Food Is Not Your Enemy

My Dark Fast-Food Secret
September 27, 2013, 11:08 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Restaurants, weight loss | Tags: ,

As a holistic nutrition counselor, my job is to help people eat better and live healthier lives. Which is probably why at some point one of my kids said to me, “What if your clients found out you were eating McDonald’s right now?”

I shrugged and said that I wouldn’t try to hide it–in fact, I would happily confess that I indulged in this meal. Here’s why.

Does McDonald’s, like virtually any fast-food chain, serve low-quality, genetically modified, factory-farmed food that is overloaded with fat, salt, and sugar? Yes. Do I advise my clients to avoid such food? Yes. And I generally avoid this food also.

But two or three times a year, I do eat it. I have to admit that while I do know that the food is disgusting, I enjoy the taste of it. You can’t beat those fries! And whenever I’m done with my Quarter Pounder with Cheese, I always wish there were just a few more bites left.

I don’t feel guilty about these meals, because I know that these two or three McDonald’s runs are not going to undo the healthy eating I do the rest of the time.

It is very important to strike a good balance with your eating–once-a-week fast food WILL lead to weight gain. But if you try to be too “perfect” or “pure” with your food choices, you can drive yourself nuts. This kind of stringency can also lead to binge-eating or secretive eating, where you end up shoveling Oreos into your mouth at 2 a.m. while everyone else in your house is asleep and unable to witness what you’re doing.

So cut yourself some slack. When it comes to your food choices, aim high, but don’t feel bad about missing the mark sometimes.

Nutritionists and Dieticians Influenced by Food Industry Giants

Disturbing piece about just how much sway companies like McDonald’s, Kraft, and Coca-Cola have over the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and its members. These companies are now actually exhorting the dieticians and nutritionists who are ADA members to encourage their clients to eat processed food, as processed foods “represent sources of important nutrients,” according to one exec.

It’s nice to see that some members are walking away from the ADA as a result of Coca-Cola sponsorships and the like.

This is one of the reasons I chose not to pursue a career as a registered dietician, and instead went the alternative route to become a holistic nutrition counselor. My approach and my recommendations are based on using whole foods and science not funded by the food industry. The fact that some dieticians are buying into what the likes of Kellogg’s has to say about proper eating is pretty alarming.

Will Ronald McDonald Retire?

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece today about the pressure being put on McDonald’s to stop marketing its food to kids, and to send its cherry-haired clown packing. People will pooh-pooh this kind of campaign, being waged by the likes of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, and Dr. Andrew Weil. But the bigwigs at McDonald’s know full well what Happy Meals and clowns are all about, no matter how much they go on about how their restaurants offer lots of choices and that they believe in nutritious food–it’s about money. And getting kids excited about McD’s, so that they then bug their parents to take them there so they can get the Buzz Lightyear with their burger, is just good business. Good business like pushing Camel cigarettes via the cartoon character Joe Camel was good business.

The Indestructible Happy Meal
October 14, 2010, 10:59 am
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs, Meat, Restaurants | Tags: , ,

This type of experiment has been done before, but look, the results are repeatable! A woman left a Happy Meal out on a table for months. Take a look at how McDonald’s food simply won’t rot.

Happy Meal Toys To Be Banned?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is going after McDonald’s and demanding that they stop including toys in their Happy Meals, saying that these trinkets lure children into eating unhealthy food.

As with the ice cream truck wars, I have mixed feelings about this. Parents can simply say no to their kids and refuse to go to McDonald’s. But the problem is, too many parents don’t say no, because they don’t really see what the big deal is about eating there. It makes their kids happy, so why not?

The problem is that USDA scientists have found that people eat 500 more calories on days they consume fast foods compared with days they don’t. Eating just one fast-food meal per week WILL lead to weight gain over the course of the year.

So maybe we do need a crackdown here. There are regulations now about advertising junk foods to children on TV, after all. Isn’t including a Buzz Lightyear toy in a box with a fatty hamburger, fries, and a soda a way of advertising junk food to kids?

It’s Always Time to Eat
June 14, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Restaurants, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , , ,

There didn’t used to be a McDonald’s in the children’s department of Macy’s Herald Square. Or a Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. Or a café at the library. Or drive-thrus open 24 hours a day. Or burritos and donuts at gas stations.

Over the past generation, we have seen a new phenomenon develop: the constant availability of food. Every minute of every day has become an opportunity to eat. My favorite example: Last year I accompanied my daughter’s class to Ellis Island, and watched as a family bought several bags of M&Ms from the ferry concession stand at 10 in the morning in order to tide them over during the 20-minute ride. Would this family have otherwise thought that they all needed candy that morning if it hadn’t been for sale right in front of them?

If you go to Macy’s to buy your child a bathing suit at 4 p.m., suddenly he wants a cheeseburger because he sees the McDonald’s right there. Is he even hungry? Would he otherwise have asked you for any food at all if he hadn’t smelled it and seen those familiar golden arches?

When I was in Paris a couple of years ago, I noticed that many restaurants simply didn’t serve food if it wasn’t what was considered mealtime. But in the U.S., it’s always mealtime, or at least snacktime. We’re encouraged to eat wherever we are, and, surprise surprise, it’s not vegetables or fresh fruit that’s pushed on us, but the junkiest junk foods. And no matter who you are and how healthy you try to be, it can be pretty tough to avoid that temptation all the time.

It’s unlikely that this is going to change–food companies want to make money, so they’re constantly looking for ways to get you to eat more. Putting food in your face everywhere you turn is a really effective way to do that.

To avoid getting sucked into the habit of grazing all day long when you’re out and about, before you pull into the drive-thru or wander into the mall food court because you smelled cinnamon rolls, stop and think–am I actually hungry right now? Or am I about to buy this food simply because it’s there? Would I have felt the need the get a snack right now if I hadn’t seen this concession stand?

This may sound simple, and you may wonder if it would actually make any difference, but awareness is the first step in making changes in your life, and can be very effective. Try it and see what happens.

“But Healthy Food Is Too Expensive…”

Have you ever groused that you’d like to eat healthy, but that you just can’t afford to do so on a regular basis? Or has someone you know justified eating regularly at McDonald’s, because they can order a filling meal for themselves or their kids for $1?

Healthy food does not have to be expensive food. When one organic red bell pepper from Fresh Direct costs $4, I’d say yes, that’s expensive. When two heritage breed, humanely raised pork chops at the Greenmarket cost $22, I’d say the same.

But these two instances really are exceptions to the rule. Lots of healthy, whole foods can actually be quite cheap:

  • A bowl of oatmeal made with Quaker rolled oats costs 17 cents
  • Two free-roaming Nature’s Yoke brand eggs for breakfast will run you 48 cents
  • One sweet potato costs about 49 cents
  • A bunch of kale costs between $1 and $1.50
  • A banana costs between 19 and 30 cents
  • A serving of dried beans costs about 15 cents
  • A serving of brown rice costs about 30 cents

And the fact is that we spend a smaller percentage of our incomes on food than ever before in our nation’s history. We expect cheap food, and, thanks to government subsidies of such crops as industrial corn and soybeans, a lot of junky foods that contain these ingredients (which is just about all of them) are cheaper than they should be.

But remember that in the end, eating cheap junk food ends up costing us more. That weekly run to McDonald’s can lead to weight gain and the need to pay for a personal trainer or weight-loss program. Regularly downing chips, instant ramen noodles, and those 25 cent plastic bottles of fruit drink can lead to wild blood sugar swings and, eventually, perhaps type 2 diabetes. We then have higher health-care costs. Plus, our quality of life suffers.

Consider the money you spend on wholesome foods an investment in your and your family’s health. Better to spend money on green vegetables now than prescription pills like Lipitor later.

Chicken: Safe or Scary?

We’ve been hearing for years that we should cut down on the amount of red meat we eat. Since these exhortations began, Americans have largely been plunging their forks into chicken instead — to the tune of 8 billion birds a year — because it’s healthier, right? Well, that depends. Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.