Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Newsday's Article on School Lunches

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The recent articles in Newsday about school lunches were interesting. Schools need to make money (or at least not lose money) on food sales. The sad truth is that the healthier the meal, the fewer kids want to buy it. One statistic showed that schools make up to half their profits on the sale of chips and cookies. At a recent PTA meeting in my district, the moms told me that their kids have been complaining about the pizza. They said that the children no longer wanted to buy lunch on 'pizza Fridays'. This change occurred at the same time the school began serving whole wheat pizza with low-fat cheese. I don't know how to solve this dilemma. Perhaps as parents we need to convince our children that healthier food is better for our bodies, even if it doesn't taste as good. My experience has shown me that school officials are more than happy to make these healthy changes. It is the parents (and the children) who are hampering the process. Parents want school lunches that their children will eat. And children don't want to eat the healthier options. At our PTA meeting, the parents will asking for the old (more fattening) pizza instead of the healthier pizza. Personally, I tell my kids that they need to eat the healthier food. I don't really give them a choice. If they don't like the school option, they can bring a healthy lunch from home. But then the school loses money. It is a hard situation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Desperate Housewives

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I recently read an US Weekly article about the overweight child actress, Madison de la Garza, on Desperate Housewives. Critics fear that the actress's self-esteem will suffer from being ridiculed on television. I certainly feel bad for that little girl. It's one thing for an adult to decide to be the butt of a joke on TV; it is something else for parents or an agent to decide that. At one point in the show, Gaby is driving the car and making her daughter, Juanita (played by de la Garza) run after her- for exercise. Every time Juanita gets close, Gaby drives a little further. It's so degrading. The producers claim that they arrange the shooting schedule so Madison doesn't see the jokes about her being filmed. But at the end of the article, they talk about the actress watching the episodes with her family. So obviously she realizes that she is being made fun of. Child obesity is serious. And the show is making it into a joke. A fat joke. I really don't approve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nutrient Rich Foods Index

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Adam Drewnowski, PhD, has an interesting proposition. He wrote an article for the Nutrition Reviews magazine, in which he discusses his proposed Nutrient Rich Foods Index. He wants to rank foods based on their nutrient content. Foods with unhealthy nutrients would be lowly ranked. Foods with healthy nutrients would be highly ranked. Dr. Drewnowski would like all food packages to be labeled with the foods nutrient foods index so consumers would know which foods are healthiest.

In theory, it sounds like a good idea. I am assuming that higher calorie foods and higher fat foods will be given lower ratings. We definitely need something to help consumers make better choices. Perhaps this will be it!

I will keep you posted on any developments!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trans-Fat Free

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The FDA is allowing nutrition packaging to mislead us. A patient brought in some delicious Fiber One muffins the other day. She also brought the box so she could show me how healthy these muffins were. As we looked at the nutrition label, she said, "I used all the mix but made one quarter the number of muffins because otherwise the muffins wind up way too small." So to be accurate, we would have to multiply everything on the nutrition label by four to get an accurate assessment of what we had eaten. I looked at the front of the box. It said, "Trans-fat free" in big letters. I then looked at the nutrition label. Trans fat: 0 g. But then I looked at the ingredient list and there it was- PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL. Wait a minute... a partially hydrogenated oil is a trans fat. How can they advertise that it is trans fat-free when there is a trans fat in the ingredient list?

Let's look at this more closely:

Serving size: 1 muffin Serving we actually ate: equivalent to 4 muffins
Calories: 190 Calories we ate: 760
Total fat: 3 g Total fat we ate: 12 g
Trans fat: 0 g Trans fat we ate: WE DON'T KNOW!!!

How is it that we don't know how much trans fat we ate? Because a product can be advertised as 'trans fat-free' if it has less than half a gram of trans fat per serving. But we ate four servings! So we may have eaten up to 2 g of trans fat, which is a large amount.

Beware of hidden trans fats! Always look for hydrogenated or partially oils on the ingredient list. If they are on the list, the product contains trans fats so be aware of the serving size.

By the way- I wouldn't eat those muffins again!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When you slip up...

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What should you do when you lose control? You have been eating healthy foods with proper portion sizes and then... boom... you go crazy. Maybe you drank a glass of wine or two. Maybe you hit the dessert platter with a vengeance. All you know is that you didn't do well. Now what?

The mistake that many people make is thinking, "Okay, I blew the day (or the week) and no matter what I do now, I can't recover from it. I may as well eat the rest of this cake. I will get back on track tomorrow (or next week).

No, no, no! That is the worst thing you can do. The moment you catch yourself, get right back to your good habits. Even if your 'slip' was 2000 calories worth, it is still better than a 3,000 calorie slip. Don't fall into that trap. Immediately get back to your good habits and a slip won't turn into a neverending slide.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is an ideal weight?

I think our society is very confused about ideal weight. Your ideal weight is NOT the weight at which you could model on the cover of Sport's Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. It is ironic that a society so obsessed with looking emaciated is also so overweight.

My program is targeted to overweight children and teens. A child whose belly does not look completely flat in a bikini is NOT an overweight child. I often have parents (almost exclusively size 0 parents) bringing in their gorgeous, curvy teens, complaining that they are 'fat'. Some will lament that their daughters gained twenty pounds in a year but are unfazed when I point out that they also grew five inches during that time. Children are supposed to gain weight and girls bodies change as they grow and mature. A woman's body is supposed to have curves and yes, some flesh. As mothers, we need to teach our children to love their bodies. Overweight children must lose weight to prevent serious health complications. Yet even those children can be taught to think positively about their bodies. I always frame these discussions by explaining that even though a child looks great, his/her weight can be harming his/her health. Weight loss should be for health, not for bikinis.

Moms, if your child is truly overweight, it is essential to get some help. But please don't chastize your daughters for turning into the women they are destined to become.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Indulging with thought

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I am usually a very healthy eater. But every now and again, cravings strike. When I first sense a craving coming on, I sit with it. Very often, it passes. Last night, it did not pass. In fact, I felt it growing stronger and stronger. And since I usually am able to wait them out, when my cravings get that strong, I indulge. I know that if I do not indulge these cravings, they will overwhelm me. I would estimate that I give in like this every three or four months. Last night, I indulged.

Doug, my husband, is very familiar with these cycles. All I have to do is look at him and say, "It's time" and he says to the kids, "C'mon guys, we're going to Friendly's." My Friendly's decadence is always the same. I am actually embarrassed to write it... but I want to be honest with everybody. I order fried clams with well-done French fries and then a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. DELICIOUS!!

But I did feast with thought. The clams were incredible but the French fries were just good. I was not going to waste calories on good so I pushed them to the side of my plate and decided not to eat them. Had the fries been amazing, I would have eaten them. I ate the clams slowly, really tasting each bite. I noticed the sensations on my tongue and paid attention to the crunch. I got most of the way through the clams and felt myself getting full. So I stopped eating. I did not want to get too full to enjoy the ice cream. I ordered my sundae with extra fudge and extra peanut butter sauce because if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right! It was incredible. But halfway through, I realized that I was getting too full. And I hate that stuffed feeling. I felt so conflicted. I so rarely eat like this and I didn't want to stop eating. But I knew that I would regret it if I overdid it. So I put my spoon down. And I stopped eating. And that was that. I really enjoyed myself. And I woke up this morning ready to enjoy the healthy fare I usually eat.

It was interesting to watch my children at Friendly's. I watch what they eat carefully but they do have junky food in moderation. They were thrilled to be at Friendly's. Zachary said, "Daddy, I can order anything I want... even chicken nuggets and French fries." But when our meals came, Zachary and Danielle each ate only half of their order. And they did the same with their sundaes. They ate half and then told me that they were full. I was very proud. They indulged the same way that I did. They ate what they wanted and stopped when they were full.

Like my mom always says, "Everything in moderation, including moderation!"

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Greenvale School Gets Even Healthier!

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I had the opportunity to meet with a head administrator and the head of nutrition at the Greenvale School. I would first like to thank them for welcoming me so warmly. They were very cooperative and listened carefully to my suggestions. It is great to see our schools take such an interest in our children's health. Some suggestions they are considering include offering fruit every morning with their morning snack, serving fat-free salad dressing, using reduced-fat cheese products, and offering reduced-calorie whole wheat bread. I can't wait to see the changes!

Let me know if you would like me to talk to your child's school!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do we really need to drink 6-8 cups of water a day?

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Do we really need to drink 6-8 (eight ounce) cups of water a day? Contrary to what you might hear from many 'diet experts', there are no conclusive scientific studies proving that 6-8 cups of water a day promotes health.

Some weight loss programs advise people to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day so they don't confuse hunger and thirst. Dehydration can definitely be misinterpreted as hunger, but it doesn't require that much water to prevent dehydration. 4 glasses of water a day should be sufficient. Any intake above that will not have much effect.

Some programs claim that drinking 6-8 cups of water a day will decrease headaches, flush toxins, and clear skin. These maladies may be caused by dehydration, but as I previously wrote, 4 glasses of water a day should be sufficient to prevent dehydration and therefore prevent these problems.

One study from Germany maintained that drinking 6-8 cups of water daily caused an increase in metabolic rate. Looking more closely at the data, scientists realized that this increase in metabolic rate was so minimal that it was insignificant.

So- don't worry about chugging water all day. But don't let yourself get dehydrated, either. Four eight ounce glasses of water a day should be sufficient. And don't forget that caffeine is a diuretic. You must drink an extra cup of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage you ingest!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Not all frozen yogurt is created equal!

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There seems to be some confusion about frozen yogurt and ice cream.

In my program, low-fat frozen yogurt is generally a green light food. But Ben & Jerry's low fat yogurt is a yellow light food. Why? Because Ben & Jerry's yogurt is a 'premium' frozen yogurt, which means that it has a lot more calories than your basic low-fat frozen yogurt. The same is true for ice cream. Premium ice creams, like Haagen Dazs, contain many more calories than regular ice cream.

Many people aren't aware of the large difference in calories between regular frozen yogurt (or ice cream) and premium brands. So be aware when you are indulging. You may be getting more than you bargained for!