Food Is Not Your Enemy

How Cooking Protects Us From Disease and Obesity

At the start of the 20th century, eating a meal out was a rare treat–only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home, in fact. But now, 50 percent of our meals are eaten away from home. And when we are actually eating at home these days, many of those meals involve peeling a film off a microwave dinner.

It’s not such a mystery why this has happened. We’re busy! Most men and women are working full time, and there’s usually not someone at home cooking up a roast with three sides to have on the table by 6 p.m. Kids have to be shuttled around to sports practices and lessons. And it’s just so easy to not cook.

But not cooking comes with risks. Relying on fast food means high-calorie, low-nutrient meals. Takeout from the local Chinese or Thai or Indian place means huge portions and perhaps a lot of oil and who knows what else in the food. Frozen dinners tend to come with lots and lots of sodium and additives we’d be better off avoiding.

Taking the time to cook a meal with real, fresh, whole foods can make such a difference when it comes to your health and your weight, even if you cook just a few times a week (make extra for leftovers!). You’ll know exactly what’s in your food. You’ll have better control over your portions. And you’re more likely to make vegetables part of the meal.

These benefits will translate to weight loss and the prevention of the kinds of chronic diseases that come from eating too much sugar, fat, salt, and refined carbs (such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease). Isn’t all that worth some of your time? Plus, you won’t believe how much money you’ll save!

U.S. Wins the Fat Contest
October 1, 2010, 11:26 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Food/Health Blogs | Tags: , ,

The U.S. has been declared the fattest country in the world. Not surprising, of course, but still depressing.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup May Get a New Name
September 21, 2010, 10:58 am
Filed under: food politics, Sweets | Tags: , ,

High-fructose corn syrup has rightfully gotten a bad rap. And those ridiculous ads showing families slurping down purple drink like it’s a perfectly healthy thing apparently have not done much to remove the stink from this product.

So now, in the spirit of ValuJet changing their name to AirTran (to make you forget about their crashes due to lax safety rules), and Andersen Consulting becoming Accenture (to erase the memory of their role in the ecomonic collapse), the Corn Refiners Association would like to change the name “high-fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar.”

So buyers beware: if the FDA approves this move, remember to check any and all food labels for “corn sugar,” and avoid products made with it.

Body Acceptance, or Habit Acceptance?

The U.S. is a very contradictory culture when it comes to food and weight. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to eat at every turn, and given enormous, calorie-laden portions when we eat out in restaurants. On the other, the media consistently sends us messages that we’re too fat, either by lionizing very very thin women or by pushing fad diets on us on the cover of every magazine.

And then from another direction comes the directive to “love your body.” Those behind this well-meaning message encourage us to accept that we’ll never be the size of a runway model, that being that thin is unnatural, and that instead of dieting we should just be happy with what we’ve got.

While I support the idea that we should love ourselves and that we need to stop obsessing about fitting into a size that’s unrealistic for our body type, I do want to raise this question: Should we love our body as it is, unconditionally, if our weight is jeopardizing our health?

Is the excuse “I’m just a big girl/boy” valid if you’re 50 or more pounds overweight, diabetic, not exercising, and eating candy, ice cream, and fast food every day? If you think it is, I would argue that you’re not loving your body in this case–what you’re loving and defending are your habits. When people are truly overweight by medical measures or have type 2 diabetes, it’s rarely a mystery why. I’ve worked with several clients who are diabetic and their food tells the story: When they first come to see me more often than not they eat fast food several times a week if not every day, they eat sweets a few times a day, and they don’t exercise. If you really love your body, then why not think about changing your habits, and honoring your body by providing it with healthy food and movement that will help it flourish and feel good? And if, after altering your habits for the better, you feel the best you’ve ever felt but still can’t wear Victoria or David Beckham’s clothes, then you’ll know your body is in a good place and you should let it be where it is.

So yes, love your body. But show that love by honoring it, and treating it like it deserves to be healthy. Because it does.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for Buns??

There’s something very odd and disturbing about the fact that the more we hear about how the U.S. is in the midst of a terrible obesity crisis, the further the fast food and chain restaurants go in their attempts to offer insanely high-calorie food. Behold, Friendly’s Grilled Cheese BurgerMelt, a hamburger which is encased between two grilled-cheese sandwiches instead of buns:

1500 Calories
870 Fat Calories
79g Total Fat
38g Saturated Fat
180g Cholesterol
2090mg Sodium
101g Carbs
9g Dietary Fiber
4g Sugar
54g Protein

Why, Friendly’s, why?

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.

Save Money by Eating Your Way to Good Health

“At first blush, the notion of eating our way out of huge public health challenges like obesity, diabetes and heart disease may seem an overly simplistic and idealistic fix for complex, multifaceted problems. But health experts say that, in fact, an apple a day does keep the doctor away, and that many studies prove it.”

Nice affirming news from The New York Times. Companies like Safeway are realizing that health care costs are getting out of control, and are now focusing on preventative care. So many of today’s “expensive” diseases–obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer–are tied to diet and lifestyle choices and are quite preventable. And so, the reasoning goes, if an employer can encourage its workers to eat things like vegetables and whole grains instead of Doritos and McDonald’s, costs for health insurance will ultimately go down or at least stabilize. And it’s working.

The article acknowledges that it’s easier said than done to make dietary and lifestyle changes. There’s so much conflicting info about nutrition out there–which should you listen to?

That’s why I do what I do. As a holistic nutrition counselor, I help my clients discover what works for them, and I support them every step of the way–holding them accountable, but also serving as their biggest cheerleader. You can make lasting changes. And you don’t have to do it alone.