Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The au natural sweetener?

There's a lot of buzz in the food and nutrition world about a couple of new natural zero-calorie sweeteners, Truvia (from Coca-Cola) and PureVia (from PepsiCo). These two sweeteners contain stevia, an extract from a plant native to South America, and the FDA recently approved the use of these sweeteners as food additives that have been declared GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Some controversy swirls around stevia and stevia-containing sweeteners for several reasons. First, previous studies in animals suggested that high doses could result in male infertility and fewer and smaller offspring for females while other studies suggested potential cancer-causing activity. Critics of this approval also point out the loopholes in the GRAS identification since the testing on safety can be carried out by manufacturers themselves, which creates an obvious potential bias, and the companies can actually self-declare the safety of the additive without actually notifying the FDA or consumers. Therefore, the FDA does not need to review or approve this GRAS declaration of the scientists conducting the studies, and the only way for the FDA to reverse the GRAS classification is through litigation where it would have to prove that the additive is actually unsafe for human consumption. While stevia has been used in foods in countries such as Japan for decades, it has been banned in the European Union, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

What about the other side of the story? Well, the fact remains that stevia-extracts have been used in Japan and Brazil for many years with no reported harm to humans. Other studies have refuted previous trials regarding the physiological effects of stevia. Recent safety studies evaluated the effect of the equivalent of a 150 lb. person consuming 1,000-2,000 daily servings of stevia-sweetened beverages and findings indicated no harmful effects on general health, male or female fertility, and growth or development of adults or their young. Results are mixed on whether or not stevia-containing products may actually have positive effects on health, including blood pressure and blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that stevia-extracts were not genotoxic (damaging to cell's genetic material) or cancer-causing based on their own research findings.

Many people are eager to taste the new naturally-sweetened beverages from Coca Cola and Pepsi as these products will likely be rolled out very soon in the U.S. What about you? I must admit that as a foodie, I'm very curious! I've actually tried stevia as a sweetener a long while back although I wasn't a big fan back then. Maybe these new formulations will provide a better taste? After doing my own investigation, I say that moderation is key here as I would with any alternative sweeteners. A possible guide on consumption could come from Australia and New Zealand's acceptable daily intake recommendations of about 4 mg/kg of body weight. For a 150 lb person, this could be the equivalent of about 1.5 cans of a stevia-sweetened beverage daily (and this includes a 100-fold safety cushion). To be honest though, you're probably better off consuming water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or green tea for fluids or other nutrients, antioxidants, or phytochemicals rather than relying on these stevia-sweetened beverages from a nutrition perspective.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

SMART resolutions

It's that time of year again. I'm seeing those commercials revolving around weight loss, exercise, and fitness. I see those reporters interviewing people about their New Year's resolutions. It's always interesting to listen to these. Here are a few examples of resolutions I heard: "I want to be healthier." "I want to exercise more." "I want to eat better." I think the intentions are great, but the execution is going to be a challenge with such resolutions. This is why I'm going to blog about how to set yourself up for success with SMART resolutions!

S - Specific - Make your goal specific. Instead of simply stating "I want to eat better." Be as specific as possible. What is better? Does that mean eating more fruit? More vegetables? Both? Will you incorporate more fish? Less red meat? What does 'eat better' mean for you? Consider the 6 W's - who, what, where, when, which, why? The more specific you are with the goal, the more likely you will be to accomplish it.

M- Measurable - Make your resolution measurable. What does that mean? Involve numbers here. So you decide that you'd like to "Eat more vegetables." Okay, great. What is more? Is that 2 cups/day? 3 cups/day? When you incorporate numbers, you give yourself a specific goal to shoot for and a way to measure your progress in accomplishing that goal.

A - Attainable - Make your resolution attainable or within reach. At the same time, a powerful goal will also stretch you. This will help enhance your attitude, skills, and abilities around achieving your goal. By setting a goal that is both within reach yet challenging, you will build your confidence in accomplishing the goal and create a cycle of success for yourself.

R - Realistic - Make sure your resolution involves something that you are both willing and able to work toward right now. Maybe you'd like to exercise more, so you decide to run a marathon in 6 weeks. Maybe it's something you'd like to do, but do you really have the time to train for it and train well?

T - Time-sensitive - Put a time frame on when you'd like to achieve that goal. Will it be by the end of next week? Next month? The next 3 months? This will provide a sense of urgency around the goal so that you continue to take the necessary steps toward achieving it.

Finally...write down your goals. I heard somewhere that some of THE most successful people in the world often write down their goals. This truly works. Put your goals in writing, make them SMART, and see what you accomplish!

Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Need a perc up?

My caffeine habit started several years ago. I never liked coffee, but suddenly I found myself in the midst of a very busy and tiring time in life (aka, dietetic internship), and those around me swore by their brain-boosting juice, coffee. I didn't like it at first, but it grew on me. Here I am today, still sipping on my morning cup of Joe. Many people turn to caffeinated beverages or food (or even candies and lipsticks now!) for that extra jolt of 'energy'. So, if someone needs that energetic boost, do I tell them to reach for a cup of Joe? Not necessarily. Believe it or not, caffeine is not actually a source of energy. The major sources of energy in the diet are carbohydrate, fat, and protein. These nutrients provide fuel for the body to function each day. Caffeine does not provide energy.

So, when someone feels the need to reboot the brain, why does s/he take a quick stroll through the nearest Starbucks? Well, caffeine is a stimulant. Even in small doses, it stimulates the central nervous system causing an increase in heart rate and mental alertness among other things. In fact, studies show that caffeine does improve mental performance by enhancing alertness and reaction time, and this happens whether someone is a caffeine addict or a newbie. Caffeine consumption in moderate doses may also temporarily enhance mood, especially for those who are sensitive or don't consume much.

One thing to note is that caffeine does disrupt normal sleep patterns for most people if consumed too close to bedtime. First, it makes it harder for one to fall asleep, and once one is asleep, it can result in temporary awakenings throughout the night. So, if you have problems with sleep, I suggest limiting caffeine consumption within 3-5 hours of bedtime. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a cycle of: caffeine consumption close to bedtime, limited/interrupted sleep, and the need for more caffeine the next day to offset the effects of disrupted sleep.

You may have heard that caffeine is a diuretic, right? Well, it does have a mild diuretic effect; however, given that coffee accounts for about 75% of the caffeine that most people consume, there's no need to worry about dehydration anytime soon. The amount of caffeine contained in most caffeinated-beverages is not enough to have a major diuretic effect. In addition, the fluid from the beverage contributes to a person's fluid needs.

So, what is my advice? Moderate consumption, which is up to about 300 mg/day (or ~2-3 cups of coffee), is okay for most people. I say most because there are some exceptions. While some recommendations suggest that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy is okay, I err on the side of caution here, especially in the first trimester. A recent study indicated that pregnant women who consumed at least 200 mg/day experienced more miscarriages than those who consumed less than 200 mg/day during the first trimester. If possible, I suggest avoiding caffeine or limiting intake to <200 mg/day during the first trimester especially. Moms who breastfeed may also want to avoid/limit consumption to no more than 300 mg/day because higher intakes have been associated with increased wakefulness, irritability, and poor feeding for the baby. None of which any new parent really wants, right? Caffeine may also perpetuate problems for people with migraines, so it's best for those with a genetic predisposition for migraines to limit their intake. There are also certain medications, such as Ritalin, or nutrients, such as iron, that can be affected by caffeine, so always speak with a doctor, pharmacist, or RD regarding potential drug-nutrient interactions. Lastly, I advise parents/caregivers to moderate their child's caffeine consumption. It has the same effect in children and it tends to occur more quickly and last for longer than for adults. Plus, some of the major sources of caffeine in the child's diet aren't necessarily the most nutritious either (i.e., sodas, energy drinks, candy).


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The WHAT and WHEN of feeding a toddler

I've entered an interesting phase in the feeding of my little 1 1/2 year old (though if you've seen her, you'd realize she's not really so 'little'). My once enthusiastic eater who tried anything and everything now shows a little more skepticism about food. Oh yes, and sometimes instead of eating it she likes to wear it! Hence the photo above (a la PB in hair). Ah toddlerhood! Her suspicions about unfamiliar foods can sometimes create a little anxiety for me. However, I find comfort in knowing that as long as I fall back on the division of responsibility in feeding developed by Ellyn Satter, my daughter and I will be fine! So, here's my reminder about that division of responsibility:
1) Parents/caregivers are responsible for what, when, and where a child eats.
2) The child is responsible for how much and whether to eat.

Upon the request of a blog-reader and friend, I decided to address the what and when aspect of feeding a toddler this week.

Some find it amazing that children actually need more calories and protein per pound of body weight than adults! The average 1-3 year old needs roughly 990-1050 calories per day; however, don't start tallying up those calories yet! Starting around the age of one a child's growth begins to slow in comparison to that first year of life, and if you have a toddler or have ever been around one during meal times, you will know that their food intake can seem quite sporadic. That's because they go through periods of rapid growth and slower growth. You've also probably noticed that those little ones can be quite active at times! The great thing about children is that they are very intuitive eaters. That is, they can feed themselves very well depending on their hunger and satiety cues. So being overly concerned about the how much part of a toddler's eating can actually do more harm than good, and counting calories is not necessary.

With that said, let's dig into this what part. You may or may not be surprised to know that what a child needs to eat is really not that different from what an adult needs. Although the portion sizes are scaled down quite a bit. We can take some cues from the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children. This suggests: 6 servings of grains, 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruit, 2 servings of milk, and 2 servings of meat each day. So, how do I know what a serving is, you ask? Well, a good rule of thumb is to offer about 1-2 T of food per year of life. That would be appropriate for foods like meat, fish, poultry, pasta, rice, vegetables, and fruit. As for milk, about 1/4-1/3 cup is appropriate. (1/4-1/3 of an adult portion is a good start on other food items, such as bread or eggs). Keep in mind that these are amounts that you can start with; however, depending upon your child's appetite, s/he may eat more or less.

I haven't mentioned the dread F word...FAT! For children, fat should not be a bad word or nutrient. Children actually need a greater proportion of their calories from fat than adults. One benefit of fat in the child's diet is that it provides a concentrated source of energy. Consider those tiny little tummies. They can only hold so much food, and as long as children have some fat in their diets, they can more readily meet their energy needs. There are also some special types of fats, essential fatty acids, that our bodies must obtain from the diet. These essential fatty acids are important for the proper development of the nerve, eye and other tissues. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against fat restriction in children ages 2 and under. After the age of 2, high fat intakes may increase the risk for childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease. At this point, it's okay for children to gradually consume fewer high-fat foods (i.e., whole milk) and consume more grain products, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and other protein-rich foods. Slide 10

Now let's get to the when of feeding those tiny tots. If I've learned anything important about children, it is that they thrive on structure and routine. Throw that off, and you could have one rattled child on your hands! The same goes for feeding times. Children do well with about three meals and planned snacks in between (mid-morning and mid-afternoon are appropriate). Somewhere between 2-4 hours between meals/snacks works fine, and it's okay to schedule it at a time that works for your family. Let's revisit the whole tiny tummy thing again. Our little munchkins can't usually eat a large quantity of food at one time, so they often feel hungry before the next main meal. This helps the little ones maintain adequate energy sources throughout the day. It can also help mom, dad, or caregiver not feel so bad or worried if a child declines to eat what's offered at a previous meal because s/he knows that another meal/snack is coming down the pipeline soon enough and the child might be more willing to eat what is offered later, too.

So that's it in a least for now. This is another topic that I could expand upon, but I'll save that for another blog post.

Here's to a happy and healthy little one!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Supplements - Did you know...

Did you know that...
  • while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the dietary supplement industry, supplements are not held to the same regulatory standards as food or drugs? Essentially, dietary supplement manufacturers do not have to guarantee their dietary supplement safe and effective before placing it in the marketplace. In contrast, pharmaceuticals undergo several phases of study from animals to humans before they can be approved for use in the general population. In addition, the FDA provides oversight for supplements only after they are on the store shelves, if safety is called into question. More recently, some additional regulations were set in place to improve safety by establishing improved manufacturing practices and to ensure that the product contains what it claims to contain and nothing that could be harmful (i.e., lead). Unfortunately, even recent reports evaluating the content of certain supplements revealed that many of them either do not contain the ingredient(s) or contain less than what's claimed on the label. Even though the new guidelines were set in place to enhance supplement safety, I question how tight the monitoring will be. Plus, there is still no guarantee that the supplements are safe and effective.
  • dietary supplements are also not standardized as prescription drugs are? What does this mean? Well, standardization involves following practices that ensure batch-to-batch consistency of a product or a high quality product. So, the contents of the supplement you bought six months ago will be consistent with the contents of the same product on the shelf today.
  • just because a supplement contains naturally occurring ingredients does not mean it's safe? Natural does not = safe. Mushrooms are natural, but some contain natural toxins that are harmful. Arsenic, lead, mercury...these are all naturally occurring elements, but it doesn't mean that they're necessarily safe either.
  • more isn't necessarily better? For one, when some nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C or B vitamins, are consumed in excess of the body's needs, most excesses are excreted in the urine rather than stored in the body. Plus, higher levels may contribute to harmful toxicity disorders.
  • depending on the ingredients and dosage, they may have negative interactions with other nutrients, foods, medications, or processes in the body? Symptoms of toxicity for nutrients most often occur from consumption of dietary supplements rather than foods. For example, high doses of iron can result in reduced absorption of copper and zinc and vice versa. Some dietary supplements can result in increased or decreased absorption or increased or decreased function of medications and vice versa.
  • so far the only diseases or conditions that supplements, such as vitamins or minerals, cure are the ones caused by a deficiency of that nutrient? For instance, vitamin C does not cure the common cold, but it can cure scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disorder. Even though we often see media clips about how a new research study shows that nutrients, such as vitamins of minerals, can help prevent or treat some condition, it doesn't necessarily mean that a supplement will do the same. In fact, several recent studies have shown that consumption of nutrients in supplement form may actually do more harm than good. For example, a study conducted some years ago found that beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A and weak antioxidant) in supplement form can actually increase lung cancer risk in smokers! More recent studies show that the antioxidant supplements of vitamin A, E, and beta carotene may actually slightly increase the risk of death.
  • just because the person in the ad or a family member or friend says s/he took a supplement that helped with X, Y, or Z doesn't mean that it is actually a safe and effective treatment? Testimonials or anecdotal evidence are a great way to sell products, but they prove nothing.
  • just because the product label or ad says the supplement does X, Y, and Z does not mean that the product is safe and works? Of course the company is going to tell you their product works, but don't you think they might have a biased opinion?
So, am I against supplements? No. I believe that there definitely are certain situations in which a dietary supplement can be helpful, and I believe that it's important for people to make informed decisions when deciding whether or not to take a supplement.

So, what do you do? Here are my quick tips:
  • Consider buying recognized brands from well-established companies. These companies generally have more at stake because they want to be around for a long time, so they work harder to ensure a higher quality product.
  • Scan the shelves for standardized products. How will you know? Look for the USP symbol. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia. This agency provides standards for the quality, purity, strength, and consistency of dietary supplements and conducts tests verifying the product ingredients, integrity, purity, and potency. Some other organizations or programs that provide similar standards or testing include: the Dietary Supplement Verification Program (DSVP), ide 82 and NSF International.
  • Read the Supplement Facts Panel. It's best to stick with supplements that provide no more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV), especially those that are considered more potentially harmful such as vitamin A, D, or iron.
  • If the claims sound too good to be true, then they probably are. I always tell students and clients that if I knew of a product out there that really was the MIRACLE pill for weight loss or enhanced performance, etc. I certainly wouldn't want to keep that a secret.
  • Run the dietary supplements by your healthcare provider before using them. In fact, I always ask my clients to bring their supplement containers with them to our visits so that I can help them evaluate these products.
  • Remain skeptical of the latest headlines. They make good stories, but the sound nutrition or health advice is typically based on a broad body of research and not a single study. Who were they studying? How many people were in the study? How long was the study? There are many factors to consider, and one study alone does not mean the results are generalizable to the population at large or to you specifically.
  • Finally, lots of research powerfully indicates that foods, not supplements, are the best source of nutrients.
Have a healthy one!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The best exercise

My husband, daughter, and I took a trip to the local beach this morning. I've been dying to ride a surrey for the longest time (a surrey is a bike-like transport vehicle with 4 wheels, think Fred Flintstone car). We rented it for an hour and rode up and down the beach path. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think my husband finds me a little insane for this. Not only was I having fun and relaxing, but I was also getting some physical activity in without really thinking too much about it. That's what made me think to write this spin-off blog from the last one about "The best diet". I also think that some of the best exercise is that which you don't really think about doing. It's the stuff that you enjoy or fit into your day and that you don't dread. Here's to movement...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The best diet

I'm currently reading a fantastic book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD. I've read a lot of articles and research authored by Dr. Wansink, so I am thrilled about his book! He has this quote that I absolutely love...."The best diet is the one you don't know you're on". I 100% agree! Unfortunately, there so many diet supplements, products, books, programs, and more out there for weight loss that it's often hard for me to keep up. In fact, a recent stat I read says that Americans spend $100+ BILLION on diet-nutrition related products and services annually. WOW! At the same time, we unfortunately still have rising rates of overweight/obesity (66+% of American adults are overweight/obese.)

I just had a conversation with one of my students the other day about diets. She'd told me how she had tried a couple of diets temporarily just to see what they were like so that she could be more personally informed on how they 'feel'. One of my great friends has done the same with the Atkins diet. (By the way, she only lasted 1 day after feeling so dreadful on it.). I had to admit that I haven't ever been on a diet before. I guess I could say that I've been and am on that diet that you don't know you're on! I must tell you that it's the greatest. It's really just eating. That's it, plain and simple. In fact, I looked up the word diet on Wikipedia, and here's what I found: the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group OR Webster's: food and drink regularly provided or consumed or I love this one: habitual nourishment. It doesn't sound so bad when we see it described like this, huh?

I enjoy eating. I eat a variety of foods....vegetables, fruits, whole grains AND chocolate, ice cream, pizza, FRIES! Oh no, I hope the food police don't get me! Because I allow myself to eat (not cheat) a variety of foods, including those that are especially yummy, I feel zero guilt and zero deprivation about my eating. I love it! Do I throw nutrition out the window? Of course not. I always make sure I include a variety of foods that promote health and optimal nutrition daily AND I enjoy other foods that have a little of that added sugar or fat in them. Plus, I throw in that physical activity thing, too. Balance, variety, moderation, adequacy...these are four pillars of optimal nutrition NOT guilt, deprivation, shame, which would probably be the definition of most "diets" in my book. Yes, you may need some basic information on sound nutrition (i.e., from a Registered Dietitian like moi) or maybe you need some info on specifics like lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. So, I guess what I'm saying here is that diets are not the answer to losing weight. However, when it comes to diets, all these do is provide an external force (outside the body) telling OUR body what, when, and how much to eat. I personally think one of the best approaches to eating is to listen to the owner's manual...YOU!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Go organic?'s all the trend these days. You've heard about it, but maybe you don't know exactly what the hype is all about. Well, let me try to shed some light on this issue. First of all, why are people choosing to go 'organic'? Well, lately it primarily stems from two reasons: 1) increased awareness about the link between diet and health, specifically pesticide use and 2) increased desire to protect the environment. While pesticides have known benefits (killing potential disease-causing organisms and controlling insects and other pests), there are also known risks associated with their consumption (possible damage to the nervous system, disruption of the endocrine/hormone system leading to reproductive disorders, birth defects, immune suppression and other disorders, and potentially cancer-causing). These issues may be even more concerning for fetuses, infants and children since their internal organs are still developing and they have much smaller bodies.

So, what does organic mean? Well, organically produced foods must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetically modified ingredients.Slide 36 The standards for organic food production are regulated by the USDA. In terms of food labeling, something that is labeled as:
  • "100% Organic" must contain only organically-produced ingredients
  • "Organic" must consist of at least 95% organically-produced ingredients
  • "Made with organic ingredients" must contain at least 70% organically-produced ingredients
There are a few tips I like to offer when it comes to making informed decisions about going organic.
  • Organic does not = healthier! potato or tortilla chips, organic cookies, organic candy, organic donuts. When the organic craze was really on the roll, I loved seeing all the great, new organic products, and I'd hear people say how much 'healthier' these products are. One would still be better off snacking on fresh, whole vegetables and fruits more often than these types of organic foods.
  • Organic produce isn't necessarily pesticide-free. While organic produce tends to be lower in pesticide residues, according to testing by the USDA, 23% of organic produce contained detectable levels of pesticides in comparison to 73% of conventionally grown produce (the result of drift off or seepage into water systems from nearby conventional farms). However, only about 0.2% of the contaminated samples exceeded the EPA guidelines on pesticide residue limits.
  • Some organic foods offer more nutritional value in comparison to non-organic foods (i.e., vitamin C in leafy green vegetables and corn; iron and magnesium in leafy greens, potatoes and radishes). However, organic foods, especially produce, also costs up to 50% more, so if it's a choice between no vegetables/fruits or organically-grown...something is better than nothing, but more is better than a little. Research shows through and through that high intake of vegetables/fruits reduces the risk for many different types of chronic diseases, without regard to organic vs non-organic. So, one might be able to consume more of the affordable non-organic foods vs the organic foods, and this may be more beneficial in the long-run.
  • If you are concerned about pesticide consumption but still have a budget to stick with, you might consider prioritizing your organic purchases. "The Dirty Dozen" includes 12 items that are the most commonly contaminated, so it might be more worthwhile to purchase the organic version of these most often: Apples, cherries, grapes (imported), nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and spinach. The least likely to be contaminated, and therefore, the ones you may want to skip the big bucks for are: bananas, papayas, kiwi, broccoli, onions, asparagus, peas, mangoes, cauliflower, pineapple, avocado, corn, and peas. If budget is not a problem and/or if you want to go organic for reasons other than health, then by all means go all out because there's really no harm in it.
  • Aside from purchasing organically-produced foods, you can also do some other things to reduce your exposure. 1) Buy locally grown and fresh vegetables/fruits in season as less chemicals will be needed to prevent spoilage 2) Trim tops and outer portions of leafy vegetables where pesticide residue is most likely found 3) Peel and cook or wash/scrub produce with a brush to remove or reduce pesticide residue 4) Consume a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to reduce exposure 5) Purchase items that are subject to USDA regulations as imported items are not grown under the same regulations 6) Trim the fat from meat and fat/skin from poultry and fish as this is where pesticides tend to accumulate in the body.
I could go on about organic as I love this topic; however, this is just a blog (and probably too long as it is!). I just hope that it helps someone make a more informed decision when it comes to going organic:)

Eat well - Be well!
Slide 37

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Brain food

It may sound silly, but as I was growing up, my mom often told me the reason I was smart is because she ate fish while she was pregnant. It's funny to look back now and realize how intuitive she was about this concept. While there is much controversy over the consumption of fish during pregnancy, I've recently read more recent evidence revealing that the consumption of fish, specifically the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, may be associated with increased cognitive and visual performance in young children. This essential fat is highly concentrated in the brain, eyes, and central nervous system, and it appears that consumption of it during the last two trimesters of pregnancy may be critical to optimal brain and visual development. I personally understand the importance of making informed decisions about factors that affect the health of the baby during pregnancy (and lactation), so if you know of a pregnant or nursing mom in need of some guidance on this you may check out this link for more information regarding guidelines on fish consumption during pregnancy. To a happy and healthy 9 months...

Monday, November 3, 2008

What's the deal with acai?

I'm sure you've seen something about it somewhere. The acai berry is considered by many to be a super hot, super food these days, and this is exactly why as a Registered Dietitian, I get asked many, many questions about this fruit or the products that contain it. Native to Central and South America, tests on this berry truly have deemed it a potential 'power food' primarily due to its antioxidant capcity. Depending on what study you look at, it rates among the highest, if not {the} highest in antioxidant capacity (aka, ORAC). So, what's my take on it? Well, based on the evidence I've read (and I have read actual research articles on this), I'd agree that it appears to be chock full of antioxidants as well as other beneficial nutrients. However, you will not find the actual acai berry in the produce section of your market. Most of what I've seen on the market is the freeze-dried version alone or in a juice blend since the fat content of the acai berry makes it decompose more readily.

Are you thinking there's a catch here? Well, yes, there are a few. One is that these products tend to be quite pricey, if you ask me. Mona Vie distributes an acai berry blend juice at about $40 a bottle (possibly lower depending on who you talk to), and based on the daily recommended servings one would need about 1 bottle/week (~$160/month). Oh, wait...let me put it another interesting way. At ~25 oz per bottle, this juice runs approximately $205/gallon!!!! You read that right, $205/gallon. the price of gas is looking better already, right? I also have a problem with the way it's distributed (MLM). While the company highly touts its acai berry content, the juice also contains a "exclusive blend" of 18 other fruits, including apple and grape juice. I'm very curious as to how much of this is apple and grape juice vs the freeze-dried acai berry and/or the other "super fruits". Could it be that one could get similar health benefits by simply purchasing and consuming a much less expensive bottle of apple or grape juice? Hmmm... I wonder if that $40/week could be more wisely spent on a variety of many other valuable vegetables and fruits that are also rich in antioxidants as well as other vital nutrients? I don't mean to pick on Mona Vie alone. It's just that this is the product that I'm asked about almost on a weekly basis lately...honest! Other companies sell the freeze-dried acai alone or in juice blends, too, and they're all very expensive as well. The problem with the freeze-dried acai or supplements is that when taken alone (not in the fresh, whole fruit form), one doesn't get the benefit of feeling satisfied by consuming an actual whole food. Also, there could be additional benefits to consuming this food in its whole form...the antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients could work together synergistically to produce even greater benefits.

As for the weight loss claims, I disagree with them. Consuming acai berry will not yield weight loss. One will get more bang for his/her buck by modifying food intake to lower calorie consumption and increasing physical activity for more successful and long-term weight management. So this is not a magic bullet.

So, is this harmful? Not really from a health and nutrition standpoint, but it could be a major drain on the pocket book! And one can still consume a wide variety of other foods that are very high in antioxidant capacity as well as many vital nutrients and still achieve similar health benefits.

Here's to your health...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Picky, picky

Last week my husband, my daughter and I had lunch with some friends. I forget why now, but my husband mentioned how we do not force our daughter to eat anything. We simply present food to her and allow her to choose whether and how much to eat. Our friends asked us how we get her to eat things like vegetables, if she doesn't eat them. Well, we've made a commitment to live by the division of responsibility in child feeding (developed by child feeding specialist and RD, Ellyn Satter). These are: 1) Parents are responsible for what, when, and where children eat and 2) Children are responsible for whether and how much. Therefore, it is up to us to purchase, prepare, and serve a variety of healthful foods to our daughter and to trust HER to eat the right amount that she needs.

There are certain food items that our daughter doesn't eat (i.e., broccoli as of late); however, we do not force, push, or coax her to eat them. We offer a food to her, and she makes the decision as to whether or not she'll eat it and how much of it she'll eat. Even though she has turned down broccoli on several occasions, she's also eaten it on others. Sometimes it takes a child (or really anyone) up to 15-20 exposures before he/she will even try a food or try it AND like it. Heck, I used to HATE cottage cheese, but somehow one day I tried it as an adult and actually now like it. Go figure! It's our job to continue giving her the opportunity to try the broccoli. If after the first time she turned down broccoli we did not offer it to her ever again, she'd never really have the opportunity to try it and/or like it. There may be some foods that a child never eats/likes, and that's fine. There are some meals in which our daughter doesn't eat much at all, and that's okay. The beauty of the division of responsibility in feeding is that we do not worry that she's not getting enough nutrients since we know that we offer her a variety of healthful foods and she does eat many of them (just not always broccoli). This allows her to rely on HER internal cues (rather than external cues from us) to determine exactly how much she needs to eat while also being exposed to a variety of healthful foods.

These are difficult concepts for some parents and caregivers to grasp. I think it can be especially difficult depending on how their parents nurtured their feeding relationships or because as parents we often worry about the health and well-being of our children. Personally, practicing these principles has been helpful in relieving some of the pressure during feeding time for us and actually makes our meals much more relaxing and enjoyable, and that's really what I want to encourage in our daughter...a healthful AND enjoyable relationship with food and eating.

Happy Feeding!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nutrition for the run of it

Some of you may know that I recently completed my second marathon two weekends ago. As I trained for the last six months, I was constantly reminded of the importance of sound nutrition to my physical performance. When I nourished my body well, I noticed a major difference not only in my physical state but mental as well. Throughout my training and up to my competition, it was interesting to hear the different thoughts and advice on nutrition that people would give me along the way. While the support and good intentions were always appreciated, it was often interesting to note the great amount of misinformation there must be about nutrition for sports out there. So, I thought I'd address a few of the sports nutrition in my blog.

1) "You can eat whatever you want since you just burned all of those calories!"

While it does seem tempting, it's not as easy as it sounds on several levels. Adequate nutrition is still important, especially for an athlete, so consuming nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, is essential even for an athlete. In fact, the need for certain nutrients are much greater for athletes than for non-athletes. Secondly, in order to ensure peak performance, having the right combination of nutrients is vital. Because carbohydrates provide a primary fuel source during physical activity, especially endurance activity, it's important to include foods rich in carbohydrates, like whole grains. Plus, with the need for more carbohydrates (at least for an endurance athlete) being so much greater, it can leave little room for foods high in fat and calories. Finally, I've found that in order to maintain a healthful diet, it's best to be consistent with the food intake, especially when coming off the training/competitive season.

2) "Be sure to load up on those carbs the night before!" or "Are you having a big pasta dinner the night before?"

Obviously, people are aware of the importance of carbohydrate for optimal performance. However, it's not just about loading up on carbohydrates the evening before a race. For optimal training and competition performance, it's best to consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates daily. In addition, true glycogen or carb loading involves increasing carbohydrate consumption ~6 days before the event to max out glycogen stores rather than simply doing so the night before. It's also important not to try out something new just before or during an event. So if one truly wants to load up on carbohydrates, it's best to practice during training along the way in case adjustments are needed.

3) "Don't you need some Gatorade?" (after a standard training run of 40-60 minutes)

Fluid replacement sport drinks have their place in training and competition, particularly for high intensity stop-and-go and endurance sports. However, they're most beneficial for activity lasting >90 minutes. So, for a short 40-60 minute run, water will do just fine.

4) "Make sure you drink enough water during the run!"

Not only is it important to be well-hydrated during the event, but it is also important to maintain proper hydration on a daily basis. Staying adequately hydrated even during training is important as even a loss of 2% of body weight can result in impaired performance, and I speak from experience when I say that even mild dehydration can reduce mental stamina during any run. And it's important not to forget to replenish fluid losses after the training or event. (See #3 re: the need for sport beverages during activity lasting >90 minutes.)

5) "You don't really need that stuff do you?" (regarding carbohydrate gels)

Consuming carbohydrate during high-intensity events like basketball or endurance events like marathons helps replenish muscle glycogen (stored energy) and improve performance. It is important to try out these gels or other supplements during training as adjustments may be needed depending on individual tolerance and preference. It's best not to try something new on event day!

That's about all for now. Keep moving and happy training!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The truth about trans fat

This topic may seem a bit un-hip at the moment as various items in nutrition news become hot and then not in no time. However, trans fat still interests me. I teach my students about it, and I still get asked about it a lot in practice. I thought I'd write about it this week because it still seems to be an area of interest for many. In fact, in July 2008 California lawmakers approved legislation for a ban on trans fat in foods from restaurants and bakeries, and the law will take effect in 2010. This follows the somewhat controversial ban on trans fat in restaurants in New York City and others.

First of all, what is trans fat? Well, it's a type of fatty acid in which the chemical structure has been changed. This can be done industrially in order to enhance the shelf life and texture of foods. There are two types of trans fats: industrially produced (usually found in margarines, shortening, baked and fried foods) and naturally occurring (found in beef fat and milk). It appears that it's the industrially-produced type that poses the most health risk.

Why all the hype? Well, let me count the ways.

First and foremost, intake of trans fat is linked with increased risk of coronary artery disease, risk of fatal and nonfatal heart attacks, and sudden cardiac death. It is associated with increasing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lowering HDL (good) cholesterol, and increasing total to HDL and LDL to HDL cholesterol ratios. Plus, the effect on LDL cholesterol appears to be dose-dependent meaning that trans fat has an affect at varying doses rather than starting at say an intake of X grams/day.

It doesn't stop there. There are several other avenues through which it possibly contributes to heart disease including causing the arterial walls to be less flexible and activating inflammatory responses, which is increasingly associated with heart disease.

The shocker for me was the effect on the unborn fetus and breastfed infant. Of course, this is a potential risk, but it may adversely affect growth and development by interfering with the metabolism of essential fatty acids needed for growth and brain development (DHA and ARA). However, it may also just be that women who consume a diet high in trans fat may also not eat sources of healthy fat (omega-3 fatty acids like fish, fish oil). In one study, newborns with high levels of trans fat in their blood system tended to have smaller head circumferences, which can be an indicator of brain growth/development. This was a small study with several limitations, but the data are intriguing. What I don't believe a lot of pregnant and/or breastfeeding women realize is that what they eat really can affect their babies negatively. The ONLY way a fetus or solely breastfed infant can have trans fat in their bodies is through the mother's dietary consumption.

Other studies show either no or some positive association between trans fat and cancer and diabetes. There are also studies linking trans fat with impaired insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance. This appears to be mostly in obese subjects and/or those who already have diabetes and/or insulin resistance.

The good news is that the FDA started requiring placement of trans fat content in foods on the Nutrition Facts Panel as of Jan. '06. So even before then, companies were scurrying to remove or reduce trans fat from their foods. This was done in other countries well before us, and the average trans fat intake in those countries declined with this change. That's good news for us! At the same time, in order to make up for this reduction in trans fat, many food manufacturers utilized fat sources that are high in almost equally unhealthy -- saturated fat. Be careful! Read the label. In addition, something can say it has 0 grams trans fat or 'trans fat free' and still contain trans fat. In order to state these things, it has to contain <0.5g trans fat per serving. Check the ingredients list, and if you see the words "partially hydrogenated" and whatever type of vegetable oil listed, it contains some trans fat. Be aware that the trans fat content includes both industrially produced ("partially hydrogenated") and naturally-occurring. Also, supplements may contain trans fat as well. They are also required to list this info on their Supplement Facts Panel. In fact, one woman I know saw that her child's Flintstone gummy vitamins contained "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil".

As for the ban on trans fats, I have no problem seeing industrially-produced trans fat disappear from the food supply. There is no real human need for it other than to offer a dense source of energy (calories), and there are other nutrients and types of fat that can serve that purpose. It is simply not an essential nutrient meaning our body does not need trans fat for survival or to function properly AND it is actually potentially harmful. Yet another reason to get a little closer to mother nature when it comes to the food we eat:)

Here's to a healthy week!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pick me up

Let's face it, we are all busy! Whether you're working 40+ hours a week, taking care of the kids, or going to school/studying like crazy, this busyness causes many of us to put some vital health habits to the wayside. In the end, someone's keeping score and it's our body, taking another hit. I'm writing on this particular topic because someone recently asked me for some suggestions on how to get a quick energy pick-me up during the day. So, I thought I'd write my blog providing some reminders and quick tips on how to maximize energy levels.

The first bit of advice that I think is one cornerstone to optimal energy levels is SLEEP! Sleep is a vital component to optimal health. When we get enough sleep, we are able to feel more rested and energized the following day. Sleep also allows our brains to process the thoughts for the day helping us learn and form memories. Just how much depends on who you are. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) most adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep a night. As for the kiddos, newborns need a whopping 16-18 hours/day, preschoolers between 10-12 hours/day, and school-aged kids at least 9 hours/day.

Consuming a nutritious and well-rounded breakfast can also be a proactive step toward more daily energy. Breakfast does just what it says, it 'breaks the fast' that we've experienced over night. When we wake up in the morning after not having eaten for several hours, our body's energy reserves are lower. Therefore, breakfast can set the tone for your energy levels throughout the day. Be sure to incorporate a good source of carbohydrate (i.e., whole grains or fruits are excellent), protein (i.e., low-fat yogurt, milk, natural peanut butter or nuts), and fat (i.e., avocado or nuts). By consuming a balanced breakfast that incorporates all three major nutrients, energy will be released to the body more steadily, therefore, maintaining more stable throughout the morning and keeping hunger at bay for longer.

Eating several small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day also helps people stay on top of their energy needs. I usually recommend eating a small meal or snack every 3-4 hours upon waking. Including a good source of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, or dry beans, provides an important fuel source for the body; however, it's also important to include a good source of protein and/or fat at each meal and snack for the same reasons as mentioned earlier.

Keep portion sizes in check. Sometimes when we're tired, we have the tendency to overeat and this can actually be an energy drain.

Drink up...water, that is! Even mild dehydration (losing 1-2% of body weight from dehydration) can result in weakness and fatigue. When we are dehydrated, even mildly, our bodies have to work a little harder as a result. The recommendation is to drink ~8-12 cups/day.

MOVE! Even short bouts of physical activity in 10-minute increments throughout the day can provide a quick energy boost. So, if you're feeling lethargic, take a break and get moving. You will feel more refreshed and energized!

Well, I hope I've helped you make it a healthier day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

With this economic turmoil...

I thought it seemed timely to post some tips on eating healthfully on a budget.

1. Plan, plan, plan ahead!
Planning meals in advance can save tons of time and money. When we know what we're going to eat and we've already purchased those foods, we can avoid the eating out trap. Personally, I like to plan my meals one week at a time. After planning the meals for the week, make a grocery list and stick to it. Much of our impulse spending occurs in a grocery store, believe it or not.

2. Search for savings
Look through grocery store ads, circulars, or the Sunday paper for specials and coupons. You can also rack up savings through websites such as The Grocery Game (though there's a regular fee) or The Coupon Mom. The key with coupons, however, is to only use them for foods on your grocery list.

3. Avoid shopping when hungry. Enough said!

4. Stock up on sale items or purchase in bulk.
For instance, if whole wheat pasta is on sale this week and it's a staple in your diet, stock up, if you have space.

5. Scan the unit price.
Many stores now place the price/unit (i.e., $/ounce) on the tag beneath the item. This allows you to comparison shop for the best buy.

6. Consider generic or store brands.

7. Purchase produce in season.
Not only will it be cheaper, but it will also be even tastier!

8. Purchase locally grown.
The closer to home an item is grown, the less distance it has to travel, therefore cutting down on shipping costs. This also supports the local farmers and economy. I love visiting the local farmer's market for great deals (they're often willing to bargain) and excellent food! It's also awesome to be able to meet the people who actually produce the food you're about to eat!

9. Consider more meatless meals.
While meat offers a great source of protein, iron, and other important nutrients, it actually costs more per serving since it's a step or two further on the food chain than grains, vegetables, or beans.

10. Cook in bulk and freeze leftovers for another meal.

11. Purchase items in their truest form.
When we purchase items such as pre-cut/washed bagged salads or pre-peeled/cut carrots, we end up paying more because we're paying for the convenience of these items. However, if we purchase these whole, fresh items and prep them ourselves, we can save oodles!

12. Purchase frozen vegetables, fruits, or 100% juices.
These items can be just as healthful but can cost less than their fresh counterparts, especially when not in season.

13. Look above and below eye level on store shelves.
Generally, higher priced items are placed at eye level while lower priced bargains can be found above or below that.

14. Make a budget and stick to it. In fact, only shop with CASH!
I've personally learned that this is truly an excellent way to save money. We are much more emotional with cash than we are with a debit/credit card or even a check. So those impulse buys look much less enticing when you only have $X in hand.

15. Prepare your own meals at home.
The average person spends about $8 on a fast food meal. However, a meal prepared at home will not only cost much less, but you will know exactly what went into it!

I know that I have family and friends who are super savers when it comes to shopping, so I wonder if I will get any additions to this list?

Happy Shopping and SAVING!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What we want most

If you didn't already know, I currently teach college-level nutrition courses. One is an introductory nutrition course, which I love to teach. Last week, I asked my students to respond to a discussion board question I had posted. I asked them what their major barriers to healthful eating were. The most common answers were: time, money, taste, availability. This is not really a surprise to me. These are very common barriers for college students and really for many Americans in general. During class, I had asked my students what the pros of consuming a more nutritious diet were. Most seemed to agree that better health, performance, and quality of life were important. Many of them raised their hands when I posed questions about what they would like out of stay healthy, feel better, look better, perform better, etc. I guarantee that if I posed these same questions to almost any other audience the answers would be the same. However, saying is one thing, doing is another. The culture we live in presents many challenges to living healthfully. At the same time, many people want the best out of live long and prosper as a Spock might say;)

What's the problem? One quote comes to mind...we often give up what we want MOST for what we want in the MOMENT (source unknown). In fact, there is actual research showing that people do just this. I've read of research studies in which people are offered a sum of money, usually a smaller amount immediately (let's say $5) and a larger sum later on down the road (let's say $25). It appears that people have the tendency to choose the smaller amount that they can get NOW vs the larger amount that they can get LATER. What I spend a lot of time encouraging people to do is one of two things. One is to realize that every action we take is based on a choice. For instance, we can make the choice to go overboard at the smorgasboard on Thanksgiving or we can choose to enjoy a few of our Thanksgiving favorites in moderation. Once we realize that the actions we take are based on choices, we then realize that we actually do have some control over our health. We are able to take responsibility for our health. Secondly, I encourage people to focus on what they really want. What is it that they hope to accomplish or achieve by making choices to eat more nutritious foods and move more? Is it that s/he wishes to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars? Would s/he like to perform better in sports? Would s/he like to live longer in order to see his/her children/grandchildren grow up, get married, have their own children? In order to keep what we want most at the forefront, I often encourage people to physically make a list of what they want most. I even encourage people to take it a step further...put each reason on a post-it note and post it in different spots (i.e., bathroom mirror, car dash, computer screen, checkbook, blackberry, etc.) as gentle reminders. This can be especially helpful when someone is making new changes with his/her food intake or physical activity since getting started and staying focused is sometimes the most challenging part. As I always say, go after a life of health, you deserve it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The sweetest of sweets?

A friend recently brought the following ad from the Corn Refiners Association (CFA) : http://www. sweetsurprise. com/tvads. php?vid=TwoBites. flv and wanted to know my opinion about the ad. I've decided to take my first stab at offering an RD's point of view about the currently vilified sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

So, let me just hit the main points that the Corn Refiners Association make in this ad. First of all, it's stated that HFCS is made from corn. This is true to a point; however, it's not as if the makers of HFCS take corn and squeeze it to produce HFCS. The process of producing HFCS from corn is a bit lengthier and more complicated than that. It essentially starts out as cornstarch and is processed with enzymes to produce the HFCS. The second major point is that HFCS contains the same calories as sugar or honey. This is actually true. Both sugar, honey, as well as other caloric sweeteners and HFCS yield approximately 4 calories per gram. Lastly, the ad states that HFCS is fine in moderation. I would agree. Consumption of this ingredient is not going to cause the demise of someone's health when done so in moderation. Although I'd be curious as to what the CFA's definition of "moderation" is when it comes to HFCS.

Something that the ad didn't address is some of the information or rumors that have been floating around about HFCS.
  • First of all, the name high fructose corn syrup has been misleading for people. HFCS is actually only high in fructose in relation to regular corn syrup. In reality, HFCS contains approximately the same amount (55% fructose and 45% glucose) of fructose as table sugar (50% fructose and 50% glucose). One piece of information swirling around out there is that HFCS increases triglyceride levels in the blood. Consumption of this caloric sweetener may very well contribute to elevated triglycerides (and therefore heart disease) in people prone to having higher levels of this fat in their blood, but the so-called risk of this is the same as that for regular sugar, too. Also, some people maintain that consumption of HFCS (particularly the fructose) causes disruption in the regulation of appetite via the hormone, leptin, causing someone to eat more than s/he normally would. While it is true that research has exhibited that fructose may not stimulate the production of leptin, which regulates appetite and fat storage, given the proportion of fructose in HFCS, the effect is not any greater for HFCS than for regular sugar. In fact, some forms of HFCS contain less fructose than regular sugar!
  • Secondly, it's been associated with being one of the primary causes for obesity. This primarily stems from a commentary article authored by George Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry Popkin in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, which posed some possible relationships between trends in consumption of HFCS and obesity rates over several decades. However, since the publishing of this article, more research has been conducted on HFCS and has found that HFCS alone does not necessarily cause a person to gain weight. However, the calories from this caloric sweetener consumed in excess of what a person needs may promote weight gain. Therefore, it's a calorie issue rather than an ingredient issue. In fact, the authors of this article have since clarified that while HFCS is not necessarily the most healthful ingredient, it is not necessarily the Evil One that it's made out to be either.
So, am I giving HFCS a huge thumbs up here? Not necessarily. I think the point I'd like to make here is that we need to look at the bigger picture. What is HFCS? It is a form of sugar. What foods contain HFCS? Processed foods. HFCS does not occur naturally in these foods as does the sugar in fruit or milk; therefore, HFCS is considered an {added sugar}. What are the latest guidelines regarding consumption of added sugars? Well, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend that we choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners. So, while the recommendations do not suggest that we need to completely eliminate added sugars from the diet, they still suggest limiting consumption of added sugars.

What does this all mean to me? We can best achieve optimal nutrition by consuming more fresh, whole, minimally processed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods will naturally contain fewer added sugars and will also be more nutrient dense containing more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than processed or refined foods that contain HFCS. These foods, especially whole, fresh vegetables and fruits, will also naturally offer greater volume for fewer calories. So, they'll be more satisfying without contributing an abundance of calories, especially from added sugars.

Maybe HFCS gets a bad rap because it gives people something to blame for some of the current health concerns in our country today. It gives us an enemy to watch out for. In reality, the effects of this particular caloric sweetener are not that different from other forms of added sugar, such as table sugar, honey, or molasses, and I believe that's really what we should look at. While I personally believe that there is possibly an overuse of this sugar in foods for reasons that I won't get into here, if it weren't HFCS, it would be some other form of sugar, and it would still be in foods that are mostly processed rather than in their most natural form. That's what we really need to consider. Remember: balance, moderation, and variety are three keys to a more nutritious food intake. Salud!

Seeking Support

I'm back on track with my training for the marathon. In fact, last week was a home run for me! I picked up my training as scheduled. As I came upon my long run for the weekend, I was thrilled that my friend, Heather, wanted to run with me. 18 miles! While she's not {officially} training for the marathon, she has been completing some of the endurance runs with me, and it's been so helpful. As I look ahead and we plan future runs together, I am excited and relieved. I'm excited to share this experience with someone else, and I'm also relieved to be able to share this experience with someone else. I must admit that these longer runs have become more daunting to me; however, knowing I have a partner in crime truly helps push and pull me through!

I believe that seeking support through all aspects of lifestyle and behavior change is essential. Whether you're just getting started or you've been at it a long time, having a strong and positive support system in place is vital to keeping you on track towards your goals. A person could learn as much as s/he can about (fill in blank with nutrition, exercise, health, etc.) and maintain certain behaviors for quite some time; however, I've truly learned that we ALL have stumbling blocks somewhere along the way. I truly do not believe that we are meant to achieve optimal nutrition, fitness, or health alone. We are meant to seek out supports along the way, regardless of where we are....beginner, intermediate, or pro. And if you get to the point where you'd consider yourself a pro, think about offering your support to someone else. I've truly learned that being an advocate to others increases accountability and enhances long-term success. Cheers!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Credit for Success

As you may or may not know, I am currently in training for the Long Beach International City Marathon on Oct. 12, 2008. I have been training since May, and last week I completed a 16-mile run over the weekend. While I have been training pretty well up to this point, this was the first long-run after which I really felt the "pain" of the run. Combine this with a very hectic week, and it spelled disaster for my running schedule. I'm currently preparing for another semester of teaching, launching my own business, and trying to maintain a fulfilling family and social life. One thing I've learned is that when I take on new things, especially too many, something's gotta give. Unfortunately, this week it was my running. The other factors were just too critical or important, and I honestly felt like I needed a mental and physical break from my running regimen. While I did take a break from running, I did not completely throw in the towel in my physical activity plans all together. I continued to incorporate physical activity in other ways that were really just as, if not more, satisfying than my regular running routine. These included things such as taking evening walks with my daughter and husband, walking my daughter to the park and playing with her on the playground equipment, dancing with my daughter to some silly kids' music, or walking errands instead of driving. I decided to write my blog on this topic today because I realized how easily discouraged I could've gotten by getting off track with my running this week. However, I took the time to reflect on the successes that I did have this week. I did include ways of being physically active everyday, and I did get back on track with my running routine today.

I have worked with many people on making lifestyle changes who see success as black or white, and I've often found myself trying to get them to see the shades of gray. For many, it's difficult. To me, success is not perfection but progress. I think many people have a difficult time accepting the small wins when it comes nutrition and physical activity. However, I truly believe that it's important to remember your success, no matter how large or seemingly small, and give yourself credit. So, if you're feeling discouraged, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the changes you've made or the little things that you did today, this week, or this month that have helped you progress toward your goals whether you realize it or not. Success is about moving forward, and as long as you're doing that, you're doing great!

Welcome to my blog

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be part of the change that you wish to see in the world.” My personal and professional experience has escalated my desire to be an active participant in improving the health status of the world and (in Gandhi’s words) “be part of the change”. Therefore, I have worked hard to develop my expertise in nutrition and health so that I will be able to help individuals and families improve their health and well-being through nutrition and healthy living.

To me, it is a wonderful blessing to have the opportunity to help others improve and maintain their health and well-being from the inside out. Therefore, I envision this blog as a way to improve the health and well-being of the I look forward to the opportunity to help my readers achieve optimal wellness from the inside out! Stay tuned for, hopefully, weekly updates on hot topics in nutrition or things I've been thinking about from the point of view of a Registered Dietitian.  I look forward to the opportunity to help my readers achieve optimal wellness from the inside out! Stay tuned for, hopefully, weekly updates on hot topics in nutrition or things I've been thinking about from the point of view of a Registered Dietitian.

Just a few notes about Registered Dietitians but especially this one in particular. Click here if you'd like to know more of the {official} aspects of how a Registered Dietitian (RD) comes to be. Maybe I should start with what I am not...the food or diet police or someone who enjoys depriving people of enjoying food. Personally, I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and trying out different restaurants. I've learned how to develop a healthy relationship with eating and food. I like to focus on the positive behaviors and reinforce those behaviors rather than dwelling on the slips. Aside from improving health and physical performance, one of my ultimate goals in helping others through nutrition is to encourage the development of a healthy relationship with food, eating, and the body. I believe this is the key to achieving optimal wellness long-term.

If you have a question about nutrition or wellness, let me know: I'd also like to select reader questions to answer on my blog. Happy and Healthy Reading!

Sunday, August 31, 2008


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  1. The materials on Nutrition and Wellness Bytes's web site are provided "as is". Nutrition and Wellness Bytes makes no warranties, expressed or implied, and hereby disclaims and negates all other warranties, including without limitation, implied warranties or conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement of intellectual property or other violation of rights. Further, Nutrition and Wellness Bytes does not warrant or make any representations concerning the accuracy, likely results, or reliability of the use of the materials on its Internet web site or otherwise relating to such materials or on any sites linked to this site.

4. Limitations

In no event shall Nutrition and Wellness Bytes or its suppliers be liable for any damages (including, without limitation, damages for loss of data or profit, or due to business interruption,) arising out of the use or inability to use the materials on Nutrition and Wellness Bytes's Internet site, even if Nutrition and Wellness Bytes or a Nutrition and Wellness Bytes authorized representative has been notified orally or in writing of the possibility of such damage. Because some jurisdictions do not allow limitations on implied warranties, or limitations of liability for consequential or incidental damages, these limitations may not apply to you.

5. Revisions and Errata

The materials appearing on Nutrition and Wellness Bytes's web site could include technical, typographical, or photographic errors. Nutrition and Wellness Bytes does not warrant that any of the materials on its web site are accurate, complete, or current. Nutrition and Wellness Bytes may make changes to the materials contained on its web site at any time without notice. Nutrition and Wellness Bytes does not, however, make any commitment to update the materials.

6. Links

Nutrition and Wellness Bytes has not reviewed all of the sites linked to its Internet web site and is not responsible for the contents of any such linked site. The inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by Nutrition and Wellness Bytes of the site. Use of any such linked web site is at the user's own risk.

7. Site Terms of Use Modifications

Nutrition and Wellness Bytes may revise these terms of use for its web site at any time without notice. By using this web site you are agreeing to be bound by the then current version of these Terms and Conditions of Use.

8. Governing Law

Any claim relating to Nutrition and Wellness Bytes's web site shall be governed by the laws of the State of California without regard to its conflict of law provisions.

General Terms and Conditions applicable to Use of a Web Site.

Privacy Policy

Your privacy is very important to us. Accordingly, we have developed this Policy in order for you to understand how we collect, use, communicate and disclose and make use of personal information. The following outlines our privacy policy.

  • Before or at the time of collecting personal information, we will identify the purposes for which information is being collected.

  • We will collect and use of personal information solely with the objective of fulfilling those purposes specified by us and for other compatible purposes, unless we obtain the consent of the individual concerned or as required by law.

  • We will only retain personal information as long as necessary for the fulfillment of those purposes.

  • We will collect personal information by lawful and fair means and, where appropriate, with the knowledge or consent of the individual concerned.

  • Personal data should be relevant to the purposes for which it is to be used, and, to the extent necessary for those purposes, should be accurate, complete, and up-to-date.

  • We will protect personal information by reasonable security safeguards against loss or theft, as well as unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use or modification.

  • We will make readily available to customers information about our policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.

We are committed to conducting our business in accordance with these principles in order to ensure that the confidentiality of personal information is protected and maintained.
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