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Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

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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During  a cooking class, I was discussing the concept of eating more fresh, whole foods as opposed to processed foods and one of the participants said “oh, like we should eat more of God’s foods rather than man’s foods?”  I had never really thought of it that way, but that is precisely the concept that I keep promoting in this blog and elsewhere.  Anyone can understand that, right?    God’s foods = vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains.  God’s foods do not = doritos, McDonalds, cereal, chicken nuggets, chips, cookies, pretzels, baked goods or anything that comes in a box.  It is a simple concept, and I like it.  Eat this: God’s food.  Not this: Man’s food.

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So recently, and actually, quite often, I am presented with this question from a patient: “Can you help me find the right fuel for my body?”  I love challenges, so I agree.  In order to find this right fuel, I must ask the client some questions and make an assessment.  This is similar to how it might proceed:

Assessment # 1: subject is human.  The subject is not alien, at least as far as I can tell, and I am hoping if they are, that I am not their fuel of choice.  So, if the subject is indeed human, then we can probably rule out gasoline, grass, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, yellow # 25 or red #5 being the desired fuel for their body.  So far, so good!

Assessment # 2: subject is sedentary.  This is important, not because being active would necessarily change the desired fuel, but it would increase the need for such fuel and timing might be important depending on level of activity.  But, in this subject, and in most that I see, the activity level that they are engaging in does not require additional fuel. 

Assessment # 3: subject is not pregnant or breast-feeding.  Again, this does not necessarily change the type of fuel required, just the amount.

Assessment # 4: subject has no known allergies to food. This may limit the variety of choices that the individual may have in selecting their fuel, but by no means does this change the fuel.  We are on a roll now!

Assessment # 5: subject has no chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.  These conditions really wouldn’t change the fuel that is recommended, but depending on medications, timing may be important.  Moving right along!

At this point, I share with the subject that I am fairly certain that I have acquired all necessary information to make recommendations regarding the proper fuel for them.  And, then there comes the look of disbelief upon their face.  So, I ask them what they’re thinking.  They tell me they don’t understand how I could possibly know what fuel they require.  I didn’t even ask their blood type, their astrological sign, test the pH of their saliva, check their pulse, smell their urine, use tarot cards, or, and this is important, consult my crystal ball.  And, I reply, that no, I do not need any of these things as they are not important and I have the far greater power of intuition, as I chuckle to myself.  They are wide-eyed in anticipation as I deliver their recommendations:

  1. Eat real food.  Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds, lean meats and fish, eggs and low-fat dairy.
  2. Avoid faux foods, this means no processed foods that come in bags, boxes, or Styrofoam containers.  Eliminate foods that contain ingredient lists longer than Rapunzel’s hair.
  3. Eat mindfully.  Pay attention to hunger and satiety, slow down with eating, eat at the dinner table, etc. 
  4. Drink mostly water. 

And, still the look of astonishment on their faces.  Hmmm….could it be because they have heard this before?  Because it is not as difficult as they thought it was?  Did they think that they were going to get something specifically for them?  It is usually all of these things.  So, they leave, in a huff, that this dietitian did not do her job.  It frustrates and amuses me at the same time that I would actually get far greater reviews if I told them that they should eat 15 100-calorie packs daily, 6 soft tacos daily, eat fruit by itself, 2 shakes and 1 sensible meal, or stay away from dairy because you are blood type O+, but I can’t do this because I don’t believe it.  I will continue to tell my clients what I know to be right.  That real food is the proper fuel for humans, not processed crap.  Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

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So, I am on my way to becoming a certified crazy cat lady, just need to acquire a few more cats and get rid of the husband. Our home is the current residence to 3 male cats, which we lovingly refer to as the feline Russian mafia. We have Vladimir, the czar, and his minions, Vitali and Niko. Like any regime, there is always rebellion, but more on their physical activity, uh battles, in the future. For now, I want to speak to their eating behaviors. There are some things that humans can learn from my feline friends.
Some of you that know my beloved pals probably are thinking “what the bleep can we learn from these slightly rotund cats?” Vladimir tops the scales at 16lbs, and the less than a year old minions weigh in at 11.5lbs for Niko and 10lbs for Vitali. But, remember, they were all adopted, which means that I am unfamiliar with their ancestry; they may have been bred from mountain lions for all we know. And, just like humans, cats come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.
I am not in any way inferring that we should abide by all cat eating behaviors. I do not recommend eating the same thing day after day. Humans’ nutritional needs are much different from those of cats and we require a much more varied diet. And, I don’t recommend playing with ones food or eating on the floor; both behaviors will get you thrown out of any decent restaurant.
First, I want to address Vladimir’s weight and how much his behavior parallels that of humans. His veterinarian informed me that Vladimir was a bit on the heavy side, which totally humiliated him, and that he would benefit from going on a “diet.” Being a dietitian, I know about human diets, but not so much about putting cats on diets. So, I went out and did what most humans would do if they were told to lose weight, buy “diet” food. What’s funny is, that just like humans, Vladimir just ate more diet food, thus, eating just as many calories as he did with his previous non-diet tidbits and probably even eating more because he wasn’t satisfied with this crappy tasting substitute. Think Wow chips, Snackwell’s, sugar-free desserts, etc. News Alert: diet foods don’t work, and they don’t taste good!
Okay, back to the original story of why I think humans have something to be learned from cats. Cats eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. They don’t typically overeat, unless given diet food or put on a restricted diet, and then binge later when they get a hold of the leftovers….just like humans. They don’t eat when they are bored or when doing their favorite activity, which is licking themselves or sleeping. They don’t eat as fast as they can, and thus overeat, because they have to get back to chasing each other or staring at the birds. They actually chew their food. I have never seen any of my cats put food in their mouth, run over to the water and swallow it whole, which is a behavior that I myself have done and have witnessed many a humanoid doing as well. Cats actually listen to those small brains of theirs for signals of hunger and satiety. We have bigger and more advanced brains than cats, yet many of our species insist on using only a fraction of it.
So, let me break it down for my fellow species:
1. Eat only when you are hungry. Don’t eat because you are bored, stressed, or because you are accustomed to eating when watching TV or other activity, etc.
2. Chew and actually taste your food, eat slowly. Stop swallowing your food whole with water.
3. Eat at the dinner table (similar to the cats’ space on the floor where their bowls sit.)
4. Stop when you are 70-80% full. If you have to unbutton your pants after a meal, you’ve eaten too much.
5. Eat real food. Get rid of the tasteless diet foods; you’ll just end up eating more.

From Left to Right: Niko, Vladimir, and Vitali

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Eve here. As a dietitian, I get bombarded with questions about food and eating from patients, family, friends, and even people that I just meet. I understand the reason for their inquiries due to all the confusion in the media with regards to food and eating. The media is out to make a sensational story; I am here to make eating sensationally simple. In the words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

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