Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Magical fat burning snacks

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As long as there continue to be articles about fat-burning foods I’m going to have to continue to write blog posts to counteract them. The latest to enter my radar was 20 Snacks That Burn Fat on health.com. A website that seems to be almost entirely devoted to magical food beliefs.

Without even looking at what these snacks are I can tell you that there is no such thing as a “fat burning” food. Food (with a few rare exceptions that some would argue are not actually food) contains calories. Calories provide us with energy to move and function and survive. Despite what diet gurus would have us believe, they are essential to life. Without sufficient calories we will starve to death. Of course, eating more than we need to perform daily activities will result in the storage of that excess energy as fat. This will occur with the overconsumption of any food. Yes, even those foods touted as “fat burning”.

What makes people believe that some foods have the magical ability to result in net energy loss? Generally it’s based on the misinterpretation of the thermic effect of food (TEF) and the indigestibility of some components of certain foods. TEF is higher for some foods, such as those high in protein and hot spices, than in others. Basically, all it means is that a greater amount of energy is needed to digest those foods than others with lower thermic effects. For example, if you eat a butter cookie, you’re going to absorb a greater percentage of the calories in that cookie than you would if you ate a bunch of nuts because your digestive system needs to expend more energy to digest nuts than it does to digest simple carbs and fat.

Regardless of the level of spice in a food, protein, or the quantity of indigestible components, such as cellulose and some types of fibre, no food is going to result in negative net calories and no food is going to specifically target and deplete fat stores in your body. Instead of forcing yourself to scarf a bunch of celery because you want to lose weight and then eating a box of cookies because you’re hungry and miserable, try focusing on nourishing your body and enjoying your food. Think less about weight and more about how you feel. There are no magic weight loss foods but it’s pretty amazing how much better you feel when you eat mostly whole foods and break free from the diet mindset.

 


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Follow Friday: Holiday donations

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This holiday season, if you’re like me, you have people on your list who are nearly impossible to shop for. Giving a donation to a worthy organization in their name is a great way to give back and honour them. Of course, there are plenty of food drives and opportunities to help people with immediate needs, but if you want to go beyond that and attempt to have more of a lasting impact with your donation, here are a few food-related organizations you might want to consider donating to:

Community Food Centres Canada has locations throughout the country and grew out of The Stop in Toronto. The Stop began as a food bank but became so much more. Now community food centres offer food literacy education; opportunities to grow and cook food with fellow community members. Many have markets and serve as hubs for community members to come together over food. This holiday season you can make a donation in a loved one’s name to your local centre, or to the organization in general through their “My Food Hero” campaign.

The World Food Programme is a donation-based organization working to fight hunger and promote food security around the world. You can learn more about donating to them, or others ways you can help here.

Food Secure Canada is devoted to bringing a national food policy to our country. Their goals are: “zero hunger, healthy and safe food, sustainable food systems.” In addition, they provide education opportunities for anyone who’s interested through webinars and conferences. You can support their work here.

On a local level, you might consider donating your time or money to a community garden, community oven, community kitchen, food security network, or a poverty roundtable.

I’m sure that there are loads more worthy organizations, these are just a few that came to mind. Feel free to add more in the comments.


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Doctors giving nutrition advice probably shouldn’t reference Pete Evans

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I saw this article last week and had mixed feelings about it. I know that we were all supposed to read it and be horrified that a doctor was reprimanded for giving patients nutrition advice. After all, shouldn’t doctors be doing more to help patients manage their health through lifestyle changes? But… there’s so much that this article doesn’t tell us.

Just to start by clearing the air, obviously you all know that I’m a dietitian. Of course I’m going to feel a little defensive of my profession. The orthopaedic surgeon in question was undermining recommendations given by dietitians at the hospital where he worked. All because he had studied some nutrition on his own. Can you even imagine the outrage that would occur if the tables were turned and a dietitian undermined advice given by a doctor?! I’m certain that the RD would lose her (or his) licence, not just be given a slap on the wrist and told to stop working outside the scope of their practice.

Everyone think that they’re experts in nutrition simply because they eat (yes that’s hyperbole, please don’t send me your #notalleaters comments). So many people believe that doctors are all knowing. Unfortunately, it would seem that some doctors fall prey to this mode of thought as well. Doctors specialize. A doctor who works in oncology is going to have an entirely different knowledge-base and skill set from a doctor who works in neurosurgery. Doctors should not be expected to know everything. Yes, family doctors should be better equipped to provide nutrition advice but an orthopaedic surgeon should defer to the dietitians on-staff. It takes an incredibly high level of self regard to believe that you are more of an expert in a field in which you did a little self-study than a regulated health professional who studied the subject for over four years, is immersed in it on the job, and who must complete on-going education to maintain their credentials.

There’s some amazing irony in the article as well. The author references a television episode with the doctor in question and celebrity chef Pete Evans. For those who are unaware, Evans is a notorious charlatan and has faced entirely warranted criticism for promoting unsafe infant diets amongst other questionable nutrition practices. A few paragraphs down, the author goes on to say:

In addition there are numerous unqualified “gurus” giving advice about what we should and should not be eating. Surely it is preferable to have a doctor giving nutrition advice rather than unqualified individuals, many of whom have a product or program to sell.

Um HELLO??? Pete Evans is the epitome of the unqualified guru with a product to sell. Just prior to this statement, the author even admitted that the majority of doctors receive very little formal nutrition education. So, no. It’s not preferable to have a wholly unqualified doctor providing nutrition advice to people. In a way, it’s worse than having a self-proclaimed “guru” providing nutrition advice because people trust their doctors.

If the doctors referred to in the article truly cared about the well-being of their patients they would refer to appropriate professionals when needed, including registered dietitians. They should also work together with those professionals to provide the best care possible for their patients. Rather than assuming that they have superior knowledge of a subject which they were not adequately trained in.

How about rather than complaining foul when someone is rightly called-out for practicing outside their scope of practice, we talk about the real problem here. That our healthcare system is designed to treat illness rather than prevent it from developing in the first place.


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Follow Friday: @ShizknitsShop

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Okay, this has nothing to do with nutrition or dietitians, sorry. Since it’s my blog, I can blog what I want to, right? I promise we’ll be back to our regular scheduled ranting next week. For today though, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve opening an etsy shop.

If you’re looking for some warm quality hand knit socks for yourself, or a loved one, I’ve got you covered at Shizknits. I’ll probably be adding some other items as time goes on, but for now it’s just socks.

You can also follow the shop on Twitter and on Instagram.


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Follow Friday: @prettylilgrub

Snuck out of camping for some alone time. 8 miles done. #neversettle #beatyesterday

A photo posted by Jen Rawson – Calgary, AB (@prettylittlegrub) on

Your dietitian to follow this week is Jen Rawson, aka Pretty Lil Grub. You can check out her website here for great posts about nutrition, running, fitness, beauty, travel, and any other number of thoughts. She’s the one who I figured out how to take running selfies from! You can check out her made selfie skills (among other gorgeous photos) on her Instagram feed.

In addition to being a registered dietitian, Jen is also a (lapsed) makeup artist. When they’re not travelling around the world seeing sights and running marathons, you can find her and her husband Tom in Calgary, Alberta.

Follow Jen on Twitter for great nutrition info, recipes, and more running stuff. Pretty much everything I love. If Facebook’s more your thing, you can find her there too.