Thursday, April 28, 2011

Food Trends: The Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index (GI) measures how much a fifty gram portion of carbohydrate raises a person’s blood sugar level compared to a control. In 1981 it was originally developed as a tool to help Diabetics help manage blood sugar control.  Now more people are familiar with the GI as it is cited in popular ‘fad’ diets such as the South Beach Diet. 

The GI ranges from 0-100.  An index less than 55 symbolizes a low GI food, 56-69 is a moderate GI food and any food that has a GI score greater than 70 is considered a high GI food.  The lower the GI the better as it is suggested that the rate of absorption and digestion is slower, therefore allowing an individual to feel fuller longer.  Higher GI foods tend to rapidly release into the bloodstream and are broken down quickly, leaving one feeling hungry shortly after consumption.

It is thought that low GI foods can control appetite and weight and also be useful for Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes.  Research is being conducted as we speak on whether the glycemic index is a more appropriate technique than carbohydrate counting for Pre Diabetes and Diabetes.

As a reference, low GI foods tend to be foods that are higher in fiber and nutrient dense such as your raw fruits and vegetables and whole wheat products.  Take a look at the table below to distinguish your high verse low GI foods.

Low GI Foods
High GI Foods
Baked beans
All Bran
Pumpernickel bread
Sweet Potato
White Bread
White Rice
Jasmine Rice
Baked Potato
Ice Cream

To find out the glycemic index of foods you routinely consume utilize the GI Database at  You can also go to for low GI recipes.  Are you someone who eats higher GI foods?  Try to substitute with low GI foods and let me know if you feel a difference.  Good luck and be well!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Trends: What's in our milk?

A big conversation piece is the concern for what is in our food.  Recently a topic of conversation was specifically about milk.  Surely, those of you with kids have also heard grumblings about the bovine growth hormone added to milk. Is this safe?  Is it responsible for early induced periods and maturing in females? What about weight?  Research on the questions above turned out to be not so impressive but some of my research provided information worth sharing.

The bovine growth hormone is a genetically engineered form of a natural hormone in cows and when injected is thought to increase milk production up to 15%.  This hormone, or bGH, was approved by the FDA in 1993 and in use throughout the US by 1994.  From the start, the Consumer’s Union warned against hazards of bGH.  It is banned in Canada and Europe as well as boycotted by 95% of the US dairy farmers. Also of note, bGH went to market without pre market safety tests.

Cows injected with bGH have increased udder infections, reproductive problems, digestive disorders, foot and leg ailments and also persistent sores.  Also, in 1998 a survey showed that cows injected with bGH were dead after 2 ½ years compared to a normal life expectancy of 15-20 years.  It is also suspected that bGH can lead to an increased production of IGF-1 (insulin growth hormone 1) that can lead to increased breast and colon cancer.

Although the research does not provide any specific data on human side effects from bGH, you have the right to decide what types of products you want to choose for yourself and your children.  Since there is no requirement for labeling for bGH it is difficult to figure out what milk has this hormone and what doesn’t.  You can always purchase organic milk and some milk will be labeled bGH free.  Kroger, Safeway, and Wal-Mart do not carry milk that contains bGH and in 1998 Starbucks banned products containing bGH.  Do you have concerns about bGH?  I want to hear about them.  Be well! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Family Nutrition: Preg-Nutrition

I’ve heard it all.  I have to have McDonalds, Bojangles Bo-Berry Biscuits, Dairy Queen, Haagan Daaz, or a milkshake.  These are just a few things clients, friends and families need while pregnant and reward themselves with for creating a life in the womb.  Sounds really good doesn’t it and what the heck you need the extra calories because you are creating a life for Pete’s sake! What if I told you that your body only requires 300 additional calories a day when pregnant? That’s right, only 300 calories a day.  Are you shocked?

Focuses on food choices should be on folate which helps prevent neural tube defects and abnormalities with the brain and spinal cord.  Your body also needs calcium to provide strong bones and teeth for your child.  If you aren’t eating enough calcium for yourself, it will be stripped from your bones to provide for your child.  Iron is very important as well and basically you need adequate iron to make your child’s entire blood supply in addition to carrying oxygen to your own tissues.

Folate can be found in cereals, peanuts, oranges, spinach, and beans.  You’ll find your calcium in your dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt and also in some of your fortified items like Tropicana Orange Juice with Calcium and cereals.  Iron is in your lean red meat, chicken, cereal, spinach, and beans.

Don’t like any of these foods and wonder if what you eat will really affect your baby?  A new study from the University of Southampton suggests a mother’s diet can actually alter the function of your child’s DNA.   Mother’s diet doesn’t alter DNA’s sequence but it can influence how your child responds to diet and exercise or create an epigenetic change. For the first time this study suggests that in addition to genetic and lifestyle there may be influences on your babies development as early in the womb which includes what you, the mother are eating.  When researchers reviewed 300 children and their epigenetic changes they were able to accurately predict the degree of obesity for children at six or nine years old.

So folks, next time you want to grab that Bo-Berry biscuit, snickers bar, or bag of Doritos look for a Chobani Yogurt, 1 ounce of low fat granola and a small Clementine instead.  This equals the 300 additional calories you need and provides the iron, calcium, and folate your body requires to keep your precious baby healthy.  Cheers to a healthy, happy pregnancy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Family Nutrition: The blame game - Child Obesity

I was reading the ‘cliff notes’ of a study by Susan Terwilliger, clinical associate professor at Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University just the other day.  The study reviewed 3rd and 4th graders in four different schools and came to the conclusion that 70% of children drank two to five sweetened drinks a day, 85% watched two to five hours of TV a day, and 42% ate two or more fast food meals a day.  The observation from Terwilliger is that the results of this study prove to be consequences of decisions made and her thought is that parents and schools are to blame. 

My experience with school lunch programs dates back to the 1990’s where I consulted and analyzed the nutrient contents of school breakfasts and lunches for a particular state.  The schools in the entire state failed miserably. Fat percentages were above 40% of the total meal, the choices were processed and refined with little nutritional value, and often there were little choices for fruits and vegetables.  Yes that’s pretty bad, but can we blame the schools?  Think about the schools from a business perspective they have to stay within a budget that is handed out to them at the state level.  We know processed foods purchased in bulk are the cheapest way to feed a large group of people.  The schools are doing what they need to do just to get by, with little nutritional guidance.

Parents, well that’s another story. As a parent, you have a responsibility to instill healthy habits in your children.  Women should and often are focusing on nutrients as early as pre conception. Why would you stop paying attention to what your children are eating after they arrive?  Yes, the choices at schools are horrendous.  Nowadays there’s chocolate milk, soda vending machines, candy and all sorts of horrible stuff, but you have a responsibility as a parent to teach your children about good nutrition.  I often have some of the peanut gallery tell me they don’t bother packing lunches for their kids because they will just trade it for what they want.  Really, is that all you got?  Do you talk to your children about what they ate for their lunch?  Do they understand it is okay to have a reasonable dessert if they eat their whole grains, lean protein, and fruit? Why do they only want to eat junk? Are you withholding too much at home? 

It is perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to talk to your children at a young age about being overweight and the complications it can cause: diabetes, heart attack, stroke, infertility issues, Cancer, and even death.   Why count on the schools to educate your kids?  At the end of the day all the findings above: the sweetened drinks, allowance of time to watch television, and fast food seem like allowed behavior driven by the parents.  Obesity is becoming an epidemic.  There are more people in the world who are overweight and obese than at an acceptable weight.  Make it a priority to work with your kids on optimal nutrition and appropriate choices and if you need help, meet with a dietitian. It will be worth every year you extend their life. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Common Challenges: What's so great about a food diary anyway?

How am I going to add one more thing to my plate?  I really don’t have time to stop what I’m doing and write down everything I’m eating and drinking.  I
get it.  You’re busy, you’re frustrated. All you want to do is lose weight, but you just can’t add one more task to your plate.  Let me stop you right here.  Have you bought any weight loss books?  How about cookbooks, how many of these have you purchased?  Have you joined a gym in the past or currently?  Have you started yoga or zumba?  Did you recently buy weights, an ab roller, or thigh master?  What is all this costing you, has it worked, and if it did work did you sustain the weight loss?  My guess is for most that even if it worked you weren’t able to sustain the weight loss leading to more frustration and less money in your savings.

This is why the food diary is a great tool for you.  It’s evident you want to make a change.  You’ve made it a priority before with the purchases you’ve made. Why not start doing something that’s free this time?   A food diary is a little time consuming, it’s trivial but it works.  It works because without writing down everything you eat and drink, it is impossible to figure out how many calories you consume in a day.  Without figuring out how many calories you consume in a day, it is difficult to figure out how many calories you need to cut, or how many calories you need to add to help your metabolism work efficiently. 

If you want to make changes that will turn into a lifestyle overhaul, start keeping a food diary.  Have access to the internet?  You can use, Sparks People, Fit Day, or  All of these programs have a large database that you can choose from and compile a daily intake report.  Don’t have access to the internet?  Keep your food diary and make an appointment with a dietitian.  The food diary will be reviewed at the initial assessment and recommendations will be made to tweak your daily intake.

Don’t know how many calories you should be consuming?  This is where the dietitian comes into play.  Yes a lot of the websites, will give you an average recommendation, but only a dietitian can do a thorough assessment to put your where your calorie level should be.

I think the best thing about the food diary is the ability to see patterns and visibly correlate your success with the changes you make.  Also, for many who use the internet based food diaries, the ability to learn the calories in foods becomes ingrained in your brain and helps with decision making with menu planning, grocery shopping, and assisting with choices at a restaurant. 

Yes I’m a fan of the food diary.  All of my clients keep one and some are getting to the point where they can predict their weekly weight loss by just looking at the weekly intake.  It’s an amazing thing!  Take the time to do this for yourself.  Be accurate, relax, and allow yourself to learn a little. The results will make you happy!  Good luck and be well.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Food Trends: National Calorie Labeling Law

I started hearing grumbles about this back in 2009 as part of the health reform bill and was elated to see this bill was passed into law March 23, 2010.  We are now seeing more information published on this law and it looks like the National Calorie Labeling Law will affect restaurants that have twenty or more locations nationwide.  The restaurants will require calories to be listed on menus and menu boards as well as a statement including recommended daily intake.  This law takes into effect the second half of 2012; however some states such as New York City, California, and Philadelphia are already abiding to the national law second to state laws previously passed.  

Research estimates one third of American’s eat away from home, and that children specifically eat twice the amount of calories in a restaurant verse their home.  Will calories on menus influence your decision on what you order for yourself or your children?

The NPD marketing group conducted a survey on people eighteen years are older.  There were two menus to choose from, the first without calories and the second with calories listed.  Guess what?  After seeing the second menu, most ordered items with fewer calories.  In 2009 the New York City health department conducted a survey that proved that on average people ordered 106 calories less when ordering from a menu with calories listed and that overall calorie consumption dropped in nine out of thirteen restaurants.

It will be interesting to see how this law affects restaurants.  Will we see recipe modification?  Will restaurants need to change their forecasts secondary to a change in product purchases?  Either way I think it is a very good thing to provide calories on menus.  This is the information American’s need to make appropriate decisions.

In the meantime, if you live in a city that does not have a state law download the Restaurant Nutrition application on your blackberry, droid, or apple.  It is wonderful as it provides nutrition information on hundreds of restaurants.  Don’t have a smart phone?  Join or Sparks People and take a look at nutrition content before you dine out.  Knowledge is power.  How do you feel about this law?  I want to hear your thoughts. Be well!


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