You Are No Match for Big Food as Stephen Colbert Explains

So, by now, everybody knows that, at the 11th hour, a New York State Supreme Court Judge overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of large sugary drinks in New York City restaurants. Constitutionality aside, I think the judge didn’t want to wait in the long line at Dunkin’ Donuts. There will be appeals and the lawyers will get rich because the American Beverage Association spends millions and billions to fight soda taxes and laws like Bloomberg’s across the land every year. People don’t understand that we all pay for obesity in higher taxes to support Medicare, Medicare, disability benefits, etc.  And “personal responsibility” is no match against foods that are engineered and marketed to make us overeat. Stephen Colbert explains it better than I. Watch.

More Than a Trace of Nuts

Nut Lady Art

“O Nobody Ever Thinks About Nuts” by Elizabeth Tashjian

Back in the day when nuts were in the (unhealthy) group of “high fat foods,” I didn’t eat so many nuts. Times have changed. Now, my diet is full of (healthy) nuts. Monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin E, B-complex, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, fluoride and selenium…. How can I express that without being waaa-waaa-waaaaaaa, bored?

That nutty thought occurred to me while absentmindedly weeding through old cookbooks, when suddenly a newspaper clip from 1985 fell into my lap. On one side was for an ad for a diabetes cookbook that no longer interested me, but on the back was a story about a self-proclaimed nut fanatic, Elizabeth Tashjian, aka the Nut Lady. The Google machine led me to her obituary in The New York Times, Elizabeth Tashjian, 94, an Expert on Nuts, Dies. Nuts! I missed the Nut Lady.

The Nut Lady Lives

Elizabeth Tashjian was an accomplished artist who championed the nut. She was the daughter of aristocratic Armenian immigrants and studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the National Academy of Design. See a photo of  young Elizabeth in her studio from the Smithsonian collection.

Ms. Tashjian made vaguely erotic nut-themed paintings, sculptures and masks. To showcase her work and collected artifacts made of nuts, she opened the Nut Museum in Old Lyme Connecticut. Admission to the museum was $2 and a nut. No nut, no entrance. See Nut Galleria, a tour of Elizabeth Tashjian’s nut art statements.

Later in life, Ms. Tashjian she appeared on late night TV – Johnny Carson, Nut Lady MuseumDavid Letterman, Jay Leno, and Chevy Chase  – to promote the Nut Museum and to expound on nuts. She delighted Johnny with a thirty-five-pound coco-de-mer that resembled a woman’s butt. An accomplished musician, she performed her nut anthem,  “Nuts are Beautiful,” on Johnny Carson. Watch the Nut Lady sing.

Elizabeth Tashjian was the subject of a documentary film, In A Nutshell: A Portrait Of Elizabeth Tashjian. It is a sad story about how her house was seized by the government and she was moved into a nursing home at the end of her live.  When the Nut Museum closed in 2002, Connecticut College inherited much of her art.

“Nuts have a heart. Hard and pricky sometimes on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside. That’s my philosophy.” ~Elizabeth Tashjian  (Sound more than a bit like me.)

Your thoughts: Did you know the Nut Lady? Do you eat a lot of nuts? 

A “Healthy Weight Week” Reality Check

Baby on ScaleTake out your compass. I am celebrating Healthy Weight Week – the 20th Annual – and that means it’s time to focus on eating problems that originate from our media-fed perceptions of “healthy” weight. The images of women in the media are much too thin. They feed into our confusion about reference points and what is weight normal.

We have a Skinny Girl Fetish

Our society is primitive when it comes to  objectifying our idols. We expect them to attain and maintain unattainable slimness, and we settle for nothing less. Consider the unfortunate  Jennifer Lawrence, a 22-year old actress, nominated for Jennifer-Lawrence-Bikini-1Best Actress in a Leading Role, Silver Linings Playbook (trailer) Jennifer recently told ELLE Magazine, “I’m considered a fat actress.” “I’m Val Kilmer in that one picture on the beach.”  A Google search runs five pages deep into the topic of of Ms Lawrence’s weight. The real problem is our notion of a healthy body. Jennifer is perfect, but our view of women’s bodies is f—ked up.

Why Are the Natives Fat?

Do you ever wonder why the well-fed, native people we see in National Geographic Magazine are kind of chubby by modern Western standards? The natives don’t have mirrors or scales, or junk food, or cars; yet, they are not thin. In fact, the natives are like Jennifer Lawrence. Note: nature prefers a little meat on the bones for a rainy day. That meat is muscle and fat, not too little, not too much, just right. Reality check: Photographs of healthy native women.

The Next Step?

In South Korea, notions about perfection have led to the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world. Eyelid surgery, nose reshaping, facial contouring – Asians want a westernized face. See this article from Jezebel, I Can’t Stop Looking at These South Korean Women Who’ve Had Plastic Surgery. Reality check: celebrities have plastic surgery all the time. The shock is in the trickle down to the masses.

Korean_1

Your thoughts: How will you celebrate healthy weight week? Everything counts.

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?

The Wish Tree. Keep Wishing.

Wish Tree at the Brooklyn Museum

“Yes, I’m your angel – I’ll give you everything – In my magic power – So make a wish and I’ll let it come true for you. Tra, la, la, la, la.” 
~Yoko Ono lyrics “Yes, I’m Your Angel” from the album “Double Fantasy” (1980)

Yoko Ono presented a “Wish Tree” to the Brooklyn Museum in appreciation of her 2012 Women in the Arts Award. “Wish Tree” is an ongoing project that has been installed across continents for decades, gathering wishes from more than one million people so far. After each presentation, when all of the wishes are collected, they are buried (unread) around the Imagine Peace Tower, an outdoor light installation in Reykjavik, Iceland created by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. The Brooklyn Museum’s Wish Tree is new, and so it needs more wishes, but when a wish tree is full, it looks like this:

For over fifty years, Yoko Ono has made art that requires viewer participation for completion. Yoko provides the pencils, tags, and instructions. (“Make a wish, write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of the wish tree. Ask your friend to do the same. Keep wishing.”) You make the wish. Yoko encourages us to believe in the collective power of our hopes for the future. I encourage us to believe in the power of wishes for ourselves. Wish to make it easy to eat in a healthy way.

Your thoughts: Would you like me to hang a wish for you? Let me know. Keep wishing.

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 (know 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?

Breakfast (Cereal) With the Candidates

Choose between delicious Obama O’s and delectable Romney Flakes! Candidate Crunch, a limited edition breakfast cereal from Cerealize.com, is just plain fun. As much, or more, fun than binders full of women! I’m ordering a box of each.

Cerealize is a new company, in beta mode, that lets you create your own breakfast cereal and then they ship it to your home. The ordering is done online. I read about them in Food + Tech Connect, Breakfast with Obama and Romney, Courtesy of Cerealize.

Your thoughts: Would you buy custom-blended cereal?

Toddlers & Tiaras & Energy Juice

I hope my upscale readers will forgive me for mentioning an odd thing that happened last month. Twice, I was asked to comment on Honey Boo Boo, a fat 6-year old from “Toddlers & Tiaras,” an uber trashy TV show on TLC. I was asked about the “Go-go Juice” that mama feeds to Honey Boo Boo to make her dazzle on stage. Watch them talk about it here.

Question: “Does offering an energy drink to a 6-year old constitute child abuse?”
Answer:     Well, yes it does, in my opinion, but this is ’merica, the land of the free, and so, officially, I say,  “The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that all drinks with caffeine (e.g. Red Bull) are off limits to children and teenagers. Energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants that can raise heart rate and anxiety levels and increase the risk of dehydration.” And then Mountain Dew soda has even more caffeine along with water, preservatives, artificial flavors, and empty calories from sugar. Go-go juice is a bad idea for anyone, most especially a child.

In 2010, the F.D.A. issued warning letters to makers of energy drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine citing a health risk, and recently, the state of New York’s attorney general began investigating whether companies that make energy drinks are misleading the public about how much caffeine the drinks contain and the health risks they could pose.

Honey Boo Boo’s pediatrician needs to address her consumption of energy drinks and junk food, as well as her childhood obesity, but given the family and the public’s attention, I don’t think it will work. Honey Boo Boo can serve as an example of what not to do. ’nuff said.

Your thoughts: Do you see little kids drinking energy drinks?

Nutritious Snacks on TV!

Shelley Goldberg and Mary Hartley on NY1

In case you missed my interview with parenting reporter, Shelley Goldberg, on NY1 News over the weekend, you can watch it here.

With back-to-school season among us, now is the time to change your children’s eating habits. In the segment I outline some healthier options for your child’s breakfast, lunch and snack!

For a closer look at these better-for-you nutrition options, here is a list of recommended items and where you can get more info.

Olympus Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a thicker and creamier alternative to typical American-style yogurts. Compared to its traditional counterpart, Greek yogurt contains roughly the same amount of calories, but it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half. But buyer beware, not all Greek yogurt brands are not created equal. Olympus Greek yogurt, one of my personal favorites, as it is the only Greek strained yogurt in America  imported directly from Greece–and the difference is in the taste. Olympus’ deliciously thick and creamy yogurt is available in plain and fresh fruit flavors–including blueberry, strawberry, cherry, vanilla, lemon, peach and honey–making it a naturally filling snack for busy parents and growing children. www.olympusdairyusa.com

KAMUT® Khorasan wheat
Nowadays, ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and spelt are turning up in every bread and cereal aisle. They’re healthful and tasty, and packed with whole grains, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Additionally, those have an intolerance to modern wheat (but not with celiac disease) often find ancient grains easier to digest. I particularly enjoy KAMUT® Brand Khorasan wheat, an ancient grain that is non-GMO and always grown organically, has naturally sweet taste, smooth texture and is packed with nutritious value. Recipes made with ancient grains such as KAMUT® wheat help establish well-rounded, nutritious meals that offer higher amounts of protein and minerals than ingredients made with traditional grains. www.kamut.com

B-Amazing Food BarsB-Amazing Food Bars
A fresh and colorful diet is one of the biggest contributing factors to overall health, and fruits and vegetables deliver nutrients and minerals needed for our bodies and minds to function at optimal levels. For parents looking to sneak fruits and vegetables into their child’s diet, B-Amazing! Foods has introduced nutritious, all natural food bar made with 50% fresh root vegetables and fruit. Unlike any other bar, B-Amazing! begins with a mixture of fresh sweet potatoes, carrots, yellow beets and squash. Then minimally processed, “real food” ingredients—such as organic whole grains, 5-7 different kinds of nuts and seeds, whole fresh lemons, oranges, cranberries, apricots and other fruits are added to create a delicious flavor. www.b-amazingfoods.com

LesserEvil Snacks  
Snacks can make up a significant portion of your child’s calories. With only 120 calories per serving, LesserEvil Krinkle sticks are a great-tasting snack option that parents can feel good about giving their kids. LesserEvil snacks are free of trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors and high fructose syrup, and offer a guilt-free alternative to traditional junk food. They are low in sodium for a packaged snack food and kids will love the taste! www.lesserevil.com

Disclosure: I work with ADinfinitum, a full service PR agency for the natural and healthy lifestyle and wellness industry that represents these products – and I love sticking up for delicious, healthy food!