Getting Geared up for Food Day

October 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General, Holidays

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While we eat food every day, Food Day is a special day to think about what and how we eat. Food Day is on October 24 and the celebration seeks to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies.”

Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest but is championed by a diverse group of leaders in the food movement, public office, school settings and local organizers.

In addition to celebrating food, the Food Day movement has a number of national priorities that relate to our food system and “provide common ground for building the food movement”. Food Day seeks to:

  • Promote safer, healthier diets
  • Support sustainable and organic farms
  • Reduce hunger and improve food access
  • Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
  • Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

To get involved this year in Food Day, you can:

This year as an added bonus, Food Day is partnering with EatingWell.com to host filmmaker Susan Rockefeller’s new film “Food for Though, Food for Life” that, “inspires us to think differently about what we eat, and to make changes that will positively impact our health, our communities and the environment”. The film will be available this month on the EatingWell.com website, available here.

What’s Your State’s State of Obesity?

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The stats are in and the 2015 “State of Obesity” numbers are out. The State of Obesity – Better Policies for a Healthier America report is a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This year’s 2015 report has published the following findings:

  • Rates of obesity exceed 35% in 3 states: Arkansas, West Virginia & Mississippi
  • All states have obesity that exceeds 20% of the population
  • Arkansas has the highest obesity rate at 35.9% and Colorado is the lowest at 21.3%
  • 17% of children and more than 30% of adults are considered obese

Although obesity rates appear to be stabilizing, they are still high. Overweight and obesity are linked to increased risk of chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Obesity in adults is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is a function of weight divided by height squared and you can calculate your own BMI using an online BMI calculator. For children aged 2-19, use the Pediatric BMI calculator which uses percentiles to determine obesity.

The Recipe for a Longer, Livelier Life

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We’ve all heard how people today are living longer than in generations gone by. Turn on the local news and you’re bound to see another man or woman celebrating 100 years.

It’s a comforting thought that we individually might have more time with our loved ones, right? What we may be forgetting is that living longer may not be in the form of a healthy elderly adult, but instead as a sick elderly adult.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet reported a 45% rise in diabetes from 1990-2013, as well as a rise in cancer. This study stated that there might be a link to the fact that we are living longer.

But don’t fret just yet! The authors also reported that in the US, diabetes complications (like amputations, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes) are actually down, due in part to advancements in medical care and monitoring.

What this means is that the gift of longer life comes with an obligation to take care of ourselves. Make sure to take action now regarding your health and wellness, so that your future years will be long and happy.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables every day
  • Make half your grains, whole grains
  • Schedule cooking meals at home so you can control your healthy choices
  • Schedule your physical activity every week for a minimum of 150 minutes
  • Get annual physicals from your doctor
  • Get your teeth cleaned regularly by your dentist
  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night (or make-up sleep in the form of naps when you can!)
  • Remove excess stressors from your life
  • And, remember to laugh and seek out the things that bring you joy!

While these are general things we all have heard, they can be hard to remember to do regularly. Start with one of the items listed above and slowly make them a normal habit in your life. In no time at all, you can have a whole new group of healthy habits that will help you on your way to a healthy future!

Special thanks to dietetic intern Rebecca Dehamer for her contributions to this post.

Summer Produce Takes Center Stage

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With summer just around the corner, chances are you are firing up your grill and gearing up for backyard barbeques. If you want to make a splash this summer dining season, fix your focus on fruit.

Summer means peak season for lots of fruits (and veggies too!). For your next get together, why not gather up what’s fresh and in season? Check your local markets for apricots, blueberries, blackberries, bell peppers, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, nectarines, strawberries, summer squash, raspberries, peaches, plums, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini.

Eating a variety of these foods will not only provide you with great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, it will also add some festive colors to your plate.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate seasonal produce into both sweet and savory dishes:

  • Corn and summer veggie sauté
  • Cucumber salad
  • Fruit kebabs with melon
  • Summer squash pizza
  • Stone fruit salad
  • Summer veggie omelet
  • Fruit smoothie with berries
  • Pasta with tomato and eggplant
  • Frozen melon pops
  • Tomato and corn salsa
  • Peach ice cream
  • Chicken with blueberry sauce
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Water infused with strawberry and mint

For more creative fruit and vegetable ideas check out Fruits & Veggies More Matters.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.

Does Skipping Meals Lead to Overeating?

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Have you ever skipped meals with the hope of losing weight? Do you find yourself eating just one meal per day due to a busy schedule? If so, you might want to rethink your current eating habits. Research indicates that this approach to eating may actually have a negative impact on your health.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers examined the effect of “gorging” in diet-restricted mice compared to mice in a control group that ate throughout the day. The researchers found that the diet-restricted mice developed a habit of gorging their food quickly, and they continued to gorge even after their diets were returned to the same calorie level as the control group. One researcher likened this habit to people who frequently skip meals or eat one large meal per day.

Compared to the control group, the gorging mice were found to have more abdominal fat and reduced insulin sensitivity. These outcomes are concerning as they have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease in humans.

Although the research was performed on mice, this study highlights the significant effects of eating patterns on metabolism. Skipping meals or severely limiting your food intake can also make you more likely to over-eat at the next meal and can make it more difficult to obtain the nutrients you need for the day.

Instead, you should aim to consume meals regularly with high quality, nutrient-dense foods. Focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. For more information on a balanced diet, check out www.choosemyplate.gov.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.

March 30, 2015 by  
Filed under General

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Over 90 percent of food allergy is caused by 1 of “the big 8“. The big 8 refer to the big 8 allergens, which include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine may be changing the way we look at introduction of peanuts in children. This study, conducted in England, set out to determine if giving peanuts to children before they turned age one would help them avoid an allergy to peanuts.

The kids selected for the study were between the age of 4 months and 11 months and were grouped into two groups: those who ate peanuts and those who avoided peanuts.

This study found that the kids who ate peanuts before age one were much less likely to develop a peanut allergy than those who avoided eating them before they turned one. When the kids turned five only 3.2% of kids who ate peanuts had developed an allergy and 17.2% of kids who did not have peanuts developed an allergy.

In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that there is no conclusive evidence to support avoiding peanut containing foods beyond 4-6 months of age to help stave off allergies. They have not, however, come out and actually recommended that parents feed their kids peanut-containing foods at early stages.

This study gives reason to believe that it may be better to introduce possible allergens to children at an earlier age in order to help children from developing allergies.

More research is needed to provide useful advice regarding this issue, but introducing new foods at a younger age could help protect children when they get older.

In light of this study, it is important to keetp in mind that peanuts and peanut butter are choking hazards for young children, especially for kids under one year of age. For more information on food allergy, check out the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) website.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Andrea Fitzgerald for her assistance with this post.

NNM: Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

March 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General, Holidays

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March is National Nutrition Month (NNM) and this year the theme is Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.

The goal of NNM is to incorporate food choices and physical activity that promote consumption of fewer calories, make informed food choices about food, and exercise daily to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Some tips to put into practice this NNM include:

  • Fill half of your plate with variety of colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal
  • When you eat grains, make half of them whole, including quinoa, oats, and whole wheat
  • Choose lean protein meats and poultry (or other protein sources like beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds)
  • If you consume dairy, try lowfat or nonfat versions of your favorites
  • Limit foods that contain added sugars, fats, and salt
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day (adults and children should exercise for 60 minutes each day)

A Registered Dietitian can help provide simple, fun, and nutritious information.

Registered Dietitians (RD or RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) are food and nutrition experts who practice evidence-based nutrition information making them a reliable source for your health. They work in a wide variety of settings revolving around food including but not limited to hospitals, corporations, foodservice, education, food and nutrition promotion, and research.

To become an RD/RDN a person must:

  • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a US regionally accredited university whose coursework is approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Complete 1200 hours of an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program in a health-care facility, community agency, and foodservice corporation.
  • Pass the RD/RDN national exam
  • Continue to complete professional education requirements.

You can find a Registered Dietitian in your area to help you with your food and nutrition goals by clicking here.

To learn more about becoming a Registered Dietitian visit: http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/career/become-an-rdn-or-dtr and have a happy and healthy National Nutrition Month!

 

Calorie Count Coming to a Menu Board Near You

December 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General

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Imagine this: you are standing in line at your favorite national chain coffee shop, pondering your piping hot drink order. A glance up at the menu board now informs you that the large caramel coffee drink you are about to order contains a whopping 430 calories.

Does knowing how many calories you are about to ingest cause you to rethink your drink?

Well it just might, now that the Food and Drug Administration has issued their final labeling rule as of December 1, 2014. The new rule says that all restaurants (and movie theaters and amusement parks and vending machines) with more than 20 outlets need to post calorie information “clearly and conspicuously”.

Additional information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars and proteins have to be available (provided upon consumer request, usually done online or pamphlet).

On top of that, if you are curious about the caloric impact of your alcohol intake, that information must also be posted as well. If the alcoholic beverage is a standard menu item, the restaurant has to pony up the details on the drinks now too.

For some restaurants this will not be a major issue, since similar rules have been in effect in areas such as New York City, California, Philadelphia and Seattle/King County for a few years now.

Other restaurants will find themselves scrambling to produce calorie information before the rule goes into effect. Restaurants have one year to comply and vending machine companies have two.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.

Put Some Pumpkin in Your Life

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, General

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Fall is upon us. Which means pumpkin products are everywhere.

Pumpkins are so much more than a seasonal decoration. From your coffee shop to your corner bakery, this winter squash makes its appearance in our food supply towards the end of the year.

And besides being beautiful, pumpkins are quite the nutritional powerhouse too.

One cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin contains:

  • 50 calories
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein

The Vitamin A content of pumpkin is probably its most impressive stat. One cup of pumpkin provides 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A.

Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin that helps promote vision and maintain a healthy immune system.

If you are looking for some ways to incorporate more pumpkin into your diet (other than pumpkin pie!) check out these tips in the USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide for Pumpkin.

Cheap food

January 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, General

Last week Jamie wrote a great piece about the relative cost of healthy vs. unhealthy food. It’s sad indeed that healthy food costs more – potentially thousands of dollars per year more – than less healthy processed food. Misguided government subsidies are certainly at the root of the issue in the United States. Designed to spur economic growth and provide cheap calories for the masses, current subsidies do perhaps more harm than good. Particularly when it comes to the absolute cost and relative value of food.

To put things in perspective, here’s an interesting question for you: how much money do Americans spend on food – a lot or a little? Responses will vary from person to person, but on average Americans spend just 10% of disposable income on food (USDA). Ten percent! That’s less than any other country in the world.

Which brings me to the next question: how much do Americans value food? Again, responses will vary, but the general consensus seems to be “not much”. Consider, for instance, that when finances get tight many folks resort to eating Top Ramen® or frozen pizza to make ends meet. We are too quick to sacrifice healthy foods. Some expenses, like rent and basic utilities, we can’t or shouldn’t cut,  but what about “luxury” items like fancy clothes, cable television, smartphones, or cars? To be sure some people need a smartphone or car to survive in today’s society, but others not so much.

Do you think that the relatively small amount that Americans spend on food affects how much we value it?

Food for thought

Activist and author Michael Pollan once wrote that the only quality that Americans look for in food is quantity. Meaning that we place more emphasis on how much a food costs than on how it affects our health, our society, or the environment. Do you agree or disagree? Do you think food, particularly healthy food, is expensive? If a person opts to buy “cheap” processed food today, what do you think the long term health (and financial) consequences are? Do you think that government subsidies should be restructured to better address American health issues? Lastly, how much do you spend on and value food?

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service (ERS). Food CPI, Prices and Expenditures: Food Expenditures by Families and Individuals as a Share of Disposable Personal Income.  Accessed January 26, 2014: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx#.UuUrKbTTnIU

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