Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Family Nutrition: Bye, bye pyramid hello plate?

I cannot believe how excited I am to come back from my very short vacation and read that the Food Guide Pyramid will be laid to rest.  Rest in peace buddy, it has really been fun. I don’t know about any of my  colleagues, but I have never been a fan or used this tool in my practice and I am excited to see that the USDA is moving forward with hopefully a more progressive tool.

As some of you know the USDA launched the food pyramid in 1992.  It is a pyramid that provided examples of how many servings to eat of specific food groups: grains, breads cereals, dairy, meats, fruits, and vegetables.   Although the pyramid did give a visual example, it was not user friendly when deciphering good fats verse bad fats or whole grains verse refined grains and such.  The pyramid has had some makeovers over the years but has still been found to be confusing and unfriendly.

According to reports, the food guide pyramid will be replaced with a new icon this Thursday June 3, 2011.  It is thought that the new icon will be portrayed as a plate with four recommended portions of meat, vegetable, fruit, and starch.  The plate will also recommend a dairy to go with meals as well.  It is thought that the new plate will be more user friendly and allow the public to visually focus on some of the recommendations published in January including eating smaller portions, switching to low fat or non fat milk, and drinking water instead of sugary drinks.

I am awaiting the launch anxiously as reports state the USDA spent two million dollars on development and promotion of the logo, research and focus groups, the creation of a website, and marketing techniques for the next year.

I myself use a portion plate when working with clients and have a very high success rate when it comes to weight loss.  Keep on the lookout for the USDA’s new launch on Thursday and stay tuned for another blog to review this new fabulous icon.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Miraculous Misconceptions: Common Myths about Olive Oil

This week alone I received questions from three people about olive oil.  The questions were so interesting that I decided to turn them into a quick blog.  Most of you have probably heard that Olive Oil contains a combination of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.  To keep it simple we’ll call these the ‘good fats.’  ‘Bad fats’ are saturated, hydrogenated, or Trans fats such as shortening, butter, margarine, palm oils, and coconut oils.

Unsaturated fats, or your poly and mono unsaturated fats have proved to decrease blood cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease and as this research continues to be published, a lot of the general public has moved to olive oil for their cooking source, spritzer, or salad dressing.

As the use of olive oil multiplies, rumbles have spread like wildfire that olive oil is bad to cook with because it can turn to a saturated fat or that olive oil loses its nutrient composition at high heat.  When researching these claims I went to the International Olive Oil Council and publications by Dr. Kiritsakis, a world renowned oil chemist, and this is what I found.

Basically, all food can lose some nutrients during the heating process, but the breaking point for this with oils is the smoke point.  The smoke point varies by the type of oil and is basically the temperature at which oil burns.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest smoke point at 365-400 degrees Fahrenheit.  With this high smoke point it is thought that during normal cooking processes nutrients will not be lost, only the flavor.

As for olive oil turning into a saturated fat with high heat Dr. Kiritsakis believes hydrogenation occurs least in olive oil and that no home cook will ever experience enough hydrogenation when cooking to create a saturated fat.  The International Olive Oil Council echoes this by labeling Olive oil as the most stable fat when heated.

So, what oil should you use with cooking?  I say, stick with the olive oil.  The health benefits outweigh any myths out there.  Cooking some stir fry’s in high heat? Use the ‘extra virgin’ olive oil as it has the highest smoke point.  Frying with olive oil- ay yi yi, doesn’t that negate the whole purpose?

What oils do you use to cook with?  Do you have a favorite? I just discovered the neatest store Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium in Frederick, MD and cannot believe the selection. If you live in the Frederick area, check it out.  Be well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Common Challenges: Dealing with childhood obesity

Child Obesity is an epidemic that affects 16.3% of adolescents and children and over the past two decades the number of children who are obese has doubled while the number of adolescents has tripled.   Not only does obesity affect children’s self esteem but it is also a precursor to many serious and chronic diseases such as sleep apnea, asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure), and Type 2 Diabetes.

Most find it surprising that obesity can be diagnosed as young as two years old. We still think of toddlers as dependent little beings unaffected by their habits, likes, and dislikes.  The truth is that body mass index (BMI) should be assessed starting at two years and compared with growth charts.  Children whose weight is greater than 95% are considered obese.  The healthy rolls parents look for when feeding their infant child to assess nutrition status become more of a risk factor at age two and many pediatricians and dietitians are recommending initiating changes at this young age.

We all know that childhood obesity is a problem the question is can it be prevented or turned around?  As a registered dietitian I think the answer to both of these questions is yes.  First and foremost it’s important to teach your toddlers healthy habits. This weighs heavily on the parents and is very challenging especially as most toddlers are extremely picky. 

First things first; begin habits at the toddler age.  If your child is past this, no worries, you can start tomorrow.  Focus on fresh or frozen foods.  Avoid the canned and pre packaged foods as they are filled with added sodium, sugar, and genetically modified food that drives calories up and fresh nutrients down.  Insure your children are eating lots of fruits and veggies.  If fruits are easier it’s okay to offer a dipping sauce for the vegetables to get them to a point where they will at least try the vegetables. Protein is usually difficult to introduce to your children. Try different lean meats focusing on staying away from too many hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and other easy but high fat and high calorie traps.  If you are lucky enough to get your children to eat meatloaf or chili throw in tons of veggies. When it comes to milk all children should switch from whole milk to skim at two years of age.  If your child complains keep at it as taste buds usually conform after about three months.  A good tip for mealtime is to have half of the plate be fruits and vegetables, one fourth starch, and one fourth lean protein

At snack time focus on low calorie and low fat foods. Fruits and vegetables are always a great choice and you can offer animal crackers, puddings, and yogurts as a start.  Focus on making good decisions when shopping. If you don’t have the high caloric snacks in the house it’s out of sight out of mind and they will eventually get the drift.  

In addition to monitoring intake it’s also important to instill physical activity as a habit with your children.  It’s recommended to promote physical activity at least thirty minutes a day.  This can be bike riding, playing kickball, dancing, or walking as a family.  The earlier children form these habits the more likely they are to carry the activities out as they age.

At the end of the day if your child is heavy or you are nervous about developing habits that may promote obesity bring it up at your next physical and ask for a referral to a dietitian who can help you get on track.  Most dietitians can provide meal plans, nutrition tips, pantry makeover, and grocery tours to help.  It’s time to stop this epidemic and get on board.  What do you do to keep your children healthy?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food Trends: The guts on probiotics

To explain probiotics simply, they are the beneficial bacteria found in food or supplements that help destroy the ‘bad bacteria’ and maintain gut health.  Some food products such as yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, and miso have probiotics in them.  You can find out if products you eat contain probiotics by checking out the ingredient list.  If the ingredient list states live or active cultures, lactobacillus, or acidophilus you can bet the product contains probiotics.

It is thought that probiotics can help treat diarrhea, prevent yeast infections and urinary tract infections, help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and also help heal eczema or skin disorders.

I have a lot of clients ask me what my thoughts are on probiotics.   As there is not a lot of research that ties definitive results from probiotics, I think there is enough published information that allows for a hypothetical conclusion that probiotics are beneficial for specific situations.  Read on to see some examples.

Research from my alma mater, Virginia Tech in conjunction with Ohio State University found that newborn pigs that received a vaccine similar to one for the rotavirus infection who paired it with a probiotic had a better immune response than newborn pigs who received the vaccine alone.  Also, in September 2010 Pediatrics published that a daily dose of "good" bacteria may help infants cry less. At initiation of study all infants were crying five to six hours a day.  After three weeks of treatment with a probiotic or placebo, babies who received probiotics cried for an average of a half hour a day, while the placebo babies cried for an hour and a half a day.  Perhaps this study suggests how probiotics can ease gastrointestinal symptoms related to colic?

Pediatrics also published an article in 2005 that showed that children who attend daycare and consume probiotics had a significance decrease in onset and duration of diarrhea.  Another study completed in China produced significant results with children who drank a mixture of probiotics in milk twice a day during the winter and spring.  Guess what?  Children with fevers, coughs, or runny noses receiving probiotics recovered faster.

In 2004, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published results of a study that proved that humans and animals ingesting probiotics significantly reduced H. Pylori, a precursor to ulcers.

If you or someone you know suffers from ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, or consistent GI symptoms talk to your practitioner and see what he or she recommends.  An easy way to initiate and do a self assessment is to try any of the yogurts containing probiotics. Take one a day and see how you feel.  Good luck and be well!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Common Challengs: Saavy Snacking

If you haven’t ready my blog titled ‘The Vicious Cycle of eating too little’ now is the time to do so. If you have, let’s move on.   Remember how we discussed focusing on eating every three to four hours, well let’s talk about what types of snacks are best to initiate in between those long gaps.

Glucose, which is mostly derived from carbohydrates, is your body’s first source of energy.  Carbohydrates can give you quick bursts of energy and are absorbed and digested within 1 to 1.5 hours after consumption. Since most of us don’t eat every hour or so, it’s important to look at our snacking so we can figure out how to extend the satiety until our next meal.

There’s a lot of data out there that suggest adding a protein to carbohydrates when snacking. As a reminder protein rich foods are meat, eggs, milk, and cheese.  Peanut butter and foods such as quinoa are also good sources of protein. Because proteins are more complex than carbohydrates, adding a protein to a meal can delay digestion, therefore helping you feel fuller longer.  I agree protein is a great addition to any snack, even better when you insure your snack has some fiber and healthy fats with it. 

Some great ideas for snacks are the following:

Medium Apple, Peach, Pear and String Cheese
Medium Apple, Peach, Pear and 1 T Peanut Butter
8 Whole Wheat Crackers and 2 oz. Low fat Cheese
½ Whole Wheat Bagel and 1 T Cream Cheese
1 cup baby carrots and 2 T Hummus
6 oz Yogurt and 1/8 cup low fat granola
Fiber One Granola Bar and 4 oz Skim Milk
½ cup cottage cheese and ½ cup fruit

All of the above snacks are less than 200 calories.  When you add snacks in between your biggest meal gaps during the day you will help your metabolism run efficiently and avoid that sudden hunger pain that may cause you to overeat at your next meal. 

Remember, the same goes for children too.  Avoid just giving fruit for a snack and add some yogurt or peanut butter for dipping.  Your children will stay fuller longer which will reduce whining time when they are starving, a win for all.  What do you eat for a snack?  Do you notice a different when you add protein, fiber, and healthy fats? 
Try an apple with peanut butter for your next snack

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Food Trends: Anti- oxi – what?

About ten years ago I had a routine check up with my doctor.  I got a call two weeks later from my physician telling me to make an appointment ASAP because I had an irregular test and needed to get some biopsies.  At the time I was in my mid twenties and pretty scared so I called my closest friend, along with my boyfriend (now husband).  My boyfriend was real supportive, although he wasn’t sure what quite to do to reassure me that everything would be okay.  My dear friend, also a dietitian, called me and said “what can I do for you, do you want me to bring you some tomato sauce?”  I will forever remember this comment and she doesn’t have a clue how this made me laugh as I endured testing every three months years after to insure I did not develop Cancer.

Most who are not as geeky as I may wonder why in the world that is so funny to me.  Tomatoes are known to have lycopene in them which are considered to be an antioxidant and antioxidants are suspected to prevent cancers, coronary heart disease, aging and many other chronic conditions. But really though, what in the heck are antioxidants? 

Antioxidants inhibit the process of oxidation.  Oxidation is a naturally occurring process that results from the burning of oxygen.  Some examples that increase the oxidative process are excessive sunlight exposure, alcohol, smoking, pesticides, and stress. These examples along with the oxidation process create free radicals.  Free radicals suck the life out of you, causing damage to cells by stealing electrons from cells and causing damage and eventually death.  This is when your antioxidants come into play.  The ever so nice antioxidants lend that electron your free radicals are searching for to prevent damage. 

Examples of antioxidants are below:


Antioxidant Name
Color
Sources
Beta Carotene
Orange
Sweet potatoes, Carrots, Cantaloupe, Mangos
Lycopene
Red
Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce
Selenium
Multiple colors
Meats, Breads, Brazil Nuts
Vitamin A
Multiple colors
Liver, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Milk, Egg Yolk, Mozzarella Cheese
Vitamin C
Multiple colors
Fruits, Vegetables, Cereal, Beef, Poultry, Fish
Vitamin E
Multiple colors
Wheat Germ, Safflower Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Mangos, Nuts, Broccoli


I hope this helps break down what an antioxidant is and why it’s important.  Good luck integrating these foods into your diet and be well!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Food Trends: A note about Stevia (zero calorie sugar substitute)

We’re all on the lookout for that sugar substitute that withholds calories, tastes good, and is natural and safe.  Recently I was asked what my thoughts were on Stevia?  Well to tell you the truth I didn’t have many thoughts on the product because basically I didn’t know much about it, except that in my mind it was a zero calorie product that could be substituted for table sugar.  I put this thought in my attic with the hopes of getting more acquainted at a later time.

As I get myself more familiar lets start with the derivation.  Stevia is an herb that comes from South America and has been used by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for over 100 years.  This is advertised on the Stevia website along with a statement that it provides zero calories because the body doesn’t metabolize glycosides from the leaf or processed forms.  Essentially Stevia is absorbed by the gut and broken down into Stevol which is excreted from the body as a waste.  There is no accumulation of the product along with no absorption, therefore providing the zero calories.

Stevia was cleared by the FDA in 2008 and almost immediately used by Coca Cola and Pepsi.  Coca Cola named its form Truvia and Pepsi named its form PureVia.  You can find forms of Stevia in Sprite Green, some SoBe Lifewater products, and Trop50.  It’s interesting to me that Stevia has not been approved by the EU to date, although it is used widely in many countries.

There are some skeptics to Stevia as there are reports of bloating, nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, or numbness after consumption.  There is little long term research, however it is labeled as generally recommended as safe (GRAS) up to 1500 milligrams per day for two years.

In animals, research has shown that Stevia can convert to a mutagenic compound causing genetic mutation of cells and possibly leading to Cancer.  In addition, large amounts of Stevia were thought to interfere with carbohydrate metabolism in animals.  How large is large?  Well we’re not too sure, but some say a large consumption equals half an individual’s body weight per day.  In my opinion more safety and efficacy tests need to be administered on humans.

If you have an allergic reaction to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies you could have an allergic reaction to Stevia.  It is also thought that Stevia can be contraindicated when used with lithium, antihypertensive medications, and anti Diabetic medications. If you are on any of the above medications, talk to your MD or pharmacist about possible contraindications. 

As we wait for further testing on this product, my advice is to assess how much sugar substitutes you eat in a day. If you are looking for a more natural alternative to the genetically modified or chemically altered sweeteners this product may interest you.  Do you currently use Stevia?  What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear from you.  

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