New Year, No Fools

I began this blog to help consumers distinguish nutrition myth from fact. There continues to be no shortage of nutrition myths out there as well as bad dietary advice.

To start off the year right I’m offering up the facts about 10 nutrition myths:

  1. Poultry does not have hormones added to it. So when you see “hormone free” labeling it’s simply a marketing thing.
  2. Gluten is not exactly “the glue that holds bread together” but it does help foods maintain their shape. It’s a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with Celiac Disease or non-Celiac gluten intolerance should avoid or limit gluten.
  3. Water is two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. It really can’t be anything else. Yes, vitamins or sweeteners can be added to it, but please don’t fall for fancy, expensive waters marketing to your fears or desires (gluten free water, power water, black water, etc)
  4. Definitely don’t fall for the “raw water” trend. It’s completely ridiculous and dangerous.
  5. While “Antibiotic Free” may sound healthy, animals can and do get sick (just like  other mammals) and the humane thing to do when they have a bacterial infection is to treat them with antibiotics (most farmers work with an animal vet who knows when to treat, in the right dose, and closely considers withdrawal time).
  6. Farmers understand their livestock better than you or I do. I recently heard an “activist chef” pledging to promote “responsible and ethical farming”. Was she suggesting most farmers are not already responsible and ethical? News flash: farmers work hard and can’t afford to be irresponsible with their land and resources.
  7. Many myths abound surrounding cow’s milk. You may not tolerate milk (and there are many low lactose products such Lactaid and Fairlife available. A2Milk helps people enjoy milk who are intolerant of the A1 protein in milk). Milk provides a multitude of nutrients, including protein, potassium calcium, and vitamin D. It does a body good in my book.
  8. You probably continue to hear someone insinuating that “carbs are bad”. Carbohydrates are a major source of fuel for the body. Our body breaks down carbohydrates of all kinds to form glucose, which fuels our cells. Carbohydrates help us function at our best. Glucose supplies almost all of the energy to our brains.
  9. Okay, so some carbs are okay, but “sugar is toxic!” No, sugar is not toxic unless it’s consumed in unpalatable amounts (anything can be toxic in the right dose).
  10. There’s no quick fix. It’s human nature to want to take the easiest path, but weight control and good health take effort. They’re lifelong struggles for most. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Take it one day at a time, and set realistic goals.

After the holidays and the dark days of winter, it’s hard to get back to healthy habits. But you don’t have to detox and establish drastic restrictions. Just get back to basics – more veggies, soups, salads, fruit, chicken and fish. Less butter, bread, fried food, and fatty meats. That is all.

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The DASH Diet is Clean Eating

I just read a trend report that states that “clean eating” and plant-based and ketogenic diets are “in”, and the DASH Diet is “out”.


DASH – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – is a well researched diet plan that not only improves blood pressure (hypertension is high blood pressure) but also support weight loss and fits into meal planning for diabetes. The “diet” is well balanced, encouraging lots of plant foods and other sources of potassium (dairy), encouraging nuts and seeds, while limiting fatty or high sodium meats.

So you see? The DASH Diet is both plant-based and “clean”.

What is Clean Eating?

Clean eating is a trendy term, not a science-based one.

The idea of eating less processed food and more whole, “real” food, such as vegetables, fruit, grains and nuts, is a good one, but the behavior associated with this sort of eating can border on disordered if you’re not careful about where you get your info.

Rather than “going clean”, the best way to improve your eating is to do so gradually, limiting (not eliminate at all times) processed foods, while adding more whole foods to your daily diet. This sets you up for success, not failure.

Processed food is not all bad, but the more processed a food is, the more likely it’s devoid of important nutrients, and also higher in sodium and fat. The DASH Diet discourages highly processed food (you’ll see more detail about this in Chapter 5 – “Presenting Your DASH Nutrition Primer. You can “look inside” here).

Clean eating foods include: fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts, unprocessed grains, unprocessed meats, and dairy.

Hmmn, these sounds like DASH Diet foods.

Here’s Why DASH is Plant-Based:

A plant-based diet is a diet that emphasizes plant foods, but is not completely vegetarian. The DASH Diet includes mostly plants, but allows for small portions of meats (loin and lean cuts of beef, pork, skinless poultry) and encourages fish weekly. It also includes 2-3 servings daily of dairy foods, because low fat dairy has been strongly associated with lower risk of high blood pressure, and is a great source of potassium, calcium, vitamin D (not to mention protein).

On the plant end, DASH Diet:

  • Emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Offers blood pressure-lowering potassium, fiber, a variety of vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Encourages whole grains. Whole grains offer fiber, magnesium and some antioxidants. All types can be included including gluten-free oats, quinoa, or rice.
  • Includes nuts, seeds and legumes. Provides healthy fats, fiber, and magnesium.

You’ve seen our book, and the science is clear: DASH Diet is still one of the most well-rounded and well-researched diet plan for good health! Making it one of your new health goals is easier than you may think.


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Clean Pantry, Less Waste

While I don’t love the vaguely defined term “clean eating”, I do love a clean kitchen. Many of you may find a lot of leftover goodies in your chaotic kitchen this week, and next week you’ll be anxious to get back to normal eating.

January is a great time to reorganize your kitchen so you can start the year off on a healthy foot. Start with the refrigerator, and then move on to the pantry and cabinets. Finally, clean the whole room.

  • Literally empty the refrigerator, one shelf at a time, then doors. Wipe shelves down with a kitchen disinfectant spray, working from top to bottom, including doors
  • Sort the food you removed from the refrigerator, check dates, determine if it should go back in or not (or on another shelf). Continue this process until you’ve emptied everything out, checked, sorted, and put back.
  • Move open items to the front. If there’s only a few tablespoons left in a jar, it may be worth pitching now. Or you can figure out a way to work it into a recipe. Take note of any cheese or cream cheese that’s expiring and plan a meal around it before expiration.
  • Use up leftover veggies. Do you have a leftover veggie tray or the bag of broccoli you never got around to cooking? Now is a great time to whip up a stir fry or make veggie soup. This soup recipe makes a vegetable puree for the soup base.
  • Have leftover shrimp cocktail? Chop it and make our salsa for the next football game.
  • Chop leftover ham or roasts into bitesize pieces and freeze. This can then be pulled out of the freezer for a quick dinner, stew, fajita, or Western omelet.
  • Did you get too many candy gifts or have leftover cookies? Take unopened packages to your local food bank or freeze them for a future gathering.
  • If you overbought canned goods or other pantry ingredients, consider donating them to your food bank or church. I’ve often kept items in the pantry, and after all of the cooking over the holidays, they end up staying there too long. Make the donation now while the “best buy” date is still good.
  • If you have leftover chips or other tempting junk food, send it into your child’s school for the teacher lounge, or send it back with your college student to share with friends.

Photo by on / CC BY-ND

Keep Counters Clear and Clean

It’s still flu season, so once your refrigerator and cabinets are cleaned, wipe down everything. Use a kitchen disinfectant spray on all counter tops and faucets, and wipe down the outside of your cabinets with a damp cloth. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water, and drop things into it that are sticky or marked (microwave turntable, utensils, toaster oven ‘crumb catcher’, coffee carafe).

Don’t forget to wipe down all appliances, including the top of the refrigerator or microwave, and vacuum and mop the floor.

A clean kitchen keeps food safe, and so does proper hand-washing. Always remember to wash your hands frequently when handling and cooking food, and be sure your children do as well (it’s always a good idea to have your children wash their hands right after school).

This is my idea of clean eating. Happy New Year!


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The Only Detox You Need in 2018: A Better Diet

Go ahead, accuse me of clickbait, using the “D” word in my title: Detox.

It’s been a thing for several years now, with everything from complete “cleanses” to “detox diets” to the more vague advice to “remove the toxins from your diet”.

Do you realize if you were consuming that many toxins every day you’d be dead? I mean seriously, the word “toxic” literally means “causes death”. There’s a trend to use fear in marketing, so when you begin to see all of the advertisements for “Detox Diets” in January, beware.

You may hear about a “3-day Diet Detox” or a “10-Day Detox Diet”, but what is the real deal? Many times I’ve heard about “sludge” in the colon that needs to be cleaned out (in my mind that’s called colonoscopy prep). One website promised that their detox diet will make your “eyes sparkle and your skin glow”.

While it is true that people have varying genetics, and their environment, diet and lifestyle can impact their body’s ability to detoxify itself, following a “detox diet plan” can be dangerous at worst, and just won’t do anything at best. In healthy people, your liver and colon do the detox by neutralizing and eliminating toxins.

Detox Without the Detox Diet

There are other reasons your typical intake over the holidays disrupts your body: Hydration, excess sugar and alcohol, less vegetables, and lack of sleep.

The holidays are a time of indulgence, so it’s typical for these “detox plans” to pop up in your feed in the new year. What actually does help your body after the holidays, is simply getting back to normal eating and eliminating the extra junk calories from your diet.

When you add more vegetables and fruit, or some fermented foods, to your diet, you gain loads of antioxidants, at a low calorie cost. These antioxidants play a role in keeping cells healthy and this can in fact help keep your skin healthier, plus you’ll generally feel better.

Proper hydration also helps maintain healthy cells. Since alcohol is dehydrating (and it’s likely that when you are burning the candle at both ends) focus on staying well hydrated. Be more mindful of your water intake (bonus – proper hydration supports healthy skin).

When snacking on high sugar foods (hello cookies and candy) replace high fiber fruits and veggies or calcium-rich yogurt with active cultures, this contributes to your diet being off balance. Think ahead. Instead of waiting for January, plan a salad or veggie dish for lunch one day this week, and make the effort to peel an extra orange, or slice an apple after work to snack on.

Finally, lack of sleep does not do a body good. As large as your “to-do” list has grown this month, take a moment to see what you can do without, and carve in time for both exercise and sleep. Exercising daily can help your body get to sleep at night. Do your best to go to bed about the same time each night. Don’t stay up until midnight wrapping presents. Set an “end time” to your day, and move whatever chore is left to the next day. Being more rested will make every subsequent day more productive.

Key Words

Headlines are created to get your attention. Sometimes they promise the impossible (“Lose 10 pounds this week with Our Detox Plan!”). While you may lose ten pounds fasting and detoxing through a week, that’s not a healthy approach and you will be sure to gain it back.

Steer clear of any diet advice in the new year that uses these directives or claims:

  • Cleanse your liver, kidneys, or colon
  • Strict list of foods or ingredients to avoid (ALL sugars, starches, grains, dairy, etc)
  • Long term fasting
  • Promises to lose more than 3 pounds in a week.
  • Treats adrenal fatigue – this vague medical term when used by non-medical people is often a red flag that the dietary advice is misinformed
  • Promises to “cure” (diabetes, depression, etc)
  • Costs money – you have to buy something (a juice, supplement, or special powder) for it to work

A Balanced Diet = Balanced Body

You don’t want to go on a detox diet in 2018. You do want to keep working on eating well, exercise, sleeping well, and stress management, all year round. Once the holidays are over, it’s usually a welcome time to eat less, choose healthy food, get back to a more regular exercise routine, and limit or avoid alcohol. Rather than forcing yourself to “go on a detox” for a short period of time, why not just focus on an overall lifestyle improvement?

The DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diets are both good choices to keep your body healthy, that focus on plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables and grains). A vegetarian diet is great too, but you can also just work in a vegetarian meal once a week, and add more vegetable side dishes.

Enjoy the holiday season, and once it’s over, keep these 5 simple tips in mind:

  1. After a season of over indulging, January is a good time to cut back on or eliminate alcohol. Replace your daily glass of wine with a cup of herbal tea with lemon or an orange slice after work.
  2. Add salads, pulses, grains, and more vegetables. Cook extra vegetables and lean meats for dinner so you can eat leftovers for lunch. Create tasty large maid-dish salads with lots of mixed greens, sliced peppers, pickled beets, and add a low fat protein (such as tuna, chicken breast, chick peas, or sliced pork loin). Pulses refers to all types of beans and legumes. Experiment with different legumes and grains such as chickpeas, quinoa, or lentils, and include them in your side dish or main dish recipes.
  3. Drink more water. Add citrus or cucumber slices to your water bottle for a more refreshing drink. Keep a large water bottle at your desk as a cue to drink more.
  4. Cut back on sweet treats. You don’t have to obsess over every food label, just skip the obvious high-sugar sources: Soda, juices, bakery goods, candy.
  5. Schedule exercise at least 3 times a week, and get a good night’s sleep.
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Your Holiday Guide to Good Eating: It’s Time for (a) Toast

Really, your diet just needs to be good enough, not perfect.

I have written a lot of nutrition articles over the past 20 years, including some that revolved around staying healthy during the holidays. Many times I’ve written about food swaps and ways to eat smart at holiday buffets, drink less, or prepare lighter side dishes and appetizers. All that advice still holds (use less butter in your side dishes, use nonfat sour cream or non fat yogurt to lower calories in recipes, make smaller cookies, be sure to have a veggie plate in the mix, etc), still, I want to stress that while eating a balanced, healthy diet is important, there is no such thing as a perfect diet.

There are large bodies of evidence that show diet plays a role in some aspects of health (primarily diabetes and heart health, but also some – not all – cancers), but we are all genetically different. Diet itself can’t cure you of all that ails you, nor stop the aging process. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that healthy eating leads to better health! That’s why I’m in this business…but I’ve always been a proponent of keeping it fad-free and guilt-free.

Why Does Bread Have to be the Bad Guy?

Since just about every trendy weight loss diet out there eliminates or strictly limits bread, you may be wondering how much bread you should be eating. When I’ve counseled clients for weight loss, I always first consider their whole lifestyle, medical history, and exercise habits. I then consider what they enjoy eating now, and then develop a plan for them to create a calorie deficit but balance nutrients.

This may include eating less bread, if their diet was heavy on bread, but it never involves “avoid all bread products” (this of course is referring to advice for non-Celiac patients).

I eat toast about four to five mornings a week. It’s my favorite breakfast. I’ve been eating toast since I was a kid. I used to fold it in half and dip it into coffee so I could eat it quickly and not miss the bus (yes I began my love affair with coffee at about age 10).

Bread is mostly carbohydrate (about 15 grams per slice), and yes, research shows that it’s ideal to consume about 15-20 grams of protein with each meal. As we age it’s even more important to include protein to maintain our lean body mass (i.e. muscle). But I don’t like eating protein every morning. And I’m not a smoothie person. I like toast.

Two slices provides about 5 grams of protein and I get about 2 grams from the cream I put in my 2-3 cups of coffee. So I sometimes add a scoop protein supplement to one of my mugs of coffee, adding another 11 grams of protein to my morning. That’s 18 grams of protein for breakfast. Good enough.

Your Holiday Guide to Good Eating

  • Your diet does not have to abide by every rule you read.
  • Food should nourish you (yes it’s okay to get comfort from food too) and you should enjoy what you eat, while striving to make healthier choices.
  • Add variety to your diet by trying new vegetables and grains once in a while.
  • Don’t be ashamed to eat toast for breakfast. Yes oatmeal is good too. And I’m a fan of dry cereal, eggs, bacon and sausage (not to mention good pastry) – I just don’t eat those foods every week.
  • Moderation means eating just 2 slices of bacon, 2 sausage links, or one pastry.
  • You will eat more cookies than usual this month. It’s okay. Make them good ones.

Happy Holidays!

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Fancy Junk: Tricking You into Healthier

I really don’t enjoy grocery shopping anymore. In part, it’s the routine of it, but also the frustration of finding items I need while being overwhelmed by seeing so many choices in the grocery isles.

Some of the extra choices are a good thing but others really aren’t. The labeling trend for “absence claims” is driving the information food manufacturers place on the front of packages. These claims are marked on foods claiming they are “free from” some ingredient. This tends to suggest that the missing ingredient is undesirable in some way.

The confusion is compounded with food products using these claims about an ingredient that was never in the product in the first place. In the 1980s and 90s we saw many fat free claims, but we also saw a lot of “cholesterol free” claims on food packages that never ever contained any cholesterol (cholesterol is an animal product, therefore plant foods fried in vegetable fat are always going to be cholesterol free).

Well, nobody cares much about cholesterol anymore. Gluten, artificial ingredients, GMOs and “ingredients you can’t pronounce” are the new dietary devils (with dairy and soy taking runner up).

Take gluten for instance. While people are beginning to realize that choosing gluten free products isn’t a secret recipe to easy weight loss (Hint: there is not such thing as easy weight loss), it is a nice thing to have more choices for those who really need them in the gluten free isle.

Gluten free products have come a long way which is great for those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. When I began my career, the products available weren’t too tasty. Now there are many types of gluten free flours on the market, and even gluten free convenience foods in the freezer isle.

There are also lots of unnecessary gluten free labels on foods however. Many foods labeled gluten free have never been a food with gluten. Does this help educate the consumer or confuse them? Let’s take a quick look at snack bars.

Fancy Candy

I recently attended my annual nutrition conference (FNCE® – The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference) and when grabbing a cup of coffee in my hotel’s lobby cafe, I snapped these photos:

Lots of “traditional” candy bars, and then on upper shelves, what I call “fancy candy” and other bars.

This was an overwhelming selection of candy and snack bars. Some of them, what I’ll call “fancy candy”, are newer to the market – bars that are gluten-free, soy-free, with added protein, and organic or “functional” ingredients (such as added vitamins or antioxidants). If you’re grabbing one of these it’s likely because you are craving something sweet or need quick calories.

At the end of the day, every single one of these bars can be proclaimed equal in my book – about 200-250 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 12-16 grams of sugar.

We could argue about whether eating all of those calories is better or worse depending on the ingredients (type of fat, organic versus conventional, gluten free, number of ingredients in the list, etc.), but if you are trying to lose weight, you should not eat a 250 calorie bar every day, whether it is sweetened with 65 calories of honey, 65 calories of organic cane sugar, or 65 calories of high fructose corn syrup. Unless you are eating this to replace a meal (and you add an additional 200 calories in nutrition to the meal to balance it out), it’s not the best choice for your overall diet.

A Menagerie of Syrups

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was an early Hershey Kiss® adopter. I absolutely love them. My mother always had a pretty little bowl filled with them in our living room, and I’ve followed suit. My dream job would be “Hershey Kiss Spokesperson” – the perfect little sweet calorie-controlled package.

But Hershey’s? Do we really need this many syrups to choose from?

Regular, strawberry, caramel, sugar free,Simple, Boosting, Special Dark, LIte

As a child, my mother also always had a can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup in the house. It came in a can, and it was the only choice there was. We used it to make chocolate milk and to drizzle (not pour) on ice cream. Now we have nine choices?

“Simple” or “Simply” is another new term we see on packages in the supermarket. This food marketing claim wants you to believe that less ingredients are always better. This isn’t always the case, but Hershey’s, like so many other companies, is creating these products because they feel there is a consumer demand for them, even though it makes no sense.

Checking out these two syrups pictured here, the original product contains 12 ingredients, the Simply 5 contains only 5 (including organic sugar). In this case, the “Simply 5” product has the same calories per serving, the same amount of carbohydrate (for those with diabetes counting their carbs), but actually has one more gram of sugar. It’s a wash.

Both products contain safe ingredients, 45 calories per serving and 12 grams of carbohydrate.

What Is Driving These Labeling Trends?

Consumers choose different food and beverage products for a variety of reasons including:

  1. Taste, flavor, quality
  2. Price, value
  3. Availability in their market area
  4. Brand loyalty
  5. Personal views (environmental, religious)

Food manufacturer’s are keenly aware that consumers bring their emotions to the store. It’s not just about nutrition anymore, it’s about what foods make people “feel good” about purchasing. Not physically, but emotionally.

If you are trying to lose weight, manage your weight, or manage your blood sugar levels, calories do count. The impact on blood sugar or weight is exactly the same when you deliver the exact same about of calories and carbohydrate, no matter the source. (Yes, I know, I know, 100 calories of broccoli is more nutritious than 100 calories of soda). But if you’re eating a snack bar, fifteen grams of sugar is fifteen grams of sugar, and 240 calories is 240 calories.

If choosing these foods makes you feel good, great, but these “health halo” foods are not “better for you”.

It’s wise to use the majority of your food budget to buy foods from the basic food groups (vegetable, fruit, meat, grains, dairy) that fit your budget and that you are able to plan healthy, balanced meals around. Limit the junk food, and in my opinion it’s not worth extra food budget dollars to buy “fancy junk”.


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Enjoy a Skinny Signature Thanksgiving Cocktail

We’ve all heard about that Thanksgiving where Uncle Jim or cousin Johnny drank too much. Often it’s not on purpose – guests usually show up hungry, with a completely or mostly empty stomach, and then all of sudden that first cocktail hits them hard.

The best “medicine” is prevention, so to avoid getting too tipsy, too early, this Thanksgiving, use my strategy:

  1. Eat. Never drink on an empty stomach. Even if you can normally hold 2-3 drinks on a special occasion, one is going to wreck you if it’s on an empty stomach. If you don’t think your host or hostess will provide pre-dinner snacks, offer to bring something simple. Cut vegetables with dip, crostini, or olives with some chunks of cheese work well. Just a little bit of food helps.
  2. Go light, and pace yourself. Limit yourself to one cocktail before dinner.
  3. Try my Thanksgiving Cosmopolitan or simply add club soda to any cocktail to lighten the spirits.

Size Matters

Today’s cocktail glasses have something in common with today’s bagels and muffins: They’ve grown in size. A typical martini or daiquiri glass in the 1970s held 2-3 ounces. Today’s glassware, such as the one pictured on the left here, holds 4-5 ounces. Double the size, double the calories. While it may be a challenge to find smaller cocktail glasses, maybe you can put this on your Wish List?

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How-to Guide for Dietitians: Review the Science

Nutrition is a tricky business. Everyone eats, and everyone has an opinion about what the best diet is, or which foods or beverages you should or shouldn’t eat. On top of this there’s the dietary supplement market – a multimillion dollar industry that’s poorly regulated.

Chew the Facts® stands for science. I’m passionate about helping consumers distinguish facts from myth. With daily headlines focusing on soundbites from the latest dietary study, even health professionals can be misled or get confused. 

Every study isn’t a good study, nor a conclusive one. I had the chance to interview Kevin Klatt about how to review the science. Kevin is a PhD Candidate in Molecular Nutrition at Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences. Here’s what Klatt had to say about how to decipher the meaningful research from everything else.

What resources should dietitians use when validating research or nutrition topics in the news?

Nutrition topics in the news are often subject to ‘single study syndrome’ – the results get heavily publicized and spiced up, but are not placed into the context of the greater body of evidence. I think that its key for RD/RDNs to immediately ask themselves, “What do we know and how does this new research fit into what we knew before”. Apart from the occasional landmark trial, such as the recent peanut allergy prevention trial (the LEAP trial), few studies wildly transform our knowledge on a topic. Going to the Academy’s Evidence Analysis Library, the USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s database and Cochrane’s Library are great places to start when finding out what we (think we) know about a topic and contextualizing new research. In addition to these, there are many websites/blogs which get ‘fast takes’ from experts (sites such as the Science Media Centre and Health News Review are two examples) which RD/RDNs might consider in their analysis. 

What questions should dietitians be asking when reading research studies?

I ask myself a few core things when reading research studies:

  • What type of study is this? Where does it fall in the evidence hierarchy (e.g. meta analyses, trials, observational, animals/cells, etc)? Is the evidence causal and what level of bias is in the study?
  • What hypothesis is being tested and was it preregistered? Pre-registry is important for ensuring that authors are reporting on what they designed the study to assess; studies which aren’t preregistered or are reporting on un-registered outcomes exhibit a higher risk of providing false positive/biased findings (See here).
  • What outcomes were measured? How meaningful are these (both scientifically and to your patient/client)? 
  • What is the most ideal study design to answer this question? Did the authors of this paper employ that design? 
  • What conclusions can we draw from this study, given its strengths and limitations? 
  • How does this research fit into the greater body of evidence surrounding this topic? I often do that by identifying systematic reviews and meta analyses, as well as some narrative reviews by experts in the field, regarding the issue. 
  • The last but most important thing that I ask myself is: “Is this something that patients/clients would find meaningful/valuable?”. 

Increasingly, we’re seeing more systematic looks at the evidence, and the news is reporting on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. This is generally a good thing, because it reduces bias in the assessment of the literature, relative to more narrative reviews written by experts. Understanding how to interpret systematic reviews and meta-analyses is critical. Some tools for assessing the quality of this kind of research are the Cochrane Handbook and the AMSTAR quality assessment tool

Where is the best place to find the best nutrition research?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Society of Nutrition journals are go-to reads for RD/RDNs. Relevant trials and cohort analyses are often published in specialty journals and there might be some additional trials which are published within these (e.g. American Heart Association journals for Cardiology focused RD/RDNs). Members of these societies will have access to these journals. The UAB Obesity and Energetics Offerings is additional resource; they do a great weekly roundup of research in the field that I highly recommend following:

The National Academies of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) also regularly puts out reports related to nutrition and health. These reports provide a wealth of information and are often the basis of public policy – and they are freely accessible! I’m a huge advocate for going back and reading old NAM/IOM reports and keeping up with the news – it’ll give you the most well rounded perspective on evidence-based nutrition.

For those without a university library subscription services, probably the best place to find emerging nutrition research is through social media – a number of groups/pages on Facebook and accounts on twitter post and discuss current research, and kind folks may even email you a pdf of the paper! Nutrition & Dietetics is so broad and interdisciplinary; social media can definitely help find others in your research niche. 

Lastly, podcasts are fast becoming a great place to hear about research. Individual science podcasts often discuss research, and many journals have started to do podcasts with authors. There’s a ton of podcasts to explore but I’d specifically recommend the Sage Nutrition and Dietetics podcasts for updates from Nutrition in Clinical Practice and the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.



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How Do You Like Them Apples?

I had the pleasure of touring some of the apple orchards of Washington State in September upon invitation from Arctic Apples. Just when you think you know enough about farming, you realize there’s always more to learn. I was absolutely blown away about “where apples come from”. [The travel for the trip was covered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, but the opinions I share here are my own].

One of my favorite lines in the film Good Will Hunting is when Will gets the girl’s phone number and throws it into his rival’s faces, stating

“Do you like apples?…Well how do you like dem apples?”

Soon, there will be a new apple in town. It tastes great, and won’t brown. The first question that many people ask is “Why would we need a non-browning apple?” So let me start there…

Have you ever cut into a perfect looking apple to see that it’s brown and soft inside? Have you ever sliced a bunch of apples for a fruit tray, and even though you squeezed lemon juice on them, some of them still turn brown? Would you like to chop apples into your salads without them turning brown? Have you ever spent time packing lunches for your children in the morning, only to find the bag of sliced apples come home uneaten at the end of the day?

Arctic Apples® won’t do that. Having a non-browning apple on the market will not only curb food waste, but it opens up opportunities for new recipes utilizing apples. Apples are great sources of fiber, vitamins C, and potassium.

  • Fewer apples wasted (currently about 40% of apples grown are wasted)
  • Less water and fuel
  • Higher quality apples reduces loss

Apple Farming

You may have an apple tree in your yard, like I do. Or you may even visit a local orchard. I grew up with several fruit trees in my back yard as a child – cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and apples. They were trees. The peach trees were small, but the cherry, apple and pear trees were pretty big.

Washington state boasts the largest apple production in the country. Apples are Washington’s largest agricultural grown product.

During this tour, we got to see the whole process of growing apples on large-scale apple farms. If you’ve ever visited a winery, these apple trees look more like grape vines – strung on a trellis, bearing many apples, from a fairly small trunk. They are not big trees at all.

Root orchard.

Modern apple farming involves using rootstock and grafting techniques.

Each stem will provide the root for the apple tree. This root is no particular apple until the variety is grafted onto it. Some rootstock dates back to the late 1800s!

Some apple farmers specialize in just rootstock. Hundreds of rootstock acres are planted and sold to other apple farmers who grow apple varieties, using grafting or chipping techniques. Farmers use different grafting techniques in which a section of a stem with leaf buds is inserted into the stock of a tree.

This “chip” will be inserted into the rootstock stem to create the desired variety of apple.

Another type of grafting is “budding”, in which a single bud or “chip” is inserted into a stock. All modern commercially grown apple trees are grown by grafting, rather than by planting seeds.

Why Arctic Apples®?

The fact is, people don’t like eating brown apples, and an apple farmer and scientist by the name of Neal Carter figured out a way to keep apples from browning by silencing the enzyme that causes browning. When an apple is bruised or cut, an enzyme called PPO (polyphenol oxidase) is triggered and causes oxidative browning. The non-browning apples have all of the same nutrition as regular Golden Delicious apples, but won’t brown when bitten, sliced or bruised.

Neal and Louisa Carter sought to address the stagnant apple consumption in North America by providing a new way to consume apples: Pre-sliced.

Less than two percent of apples are currently sold as fresh slices, and Arctic apples will change that statistic, without using preservatives. Their hope is that ready-to-eat sliced apples will increase apple consumption in more Americans, just as carrot consumption increased with the introduction of “baby carrots” sold ready-to-eat in bags.

At this time Arctic Apples® will only be delivered to certain undisclosed markets. There are currently two varieties: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. They’ll be delivered to market pre-sliced in a zippered bag (similar to how some grapes are packaged).

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Does Antibiotics Use on the Farm Impact the Food on Your Plate?

I am working with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council through September 2017. This post includes a link to a blog that was sponsored by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, but are expressions of my own. 

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. Bacteria become antibiotic resistant when the antibiotic kills sensitive bacteria, leaving behind antibiotic-resistant bacteria. You’ve likely heard news about this issue, whether in the context of human overuse of antibiotics or use in animals.

“It isn’t just a Midwest United States issue, it’s an international issue,” says Brad Greenway, a South Dakota pig farmer and member of the National Pork Board’s Antibiotic Task Force.

I recently discussed animal antibiotic use with Brad, who says farmers recognize the need to stay on top of this global issue. Antibiotic resistance is an issue that encompasses animal health and human health. Brad reports that antibiotics are highly monitored and only used when needed.

Your Children See the Pediatrician, Farm Animals See the Veterinarian

If you have children, you know that going to the pediatrician forcheck-ups and vaccines are important. Consumers may not realize that just as you work with your pediatrician, livestock farmers work closely with veterinarians on a regular basis. Since antibiotics can only be used when medically necessary, farmers are in weekly contact with the vets who monitor and advise farmers all of the time.

Are Antibiotic Residues Left in Our Food?

No. Vets advise farmers about withdrawal times as well as the type and dose of medicine. This withdrawal is highly monitored and assures there is no residue left in the meat we consume. There’s no trace of antibiotic is left in the animal when it goes to market.

What are Farmers Doing About Antibiotic Resistance

Me holding a healthy piglet from South Dakota University’s research barn.

The number one goal is to use antibiotics only when necessary. To meet this goal, he recommends that farmers have a strong relationship with their vet. Along with their vet, a farmer can continually evaluate animals that may be under stress when weaned or transported.

Every antibiotic, whether an injectable or oral antibiotic given in feed or water, requires a prescription from a veterinarian. Antibiotics that are medically important to human illness cannot be used to promote growth in animals either.

Farmers employ standards in the use and documentation of antibiotics:

  • Communication with the veterinarian: Farmers stay in touch with their vet, who determines any need to treat the whole barn to prevent illness or else experience losses
  • Document everything: Farmers document the type, dose, duration, and withdrawal periods when antibiotics are used.
  • Follow withdrawal schedules.
  • Improve documentation tools: Brad is concerned about proper use of antibiotics and looks for better tools that farmers can use to document and track antibiotic use. Currently, antibiotic use is documented based on sales. Farmers and vets are working on developing new tools that could better document use per animal, per pound.

Just as you want to keep your family safe and healthy, farmers want to keep their animals safe and healthy so they can get food onto your table, and their own. Responsible use of antibiotics is in everyone’s best interest.

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