Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Happy Holidays

I’m taking a break from ranting and spending some quality down-time with family and friends. I wish you all happy holidays and best wishes for the new year. See you in January!


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Take 10k and a massive portion of guilt with that soda

A recent study published in the Journal of Public Health reportedly found that labeling soft drinks with the amount of exercise a person would have to do to burn off the calories was a far more effective deterrent to consumption than the traditional caloric label. This is an interesting approach but I have a few qualms about it. Apparently the study was done by posting signs outside a corner store. I’m not sure how this would translate onto packaging labels. There is a limited amount of space for placing such information and I don’t think that it should replace the current nutrition information as it contains fewer details. I am also concerned about readability. The most recent statistic I could find indicated that 48% of Canadian adults have substandard literacy rates. I think that it’s really important that we ensure any new labelling be accessible to that half of our population.

Another major concern I have is how this figure is determined. One of the signs used in the study read “Did you know that working off a bottle of fizzy drink or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?”. It’s very difficult to place a figure on the number of calories the “average” person will burn during exercise as our sizes and fitness levels play a huge role in determining how many calories we burn during exercise. According to my Nike+ app I burnt over 500 calories in an approximately 50 minute run yesterday. That’s more than twice the amount suggested by the sign used in the study. I’m a relatively small and fit person, generally someone who is larger and less fit will burn even more calories doing the same amount of exercise. I question whether we should be providing the public with such potentially inaccurate information.

Is this even how we want people to be thinking about food and beverages and exercise? Should we be painting exercise as a punishment for consuming food and drink? Wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to enjoy healthy food that they’ve prepared themselves? And to find an exercise that they can take pleasure from? Yes, as a society we are clearly over-indulging. However, I don’t think that serving up extra portions of guilt with everything we eat is the answer.

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Cheesed Off

We (i.e. us dietitians in my department) recently received a copy of a revamped cookbook geared toward low-income families. To be fair, it was a huge improvement over the previous version. The reliance on canned soup as a base for every recipe was gone. Yet, there was still something about the book that bothered me. It took me a little while to realise that it was the cover design. All the food groups were represented but dairy products dominated both the front and back covers. The back cover also showed that the book was sponsored by a (surprise!) dairy corporation. The fine print inside indicated that it was an “unrestricted educational grant”. While the company may have had no direct input into the content of the book their influence was evident in the cover photo. Even if this grant was “unrestricted” it seems that the authors felt some sort of obligation to their generous sponsor. I realise that it can be very difficult to raise funds for projects such as this. And I appreciate the existence of cookbooks such as this. I just think that this is an unfortunate choice of sponsor. Many of the recipes featured cheese or powdered milk. Cheese is one of the most expensive foods. Perhaps it could be included in one or two recipes but most recipes in a cookbook for low-income families should be cheese-free. As for the powdered milk, a great low-cost way to bump up protein and calcium. It could also be featured in a couple of recipes, not many, a couple. When so many people are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk and dairy products, and many of these products are expensive, I think that their use in recipes for the general low-income population should be limited. It’s a pity they couldn’t have gotten sponsorship from the beans and pulses board. Now those are an affordable and nutritious option that should be heavily featured in any cookbook, not just one intended for low-income families.

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Banana Bread Oatmeal

Want to make your plain breakfast oatmeal a little more exciting? Prepare it as you normally would then stir in a mashed banana. Add in other extras like a teaspoon of cocoa powder and toasted walnuts or pecans. Fast, nutritious, and tasty.

You might also like to try turning your oatmeal into a healthier version of your favourite cookie. For example, add dried cranberries, coconut, and a few chocolate chips. Or pumpkin pie with pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans or milled flax.