bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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More on the return to home ec.


I’ve been hearing a lot about the push for home economics (especially food skills) to return to high schools (as a mandatory course) in Ontario. I’m completely behind this idea. That being said, we were talking about that back when I worked in public health and that was more than two years ago (and I’m sure that the conversation predated my time). I’m not going to hold my breath.


I also think that we need to go further than reintroducing a re-vamped sexier home ec. in high schools. We need to catch kids when they’re young. Many elementary schools now have gardens which are a great way to teach children about growing, harvesting, and preparing food. They’re also great places for teaching children about math and other core subjects. I think that food literacy should be one of these school subjects. Children should receive more education about food and nutrition than the occasional food guide or guest dietitian presentation in health class.


If we want children to develop healthy habits for life then we need to show them what healthy living is. It’s not enough to ban cookies in the cafeterias. Our goal should be that no student should finish their school without knowing that carrots have green tops, they don’t come in cans, how to grow vegetables with or without a yard, how to prepare basic nutritious meals, how to slice and dice. We have to eat every day and we shouldn’t be allowing any more children to grow-up without the skills to feed themselves.


Will eating hummus make you skinny?

I was flipping through the latest Chatelaine on my lunch break the other day and came across a “nutrition bite” about how hummus is the “New skinny dip”. Apparently a recent study found that people who eat hummus also tend to “eat more fibre and healthy polyunsaturated fats and less sugar and overall fat than people who didn’t” eat hummus. In addition, the waist sizes of people who ate hummus were “on average two inches smaller than those who avoided the dip.”

Chatelaine’s conclusion? That hummus is “a slam dunk”. My conclusion? That people who eat healthy diets tend to eat healthy diets and be thinner than people who eat unhealthy diets. Hummus is just one food that can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. It’s not a magical weight loss elixir.

If you enjoy hummus (and you should!) then go ahead and continue to enjoy it. However, if you don’t enjoy hummus don’t feel like you’re doomed to a life of obesity and Doritos. There are plenty of other healthy foods that you can consume. And don’t think that you can add hummus to an otherwise unhealthy diet and lose weight. Putting hummus on those Doritos doesn’t make them healthy.

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Follow Friday: Stop Weight Loss Competitions in the Workplace


Not long after I started my current job I had a few people ask me to spearhead a “Biggest Loser” program for staff. I declined to do so as I don’t feel that such an approach to weight (and weight loss) is healthy. This article, shared with me by a former co-worker from my days in public health, pretty nicely sums up my thoughts about such workplace competitions. 

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Children of the Quorn


I found this post by CSPI (the Centre for Science in the Public Interest) calling for the ban of Quorn products in the US a little puzzling.

For those wondering, apparently Quorn is a “vat grown fungus” used in vegetarian meat product substitutes. Yes, I know, it sounds revolting to us omnivores. Personally, I think that plants (and I suppose fungi) should be proud to be themselves and not masquerade as meat. Putting that aside, apparently it’s quite popular. It’s not available in Canada because the CFIA has not tested, and therefore, not approved it for sale, as far as I can tell.

The FDA has approved the sale of Quorn products in the US but, based on reports of allergic reactions, the CSPI is calling for retailers to stop selling Quorn and for people who have experienced allergic reactions to report them to CSPI. If Quorn is toxic then, yes, it should not be sold. However, I can’t quite comprehend limiting the sale of a food simply because some people are allergic to it. Why not call for grocery stores to stop carrying peanut butter, soy, scallops, or any other common allergen?

Consumers should be aware that consuming Quorn may cause them to have an adverse reaction. They can make their own decisions from there. Unless there is more reason than this to believe that Quorn poses a significant risk, I say let the vegetarians eat their Quorn.

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Why you should read the ingredients


A couple of weeks ago, a study of packaged foods in the US showed that many of them listing 0% trans-fat on the labels actually still contained trans-fat. Many dietitians said, “No shit”. This is why reading the ingredients is often more valuable than reading the nutrition facts panel.

Many manufacturers use trans-fat in their food products but also use a serving size that allows them to report the amount of trans-fat per serving as being 0%. Until trans-fats are banned, what can you do about this? One, you can read the ingredient list. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated”. That’s your trans-fat. Avoid foods containing any partially hydrogenated ingredients. Two, make your own food. When you make it yourself you can decide what goes into your food. Use as few highly-processed packaged foods as possible. I know that it’s not realistic to expect that everyone is going to start cooking and baking everything at home. Be savvy. Do what you can. Aim for packaged foods with as few ingredients as possible. And remember that while you may be saving time in the short-term by buying frozen dinners, you’ll likely lose time in the long-run.