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Archive for June, 2010

Lack of exercise and overeating are easy targets to pinpoint as obesity causes, but now the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is targeting toys in Happy Meals.  In a letter written to McDonalds, the CSPI “demands that McDonalds stop using toys to market Happy Meals to young children.” 

The CSPI makes very good points and it is clear to me that McDonalds, and most other fast food conglomerates, for that matter, target kids.  Heck, have you walked down a cereal aisle or the yogurt section of the supermarket?  It is all colors and cartoon characters.  This is not a new thing.

The letter states that because of the toys, kids will “pester” parents for happy meals, and thus, the kids will then consume the unhealthy box of food with loads of fat and calories, which will eventually lead to obesity.  But, will it?  I imagine if parents allowed their kids to eat happy meals everyday it could possibly lead to consuming too many calories and an overweight child.  But, this is assuming that the child is not active and that the rest of their diet is unbalanced.  This is a big IF!

I know what you’re thinking, we live in America, most of the kids are overweight and even obese, we have to do something.  And, I totally agree.  However, do we think banning toys in Happy Meals is going to reduce obesity in America?  Maybe, but I have my doubts. 

The thing I don’t like about this letter is that the CSPI insinuates that parents somehow cannot control what their children consume.  It assumes that a 5 year old is the ultimate decision maker of what goes on their plate.  If this is the case, then we have more problems than obesity in America. 

I am not trying to condone what McDonalds or other fast food giants do to get customers, I actually think its pretty shameful.  But seriously, where is the consumer responsibility?  And, to blame a new toy on obesity in America?  Really?  How often does a new toy come out?  Every new movie, every quarter?  It is certainly not everyday.

Just as I wrote about Ronald McDonald and other fictional characters in a previous post, toys are the latest scape-goat for childhood obesity.  Taking away cartoons and toys is not going to make kids skinny.  Kids need to get more activity, including in schools, eat meals at the dinner table instead of in front of the tv or in the car.  Parents need to take responsibility for what young children eat, that’s what parents are supposed to do, right? 

CSPI, I like you, but please stop making ridiculous claims that won’t do anything to curb obesity in America.  Please start spending your money on educating parents on what will make a difference: budget planning, meal planning, cooking, gardening, etc.

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I really love watermelon, and so does one of my cats.  Vladimir is pictured here eating, or rather drinking juice from a watermelon rind.  It’s pretty easy to spot when Vlads has been into the watermelon, the white fur around his mouth turns pink…so cute. 

Here is a video of another cat who loves watermelon:

Watermelon is sweet, juicy, and delicious.  And, it is not devoid of nutrients as some think because of the name.  Watermelons contain more lycopene, a phytochemical found to reduce risk of certain types of cancers, than tomatoes.  Watermelon also contains high amounts of Vitamin A and potassium.  And, for you locavores, Indiana cultivates over 6% of all watermelons grown in the U.S.

Watermelons are great eaten straight from the rind, mixed with other fruits, on green salads, or even made into salsa.  And, for those humid Indiana nights, you can even turn your watermelon into a cooling cocktail.  Here is a recipe from a recent Everyday Food magazine that I have tried…vodka, optional. 

Watermelon-Cucumber Cooler

  1. Set a large fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl or pitcher.  In a food processor or blender, blend 5 cups of cubed, seedless watermelon (about 1 1/2 pounds). Pour watermelon puree through sieve, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula.  You should have about 2 cups of juice.
  2. Puree 1 large english cucumer, peeled and cut into chunks, and pour through sieve into watermelon juice. 
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup fresh lime juice and 2 Tbsp honey.  Add to watermelon and cucumber juices, along with 2/3 cup vodka, if desired. 
  4. To serve, fill glasses with ice and pour in cocktail, garnish with cucumber slices.  Enjoy!   

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After talking with patients for 10 years, I’ve come to an unscientific conclusion that the average American has 3-dimensional flavor…..fat, salt, and SUGAR.  The per capita consumption of sugar in the United States is somewhere between 150-170 pounds annually….thats roughly 231,000-261,800 calories from added sugar per year.  And, we wonder why we are facing a obesity epidemic in America?  Really?   As a reference, in 1951, the per capita consumption was 95 pounds of sugar annually.  Now, that figure includes sugar that is added to processed foods as well as table sugar that is consumed.  I just want to focus on the sugar that people knowingly add to their foods, which may be around 20-30 pounds per capita annually. 

I’ve heard it so many times before, but it still amazes me the amount of sugar that people add to already sweet foods.  Today, a patient told me that they add sugar to their tomatoes???  I’ve listened as they tell me they add sugar to already sweetened cereals such as honey nut cheerios and fruit loops.  Sugar to fruit like berries and melons.  Personally, I think this completely ruins the fruit….it gets mushy and watery.  Oh, and I can’t forget sweet potatoes…they add brown sugar, honey, and marshmallows.  I wonder if they’ve even eaten a plain sweet potato….completely delicious and sweet all on its own.  I’ve seen people add sugar to milk, carrots, beets and popcorn.      

What happened to eating foods the way nature intended?  While Americans have been on a sugar high, did aliens come steal our taste buds?  I don’t get it!  I will just try to keep a straight face when tomorrow’s patient tells me that they add sugar to their soda. *sigh*

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This would be yours truly to the left attempting to get up after a hit.  Falling is part of roller derby, and I do it alot.  I skate for Indianapolis’ Naptown Roller Girls, who in my opinion, have the best team and fans in the nation…wOOt.  Playing roller derby, or even watching, is not for the light-hearted. Roller girls experience mostly bruises and soreness, but there is the occasional bloody nose, concussion, and even broken bones, mostly tailbones, legs, and ribs.  Even some spectators may leave a bout with some bruises, although this is the chance one takes when sitting in the suicide seats.  You have been warned. 

If you have never witnessed a bout, check out this video of big hits from the Carolina Rollergirls.  And, if you want more roller derby knock-outs, check out our website for upcoming bouts.    

As a roller girl, I know that I am putting my body at risk everytime I hit the track….I have signed all the waivers and release forms….but, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

As a dietitian, I know that there are important nutritients to consume to keep bones strong, speed healing of bruises, and alleviate, not eliminate, stiff joints and muscles.  In my experience as a runner and yoga instructor, there are many things one can do to aid in recovery and alleviate soreness.  Here are my recommendations for roller girls and others that put them self at risk of bumps and bruises on a daily basis:

  1. Eat high quality protein.  If you’re a meat eater, then lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, all preferably organic.  If you don’t eat meat, then beans, grains, nuts, and seeds will likely provide you with adequate protein. 
  2. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  These provide the greatest amount of vitamins and antioxidants.  I am not a big advocate of multivitamins as they have not been proven to be adequately absorbed, but I suppose they are a cheap insurance if you aren’t getting much variety.  Fruits also contain fructose, a natural sugar, that can aid in replenishing muscle glycogen stores, which if not replenished, can leave your muscles feeling sore. 
  3. Read my previous post on my favorite recovery drink, chocolate milk.  If you don’t drink dairy, coconut water can be a good recovery drink as well, although, I do not have personal experience with this. 
  4. Obviously, drink plenty of water.  The amount of water one needs is certainly dependent on amount and intensity of training, weather, body fat percentage, age, and gender.  If your pee is bright yellow, you likely aren’t drinking enough. 
  5. As stated in # 2, I rarely advocate supplements, however, Omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil or flax seed oil, have been shown in many studies to reduce inflammation in the joints.  Nuts and seeds can also provide these.
  6. Stretch.  Yoga Journal’s website is a good resource to find poses for particular muscle groups. 
  7. Rest.  Rest is not something that roller girls do well.  They want to go out 100% all the time or they think they will lose their strength.  Rest is just as important as training.  Rest allows your muscles to recover and get stronger from training.  The amount of rest depends on the intensity of training and will likely be different for every individual.

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“Organic” is a term that is loosely used by many, but the actual definition, according to the USDA, can be found here.  I, for one, am very skeptical of farming practices when big companies are producing “organic” meats and vegetables.  Organic is not just about eliminating antibiotics and hormones.  True organic is allowing animals to eat what they are meant to eat, not “organic” corn meal.  True organic would be farming in such a way to sustain the earth.  “What’s Organic About Organic?” is a new film that may uncover some of the concerns that I, and others, have about organics.

The film has limited screenings, but hopefully, will be out in DVD format soon.  Below is the trailer:

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Food as addiction? Doesn’t make sense, does it?  We need food, right?  Food isn’t like cocaine, we have to eat.  However, considering the obesity epidemic that has overrun America and my experience with patients, it appears that many cannot kick their over-consumption habit.

Addicted to food?  Many scoff at such an idea and believe that obese individuals just lack will-power or need to exercise more, which may be partly the case, but what if there is more to it than that?  A study from Nature Neuroscience and another from the Journal of Nutrition, just to name a few, give some insight into the inner workings of brain chemicals in relation to food.

But, what if humans have not quite adapted to the high-sugar, high-sodium, high-fat foods that encompass the modern American diet?  As our food has become increasingly more convenient and processed, so has our waistlines. Coincidence?  Probably not. But, that certainly does not prove that food addiction is real.

I can only speak from personal experience with bulimia, which some experts believe is a form of food addiction.  I actually went to 12-step meetings through Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA).  They had a structured meal plan that was devoid of all sugar and processed foods.  I can’t say if it was the elimination of the processed foods or the structure that allowed me to work on my issues surrounding food and body image, or if I was just “ready.”  But, it was a breakthrough for me at that time.  Before then, no amount of therapy or anti-depressants were able to pull me out of the bulimia spiral.

My diet has changed since the FAA plan and I haven’t felt out of control with food and am able to enjoy desserts once in awhile without overeating, but that wasn’t always the case.  I do believe that my ability to stay sane with food has stemmed from a structure with eating and eliminating most processed foods.  I don’t ever remember a time during my bulimic days that I was binging on apples or salad?  Weird, I know, seems like just the right binge food, huh?

I can’t prove that food addiction is real, but I would guess that many with bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or the main character in the movie Lbs. would have a hard time believing that it isn’t real.  Lbs. was released on March 26, 2010 to limited theaters, mostly on the East Coast.   I am hoping that it will at least get to Chicago, but I may have to wait until the DVD comes out, which is of an unknown date. Below is the trailer to Lbs.

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Just Beet It

No, this is not a tribute to Michael Jackson or a roller derby mantra….more like a tribute to a favorite vegetable of mine, the beet.  I haven’t always been into beets.  I hated beets growing up and am pretty certain that this past disdain for beets stems from the fact that I was only ever exposed to canned beets as a child.  Have you ever had canned beets?  They make a weird sound when oozing out of the can, similar to plunging a toilet or picking your foot up out of mud….no one wants to eat something that sounds like that.  Looking back, I can’t really say that I ever tried them, the sound ruined it all for me.

As an adult, I will try almost anything, weird sounds or not.  I think I first tried a non-canned beet last year when they arrived in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bushel.  I would not be intimidated.  So, I did some recipe research and decided upon roasted beets.  I was so pleasantly surprised that I think I ate beets for a week straight.  I couldn’t believe I had been missing out for so long.

Beets are not only delicious, but also have a great deal of vitamins and minerals, and come in many different varieties.  Look for them in your farmers markets later this summer and fall.

Here is a recipe that I just tried with roasted beets, which are just as delicious by themselves, but the cucumber & dill mixture is a nice combination with beets.

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs Beets, golden or red, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (your hands will become pink if using red beets, but don’t worry, it will wash out)
  • 1/2  english cucumber,  sliced length-wise and then into thin moon-shaped pieces  (regular cucumber will work, just may want to scrape out the seeds)
  • 2 Tbsp greek yogurt  (regular plain yogurt or sour cream will work just fine)
  • 2 Tbsp dill, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place beets on baking sheet, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Roast beets in oven about 30 minutes, or until tender, toss a couple of times during cooking. Allow to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, mix cucumbers with greek yogurt, dill, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  5. When ready to serve, place beets on serving platter, top with cucumber mixture.  Enjoy.

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