bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: Dietitians for Professional Integrity

I started this blog as an outlet to rant about nutrition myths and other nutrition-related topics that raised my ire. I may not always state things in the most diplomatic manner. My goal is to get people thinking and questioning things and sometimes I voice my opinions in a provocative manner to do so. If I’m wrong about a topic or if there is no “right” or “wrong” but you have a differing opinion I’m happy to hear it and will post it in the comments section for others to obtain additional viewpoints.

One of my top ranting topics has been Dietitians of Canada and their symbiotic relationship with the food industry. As such, I’m more than happy to throw my support behind an initiative out of the US (who are experiencing similar issues with their national dietetic organization: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) called Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Please go and “like” their Facebook page. If you are a dietitian, I urge you to consider contributing a Statement of Concern or simply to share your personal experiences on their wall.

It took me a few weeks to muster up the courage and write my Statement of Concern (posted below). The retweets, comments of support, and new followers help me to feel confident that I’m doing the right thing. If we don’t stand-up for ourselves and what we believe in we will never see the change that we desire. Let’s work together to make our national dietetic organizations what we need them to be. Kudos to RD Andy Bellatti for spearheading this campaign.

Statement of Concern:

I’ve had a couple of fellow RDs ask me to submit a statement of concern to support the efforts of Dietitians for Professional Integrity in their efforts to pry Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and Dietitians of Canada back out of the pockets of the food industry. A recent event has made me feel both less comfortable with doing this and obligated to do this.

 

When I was student I was a member of DC. I wanted to be involved and obtain current nutrition information from our national organization. It was also an asset when applying to internship programs. However, I was disgusted with the amount of propaganda I received in the mail. Every single package I received from DC contained information from food industry sponsors. I received numerous coupons (includes ones for bologna!), which I was suggested to “share with clients”. After I was accepted into the internship program I allowed my membership to lapse, as I was uncomfortable with the ties between DC and the food industry.

 

I have been vocally critical of DC on my personal blog over the past year and a half. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for an organization that is comprised of nutrition professionals and students to receive sponsorship from the food industry. I view this as a major conflict of interest. How can we be viewed as credible providers of nutritional best practice if we’re funded by the food industry?

 

Apparently, I’ve stepped on some toes with my comments. That brings me to the recent event that compelled me to add my voice to this cause. It was suggested to me, by my provincial dietetic association, that I remove my comments about DC from my blog. I was told that these comments were unprofessional and did a disservice to dietitians (among other things). After much consideration I decided that this attempt to silence me would instead provide me with the impetus to raise my voice more loudly. If we are not allowed to have a critical discourse, and not allowed to comment on actions of an organization that is meant to represent us, how will we ever see positive change?


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Dietitians of Canada remove themselves from corporate sponsors back pockets!

Exciting news: at the close of Nutrition Month it seems that Dietitians of Canada has heard the pleas of many of us Canadian dietitians. As of next year they will no longer be accepting sponsorship from the food industry! This means members will no longer receive coupons for such products as bologna, nutrition posters prominently featuring pork, or fact sheets developed by multinational soft drink companies. This also means that Nutrition Month will be about improving the nutrition of the general population as it will no longer be driven by the agendas of sponsors such as Dairy Farmers of Canada and Hellman’s Mayonnaise. In the long-term it may even mean the elimination of Milk and Alternatives as a food group on Canada’s Food Guide. Imagine the possibilities that can be explored by a national dietetic body driven solely by scientifically proven nutrition research and common sense!

 

 

April Fools! If only it were true…


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Are you getting enough vegetables?

After a month of “busting” nutrition myths it seems only fitting to end with Canada’s Food Guide. Thanks for reading all month and I hope that you’ll continue to read as I return to my regularly scheduled ranting.
Myth 20: It’s too hard to eat all the vegetables and fruit recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“It’s easier than you think! Canada’s Food Guide recommends adults enjoy seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. That might sound like a lot, but serving sizes are not very big. For example, a medium fruit or half a cup of vegetables is all it takes to get one serving…”
What I say:
It is hard to eat all the vegetables and fruit recommended in CFG. That’s why you see campaigns like 5 a Day. If it was easy then we’d be seeing more than half of all adult Canadians eating the recommended number of food guide servings but we’re not. In 2008, 46.7% of Canadians reported consuming vegetables and fruit five or more times a day (Stats Can). Keep in mind that the minimum recommended number of Food Guide servings per day is seven, not five. Imagine how much lower the number of Canadians meeting the actual recommendations would be! So, should we lower the number of recommended servings to better match Canadian diets, just like the physical activity guidelines did? Probably not, it’s good to aim high. Just don’t feel badly if you’re not eating eight servings of vegetables and fruit a day. I know that on most days I’m definitely not. Put away your food guide and try to focus on eating a balanced, primarily plant-based diet and you should be okay.


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Are artificial sweeteners even better than the real thing?

Myth 31: Artificial sweeteners have too many chemicals to be healthy.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“Artificial sweeteners can be part of healthy eating. Health Canada approves all sweeteners for safety before they can be sold in Canada. health Canada also develops strict guidelines for how food producers can use a sweetener, as well as advice on how much is safe to eat each day. Artificial sweeteners add a sweet taste while limiting calories and can be enjoyed in moderation, as part of a healthy diet.”
What I say:
Oh boy, this is a contentious one. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to address it or not. Putting aside the obvious fact that everything is composed of chemical compounds, yep, you and all the food you eat… I know that, to-date, studies have shown that these artificial sweeteners are safe to consume. However, I’m still inclined to suggest having a little bit of a natural sweetener rather than a manufactured sweetener. We are the guinea pigs in the long-term study of the effects of non-nutritive artificial sweeteners. I also think that use of these artificial sweeteners may lead to over consumption. Just like when we took fat out of snack foods and then found out that people ended up actually eating more calories from sugar. But I’m just one of those people who thinks “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. I used to eat foods sweetened with these non-nutritive sweeteners but I found that I became sensitized to the taste. Now, I find that I can’t enjoy yoghurt and cereals that contain them. Instead, I have plain yoghurt mixed with thawed frozen berries (fresh local berries in the summer) and cereal with no added sugar. That’s my personal preference. If you enjoy artificially sweetened foods I can’t give you a legitimate scientific reason not to continue to do so. However, I personally feel that you are better to have a small amount of real caloric sweetener (e.g. maple syrup, honey, or sugar) to satisfy your sweet tooth and try to choose more foods that don’t contain any form of sweetener.


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Do you have time to cook supper tonight?

Myth 11: Cooking meals at home takes way too much time.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“Getting a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table doesn’t take as much time as you think. Simple, nutritious foods can make tasty meals, and planning meals in advance lets you use your time wisely. For example, try making “planned extras” (Leftovers on purpose) that can be used for another meal, or make big batches of food on weekends, freeze small portions and defrost on nights when time is tight. Cooking at home doesn’t mean never using convenience foods, like pre-washed, ready-to-eat vegetables or pre-cut fresh meat skewers, can be time savers that help get meals to the table quickly.”
What I say:
Full disclosure: As a single person I can’t really know the realities of being a working parent and trying to feed a family. I am also an anomaly in that I cook full family size recipes on the weekend, portion out and freeze for lunches and suppers throughout the week. I go to the gym or run after work and I have no desire to cook a meal by the time I’ve gotten home and showered. I don’t even want to wait the half hour that a quick meal would take, the two minutes to reheat something is plenty long enough for me. It’s easy for me to fit enough food in the freezer for myself and to cook enough on the weekend. I can imagine that this system would be a lot more complicated if I was also feeding three other people. However, I don’t think most people are fitness junkies like I am so that gym time could be put toward meal prep. (Even if you are, it is still possible to cook post-gym, I have done it when necessary.) If you’re part of a couple, try cooking together or dividing the duties (e.g. if one cooks, the other cleans). If you have children get them involved in the process. Bonus: picky kids are far more likely to eat a meal if they’ve had a hand in making it. Try doing all the washing and chopping of veg the night before, or make slow cooker meals so that you don’t have too much to do when you get home in the evening. Nutritious meals can be hugely time-consuming to prepare, they can also take as little time as 20 minutes. There are lots of 30-minute-or-less healthy cookbooks out there. While I think sometimes they’re mistaken about how much time things actually take when you’re not a professional chef (really Jamie Oliver, mustard chicken, quick dauphinoise, greens, and black forest affogato all in under 30 minutes!?) there are some great ideas out there and you can build up a repertoire of quick and healthy meals with a little practice.