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    Archive for 2011

    Speaking With…: Dr. David Wallinga

    Last week, the FDA withdrew two 34 year-old proposals to limit the use of two non-therapeutic antibiotics (penicillin and tetracycline) in cattle feed, opting instead to recommend voluntary withdrawal.  This is particularly outrageous in light of the dozens of countries that have instituted these bans successfully.

    Upon hearing this latest bit of news, I got in touch with Dr. David Wallinga, a renowned expert in the link between the ubiquity of antibiotics in animal feed and increased human resistance to these drugs. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Wallinga at the American Dietetic Association annual conference this past October, where he was part of a point-counterpoint panel on that very issue.

    I wanted to get his thoughts on the FDA decision, as well as on the public health threats posed by antibiotics in cattle feed. His responses below:

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    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    McDonald’s Rings In 2012 with Farmwashing

    Remember last year’s Washington state-based “from here” campaign, which added a “locavore” twist to McDonald’s highly processed offerings?

    Well, the fast food giant will take farmwashing to a national scale starting next month with a truly groan-worthy advertising campaign (here is one of the upcoming ads).

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    Big Food Crimes: Farmwashing, Ruining Oatmeal

    By this point, Big Food’s nutritional rap sheet is longer than the ingredient list for Pop Tarts — and it only continues to grow.

    A recent stroll through supermarket aisles has uncovered even more felonies of deception and extreme processing.

    These products are considered armed (with lousy ingredients) and dangerous (for your health). If you spot them, do not approach them. Keep walking.

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    Front of Package Labeling: An Exercise in Futility?

    Behold the "Nutrition Keys'!

    The current issue of the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition includes a commentary co-authored by myself and public health attorney Michele Simon. The piece is a response to the recent – and ongoing – debate surrounding front of package labeling.

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    4 Nutrition & Food Must-Dos for the New Year

    I’ve never been particularly enthused with New Year’s resolutions, particularly ones that relate to nutrition and food. Too often, they involve unsustainable habits and substantial lifestyle changes that are somehow supposed to take place overnight. Never mind the completely arbitrary notion that January 1 is the best day to begin new ventures.

    That said, I do enjoy setting goals — and encourage others to do so. The ideas below are not intended to be started fanatically on January 1. They are, however, actions I encourage everyone to take on (some of you may already do these things; if so, keep it up).

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    Giveaway: Mary’s Gone Crackers

    A few months ago, Mary Waldner — creator of the Mary’s Gone Crackers snack linespoke with me about what inspired her to create her popular line of organic, vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free snacks, and why avoiding genetically modified ingredients is so important for her as a manufacturer.

    In case you’re not familiar with Mary’s Gone Crackers, they provide a unique spin on common snacks.

    Their crackers are made from a combination of brown rice, quinoa, sesame seeds, and flax, and are great for snacking and dipping.  Their cookies are not cloyingly sweet, contain spices instead of flavorings (their ginger cookies, for example, list ‘ginger root’ as an ingredient), and are made with chia seeds, coconut oil (instead of the commonly-used corn or soybean), and several gluten-free flours.

    This month, two lucky Small Bites readers will score some Mary’s Gone Crackers loot.

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    Call Off the War on Obesity

    “The war on obesity” has become a familiar battle cry.

    It serves as the basis for professional health conferences or exploitative “motivational” extreme-weight-loss shows like The Biggest Loser, and is referenced almost daily. Despite the intent to increase awareness of a public health issue, it is plagued with problems that severely impede progress.

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    Coca Cola’s “Q&A” is 100% “PR” Spin

    A few days ago, deep into a clean-up project in my apartment, I came across a small, 42-page “Q&A” booklet for Coca Cola’s Live Positively campaign.

    Subtitled “Your Refreshed Everyday Pocket Guide to Our Products and Our Commitment to Sustaining the Environment and Community,” it was one of the souvenirs I picked up at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference and expo.

    The booklet – also available online – is a crash course in Big Beverage’s most common smoke-and-mirror tactics: vehement emphasis on physical activity, avoidance of nutrition issues, a framework of health centered solely around obesity and caloric intake, and rampant use of vague terms like “balance” and “moderation”.

    Let’s dissect…

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    Mindful Eating 2.0: Beyond What’s On Your Plate

    The concept of “mindful eating”– to be fully present when eating so one savors and enjoys food — isn’t particularly new, but it often comes up during the holiday season, when a slew of “healthy eating tips for the holidays” articles pop up.

    There is nothing wrong with mindful eating per se.  Enjoying and savoring is much preferred to chowing down in front of the television while being numb to what can be a wonderful sensory experience.  My frustration is that the concept is myopically applied exclusively to the act of eating, when it should really cover more territory.

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    Recipe: Sweet & Spicy Harvest Chili

    Chili is one of my favorite fall and wintertime foods.  Several years ago I posted one of my favorite chili recipes made with traditional ingredients like corn, peppers, and a variety of beans (that recipe, by the way, goes great over a bed of brown rice or quinoa).

    This time around, I want to share a much less conventional variety that contains a variety of vegetables and spices (cocoa powder, anyone?).  If your digestive system is particularly sensitive to beans, then this recipe is for you, since lentils are the stars (unlike beans, lentils do not contain sulfur — AKA: no unpleasant side effects).

    This recipe is very high in fiber, so if you are not accustomed to large amounts, you may want to start out having a a smaller serving of this as a side dish.

    PS: I have been camera-less for the past week, but next time I make this recipe, I will upload a photo of the finished product.  Enjoy!

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    Should RDs Be Gatekeepers of Nutrition Advice?

    The Alliance for Natural Health’s Really Eat Right campaign was one of this week’s nutrition hot topics.

    Of special interest was the group’s petition, which addresses concerns over the American Dietetic Association’s collusion with ‘Big Food’ and ‘Big Pharma’, as well as the organization’s “multi-state legislative effort[s] to monopolize nutritional therapy through legislative initiates.”

    While I do not see eye-to-eye with ANH on every issue, I am in full agreement with this one.

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    Some Musings on School Soda Bans

    This week, various media outlets reported on a study which concluded that school soda bans are ineffective; or, as as The Chicago Tribute put it — ‘School Soda Bans Don’t Cut Kids’ Consumption’. This not only frames the issue incorrectly, but also blames “ineffective bans” for problems they were never intended to correct.

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    Even If Artificial Sweeteners Are 100% Safe, They’re Problematic

    Most of the discussion on artificial sweeteners focuses on their presumed safety, of which I have my doubts.

    The “Generally Recognized As Safe” process is not very assuring, political/financial interests can trump scientific objectivity, some research studies certainly give pause, and there isn’t any data on the effects of consistent artificial sweetener consumption over the span of several decades.

    Let’s hypothesize, though, that artificial sweeteners are eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. Even then, with undisputed evidence that there isn’t the slightest health risk, I would urge everyone to stay away from them.

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    5 Problems with US News & World Report’s Diet Rankings

    Yesterday marked the release of US World & News Report’s annual “best diets for healthy eating” rankings.

    I am not a fan of diet rankings (our nutritional landscape’s Achilles heel is the obsession with dieting, as opposed to learning and developing healthful habits), but this list particularly disappointed and frustrated me.

    Below, the five main problems I spotted.

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