I’m a Nutrition Consultant to the Corn Refiner’s Association, but my opinions are my own. I recently attended my state nutrition conference independently as a member of the board and planning committee.
I attended the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association’s (PADA) 80th Annual Meeting in April. The annual meeting is a great opportunity to network with colleagues and hear both local and national nutritional experts deliver evidence-based information for a variety of food and nutrition practice areas. If you couldn’t make it, here are a few highlights from Dietetic Association sessions and exhibits.
At the breakfast session on Monday morning, PADA President Lisa Jones provided an overview of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Association’s Kids Eat Right campaign. This program is a call-to-action to all Academy members to become more involved in their communities with schools, parents and community groups in order to improve childhood nutrition and increase physical activity keeping families and children healthy. Over the past three years in my own community, I’ve been involved in a local effort called Balanced Eating and Movement in Meadville. We ran a three-month pilot program titled Passport to a Healthier You, where we engaged about 90 local families to sign up and receive a health passport encouraging them to attend or participate in a variety of fitness and nutrition activities in our community each month. The families that met our goal to attend 12 events were eligible for prizes, such as grocery gift cards given away at a wrap-up party last summer. I received a mini-grant from the Academy that provided funds to purchase some of the gift card incentives. I encourage other Registered Dietitians to log in, sign up and get involved with Kids Eat Right!
Also announced at the Business Meeting, was our official state name change. As of now, the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association has become the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We are in the process of developing a new logo, so look for more news on that at our website, which is still under construction.
There were several other informative nutrition education sessions throughout the meeting. I also had the privilege of speaking at a Leadership Dinner, held on Monday night for Board Members, Planning Committee members, Past Presidents, and other VIP leaders in our commonwealth. I presented information about the science of sweeteners and reviewed high fructose corn syrup myths. All meeting attendees received additional handouts from Sweetener Studies in their tote bags as well, so if you have a question, let me know.
Below is a quick overview of some of the nutrition education sessions I attended:
- Dietitians concerned about how to communicate information to clients about nutritive sweetener facts received supportive literature showing that HFCS is not uniquely responsible for obesity or diabetes, and is metabolically and nutritionally equivalent to sucrose.
- We learned how monk fruit is used to create natural, non-caloric sweeteners
- The average calorie consumption per capita in the US has risen 458 calories per day from 1970 to 2010 (according to 2012 USDA data). Of these calories, fats and oils contribute 53%. 37% are from grains, and only 7% are from added sugars, with 3% from “other” categories.
- During a fascinating lecture about the Sustainable American Dinner Plate by Mary Lee Chin, we learned how food is viewed in so many ways – as pleasure and entertainment, health or sinful eating, as a social justice issue, and as a proxy for quality, freshness, sustainability, economic development, supporting small farms, and feeding the world. Ms. Chin did an excellent job at comparing the benefits of local, family-owned, organic, farms, and how they may coexist with modern, processed global foods, and the important role of biotechnology.
Finally, it’s always interesting to speak to the exhibitors, and there was some great exhibit space at the meeting. Heinz (Pittsburgh fans!) was there offering samples of their new microwave oatmeal. It was a little bit sweet for me, but if you’re looking for a grab and go breakfast, it’s definitely worth a try. Turner dairy, a long-standing Pennsylvania dairy, was on hand to provide a look at some new products as well as the tried and true milk they supply for school lunches and food service companies. A new company, called PHRQL, provides a HIPAA compliant Connect and Coach™ online model for dietitians to provide MNT telehealth services to their clients, prebuilt with online charting documentation standards, as well as a mobile app. Finally, I stopped by the Mid Atlantic Dairy association table – always a great local resource for nutritional information about dairy.
If you missed the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2013 annual meeting, be sure to mark your calendar for AME 2014! Check out Eat Right PA for more information soon!
One of the things I love about our backyard hens – we know exactly what they eat. We are on our second set, having lost 5 of the original 6 to illness or predators (two died from illness, the others from a hawk attack, racoons, and possibly a coyote or fox). We feed them calcium and chicken feed from the farm store, but also table scraps of fruits and veggie cuttings, or brown lettuce from the fridge, or moldy bread. They are healthy and lay daily eggs. It’s nice having some control over our food, but it’s good to know that our food supply from the supermarket is safe, because even though we have a vegetable garden and fresh egg, there are quite a few things I like to by at the market.
The New York Times just alerted us to a new caution – arsenic in food. In this new case, chicken. According to some new research coming out of Johns Hopkins, trace amounts of arsenic were found in the chicken they sampled. Arsenic is linked to cancer in humans. A medicine used in chickens to reduce intestinal parasites, roxarsone, is suggested to increase the arsenic levels. The drug however, has now been banned, yet the chicken samples in this study were from prior to the ban – 2010 and 2011.
Here is a short summary of some of the findings:
- Arsenic traces were found in about half the samples
- Federal standards for drinking water is anything less than 10 parts per billion, but there is no standard for food. However, the level of potential exposure from diet is proposed to be 80% lower than from water.
- The levels of inorganic arsenic found in the study samples were very low – about 1/2 part per billion in the organic chicken samples and 2 parts per billion in the non-organic chicken (or as study authors put it: “levels of inorganic arsenic were four times higher than the levels in USDA Organic chicken”).
Does 0.5-2 parts per billion sound like a problem to you? The National Chicken Council doesn’t think it’s a problem, and so far, I’d have to agree.
Best bet: eat normal (smaller) servings of a variety of foods. There are numerous natural-occurring chemicals, including arsenic, in our environment, and our bodies are built to handle most of them. It’s the dose that makes the poison, so simply add variety to the diet (as opposed to eating rice and chicken four times per week). Have a vegetable at each meal, decreasing your starchy side dish. Enjoy smaller portions of protein foods like chicken, but also include lean beef, pork or lamb is you like. Have a meatless meal with beans and vegetables once a week.
As a fan of the DASH diet principles, I’m always checking out sodium content of foods and looking for ways to help my client reduce their daily sodium intake. In many cases, folks with high blood pressure who are overweight, will benefit from losing weight.
If you are sitting there wondering whether you should be on a low salt diet, the DASH diet, a Mediterranean Diet, a Low Glycemic Diet…or maybe you’re thinking about going on a crazy “juice fast”…I’ll let you in on a secret – Reduced portions are the secret ingredient to any “diet”.
Since it’s National High Blood Pressure Month, it’s a great idea to take a look at the sodium, fat, and calories in your diet. The tables below show you how the sodium or fat contents vary when you simply change the portion of these foods:
|FOOD||PORTION||SODIUM (mg)||FAT (g)||CALORIES|
|90%lean beef patty||3 ounces||56||10||180|
|FOOD||PORTION||SODIUM (mg)||FAT (g)||CALORIES|
|FOOD||PORTION||SODIUM (mg)||FAT (g)||CALORIES|
So, you get the idea right? Just by reducing your portions of certain foods, you can cut your sodium intake in half or more! So start thinking “smaller” and get rewarded with big results!
As the coauthor of a cookbook for high blood pressure, it seems to make sense to share some blood pressure news with you since it’s High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly one in three adults and is referred to as the “silent killer”, because it often has no signs or symptoms.
Hypertension is a risk factor for several diseases including heart disease, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. It can lead to heart attack or stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the United States. To find out how your blood pressure rates, you should check in with your doctor every year, where he or she will routinely check your blood pressure at an annual check up.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be controlled, but unfortunately less than half of the population with high blood pressure has it under control. So what can you do to lower your blood pressure?
- Follow the DASH diet
- If you are prescribed a diet and medication by your physician, follow the directions for both
- Get more physical activity, with your doctor’s approval
- Lose weight if you are overweight. The best way to lose weight is to reduce portions and eat less. Exercise helps, but you have to reduce caloric intake
- Have smaller portions and consume less salt and fat. Reducing portions of all foods automatically reduces overall sodium and fat intake.
- Don’t smoke, quit if you do smoke
- Maintain regular check ups with your doctor and dietitian
Just when you think all of the fad diet books have been written, a new one is published, or another version of an old theme emerges. Take the short-term fast. This isn’t a new idea (to skip a meal, or to eat very low calorie for a day or two), but it is becoming more popular. Intermittent fasting has hit the news and is becoming the new rage as people search for easier ways to lose weight. There’s the book, The Fast Diet, and many others have written about it, but is it a weight loss solution for you?
I’ve often said that the best diet for weight control is the one you can manage to sustain. Fasting can be difficult, and while it’s probably not unhealthy to skip a meal or fast once in a while, I’m not sure that I would recommend a month or more of a 500-calories a day intake. While it is true that when you lose extra weight, you likely improve glucose metabolism there are a few reasons why over restricting calories isn’t a good idea -
- Consuming only 20% of your caloric need will likely switch your body into ketosis.
- When calorie intake is severely restricted, both fat and muscle loss usually occur. However when calories return to a more normal level or above, weight is replaced primarily as fat. This change in body composition (fat to lean tissue) affects overall metabolism (fat burns less calories than muscle).
Eating less, however, is key to weight loss. So why not just get back to basics and eat when you are hungry, slow down, and stop eating when you are full? A short-term “fast” (skipping a meal, or eating one 500 calorie meal, and two 200-300 calorie meals) may be beneficial for some to help get hunger under control, and skip junk food snacks. Be sure to stay hydrated, and work on balanced eating the rest of the week. A sample “fast” day could look something like this:
1 cup oatmeal with berries or sliced banana, 4 ounces lowfat milk, plain coffee or tea
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese or ricotta, sliced peach, tossed green salad with 2 TB dressing, water
4 ounces baked fish or skinless chicken, 1 cup steamed veggies, water
Long term weight management takes long term behavior management. As our lives change, our eating habits can change, and we have to continually work at keeping things balanced for our age and activity. This means making some changes. You don’t have to do anything too extreme, just start eating one or two lighter meals a week, then per day. For weight loss, calorie intake must be reduced, but you don’t have to starve yourself to achieve that.
There are several lifestyle changes that can really have a big impact on lowering and controlling blood pressure. Think about what you can do to keep yourself healthy. Pick several action items from this list, and start working on it today!
- Ask your doctor what your blood pressure readings have been, and be sure he or she is checking your blood pressure regularly. Let him or her know if you’re following the DASH diet.
- Ask your doc about your blood cholesterol too, and whether that needs some work. This is also a risk factor for heart disease.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about what a healthy body weight should be for you.
- Choose physical activities (with your doctor’s approval) that you enjoy and don’t try to do too much too soon. Get physically active and more fit. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity every day. Even if you only have 10 minutes to work out, use those 10 minutes. Every few minutes counts.
- Try working out in the morning, because studies show that people who exercise earlier in the day are the most consistent. Think about it: In the morning, fewer obstacles can get in the way of your busy life.
- Drink more water and less high calorie beverages.
- Eat less dessert and fewer sweetened baked goods, and when you do indulge, eat smaller portions.
- Quit smoking — and if you’re not a smoker, don’t start!
- Replace salt in recipes with flavorful herbs and spices, or use half the salt.
- Remove the salt shaker from the table.
- If your doctor prescribes medications for you, take them exactly as directed.
You may have hard cooked some eggs during Easter week, and if your household is like mine, they were a hit! I am tuned into eggs, since we have our own egg-laying hens in the backyard…but even so, I sometimes “forget” about hard-cooking them. Hard cooked eggs are an easy protein source, and keeping a few cooked and ready to grab in the refrigerator is a good idea. They make a great snack for children, or a quick protein source at breakfast. Eat them, just peeled, or slice them onto a piece of whole wheat toast for an open-faced sandwich.
Most people are aware that eggs are high in cholesterol, and some may unnecessarily avoid them. While the yolk does contain a good dose of cholesterol, it’s still okay to eat them on occasion (up to 4-5 yolks a week is fine, depending on your blood cholesterol and the rest of your diet). The white is very low in fat and high in protein. One egg white provides 7 grams of protein.
According to the American Egg Board, eggs can play a role in a healthy diet:
- Weight management: Protein helps with satiety and also helps us feel full longer. So instead of a carbohydrate-only breakfast, adding some protein can help with weight management. The high-quality protein in eggs can help.
- Muscle strength and maintenance: Research indicates that high-quality protein may help older active adults (over 50) build muscle strength and help prevent muscle loss in middle-aged and aging adults. Egg whites are a protein option.
- Healthy pregnancy: Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects.
- Brain function: Choline also aids the brain function of adults by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes.
So don’t be afraid of eggs. Add some to your weekly breakfast and/or snack time. Try this Frittata recipe or use eggs in this muffin recipe. For your next house-guest try this easy egg bake! Enjoy eating healthy.
After the recent news report about the longitudinal study showing the positive effects of a Mediterranean Diet, you may be thinking about “going Mediterranean”. While the term diet is used to describe the specific foods to include, you don’t want to think about “going on” this or any “diet” as a temporary solution.
Eating for improved health is a lifetime goal; it’s something that you need to work on every day, every week, month after month. In this case, the term “lifestyle” is more appropriate really than “diet”. My own experience with the Mediterranean lifestyle and way of eating comes from my Italian ancestors. I was brought up with olive oil always in the pantry cupboard and used almost daily in cooking the evening meal. Beans and lentils were also used regularly through the year, but even more so during the Lenten season before Easter when meatless meals were even more frequent. A salad accompanied every supper, and was always eaten after the meal, not as a first course as people in America are accustomed to doing. A wide variety of vegetables were prepared each week, and a fresh garden was grown every summer. Vegetables such as fresh artichokes, fennel, cooked greens, and roasted red peppers were uncommon in most households, but we ate them on most holidays or Sundays. We often enjoyed relaxed alfresco dining, and my family still enjoys eating outdoors in the summertime.
I recently had a chance to chat with my friend and colleague, Meri Raffetto, co-author of The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies®. While many people may think “red wine and pasta” when they hear “Mediterranean Diet”, Meri clears up the confusion here:
Q: So is this a new diet?
A: The “diet” originated in the 1950′s and 1960′s with the Seven Countries Study and the diet patterns studied were the traditional diets of this time (not current- much more westernized now). The Mediterranean region focus is primarily Southern Italy and Crete, which were more rural. Not all of the Mediterranean coast was used in the research. Dr. Walter Willet presented or defined the Mediterranean Diet in the 1990′s.
Q: What would you say is the primary focal point of the diet?
A: The dietary focus is plenty of seafood, 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (mix of raw, cooked, canned), legumes and lentils. Meat was expensive so they ate beef infrequently and use only small portions like a side dish. Used what they had…seasonal produce, seafood and olives.
Q: Coming from an Italian family, we ate pasta every Sunday for supper, but we also had something like a roast chicken and a salad. Is pasta used in the Mediterranean Diet?
A: Pasta is a main staple but definitely NOT cooked like it is here in the U.S. They ate it as a side dish…half to one cup portion and cooked the noodles al dente (which makes them lower glycemic – just an interesting note!)
Q: Over the past twenty years we’ve shifted our focus from “low fat” to “the right fat”. What kind of fat is included in this lifestyle and how much is enough, as opposed to “too much”?
A: Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat and also provides omega 9 fatty acids. Both fats are linked to better heart health and lower inflammation levels. The diet provides about 35% calories from fat compared to the recommended 30% in the American diet so it’s not necessarily a very high fat diet. You don’t want to load up your cooking with a ton of oil. Keeping to a tablespoon of oil for cooking or dressings is a good place to be.
I just read “The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food” by Michael Moss in the NY Times recently. It certainly was a thought-provoking read (and fairly long, so allow yourself some time). It addresses not only the profit-seeking aspect of junk food companies, but also the company’s goals to create foods with just the right blends of salt, fat, and sugar, and just the right sort of textures or mouth-feel. The article was adapted from Moss’s upcoming book titled “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month.
As far as junk food goes, I’m not a “junk food eater” but I do occasionally eat junk food. Does that make sense? My definition of “junk food eater” is one who eats lots of packaged food and drinks soft drinks, everyday. My thought on junk foods such as chips, corn curls, pretzels, and other salty snacks, is that they can be “once in a while foods”. Raising three children, we don’t open a bag of potato chips every week to munch on, but we may pour a bag into a bowl for a picnic or birthday party. We do enjoy salsa with tortilla chips a bit more often – maybe three times a month. Just last weekend a friend made some delicious homemade guacamole, which we ate with tortilla chips as a snack before a homemade dinner of chicken stuffed with spinach and whole-wheat pasta-vegetable salad, and a fresh fruit platter. So the meal didn’t “consist” of junk food, and this is how I see junk food “fitting into a healthy diet”.
Sometimes we want to eat food that’s fun. Sometimes our bodies send messages like “I need some salt”. It’s okay to pay attention to those messages, and it’s okay to splurge on occasional junk food, but read Moss’s article, and think about what you are buying at the store, and how or why your are eating some of these “pleasure foods”.
There is much to consider when we talk about how junk food may fit into a healthy diet. This year’s National Nutrition Month® tagline is “Eat Right. Every Day. Your Way”. I like to use the 80/20 rule – your goal is to eat right 80 percent of the time, so you will balance the other 20 percent of the time that you aren’t choosing the healthiest options.
For instance, take the guacamole. Avocados are one source of healthy plant fats. The mixture we enjoyed also included some chopped fresh tomatoes – healthy stuff! Corn tortilla chips were used to scoop up the healthy homemade guacamole. So the junk food delivered some healthy stuff too. It was a pre-dinner snack among eight adults and some children, so the portion we ate was also reasonable.
Compare this to opening a giant bag of cheese curls (I can honestly admit that I love cheese curls, so therefore I am aware of needing to have some self-control when eating them – of course I only buy them about once or twice a year). You just don’t dip cheese curls into anything. You just eat them. They have absolutely no nutritional value, and they are light and fluffy, so it would be easy to consume hundreds and hundreds of calories in one sitting, if you aren’t aware of how much you are eating and the calorie load (there is about 2400 calories in a one-pound bag of corn curls).
I do not want to ban junk food manufacturing. But as consumers, we need to be aware that eating too much junk food is simply not healthy. And, we also need to be aware, that junk food companies are not in the business of health or healthcare, they are in a profit-driven business. So when companies of all sorts come up with “healthy” or “natural” options, don’t be fooled. Whether they are using organic corn, organic potatoes, and expeller-pressed canola oil, these junk food treats still offer up a sodium load and 150 calories per ounce! It’s up to you to eat less of them, and eat more fruits and vegetables, beans, and other real food.
The food industry isn’t going to back down. If you stop buying one type of packaged food, they seem to create a new one overnight. If there is enough consumer demand however, there may be some future change down the line in their practices. Shop wisely, and focus on eating less packaged food of all kinds. Your body will benefit. It’s the only body you have.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics just announced this week that they have approved the (currently) optional credential “RDN” for use by all Registered Dietitians (RD) credentialed by the Commisssion of Dietetic Registration.
This is a hot topic among RDs right now, and, as with any change, there is some resistance. I have always regarded “RD” as my credential, and have defined my title based on the context of my work. While I was “clinical dietitian” for a few years early in my career working both in the inpatient and outpatient settings of a hospital, I was later a Nutrition Consultant when I provided nutrition counseling to clients within a health maintenance organizations. Currently, I am a Nutrition Communications Consultant and Freelance Nutrition Writer, and sometimes a Nutrition Coach, who also happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (and a licensed dietitian-nutritionist for the state of Pennsylvania). After some thought, I will take on the new RDN, replacing my RD nomenclature. Just keep in mind, that they both represent a rigorous credential requirement.
To quote the Academy: “Every registered dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a registered dietitian”.