Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garden Update

Hmm, there's some holes in the collards. I think when the lettuce is finished we might plant kale and bush beans.

Well, I just took another look and the lettuce has definitely bolted...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Healthy Traveling with Kids: It's Possible!

Check out the article Toby Amidor and I wrote on Healthy Traveling with Kids: It's Possible!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ask: When to see a dietitian?

How does a person decide if he/she needs to see a nutritionist or a dietician?

Before I answer this question, I want to mention the differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist. "Nutritionist" is a blanket term. There is no regulation regarding its use (unfortunate, because I happen to like the word better). As such, anyone may call his/herself a nutritionist, whether knowledgeable about nutrition or not.

In contrast, a registered dietitians (RDs) have spent years studying biology, chemistry, clinical nutrition and food science, and are required to pass a national exam administered by the American Dietetic Association. Throughout their careers, RDs are required to accrue continuing education credits in order to keep up to date with the latest nutrition advancements. Someone with a Masters degree in nutrition has likely received additional training in clinical nutrition, research interpretation/evaluation and behavioral theory. 

Ok, on to the question: there are many reasons to visit a dietitian/nutritionist! It is, of course, a personal decision involving not only health, but convenience and cost as well. More and more dietitians are venturing into teledietetics (nutrition counseling by phone/internet), which is a great option for folks in rural areas or with limited mobility. In any event, I am focusing on health reasons. Let's see how many I can come up with:

  • Prevention of Disease. Visit a dietitian for a general nutrition check-in. Are you eating as well as you think you are? Are you bored with your food? Can't decipher nutrition labels and health claims? A dietitian can help you sort fact from fiction and identify ways to improve (and inspire) your diet and lifestyle. You can't change your genetic susceptibility to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but you can give yourself a better chance at beating the odds.

  • Support during Disease. Visit a dietitian if you are diagnosed with a medical condition, especially:
    • Diabetes or insulin resistance (may be called "prediabetes")
    • High Cholesterol or Heart Disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Food Allergies
    • Any Gastrointestinal-related disorder, including GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and many more.

  • Pregnancy (before, during and after).

  • Weight Loss. Sure, you might know generally what you need to do, but meeting with a dietitian, having s/he perform a diet analysis can be very helpful. Continuing to meet occasionally will help keep you on the right track. This is true of any medical condition requiring nutrition and lifestyle changes.

  • Family Nutrition. There are dietitians who specialize in pediatric and family nutrition. Everyone's heard the stories about kids who only eat beige foods...

  • Disordered Eating. Ideally, treatment of eating disorders should take a multidisciplinary approach and include - at a minimum - a physician, a dietitian and a mental health professional (psychiatrist or psychologist).

  • Sports and Fitness. A sports dietitian will help you maximize the benefits from your fitness training. Ensure that your physical efforts are supported by the appropriate nutrition strategies.

  • Supplement Confusion. Unlike drugs, there is little regulation of supplements. What is safe? What really works? What the heck do those claims mean, like "supports healthy cholesterol levels"? A dietitian has the knowledge and resources to help you sort it through.

Hope this is of some help, and thanks for the question!

P.S. Either spelling (dietitian or dietician) is correct, but dietitian is most commonly used, and is the choice of the American Dietetic Association.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Ask: Meal Replacement Protein Shakes

    I have been drinking protein shakes sometimes for breakfast and sometimes for both breakfast and dinner. The drinks I have been using are called Isagenix and I add a scoop of the Isagenix whey protein in the shakes as well. I was wondering what your thoughts are on meal replacement protein shakes and what I should be looking for in a shake if I was to continue to use them. I don't mind if you specifically speak to the Isagenix products and give your thoughts on them. Just curious. 

    Thanks for the great question. Meal replacements, be it protein shakes, powders or bars are very popular and often used in weight loss strategies. How well meal replacements work for this purpose really depends on the person: some folks are happy knowing exactly what and how much to eat. It's easy, eliminates guesswork and they can stick to it. Other people find this too restrictive and end up "rebelling" by eating a meal and the meal replacement!

    In the short term, meal replacement shakes can be a useful tool to control portion sizes, jump start a diet and lead to weight loss. However, there is not great deal of research regarding long term use [1] and I would not recommend them for other than occasional or convenience use. Here are some of my concerns:

    Will NYC Restaurants Make the Grade?

    New York City Passes Restaurant Grading 

    Statement of CSPI Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein 

    "Congratulations to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for enacting restaurant food-safety grading.  Beginning in July, consumers will finally be able to see how a restaurant fared on its most recent health inspection, simply by glancing at the letter grade in the front window or vestibule.  Foodborne illness sickens 76 million Americans each year, and 40 percent of those illnesses are linked to restaurant food.  With a greater emphasis on food safety in restaurant kitchens, we hope to see a lot fewer sick consumers in the New York City.
    Los Angeles has been doing restaurant grading for over 10 years with great results—including a documented 20 percent decrease in hospitalizations due to foodborne illness.  With cities on both coasts now providing this import food safety information to consumers, the only question remaining is:   Why aren’t all cities doing restaurant grading?"

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Ask me!

    I'm starting something new on here. I love getting questions from friends about nutrition trends. I love reading and researching. So...

    Have a nutrition-related question? Wondering whether those product health claims are really legit? Confused about supplements?

    Ask me!

    Email me at

    I'll research your question and post about it. Your question may help other readers and vice versa. No names will be disclosed to ensure your privacy. 

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Interning, Butchering and Hope

    The final step in becoming a registered dietitian (RD) - aside from passing the RD exam - involves completing an 11-month internship. I like to describe the internship as a 'residency for dietitians.' I suppose it's an apt comparison; we rotate our way through a variety of practice areas: clinical nutrition, community nutrition education, food service and an elective of our choosing.

    Since September 2009, I've interned at seven locations:
    I'm in the final days of my food service rotation at The Cleaver Company, a locally-sourced, sustainably-focused catering company located in NYC's Chelsea Market. As a supplement to our experience in Mary Cleaver's kitchen, my classmate and I spent some time two doors down at Dickson's Farmstand Meats helping to vacuum package the locally-raised, feedlot-free meat carved by Adam Tiberio, Dickson's butcher. Sounds ok, right?

    Wrong. It was absolutely, totally, completely fascinating. We watched silently as Adam carried out an entire hindquarter of a cow, hung it on a hook and proceeded to carve it so quickly and precisely it took all the concentration I had to keep moving - following his packaging instructions - and not dumbly stare (in veneration mostly, but with a drop of horror too). I'll never say, "I butchered the job" to refer to a mistake again.

    Good thing I'm not at all squeamish. As the first hindquarter was hooked, we noticed an organ hanging down. "What's that?" we asked. "Oh, a kidney..." My grandfather was a USDA meat inspector in the 1940s and 50s, and then a meat salesman in NYC's Meat Packing District through the early 1970s. Dickson's gave me a morsel of family history as well.

    The NY Times recently mentioned Dickson's in this story on local meat. 

    Yesterday (my second time at Dickson's), I got to vacuum package goat while The Boston Beer Company (aka Sam Adams) filmed Adam carving beef (too bad I didn't get to see the goat carving, for comparison's sake). Apparently there is a partnership-to-be between Dickson's and Sam Adams. I signed a release since they filmed me packaging, though I think my back was mostly to the camera. My identifying feature? A Christmasy combination of a light green headscarf and red clogs.

    All of the above is a dreadfully superficial description of what is really going on here.  The food system is changing. The resurgence of butchering, the staring customers, the filming - it all gives me hope. In the future, maybe we won't give 70% of our antibiotics to animals in feedlots. Maybe we'll have fewer strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fewer cases of foodborne illnesses. Maybe the Mississippi River won't be so polluted by CAFO* runoff and maybe the deoygenated "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico will shrink (if the oil spill is ever contained). Maybe our great-grandkids won't know what the global warming fuss was all about.

    That's what's going on.

    *CAFO = Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

    Garden Update

    Approximately 2 weeks later, things have certainly grown. Please ignore the half-done leaf mulching job - it's on the list to finish! Think I might pick some of the romaine for dinner.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    FTC Cracks Down on Kellogg's Health Claims

    Yesterday, the FTC took some of the 'snap, crackle and pop' out of Rice Krispies. As part of a settlement between Kellogg and the FTC, no longer will boxes of Rice Krispies proclaim: “Now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” and “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

    Read the release here, and a NY Times article covering the topic here.  

    Kellogg has been in the hot seat with the FTC since last year's dispute over the claim that Frosted-Mini Wheat cereal was, "clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.” (Remember the TV ad with the talking Frosted Mini-Wheat square helping the kid with schoolwork? You won't see those anymore either.)

    Ok, so Rice Krispies isn't exactly high on my health-offender list, which is why this is such a good example. Who really thinks of Rice Krispies as unhealthy? In truth, without the vitamin-fortification, Rice Krispies is an exceedingly average source of simple carbohydrates with a dollop of sodium (299mg in 1 1/4 cup).  That's it. All it needs is a little vitamin-fortification here, some antioxidants there, some health claims and ta-da! Healthy food! 

    Health claims exist to get people to buy stuff. They annoy me for many reasons. In this case, it's because they are especially effective on something as benign as Rice Krispies. (I hope that most people have a clue about some other about 7 Up with Antioxidants?)

    With that said, I'll leave off with the words of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz:

    “We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims – not once, but twice – that its cereals improve children’s health. Next time, Kellogg needs to stop and think twice about the claims it’s making before rolling out a new ad campaign, so parents can make the best choices for their children.”