Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


2 Comments

Bring on the nanny state

 

512px-Sodas

Enter a caption

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.


2 Comments

How to find a good dietitian

CH&N32

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.

 


5 Comments

Licence to Farm Review (Rant)

IMG_2680

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.


5 Comments

Beyond sugar: Canada’s new nutrition labels

url-2

Last week I wrote about the change to the sugar entry on the new nutrition facts label on foods. Of course, while most of us are focussed on this change, this isn’t the only change to come.

One of the other changes would be the removal of vitamins A and C from the nutrition facts panel. They would be replaced with Potassium and vitamin D. This is because it’s extremely rare for Canadians to be deficient in either vitamin A or vitamin C these days. However, most of us don’t get enough potassium and vitamin D (at least during the winter months). While in some ways I think that this is a good change, in others I’m not certain. The inclusion of these nutrients on nutrition labels provides us as consumers with valuable information. It also provides food manufacturers with the impetus to add potassium and vitamin D to foods in order to improve their nutrient profiles. Adding vitamins and minerals to a highly processed fairly unhealthy food won’t miraculously make it healthy. Generally, it’s better to choose natural sources of these nutrients.

Health Canada is also planning on standardizing serving sizes. This means that if, for example, you’re comparing one loaf of bread to another, the nutrition facts will have to be for two slices of bread. You won’t find one loaf that has the nutrition information for a single slice and another that has it for two. While it will definitely make comparison shopping easier it may also lead to some confusion about serving sizes. Yes, most of us will eat two slices of bread as a serving, but a Canada Food Guide serving of bread is still one slice. You don’t get to eat twice as many sandwiches as before and still consume an appropriate number of servings of grains and cereals.

In addition to the changes to the nutrition facts panel, the label will now also have to more clearly list the ingredients in an easy to read box. I don’t think that any of us (even me) can complain about that! As I’ve said before, you’re generally better off reading the ingredients than the nutrition facts panel.


Leave a comment

Lessons from salty restaurant meals

url

Last week a study was released showing that sodium levels in chain restaurant meals are still ridiculously high.

The researchers found that some meals contained roughly the maximum amount of sodium an adult should consume throughout an entire day. Sure, some people only eat one meal a day, but this isn’t a recommended pattern of eating, and most of us eat at least three times a day.

While I agree with the researchers that there need to be regulations to ensure that restaurant meals, and packaged foods for that matter, contain lower amounts of sodium and menus are labelled, I think that there are a few more important lessons to be learned here.

First, I just have to say the thing that bothered me the most upon hearing the story on the radio was the man from the restaurant industry who stated that sodium is necessary for flavour and food safety! I get that salt is a common preservative but when I’m eating at a restaurant I’m going for fresh, quality food. The thought that high levels of salt are added to food to make it safe is rather alarming to me. As for the flavour comment, that’s what salt shakers are for. Customers should be given the option of adding more salt to their food. Obviously you can’t remove salt once it’s in a meal (well, at least not at a restaurant table, perhaps in a lab) so why not use the least amount of salt possible, flavour with herb, spices, and lemon zest, and allow customers to add more salt if they desire.

Okay… on to what I think are the important lessons to be learned here… One, this study only looked at restaurants with at least 20 locations. That means local restaurants were not included. Many of these places employ excellent chefs who use fresh ingredients and don’t rely on salt to make their meals flavourful. Talk to the chef if you have concerns about ingredients, find out if nutrition information is available for your favourite dishes. Ultimately: avoid chain restaurants; buy local.

Two, you should be preparing the majority of the meals you eat yourself. Sorry, but you can’t trust anyone. Only you can take care of yourself. Try to use minimally processed ingredients and read labels on any packaged foods you purchase. Restaurants are lovely for a treat but they shouldn’t be providing you with the majority of your meals. Be your own personal chef.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,984 other followers