Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics,” “Safe Food,” and “What to Eat” and professor in the nutrition, food studies and public health department at New York University was recently interviewed by the San Fracisco Chronicle about her food prediction trends for 2010. I highly recommend checking out Nestle’s blog for a ton of really reliable/non-biased nutrition information. But in the mean time, here are Nestle’s Top 10 predictions with regards food, nutrition, and diet.
Q: What do you think will happen with food and nutrition in 2010?
A: I wish I could read the leaves while I drink tea, but the best I can do is tell you which issues I'm going to be watching closely this year. Hunter Public Relations recently asked 1,000 Americans which food-related issues they thought were most important in 2009. The top three? Food safety, hunger and food prices. For the decade, the winner was childhood obesity.
I have my own top 10 list of hot-button issues for 2010, and here they are:
Hunger: More than 35 million Americans get benefits to which they are entitled under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly, food stamps). The economy may be improving, but not quickly enough for millions who have lost jobs, health care and housing. Will Congress do anything this year to strengthen the safety net for the poor? It needs to.
Food advertising and labels: The long-dormant FDA and Federal Trade Commission are getting busy at last. In the wake of the Smart Choices fiasco (go to sfgate.com/ZIZT), the FDA is working to make package labels less misleading and easier to understand.
The agencies have proposed nutrition standards for products marketed to children. These voluntary standards fall far short of my preference - an outright ban on marketing junk foods to kids - but puts food companies on notice that their products are under scrutiny.
The FDA is also working on designs for front-of-package labels. I'm hoping it chooses a "traffic-light" system that marks foods with a green (any time), yellow (sometimes) or red (hardly ever) dot. Expect plenty of opposition from the makers of red-dotted products.
Meat: The meat industry has been under fire for raising food animals under inhumane conditions, using unnecessary hormones and antibiotics, mistreating immigrant labor, and polluting soil and water. Now it is also under fire for contributing to climate change.
Recent films like "Food, Inc." and "Fresh" and books such as Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" are encouraging people to become vegetarians or to eat less meat to promote the health of people and the planet. I'll bet the meat industry pushes back hard on this one.
Sustainable agriculture: The back-to-the land movement has loads of people buying local food, choosing foods produced under more sustainable conditions and growing their own food. The number of small farms in America increased last year for the first time in a century. Seed companies cannot keep up with the demand. It will be fun to follow what happens with this trend.
Genetically modified (GM) foods: My book, "Safe Food," comes out in a new edition this year, so I am paying especially close attention to debates about GM foods. The FDA's 1994 decision to prohibit labeling of GM foods continues to haunt the food biotechnology industry. By now, nearly all American soybeans and sugar beets (95 percent) are GM, as is most corn (60 percent). But when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved GM sugar beets in 2005, it neglected to perform the required environmental impact assessment. On that basis, environmental groups want to ban further planting of GM sugar beets. The dispute is now in the courts.
Chemical contaminants: The FDA has yet to release its report on the safety of bisphenol A, the plastic chemical that acts as an endocrine disrupter. Shouldn't it be banned? The bottling industry says no. Watch for fierce arguments over this one.
Salt: Nutrition standards allow 480 mg sodium (the equivalent of more than 1 gram of salt) per serving. A half cup of canned soup provides that much. A whole cup gives you 4 grams and the whole can gives you 8 grams - much more than anyone needs. Nearly 80 percent of salt in American diets comes from processed and restaurant foods. Companies are under pressure to cut down on salt. Will they? Only if they have to.
Dietary advice: The new edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which the government publishes every five years, is due this year. What will it say? I can't wait to find out.
Those are the issues I am tracking these days. My one crystal-ball prediction? We will be hearing a lot more about them this year.
As I a dietitian who is constantly thinking about food and nutrition, I have some ideas about what will be hot topics this year. What are your predictions?
In my first blog posting on New Year’s Resolutions, I promised to provide some guidelines that may help you figure out how to make some resolutions that work for you. Here they are.
Step 1: refer to the questions in my last blog post and spend a bit of time thinking and journaling about them
Step 2: based on the information you gathered, decide whether or not any of your past resolutions are worth keeping
Step 3: select one goal and use the “SMART goal” strategy to re-define it
Here is an example of a goal that is not-so-helpful:
Eat healthier in 2010. (In fact that little picture I posted has a list of 7, totally unhelpful goals.)
This goal is vague, all-encompassing, intangible, and provides no action plan to changing your habits.
Here is an example of a SMART goal which actually helps you accomplish something:
Eat two pieces of fruit each day.
This goal is much more specific and trackable. You can sit down at the end of the day and know whether or not you’ve accomplished it.
I’d also encourage you to consider using a tracking sheet for your goals. I have one that I use with some of my clients. If you’d like a copy, send me an email at marci@marciRD.com and I’d be happy to send you a copy.
Creating specific, realistic goals that actually empower you to make positive change is really hard work! And changing nutrition habits is particularly tough because our food habits are heavily engrained from years of eating. Plus they are also influenced by relationships, emotions, and even logistical planning!
So if you feel stuck with your goals- send ‘em in. I’d be happy to give you a little feedback.
Wish you all the best for a healthy 2010.
Marci, Registered Dietitian
I'd be willing to bet that a fair number of you are already thinking about some health-related resolutions you'd like to make for the new year. I have some pretty strong feelings about goal setting as it relates to weight, diet, and exercise. But before I share my own thoughts, I'd encourage you to first take a few days to think through your past experiences and check out this article from CBS entitled "How to Stick to New Year's Resolutions."
Here are a few things to consider:
*What did you accomplish last year that was a positive improvement upon the year before. What elements made it successful for you?
*What did you hope to accomplish but weren't able to? What do you think contributed to your inability to meet your goal?
*Have you been setting some of the same goals for the past few years? If yes, what purpose is that goal serving for you? Is it helpful? Is it motivating? Would it be more productive to modify or re-shape your goal?
Take some time to journal your thoughts and feeling about your past year, the coming year, and what you'd like to see happen. And I'll provide you with some helpful guidelines to help you get there.
Your neighborhood dietitian in Cambridge,
I don't always love the diet-related articles posted on the Yahoo! and MSN homepages. But today is an exception. MSN posted article entitled Top 10 Overrated Health Foods and I think it's worthy of a blog post. After checking out the article, do you notice any trends or themes? I certainly did. Nearly every one of the overrated health foods is highly processed but with added nutrients (i.e. omega-3s, Vitamin D, fiber, etc.) pumped into the product in an attempt to make it look healthy. What a racket!
In fact, I blogged about this back in March. The fact is that food companies are a business and they will use the latest science "breakthroughs" to sell their product. So stop buying highly processed foods that seem healthy because of the claims slapped across their packages. Enjoy the non-nutritious stuff in moderation (hey, I've got to have my Oreos!) and rely on non-processed foods to form the bulk of your diet. This will provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs and in a form that your body can actually use more effectively.
I'm off to peel my clementine....
Your neighborhood nutritionist in Cambridge. Marci
Bet you never expected to find an article on bowel health during the holidays! But let's be honest, at this time of year, most of us are thrown from our regular routines and this can affect how things are going (or not!) in the GI department. Here are a couple of ideas:
1.) Move your body. Evening parties and social gatherings may interrupt your exercise regimen. Regardless of your current commitment to physical activity, you may need to shift your schedule and make an even greater effort stay physically active. This will help your stress levels and your bowels.
2.) Don't forget to include whole fruits and vegetables at every meal. Fruit on cereal, chili for lunch, and roasted veggies at dinner are essential to keeping things flowing as they ought to. :) Too many baked goods and processed sweets will have you backed up in no time.
3.) Drink plenty of fluids. Keep a water bottle with you and try to avoid caffeinated beverages. They may give you the burst of energy you need to make it through the day but can also be dehydrating. Hot herbal tea in the evening can be particularly helpful if you are feeling constipated.
4.) Try Magnesium. If a healthy diet and exercise isn't doing the trick, you may want to consider 250 mg of magnesium in supplement form. Just don't go overboard or you may find yourself racing for a bathroom at an inopportune moment. Now that would be a bummer for your holiday shopping...
As a nutritionist in Cambridge, I refer my clients to check out Cambridge Naturals for their supplement needs. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and they have just about everything under the sun.
Here's to wishing you a holiday season that is nothing but smooth sailing!
Are you sick of the articles and news reports talking about holiday weight gain? I am. But in my profession, it's a conversation that I simply can't avoid. And to be realistic, most people are pretty stressed out about the amount of food-related celebrating this season brings.
If you are looking for simple tips and tricks to avoid holiday weight gain, google it. There are a bizzilion blog posts and articles written on the topic. But what I will try to offer you is a re-cap from the newsletter article I wrote and sent out a week or two ago. In fact, I can sum it up in one word, perspective.
Thanksgiving is a single day. And most of us will likely eat more than we normally do on that day and that's ok. I personally feel that that is part of "normal eating." The problem truly lies in the fact that holiday celebrating seem to span several days, weekends, and even weeks!
So as the holidays approach, it may be helpful for you to remember that holiday celebrating should be enjoyed. But seek to balance out those days of special foods rather than letting it bleed into every other day that follows....
Another thing to consider is that there are many other things than food to indulge in this season: counting your blessings, reconnecting with friends and neighbors, reaching out and giving to those around you. Do your best to take care of your body with lots of rest, plenty of movement, and days of balanced eating.
I live in Cambridge and have found myself surrounded with friends that follow a vegetarian/vegan diet. Their rationale for doing so varies from person to person: health benefits, decrease damage to the environment, reduce animal suffering, etc.
While I don't follow a strict vegetarian lifestyle, I am a huge advocate of replacing some of your animal-based food choices with plant-based ones. Eating a largely plant-based diet is associated with huge health benefits in the prevention of developing many chronic diseases as well as increasing the nutritional quality of your diet.
The Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group is an excellent resource if you are interested in articles, research, websites, books, and cookbooks on the topic of vegetarian eating.
If you are interested in eating more plant-based meals, but don't know where to start, the Meatless Mondays website is a great place to go. The rationale behind the website is that by going meatless once a week, we can radically improve our health and health of the planet. Check it out.
A couple of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks include:
- Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers
- Vegan with a Vengeance & Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Here is one of my favorite recipes that I've made lately, courtesy of Veganomicon. I made it last week and served it on a whole grain bun and couldn't wait to eat the leftovers. Delicious!
prep time: | cooking time: 35 minutes start to finish | makes 4 to 6 sammiches
From Veganomicon. Every vegan cookbook needs a sloppy joe recipe with the name changed around a bit, right? Well, this is ours. Those sloppy joes we loved as a child but made with lentils. Snobby Joe thinks he's better than all the other Joes because he doesn't have any meat.
Just a pot or two
1 cup uncooked lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (wet mustard)
4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns
Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.
Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can't wait. I like to serve these open faced, with a scoop of snobby joe on each slice of the bun.
Today, theNew York Times magazine is all about food. One of the articles, written by Michael Pollan caught my eye. It's about food rules. Basically, his premise is that culture might have more to teach us than the government or trained nutritionists.
Pollan says "If we can’t rely on the marketers or the government or even the nutritionists to guide us through the supermarket woods, then who can we rely on? Well, ask yourself another question: How did humans manage to choose foods and stay healthy before there were nutrition experts and food pyramids or breakfast cereals promising to improve your child’s focus or restaurant portions bigger than your head? We relied on culture, which is another way of saying: on the accumulated wisdom of the tribe."
So I'm interested to know- do you have food rules that you live by? If yes, what are they? Do you think food rules can be helpful or harmful? Pollan solicited for readers food rules. Check out this "food rule slideshow" to see some of the responses.
Interestingly enough, I was planning to blog later on this month about a fantastic book called "The Rules of Normal Eating" by Karen Koenig that has some great suggestions for helpful food rules. Check back later on in the month for my book review.
I do have some pretty simple food rules that I try to live by:
1.) Eat breakfast
2.) Eat when hungry, stop when full as much as possible
3.) Eat foods I crave
4.) Eat fruits and vegetables everyday
What are your food rules?
So I have a surprising number of people ask me about eggs. It seems that a fair number of you like them but are afraid that their high cholesterol content will have a negative impact on your cholesterol. As it turns out, the newest research shows that it's actually excessive intake of saturated fat, rather than cholesterol that negatively affects risk factors (i.e. high blood lipids, cholesterol, and blood pressure) for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Here's a quick little abstract from the Journal of American College of Nutrition which states that "The most recent American Heart Association guidelines no longer include a recommendation to limit egg consumption, but recommend the adoption of eating practices associated with good health." In fact, there just doesn't seem to be good data that eating a lot of eggs directly increases cholesterol levels.
Currently, the AHA recommends 6 or fewer eggs per week. This article provides a list of cooking tips to consider if you are worried about your heart health. Remember, it's the overall pattern of your diet that matters most! It's not about obsessing over one food in isolation.
But I say, let's focus on the positive. Eggs offer some really fantastic nutritional benefits. It's a great source of protein, fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A,D,E,K), and they are super cheap! So I say scramble a couple of eggs with your favorite veggies and serve it up with some whole grain toast. Here's how I serve up my eggs at home:
1.) Saute whatever veggies I have in the house (peppers, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, onions, etc) in some olive oil, black pepper, red pepper, and garlic for 5 minutes (or so).
2.) Whisk together an egg or two with some skim milk and season salt.
3.) Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the cooked veggies.
4.) Scramble until desired consistency (I never can make a beautiful omelette so I just end up scrambling them up).
5.) Toast some whole grain bread and serve your eggs with hot sauce, salsa, ketchup, or plain!
I’m reading a book for my book club called “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. You’ve probably heard of it. Professor Wansink has made his food lab at Cornell famous from such experiments including stale popcorn and endless soup bowls, to name a couple.
Essentially, he studies the subconscious cues which encourage all of us to overeat. In his book he provides a multitude of suggestions to outsmart ourselves. One of these suggestions I thought was particularly interesting.
Apparently, in the Japanese culture people eat until they are “no longer hungry.” Yet we all know from experience that most Americans eat until they feel full, overfull, and often stuffed. The concept of eating until “no longer hungry” has a phrase “hara hachi bu” which essentially means “eating until you are just 80% full.”
So as you dive into your next meal, pause half way through. Can you envision your stomach and what 80% full might look like? Take a step further. Could you stop eating at 80%? See if you can take this idea on as a challenge. It’s not easy and it takes some practice. But it feels pretty good to walk away from the table satisfied but not stuffed.