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    Archive for the ‘media’ Category

    What’s With The Healthy Eating Stigma?

    Two hot topics in the media to dissect today.

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    The Dirty Details

    The latest issue of Details magazine features a short health piece titled “How Hard Can You Play”, in which readers are informed of just how much of a good time they can potentially have with popular vices before guaranteeing themselves a nasty hangover.

    Included in this piece is the following question:

    “How do you bounce back from a hard night out?”

    Here is the first part of the answer:

    “Heather Sachs Blattman, a dietitian in New York, suggests combating the dehydration and impaired metabolism… by eating a meal rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants…. and drinking lots of fluids, preferably with electrolytes. ‘Vitamin Water’s Revive is great to get you back in balance,’ she says.”

    Eyeroll, please! Of course she does.

    What I happen to know — that Details does not tell you — is that Ms. Sachs Blattman is the in-house dietitian for Glacéau, the company that just happens to make Vitamin Water.

    My my, what a coincidence!

    Advertisements — and shameless plugs — are truly everywhere.

    And, no, you don’t need Vitamin Water to bounce back from a “hard night out.”

    Water will do the trick just fine. While you’re at it, munch on a medium banana to get plenty of potassium (one of the main electrolytes in sports drinks.)

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    On The Radio

    This past Friday night, I was a guest on New York City-based personal trainer Jason Alexander’s online radio show, All About Fitness.

    Jason asked me a few general nutrition questions, and then it was on to listener phonecalls.

    We discussed a plethora of topics, from fiber to protein to the Atkins Diet to fruit juice.

    You can listen to — and download — the hour-long show by clicking here.

    Enjoy!

    For the record, I absolutely love doing radio and television (producers, take note!)

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Britney Spears

    I could care less how a celebrity dresses on the red carpet or how their hair looks when they’re buying Advil at their local drugstore at 1 AM.

    I do, however, like to keep tabs on what they are telling the media about nutrition and health.

    Not so much because I think I’ll stumble upon some revolutionary new concept, but because many times their eating habits and “tips” — which many people often apply to their own lives — are far off the mark.

    Take Britney Spears’ latest statement to OK! Magazine:

    I’m the healthiest I’ve been all my life.

    My diet has a lot to do with my getting into shape. I have no sugar. I don’t eat fruit or even fruit juice because of the sugar.

    I eat chicken and salmon and rice. I eat avocados. I’ll have egg whites for breakfast and sometimes turkey burgers for lunch. I try to do just 1,200 calories a day. It may sound like it’s not much, but it’s actually a lot of food if you eat the right things.”

    Some of those concepts are NOT OK with me.

    Let’s start with the positives. She has clearly realized that a daily intake of Cheetos and Frappuccinos won’t do much to help her get back in shape.

    Additionally, avocados and salmon are a great way to get healthy fats.

    Now, onto the “not so great” attributes.

    I’d like to think Britney is pointing out just a few of the foods she eats, rather than her daily staples. Otherwise, she is on the fast track to boredom with such a small selection.

    And, hello, where’s the fiber?

    My main frustration, however, stems from her claim that, in order to keep a sugar-free diet, Britney has cut out fruits and fruit juice.

    Fruit juice, I can understand. After all, most fruit juices are simply sugar (in this case, fructose) water with vitamins. Since they are in liquid form, they don’t do much in terms of satiety, either.

    But giving up fruit? I can’t think of any reason to do that.

    Think about it for a minute. Doesn’t it sound slightly ridiculous to say, “I’m eating healthy, so no more fruit in MY fridge!”?

    A medium sized apple only contains 90 calories, but also provides fiber, phytonutrients, and a variety of vitamins.

    Please don’t mistake that recent study about fructose intake and weight gain to mean you should never have fruit.

    The fiber in whole fruit offsets the sharp rise in blood glucose you get when you drink pure fruit juice juice.

    Besides, a whole orange provides significantly lower levels of fructose than a glass of OJ.

    So, Britney, please don’t fear. A banana in the morning or some kiwi in the afternoon will not lead you astray.

    Thank you to reader Kristin MacBride for sending along Britney’s quote.

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    Sneaky Tricks of the Trade

    It’s not just celebrities who get airbrushed to look “magazine ready.”

    Popular foods also get plenty of help from stylists, lighting technicians, and even a little fakery to achieve a flawless image.

    PBS Kids reveals how hamburgers, roasted chicken, and ice cream always manage to look so friggin’ perfect in their respective advertisements.

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    Real Women, Real Misinformation

    Time to scan through the celebrity magazines — and get into my zen “irritability rolls off my back” mode — to see what they’re saying about nutrition.

    This time, I turn my attention to People Magazine’s June 2 issue, which contains a feature on five “normal women” who each lost 100 – or more — pounds.

    Jessica, 22, has been on Slimfast for almost three years.

    Alright, first problem. The Slimfast plan – two shakes a day plus dinner and small snacks – doesn’t teach many nutrition principles; it simply restricts calories.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with it in a “need to shed five pounds quickly” short-term situation, but three years drinking that twice a day?

    What is Jessica supposed to do when she lunch or brunch with friends? Take a can of Slimfast with her?

    And whatever happened to variety?

    Then there’s Nichole, who “eats [a can of tuna] as a protein boost on her way to the gym.”

    By the way, the article has the above quote aside as an “FYI,” almost a recommendation for readers.

    Except there is no need for a “protein boost” on your way to the gym.

    If you choose to have a pre-workout snack, it should be approximately 2 hours before exerciseing, and should consist of low-calorie, easy to digest carbohydrates (think a piece of fruit).

    The body does not use protein for energy unless it is in a severely critical situation, so that can of tuna serves no value as a pre-workout snack.

    Nichole also claims to carry a 3-liter jug of water with her. That volume of water is absolutely excessive and results in nothing but extraneous urination.

    While we’re on the topic of water, let’s talk about the most disturbing comment of the piece, courtesy of Katherine, who claims to resorts to water to fill up her stomach if it growls after she has finished a meal.

    It is one thing to satisfy hunger with low calorie snacks, but downing glasses of water when the body is craving calories is not a wise – or healthy – idea.

    Finally, there’s Kim, who has replaced her old dessert – a bowl of ice cream with brownies — with “sugar-free Jell-O with a tablespoon of fat-free whipped cream.”

    Although her customary dessert certainly needed a makeunder, I am not too happy with her new choice.

    The “diet-friendly” dessert provides no fat, fiber, or protein. In other words, it’s just not satisfying or filling.

    I also don’t approve of the synthetic nature of it all. It’s practically a Franken-snack.

    I would suggest having an actual piece of fruit or a cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt sprinkled with ground flaxseed meal.

    The two “desserts” I just mentioned provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients not present in sugar-free gelatin or fat-free whipped cream.

    Although I commend these women on achieving their health goals, I can’t say I condone some of their methods.

    What bothers me most is that People appears to use these women as an example and, by doing so, gets some major nutrition points confused.

    If these magazines want to start featuring pieces on weight loss and management, I strongly suggest they form a nutrition advisory board consisting of registered dietitians and medical professionals so as to ensure that readers are getting valid information.

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    Over in Oprah Land….

    Time to see what Oprah’s blog reveals about her ongoing 21-day vegan diet (remember, she’s also shunning sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    Last Friday, Oprah stopped by Tom Cruise’s Telluride home, where she was met with a “ribs and chicken” (marinated in some sort of Scientology-friendly sauce, I’m sure) lunch.

    Granted, this was no vegan-friendly meal, so Oprah opted for salad, corn on the cob (no butter, of course) and kale.

    Which brings me to a very important point. Well-balanced vegan mealplans need to be researched and planned.

    I believe a vegan lifestyle can be healthy, but it must be looked into carefully prior to taking the plunge.

    If anyone reading this is considering going vegan, be my guest — but speak with a Registered Dietitian or, at the very least, read educational materials (preferably written by RDs) on how to meet your nutrient needs with meat and dairy alternatives.

    Becoming familiar with vegan alternatives and always being prepared (i.e.: carrying a source of protein like nuts or seeds in your bag in a small Ziploc bag) sets you up for success.

    Otherwise — especially when attending an event at a non-vegan’s house who is not familiar with your “diet,” — you run the risk of piling up on side dishes.

    Oprah’s lunch offers very little protein, zinc, iron, and fat. Nibbling on corn and greens is simply not nutritious — or filling!

    The next day — Saturday — Oprah is in Vegas and begins her entry with the following:

    “Tal [the vegan chef ‘assigned’ to Oprah and her team] has Fed-Exed food to Vegas, so we have egg-less omelets for breakfast and lasagna for the plane ride home.”

    Alright, I cry foul. Come on — anyone can do a 21 day vegan/sugar/wheat/alcohol/caffeine cleanse if a vegan chef Fed-Exes them meals!

    I would have liked to see Oprah “keep it real” and traverse the meat-laden obstacle that is Las Vegas.

    In that same posting, Oprah proudly mentions abstaining from having a celebratory glass of champagne.

    I still don’t understand how the shunning of alcohol (or gluten or sugar, for that matter) relates to becoming a more spiritually aware being.

    Besides, any dietary plan that has you obsessing over certain foods and beverages (the “I would like a drink but I am on this clease so as good as that would be I am just going to have seltzer and lime” sentiment has appeared a few times already) needs to be examined more closely.

    Sure, alcohol can be a source of empty calories, so although two drinks a day is not a good idea, not allow yourself one drink two days out of the week?

    The next day, a pooped Oprah mentions the vegan chef dropping off gluten and wheat-free waffles at her house just in time for breakfast. Oh goodie, how convenient!

    It frustrates me to think that viewers of Oprah’s show will blindly follow a similar diet, oblivious of some very necessary nutrients they may miss out on.

    Additionally, this idea that wheat and gluten are evil is misleading and completely subjective; it is only a problem for someone with a gluten allergy or celiac disease.

    This is a perfect example of something applicable to a small percent of the population being heralded as “general nutrition advice”

    Allow me to repeat my plea. Oprah, enough with the fad dieting. You’re a smart, accomplished woman with an immense fan base.

    Next time you want to tackle nutrition, why not invite a panel of Registered Dietitians to share information, debunk myths, and give people practical information they can apply to their daily lives?

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    Show Me The Calories!

    Inspired by the recent New York City ruling requiring all fast food chains to post calorie information, I thought of other companies and places that should abide by a similar law.

    Alas, I made my way to The Food Network website and noticed that caloric information is not available for any of their recipes.

    I decided to conduct a little experiment.

    Armed with a handy dandy calculator, I selected three random recipes, looked up caloric information for each ingredient, and added numbers. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

    Check out the latest Small Bites YouTube video for the results!

    I am not asking for The Food Network to breathe down their chefs’ necks and demand healthier recipes. This is a free country and people should do as they please.

    I realize that many chefs do not have degrees in nutrition and many of them hold the ridiculous belief that nutrition and taste are mutually exclusive.

    I digress. All I am asking for is basic information to help viewers make appropriate choices.

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    Give Birth, Lose Weight!

    The latest issue of Us Weekly features Christina Aguilera’s amazing 40-pound weight loss in just 4 months!

    Something smell fishy? It should.

    For starters, her “before” photo isn’t exactly due to one too many Big Macs.

    And the “40 pounds” figure is slightly misleading.

    Find out more in Small Bites’ latest YouTube video!

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    In The News: Dieting Off The Runway

    Vogue magazine asked Kate and Laura Mulleavy — the sisters behind the highly successful Rodarte fashion line — if they were interested in dieting and working out with a trainer for a feature piece.

    The two women, interested in shaping up and getting healthier, agreed to four months of personal training, home delivered meals, and diary entries to later be published in the fashionista’s Bible.

    After sixteen weeks of training six days a week and consuming approximately 1,300 calories a day, Kate lost thirty pounds; her sister, twenty.

    Needless to say, controversy has erupted.

    “They are perpetuating unrealistic body images,” some claim.

    Others think Vogue is sending out the wrong message that in order to be succesful, one must be thin.

    Now look, I am by no means a fashion guru and am often horrified at the gaunt, clearly underweight bodies that march down runways at fashion shows.

    In this case, though, I don’t see what the problem is.

    It is worth noting that in one of her diaries, Kate writes:

    Funnily enough, just before we received the call from Vogue about this story, Laura and I went to see our doctor for a physical.

    Our mother was worried about out workload and lack of exercise; we wanted to be healthier and balance our stress levels.“

    These were not size 4 models dining on coffee and cigarrettes being told they were “too fat” to walk down a runway (you can see a photo of Kate and Laura prior to their makeover by clicking on their names at the start of this post).

    The Mullavys were also never given the message that if they “wanted to make it” as designers, then they better lose weight.

    They are already accomplished and successful.

    The magazine featured their work — and complimented their designs — several times before this weight loss article was conceived.

    Their present weight is a healthy one — they are not emaciated or displaying unhealthy bodies.

    I also appreciated that their plan consisted of pre-set meals (to ensure that they were nutritionally balanced, rather than just letting the two women figure out how to eat correctly on a 1,300 calorie diet) and implemented exercise under the supervision of a trained professional.

    Another interesting tidbit from their diary entries:

    ““We’ll have wine when we feel like it and cheat on holidays.”

    In short, these are two adult women who chose to participate in something they saw as a way to improve their health.

    In the same way that someone has the right to feel completely content and self-assured with fifteen extra pounds on them, it is also reasonable to expect that there are overweight people who truly want to improve their health and, why not, look better too.

    This was not a challenge the sisters had to complete successfully in order to launch their clothing line.

    At no point do the Mullavys mention doing this to “look hot”, land significant others, or fit into a dream bikini. And, they currently report feeling healthier and more energetic than before.

    I realize they went on a strict eating plan and exercise regimen, but they were not taking diet pills, cutting out food groups, or doing senseless things like subsisting on liquids concoctions made of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and honey for a week (I’m looking at you, Beyoncé).

    The New York Times article quotes Dr. Cynthia Bulik, eating disorders professor at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, who makes a very good point:

    ““I saw more of an emphasis on healthy eating and healthy fitness than an order, ‘You’ve got to lose weight.”

    I do, however, absolutely side with the feminist-thinking folks at Radar magazine, who can’t help but wonder that if Vogue editors are so concerned about people’s health, why don’t they ask a dietitian to have a chat with fashion guru Andre Leon Talley?

    What are your thoughts?

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    In The News: I’m Too Sexy For… This Lunch?

    Delna Weil of Columbia University’s daily newspaper The Columbia Spectator recently picked my brain regarding two of human’s most primal instincts — eating and sex.

    The article is a fun read, deconstructing cultural significances of common — and not so common — foods and offers some very interesting information courtesy of Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director of Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.

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    Addendum to Gary Taubes Post

    Many thanks to reader “Tom Blogical” of Marysville, OH, for providing a link to Sally Squires’ response to Gary Taubes’ 2002 New York Times Magazine article.

    Although the entire article is not available for viewing, you can purchase a copy from The Washington Post for just $3.95.

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    Addendum to Gary Taubes Post

    Many thanks to reader “Tom Blogical” of Marysville, OH, for providing a link to Sally Squires’ response to Gary Taubes’ 2002 New York Times Magazine article.

    Although the entire article is not available for viewing, you can purchase a copy from The Washington Post for just $3.95.

    Share

    In The News: Author Needed for Diet Book, No Experience Necessary

    The Los Angeles Times has a nice little roundup of the latest diet books.

    I was beyond disappointed to see that none of the ten books mentioned are penned by a Registered Dietitian — or even a nutritionist, for that matter.

    Instead, we have organizational gurus, “creativity experts”, computer programmers, psychology professors, and models taking the reins.

    Look, I’m staying off the catwalks and away from HTML coding.

    AKA: I respect your turf, you respect mine… we clear?

    All joking aside, this is precisely why nutrition is misconstrued as a “confusing” subject where guidelines are “always changing.”

    Dietitians have always agreed on general guidelines (cut calories to lose weight, watch sodium and added sugars, cut back on saturated fats, etc.)

    It is everyone else trying to get a share of the weight loss market– with no proper credentials or academic background, but with plenty of unsubstantiated theories — who’s causing all the confusion.

    Even Peter D’Adamo — creator of the overly imaginative “blood type diet” — is back, this time with specific diets for six different “genotypes” (to find out which one you are, you need to consider the length of your index finger, among other physical measures.)

    The only one of these ten books I take seriously is Dean Ornish’s The Spectrum, which encourages readers to make lifestyle changes and habit rehauls to accomplish their health goals, using credible research — and plenty of nutrition knowledge — to make this important point.

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    Me Man. Me No Eat Fiber

    If you were visiting Earth from another planet and relied on media and advertising to fill you in on the intricacies of the human species, you would probably think masculinity is defined, among other things, by taking pride in eating unhealthy foods.

    In 2006, Burger King’s Texas Double Whopper television ad had men admitting to “being fed quiche” and rebelling against “chick food”.

    Now, the folks at Hormel offer another slice of ubermasculinity in this ad for Dinty beef stew (which I scanned from my latest copy of Entertainment Weekly; be sure to scroll all the way down at the link to read the text at the bottom of the ad).

    While not high in calories (a 7.5 ounce can of Dinty beef stew registers at a mere 190 calories), it’s the exorbitant amount of sodium (900 milligrams; almost half a day’s worth) and lack of fiber (a paltry two grams) that taint the nutrition profile of this “manly” product.

    Especially ironic considering that one of the biggest risk factors for developing prostate cancer — a condition so many men fear yet develop at high rates — is a low-fiber diet.

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