Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: @BrightonHealth

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The best part of this Follow Friday RD feature is that I get to meet amazing dietitians who I might otherwise never have known.

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Mary Brighton (thanks to Michele from last week). Mary’s a dietitian from the US who’s now based in France. She has FOUR kids which I think gives her expertise in child and adolescent nutrition some serious street cred. She’s actually in the process of writing a guidebook on feeding teens that combines her dietetic knowledge and experience in France. For a taste of what this book might bring, you should check-out her post on Eight Food Rules for Feeding Hungry Teens. It’s full of great practical advice on how to navigate the rapidly changing teen appetite.

For more nutrition information, recipes, and wellness tips from Mary, check out her website: Brighton Your Health. If you’re a facebooker, go like her page.

If you know a dietitian who I should feature in a future Follow Friday post please send me their info!


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Down with “cake culture”

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Shout out to the Faculty of Dental Surgery at Britain’s Royal College of Surgeons for taking one for the team. At the start of the year they released this statement encouraging workplaces to “cut cake culture”. Which prompted opinion pieces such as this one: Royal College of Surgeons’ warning on ‘cake culture’ leaves sour taste. What a nice change it is to have another profession being smeared as food police. Dietitians welcome you to the club with open arms.

In all seriousness though, as a dietitian and a human who works in an office and who eats food (and even cake), I wholeheartedly support the statement by the Faculty of Dental Surgery. Sugary treats have become the standard in our culture. Many workplaces have cakes for birthdays, retirements, wedding showers, baby showers, holidays, promotions, pretty much any occasion we can come up with. Maybe these celebratory cakes wouldn’t be such a big deal if they weren’t just one piece of a larger ultra-processed excessive food environment. Unfortunately, they are and we can’t just look at a celebratory workplace cake in isolation. We also need to consider the fact that there are other “treats” in the workplace. Food at meetings, well-meaning coworkers bringing in homemade goodies, leftovers from meetings, candy bowls, vending machines, potlucks, rewards of pizza or meals out. These are just the landmines that people must navigate while at work. Outside of work there’s fast food outlets everywhere, there’s food for sale near the checkout in nearly every store (I’m looking at you Canadian Tire, HomeSense, Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, et al), nearly every social interaction involves food. Workplace cakes are no longer the innocent celebratory treats that they were in the past.

The opinion piece is disdainful of the stance of the Faculty of Dental Surgery on workplace cakes. The author believes that energy would be better spent focusing on workplaces conditions such as that we’re never really “off” or packing people into cubicles like “battery hens”. Also worthy causes but not exactly within the purview of dentists. There’s also the logical fallacy of framing the argument as if one can care about workplace cakes or one can care about “real” problems in workplaces. This doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. I can be concerned about my workplace food environment and other workplace conditions at the same time. The author then goes on to raise additional workplace food environment issues. Certainly proper meal breaks, access to nutritious food, and a culture that values long workdays over productivity and work-life balance are all important concerns. Again, not so much from a dental perspective. However, they along with the “cake culture”, all play a role in our ability to make healthy choices.

Questioning the need to celebrate every occasion with cake is not an attack on women, as much as the author might like us to believe. What’s worse here: offending the fictional Margaret by limiting the number of occasions at which she can bring in cake, or failing to provide a supportive food environment for all staff? Anyhow, if the right approach is taken, there should be no offence caused.

Creating a positive food environment at work can be difficult. Food and emotion and reward are so closely intertwined in our society. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. With time, understanding, and diplomacy it is possible to make real positive change at work. No one should be acting as the food police, and no one should be acting as a food “pusher”. We all need to be more understanding of the fact that for many people a piece of cake is not a simple pleasure.

If you’d like to create a healthy food environment at your workplace, or are just curious about the idea, I highly recommend checking out the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professional’s Toolkit: Creating a Healthy Workplace Nutrition Environment. This toolkit can help you figure out where to start with creating a healthy nutrition environment at work, how to get buy-in, and provide you with many other resources.


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Follow Friday: @Taste_Workshop

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Michele Redmond is a chef and dietitian in Arizona who’s passion is helping people live well through enjoyment of food. She refers to herself as a “food enjoyment eating activist”  (love it!) and says that she has no patience for promoting restrictive eating as a solution to obesity – AMEN to that! She wants to help people create their own healthy eating environments where “food is a solution, not a problem”.

When I asked Michele if there was anything in particular she’d like me to share about her, she said that she’s planning to launch her own blog next month where she’ll be ranting about “our crazy food/eating culture” so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can find Michele on twitter at @Taste_Workshop or on her website The Taste Workshop. Her website has information about current and past events on great topics like knife skills and cooking with fermented dairy.

When Monika (last week’s Follow Friday) suggested Michele for a Follow Friday post she told me that Michele has helped her with recipe development and that she’s “big on helping people feel confident about appreciating how our sense of taste works”. Thanks for introducing us Monika!

If you know a dietitian who I should feature in a Follow Friday post, please send me your nomination(s)!

 


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A “no seconds” policy will only feed disordered eating habits

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When I saw the headline “Could enforcing a ‘no seconds’ policy at dinner time help combat childhood obesity?” I thought “I hope this isn’t as awful as I think it’s going to be”. I’m sorry to say that it was every bit as awful as it sounded, and then some.

I was horrified to read the following in the first paragraph: “doctors are warning that parents should ban their children from second helpings to protect them from becoming overweight”. It didn’t get any better. This suggestion was based on research by a behavioural obesity researcher. The crux of her argument being that children are becoming overweight and obese because their parents are allowing them to stuff their greedy little faces at mealtimes. She is quoted as saying: “all parents should be being vigilant about portion control, so a no seconds policy” so, unfortunately, it would seem that her opinions are not being misrepresented.

Apparently the reason that many children are becoming overweight and obese is because they’re eating 12 more calories at every meal than they need. I’d just like to point out that if this were in fact the case, then these children would not be getting sufficient calories for healthy growth and development if they were denied seconds as a second helping of nearly anything would likely exceed 12 calories. Twelve calories of most foods would amount to a minuscule quantity.

According to Dr Llewellyn (the researcher mentioned above), “Some children are unable to regulate what they eat for themselves and many will not turn down food, even if they are not hungry”. Indeed, there are some children with genetic disorders, such as Prader-Willi Syndrome who are constantly hungry. However, disorders such as PWS affect about 1 out of every 15, 000 children born. That’s nowhere near the third of children estimated to be overweight or obese.

I think that enforcing no seconds policies will only lead to increased rates of disordered eating. Most children are born with the innate ability to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full. Most children unlearn this ability as they get older and are encouraged by parents to clean their plates, are bombarded by food advertisements, observe the eating habits of family members, are served excessively large portions at meals, are offered treats and snacks throughout the day, etc.

More important than a theoretical excess 12 calories at each meal that a child may or may not be consuming is the formation of a healthy relationship to food. Arbitrarily placing limits on servings at mealtime will only feed an unhealthy relationship with food. This sort of thing teaches children not to trust their hunger cues, having the opposite of the intended effect. It teaches children that food is emotionally wrought. Denying hungry children food teaches them that they cannot trust their appetites and may also teach them that their self worth is measured on the scale. Pretty much the definition of an unhealthy relationship with food.

Rather than making mealtimes a minefield, parents should be role modelling healthy attitudes and eating habits. They should be providing their children with nutritionally balanced meals at regular times and allowing their children to decide when they’re full. Whether that mean that they leave food on their plates or ask for more.


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Follow Friday: @HipVeggies #ff

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In contrast to last week’s Follow Friday, this week we bring you Hip Veggies (aka Monika Woolsey). A dietitian in Arizona who tirelessly promotes local produce. She founded Hip Veggies in 2012 to bring together artists and food professionals to “promote locally grown produce, support local artists, and raise awareness of and support local hunger relief organizations”.  

You can purchase one of the bags from Hip Veggies on their website. You get a cute tote bag, and you support a hunger relief organization in Phoenix; win-win! Looking for some foodspiration? Check out the recipe section of the site.

When I asked Monika if there was anything in particular she’d like me to share with you, she told me that she forages and cooks with a lot of native desert foods. She also does some recipe development as part of her work to help customers more comfortable with novel produce from local farms. She’s also very excited to be starting her fourth season with her favourite veggie crushers, the the Milwaukee Brewers :)

Follow Monika/Hip Veggies on twitter @HipVeggies for a great mix of informative articles and humorous tweets.

Thanks to Rebecca Subbiah for nominating Hip Veggies for a Follow Friday post. If you have an RD you’d like to see featured in a future FF post please let me know!