I posted an article last week about the current sponsorships of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, my professional organization. It received a lot of feedback, primarily positive. One issue that came up in the comment section was the idea of “conflict of interest”. This individual seemed to accuse me of having a “perceived” conflict of interest, since some of the work I do includes consultation to the American Beverage Association and the Corn Refiner’s Association.
I imagine that this comment was considering the legal definition for conflict of interest, which implies that I would be acting contrary to my professional obligation to the public to provide sound nutrition advice, and doing so for personal gain. False.
For the record, I happened to write an article about high fructose corn syrup for my local newspaper several years ago, prior to even knowing what the Corn Refiner’s Association (CRA) was. As a result of my professional opinions described in that article, I received an offer to become a consultant for the CRA, helping them communicate clear nutrition messages to the public. Since I’m a natural writer, and am passionate about communicating the facts, I was thrilled to have this opportunity. (Prior to consulting with these particular companies, I never avoided foods that have high fructose corn syrup on the label, and we’ve always kept a variety of diet and regular sodas in the spare refrigerator for special occasions and road trips. I’ve bought bottled water and flavored waters for many years, particularly while having teenagers in the house. My behaviors have not changed after accepting these positions.)
I am very passionate about sharing ways to live a well-balanced life, which for me includes regular exercise, healthy eating, and time off spent with family and friends. I am passionate about helping people understand that a healthy diet is attainable, and that, yes, it may even include occasional treats such as a candy bar, soda, or potato chips! To me, “healthy eating” doesn’t exclude certain foods, but it does include certain foods. For example, your pork rinds may be my brother’s Mortadella – both really high in fat, and not something you should eat every day – while not my personal preference, if you love it, then we can find a way to include it in your diet once in a while, and still mange your health.
Can this advice coincide with the advice to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, reduce your sodium intake, and consume less saturated fat (evidence-based dietary guidelines)? Yes!
My corporate clients have not skewed my thoughts about what I choose to purchase at the grocery store, feed myself, or feed my family. More importantly, as my disclosure states, I will not choose to work for a company in which my views are not already aligned: Common sense applies. I am a nutrition professional. I do not recommend that you eat cake for breakfast (except perhaps, the day after your birthday) but:
- I have not, nor will I, recommend that you drink a soft drink with every meal or even daily. I don’t, on the other hand, believe that you should never consume them if you want to have any sort of health.
- I do not recommend that you eat a large candy bar or a big bag of cotton candy every day. I do think that you can include small portions of sweets like this from time to time and still maintain health, if you balance them with nutritious foods and exercise.
- Real food first. I’ve never met a dietitian who doesn’t recommend eating whole food first. The basic food group guide still holds true – fruits and veggies, bread, rice, grains, pasta, protein (meats, poultry, beans, tofu, nuts). Once you’ve satisfied your need for nutrients, then it’s time to decide how many “extras” or “treats” can fit. I “treat” myself every day.
- Finally, whatever you choose to consume, proper nutrition advice really needs to individualized. A registered dietitian visit is your best bet to get this advice. Perhaps you can consume 12 ounce soft drink every day and still remain in good health? It certainly depends on all of the other foods and beverages you consume, your current health or disease risk, and the activity you get daily. Would this be the healthiest habit? As I said, real food first.
I will continue my work as a writer and nutrition communications consultant because I truly enjoy it. I’m also going to continue challenging the ideas of people who demonize food and put registered dietitians in the sole role of “food police”; a role which I surely never signed up for, nor do I identify with.
Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season in a big way. I think some of us may be shocked, when we realize on the third day after Thanksgiving – it’s December! Just the thought of it may even be stressing you out right now. As they say, “Stay Calm, Carry On”. A little bit of mindfulness can get you through the season, without weight gain, and with joy.
- It may sound so simple: “Think about what you are eating”, but a little bit of thought and planning, goes a long way. Start with a healthy grocery list (don’t shop hungry!), and plan your breakfast, lunch and dinner, at the beginning of each day, or the day before. Keep a journal for a few days early in December to stay mindful. Eat what you truly enjoy, and savor each bite. Don’t waste your time and calories on foods that you don’t love. Your hostess will be pleased if you rave over the goodies you love, and won’t notice if you pass by others. Sometimes, it may be polite to have “just a taste”, and leave it at that. Of course, keep portion size in mind at all times. Large portions of healthy foods can be an issue as well.
- Take more walks. Exercise is a natural antidepressant and mood-booster. Of course it also helps keep weight in check. Get outside when you can; nothing beats fresh air.
- Add fruits and veggiesto every buffet or cocktail party. It’s so simple to put orange slices, apples or pear slices onto a pretty platter, and let guests help themselves. As an option
to crackers, offer sliced celery, green and red bell peppers placed in a festive bowl next to the hummus or sour-cream-based dip.
- Give to charity. If you find yourself with just too many leftover cookies, or food gift items that you know you can’t possibly consume, consider donating them to a local charity who would be thrilled to get such a treat. Give leftover pantry items to your local food bank or church food drive.
- Dine out wisely. If you worked hard this year losing weight, then you sure want to maintain all of your hard work! You know how you did it (half portions, used lower fat items, ate more veggies, moved your body more), so keep it up! If you go overboard for one meal, then reduce at the next. Find out how many calories are in the choices at your favorite restaurants.
Have a wonderful holiday season, filled with gratitude!
I really enjoy attending my national associations annual conference. Every year I peruse the exhibits, passing by some booths, and stopping at others. I pick up some written material (new product info, or nutrition profiles) and also pick up some of the actual product samples. Not only do these serve as mid-morning snacks, but I get to sample products to determine if they are something I want to buy or recommend.
For the past couple of years there has been a few association members who are questioning the corporations who sponsor both the meeting and partner with the organization. Sponsorship is not an issue to me. Yes, I feel there should be thoughtful and open discussion about sponsorship guidelines, but I still contend that for a “food and nutrition” association, food companies (even those that some like to call “big food”) have a place there.
I am not a member of the group formed within the past year called “Dietitians for Professional Integrity” (DFPI). Certainly this is not because I don’t have professional integrity, I do, and practice under the guidance of my association’s code of ethics. I always disclose when I am writing, speaking, or otherwise working for or representing a company or client. Some registered dietitians have “signed on” with DFPI not really knowing what they are signing on for. I have seen the group act in ways that is the opposite of integrity, and I frankly don’t support their methods of communication (bashing industry, one-sided “unhealthy” call outs to company’s such as Pepsico or McDonalds, and questioning dietitians who work for food companies or corporations).
DFPI’s stance is that there are some food companies (“Big Food”) or food associations (“Big Ag”) that have no place at all partnering with our food and nutrition association. While their focus seems to be in the interest of public health, they ignore the fact that 1.) The public consumes these foods, and 2.) a large percentage of our membership works in the food business, not the health business. And, that it is a business. Anyone who has ever attempted to organize a large community or professional event of any kind certainly knows that sponsorship is critical. The money to support the event or meeting has to come from companies or businesses who have an interest in your organization. In our case, food companies certainly have an interest.
It will be a slippery slope to eliminate a few sponsors, but keep the rest. On what grounds will a small organic company that makes fake “fruit and veggie snacks” be okay to have in the exhibit hall, but a large chocolate company, not be okay (even though we know that people do indeed enjoy eating chocolate, and there may be some health benefit to the flavonoids within it). Companies have a right to get their own fact-based information out there.
Real or Fake?
This year at FNCE©, I picked up this new packaged snack called Shredz™. They tasted alright, they weren’t spectacular. Sure, they are made from organic fruits and vegetables purees or concentrates (the ingredient list also includes pectin, citric acid and natural flavors – nothing to worry about, but added to create this packaged snack food), but it’s not “real fruits and vegetables” nor is it a “whole food”.
Sure, give them a try if you like, but I still recommend eating real apples and pears, and real carrots. I think there’s a bigger issue with these kinds of snacks being substituted for “real fruit”, as opposed to comparing potato chips to baked potatoes. The chips are clearly a treat, not an intentional substitute for fresh potatoes.
I hope that folks can agree to disagree, and not assume there is one right way to deal with sponsorship. Large national meetings require quite a bit of money to organize, and I enjoy being able to choose to visit various food companies all in one spot while I’m there. It’s my personal choice to choose to purchase food and beverage products, or not. It’s my professional obligation to share the facts about these foods and beverages, and help consumers understand how to limit or include them in a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s not over process it. The fact is, companies are in business to do business and make money. Many also choose to do good (as in donating to foundations or charity) and most respect the input from the registered dietitians on their team who work on nutrition education or product development. Peace.
I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, but my opinions are my own.
The 2013 annual conference of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FNCE©) was a huge success! There were so many insightful sessions and takeaways that I won’t be able to include them all here in one blog. Nonetheless, here are some highlights and hot topics:
- From dietitians to entrepreneurs. From Ellie Krieger to Elisa Zied, so many dietitians have become successful doing out-of-the-box things like writing, speaking, and media appearances. Several sessions, including Disruptive Success – From Traditional RD to Thriving Entrepreneur, highlighted how to transfer your skills as nutrition professional into viable and successful markets.
- Sustainable food. There were a few sessions highlighting the details of the farming and biotechnology industries, and the sustainability of our food supply. This is going to be a hot nutrition trend topic. As the world’s populations grows, it will be critical to provide nutrient-dense food for the health of our people, and also do so in a way that addresses the health of the planet.
- How consumers decide what to eat. Researcher Jim Painter and dietitian Liz Ward reviewed the many cues and behaviors that revolve around eating too much. How food is packaged and the size of your plate, can all impact the total amount of calories consumed at the end of the day. Attention to these behavioral aspects of eating is key to addressing the obesity crisis.
- Using your creative genius. I was unable to make this session due to a committee commitment, but this session created a buzz at FNCE©. Presented by artist Erik Wahl, with a key message that creativity is needed in every profession, including nutrition science, and you need to UNthink™ in order to harness your creative juices.
Evaluating Nutrition Research
Many sessions referenced the Academy’s Evidence Analysis Library (EAL) when reviewing the latest medical nutrition therapy and diet advice. I had the pleasure of chatting with Johanna Dwyer, Senior Scientists in the Department of Nutrition Epidemiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, after she presented her session titled – Communicating Shades of Grey: Getting the Science Story Straight. She says:
“Nutritional epidemiology has revolutionized food and nutrition science by allowing us to describe what humans are actually are eating. It lets us ask and sometimes answer questions about whether there are links between diet and health outcomes. However, epidemiological findings linking dietary factors to health outcomes are not absolutely clear, and are often conflicting, unlike the associations between smoking and lung cancer discovered years ago. Rather than black and white, many findings and reports on these studies are more like shades of gray, varying in their validity.”
Once compelling slide included in her session showed data from Ron Jackson that explained that when we evaluate research and deliver message to the public, we must equally consider the following:
- Common sense
- Cultural/personal preferences
I asked Dr. Dwyer what she thought about the recent nutrition research on sugars and obesity and health, and she simply replied, “It’s the calories”. She also pointed out that it’s always important to consider the amount of food or substance that’s used in nutrition research that gets the intended result. In both cases of foods that promote desirable or undesirable consequences, the amounts are much larger than what can typically be eaten. Findings from most nutrition studies are simply not black and white. She stressed during her presentation that it’s important to ask common sense questions such as “How were diet and activity measured?” She encouraged dietitians to be skeptical, but not cynical, when drawing conclusions, and consider the totality of the evidence, not one single study.
On a similar topic of nutrition research, Mark Kern, PhD, RD, CSSD, and Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD, presented on, “Deconstructing Studies: How to Evaluate the Strength of the Science.” Dr. Kern talked through simple steps to take when evaluating scientific nutritional studies and the best way to translate this information to your clients. You can see the slides below.
This week experts convene in Atlanta Georgia for Obesity Week 2013. I’m out of conference time for the year, but am following the conversation via social media.
Obesity is so complex. If it were not, we’d have simple solutions. There are no simple solutions as every individual eats differently, is physiologically and emotionally different, and includes variable amounts of physical activity in their lives.
Obesity is quite misunderstood. It’s not just about “willpower” and physical appearances are not only important, but health is important. There is no question that what you eat does have an impact on your health. So does physical activity.
There is a lot of public opinion about what to do about the obesity issue. Is it our food supply? Is it our lack of activity? We’ve certainly become more sedentary in general. We are a nation of “sitters” due to the technology that is at our fingertips. There is a lot of discussion about how the food supply impacts what we eat – how much junk food is available, food desserts, etc. Some believe that it’s up to the government to provide policy to regulate choices or tax “unhealthy” foods.
I say it’s up to you to make a change. Recognize that your environment and your habits are causing you to gain weight, and then take some simple steps and keep practicing them until they become your new routine.
- Do you know what your BMI is? Find out. Being obese does impact your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes, and therefore heart disease.
- Add movement daily. I just added a treadmill desk to my treadmill. I spend 1-2 hours each morning reviewing and responding to email, so this allows me to get a routine 1-2 hour walk in (at a very slow pace – just moving instead of sitting) each day. Find ways to do this. Park the car down the road and walk; take the stairs instead of the elevator; add a few more movements to your day (sweep the walk, take more trips back and forth to car with groceries). Just get out of the chair.
- Consider your changing life. Whether it’s college, menopause, or just aging in general, – these changes in life do impact your eating and exercise habits. Be aware, and adjust accordingly.
- Finally, if you have children, set a good example. Expose them to a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables, and fresh foods. Prevention is truly the answer.
I recently returned from speaking at the Lifestyle Medicine Conference in Washington DC last week. I was inspired by this movement to get back to our prevention roots, by addressing the pillars of health – diet and exercise – and also facilitating lifestyle interventions (smoking cessation, stress management). These sorts of lifestyle changes have served as the framework for my recommendations for over 25 years, and I’ve been talking about them for quite a while now.
In terms of Lifestyle Medicine interventions, diet, it turns out, is both clearly the most important, and the most controversial of this type of approach to medicine. There is no controversy over whether a healthy diet impacts health and disease substantially, but rather “which” healthy diet is the best prescription.
I’ve always used a balanced, evidence-based approach when helping people change their eating habits. Eating, and food, is a very personal matter for many. Cultural influences as well as food preferences or tolerances, all factor into what one may choose to eat. Diet and nutrition research has evaluated several aspects of the diet and many key nutrients, and has come to various conclusions. Although there are many dietary approaches to wellness and disease prevention, some are supported by evidence (DASH diet, TLC diet, Mediterranean Diet, the Ornish Diet, or a plant-based/vegetarian diet), and recognized by mainstream media as well.
Yet there is no question, that certain foods, namely plants, will do most people some good. While a plant-only diet may not be for everyone, heading toward a more plant-based diet, can be. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are currently under review, and I’m sure the 2015 version will include the recommendation to eat more fruits and vegetables, and more intact grains (sometimes difficult to understand how to do, when food marketers label products with simply “whole grains”).
There was some disagreement at this conference whether “small steps” are worth doing. The argument is that drastic steps lead to more drastic results, which are true in theory; but in real life, I still believe that for most of the public, small changes can be helpful.
So this holiday season, I challenge you to make a few small changes in how much you eat, what you choose to eat, and how you cook. You don’t have to lead a vegan lifestyle to gain the health benefits of plants and whole foods. Just try a few new things, and see how it goes. As Dr. David Katz says: ‘Add some years to your life, and life to your years’
So how much are you supposed to eat anyhow?
Well the Mayo Clinic has a great visual guide that you can check out here. Here are some additional quick tips:
- It truly does help if you use smaller plates and bowls. It’s even a “movement”. We like the look of a “full” portion. If you portion your ice cream into a small half-cup sized ramekin instead of a big bowl, you’ll be more satisfied with less calories. Choose My Plate offers some general tips to keep in mind.
- Keep a food journal to log hunger scale (1 being not so hungry, 5 being very hungry). Also keep track of your mood or stress level when eating.
- Slow the heck down! Shoveling food into your mouth = mindless eating. When you don’t pay attention to the texture and flavors of the food you’re eating, you aren’t as satisfied, and it takes your brain 20 minutes to register a full stomach. Put your fork down in between bites, sit back for a moment, have a sip of water. Slow down.
- Intentionally choose less food. If you have 2 slices of toast, just have one. If you take a big heap of mashed potatoes, intentionally take a smaller portion. If you pour the whole “on the side” cup of salad dressing on your salad, pour only half, and mix it into the salad.
- Get enough sleep. Rest can help control hunger and cravings.
I’m home from the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE©) of the American Dietetic Association. I had a few business commitments during the conference, so had to miss a few sessions that I would have loved to have made, but I did get to attend some great sessions.
One that stands out was a session presented by Jim Painter and Elizabeth Ward about the psychology of eating and how our environments impact the food choices we make. Their messages are ones that I share, and many of the tips that I have promoted in my writing and to clients were also confirmed.
For years my practice guidelines have been built on behavior change. I’d like to see key health officials take the focus away from “diet”, “food”, or an “ingredient”, and instead focus on using registered dietitians to coach people toward better eating behaviors and creation of healthier food environments. This will really achieve results. Yes, what you eat is important, but how you eat is even more important.
Some people may think that registered dietitians and nutritionists simply eat healthy diets and exercise daily. No problem. But the truth is, we’re humans just like you, and we work at it every day, and struggle with it just as you do.
As a nation, we eat too much. Yes, the food industry can be partly to blame as they create huge portions of foods and beverages, and this does impact the amounts we eat (see huge muffin – if a smaller muffin is offered, we are just as intrinsically satisfied), but you can change your environment. Some food companies seem to be a trending toward smaller portions and packaging, and consumers may have a say in what happens next (i.e., don’t get sucked into the idea of buying more in bulk, or larger portions to “save money”, when it may negatively impact your life).
Dr. Painter has done a lot of compelling research about how our eating behavior, and the amount of food we eat, is affected by everything from our environment to the size of our bowls and plates. These things really do impact the amount of calories that we check out with at the end of the day (and those calories do matter in terms of weight control and nutrient intake).
I’ll review portion control tips in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!
I’m on my way to Houston for the annual Food and Nutrition Conference, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! I am looking forward to this event; gaining cutting edge information about technology and business, as well as updates on the latest research in food and nutrition.
Many of my colleagues own their own business, so in addition to learning more about diet, food, health, and nutrition, we also learn how to deliver this information in meaningful ways. All aspects of the delivery of this information – ensuring it is evidence-based, factual, current, and practical – enter into practicing with integrity.
I’ll have the opportunity to meet some awesome speakers and leaders in the field, and hope to write about what I learn from them in an upcoming blog. Most likely, much of the information I’ll gain here will fuel several upcoming blog posts!
Time to get energized!
I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, but my opinions are my own.
October is here, and that means the Academy of Nutrition’s annual 2013 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™, (aka FNCE® – “fen-cee”) is around the corner. This year’s conference is happening from October 19-22 in Houston, TX, with the theme: Insights to Actions.
In past years there has been a lot of buzz around the EXPO floor. Some registered dietitians feel that certain food corporations should not be present there, however I always disagree. The EXPO is a chance for me to visit hundreds of companies (all in one space) whose products my clients use. I get to see what sorts of new products are being marketed, that I may not otherwise know about. Of course, in addition to providing information about products and services, these sponsors and 2013 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ participants also provide support for the expenses of the entire conference itself – which is a valuable learning and networking opportunity for my entire profession. The Corn Refiners Association will sponsor a Briefing on Monday, October 21 from 12:45 to 1:05 PM. with Dr. Mark Kern, who will discuss simple steps to take when evaluating scientific nutritional studies. More detail here.
Here are some 2013 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ at-a-glance highlights that you may not want to miss:
New this year, FNCE® has a conference app! Using the app, you can plan your day, view sessions, maps, and exhibitor locations, helping you get around, and making the most of your time at the conference.
I, along with the registered dietitian network and biochemist Dr John White, will be at the Corn Refiners Association booth 1813 on both Sunday and Monday, where we’ll have copies of the latest research about high fructose corn syrup available, as well as sets of “sweetener flash cards” which serve as a very useful educational tool to help dietitians and nutrition professionals explain the biochemical make-up of sugars to nutrition students. There will also be a sign in sheet at the booth for RDs who may be interested in guest blogging. Stop by and see us!
On Sunday -
As always, there are many sessions, providing a variety of material within the scope of practice of the registered dietitian. I plan to attend the session titled “Communicating Shades of Gray: Getting the Science Story Straight” with Dr. Johanna Dwyer and Dr. Edward Archer. In addition to learning more about how to evaluate nutritional research, it will be quite interesting to hear about the case studies they present, which lead to various sets of media reports.
“Dietitians translate research into recommendations for their clients and others, making it important to be able to critically analyze and translate scientific evidence to a variety of audiences, particularly in an era of an exploding number of media stories with often conflicting conclusions regarding diet, physical activity and health.
As a cookbook author, I’m excited to learn more about the 2013 Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture on Sunday – “Bringing Cooking Back: Food and Culinary Expertise as a Key to Dietitians’ Future Success” – presented by Food Network star and dietitian Ellie Krieger . In my opinion, for our nation to become healthier, we have to learn to balance our choices, and also learn how to cook again. Recent generations may have a lack of basic culinary skill that is not just important to overall health, but even survival.
Diet and its role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has been a hot topic. In Sunday’s session: “Pediatric Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Implications for the RD”, you’ll learn how the RD can have a unique role in the screening, assessment and diagnosis of individuals with NAFLD
On Monday -
As a member of the Nutrition Entrepreneur dietetic practice group, I have to give a shout out to Joanne Larsen and Marjorie Geiser who will be presenting “Disruptive Success: Moving from Traditional RD to Thriving Entrepreneur”
Also on Monday, supermarket dietitians will present “How supermarket dietitians build bridges to impact community health”. Its always good to catch a few more tips on advising consumers about grocery shopping!
On Tuesday –
Most RDNs these days must be involved in some sort of media. “Meet the Media Experts” with my colleagues Neva Cochran, Robin Plotkin and Angela Lemond, who will review how to write for print media, create a media presence and identify opportunities in social media.
All in all, this year’s FNCE conference looks like it has a lot to offer in cutting edge media and tech-related topics, as well as bringing the nutritional science forward so we can practice with ethics and integrity, remaining an evidence-based profession. I hope to see you in Texas!