Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: @rooted_project

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I’ve been neglecting follow Friday posts. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how most of what I blog about is tearing things apart. Granted, they all deserve our derision… That being said, after ranting a few times about how there’s so much in-fighting in dietetics I thought that maybe in an effort to counterbalance some of that, that I would start devoting my Follow Friday posts to promoting blogs, websites, and initiatives of my fellow RDs.

Since The Rooted Project held their first public event this past week I thought they’d be a great project to start this new positive series off.

The Rooted Project is the brainchild of British dietitians Rosie Saunt and Helen West. Both of whom I’ve mentioned on my blog before. Their aim is to bring evidence-based nutrition to the masses through public panels and events. If you’re in London I recommend keeping an eye on what they have in the works. If you’re not, like me, I recommend following them on twitter.


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Have you heard of banana milk?

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Image by Newtown Graffiti on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Have you heard of banana milk? Apparently it’s poised to be the next plant-based milk alternative. Except it’s not milk. It’s juice.

Maybe banana blended with water is tasty and maybe it makes a great stand-in for actual milk in a latte. I’d be willing to give it a try. But let’s be honest here, it’s banana juice. Nutritionally (and probably favour-wise) there is pretty much no resemblance between a banana blended into water and a glass of cow’s milk.

Of course, banana milk, like almond milk (or any other plant-based milk alternative) sounds a heck of a lot catchier than banana juice or banana water. Unless it’s being fortified like crazy, calling it milk is misleading and could lead to nutrient deficiencies.

When you think of milk you probably think of nutrients like protein, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin D. Calling banana juice “milk” evokes the false perception that this water and banana mixture is also a good source of these nutrients.

According to a recipe I found online for banana milk one serving contains one banana, one cup of water, a dash of cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt. Based on this, and assuming use of a medium banana, the nutrition profile would be: 0.4 grams of fat, 1.2 mg sodium (plus that coming from the pinch of salt maybe about 140 mg), 422.4 mg potassium, 3.1 g fibre, 14 g sugar, 1.3 g protein, 20% DV of vitamin B6, and 7% DV of magnesium. Compare that to the nutrient profile of a cup of 2% milk: 5 grams of fat, 100 mg sodium, 0 g fibre, 12 g sugar, 8 g protein, 29% DV calcium, 26% DV vitamin D, 27% DV riboflavin, and 19% DV vitamin B12. Both have nutritional value but the nutrient profiles for a banana and a glass of milk are also quite different.

Go on and enjoy your banana lattes and whatever other banana juice concoctions you like but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s the same as drinking a glass of milk. It’s not, it’s the same as eating a banana and drinking a glass of water.


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An open letter to grocery stores

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Dear Grocery Stores,

I’ve noticed that over the past few years many of you (especially those that are affiliated with national chains) have moved toward discounts that are only applied to the purchase of multiple units. For example, buy two get one half price or buy four to receive a discount otherwise pay regular price. I implore you to reconsider this promotional model as it only serves to hurt your customers who need the discounts the most.

There are many reasons why these types of promotions are ill-suited to people living on limited incomes. The obvious reason is that of budget. In order to get the discount, more money must be paid up-front. Thus, more money is needed in order to save money. For someone with a tight grocery budget it may not be possible to afford to buy multiple units of a product in order to get the discount.

There are a couple of other reasons why this practice discriminates against people living on limited incomes. For many people living on limited incomes transportation is an issue. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle and have to walk, bike, or bus to the store, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to manage to lug three extra cans of beans home with you just to get the discount. Many people living on limited incomes don’t have stable living situations and may not have anywhere to store more food than is immediately needed.

Offering discounts on the purchase of multiple units only benefits those of us who are fortunate enough to have flexibility in our budgets, access to a car, and space in our kitchens. As much as most of us love getting deals, we are not the ones who truly need them. Please reconsider your promotions model. Work with the companies whose products you sell to develop promotions that don’t necessitate the purchase of multiple units to receive a discount. Do your bit to help those who need discounts the most.

 


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Childhood obesity is not something to be battled

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Image by Mike Mozart on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

“Disappointed” doesn’t cover how I felt reading this article from the CBC. I’m used to hearing people blame individuals for being overweight. It’s always frustrating. However, it’s enraging to see a director of a Childhood Obesity Foundation laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of parents. He should know better than that.

In the article he says that the government should assume some responsibility for “combating childhood obesity” but that “the buck sort of does stop with the family”. So much no.

Obviously parents want to raise healthy children. Yes, it’s the parents who buy and prepare the food for the household. That doesn’t mean that the onus for “combating childhood obesity” should lie with them.

Our society is designed in such a manner as to make healthy choices incredibly difficult. Forget about combating obesity – can I just say how much I hate that wording? We should be talking about fostering health. The proliferation of cheap calorically dense and nutrient light quick and easy meal options makes the unhealthy choice all too easy. The lack of value on time spent cooking and the over-emphasis on time spent at work makes these options all too appealing. There are myriad reasons that children are overweight and/or unhealthy. Most of which stem from societal issues; not from lack of parents caring and trying to do the best for their children.

Tom Warshawski, the director of the Childhood Obesity Foundation gives three tips for parents to “fight childhood obesity”. The first tip is to “take authority”. Stand-up to the Lunchables and big sodas. Fair enough, until our government stand-up for its citizens and makes these types of food less heavily marketed, affordable and available, it really is down to the parents to try to swim against the tide and limit purchases of such items.

Tip number two, sticking to a recommended diet, is one that makes me cringe a little. It’s that damn four-letter word. Sure, ensuring your child, and you, follow a nutritious diet is important for good health. That doesn’t mean that any specific diet regime need be enforced. Being overly strict about food may backfire and lead to disordered eating later in life. Go for nutritious meals that the family enjoys and let there be treats. Try not to take the pleasure out of eating.

Tip number three is that it’s a family battle. While I wholeheartedly agree that the entire family should be making the same healthy choices, I disagree with the way that this is framed. This is not a battle. If you think about food as a battle then you are always going to lose. Food is not the enemy. Healthy eating isn’t an all or nothing scenario. You don’t all have to give-up chips and pop to be healthy. Parents should lead by example and role model healthy eating behaviours and attitudes. Leading their children into battle against food is not doing this.


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The dirty game of fast food charity #MiracleTreatDay #BurgerstoBeatMS

Last week it was “Burgers to Beat MS Day”. A couple of weeks ago it was “Miracle Treat Day”. Each occasion got me a little riled up and I sent out a few snarky tweets about the “occasions”.

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In case you’re not aware of these clever marketing opportunities fundraising initiatives let me give you a quick run down. On Miracle Treat Day (I feel wrong capitalizing this, these days aren’t worthy of anything more than lowercase) $1 from every blizzard sold in the US and Canada was donated to participating Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Burgers to Beat MS is pretty much the same except it’s $1 from A&W teen burger sales going to the MS Society of Canada. These are just two examples of fast food aligning themselves with healthcare to detract from the fact that regular consumption of fast food contributes to a number of diseases.

It’s a total win-win. The fast food corporation comes out looking like they’re doing amazing things to cure disease and improve the lives of sick children. They also make money while doing it ($1 is not the cost of a teen burger or a blizzard and most people will buy more than the one item). The hashtags are all over twitter for the day garnering free positive publicity for the company which surely boosts sales well after the one day promotion ends. You really can’t fault the fast food companies for creating such initiatives. I also don’t fault the people buying the blizzards and the burgers. Who doesn’t want to be made to feel like they’re doing a good deed by eating a delicious blizzard or burger? If you can help suffering children or cure MS by eating a treat, why not? The real fault lies with the hospitals and MS Society, and all the other organizations that willingly embrace this form of fundraising. Of course, to be fair, the real real fault lies with the lack of government funding for these vital organizations but the buck has to stop somewhere and I think that hospitals and organizations promoting health should not associate themselves with fundraisers that promote illness.

I’d also like to get people thinking a little bit more critically about charitable fundraising. Dairy Queen proudly proclaims that in 2015, over $5 million was donated to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the US and Canada as a result of Miracle Treat Day. In 2014, international DQ sales were $4.1 billion and Dairy Queen was one of the world’s top performing fast food chains. That $5 million that sounds like so much to us average people is less than pennies to DQ. It’s about 0.12% of total sales. $5 million is next to nothing for one hospital’s budget, let alone spread amongst the 170 hospitals in the network. That’s $29, 411 per hospital; about 10% of the cost of an MRI machine or nearly 7% of the salary for one pediatric surgeon. Whereas, assuming the average blizzard size purchased is a medium, DQ is pocketing about $15 million in sales from Miracle Treat Day. This is solely from the sale of blizzards alone, on one day. In comparison, A&W’s Burgers to Beat MS has resulted in a paltry $8 million in donations to the MS Society of Canada over the past seven years.

How sad is it that hospitals and organizations like the MS Society are so desperate for funding that they’re willing to provide marketing for fast food chains and to encourage the consumption of less than nutritious foods for a little more funding?

No, I am not opposed to burgers and blizzards. However, I don’t think that we need to be encouraged to consume these foods anymore than we already do. How does raising a little money for one chronic disease justify the development of other chronic diseases incurred by the regular consumption of fast food? At what expense are these “healthcare” organizations willing to get a few bucks? I know that many people think “it’s just one treat” but when it’s something you’re only buying because you’re being made to feel good about it by the charity aspect and these events are happening on the regular it’s never “just one”. It’s part of a broader problem in our food environment. There’s constant justification for the consumption of treats and foods that should be consumed infrequently. There is no excuse for promoting heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and type two diabetes under the guise of supporting hospitals and health charities.

I implore the hospitals and charities not to participate in such fundraising endeavours. I beg the government to start allocating more of my tax dollars to healthcare funding; especially toward health promotion and disease prevention.

It’s not all on the government and organizations though. As long as we as consumers continue to support these promotions with our money, our mouths, and our hashtags, the companies and organizations involved will continue to conduct them. The next time one of these days comes around please consider donating the money you would have spent on fast food to a charity of your choice. If you do participate in the fundraiser please don’t share it on social media. Dairy Queen, A&W, and all of the other fast food chains don’t need your free advertising.