Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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It ain’t easy feeding greens

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Last week this article: Don’t Make Children Eat Their Greens caught my eye, mainly because of the headline. Great dietitian click-bait Guardian ;)

The article is actually much better than the headline makes it appear but I still have to throw my two-cents into the ring. As the author concedes (near the end of the article and prior to launching into his own advice) he is not a dietitian. It reminded me of a photo I’d seen on Instagram recently. It was a page from a book with a quote along the lines of “Not everyone who eats imagines themselves to be a dietitian”. Which I’m sure will amuse my fellow RDs because, in my experience, nearly everyone who eats does fancy themselves to be dietitians. While lived experience can certainly be valuable, it’s not exactly the gold standard of scientific evidence. I appreciate that the author incorporated viewpoints from professionals, such as a dietitian and psychologist, but I actually found some of the comments he included from them to be a little odd.

According to the RD source for the article, “The human body is very clever and can adapt over generations. It can use what resources it has available”. Which is all well and fine but really has no bearing on feeding children in the here and now. Adapting over generations is not the same as adapting over one’s own lifespan. I can personally decide that I’m going to forego certain essential nutrients and expect that my body will just adapt. Without a source of vitamin C, for example, I would invariably eventually develop scurvy.

The other issue I take with the article comes from a seemingly throw-away comment. The author’s (adult) daughter says that she refused to eat peas (and other green vegetables) growing up because “they don’t taste good”. To which the author writes “They don’t”. And this is an issue that the author misses in much of his advice. That issue is role modelling behaviour. Children learn by watching and if they are watching parents who don’t eat or show displeasure with certain foods they’re quite likely to adopt similar attitudes themselves. I can’t help but wonder, if the author’s attitude was more positive toward peas if his daughter might have developed a more favourable attitude toward them as well.

Much of the other advice in the article is spot-on based on current recommendations. Food should not be used as a reward or punishment, mealtimes should not become battlegrounds, caregivers should respect children’s appetites. It’s unfortunate that the headline gives the impression that vegetables are an unnecessary part of a healthy diet. While I’m sure that many meatetarians would be overjoyed with this stance, it’s not really the point of the article, nor is it the correct message. While not nearly as catchy of click-baity, a more accurate headline would be something like “Give Your Children Nutritious Meals and Snacks and Allow Them to Decide How Much to Eat”.

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Grocery store lessons: Catelli “SuperGreens” pasta

I was getting some groceries last week when I saw a new product in the pasta aisle. Catelli SuperGreens”.

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Immediately I said, “I feel a blog post coming on!”.

Remember that vegetable bread? Total scam, right? And, according to my sources, pretty revolting to boot. Well, this pasta is no different (at least in the scam regard, I presume it tastes much like regular pasta).

How did Catelli get the vegetables in the pasta? Well, they added some vegetable powders (spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley, and kale). Super! Green! Hold-up though, before you decide your plate of pasta counts as your vegetables for the day think about how that compares to actual vegetables. Well, because of the processing that the veggies have undergone to become powders, and because the quantities added are likely negligible, there’s no comparing the two. You’re not getting any of the vitamins and minerals that you would by eating any of those actual vegetables.

I was curious how this “SuperGreens” pasta would compare to regular pasta. Catelli didn’t seem to have a plain old pasta option in the same format so I opted to look at their “Smart” pasta which is just regular pasta with added fibre.

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As you can see, nutritionally the “SuperGreens” is nearly identical to the “Smart” pasta. In fact, the “Smart” pasta may be slightly better from a nutritional standpoint as it’s got more B vitamins, more fibre, and less sodium (although these differences are fairly minuscule).

If you like this new “SuperGreens” pasta, there’s nothing wrong with eating it. Just know that it doesn’t contribute to your vegetable servings. There’s nothing “super” about this, except maybe the marketing tactic. There’s nothing green about it either, except maybe the cash Catelli will be pulling in from the ridiculous representation of this product. You know what goes great with pasta though? A vegetable-rich sauce.

 


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Greens vs Grains

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Yes, I can get behind the statement that “we can all benefit from more veggies in our diet”. After that, I diverge from this weekly nutrition challenge. I don’t think that replacing grains with greens makes nutritional sense. Maybe if all of your grains are refined baked goods. Otherwise, there are nutrients in both grains and greens and replacing all of your grains with vegetables isn’t necessarily a nutritional win.

Grains tend to provide more fibre than vegetables. They’re also a good source of B vitamins and minerals such as iron and magnesium. The fibre in grains can help promote digestive health, lower LDL, and feeds the probiotics in our intestines. The gut microbiota is a fascinating emerging area of research. There seems to be many relationships between the bacteria living in our digestive tracts and other aspects of our health. Fibre also contributes to satiety. Sure, greens have lower caloric density than grains but they also don’t keep you feeling full.

Greens provide you with plenty of other nutrients. It doesn’t have to be an either or situation. I don’t understand why so many people want to attach guilt to specific foods or food groups. Grains and greens can both co-exist in a healthy balanced diet. Yes, even some refined grains.

In my mind, challenging people to eliminate food groups is not a sensible or sustainable challenge. But what do I know, I’m just a dietitian; not a “strength coach, nutritional expert and practitioner of Chinese medicine”. And greens for grains is pretty catchy. I guess catchy is more important than realistic, sound nutrition advice.