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?

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!

Please Join Me on TV

Glasses

For a good time, I highly recommend being on live TV. On Monday, I was on the PIX11 Morning News in New York City talking about “Back-To-School-Week: Food Swap.” What a blast! ADinfinitum, a public relations agency that promotes healthy lifestyles with brand strategies and campaigns, placed me, and I got to talk about my favorite Olympus Greek Yogurt and two other cool foods, KAMUT® khorasan wheat (more to come) and B-Amazing! (amazingly healthy vegetarian) food bar.

To start, PIX11 is in the “Superman Building,” The Daily News Building, also called The News Building, and the fictional Daily Planet. It was the first vertically soaring, modernistic skyscraper without ornamentation in Manhattan. And look at the 4,000 pound glowing globe in the intact Art Deco lobby, circa 1929. The News Building is easy to get to, near Grand Central Station at 220 East 42nd Street. It is worth the visit.

Up in the station, it is not so fancy: low ceilings, bad coffee, busy bees. Sue Taggart, the owner of ADinfinitum and her team, along with the stylist from the station, arranged the food while I was busy with makeup, mike-up, practice, and changing into my big shoes. (I am vertically challenged and so I need a wardrobe of 5-inch platform heals!) Finally, it is show time with Suki! Sukanya Krishnan of PIX11 Morning News is a real live wire, all about having fun in the morning. And since FUN is my M-O (along with food and nutrition), Suki and I got along great. (Live footage of the segment is available on YouTube for a limited time. See below.)

Your thoughts: Glasses or no glasses? Liza says glasses. “They’re hip like Tina Fey.”

Cleansing Up on Wall Street

As if I didn’t mistrust investment bankers enough, now I trust them even less. I refer to this story in the New York Times, Companies Try to Build Team Spirit Through Group Juice Cleansing. “Group cleanses, generally one-to-five-day, all-liquid diets with anywhere from a half-dozen to as many as 150 employees taking part, are emerging as one of the latest ways to solidify corporate bonds, on both Seventh Avenue and Wall Street,” they write. “Six-juice-a-day-dieters include employees at Merrill Lynch and the Carlyle Group and, in May, Citigroup began offering (a cleanse) in some of its Manhattan cafeterias.” How is that for good judgment? (Seventh Avenue, the fashion industry, gets a pass because they’re not expected to make sense.)

Why “Cleanse”?

Why do a corporate cleanse? “It was something we could do where we thought, ‘We’re all in this together,’ ” explained a young city business man. My explanation is that movie stars do it; it’s delivered by FedEx in a box with a bow; it’s in the same vein as vile-tasting energy drinks they use; and it gives everybody an excuse to “eat” as a group. (Why not hire a chef and eat food at the table, Italian-style?) But wait! Their insides need cleaning. Gwyneth Paltrow said so.

Make Sense

The voice of reason in the story comes from Joan Salge Blake, PhD, RD, a Boston University associate professor of nutrition. “Your liver and kidneys can handle toxins just fine,” she says. “There’s no science to back up cleansing.” (Can this stuff clean up the soul?) As a diversion, a short-term cleanse might be fun. It certainly is an event. It’s not harmful and it may serve as a tangible symbol of change. But “cleanses” lasting longer than a day or two can lead to muscle breakdown, headaches, irritability and fatigue. (Should anyone handle money in that state?) And cleanse fans note: never “cleanse” with colonic irrigation because it can perforate the bowel and cause a deadly infection.

Your thoughts: Would you take part in  a corporate cleanse?

Helping Cassey Ho

Cassey Ho is a Pilates instructor, YouTube fitness guru, blogger and online community leader, and designer of yoga bags. When you count her blog subscribers and social networking fans, she has around 185,000 followers. Cassey is an exceptionally hard-working young woman who will probably go far in the fitness world. I met Cassey online a few weeks ago when I helped her with a dilemma.

Cassey wrote: Lately, some of my fans have attacked me for “triggering” their eating disorder and body image disorder tendencies because I’ve been talking extra about weight loss and dieting because it’s bikini season. The blog that started it is Best Celebrity Bikini Bodies…thanks to PILATES!  Some have said that I may have an eating disorder or body image disorder myself! They’ve even gone as far as to say that I should have my posts looked over by a psychologist to analyze the potential messages I am sending out. As a professional, what do you think?

I wrote back:  I think “triggers” are everywhere for people with psychological disorders. I believe that anyone who feels vulnerable should beware of potentially triggering experiences that they can control (e.g. don’t buy fashion magazines, don’t visit certain websites or watch certain TV shows, etc.) The really difficult triggers are those stressful life situations, including trauma and loss, that they can’t control. Ideally, a trigger will start a conversation. It is rich material for mental health therapy.

As to whether celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Cassey Ho have disordered eating patterns, I cannot say without a proper assessment. But Americans, and the world for that matter, like their celebrities to be thin. Most celebrities exercise an lot and are very careful not to over-eat. How else could they look that way? They have millions of dollars resting on it.

But when does self-care – a desire to exercise and eat right – turn into a disorder? When a person’s “love for diet and exercise” precludes enjoying a variety of wholesome foods in the amount needed to maintain a healthy weight, and when someone’s exercise program is so intense that it leads to injuries, exhaustion, and irritability, then that’s a problem. But, if not, then go girl! Cassey’s readers, and anyone, should take The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), the most widely used, standardized self-report measure of concerns and symptoms of eating and exercise disorders. It is a screening test that indicates a need for professional evaluation.

The Dilemma

Heck, I owe my bikini (or one piece swimsuit) body to Pilates. I go to Pilates three times a week and try never to miss. But for non-celebrities like me, after a certain point, say 60 minutes of exercise 5-6 times a week and healthy eating 85 percent of the time, chasing the perfect body has diminishing returns. After health habits are in check, time is better spent working on inner qualities and making the world a better place. How about helping the SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled activist movement, to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. They are collaborating with hundreds of girls ages 13 to 22. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take diet advice from a celebrity! As I told Diets In Review, Miley Cyrus Stays Trim Following a Gluten-Free Diet is not a good idea. Every modified diet, including vegan and raw food diets, carries a nutritional risk because so many foods are omitted.

Cassey had many more questions, and you can read my answers at Bringing it to Light: Eating Disorders on Bloglates.com. I thank Cassey for trusting my professional advice, and I wish her smooth sailing in her work to bring health to the masses.

Your thoughts: Have you ever wondered if you have an eating or body image disorder?

A Tupperware Party, New York City Style

Tupperware recently hosted a party to showcase their new line of products – choppers, smoothie makers, cream whippers, pots, pans, and cutlery – to food writers. The event was held at the Tasting Table, a new test kitchen and dining room in SoHo, and featured chef Marco Canora of Hearth Restaurant and the Food Network’s Iron Chef fame. Chef Marco whipped up a few dishes for us and everything was beyond delicious. Watch him at the event butterfly, season, pound, and saute his “Flavor Pounded Chicken.” The end product was crispy and light, like no boneless breast I’ve had. At the party, I discovered a few things worth sharing.

Soffritto
Chef Marco is all about soffritto. Soffritto is a mixture of very finely chopped vegetables, such as onions, celery, and carrots or fennel, with or without herbs and garlic, that is sautéed in hot olive oil. The natural vegetable sugars caramelize as they cook for quite awhile. Soffritto gives Italian stews, sauces and braised dishes their flavor, but every great cuisine has a soffritto. For instance, the Far East has scallions ginger and garlic, and in Spain, soffritto is peppers onions and garlic. Marco Canora’s cookbook, Salt to Taste: The Key to Confident, Delicious Cooking explains it all.

Tupperware Chop ’N Prep™ Chef
You’re probably saying, “I don’t need that,” but you do. This tool makes soffritto easy. Chef Marco says, “Mince the vegetables very small, like grains of sand.” Watch the Chop ’N Prep Chef in action. I use it to chop my fresh herbs. What a delight.

Universal Series Knives Starter Set
The joy of cooking with really sharp knives… We attendees got two all purpose Tupperware knives as a party favor. The set includes a heavy duty prep knife and a delicate paring knife, each with a protective sheath because the knives are really that sharp.

By the end of the party, I was all set to enroll in Chef Marco’s Tuscan Cooking School this summer and to buy more Tupperware from the online catalog. I could never top that party,

Your thoughts: Could you use some new cooking gadgets?

Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman”

Can I assume, by now, everybody has heard about “Snackman,” the Brooklyn architect who broke up a fight on the NYC subway by inserting his 200-pound frame between the fighters as he munched on chips? Using a smart phone, someone made a video that went viral and Charles Sonder, “Snackman,” became the darling of every media outlet in NYC. Tweeters wrote, “Chips Not Clips!” And there’s this: Snackman: The Hero Gotham Needs Is Getting All The Marriage Proposals He Deserves. (Watch the Snackman video and read about Snackman in The New York Times.)

Snackman and I

It turns out that Snackman is from Rhode Island, along with me, where everyone is related by a degree of separation, Kevin Bacon-style. For instance, if two random people who grew up in Rhode Island met at a party in some faraway place, they would probably find someone they both knew within a short amount of time. This is how I am separated from Snackman: Snackman is my best friend’s sister’s son’s best friend from North Kingston.  But wait, there’s more! My daughter’s downstairs neighbor’s old girlfriend, Phoebe, is Snackman’s sister. The neighbor has no connection to Rhode Island. Crazy, right?

And so, Snackman, amigo, we are so proud of you! And forgive me for saying this, but it’s my job: Be careful about eating junk food, especially late at night. I am just looking out for your health and good looks, especially now that you are famous. And, listen, if you need a nutritionist in Brooklyn, I’m at your service anytime. I hope you don’t mind me riding your coattails, but I’m sure you understand because I too, am saving the world, one chip at a time.

You thoughts: If you agree that “Snackman” rocks, then leave a note for him here.

Do I Write Like H. P. Lovecraft?

Today, I’m taking a nutrition holiday because I want you to check out this simple program, I Write Like. Feed it a writing sample, it analyzes your style, and then compares you to a famous writer.

I write like H.P. Lovecraft. That was the result each time with three different samples. Is it the Providence connection? The first-person narratives? Or is it that I’m a little more than weird, what with writing about placentas, run-down Victorian houses, and rolls of flab oozing out of Spanx. Or could it be the narrow choice of topics? Or that we are antiquated and not very good? Or maybe the program thinks that everybody writes like H.P. Lovecraft. Try it for yourself.

Your thoughts: Which famous author do you write like? Do you agree?