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A Letter to My Readers

In February of 2013, I co-founded Dietitians for Professional Integrity with some of my dietitian colleagues (I am also the group’s Strategic Director). We advocate for ethical and socially responsible partnerships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow us as we address a very troublesome issue negatively impacting the credential we worked so hard to earn. The group was formed after the publication of Michele Simon’s report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, titled “And Now: A Word From Our Sponsors”, which I highly recommend you read for a thorough background on the topic. 

Below are some articles — in reverse chronological order — I have written or been quoted in since I closed Small Bites in June of 2012:

Gallup: Americans Still Avoid Fat Over Carbs; RD Says Still Too Much Federal Emphasis on Fat (Food Navigator USA)

The High Cost of Sitting Down With Industry (BeyondChron)

Dietitians Take Aim At Food Industry Sponsorships (MedPage Today)

House Bill Would Mandate Soda Tax; Voluntary Efforts Not Cutting It, Rep Says (Food Navigator USA)

Processed Feud: How the Food Industry Shapes Nutrition (Civil Eats)

Nutritionists Pan ASN Statement on Processed Foods (MedPage Today)

Mexico Restricts Junk Food Ads; Time for Rethink on Advertising? (Food Navigator USA)

‘Dairy Junk Foods’ Under Fire in Report Highlighting Dramatic Shift in Dairy Consumption Patterns (Food Navigator USA)

’5 A Day’ Still Might Not Be Enough Fruit and Vegetables, Study Finds (Los Angeles Times)

Study: Diet Soda Drinkers Lost More Weight than Water Drinkers (Los Angeles Times)

McDonald’s Sponsors Nutrition Convention (Shape.com)

An RD Explains Why All Foods Don’t Fit In A Healthy Diet: Andy Bellatti (BeyondChron.org)

I Went to the Nutritionist’ Annual Confab. It Was Catered By McDonald’s (Mother Jones)

Do All Foods Really Fit In A Healthy Diet? (BeyondChron.org)

Why There’s So Much Confusion Over Nutrition and Fitness (Lifehacker)

Nutrition Label 2.0: Bigger, Bolder, Better (Civil Eats)

Lessons on Salt For Dietitians… by a Chip Maker (Associated Press)

Food Makers Replace Chemical Additives with Compounds Found in Nature (Healthline)

Front Groups: Big Food’s Behind-the-Scenes Strategy (Huffington Post)

Marketing Masquerading as Science (Inspired RD)

Appearance on “Angriest Trainer” Podcast

There’s No Reason to Drink Urine (VICE Magazine)

Soda Tax Myths: “Soda Taxes Distract from Real Issues (Beyond Chron)

FDA to Update Nutrition Labels (Food Navigator)

Box Tops Help Big Food’s Bottom Line (Civil Eats)

Which Top-Rated Diets Are Unhealthy? (She Knows)

This Study Is Brought to You By… (Inspired RD)

Is Gluten Really to Blame? (She Knows)

What Should I Look For on a Nutrition Label? (Lifehacker)

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines: RDs’ Wish List (Food Navigator USA)

Food Firms Say 6.5 Trillion Fewer Calories  Sold In 2012 Than In 2007 (Los Angeles Times)

Yes, You Can Lose Weight Eating Nothing But McDonald’s, But That’s Not the Point (Huffington Post)

USDA Clears the Way for Corn, Soybeans Able to Withstand an Herbicide in Agent Orange (Healthline)

DIY “Soylent”: Should You Make Your Own Food Substitute? (Lifehacker)

Study Shows Consumer Confusion on OJ, Sugar Content (The Ledger)

Lifehacker 2013 Holiday Podcast (Lifehacker)

Know Your Front Groups, Food Politics Aficionados! (Inspired RD)

What is the Best Alternative to Milk? (Lifehacker)

Americans’ Eating Habits Worst Since 2008, ‘Systemic Change’ Needed, RD Says (Food Navigator USA)

Coke’s “Cap the Tap” Campaign Campaign Contradicts Its Social Responsibility Aims (Non-Profit Quarterly)

AND Dismisses Report Saying Sponsors Exert ‘Vice Grip’ Over FNCE (Food Navigator USA)

The Food Ties That Bind: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2013 Conference (Huffington Post)

Coca-Cola’s Assault on Tap Water (Civil Eats)

Interview with Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, about Dietitians For Professional Integrity (Plant Based Dietitian)

Let’s Move and Drink Up: Ripped-from-the-Headlines Food Politics (Inspired RD)

Children Are Eating Too Much Sugar, but Halloween is Not to Blame (Huffington Post)

FNCE Keynote Anti-GMO Urban Elites Peddle “Old McDonald” Fantasy (Food Navigator USA)

Dietitians For Professional Integrity on Corporate Sponsorship at AND (Food Navigator USA)

Dietitians object to group’s ties with Big Food (San Antonio Express)

10 Health Myths That Just Won’t Die, Debunked by Science (Lifehacker)

Waiter, There’s Politics in my Food! (Inspired RD)

Four Healthwashing Pitfalls to Watch Out For (Eating Rules)

OJ Under Siege: Is Orange Juice Too Sweet for Its Own Good? (The Ledger)

Star Athletes like LeBron, Serena Cash In on Junk Food Endorsement (Los Angeles Times)

Let’s Retire These Damaging Mainstream Nutrition Beliefs, Please (Huffington Post)

How Can I Eat Well While Working From Home? (Lifehacker)

Take Sodium Reduction Advice With a Grain of Salt (Civil Eats)

The Trick to Eating Healthy When You’re Eating Out, Beyond Common Sense (Lifehacker)

Bill Proposes Radical Changes to Food Label (Food Navigator USA)

Seeking Longevity? Eat Real Food (Huffington Post)

Coke Launches New Health Campaign (CBC Radio)

Coke to Defend Safety of Aspartame in New Ad (Associated Press)

How Big Food Has Co-opted America’s Top Nutrition Group (AlterNet)

Should AND Sever Its Ties with Junk Food Corporate Sponsors? (Food Navigator USA)

McDonald’s and Coke Should Not Sponsor Dietitian Association, Petition Says (Chicago Tribune)

Ultrarunner Rich Roll’s interview of me for his podcast (Free ITunes download HERE).

The Latest McFib: “Our Food is Healthy” (Civil Eats)

What You Don’t Know About Processed Food (Huffington Post)

To Eat Quinoa, Or Not to Eat Quinoa? That Is The Question (Inspired RD)

How The Obesity Focus Hurts the Health Movement (Huffington Post)

How Did My Profession’s Conference Get Hijacked By Big Food? (Appetite for Profit)

The 4 Biggest Food Stories of 2012 — And What They Taught Us (Huffington Post)

The Big Oversight in Our Obesity Conversation (Civil Eats)

Aisle Be Damned: How Big Food Dominates  Your Supermarket Choices (Grist)

It’s Time For an R.D. Revolution (Eating Rules)

Dietitians Call for Integrity (Civil Eats)

Will the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Stand up for its Members? (Weighty Matters)

11 Superfoods You Should Know About (Real Simple Magazine)

Is Big Biz Influencing Dietitians? (San Antonio Express)

Who gives the best nutrition advice? Registered dietitians face new competition (Chicago Tribune)

You can also keep  up on my latest projects and writing by following me on Twitter.

Original Message From June 2012 below:

Hi Friends,

When I started this blog five years ago (1,998 posts ago!), I never imagined it would be so fulfilling and nourishing.

Small Bites not only gave me a platform to share my views and upset the nutrition world’s apple cart, but also connected me with people in 105 countries. This blog opened doors for me I didn’t even think I could knock on.

I have always valued speaking one’s truth. And, right now, my truth is that my time and mental energy need to be focused in a slightly different direction.

I am not disappearing. I will continue to write and regularly contribute to this country’s discussion on issues of food, nutrition, and food policy. And, of course, my Twitter account will remain highly active. I have not lost my passion or drive; it’s simply become clear to me that it is time to close this particular chapter.

To all you Registered Dietitians in training: please remember that you  have a voice. We are nutrition professionals, not food industry public relations experts. Don’t allow yourselves to be bullied into silence by industry shills, and don’t ever allow “the science” (often paid for by those with deep pockets) to trump common sense.  Our profession’s reputation is hanging by a thread, and we desperately need people to show the world Registered Dietitians are not Big Food’s and Big Ag’s puppets.

To everyone else: thank you for your support of Small Bites over the past five years. Onward and upward! There is more to come.

PS: This blog is one of my  proudest accomplishments, and I will leave it up so it can continue to be a one-of-a-kind resource for anyone who wants nutrition information with a unique voice and an approach that takes into account the politics that shape our food system.

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Dietitians For Professional Integrity’s New Report: The Food Ties That Bind

67974_470416076361606_1005254201_nFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 18, 2013

Dietitians’ advocacy group pulls back the curtain on Big Food’s power and influence at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo – America’s largest nutrition conference.

Last month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held its annual conference (The Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo, also known as FNCE) in Houston, Texas. Today, Dietitians for Professional Integrity — an advocacy group co-founded by 14 dietitians that advocates for the Academy to cut its ties to its Big Food partners and sponsors — releases “The Food Ties That Bind”, a report that details the messaging Big Food shared with dietitians at 2013 FNCE.

The report highlights some of the educational materials provided by the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and General Mills at the conference, including:

  • Coca-Cola’s “Balancing Act” pamphlet, which emphasizes “energy balance”, and recommends burning 100 calories by gardening for 19 minutes, playing soccer for 13 minutes, or climbing stairs for 10 minutes. The pamphlet also reminds readers that soda and juice can all help meet hydration needs.
  • ConAgra’s oil comparison chart, which argues that the company’s Mazola “heart-healthy” corn oil is superior to olive oil due to the presence of phytosterols. Conveniently, this handout does not compare the amount of healthful monounsaturated fats in corn and olive oil, which would make olive oil the clear winner. Among the “added benefits” of corn oil listed in this handout: “naturally cholesterol-free” (as are all plant foods) and “contains vitamin E” (as all nut and seed oils do).
  • Kellogg’s “Comply and Satisfy” booklet for school administrators, which promotes Eggo waffles, multigrain Frosted Flakes, Cheez-Its, and Pop- Tarts as examples of “good nutrition and simple grains.”
  • McDonald’s “Enjoy Eating the Food Groups at McDonald’s” handout, which highlights the premium chicken sandwich’s bun as half a serving of whole gains (never mind the 1,410 mg of sodium in the crispy premium chicken sandwich) , and a Canadian Style Bacon Egg McMuffin as an example of “protein” (that Egg McMuffin is cooked in partially hydrogenated oils).
  • PepsiCo’s “Sodium Content of Commonly Consumed Snack Foods”, which makes Frito-Lay’s chip offerings seem like the best snack choices (in comparison to large muffins, beef jerky, pretzels, bagels, and cheese). Conveniently, other common snack foods that would make chips pale in comparison – like fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds – are missing.

The report also covers a much-anticipated point-counterpoint debate planned by the Academy that was supposed to touch on the issue of partnerships between the private and public sectors, but instead had one speaker staunchly defend GMOs, mock those who care about organics and sustainability, and claim that blaming Big Food and Big Ag for society’s ills was akin to blaming the Wright Brothers for the attacks of September 11, 2001.

DFPI additionally lists its current demands to the Academy as they continue to engage in dialogue on this issue (including greater financial transparency and revisiting a survey by the Academy’s Hunger & Environmental Dietetic Practice group which showed that dietitians considered Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Mars to be “unacceptable” sponsors), and suggests ways the Academy can improve FNCE and weaken Big Food’s vice grip over the annual event.

Download and read the report here. NOTE: The report reads best downloaded and opened on Adobe Acrobat.

A photo gallery of 2013 FNCE is located here.

Be sure to visit Dietitians For Professional Integrity’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account to stay up to date with the latest developments.

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Q&A Roundup #6

Time for another rundown of questions I have received over the past two weeks via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.

If you have a nutrition question you would like considered for the next Q&A roundup, send it my way!

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5 Important Food Lessons From This Past Week

Over the past few days, several important food-related stories captured top headlines.

Rather than dedicate a lengthy blog post to each, here is the Small Bites’ Cliff’s Notes version.

What’s the deal? What are the important takeaways? Here’s your cheat sheet:

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Giveaway: Good Eats & Good Karma

There are two reasons why I love Small Bites giveaways.

First, I take great pleasure in the enjoyment of food — good food — and like to share my favorite finds with others (whether they have similar preferences or end up trying a new item based on a suggestion of mine).

I’m even happier to showcase small, independent companies that make delicious food that is also healthful and respectful of the environment.

And so we come to the newest Small Bites giveaway: Kookie Karma.

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1100 Miles, 3 Observations

Last weekend, I drove from Seattle, Washington to Las Vegas, Nevada over a three-day period (with stops in Meridian, Idaho and Ely, Nevada).

Though both the departure and arrival points are well-known cities with diverse food landscapes (Las Vegas has a growing health-oriented community, and every restaurant at Wynn Hotel & Resort has either a separate vegan menu or a significant number of vegan appetizers and entrees, all created by the resort’s talented vegan chef), almost every locale between them was a different story.

Below, three important observations (not necessarily new, but certainly reaffirmed) I made as I moved from lush mountaintops to arid desert.

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Q&A Roundup #5

To make up for the recent lack of posts (in my defense, I was in the midst of an inter-state move and road trip), here is a supersized Q&A roundup. Thank you for your queries, and keep on submitting them!

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A Fair & Delicious Giveaway

Chocolate is one of the most misunderstood foods. Although many chocolate-based products are full of sugars, unhealthful fats, and artificial ingredients, “the real thing” is a different story (see my Ultimate Chocolate Shopping Guide for more information, including the environmental and child labor concerns surrounding cocoa production).

As a nutrition professional who champions the health benefits of high quality cocoa, I am thrilled to announce the latest giveaway: Theo Chocolates.

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Q&A Roundup #4

Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

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Fail! US News & World Report on Dairy-Free Calcium-Rich Foods

I was hopeful when I initially came across the headline for a recent article in US News & World Report — “5 Non-Dairy Foods With Calcium”.

“Finally,” I thought, “a well-read magazine informing its readers that calcium is not a synonym for dairy.”

Then I started reading the story. And groaned. Repeatedly.

Much like their ridiculous “healthiest diets” article from last year (see my critique here), factual errors, misleading statements, and unhelpful information abound in this piece.

Below, the five worst tidbits that perpetuate incorrect information:

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Beyond Pink Slime

As you have probably heard by now, the food scandal “du jour” has to do with “pink slime”, also known as mechanically-separated meat (or, when made by Beef Products Inc., “Boneless Beef Lean Trimmings”).

This ammonia-treated scrap meat — the same one some fast food giants recently phased out  — has been widely used since the early 1990s, is reportedly present in 70 percent of all ground beef products, and is a staple in school cafeterias (seven million pounds (!) are expected to be served in school lunches across the country over the next few months).

The story essentially writes itself. When fast food companies, infamous for cutting corners at any cost, turn their noses up at a questionably safe ingredient that ends up on the lunch trays of schoolchildren, headlines are to be expected — and rightfully so.

The meat industry has responded via a new website: the awkwardly-titled Pink Slime Is A Myth (I have yet to comprehend how something real and tangible can be labeled a myth).

While I do not dismiss the recent grassroots efforts that have gained significant strength via a petition to get pink slime out of school cafeterias, I worry that the focus on it detracts from bigger and more important food system issues, and provides the meat industry with a convenient distraction and an easily fixable problem that can effortlessly be spun into a public-relations success.

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The Fallacy of “Better” Peanut Butter

Much has been written about unnecessary additives (i.e.: modified cornstarch, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup) in many commercial peanut butters.

People are often surprised to learn that only 60 percent of reduced-fat Jif peanut butter is peanuts; the other forty percent includes corn syrup solids, soy protein, and hydrogenated oils. “Natural” Jif, meanwhile, is 90 percent peanuts; the remaining ten percent composed of palm oil, sugar, and molasses.

The best thing you can do from a health standpoint is eat real peanut butter; that is to say, 100% ground-up peanuts (varieties that only contain peanuts and salt are fine too; some quick math reveals they contain roughly 99.5% peanuts and 0.5% salt).

Over the past few weeks, I have been asked via e-mail and Twitter about niche peanut butter brands that claim to be “better” and “healthier” versions. Despite their self-described hoopla of nutritional superiority, they manage to remove one of peanut butter’s most healthful components.

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The 4 Biggest Nutritional Hoaxes

I believe the four foods and beverages below have enjoyed an unwarranted nutritional halo for too long.

While not equivalent to soda and trans fat-laden fast food, they are nevertheless not the nutrition all-stars we have been made to believe. The time for an objective analysis has come.

In no particular order:

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Q&A Roundup #3

Here are some more questions I have received from Small Bites readers over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

If you would like to submit a question for these round-ups, you can do so via e-mail, Twitter, or the Small Bites’ Facebook page wall.

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Come and Get Your Sea Vegetables

I have often said that sea vegetables are criminally underrated. Like their terrestrial brethren, they offer significant nutrition, but sea vegetables also provide the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (where else do you think fish get their omega 3s from?).

A few months ago, I came across SeaSnax, a roasted seaweed snack cooked in olive oil (most varieties contain sesame oil; while not a terrible oil, it lacks the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats of olive oil).

Available in plain, onion, chipotle, and wasabi flavors, this is a delicious, crunchy, GMO-free snack (or a great addition to soups and salads) with a simple ingredient list.

Since I love to share my must-have staples, here is your chance to win a case. One winner will get a choice of a dozen Grab & Go’s (any flavor) or 4 packs of full sheet singles (any flavor).

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