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    Archive for the ‘Marion Nestle’ Category

    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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    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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    “Food Politics: Advocacy for Social Change” — A Wonderful Talk by Marion Nestle

    nestleLast night I was grateful and honored to have a reserved seat for a talk given by Dr. Marion Nestle at The University of Washington to a sold-out audience of over 400 students, faculty members, and food policy buffs (the lecture was open to the general public).

    What follows is a bullet-point, Cliffs Notes style recap of Dr. Nestle’s presentation; consider it a crash course in food politics 101!

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    In Case You Missed It: Marion Nestle on The Colbert Report

    Web_5X7_72dpi_P4144611Here’s a link to the always brilliant and interesting Marion Nestle’s appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report last night.

    The segment finally gets going at the 2:58 mark when Dr. Nestle is introduced (following a manic, and rather obnoxious, “comedy” bit that would have been better spent giving Dr. Nestle a few more minutes of airtime).

    She was invited to give her commentary on recent reports that — gasp — the United States may be running out of sugar.

    Enjoy!

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    In The News: Are You Calorie Blind?

    This New York Times article — centered around a French marketing expert and American attitudes towards food and nutrition — makes the following case: health claims like “trans fat free” and “low fat” create a “health halo,” providing consumers with a false sense of security, and ultimately making them more susceptible to overeating.

    When random Americans in a nutritionally conscious Brooklyn neighborhood were asked to estimate the number of calories in an Applebee’s meal, they overshot by an average of 100 calories.

    Good news so far.

    However, when that meal included two crackers labeled “trans fat free,” those additional 100 calories went seemingly unnoticed!

    Furthermore, the total caloric count of that meal received lower estimates than that of the cracker-less photograph.

    Meanwhile, “[foreign tourists in Times Square] correctly estimated that the meal with crackers had more calories than the meal without crackers.”

    Sounds simple (more food = more calories), but this French professor of marketing contends that health halos can blind us from seeing the larger picture.

    The theory is that foreigners, most of whom stem from countries where nutrition and weight loss mainly concerns calories (rather than specific nutrients), are not deceived by what Marion Nestle calls “calorie distractors.”

    What is a calorie distractor, you ask?

    Any kind of claim that makes you forget the total caloric impact of what you are eating (i.e.: tortilla chips containing a mere sprinkle of flaxseed and soy protein, or Gummi candies with as much ALA Omega-3 as four walnuts.)

    The article also mentions a most fascinating experiment conducted by this French researcher and Brian Wansink last year.

    “After giving people a chance to order either a Big Mac or a 12-inch Italian sandwich from Subway, the people ordering the subway sandwich [which has more caloric than a Big Mac] were more likely to add a large nondiet soda and cookies to the order, end[ing] up with meals averaging 56 percent more calories than the meals ordered from McDonald’s.”

    This article cements a lot of the concepts commonly discussed in this blog. Let’s recap:

    1. Forget about “good” and “bad” foods. Instead, focus on the big picture. A donut and coffee breakfast is not worth fretting about if it only happens once a week.

    2. Above all, think calories. Whole wheat pasta covered in 500-calorie Alfredo sauce is not a healthier choice than that same amount of “white” pasta accompanied by 100 calories of marinara sauce.

    3. Don’t be fooled by claims of “a day’s worth of vitamins” or “x milligrams of Omega 3” on boxes of high-calorie, sugar and sodium laden junk foods. You might as well down a Centrum pill in between bites of a King Size Snickers bar.

    Remember — the less processed your diet, the less you have to worry about scavenging the supermarket aisles for sugar-free, vitamin fortified, and low sugar Frankenfoods.

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    In The News: The Case for Calories (Part Two!)

    Calories sure are a hot commodity this week.

    Marion Nestle’s new question and answer column in The San Francisco Chronicle even identifies them as “the most pressing nutrition issue today.”

    As she so simply puts it, “Eat too many calories for the number you use, and on come the pounds. Food tempts us everywhere, even in places like business supply stores, bookstores and libraries. It comes in larger and larger portions. And we are expected to snack all day long. “

    Clearly, policy makers also agree.

    After all, fast food chain menus in New York City are displaying calories, not carbohydrate or fat grams.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Book Recommendations

    Is there a current diet/cookbook you can recommend for health and weight loss?

    — Greg (last name withheld)
    (City withheld), IA

    I don’t like the term “diet book,” so let’s make this a list of cookbooks and “health books”, shall we?

    Books that teach actual nutrition principles and lifelong healthy eating patterns are more useful than the latest diet fad telling you to clear your cupboards of anything with sugar and spend the first two weeks on “phase/wave” one, where you basically spend 14 days craving all the foods you are now FORBIDDEN to even have a single bite of.

    Anyhow, What To Eat by Marion Nestle is a great book for anyone looking to delve deeper into the food industry and how marketing and advertisement play a huge role in what we are eating.

    Don’t be confused by the title — this book does not tell you what to eat to lose weight. However, it helps you separate marketing hype from reality, a very useful skill to have when navigating the extensive supermarket aisles.

    Lisa Young’s The Portion Teller is a fascinating read. Not only does it highlight the increasing “portion distortion” epidemic that has increased caloric intake over the past few decades, it also communicates a pleasant message. If you’re looking to lose weight, don’t think so much about WHAT you’re eating, but how much of it!

    I have mentioned Buff Dad on this website before (click here to read my interview with author Mike Levinson). I appreciate its “no nonsense” approach rooted in nutrition science as well as its particular tailoring to men (too many weight loss books specifically target a female demographic).

    Linda Arpino, MA, RD, CDN, released a wonderful book titled Eat Fit, Be Fit: Health and Weight Management Solutions (pictured right.) It explains nutrition concepts simply yet thoroughly, and provides over 250 healthy — and very tasty — recipes.

    I also think Eat This, Not That by the Men’s Health team is a great guide to have handy when it comes to eating fast food. It can help you replace a 1,200 calorie lunch with one containing 500 fewer calories!

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    When One Cookie Is More Than Enough

    Marion Nestle posted some eye-popping information on her superb blog today.

    In today’s Dining Out section, The New York Times dedicated plenty of column inches to the history of the chocolate chip cookie, and topped it off with a decadent Toll-house cookie recipe.

    Dr. Nestle dissected said recipe and calculated that each cookie (5 inches in diameter, no less) adds up to 500 calories. Eek!

    FYI — you would need to eat 10 Chips Ahoy cookies to reach that caloric amount.

    Dr. Nestle also shares this historical tidbit:

    “If you want to understand the vast change in the food environment that has taken place in the last 30 years, take a look at an old (1964 or 1975) edition of the Joy of Cooking. Its recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for almost exactly half the ingredients of the one in the Times but makes 45 cookies.”

    Unless you exercise extreme restraint and self-control, chances are that whatever cookie you grab — regardless of size — you will eat in its entirety.

    Let’s face it — no matter what the caloric content of a baked good, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who will only eat half of it.

    My rule of thumb? Any cookie half the size of a standard CD can be eaten solo. Anything larger should fall into the “share with a friend” category.

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    In The News: Big, Burly Vegan

    The Wall Street Journal recently featured 247-pound Kansas City Chiefs football player Tony Gonzalez.

    The interesting/”different” angle? Gonzalez is practically vegan (remember, this means no animal flesh and no byproducts, such as eggs, dairy, and honey).

    I say “practically” because the article mentions him eating salmon and chicken once a week. Those are his only two non-vegan foods, though.

    I also refer you to Marion Nestle’s brief (but excellent) commentary on this article.

    Over on her blog, she writes:

    Why anyone is surprised that people can do well on vegetarian and vegan diets is beyond me.

    Plant foods have plenty of protein and calories if you eat enough of them.

    If he is following a strict vegan diet–no animal products at all–he will need to find a source of vitamin B12 (it’s made by bacteria and incorporated into animal tissues), but supplements work just fine. I just don’t see this as any big deal.

    Many different dietary patterns promote health and this one can too.

    I suppose people will attribute any missed block or dropped pass to his diet, but cheeseburgers are not essential nutrients.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    “Nearly 70 percent of food advertising is for convenience foods, candy and snacks, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and desserts, whereas 2.2 percent is for fruits, vegetables, grains, or beans.” (Quoted from Marion Nestle’s Food Politics)

    While personal choice, income, convenience, taste, and health certainly play a role in the foods we select to eat, Marion Nestle makes a very strong case for the power of marketing.

    This is why many experts describe our food environment as a toxic one. Turn on the TV, walk down the street, and open most magazines and you are guaranteed to see lots of advertising for foods high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats.

    When was the last time you saw a billboard for pears? A television commercial for bananas?

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    Numbers Game: Sugary! Fatty! Processed! Buy Now!

    “Nearly _____ percent of food advertising is for convenience foods, candy and snacks, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and desserts, whereas _____ percent is for fruits, vegetables, grains, or beans.” (Quoted from Marion Nestle’s Food Politics)

    a) 52, 8
    b) 70, 2.2

    c) 65, 4.5
    d) 90, 1.4

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer!

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    Numbers Game: Sugary! Fatty! Processed! Buy Now!

    “Nearly _____ percent of food advertising is for convenience foods, candy and snacks, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and desserts, whereas _____ percent is for fruits, vegetables, grains, or beans.” (Quoted from Marion Nestle’s Food Politics)

    a) 52, 8
    b) 70, 2.2

    c) 65, 4.5
    d) 90, 1.4

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer!

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    In The News: Small Bites

    A big thank you to Vincci Tsui, Editor of Cornucopia, the Dietitians of Canada Student Network Newsletter.

    In a piece titled “Nutrition in the Blogosphere”, Vincci mentions Small Bites along with a handful of other high-profile nutrition blogs, including Marion Nestle’s.

    Take a look at the article here.

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    In The News: Grain of Truth

    I was just browsing through Marion Nestle’s wonderful blog and came across some disheartening news.

    It appears whole grain consumption is far below what it should be.

    This surprises me. With so many more convenient whole grain options out there (i.e.: whole wheat pastas, whole grain English muffins, whole grain waffles, etc.) , I was under the impression more people had integrated them into their diets.

    I personally love whole grains for their taste alone. I wonder if people are shunning them out of dislike, unfamiliarity (“quinoa? no clue what that is. I’ll just buy white rice.”), or another reason I’m failing to see.

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    In The News: Overweight = Healthy? (Part 2)

    The controversial new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has the blogosphere talking.

    Here is Marion Nestle’s brief, yet illuminatingly concise, take on the entire thing.

    By the way, Marion’s 2002 book Food Politics is out on paperback with a new foreword. More than ever, it is a relevant, eyebrow-raising look at the rampantly absurd state of food marketing, consumption, and confusion in the United States. Highly recommended!

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