Food Trends for 2015

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A new year on the horizon brings predictions on food trends for 2015. Which foods will be topping your to-eat list in the coming year? Here are a few cutting-edge culinary trends as predicted by Sterling-Rice Group:

  1. Regional Grains – quinoa has had it time in the sun and other grains now take center stage; look for small scale grain varieties and whole grains such as amaranth
  2. Asian Inspired – Americans have moved beyond Chinese food; other ethnicities such as Thai, Japanese, and Filipino foods will flourish
  3. Matcha – Japanese Matcha, a powdered green tea brimming with fiber and antioxidants appears in products like ice cream and smoothies
  4. Coconut Sugar – you know coconut oil, but coconut sugar (sourced from the sap of the flowers of coconut plants) shows up as an alternative sweetener boasting “minimal processing”
  5. Beat Up Produce – a food trend that started in France, Americans will be inspired to purchase misshapen and less-than-perfect produce as a means to control food waste

The US eater will also be inclined to exercise buying options that promote sustainability, support entrepreneurial food initiatives and seek out balanced nutrition options in the grocery store.

For more info on the evolving American palate, check out the full top 10 list from SRG here.

Proper Nutrition is Required Before and During Pregnancy to Protect Future Generations

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns

We all know that the old saying that “you are what you eat”. As nutrition research advances, this becomes even more evident. For example, there is emerging evidence in the field that what a pregnant woman eats during pregnancy can influence not only her unborn fetus, but even successive generations! Quite amazing really!

Recent studies have shown that maternal nutrition can influence patterns of gene expression, by a mechanism known as epigenetic modification in the sperm cells on fetal mice that can be passed along to successive generations. These are actual modifications to DNA that influence gene expression which are inheritable. Does the same occur in humans? Probably, but further research is required.

Emerging science also is providing evidence that the maternal diet prior to conception may be equally important. So, does this concept only apply to women? Absolutely not. Again, recent studies have suggested that paternal nutrition can influence genetic events in sperm cells that could be passed along to successive generation.

In sum, these emerging areas of nutrition research have expanded the realm of healthy eating from beyond the individual to a person’s “bloodline”. The new slogan might then be, “you are what your mother and father (and grandparents) ate”! So, eat healthy! Not only for you own sake, but for others on down the family tree.

Spooky Nutrition Advice for Halloween…BOO!

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, Weight management

Ah, Halloween. Trick-or-treating, candy, ghosts and goblins and too many empty calories! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fabulous holiday that all kids and young-at-heart adults love. But given the explosive rise in childhood obesity and increases in the incidence of type 2 diabetes among adolescent, we should collectively be concerned. Here are some ideas on how to lessen the nutritional impact of this fun holiday.

1) Limit daily consumption of candy as much as possible. A child may have only 100 kcals of discretionary calories available each day to maintain proper body weight. More kcals from junk foods, and weight and adiposity rise over time.

2) Buy your candy a day or two before the holiday. This way, no one is tempted to have a sugar hog fest and you might save money as these items typically go on sale as the day approaches.

3) Have dinner before going trick-or-treating. This one is for rather obvious reasons…less likelihood of snacking on the candy as one goes door-to-door.

4) Have an active evening. Take a longer walk to enjoy the decorations and burn some calories while you’re at it.

5) Practice portion control and know which ones are the healthier choices. Limit the amount that children can eat each day and don’t necessarily trust them to do this on their own. Placing the stash out of their reach or where you can control it is best.

So, have a happy Halloween and stay healthy!

How Do I Find Healthy Foods at the Grocery Store?

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness

Nutrition knowledge is great, but how does one translate this to the grocery store or local corner market. A few tips from someone who has scoured the shelves of many grocery stores over the past several years in search of healthier choices.

1) Don’t get fooled by the cover! Food manufacturers are out to make a profit, not necessarily promote your health. Statements made on the front of the package can be misleading. So, refer to the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredient list. This information is factual. This then leads me to point 2.

2) Learn how to read nutrition facts panels and ingredient lists. The ingredient list goes from the most abundant component to the least abundant (based upon weight). So, if you are looking for a whole-grain product. The first ingredient should be something like “whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”.

3) What to pay attention on the Nutrition Facts Panel. First, check serving size. To compare products on the store shelves, make sure serving sizes are the same. This is another trick that food manufacturers like to use. Next, look for fat content and type of fats present. Avoid foods with saturated fats and absolutely avoid foods with trans-fats. Lower cholesterol is also better. Next, check sodium and fiber content. Higher fiber is good and high sodium is bad. Total carbohydrate and sugar content can be misleading as you can’t tell if it contains added, refined sugars (which are bad) or naturally occurring sugars (which are better).

4) Learn different “buzz” words for added sugars and true whole grain products. There are numerous types of added sugars, which are a nutritional dead end. A few examples, all meaning added, refined sugars: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup and table sugar. And…there are more! Overwhelming, huh? Same goes for whole grain products. Look for these terms at the beginning of the ingredient list: whole grain, whole wheat, whole (other grain), stoneground whole (grain), brown rice, oats, and oatmeal. Again, food manufacturers will trick you with words and labels regarding whole-grain products.

5) Remember, “free” does not necessarily mean zero. For example, if a food contains less than 0.5 g of trans-fat per serving, it can be labeled “trans-fat free”. Thus, you want to avoid foods that have partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list (even if they are labeled “trans-fat free”). Again, educate yourself and read food labels!

6) Look toward the end of the ingredient list where you typically find preservatives listed. Avoid meat products with nitrates and nitrites as these may increase risk for canner, in particular colon cancer. Other ingredients are also listed here, such as dyes and other additives. If you don’t know what something is, you should exercise caution and do a little research.

In summary, nutrition knowledge does one little good without also having the knowledge to decode food labels, Nutrition Facts Panels and ingredient lists. Having both sets of knowledge will prepare you to withstand the onslaught of manufacturer tricks and ploys used to get you to but their products. If you focus on whole, natural foods, you are in good shape, but we all will need other prepackaged products on the store shelves. This is where we need to educate ourselves and make wise choices. Happy shopping!

What’s In Your Supplement?

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Supplements

Dietary supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Surprisingly, however, supplement manufacturing is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees foods consumed by humans and various drugs used to treat a variety of disease. You might ask yourself then, who does regulate the supplement industry? Great question! It turns out that the individual manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products they produce and sell. Sounds pretty scary, if you ask me. What then happens if a particular supplement is associated with adverse reactions in users? The FDA then steps in at this point and essentially does an investigation. In some cases, the FDA may issue a recall of the supplement. What happens next? Another excellent question. This is exactly what was considered by the authors of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Medical News Today Article). The JAMA study involved an examination of products that were recalled by the FDA from US markets for being composed of ingredients that could have serious adverse health consequences, even leading to death. It turns out that almost 50% of FDA recalled class 1 drugs since 2004 have been for dietary supplements. The authors of the JAMA paper note that many of the banned substances were still commercially available 6 months or more after the FDA recall. The study authors obtained the recalled supplements and did thorough chemical analyses (using fancy scientific techniques such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry). What they found is actually quite disturbing! One or more pharmaceutical adulterant (i.e. a potentially toxic or banned substance) was found in two-thirds of the recalled products that remained for sale on store shelves. This included 11 of 13 supplements for sports enhancement, 6 of 9 for weight loss, 1 of 5 for sexual enhancement, and 13 of 20 which were produced by American Manufacturers. In many cases the substance that originally led to the FDA recall remained in the product and in other cases, other adulterants were found. So, what does this mean for me and you? Among us, perhaps 50% take some kind of dietary supplements. If this is you, the best advice is to be very careful. This article outlines some of the unexpected hazards with these products. One way to protect yourself is to look for the US Pharmacopeia Verified Mark. This ensures that the products with this seal have undergone independent testing. Another alternative is to obtain all the nutrients and other dietary products you need from whole natural foods, an approach that many with scientific knowledge of nutrition have taken.

Super Shopping with a Supermarket RD

October 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness

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Imagine this – you are standing comparing food items in your grocery store and wondering which one is a healthier option. Out of nowhere, a helpful dietitian appears and offers you advice about one product over another.

This fairy grocery store godmother isn’t too goo to be true…she’s the real deal, also known as a supermarket dietitian.

Supermarket dietitians (also called retail dietitians) have been around for decades, but they are certainly having their renaissance moment now.

An article published in the New York Times in 2012 highlighted the benefits of employing a Supermarket RD for both supermarkets and consumers. And, as Beth Orenstein puts it in her article The Rise of Supermarket RDs, “More chains are hiring dietitians to counsel shoppers and achieve a competitive edge.”

Orenstein points out that the typical US woman goes to the doctor twice a year. But that same woman visits her supermarket two or more times per week.

And what exactly do these supermarket nutrition gurus do? Well, for starters they may:

  • Write nutrition articles for grocery store newsletters
  • Answer customer questions in store or via the store website
  • Provide grocery store tours and in-store demonstrations

To learn more about the phenomenon of supermarket RDs, check out the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance. And next time you’re at the grocery store, ask around to see if a supermarket dietitian is available to help make your shopping experience a little easier…and a whole lot healthier.

USDA Nutrient Database Gets an Update

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Are you on a need-to-know basis about the nutrient content of your foods?

Chances are, if you are a nutrition blog reader, you are also a label reader.

But what do you do when your favorite foods don’t feature the Nutrition Facts panel? Foods like fruits, vegetables, some meats and other whole foods may not have the familiar food label.

If you’re curious about the nutrient content of these foods, check out the USDA Nutrient Database. This database is maintained by the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and was just recently updated for its 27th version.

The database houses comprehensive nutrient information for tens of thousands of foods. You can sort foods by nutrient or food groups to learn the ins and outs of what is really in your food.

To get started exploring your foods, check out the newly updated USDA Nutrient Database available by clicking here.

Can Family Meals Fight Fat?

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Could eating with your family help fend off fat? A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics posits that “A Family Meal a Day May Keep Obesity Away”.

Researchers from The University of Minnesota and Columbia University looked at more than 2,200 subjects studied over a 10-year period of time. The study found that all levels of eating meals together, even as little as 1-2 times per week, were linked to lower rates of obesity among family members.

So what is it about eating together that reduces risk of obesity? Experts suggest that the benefits of family meals may come from:

  • Emotional connections between family members
  • Opportunities for healthy role modeling by parents
  • The fact that food tends to be healthier if homemade than prepared outside of the home

To learn more about the importance of family meals check out The Family Dinner Project at www.thefamilydinnerproject.org.