Saturday, January 29, 2011

Food Trends: The Dynamic Vitamin D

Some of you may have recently been told your Vitamin D is low or that you are deficient. You are not alone as in the past this was not a routine test checked by physicians. With the heightened awareness of “deficiencies” it is ordered on a more routine basis and approximately 40% of the United States has inadequate supplies of this very popular Vitamin.

It is important to note that the Vitamin D Council estimates that 20% of physicians in the United States order the wrong test to truly assess Vitamin D levels. 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is the wrong test as it measures the hormone calcitrol and is manipulated by calcium intake so make sure when your doctor orders this test that the right test is ordered, 25(OH)D or 25- hydroxy vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that’s created in your body with sun exposure.  It is also found in egg yolk, salmon, mackerel, cod oil, fish oil, fortified cheese, fortified milk, beef liver and some fortified breads and cereals.  Lack of sunlight, decreased intake of Vitamin D foods in the diet, and those who have a BMI over 30 have low levels of vitamin D in the blood secondary to absorption and circulation complications.

Symptoms of a deficiency are muscle cramps, low calcium levels in the blood, fragile bones, mood swings, and depression to name a few and a deficiency can eventually lead to Rickets, a disease that leads to softening or weakening of the bones.  It is also thought that low Vitamin D attributes to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, Cancers, some autoimmune disorders, and increased asthma with children.

The reference range for Vitamin D is 30-74 ng/mL but the Vitamin D Council recommends that everyone aims to be above 50 ng/mL.  If your level is below 20 ng/mL your physician will most likely prescribe a high dose supplement to treat it.

There are different supplementation thoughts right now regarding Vitamin D.  What we do know is that it is important to take Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol. The Vitamin D council recommends anything from 1000 IU to 5000 IU a day where the Food and Nutrition Board’s Upper Limit recommendation is 2000 IU a day.  Some physicians prescribe up to 50000 IU supplementation over a 90 day period with a re-evaluation.

As a dietitian, I recommend attempting to receive at least 10 minutes of natural sunlight a day, 2000 IU/day for adults of Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol pills and at least two eight ounce glasses of fortified skim milk a day. Depending on Vitamin D results and review of diet,  I sometimes recommend a fish oil supplement as well.  If you are deficient talk to your doctor and ask for the research behind his/her supplementation thoughts or visit your dietitian.  Getting ahead of the game is key with Vitamin D. Good luck and be well.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brown Bag Lunches for theToddler

The other day I was checking my Facebook statuses and there was a post from a friend asking what to pack her toddler for school lunch. The trick was it is a peanut free school, as most are, and it had to be cold.

I have two toddlers myself and am often baffled when it comes to meal time, especially lunch.  My goal is always for quality over quantity but depending on the day, I never know what challenges may occur at mealtime.

The average toddler requires 16-24 grams of protein and approximately 1300 calories a day.  Once your toddler turns three, calorie requirements can increase up to 1800 per day.

Here are some ideas on what to pack for your child/children:

Food Item
String Cheese
Mini Bagel, Cream Cheese, and Jelly Sandwiches
Crackers (5) and Cheese (1.5 ounce)
Cottage Cheese Snack Packs
Veggies – ½ cup raw with 1 Tablespoon of ranch
Cold Cuts I slice and 1 Tablespoon of honey mustard for dipping
Fruit- ½ cup fresh

Milk is one of the best biological sources of protein and providing your child with 8 ounces at lunch provides about 90 calories and 8 grams of protein.  Keep in mind you are not alone. This is a tricky age and it is normal for your toddler to be picky, especially regarding textures.  Making it as fun as possible by providing dipping sauces, using your cookie cutters for cheese, and even buying yogurt with their favorite characters on it can help.  I often roll up my children’s cold cuts with the string cheese with a little bowl to dip.  Hey, whatever works?

Most likely your child is getting enough calories and protein to assist with growth.  Play around with the amounts of items above to offer approximately 400 calories at lunch.

What do you do for your children?  I’d love to hear your great ideas.  Good luck and be well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Front Faced Food Labels

On Monday of this week, a change of position was announced for food labels.  As most of you are aware, food labels are currently on the side or back of most packaging; this new proposal will mandate that all labels will move to the front of packaged and canned foods and will appear in the next couple of months through the end of the year.  In addition to a position change for food labels, there will also be nutrition key labels that will display the calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars per serving in each product. 

As a dietitian, I am thrilled to see that the nation is taking a stance and validating how busy the consumer is.  My hope is that by adding this information on the front of products, it will be easier for people to pick healthier options.  Of course it is always healthiest to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and most of these items will not be included with the new packaging, but it is unrealistic to think that the average American does zero shopping in the aisles. 

With the change of the labels it is important for everyone to truly understand how to read the labels.  Keep in mind when reading all food labels it is imperative to know the serving size. Each product has a specific serving size that each nutrient is based off and no two food items have the same serving size.  For example upon first look Gatorade doesn't look so bad at 50 calories.  When you examine it more closely this 50 calories is per 8 ounces and in a 32 ounce bottle there are four servings moving that 50 calories to 200 if you drink the entire container.  A misunderstanding like this every day will add on .3 pounds a week and 15 pounds in a year.

The nutrition key labels are an exciting addition to labels but it will be very important for people to know what they are looking for, otherwise they could be a waste of a time consuming change.  A low sodium item would be anything that is less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.  Newest goals recommend eating less than 7% of saturated fat in your diet. This would be 15 grams of saturated fat a day for a 2000 calorie diet and I can tell you based on the example that was posted on USA Today, 450 calories per serving is not the healthiest choice.

Take the time to learn more about how to read food labels, and nutrition key labels.  Get familiar with your grocery stores as many have their own initiatives to assist with healthy choices. Many dietitians also provide grocery tours, a wonderful way to learn all the ins and outs of healthy grocery tours.

I am looking forward to the changes. What about you?  Good luck and be well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Food Trends: High Fructose Corn Syrup – is it really that bad?

I hear many interesting comments from the many people I come in contact with on a daily basis about nutrition.  A hot topic right now continues to be high fructose corn syrup.  Some recent statements I’ve heard are “I try not to buy that because of the high fructose corn syrup” or “I won’t feed that to my children because I don’t want them to have too much high fructose corn syrup.”

Statements like those above are a catch twenty-two for me.  On one hand I’m ecstatic that the general population cares about what we are feeding ourselves and our family, but on the other hand it solidifies my concern that nutrition education is still very much behind par. 

As a registered dietitian, I have never thought twice about high fructose corn syrup. It definitely became the designer fad, years ago and I am shocked at how its negative reputation is still going strong.  Statements have even been made linking high fructose corn syrup to obesity, but my latest search on actual research yields nothing significant that can extract high fructose corn syrup as a specific ingredient causing obesity.

So folks, to understand what high fructose corn syrup is it’s necessary to understand different components of bio and organic chemistry that I’m not going to get into. Simply said, high fructose corn syrup is a sweetener derived from corn.  When digested and broken down it is breaks down into two simple sugars, fructose and glucose.  Fructose is sugar derived from fruit sources and glucose is table sugar. Doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

Instead of honing in on high fructose corn syrup, my recommendation is to pay more attention to the sources of food you are eating or providing to your family.  In a society where everyone is strapped financially and ridden with deadlines, it is easy to become attracted to inexpensive and quick meals.  Because high fructose corn syrup is less expensive for mass production and yields a better product from an integrity standpoint, you see it more in your pre packaged foods, but like ALL sugars this yields 4 calories per gram which contributes to your total calorie intake in a day.

At the end of the day and as a registered dietitian, I’m here to tell you that it is not one single item that causes obesity.  It is overall calories in verses overall calories expended period end of sentence.   If you are looking to hone in on sweeteners in general, don’t just focus on the high fructose sweetener, focus on any additive sweetener.  Find a way to provide more fresh and frozen items into your diet instead of the canned or prepackaged foods. This will not only most likely decrease your overall calorie intake but it will also provide you with the best source of vitamins and minerals you require.  Also as a hint, the first ingredient listed on any product provides the largest proportion to that item so instead of buying foods with sweeteners listed first, look for them to be listed last or not at all.  Good luck and be healthy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Common Challenges: The Art of the Start

I did the strangest thing today. I tried on all of my dresses I've collected in my closet for the last nine years. Why did I do this you ask?  I was cleaning out my closet and I was celebrating reaching my pre wedding weight.

I'm a dietitian. I'm a mom. I have two jobs and I watch what I eat for the most part but with all that I have going on I have definitely put my dietary habits at the bottom of the barrel.  Sometimes I go through my day and by the time I sit down to eat I'm in crisis mode which is not the best mode to be in to allow for wise decisions.

I exercise intensely four times a week and since I've had my children who are ages three and two, I have held on to nine pounds.  This may not sound like a lot, and I'm not saying it is, but for me at five feet two it’s a pant size.

So instead of practicing what I preach I decided to treat myself like a client.  I did the food records; I analyzed my intake to goal, and changed up my routine.  It was hard to prioritize and at times I felt selfish not doing the baths for my children because I needed to get my exercise in. I was even tired getting up early in the a.m. to prep our dinner but I feel great and I'm confident that what I preach works if you're willing to put the effort in.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off there are five critical components:
1. Have a reasonable goal - (lose 1-2 pounds a week)
2. Schedule your time - (work out from 7:730 am every M, W, F, and Sat)
3. Keep Records - (write it down, it keeps you honest)
4. Hold yourself accountable- (tell your family or friends your goals, or get a buddy)
5. Celebrate your successes- (don't reward yourself with food, go to the movies, buy a new book)

As Walt Disney said "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."  Good luck and be well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spotlight: The Portion Plate - a Product Worth Owning

I first heard about the Portion Plate two weeks ago when it was displayed in a catalog I purchase a lot of my health education products from.  I was drawn to the product right away as I am a visual person.  I emailed the company and was very excited when I received samples of the products in the mail just yesterday.  I see many clients and I think the most difficult lifestyle change for a lot of people is controlling portion size.  Not only does the portion plate show you approximately how many fruits, veggies, starch, and protein is recommended on each plate, but it also shows examples of true serving sizes, a big misunderstanding in the United States.  Choose from the adult, child, or diabetic plate and each give you an approximated amount of calories a plate would contain.  In addition to plates, there are also place mats. I will be recommending this product to my clients. There isn't an easier way to visualize a meal than to plop it on your plate and at the reasonable price of $11.95, you can't lose.


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