Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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An open letter to police departments

To Whom it May Concern,

I see that the Ontario Provincial Police, and I’m sure many other police departments across North America, are offering “positive tickets” to youth this summer. These tickets are coupons for free “frosters” a slushie/slurpee beverage from a convenience store chain.

I applaud the police for endeavouring to create positive relationships with children and youth. Police provide an essential service to our communities that is often overshadowed by newsworthy acts of violence, aggression, and intimidation. By fostering positive connections to young people it is more likely that these youth will continue to maintain good relationships with police into adulthood. A good relationship between the police and the community better serves everyone.

A 12oz Mac’s froster contains approximately 222 calories all of which come from its 52 grams (13 teaspoons) of sugar. There are no other nutrients in this beverage. The World Health Organization recommends that consumption of “free sugars” (i.e. added sugars and those found in beverages like fruit juice) be limited to 5% of total calorie consumption per day. This equates to about 5-8 teaspoons of sugar per day for preteens and teenagers. As you can see, just that one froster alone contains about twice the daily recommended limit for free sugars. Excess free sugar can contribute to dental caries. Inadequate consumption of nutrients, due to displacement by nutrient lacking sugary foods and beverages, or excessive consumption of calories resulting from frequent consumption of sugary beverages may result in malnutrition, including obesity, and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In addition, using food as a reward can lead to a life-long unhealthy relationship with food. Tying behaviour and emotion to food can result in children using food as a maladaptive coping mechanism as they get older.

I urge you to consider offering a healthier (non-food) alternative to these “positive tickets”. Why not partner with a local community centre to offer free swimming passes? Or a local park to offer free entry? Other options include: movie tickets, tickets to see a local sports team. I’m sure that with a little promotion that many local businesses would be happy to offer rewards in the region(s) you serve. This initiative provides both positive publicity for the police and for the organization donating the “prizes”. Do the health of the youth a favour and support local businesses while you’re at it. This would truly be a positive direction for the police and the community.

Thank you for your consideration.

A concerned dietitian

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Follow Friday: Bay of Quinte Art & Wine @BoQ_Art_Wine

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If you’re in the Belleville area on June 10th you should probably check out the Bay of Quinte Art & Wine Festival happening downtown. There will be local artists showing and selling their works. While perusing the art, you can sample local wine (or beer) and have a snack from a local food vendor, and enjoy the sounds of the Quinte Symphony.

The festival is taking place from 10 am to 8 pm to suit morning and evening people alike. For the latest info about this event, follow them on twitter at @BoQ_Art_Wine. If you’re an artist, food vendor, or beverage producer and would like to get involved, I believe that they still have spaces available so get in touch with them via their website or social media.

The lovely image used on the banner of the BOQ Art& Wine website is of a painting by my talented neighbour (and cat sitter extraordinaire) Claudette Belanger.

 


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Bring on the nanny state

 

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By Marlith (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve written before about my reluctance to jump on the soda (why are we calling it soda in Canada, anyway? It’s pop, people) tax bandwagon. I just don’t think that it’s addressing the true problem and it’s once again placing the onus on individuals. I’d much rather see high-fructose corn syrup become less artificially inexpensive to produce so that pop would cost more to manufacture and therefore be sold for more. Start paying the farmers more for the corn. Anyway… I found myself in a weird situation when I read the un-authored (what the heck MacLean’s? Where’s the byline?) editorial about the ill-conceived soda pop tax.

According to the author, the problem with the Senate’s new report on obesity is that it lumps all overweight and obese people into one category. Thus, implying that anyone who surpasses the magical BMI cut-off is unhealthy. I don’t disagree with the fact that it’s possible to be healthy at many different weights, shapes, and sizes. I do take some exception to the argument that overweight people are actually healthier than those of “normal” weight. The problem with studies that suggest this is that they’re not taking into consideration changes in weight and the fact that many people lose weight when they’re ill. This may give the false impression that weight is protecting people from illness rather than showing that unintended weight loss is a consequence of illness.”Healthy” weight people may die younger than overweight people because illness may be missed until it’s too late to treat in people who appear to be healthy.These studies also tend to only look at mortality, giving “healthspan” no consideration. Just because you’re living a longer life doesn’t mean that you have good health or a good quality of life during those extra years.

Anyway… I’m a little off-track from the topic I really wanted to address. Essentially, the author is saying that it’s not the government’s job to “tell us what to eat or how much we should weigh”. It’s suggested that the senate report should have focused more on health promotion, which they define as getting kids more physically active. Sigh.

Health promotion is actually providing people with the tools they need to control and improve their own health. It’s more of a population health approach than an individual approach. As such, a pop tax would be a method of health promotion. As essential as physical activity and exercise are to good health it’s fairly well established at this point that diet has a far greater bearing on weight than exercise does. This pop tax is certainly not the approach I would take toward decreasing obesity rates and improving the health of Canadians. However, it’s better than nothing and if it gets people to drink less pop then that’s a positive outcome. If the author truly believes that the government is not already affecting the food choices of Canadians through policies and systems then they’re sorely mistaken.

I’ve read some very good criticisms of the senate’s report. This editorial was not one of them. If you’re interested, check out Dr Sharma’s blog and this piece by Michael Orsini in the Globe and Mail.


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How to find a good dietitian

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Photo by Orla MacEachern. Location: Local Source Market.

Last week after I wrote about the issue of dietitians sniping at each other I had a reader ask me how to find a “good” dietitian. That’s a bit of a tricky one but I’ll try my best to address it as it seems very fitting for Nutrition Month. If any of my fellow RDs (or anyone who’s seen a dietitian) have any other tips or suggestions please feel free to chime in, in the comments.

The process will vary from country to country but in Canada, every dietitian must be registered with the provincial regulatory body for the province in which they work. Here they are by province:

Newfoundland – Newfoundland and Labrador College of Dietitians

Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia Dietetic Association (NSDA)

New Brunswick – The New Brunswick Association of Dietitians (NBAD)

Prince Edward Island – PEI Dietitians Registration Board

Quebec – Order Professionnel des Diététistes du Québec

Ontario – College of Dietitians of Ontario

Manitoba – College of Dietitians of Manitoba

Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon – Insofar as I can tell, because there are so few dietitians in the Territories, there are no regulatory bodies. Presumably, RDs working in these areas would maintain registration with the Provincial body where they completed their examination.

Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Dietitians Association

Alberta – College of Dietitians of Alberta

British Columbia – The College of Dietitians of British Columbia

Some provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, and BC) have free provincial programs that the public can use to contact a dietitian via email or phone. This is a great option if you have a common nutrition concern or question.

Dietitians of Canada also maintains a list of private practice dietitians but it’s not a complete list as you must be a member of DC to be included. Some provinces also have organizations formed and run by dietitians such as the Dietitians Network Nova Scotia. Again, this is not a comprehensive list of all dietitians in NS as membership is voluntary. The nice thing about their list though, is it provides some detail regarding the area each RD works in and their specializations.

You may also wish to contact your local public health unit as they will be able to tell you about dietitian services offered in your area. Many grocery stores also employ dietitians who offer one-on-one nutrition counselling for a reasonable fee.

Once you’ve found all of the private practice dietitians in your area now it’s time for the tricky part. I suggest looking to see if they have a website, exploring the website to get a feel for whether or not they’ll be a good fit for you. As with any counsellor or heath care professional, not all personalities are going to be well-suited. Look to see if they have links to social media accounts and see if you can get an idea of their personality and nutrition philosophy from tweets and facebook posts.

You should be able to narrow-down your search to a few dietitians based on location and your assessment of their online presence. At that point, you may want to pick one and make an appointment for an initial assessment. If that goes well, excellent, you’ve found your RD. If not, there’s no harm in shopping around. The good thing is, we don’t often work in the same location (like hair stylists) so if you don’t like the fit with the first one you see, you can easily try another without fear of encountering the first at your appointment. Find someone who will help you determine your goals, barriers, and provide you with support to overcome those barriers to reach your nutrition goals. However, don’t expect your dietitian to do the work for you. We’ll be your biggest cheerleader and we’ll give you all the tools you need to get you eating your best but you still have to do the actual work and make the lifestyle changes.

 


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Licence to Farm Review (Rant)

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Photo credit: Randall Andrews

As a “consumer” this short documentary wasn’t made for me. It was made for farmers. Maybe that means that my opinions don’t matter. The beauty of having my own blog is that I can opine about anything I desire.

I had many thoughts as I watched the film. I’m very in support of farmers speaking out and as a non-farmer I often look to them for expert opinions. That being said, while this film purported to be about empowering farmers to speak out to me (and your opinion may differ) it felt like a thinly veiled piece of pro-GM (genetic modification) propaganda.

The bulk of the film was about how large-scale farms, GM crops, and pesticides are not bad things. The film urged farmers to speak out in the face of ignorant consumer demands. They also said that we (the unwashed consumer masses) need to hear about the benefits of GMOs and pesticides from the farmers, not from the companies making them. Personally, as a consumer I’d like to hear from both sources but even more so, from independent scientists who don’t have skin in the game. Sorry, I loathe that saying.

It bothered me that the implication was that consumers are too dumb to formulate our own opinions. Yes, I know, people are often irrational and misinformed. However, everyone is a consumer in some regard. Farmers don’t usually grow every single product they consume. You would think that there would be a recognition that a canola farmer (for example) while very knowledgable in that area is not an expert in all things farm. We are not mutually exclusive populations. We are all people. You don’t need to speak to us like “consumers”. Speak to us like human beings. Okay, despite how it sounds, that only bothered me a little bit. The thing that bothered me the most was the one-sidedness of the film.

Why does it seem like every documentary that comes out these days is wholly biased? I suppose it’s the funders, the sensationalism, or the certainty of the filmmakers that they’re in the right. Whatever the reason, it makes it me get my back-up, regardless of the message, even if I was on your side before I watched I’m less likely to be there after. If you’re only going to show me people who are completely biased then I’m going to be much less likely to buy what you’re saying. Don’t diss organic farmers and try to tell everyone that they eschew modern technology. Don’t try to tell me that only large-scale mono-cropping is a viable method of farming. Try to at least respect the choices of others; both within your field (haha) and outside it.