Public Health? Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

ABA Close UpDe do do do, de da da da. Entering the Brooklyn subway on a sunny day. But what’s this? A public health message? Move in closer….img_1921

Okay, I see. Big Soda is paying the MTA to endear us to their products, disguised of healthful advice. This ad is sponsored by the group that represents Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. (I miss Mayor Bloomberg.)
Public Health Indeed!

That was fours days ago. Then. today I woke up to this article in the New York Times: Coke and Pepsi Give Millions to Public Health, Then Lobby Against it. Ah, the public health part.

But these articles, also ripped from today’s headlines, put another spin on “public health”:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“The Academy”), the professional organization of registered dietitians in which I once held leadership positions, accepts (a lot of) sponsorship from Big Food. That’s why I am no longer a member. They have sullied my name and so they must be renounced. My dietitian friends will tell you, the phrase “The Academy” always evokes the response, “I hate them.”

Personally, I favor a soda tax (and everything else that can be done to reform our sick brand Capitalism.) I neither drink soda nor eat processed food. (Bread is about as processed as it gets.) I’ve written about why I favor a soda tax in the blog posts listed below.

Your thoughts: How can we stop this?

Talking About the Bug Banquet

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara:  “Yuck, I don’t think I feel well.”
Mary:  “What, like you want to throw-up?”
Barbara:  “Maybe. I feel like I just ate bugs.”
Mary:  “No kidding. That’s why I didn’t eat any.”

Here, I am talking with my dear friend, Barbara, also a dietitian, in the car on the way home from The Bug Banquet. My long-term readers might Barbara from past blogs, Talking About “What Not to Do” on the BQE and Talking About Oxtails in Brooklyn. Lucy and Ethel-style, Barbara hauled me to an event where insects were on the menu.

As a Johnson & Wales University Professor, Barbara got a special invitation and I was her guest. She was kind of obligated to eat bugs with her colleagues and students there. No one noticed me flitting around, chatting it up, and passing on the bugs. As a product of the western world, I offer no apologies. As a near vegetarian, I am doing the sustainability thing.

Read about the banquet and “cricket flour” in my article for DietsInReview,
The Bug Banquet: Serving Sustainability in a Cricket Pesto Flatbread

Your thoughts: Would you eat insects? Have you? How were they?

Hunger Signals Are Linked to Brown Fat

“Is it hot in here?”

That would be me asking, the day after I overate. I could literally feel the extra calories leaving my body as heat. My brown fat must be up to snuff, probably because I exercise and I don’t “weight cycle” (loose weight and regain.)

Brown fat (also called BAT, brown or beige adipose tissue) is a new critical determinant of energy expenditure. BAT seems to be an endocrine organ that influences metabolism. Aaron Cypess, M.D., a metabolic researcher from the Joslin Diabetes Center, explains that 54% of the variation in metabolic rate correlates with an individual’s activated brown fat. Wow! Maybe it’s time to retire the Harris–Benedict Equation and other formulas that predict basal metabolic rate.*

Last week, I wrote an article about new brown fat research for DietsInReview.com. In my opinion, the research links a healthy supply of brown fat to “intuitive eating” – in mice.
See my article, and the TIME magazine report, that got me thinking.

Your thoughts: Do you love brown fat as much as I do?

* Basal Metabolic Rate:  The rate at which energy is used by an organism at complete rest, measured in humans by the heat given off per unit time. It is expressed as the calories released per square meter of body surface per hour. 

Healthy Vending Machines Are Here to Stay

bettervendingmachinesAn important diet trend is unfolding. The food in vending machines is changing for the best.

You can’t believe how often people eat from vending machines. Teens get around one third of their calories from snack foods eaten away from home. At work, school and in public places, machines may be the only option. I ate from vending machines I worked in the cubes. 🙁 I used to buy two ounces of salted Planter’s Peanuts, full of calories but also nutrients, I was starving, and the other food was crap. I should have packed a snack.

Anyway, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, (Michelle Obama’s) federal law that affects public school food, mandated that food sold in schools, including vending machines, meet the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards. In turn, several major cities, and now the State of California, mandated that vending machines on government property be healthy. That drove the market for suppliers and (surprise!) people liked the healthy food better (well not all.) Still, it looks like a healthy vending machine franchise is good financial bet.

To learn more, read my article, Healthier Vending Machines are a Win-Win for All Hungry Consumers, at DietsInReview.com.

Your thoughts: What do you buy from the vending machine?

Aglio e Olio, A Pasta Story

Aglio e OlioOn his blog, Ed Writes, Stories of the 40’s & 50s, my friend, Dr. Ed Iannuccilli, asks, “Do you have a pasta story to share?” Well, I can think of a pasta story that remotely involves him.

A long time ago, about seven years into my career, I worked as a dietitian in the medical office of Dr. I and his partners, where mostly everyone – professional and support staff alike and the patients too – were of Italian American heritage. I was not.

I had a patient with Anorexia nervosa, a psych condition characterized by a fixation on food and weight, although is really about deeper, difficult emotional issues. Nutrition therapy is an important part of treatment.

Anorexics usually have strange food rituals, such as eating the same food over and over because it feels safe. This patient’s “safe food” was Aglio e Olio [pronounced AH-lyoh ay AW-lyoh], a simple pasta dish that was unknown to me at the time. The patient shared an intimate history. It wouldn’t be right to interrupt. “Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio….” Follow the bouncing ball. It was all the patient ate. 

When the appointment finally ended, I burst out of my office into the common area where my coworkers sat. “Help!” I said, “What the hell is Aglio e Olio??!!”

Here’s a recipe for Spaghetti Aglio E Olio. Eat it with other foods as part of a balanced diet

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not overcook. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
  • Boil and drain the pasta.
  • Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about a third.
  • Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Rest the pasta for a few minutes. Serve warm.

Your thoughts: Do you have a pasta story to share?

Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

Oops! It’s a rogue blog. Hello.

I released this ditty to the public by mistake because I forgot how to use WordPress – and I switched to a Mac – during my absence. I stopped blogging last December when I sold my Brooklyn apartment (number one) – packed and moved my stuff into storage – subleased a cute little Brooklyn apartment (number two) from a professor on sabbatical – moved into a Brooklyn AirBNB (number three) that I’m leaving this week. It’s all too hard to explain. I like freedom and variety.

But through it all, I still have to write for DietsInReview.com, the best contracting agent ever! Here is the assignment for the week; “We have a new partnership with Shape magazine in which we write one article for them each week. For next week the topic is: What about the #1 thing you should do when you first start a diet to make you more likely to succeed?”

I turned to my best bud’s stuff. Diane Petrella writes about the power of the mind to change weight and get healthy. It’s free, it works, and it’s way underused. It’s the secret sauce.  It’s too bd that I scooped Shape by pushing the wrong button!
But now that I’m in the water, my promise to you, should you care, is that I will blog once a week to stay in practice. God knows, I am not a writer. But I am a bit of a different nutritionist with something to say.

 

The Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

 

News flash: There is no one best way to lose weight. It is up to you to find a healthy eating approach and activity pattern that is unique to you. Don’t change anything until you document the “real you” by keeping a food journal. It will give you a clear picture of what to change. Most people need to dump the junk, reduce food portions, and rarely eat when not actually hungry.  Setting clear positive goals such as “I will eat oatmeal with fruit and nuts at least three times a week,” or “I will go to Zumba on Saturday morning and Tuesday evening,” enhances your chances of success.

But the greatest predictor of weight loss success is how you see yourself. Old images of the “heavy you” making unhealthy choices are replaced with new images of the “healthy you” choosing to act in healthier ways. When you “act as if” you are already there, you shift energy towards the positive, which makes way for intuition to move you easily towards your goal. Think of a time when you accomplished something by first creating a vision. Success is always created with a picture in the mind.

“Visualization” is a actual process of deliberately using your imagination to create a mental model. Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, when you visualize, your subconscious encodes a new picture as if it happened for real.  Sports psychologists and peak performers always use the power of visualization to build confidence and imagine success.

A small study* recently showed the power of visualization to improve eating habits. Subjects were asked to eat more fruit for one week, One group was simply asked to set a goal to eat more fruit, while the other group was told to visualize buying fruit and eating it at particular times. While both groups ate more fruit, the groups that used visualization ate twice as much.

The power of visualization is truly an under-used free tool for weight loss success. As you lie in bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night, calm your mind, relax your body, and picture yourself at your goal weight. See yourself making choices as the new healthy you. Hold a picture of yourself calmly eating delicious healthy food and watch as your body moves with ease. Notice the feelings and sensations associated with the images because connecting with your feelings as your visualize strengthens the effects. Deep relaxation internalizes the new images. In only three to five minutes a day, you can visualize your way to weight loss success.

* McGill University. “Planning and visualization lead to better food habits.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110225122818.htm>.

Squatters Get Free Subway Rides

Subway Squat

This is right up my alley. I ride the subway, I worship squats, and I’m all over free stuff. The proof is in my archives:
Do You Know (How to) Squat?
If You See Something Say Something
3 Degrees of Separation from Snackman
Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

And so, you can imagine my excitement when I read the headline today:

—-   Russian Commuters Can Earn Free Subway Ticket by Doing Squats   —-

The news is that the Russian Committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics (in Russia) came up with a cool promotion for one month. They are giving away a free travel ticket to anyone who does thirty squats. How clever is that? And look at how easy it was to set up the ticket machine:

If this is another Space Race, then Russia is beating us for supremacy in physical fitness, public health and public relations campaigns. Our subway stunts don’t promote healthy behavior. Do you remember when Heineken Took Over the NYC MTA? You know, I’m going to email Mike Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and Stephen Colbert too right now.

Your thoughts: Should Americans get free subway tickets for doing squats?

Confessions of a Wheat Germ Lover

Wheat GermA brief interaction on Twitter led Kretschmer Wheat Germ to me. They are considering me for a “Happy Wheat Germ User” feature, but needed to know more first.

Wheat Germ and Me

As a nutrition-loving baby boomer, it seems like I have always known about wheat germ. Along with soy protein and non-fat dried milk, it was part of Cornell Bread, a staple food developed for wartime rationing in the 1940s (well before my birth!) My first encounter with a regular wheat germ eater took the form of a woman from Switzerland I met in my late teens. She ate wheat germ for breakfast mixed with avocado and honey or as part of muesli along with yogurt. I like to add wheat germ to recipes for pancakes, muffins, veggie burgers, and meatballs. My favorite Wheat Germ Bread is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book via Kretschmer Wheat Germ a long time ago.

The Original Super-food

As a registered dietitian, people complain to me about feeling stiff-achy-and-punk. Their children are listless and their parents are falling apart with inflammatory diseases and cancers. To them I say, “You really ought to be eating wheat germ!” Wheat germ is LOADED with B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid), vitamin E and essential fatty acids, the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and zinc, plus protein and phenolic compounds. Wheat germ is the nazz! In fact, the germ is the richest part of the wheat kernel, which is why white flour is a problem: the germ (and bran) is tossed during in processing. Such a sin.

An Image Problem

A “germ” is a seed, bud, spore, or embryo, the basis of all new life. A plant germ is highly nutritious because it has the nutrients to support future growth.  A “germ” is also a microorganism, especially one that produces disease. People today don’t seem to know that one germ has nothing to do with the other. Wheat germ needs a re-branding campaign. I can help with that.

Here are three good wheat germ recipes from my recipe files at Calorie Count:

Your thoughts: Do you eat (and enjoy) wheat germ?

Hey Brooklyn, What’s in Your Lunch Bag?

brooklynlicious_tote_bagMary:     Why am I doing this? No one begins a TV career at my age.
Brian:    Not so. There’s Judge Judy.
Mary:     Okay. That’s true.

For what it’s worth, that conversation took place on July 10th outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s three subway stops from my home.  While the cameraman filmed, I asked regular people on the way to work to let me peek into their lunch bags. It was spontaneous and unrehearsed. You get what you pay for.

“Brian” is Brian Vines (BTW: He drinks half portions of soda at the movies now) of Brooklyn Independent TV. He called to ask what I though about developing a pilot based on what Brooklynites eat for lunch. (Actually, the cameraman’s wife, a Brooklyn foodie, thought the idea would make a good show.) I told Brian to add a few questions to put the lunch choices in context, and suddenly, I was the one asking the questions.

One week later, Amy Sarah Clark from the Prospect Heights Patch posted this on my Mary Hartley RD Facebook timeline:
“I saw your piece at the BRIC media thing today, it was fantastic! Congratulations!”
(Translation: “BRIC media thing” had to do with an event, presentations, and the pilot.)

Really? Sweet! Thanks you! Maybe I should see it. Maybe you should see it too.     

Mary Hartley, RD Asks Brooklyn, “What’s in Your Lunch Bag?”  

Those Brooklynites couldn’t be healthier! Everybody carries produce and no bacon was found. Brooklyn should show the rest of the country how it’s done. As for me, I could be a correspondent, like Ross the Intern. I will even prepare for pay.

Your thoughts:  Do you agree that the lunch idea would make a good show?

Beware of the Ground Turkey Trots

ground-turkey-406x250“Don’t buy the ground turkey,” I said to my nonagenarian aunt at the supermarket. She is just too frail and too old to take that risk.

Consumer Reports’ recently investigated 257 samples of raw ground turkey meat from major supermarkets in the United States. They tested for five bacteria (enterococcus, E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, and campylobacter) that may cause severe foodborne illness and be fatal in some cases. Consumer Reports’ found that 90 percent of the samples tested had  one or more of the five bacteria.  But what’s worse is that nearly 80 percent of the Enterococcus bacteria were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, as were more than half of the E. coli and 67 percent of the Salmonella strains. Who can forget the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak of 2011? One person died, 37 were hospitalized and 136 people were officially sickened – from ground turkey. The CDC said the outbreak might have sickened 4,000 more people.

Consumer Reports’ recommends buying ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics” or “organic” because turkeys “raised without antibiotics” contain fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria – they still harbor bacteria, but they are less likely to be superbugs. Still, just to be safe, IMHO the very young, very old and frail, pregnant, and sick should avoid ground turkey and the risk of getting the turkey trots.

Your thoughts, Do you eat ground turkey meat?