When ‘My Plate’ is a Bowl

Today is the first of March and the start of National Nutrition Month. That’s when my professional association, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), turns up the volume on eating healthy. This year, their theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape” in keeping with “Choose My Plate,” Michelle Obama’s USDA campaign.

And so, Diets in Review asked several of us nutrition and fitness professionals to share a picture and some words about our own plates. Read their article today, Mary Hartley’s Plate for National Nutrition Month. I kick off the month-long series.

Now, I’ve explained that I don’t take pictures of my food. Like tattoos, it’s a generational thing. And my only camera is the one in my iPhone, which is not the best. And then, wouldn’t you know it, Michelle Obama forgive me, but my typical plate is a bowl. In the article, I deconstruct the contents and reassemble them, so to speak, back onto a plate, and say more about the nutritional content. Read it and see.

The My Plate campaign is made to guide eaters of the “Standard American Diet” –  a supper of meat/chicken, with a starch and a vegetable on the side.  I almost never eat like that. When I was a young adult and learning how to cook, I was a vegetarian and those habits stuck. I love to say, in all my years, I have never cooked a steak. Not that I don’t eat steak because I do every few years, but an 8-ounce petite filet lasts me for three yummy meals. I’m just a happy Flexitarian. And my dietitian friends are mostly Flexitarian too, and they are mostly slim and healthy and free of pills.

Here are the recipes for Gypsy Soup and Cheesy Cornbread. The soup is very healthy (thank you Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood Cookbook) and the second is not quite as, but both taste out of this world.  Enjoy!

Your thoughts: What do you think of this year’s National Nutrition Month message?

The Road to Damascus

Damascus Bakery, that is, and Sahadi’s too, two authentic Middle-Eastern food markets on a stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, that have been in operation for over 50 years. Sahadi’s is all about barrels of grains, boxes of nuts and spices, containers of olives and dried fruit,  hundreds of cheeses, aromatic oils, and so much more. Check out Sahadi’s Fine Foods Catalog and take the time to peruse the many nuts and legumes. At Damascus Bakery, the fresh breads and pastries are to die for. Roll-ups, meh, right? Not after you’ve been to Damascus. This exotic oasis is a healthy 2-mile walk from my place. There, I buy prepared food, dried fruit, nuts, and my beloved Olympus Greek Yogurt. During my visit last week, I took some photos, which don’t do justice to this Fertile Crescent, but still, you get the idea. There’s no reason not to eat healthy food in Brooklyn.

                                    

Tweet What You Intuitively Eat

There are people who “Tweet what they eat.”  I follow one, and I saw an entry on his/her Twitter stream that bothered me. To me it said that, despite losing 90 pounds, I’m at risk for weight regain because I do not think like an Intuitive Eater. The Tweet (not the actual words) was “three donuts with a mea culpa.”  My tip off was the apology. An Intuitive Eater has no reason to apologize.


How to Approach Donuts from an Intuitive Eating Mindset

The Tweeter sees donuts, and asks “Am I hungry?”
If YES:  “Do I want donuts now?
-> YES: Eat donuts, enjoy, stop when satisfied, skip ‘my bad’
-> NO:   Eat different food, enjoy, stop when satisfied, skip ‘my bad’
If NO:  “Do I want donuts now?
-> NO:   Walk away; enjoy, skip ‘my bad’
-> YES:  Ask, “What am I feeling?”  Walk away, soul-search, process feelings.
Ask again, “Do I want donuts now?
-> NO:   Walk away; enjoy, skip ‘my bad’
-> YES: Eat donuts, enjoy, stop when satisfied; skip ‘my bad’

There are lots of tricky questions: Am I hungry? Am I satisfied? What do I feel? Why do I feel bad? What do I want?  Also worth noting is that (1) formerly starved people – through natural circumstances or intentional dieting – tend to hoard food, (2) really hungry people usually prefer wholesome food, and (3) emotionally healthy people – who have the knowledge and have not dieted – tend to value nutritious food and learn to prefer it.

Your thoughts: Does this make sense?

You Need a Fruit Cart

Because I’m a health blogger and a Tweeter – and I’m an RD who works with web developers and PR agencies – and I live in NYC – I’ve been going to some of the Social Media Week:New York events. On Tuesday, I was at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, an advertising agency on windy Hudson Street, home of the Health & Wellness Content Hub.

One presentation, Designing for Desire, was about getting people to change, a topic with which I am intimately familiar. The presenter, Jessica Hammer, a research fellow at Columbia University, explained how to think about change in terms of the changee’s identity and desires and what they like to do. She then asked us to divide into small groups to design an activity to promote “eating healthy” that involved making a change in a space (vs. on a computer…)

Eat More Fruit

Our group decided that people want to make it easier to eat fruit, and we reasoned that, in the workplace (our chosen space), people have related desires to socialize, take breaks and learn from one another. And so, we created the Fruit Cart to meet those needs.

The scenario: the fruit cart arrives on an intermittent schedule (better to get you hooked) sometime between 2:00 – 4:00 each day, announced by a bell. (The ice cream man!) The bell signals workers to leave their desks to buy fruit at the cart for a nominal fee, and then to go to a communal area to take a short break. We tried to recreate the social experience that smokers get to enjoy.

And to fill the au courant need for social media and gaming, we would make a Facebook page. We could report the money spent on fruit, and maybe there could be a contest in-between offices or departments, and at the end of the year, the company could match the money spent with a charitable donation – another contest to choose charity, right? There would be no limit to the games and content on our Facebook page.

Your thoughts: Do you think our idea could work? Would you like a fruit break?

If You See Something, Say Something

The New York MTA subway voice calls out: “If You See Something, Say Something.”  Does this count?

Yesterday, I saw a young mom and her sons, ages four and two, sitting next to me on the 2 Line from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The children were clean and well-behaved, mostly because they were busy eating ample portions of candy. The older boy had a 1.5 ounce Kit Kat bar, the one that comes in four long pieces. With 210 calories and 11 grams of fat, I imagine it was quite filling and bound to spoil his supper. Pity it doesn’t contain nutrients. The little guy, not much of a talker, had a shiny yellow bag full of sticky, tooth-tugging nuggets. Mom had candy too, but she was further away.  All of the candy came from her purse.

I chose to say nothing as is customary. It’s not my place to help the mom see that special treats are not for everyday and that parents can show their children love and attention in other ways. It’s not my place to talk about the difficult battle she faces because children are exposed to an estimated 10,000 advertisements for food per year, 95% of which are for fast foods, candy, sugared cereal and soft drinks.(1) It’s not my place to explain that children need nutrients to grow and blossom, and their lifelong eating habits are being shaped, along with their patterns of fighting their biological preferences for sweets and salt, which will face them forever unless there’s a fundamental change. No, my eavesdropping had nothing to do with an unattended package or suspicious behavior, and so what could I say?

And one more thing: neither of the boys was overweight. If they had been, a subset of the population would have justified saying something. But, you know, some people just gain weight more easily on the same crappy diet. And that’s why it’s not fair to stigmatize fat kids. (Read about genetic obesity issues in my blog, Newspaper Ad Mocks Obese Women.)

Your thoughts: Do children belong to society? Should we say something?

1. Schwartz, M.B. and Puhl, R. Childhood Obesity: a Societal Problem to Solve. The International Association for the Study of Obesity, Obesity Reviews. 2003:4, 57–71

Jumping on the Mini-trampoline, 30 Days Later

Last month, I sort of made a commitment to jump on the mini-trampoline for 30 days, and now I am here to report the results: 12 days of jumping / 30 days = 100% success in my book. I’m happy because I decided that 30 days of anything is a bore and 30 days of one exercise constitutes over-doing it. This is what else I found:

Jumping is Fun
There’s a reason why kids like bouncy castles and jumping on the bed. I am outta here if it’s not fun.

Jumping Uses the Upper Body
It’s not easy to find an aerobic activity that engages the upper body, but with the jumping jacks, upper body twists, basket ball hops, and others, I’m working harder than I would on the treadmill or bike.

Jumping is Plyometric
Pylometerics are the single most important kind of exercise you can do to strengthen the bones. With plyometrics, the muscles are repeatedly employed, rapidly stretched (“loaded”) and then contracted, as in jumping high off the ground or in push-ups with a clap between. Jumps (two feet), hops (one foot) and bounds (taking off on one foot and landing on the other) are all plyometric moves on the mini-trampoline.

Jumping Aggravates Stress Urinary Incontinence
Not that I have it, but I can see where jumping and running would cause urine to leak, especially in aging boomer females who are mothers. I learned that, before jumping, it’s important to empty the bladder and not to forget that Kegels call.

Jumping is No Substitute for Daily Hip Exercises
As I’ve explained, I met my lifetime sitting quota while working in the corporations and now I have to undo the damage to my hips. I swear that without these hip exercises from my favorite About.com guide, the Guide to Sports Medicine, I would be in perpetual pain, but with them, I am fine.

Jumping Helps Skating; Skating Helps Hips
Last week, I went ice skating and I remembered how good it is for the hips, the glutes and the groin. My ice skating is enhanced by the cardio workout, plyometrics and balance involved in jumping on the mini-trampoline. And, I hope my bones are strong in case I fall. New commitment: I plan to skate once a week followed by a Hot Toddy and an epsom salt bath.

And so, I’ve changed my commitment to match my reality: 2-3 days a week of jumping on the mini-trampoline (from JumpSport Fitness), plus walking for transportation, Pilates twice a week, passive stretching, some ice skating, and stuff for my hips. Now there’s no time for anything else. How’s that for commitment?

Your thoughts:  What’s your commitment to healthy movement?

See 30 Days on the Rebound(er): Jumping on the Mini-trampoline

Dr. Oz + Raspberry Ketones = TV Hype

Gee whiz, I just dissed Dr. Oz as TV hype in an article today, Dr. Oz’s Raspberry Ketones Dismissed by Dietitian as TV Hype. (I’m the dietitian.) It’s an opinion piece for Diets In Review about a product Dr. Oz endorsed, raspberry ketones, a ‘fat blaster you’ve never heard of.’  I called Dr. Oz more showman than doctor. Read my article and see if you agree. But, hey, he’s in the medical info-tainment field. ‘Nuf said.

Show Time

In 2009 when Dr. Oz was first on the air, I went to a show. In New York City, the studio was close to where I worked in the windowless office, and I just had to get away.  On that show, he talked about zinc deficiency, a problem that most Americans do not have. That’s when I saw that Dr. Oz (or rather, his staff) liked food-and-nutrition games. The segment was presented as a game in which three audience members each picked a box, small, medium or large, that contained a high-zinc food and, in one, a special gift. In the small box, the contestant found beef liver with 4.45 mg of zinc in a 3-ounce serving (adults need 8-11 mg of zinc/day), and in the medium box, was 1 cup of sauerkraut, with only 0.27 mg of zinc. (What’s up with that?)  But in the large box, there was a huge pile of king crab with 6.48 mg per 3-ounce serving – along with a cruise to Alaska. The first two contestants had doubly bad luck because Dr. Oz made them eat their selections. Incidentally, oysters have the most zinc with 76.3 mg per 3-ounce serving.

Three years later, Dr. Oz is still playing games. In the segment reviewed, Revolutionary Metabolism Boosters that Blast Fat, ‘fat’ contestants ‘blast’ through a paper curtain to introduce a new product that may or may not work. That’s how info-tainment happens here in New York City.  Perhaps if I’m outrageous enough, I can get on the show.

Your thoughts: What do you think of Dr.Oz and raspberry ketones? 

Bless Your Throat. Bless Your Food.

Tomorrow morning, February 3rd , I’m heading over to the Catholic Church to celebrate the feast of Saint Blaise. Back in St. Patrick’s School, that was the day we lined up to get our throats blessed. The priest came to classroom (while the nuns went teeheehee), carrying a cross of two large candles tied with red ribbon. The priest held the candle cross up to each of our throats and, in Latin, said, “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may God preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil.”  I loved the quaint the little ceremony and the story of St. Blaise who saved a boy with a fish bone stuck in his throat.  A kid just like me!  Nowadays, I like being saved from “every other evil” thing.

Keep on Blessing

Forever, I’ve believed that blessing food is the way to go. It’s especially important when practicing a new way of eating. Blessings confer holiness and strong wishes for happiness; they are inherently good. I just don’t think you’re likely to lose control on blessed food. When done sincerely, the blessing brings in a state of mindfulness, gratitude and peace. And so it stands to reason (to me anyway) that blessed food will be eaten with intention and joy.  A lit candle is also nice for casting out dark confusing thoughts. I mean, why not give it a try?  Bless your food.

A penny for your thoughts…