Rethinking Soda at the Movies

soda at the MoviesSince I choose to do those things that amuse me most, I find myself in lots of crazy places. A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Brooklyn Independent Television’s show, Intersect, talking about Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink limit with host Brian Vines and fellow guest Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. At minute 23:05, I talk Brian Vine out of thinking big portions of soda at the movies are a bargain. Here is our conversation:

BV:   I was just at the movies two weeks ago and split a, what had to be a 60-ounce something, between the two of us. The thing was gone, and this was the debate we had afterwards, that if the mayor would have had his thing, we would’ve had to buy two drinks – and I believe in my health, but I more than that, I am cheaper than I am healthy – so we would have had to buy two different drinks to get the same thing, but we wouldn’t even be allowed to buy the thing if this law passed. So it hits you in the pocketbook because cheap food is usually bad food…
MH:   That’s not food. DON’T CALL THAT FOOD!
BV:   What is it then? It’s empty calorie things….
MH:   It’s empty calorie stuff. You cannot compare….
BV:   Cheap drinks. It’s enjoyment. It’s cheaper though….
MH: Well, for instance, I’m a fun gal, but one thing about me is I do not order anything at the movies. I have unhooked the idea that sitting in a movie means eating. Talk about cheap! I’m not going to that concession stand. I’m not buying any of that stuff!
BV: It’s relative. (laugh)
MH: So let’s get it all straightened out, okay, and that’s what the dialogue is about. It’s testing those ideas people have: “I need my soda!”  Well, why do you need your soda?
BV: Thank you for unhooking me, because it’s not cheap. Soda isn’t cheap at the movies.

Your thoughts: Will Brian Vine quit drinking soda at the movies?

A Bad Week for Fake Nutrition

Ask Me About Girl Scout CookiesThe food industry is on to “nutrition” as a buzz word, and it’s already out of control. “Functional Foods,” foods with a function to deliver nutrients they don’t normally contain, were on my radar twice this week: first, in the form of a new Girl Scout cookie, MANGO CRÈMES WITH NUTRIFUSION™, that DietsInReview.com asked me to see, and second, in VITAMIN WATER that is nutritious – or not –  as Stephen Colbert explains.

 MANGO CRÈMES WITH NUTRIFUSION™

The Girl Scout bakery invented a new cookie, sans the trans fat and preservatives, pumped up with (only) 15% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) for vitamin B1 and 5% for vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6  – no mind to the hundreds and hundreds of other nutrients we need – and called it “a delicious new way to get your vitamins!”  Not so fast. Those cookies have as much sugar and saturated fat as other cookies, and as an aside, they are mango-less, but since they are made with the dehydrated juice of cranberries, pomegranates, oranges, grapes, and strawberries, I can’t complain. Just don’t say cookies are health food. Say, “Hey, we’d like you to try a new cookie and support the Girl Scouts.” That will suffice.

VITAMIN WATER

The Coca-Cola company is defending its Vitamin Water product against deceptive claims. Colbert connects the fake nutrition dots. How bad can it get?

Your thoughts: Are you confused by fake nutrition claims?

Claire Danes from My Vantage Point

Claire-Danes Golden Globes

Claire Danes at the Golden Globes

Last night during the Golden Globe Awards, Diets In Review emailed to ask me to comment on Claire Danes’ weight. Twitter was atwitter: “OMG! Claire Danes, wasn’t there just a baby in there?”  Claire delivered baby Cyrus on December 17, 2012, and now four weeks later, “Claire Danes Post-Baby Body Rocked the Golden Globes.” What gives?

My View

I feel uniquely qualified to discuss Claire Danes’ figure, not only because I am a registered dietitian trained in physical assessment, BUT because, in 2003, I saw Claire Danes in her underwear at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. Claire and I entered the pavilion around the same time and we strolled through the booths more-or-less together. I sneaked peeks when she tried on tops. My observation? Claire has a pronounced a pear-shape with narrow shoulders, a long neck and torso, and short legs. She carries her weight below the waist.

At the Golden Globes, Claire’s gown accentuated her narrow upper body with a deep v-neck and halter straps, and minimized her lower body with a fluid skirt, high heels to elongate, and a color that melted into the red carpet. And as I’ve already explained, those stars wear Spanx. BTW: Claire has great posture.

Claire looked slim last night, but her arms are not too skinny. (The Statue of Liberty’s arm is my reference point) Claire probably gained the recommended amount of weight during her pregnancy. Her baby weighed around 7 pounds, he is in good health, and Claire is successfully breast feeding. Claire is known for eating wholesome, minimally-processed foods and she probably exercises with a trainer. She knows how to pose for the camera, she looks healthy, and her post-baby body does indeed rock.

You thoughts: Did you watch Claire Danes last night? What do you think?

My Thoughts on Sarah Palin’s Diet Book

Mary Hartley as Sarah Palin

Yesterday, ABC News asked me for a quote about Sarah Palin’s new diet book. (The quote was not used.) I guess Palin’s book will be out soon, even though last October, People magazine couldn’t say if Palin had a contract or when the book would be published.

According to several news outlets, Palin said her book advocates “a balanced approach to weight loss” focusing on “self-discipline as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods.”  Of me, the ABC writer asked, “Is it OK to indulge once in a while?” and “Is this a good approach to weight loss?” To the first question, I answered, “Yes; only a control freak would not indulge once in awhile.” To the second question, I said, “Dunno.”

I do say this: Never take nutrition or medical advice from a celebrity.

Sarah Palin is no authority on diet and fitness, but she does have a loyal following and enough gawkers to sell a book. And then there’s the diet-crazed crowd. Get that book on the shelves by January 1st.

Sarah has lost some weight since she was a household name in 2008. She espouses a low-carb-, lean-protein-style diet, and so I presume that will be her focus. She drinks a “skinny white-chocolate mocha” for breakfast, and so I guess that is her indulgence. For decades, Sarah has been a distance runner, which accounts, in part, for her trim physique.

Without reviewing what Sarah actually eats, I cannot say whether her diet is wholesome and balanced. There are countless routes to a balanced diet. For instance, an Inuit does not eat like a Bantu, yet both native diets are correct.

I’m glad Sarah is happy with her own eating style, and as long as she meets her daily requirements for protein, carbohydrate, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds with nutrient-like activity that are known and still unknown, it doesn’t really matter whether she focuses on low-carb or low-fat. That’s because total calories matter most when it comes to weight control.

The Palin family’s food choices don’t have to be yours. Every individual needs to find his own style in terms of personal preferences, resources and “life-style.” (Not my favorite term)  For me, moose stew doesn’t work, and I doubt if Sarah has tried my Portuguese Kale Soup.

Your thoughts: Would you read Sarah Palin’s diet book?

Thanksgiving Stuffing and You

I hope you haven’t begun to feast because I have a few words for you. Kara Quillard of GalTime asked Yours Truly for sage Thanksgiving advice.  Kara really knows how to turn a phrase: throw a turkey touchdown, stretch your muscles…not your pants. That gal’s time is steeped in pop culture! And so, to use Kara’s words, “when you find yourself inches away from a glorious Thanksgiving feast and your eyes grow bigger than your stomach, remember these tips to” Avoid Stuffing Yourself at Thanksgiving. Happy Day!

Your thoughts: What are your Thanksgiving anti-stuffing tips?

Adult Gummie Vitamins Save the Day

Have you noticed the explosion of gummy vitamins?  Every brand seems to make them now. I am most familiar with Nature Made, a company dedicated to demanding safety and quality standards. They introduced me to their new lines of supplements – Adult Gummies, Full Strength Minis, and VitaMelts – but today I am recommending the adult gummies because they saved the day – twice.

Case One
My 92 year old aunt needs vitamins. Her weight matches her age. This is Aunt Jean, not Aunt Pauline, who was helped a bit when Sugar-free Peeps Saved the Day. Aunt Jean cannot eat much because she has achalasia, a condition that affects the ability of her esophagus to move food toward the stomach, and so she has difficulty swallowing solids. She has had surgery and medications, but this is the best she can do. She clearly doesn’t eat enough, but I’m just the friendly visitor, not the Boost® police. Plus, she is picky, picky, picky. Her longevity is definitely not related to eating a balanced diet.
Aunt:      “Should I take these vitamins? Do they smell bad? They’re big”.
Me:         “You smell the minerals and, yes, those vitamins are too big. I recommend a multivitamin-mineral supplement that smells and tastes like candy. You can chew it.”
Aunt:      “I want that those.”
Me:         (Note to self: Picky eaters always like candy. Also, Nature Made describes their gummies as, “…mouth-watering, real fruit flavors like peach, mango and orange that taste like real fruit, not candy.”  I guess they had to say that.)

Case Two
My 29 year old daughter, Liza, has perfect health and a wonderful diet. (See A Whole Lotta Grain Goin’ On.) But – Liza is a preschool teacher surrounded by kids with colds. Back at school, week-one, she already has a cold. (Don’t give it to me!)  Perhaps a multivitamin-mineral supplement would help, if not for the nutrients, then for the affirmative action of taking it. Caveat: Liza does not swallow vitamin pills.
Me:         “Here, take this bottle of Nature Made Adult Gummies. I got it as a gift.”
Liza:       (90 days later and cold-free) I finished that bottle of vitamins. Do you have more?
Me:         “I don’t, but you can buy them in any drug store. Here is a coupon for $2 off.”

Conclusion:   Adult Gummies saved the day – twice.  As for me, I take Nature Made Full Strength Mini Multi for Her 50+. I have no problem swallowing little pills.

Your thoughts: Do you take a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement?

Order the Wrap

At a recent expo in a faraway place, to my surprise, my beloved Damascus Bakery had a booth. Damascus Bakery, the tiny retail shop, is on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and I walk there often. (See The Road to Damascus.)  As it turns out, Damascus Bakery has production facilities elsewhere in Brooklyn and in Newark, NJ, and they supply the flatbread used some of America’s leading restaurants, markets, and institutions. If you order the wrap at Starbucks, Arby’s, or Chick-fil-A, then you are eating a Damascus Bakery product. On the retail end, you can buy Damascus wraps and flatbread at Whole Foods, Costco, and BJ’s stores.

What Makes It Great  

The secret is the yeast. You can smell it before you walk into the bakery. Damascus’ Middle Eastern artisan flatbreads are distinguished by their rich and savory flavor. Their lahvash wraps, panini, flatbreads, and roll ups complement any fill. The roll-up (like a lahvash, but a rectangle, not of a circle) is a very flat piece of yeast-dough baked quickly (20-25 seconds) on both sides in a very hot oven (800oF). Nutrition-wise, Damascus Bakery breads are exactly what you want in bread: low in calories, carbohydrates, and glycemic load, but high in fiber, protein, lots of other nutrients, with very few added ingredients. See the Nutrition Facts label for the roll up. Watch this short video of a woman making an interesting and healthy chicken salad roll-up, and get the chicken salad recipe. Enjoy!

Your thoughts: Have you tried a Damascus Bakery product?

Gut Bacteria, Obesity, and HAES

Link

I love reading about gut bacteria. I really do. We have ten times more bacteria living in us than we have human cells, yet we had been unaware. (What else don’t we know?) This month, I wrote about the research exploring the relationship between gut bacteria and obesity for Diets In Review for Vidazorb  in Altering Gut Bacteria to Manipulate Weight Could be the Next Big Thing in Obesity Management.

I’ll always remember my first time.
The first time I read about gut bacteria and obesity was in 2006. It was August at Wildwood on the Jersey Shore and I had time to leisurely read a New York Times Magazine article about the microbial theory of obesity. Fat Factors by Robin Marantz Henigmind will blow your mind. It was so far ahead of its time that it is still au courant.

HAES
This is a good time to bring up “Health At Every Size“, a movement to accept and respect the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes. HAES acknowledges that “good health can best be realized independently from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.”

Every case of obesity is not so easily explained. In clinical practice, I’ve seen people who couldn’t lose weight despite their best intentions. (Believe me, I’m not easily duped by patients.) Individuals vary in the way they store and burn body fat and in how they adapt metabolically to weight change. The studies of microbes and obesity show how little we know. Meanwhile, everyone, regardless of size, should focus on health and not  only on weight.

A penny for your thoughts….

Don’t Forget About Walnuts!

I can’t seems to get enough of one of my favorite winter foods: Walnut Stuffed Figs. It’s a Portuguese favorite my mother used to make when I was a little girl.
Here’s the recipe:
Take a dried, but not too dry, fig (Kadota or Calimyrna, I guess.) Cut the fig in half and press as many walnuts as you can into each half. Put the fig sandwich together and mash it down with the heel of your hand. Roll it sugar (this part is unnecessary unless you have a sweet tooth like me but, rest assured, no more than ¼ teaspoon of sugar sticks to each fig) and eat. How simple is that?

I’ve been eating two Walnut Stuffed Figs with a Greek yogurt for breakfast, or lunch, or whatchamacallit. (I’m not the structured type.)  At 110 calories each, they’re quite filling and mad nutritious, full of calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, and pantothenic acid, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3), anti-oxidants, and nutrition pigments. (You can skip your supplement for the day.)  Walnut stuffed figs may be wrapped in bacon or topped with Gorgonzola cheese, which is not for everyday, but here are the recipes:

Remember Walnuts!

Full disclosure: the California Walnut Commission has wined and dined me a few times this year. Those guys know how to host a classy event!  It’s hard to believe that walnuts need a promo because who could have a problem with walnuts? But I guess people forget about them and they don’t know how nutritious walnuts are. That’s too bad because walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that protect against heart disease and diabetes, and they maintain sperm quality, with fewer chromosomal abnormalities, in older men. (I mention this because I know a lot of late 20- and early 30-somethings who are delaying childbearing and, so, guys, take it from me, keep eating walnuts.) Dr. Wendie Robbins, from the UCLA School of Public Health, presented her walnuts-fertility research in Philadelphia at a FNCE dinner hosted by California Walnuts held at Supper, the wonderful ‘New American’ restaurant. Nom nom nom, walnuts with every course.

You must visit the California Walnuts Commission’s recipe page for inspiration. I recommend these two recipes only because I’ve made them and they are seasonal:

Random walnut fact: Do you know the name of the “classic walnut,” the principal variety marketed inshell? It’s the Hartley Walnut, the only variety that can stand vertically!

Your thoughts: How do you eat walnuts? Got a walnut recipe to share?

Whoa! That’s a Lot of Brands

The dietitian’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo last week overwhelmed me. Between them, FitBloggin, the Editor’s Cooking & Entertaining Showcase, and other food events in Manhattan, I am up to my neck in swag, branded promotional gifts. I have seen around 500 vendors in 17 days. Did I say I am overwhelmed?  Some products are fantastic (hello, Tupperware~) and others are unexpectedly cool (more about them later) but, overall, none was necessary. But someone, somewhere, has some job.

All in all, the food industry is about developing niche products out of something we already have. Take salt, for instance, simple and necessary. A biblical food. At one end, I met Real Salt, very nice people selling salt harvested from an ancient sea bed unrefined with 60 trace minerals. At the other end is Soda-Lo, also very nice people, who use nanotechnology to recrystalize salt into microscopic hollow crystals that are meant to reduce the salt in processed foods. Both brands (and others) claim to deliver an intense salty taste immediately and so, we need less to register a salty taste. Both companies seem to be telling the truth, as is my man, Alton Brown, who explains the taste of salt.

None of this matters to a body that can utilize salt in any form, from any source, and excrete the excess (when we are in good health.)  As for the teeny bit of 60 trace minerals? I get them in my wholesome food and vitamin-mineral supplement. And the nano-salt? I don’t eat much processed food and I guess nanos are okay….

I have to say that too many brands in too few days messed up my chi, but I am breathing in to restore peace. In the end, the experience left me seriously craving cabbage.

This is My Pledge to you: I will never write about a product unless I truly love it and I actually use it. And if I am paid to write to endorse anything, I will disclose it, and you may never know how I really feel. Full disclosure: No one paid me to mention cabbage.

Your thoughts:  What do you think about having so many brands on the market?