dr. Mark Hyman support these crazy diet ideas, usually for their own gain.)

Why do we need “high profile physicians” making up new diet names when we have a perfectly healthy, and evidence-based diet already on the books? I guess new words such as “Pegan” make better talk-show soundbites than “scientific research shows DASH Diet is beneficial in lowering blood pressure, managing diabetes, and weight control”.

Makes me wonder how invested they really are in your health.

So before you announce to all of your friends this summer,

“I am going on the Pegan Diet!”

…let me let you in on a secret: It’s actually MyPlate, without the dairy, that you are going to be following, so it’s not really that cool. veganMyPlate

I guess I’m not that cool either, and we’ll both have to come to terms with that (JK – Science is totally cool).

For more information about the DASH Diet, see the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and of course, our books. 


PS – the term ‘grass-fed’ is a misnomer. Farmers will explain that a more accurate term is ‘grass-finished’ as all cows eat grass. Learn more by reading my grass-finished beef farm tour blog. 


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Why Portions Matter Most – Sodium, Fat, Calories

When I help people understand the principles of the DASH Diet, I emphasize eating more vegetables, fruit and lowfat dairy. But I also must mention that saturated fat, sodium and calories are important too. Sometimes folks will ask about reading food labels, and how to choose a food based on its label. This is always tricky, especially if you don’t have a food label in hand, or are asking about a specific food or food group.

Since the Nutrition Facts label can be a little overwhelming, I generally tell people to just look at 4 line items when considering heart health:

  • Serving Size
  • Calories
  • Saturated Fat
  • Sodium

Serving Size Math

It is important to glance at the serving size on the label. This serving size is the amount of that food or beverage in which all of the following information (calories, grams and milligrams of everything) is based. If you eat double the serving size, then double up all of the other information as well (see the bread labels below – one bread labels 2 slices as one serving; the other labels 1 slice as one serving).


We can argue as long as the day is long about what a calorie is, or if a “calorie is a calorie”, but as you age, you do need to be paying attention to calories. Yes, it is difficult to eat 300 calories of broccoli, and quite easy to eat a 300 calorie banana muffin, so while calories differ in terms of the foods they are delivered by, the total calories still matter. In general, you don’t need to “count” calories in the whole fruits or vegetables you eat. Eat more of them – as much as you want. But other food groups – especially the meat group and the bread and grain group – you do need to be more aware of daily portion sizes.

Saturated Fat

The Nutrition Facts label will have several lines on it about fat: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat. A recently published meta-analysis determined that saturated fat may not have the strong correlation to heart disease risk as previously believed. This is still under fierce debate and it’s still prudent to limit your saturated fat intake which will primarily keep LDL (low density lipoproteins, or ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels low, as well as including a variety of fats in your diet. Portions and balance are also important.


Finally, sodium is found in a multitude of foods. The DASH recommendation for sodium is 1500-2300 milligrams daily. It’s quite a challenge to keep your sodium intake this low, and rather than “count” milligrams of sodium everyday, I encourage you to gradually reduce your intake by becoming aware of the sodium in packaged foods that you use. Read the labels – again, checking the serving size first, and then the sodium content. Surprisingly bread products contribute a large amount of sodium to the diet. I am a fan of carbohydrates, so I won’t bash bread, but you do need to be aware of the fact that the more servings you eat daily, the higher your sodium intake may be. Compare different brands of your favorite breads, and try to choose lower sodium ones more often. See the food labels below. One is a standard Italian sandwich bread, the other a standard wheat sandwich bread. You will note that at a glance you may only look at the sodium content, and think “oh, this bread is higher in sodium” But upon further analysis, you’ll see that one brand shows one serving to be two slices, while the other shows one serving to be only one slice.

This loaf shows 1 serving = 2 slices. Therefore each slice contains 115 mg sodium, and 65 calories.

This loaf shows 1 serving = 2 slices. Therefore each slice contains 115 mg sodium, and 65 calories.

This bread shows 1 serving = 1 slice, therefore each slice contributes 80 calories and 170 mg sodium. More calories and more sodium.

This bread shows 1 serving = 1 slice, therefore each slice contributes 80 calories and 170 mg sodium. More calories and more sodium.

A note on sugars

If you have diabetes, you may also be interested in looking at the carbohydrates, or the sugars line, but in general, I feel this isn’t the best way to gauge diet quality when reading labels. Whether you have diabetes or are overweight and at risk – calories (and thereby portions) are most important. People with diabetes should consumer a ‘low sugar’ diet, but do not have to avoid all foods with a “grams of sugar” in them. So by checking the portion sizes on a package, you’ll be controlling calories (and sugar).

My recommendation in terms of limiting sweets is not to over-analyze every 4 grams of sugar on a food label, but to limit your portions of obviously sweet foods and beverage. You know what a “sweet” is right? Foods such as candy, cake, pie, cookies, muffins, sweet rolls, soda, fruit juices and drinks – are all sweet foods. They all contain a good bit of sugar. So rather than get hung up on how much sugar is in catsup or salad dressing, or your favorite cracked wheat bread – just limit the obvious sweets (both portion and frequency). For example, a 12-ounce serving of soda provides 38 grams of sugar, so this puts the 1-2 grams of sugar in a slice of bread or the 1-4 grams of sugar in a tablespoon of salad dressing, in perspective. Of course a 12-ounce diet soda has 0 grams of sugar.

Variety and Portions

Choosing a variety of foods to eat each week, and eating smaller portions of higher calorie foods (huge sandwich buns, huge bakery muffins, chips, candy, baked goods, large orders of fried food, etc) is the easiest way to ensure a balanced diet that provides the calories and nutrients your body needs. Rather than getting hung up on questions such as “butter or margarine?”, just use small amounts, of a variety of fats (olive oil, or other vegetable oil, butter, spread margarine). Instead of worrying about whether bananas cause belly fat (they don’t by the way!), choose a variety of fruit. Mix it up – have a banana with breakfast one day, sliced melon another, and add blueberries to your oatmeal on another day. Limit portions of packaged foods, and add more fruits and veggies into your diet in any portion, and you will be on the road to a healthier you! No guilt, no deprivation.


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If You Could Only Choose 5 Foods, What Would They Be?

If you were to be deserted and had access to only 4-5 foods or beverages, what would your choices be?

Me? Cheese, nuts, bread, and berries. And of course, water!!

  • I love cheese, and a hard cheese would keep a while (but maybe not on an island:)). Cheese contributes both protein and calcium, and requires no cooking!
  • Nuts are high in protein, and fiber. They are an excellent high-energy snack – a little goes a long way.
  • I love good, crusty bread. So if I could have a variety of whole grain breads, and a good crusty French Baguette available, I’d be set.
  • Berries are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and other phytochemicals (healthy substances found in deep-colored fruits and veggies). They also require no peeling, coring, or seeding, and have little to no waste.
  • Finally, you can’t live without water. I guess it might be nice to have rum and juice on an island too but nothing beats water as a thirst-quencher. It’s best to include at least 4 glasses of plain water every day in addition to the other calorie-free liquids you may consume (plain coffee, tea, diet soda, flavored waters).


Share your 5 foods or beverages choices if you were deserted in the Comment section!


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Understanding Diabetes and Diet: Start now

Diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has exploded over the past few years. The growing diagnosis in children is particularly of concern. Despite the multitude of sound resources available online, newly diagnosed people with diabetes, or parents of children diagnosed with the problem, are still confused, and asking themselves “what can I eat?!”. This confusion is possibly caused by a number of things – perhaps physicians aren’t referring newly diagnosed patients to meet with a dietitian or diabetes educator, or perhaps folks are simply confused by the plethora of nutrition misinformation that they read about or are confused by diet advice they may get at the local gym.

Fad diets have no place in a healthy diabetes lifestyle. I’d like to clear up some of this confusion, by busting some common myths about eating for diabetes (no matter your age):

  • Eating well with diabetes simply means consuming a healthy, balanced diet, void of junk food. Occasional treats can easily be worked into the diet, but overall, you want to make the healthiest choices possible each day.
  • You don’t have to choose “special” food, nor “diabetic” food. You also don’t always need to choose “sugar-free” (a diet soda, or other sugar-free AND calorie-free food or beverage, is fine, but a sugar-free cookie or pie is unnecessary -portions are what matter most)
  • It’s important to balance out your meals – that is, eat about the same amount of food/calories, at about the same time daily. Using a traditional “three meals a day” plan is a great idea
  • For Type 2 diabetes, even a small amount of weight loss usually has a big impact on blood sugar control. Exercise is important too
  • Since every person is different, each person requires different meal planning strategies for success. Meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator (look for CDE after a dietitian or nurse’s name)

There is a lot to learn with a new diagnosis of diabetes, and it’s important to take the diagnosis very seriously. You don’t have to make changes overnight, it’s a process to adopt a healthier lifestyle; but, look at the diagnosis as a motivator to eat the best diet possible, and live the healthiest lifestyle that you can!

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to take charge right away. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian, and read up on the numerous resources available online. Beware of terms such as “quick fix” or “cure”.

The goal in managing diabetes, is eating well, getting regular exercise, so that you can keep your blood sugars within normal range throughout the day and week.

There is no cure for diabetes, but eating a sensible diet will control the disease and keep you healthy.

Here are several excellent resources to use if you have diabetes:

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The Crossroads of Food and the Environment

When I decided to become a dietitian, I was interested in the link between what I ate, and my personal health. Having suffered some gastrointestinal disease in adolescence and early adulthood, it was clear to me that my body was connected to the type of food I ate. I decided to major in food and nutrition.

My studies focused on biochemistry, human physiology, food (culinary, food production and food science classes), nutrient databases, and human nutrient requirements across the lifespan (i.e., infant nutrition through geriatric nutrition), both in both wellness and disease.

Flash forward 30 years and it seems that nutrition is now becoming an environmental science. I read Diet for a Small Planet in 1983, and I respect the Earth, the best that I can, but I didn’t go into this field to become an advocate for the planet, I went into the profession to help people understand how their bodies work, help them learn how their diets relate to their bodies and health, and to help them find ways to improve both. A nutrition counseling session should be about what we know, and what we don’t know, and should offer realistic advice about how best you can make changes that work for you. 

Where’s Peggy Post When You Need Her?

If someone invites you to a party, or a wedding, do you feel that they are obligated to plan their event around your food intolerances or practices? In my opinion, this is just bad manners. If you have a particular food intolerance, or way of eating, then it’s your responsibility to feed yourself before attending large social events where it’s unlikely your needs will, or can, be catered to.

A friend recently told me that she received a wedding invitation in which the meal choices were “Meat”, “Vegetarian” or “Gluten-Free”. This sort of sums up our times doesn’t it?

It’s Complicated

Eating behaviors can be complicated, and what people choose to eat often is impacted by cultural or religious influences, as well as their food budgets and their geographic locations. I believe in moderation, and allowing folks to choose what they eat for personal enjoyment, as well as health.

Articles such as this one lead me to believe that environmental studies are being superimposed onto the science of nutrition (and the business of agriculture) with potentially detrimental side effects to both the science of medicine, and American lifestyles. The aforementioned article makes statements such as “For example, it has been shown that 12% colorectal cancers would be preventable by avoiding the consumption of processed meat alone. ” Shown by whom? This statement strongly suggest “cause” by stating that a cancer is “preventable” by eating or avoiding certain foods. There is no proof in the literature of a causal relationship in humans. There is also no guarantee whatsoever that if you avoid meat, you’ll avoid cancer. Shame on them.

The United States has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies on the planet. Could you reduce your risk of cancer or heart disease? Possibly. Will adding more vegetables to your diet help? Probably (antioxidants). Yet many factors are involved in what people choose to eat, or have access to.

Most dietitians work with individuals and attempt to encourage them to improve their diet and exercise more. The reason moderation can work, is it includes small portions of a wide variety of foods. Human nutrition research can only prove so much, since it’s unethical to either deprive a group of people of healthy food, or overdose them on unhealthy food. I am all for conservation and respecting the earth’s resources, but eating is a personal choice. Individuals who have the means or interest to pursue their own specialized way of eating can do so, but I think that in terms of overall public health, it’s best that we advocate for basic nutrition education (traditional food groups which supply essential nutrients) within communities (in schools and via federal nutrition programs). These programs should be led by registered dietitians or qualified school food service personnel, and should utilize supermarket dietitians (since the grocery store is where people get their food).

Nutrition is Not a Science of “Eat What I Eat”

It is not my place to tell people what to eat, nor to judge their choices. It’s also not my place to expect my host or hostess to cater to my personal eating behaviors or likes and dislikes. Within social media, I often see Vegans being harshly judgmental toward meat-eaters or cheese-lovers (Some, not all. Many vegan dietitians are well aware that all of their clients may not choose to be vegan). Would some people benefit from eating smaller portions of meat? Yes. Would the planet benefit? Possibly. But on the other hand, replacing beef or pork farms with vegetables is easier said than done. The land where cattle graze is not always fit for growing plants.

Personal world views and environmental politics need to be set aside when considering the welfare of impoverished communities, the obese population, or the malnourished. While some may feel a plate of organic vegetables, legumes, and grains may be ideal, another person may feel the plate should be “wheat-free”, and yet another “Paleo-follower” may want to serve up a large portion of grass-finished beef.

The most hungry or malnourished children in our country would be healthier with a simple bowl of cereal and milk every morning, and a plate with 3 ounces of roast chicken or beef, a potato and vegetables for dinner. Or whatever other reasonably nutritious food they could find.

Food elitism isn’t the path to improved public health.

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Is It Chipotle’s Role to Educate You on GMOs?

chickenSo Chipotle’s been in the news again. This time, they have taken a stance on GMO, ensuring that none of their foods contain any GMO ingredients. Do you care? I sense that their recent GMO news doesn’t endear them to many folks in Ag, and it definitely was hit with negative feedback from science and nutrition experts.

I personally boycotted the restaurant once they came up with their propaganda piece that degraded American farmers (if you haven’t viewed the comedic satire piece on it, do so here – “pure manipulation”). Their previous campaign tried to suggest that “factory farms” (a misnomer in itself) are cruel, and that Chipotle only purchases meats that have been “raised with care”. I’ve visited a few cattle farms (Dairy, Beef) and have yet to see any animal raised without utmost care.

Integrity: The Word of the Year

Is it a fast food chain’s role to decide whether your “food has integrity” or not? Gee, my immigrant grandmother would be offended if she was told the soybean-olive oil blend she used daily in cooking didn’t have “integrity” (no wait, she wouldn’t care really, she’d just give you the brushed hand).

So now in addition to defining terms such as “sustainability” and “natural” and “healthy”, you now have to know what food with “integrity” is. While Chipotle has a brilliant marketing team, their idea of food rules doesn’t sit well with me. Even though the biotechnology world almost unanimously declare GMOs as safe, Chipotle knows that the consumer has been persuaded to question GMOs, despite the scientific evidence supporting their use, safety, as well as limitations. So for the restaurant, this campaign may result in increased sales, or customer loyalty, however I don’t feel the word “integrity” belongs in the same context here since they are increasing sales by deceiving the public.

GMO Education

Worse than exploiting the term “integrity” is the food chain’s self-proclaimed role as a genetic and biotech educator. Chipotle claims there is “inconclusive” evidence on the safety of GMOs, while scientists around the world actually have evidence that they are safe, and the use of any new breakthroughs is closely regulated. The Chipotle website’s infographic is somewhat misleading, and skips some important facts.

For instance, did you know that corn oil or high fructose corn syrup have no GMO in them? While some may be manufactured with GMO corn, the processing eliminates any trace of GMO DNA (DNA is only present in the protein, there is no DNA in sugars or cooking oils because they don’t contain any protein after processing).

There are a lot of other great resources for GMO news, the Genetic Literacy Project for one. I don’t think there is any way possible for humans to live on the earth without affecting some change to the environment. I do believe that we can take steps for balanced, conservative use of our resources (food, farming, power, energy), when possible. The current drought crisis in California should be a good example of how biotechnology and the development of GMO crops that are drought resistant, may be quite beneficial to the world. The earth is evolving, and maybe we should evolve with it, using technology responsibly, as opposed to baracading its advancement.

What We Do Know

We do know that an average Chipotle Burrito contains 800-1200 calories and a load of sodium. We do know that excess calories will cause weight gain over time, and that an excessive sodium intake is not a good choice for older folks, those with kidney or heart disease. So on that front, this food chain may not be the best choice (or, enjoy it if you like by splitting the meal with a friend).

As always, I’ll conclude that moderation and balance are more important than demonizing one food or ingredient. Just when I think the madness will stop, it chugs on. Sort out the facts, and look to well-reasoned scientists to help you learn about the science behind biotech and GMOs. There’s lots to learn, but don’t get your GMO education from a restaurant chain.


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Rave Review: What You Need to Know about the DASH Diet

A quick note about DASH Diet For Dummies®.

Have you heard the terms “DASH Diet” in the news, and wondered what it’s all about? Well our latest book tells you all about it. I was so thrilled to see it reviewed in the April issue of Today’s Dietitian magazine!DASHdietPoster

While the For Dummies® brand is directed to consumers, this particular book is also relevant for dietitians and other practitioners as well. If you aren’t working with heart patients on a daily basis, you simply may be too busy to keep up with the latest news or research about heart health.

Check out the review in the April 2015 issue of Today’s Dietitian, and pick up a copy for your reference shelf!



DASH Friendly RECIPES to try:

Chicken Kabobs

Savory Breakfast Strata

Soft Tacos

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The Crazy Truth about Moderation

The dose makes the poison.

Most scientists and medical doctors would agree with that statement.

Moderation: It’s all about portion size.

Yet, some insist on distorting the facts. News articles you read offer to tell you “what’s safe to eat”. I’m hoping we are at a tipping point with the crazy articles that are printed about diet, nutrition and food. A recent article by Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont (aka The SciBabe, @sciencebabe on Twitter) got quite a few shares. Yvette (a chemist) challenges the popular fear-mongering Vani Hari (computer-science-turned-diet-expert), and pretty much came right out and said, “you are full of sh#t”. Ouch.

Well, someone had to say it.

There is no shortage of nutrition misinformation on the Internet. Unlike individuals like Hari, most registered dietitians have a broader view of health and disease, food, and how people eat (unfortunately there are even physicians who subscribe to the fear-mongering approach, singling out ingredients, or bashing certain processed foods).

Un-Food-Babe-like, I’ve reviewed real food records from real people all over the country (the University of Pittsburgh was the nutrition data entry center for the MDRD research on kidney disease and diet). I’ve also counseled thousands of individuals over the years, of all ages, and of a variety socio economic backgrounds, with a range of health and disease.

But rather than talk to the folks who actually work with people, and have a real background in nutrition science, let’s just fall for the latest “story” that we read on Facebook, right?

I have to say that it’s maddening at times, and I find myself siding with the chemists and biochemists. You should too. As The Science Babe said:

Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.

Ah yes, the paid shill. I’ve been called that name before. Everyone with expertise and a position in a certain field should shun employment. Sticks and stones love...

I admit, I am biased toward the chemist’s point of view. I’ve said many times, that food is chemistry. Yvette also wrote:

If I told you that a chemical that’s used as a disinfectant, used in industrial laboratory for hydrolysis reactions, and can create a nasty chemical burn is also a common ingredient in salad dressing [vinegar], would you panic? Be suspicious that the industries were poisoning your children? Think it might cause cancer? Sign a petition to have it removed?

My goal as a nutrition educator and counselor is to help people reach positive health outcomes by living a life that they want. This means eating foods they enjoy, and helping them find ways to do so, within their personal health goals. Everyone has individual preferences, means, and backgrounds. I completely disagree with approaches that claim certain foods or food groups must be eliminated in order to meet a health goal.

Evidence, Not Opinions

I recently attended a session about how dietary guideline reports become policy at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. The three PhD speakers, were highly regarded in their fields, participated in the laborious process that is the Dietary Guidelines Committee (in 2010), and have quite a bit of research and life experience between them. Yet when I had a conversation with someone after the program he commented, “I wish they had brought in someone who represented other viewpoints.” You mean, someone with a different opinion?

Why? These individuals were presenting both what science can say is “proven” (strong evidence, i.e., a causal relationship established through randomized control trials), and what is “possible” (weak to moderate grade evidence). Opinion has nothing to do with it.

I have many colleagues who know their stuff, and insist on evidence. Policy should be based on evidence.We all have opinions, but opinions are not what policy should be made of. Nor should the diet you follow.

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No Really, Dietitians Do Want Kids to Eat Right

courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

There’s been quite a stir over the past week over the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decision to allow Kraft® to use their “Kids Eat Right” logo on the Kraft Singles® product.

Among registered dietitian members, there is not really much disagreement over whether the Academy should allow brands to use a logo that gives the impression that they are endorsing that product. Endorsement, or even the perception of it, is a bad idea. Most everyone agrees that allowing Kraft® to use the seal was a poor decision that was communicated to Academy membership very poorly.

Certainly, it was also misconstrued by the media. No matter how much the perception of the endorsement is at the heart of the issue, the fact that it was a processed cheese product is what really hit a nerve (not to mention all of the negative press that accompanied it).

The interesting question however is not what dietitians or news reporters think, but what consumers at large think about registered dietitians. As an Academy member, I personally wrote a letter to the CEO, House Of Delegates, and President, disagreeing with the idea of ‘endorsing’ or ‘appearing to endorse’ specific brands, and also encouraging better transparency and communication.

As far as the cheese goes, if a client enjoys a certain processed cheese, I can make recommendations around it to balance his diet.

Who Cut the Cheese?

I have chosen to keep my sense of humor and try to stay positive here. I know that cheese, or even processed food, is not the underlying issues here with most of my colleagues. How partnerships with food companies can work without conflict of interest, is a question. Can dietitians, or any professional, make recommendations if they are exposed to or working with brands? Since I work within an evidence-based profession that already has a Code of Ethics, I think they can. But the Academy needs to consider putting some additional guidelines in place that will help them make future decisions about partnering with the food industry.

Good Stuff

Also important to note is that Kids Eat Right is a program launched in 2010 and sponsored by the Academy Foundation (a non-profit 501c charitable organization, supported by donations). They do all sorts of wonderful things such as award scholarships to college students pursuing degrees in nutrition, award mini grants to provide nutrition education to children and provide educational resources to help families raise healthy children.

But all that warm and fuzzy stuff aside, the Times piece took on a life of its own (even The Daily Show included the story in their junk food smack down, and Fox News asks if processed cheese is all bad), so naturally, with all of this negative press and focus on cheese, a lot of people, including dietitians, are up in arms. Why? Well, because this convoluted news demeans our profession and all of the positive action and programs that are provided be good, competent, well-trained folks.

Food, Nutrition and Groceries

Here’s the deal.  Whether an organization that represents food and nutrition experts would choose to partner with a perceived ‘healthy’ or ‘junk’ food company, the fact remains that people eat food that they purchase from grocery stores.

Dietitians are humans just like everyone else. We each have food preferences and taste buds, food budgets, cultural backgrounds, and available grocery stores, that influence how we eat. We mostly work on “healthy” as much as we can.

Consider, that if you live to be age 75, that’s about 27,010 days of eating – That’s a lot of days to never eat a “processed” or packaged food.

While we may be in the business of health, we are also in the business of helping meet people where they are, and helping them make the healthiest choices they can afford, and live with.

There are other organizations that claim to be interested in nutrition and public health, but may have different agendas (and whose donors remain anonymous. The Academy however is pretty transparent about who their partners are).

You Decide

I’ve been a registered dietitian since 1991 and have been working in this field since 1986. People who seek advice or collaboration, get it from the people that they can relate to. I can’t claim to help people live a Paleo or Vegan lifestyle. It’s not my thing. Therefore people will seek me out for my specific skill set, and seek out others for theirs.

Nothing wrong with that. Cheese. No cheese. Seal. No seal.


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Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: DGA 2015

Well since everyone’s been talking about Kraft Singles, I guess they forgot all about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report. Seems the media loves to mock us dietitians when they get a chance – Whatever. When it comes to eating, common sense goes a long way. The DGA helps by offering tips, and the latest report includes guidelines about how much sugar or artificial sweeteners you should consume. sugarbowl

Also, if you are a parent, keep in mind that children aren’t little adults. They are smaller, are growing, and have different nutritional needs.

  • Added Sugar. Added sugars are addressed in terms of how they may impact obesity, diabetes, heart health and dental caries. High intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is recognized as associated with unhealthy weights. The evidence linking added sugar to cardiovascular disease has limitations. As far as dental caries go, there is a relationship between higher sugar intake and higher incidence of dental caries. (and for those wondering about added sugar math – 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams sugar. And remember in foods such as sweetened yogurt, 10-12 grams of the sugar is naturally occurring lactose)
  • Low calorie sweeteners. Interestingly, despite evidence showing that low cal sweeteners can aid in weight control, the DGAC concluded that since there is some studies have shown that they are associated with diabetes risk (no studies showing cause), they should be limited, and replaced with water as a primary beverage.

“Although the finding indicates a positive association between ASSD and type 2 diabetes risk, the trend was not consistent and may indicate an alternative explanation, such as confounding by lifestyle factors or reverse causality (e.g., individuals with higher BMI at baseline may use ASSD as a means to control weight).”

If an overweight person walks into my office and reports that he drinks 2 liters of soda a day, I’m obviously going to encourage him to work on breaking that habit. Sugar is calorie-dense, and it’s easy to over consume calories via caloric liquids. On the other hand, a skinny 17-year old may have room in his diet for an extra 300 calories of juice, juice drink, or soda as long as his diet is balanced otherwise. Especially if he isn’t a big eater (it’s a myth that all teenage boys eat constantly).

Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be safe, and can be an effective tool in managing blood sugar levels in those with diabetes (yes, water is a no-calorie choice, but sometimes folks want to drink a flavored beverage. A diet beverage does not impact blood glucose levels).

Take-away: Dietary advice should be individualized. While most of my colleagues will use the DGA to offer advice, each of them will also consider your personal situation and history when guiding you. Lots more reasons to see a registered dietitian! Happy National Nutrition Month®

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