bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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More on the return to home ec.

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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.


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Why you should read the ingredients

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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.


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Follow Friday: All of the low-carb diet blogs

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When the news about the new “low-carb diet is the best long-term weight loss diet” came out I fleetingly considered writing about it. In the moment that I took to think about it, pretty much everyone else had covered it. So… Rather than reinvent the wheel. Here are some links to posts that say pretty much everything I would have said (and then some):

James Fell on Six Pack Abs: New Study: What is low carb good for

Karmal Patel on Examine.com: Is low-carb really the best weight loss diet?

Yoni Freedhoff on Weighty Matters: What I actually learned by reading that low-carb is best study

Julia Belluz on Vox: The one thing you need to know about weight loss and diet studies

There’s more, but that’s probably more than enough reading for now. I’m off to The Canteen for a sandwich. See you Monday!

 


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Don’t let them eat KD; only the best for the poor

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I had a mixed reaction reading this article about a food bank rejecting “unhealthy” food items last week. Of course, I think that they should reject opened packages and half-eaten items. It’s extremely insulting that anyone would “donate” things like a package of opened pepperoni sticks to the food bank. A donation box is not synonymous with a garbage can. However, removing items such as Kraft dinner or candy is not right.

 

It’s understandable that the food bank staffer(s) doing this think that people relying on food banks deserve to have healthy food. I’m sure that this culling of donations is done with the best of intentions. However, it’s not the place of the food bank staff to decide what food items are suitable for patrons. They should certainly remove any potentially hazardous expired, damaged, or opened items. They should not remove items based on perceived nutritional shortcomings.

 

Everyone, including those in need, are deserving of a treat now and then. The food bank patrons can decide whether or not they wish to take a package of Swedish Berries. That’s not a decision to be made by anyone else. Removing these items in advance (and what’s being done with them? Are they just being pitched?) reeks of elitism. Also, considering that most donation boxes are only able to accept non-perishable food items, this leaves limited donation options. People who are donating may not be wealthy either, but they may be able to afford an extra box of Kraft Dinner to donate when it goes on special.

 

Another problem with the proclamation that food bank patrons deserve healthy food is that many people to not have the facilities or abilities to cook even basic meals at home. Do you know what to do with a turnip? A can of chickpeas? (Okay, I know that you’re not the masses). Many people don’t. Donating many of these items to food banks simply leads to more waste. I don’t want to discourage you from donating these things. Unfortunately, the reality is that these are often the last items to go.

 

If you really want to make a donation that will help, donate money or time to your local food bank or community kitchen.


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Why you should eat these 6 “fat-burning” snacks (clickbait)

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While Dr Oz is supposedly going to dial down his “enthusiasm” for useless weight loss supplements, it seems that he’s not going to dial down his enthusiasm for “fat-burning” foods. Sigh.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this post on his website. I didn’t even bother clicking through to see all of the magical “fat-burning snacks”. I mean, we all know that this is a load of bunk, right? Food will not “burn fat”. End of story.

Instead of going through each food in his list and saying why the claims that they are fat-burners are foolish, I’m going to go through each food and provide you with the real deal about them.

Figs

One large fresh fig is a good source of fibre (just shy of 2 grams). It’s also got some potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium*. They’re also delicious.

Beans

Well, I don’t really know anyone who snacks on beans. Maybe some bean salad or chickpea blondies or something. Regardless, beans are one of the most underrated foods. One half cup of cooked kidney beans is an excellent source of fibre with over 5 grams and protein with over 7 grams! They’re also a great source of folate, vitamin K, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, iron, and more. They’re also very affordable and are a great meat alternative in a meal. If you buy dried beans, make sure that you soak them well, and change the water a few times before cooking to remove as many of the gas-causing oligosaccharides as possible. If you buy canned beans, make sure you rinse them well, for the same reason, and if there’s added salt, to remove up to 40% of the sodium.

Licorice

We’re not talking about candy here. We’re talking about pure licorice root. Which, according to Oz, is available at health food stores. It’s not something I’ve seen here. I can’t vouch for it as a tasty, nor as a healthy snack. In fact, there are some cautions against it as a dietary supplement for some individuals. It may increase blood pressure, lower potassium levels, and induce labour in pregnant women. Another case of the naturalistic fallacy. Just because a food/supplement is “natural” does not mean that it’s a wise or safe choice.

Watermelon

Ooh! I love watermelon! I don’t have air conditioning so my favourite way to cool off when my apartment gets hot in the summer is to snack on frozen watermelon cubes. It’s pretty much like eating sweet water with a few vitamins thrown in for good measure. One cup, is a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A. It’s also a source of potassium.

Pistachios

Another one that I love. Pistachios are easy to over-do though. Make sure you portion them out so you don’t wind-up eating the better part of a large bag in one sitting! One ounce is a great source of protein (6 grams), and fibre (just shy of 3 grams). They’re also a good source of Vitamin K, thiamine, Vitamin B6, folate, and lots of minerals; including, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

Pine nuts

These suckers are expensive! Not something I can afford to snack on. I sometimes replace them in pesto with other nuts to save money. They’re also not that spectacular on their own so I wouldn’t waste my money (or my calories) snacking on them. That being said, one ounce contains just under 4 grams of protein, and are a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Niacin, iron, magnesium, zinc, and manganese (124% of the %DV!!!).

*I used SELF Nutrition Data for all of the nutrient information contained in this post