Monthly Archives: July 2009

Chicago says, “Walk the Walk”

Nearly 3,000 readers have voted in the Chicago Tribune online poll asking, “With the nation’s obesity crisis worsening, some advocates say it’s increasingly critical for health care workers to “walk the walk” and serve as role models. Do you agree?” An overwhelming 75.1% of readers reported “yes”. And, I agree.
In the nutrition world, I expect to be judged by my patients based on my weight status. This makes sense to me, and it’s only fair. When I worked at Rush University Medical Center for a summer, I recall seeing the masses of doctors and nurses outside smoking. Let’s just say I didn’t think highly of their actions. Same goes for staff at my current job. While completing my dietetic internship, even a respiratory therapist in a nursing home missed a code blue because he was out on a cigarette break. Oh, the irony.
The article uses the non-health related example of finances. Financial advice may not be best sought by a CPA who had just filed bankruptcy. Duh. But for doctors and dietitians, for example, what’s the goal? Perfection?
The article opens in talking about Sharon Salomon, a Phoenix-based Registered Dietitian. She says that while she teaches clients how to eat right and lose weight, she would use the word “fat” to describe her own physique. Professional deal-breaker? Surely to some, and I can’t blame people for discrediting a professional unable to live-up to their own advice.
As for myself, I don’t claim to be the epitome of health or nutrition, but I do practice what I preach: moderating the bad and always working to increase the good. When I encourage patients to consume more fruits and vegetables, I affirm this by saying that we ALL need to eat more fruits and vegetables, as it’s difficult for ANYONE, myself included, to consume 5-9 of those babies a day! Being healthy is very difficult, and today’s day and age creates an environment in which temptations are impossible to always dodge.
I commit to being a role-model for patients, family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m not perfect, I do make a conscious effort each and every day to make it a healthier one.
[1]. Deardorff, Julie. Weighty Issue Rages in Surgeon General Debate. Chicago Tribune. July 28, 2009.

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Filed under dietitians, Julie Deardorff, obesity epidemic, physicians

Lunch slump much?

I got a blog request this week from my friend up in Chicago. She wants to know lunch and snack ideas, as well as times of the day to be eating. Kristin, here you go…it’s a long one!
Eating right while managing a busy career and life can certainly be a challenge, but it’s also certainly very manageable if you keep things fresh, exciting…and plan ahead! As far as times of the day to be eating, this certainly varies on an individual basis. Personally, I bring with me everyday to work a snack to have before lunch, as well as one to have after lunch, which is typically in the car on my way home from work.
Ideally, I don’t recommend going more than 5-6 hours without eating. And 3 smaller meals with 2-3 healthy snacks a day is a great routine to get into. However, listening to your body is extremely important as your body will tell you when it’s hungry. If you’re not hungry, save the snack or have a later lunch. No reason to eat when you’re not hungry. Unless, of course, you’re my husband and refuse breakfast…in which case I recommend stock-piling a box or two of granola bars or cereal in your desk drawer. I force Mark to do this, and he typically has a mid-morning breakfast at work each day. The times at which you eat during the day should fit with your schedule. Find a pattern that works for you and be flexible. Packing things that aren’t too messy, labor-intensive or time-consuming to prepare ahead of time is also key.
Make snacks satisfying – include both carbohydrate and protein in a snack so that they are more satisfying and filling. Great snack ideas include:
– apple slices dipped in ½ c. fat-free yogurt
– 1 ½ sheets of graham crackers and 1 c. low-fat/fat-free milk
– 1 medium banana and 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter
– small handful of almonds
– apple and a 1 oz. slice of cheddar cheese
– string cheese and wheat crackers (6-7)
– a slice of bread or 6-7 crackers with 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter
– a high-fiber granola bar
– 1 serving of animal crackers and an 8 oz. glass of milk
– a Luna bar
– a fat-free/sugar-free pudding cup
– 2/3-3/4 c. cottage cheese and peaches/pineapple/melon
– 2-3 Tbsp hummus and 6-7 crackers
– 1 oz. meat and 1 oz. cheese with 6-7 crackers
– carrots, celery, cucumber, and bell pepper slices with 2 Tbsp light ranch dressing
…to name a few ideas!
As for lunches, here’s some ideas. Those asterisked have recipes below! Be creative…plan ahead…enjoy!
– almond butter and apple slices on wheat bread
– tuna salad in a pita
– chicken salad flatbread (Flatout is a popular, healthy brand)
– crab salad in a whole wheat, high-fiber tortilla
– egg salad* sandwich on whole wheat
– cracker sandwiches made with 2% cheese and lean luncheon meat (turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken)
– cold whole-wheat pasta salad with low-fat Italian dressing (include 2% cheese cubes, turkey pepperoni, salad peppers, olives, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, onion, and cherry tomatoes
– cherry tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil pita with Flaxseed Lemon Vinaigrette*
– BLT sandwich on whole wheat*
– pear and Swiss cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with Flaxseed Lemon Vinaigrette
– taco salad with 1 serving of whole grain tortilla chips
– grilled mozzarella and tomato sandwich on whole wheat
– Chicken Caesar salad pita (use bagged low-fat Caesar salad mixes – just add grilled chicken strips!)
– Pin wheels – roll-up luncheon meat, cheese, veggies, and condiments in a tortilla and cut into rolled bites held together with toothpicks
– Cold pizza!
– Leftovers!
Other suggestions:
– Pre-mix mayonnaise made with canola oil (see Monday’s blog) with yellow, brown, or honey mustard to mix delicious flavors…and cut out fat and calories!
– Make your lunch the night before.
– Commit to trying a new lunch each week
– Aim to make your co-workers jealous of your packed lunches – it’ll happen if you put in a little effort!
– Include something you love – if you’re a salty kinda person, opt for a bag of baked chips for a side to your meal, and if you’re a sweets kinda person, opt for a small cookie or pudding cup to compliment your meal
Recipes (taken from The Flexitarian Diet by Dawn Jackson-Blatner)
Egg Salad
1 boiled egg, chopped**
2 boiled egg whites, chopped**
2 tsp. mustard
1 Tbsp light canola mayonnaise
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ c. cucumber, chopped
Dash of pepper
2 slices of whole wheat bread
Mix the ingredients together and spread onto bread.
**Substitute tofu for the egg for a vegetarian meal!
Nutrition Information: 310 calories, 11 g. fat, 693 mg. sodium, 5 g. fiber
BLT (Balsamic, Lettuce, and Tomato) – This is a favorite of both mine and my parent’s!
4 Tbsp hummus
2 slices of whole grain bread, toasted
¼ avocado, mashed
Romaine lettuce
Tomato, sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Spread hummus on one slide of toast and avocado on the other. Top hummus with lettuce and tomato, and drizzle with vinegar. Close sandwich and enjoy!
Nutrition Information: 370 calories, 15 g. fat, 434 mg. sodium, 9 g. fiber
Pear and Swiss Sandwich
2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
1 small pear, thinly sliced
1 oz. (1 slice) Swiss cheese
2 tsp. mustard
Nutrition Information: 300 calories, 6 g. fat, 440 mg. sodium, 9 g. fiber
Universal Lemon-Flax Vinaigrette
¼ c. lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
¼ c. flaxseed oil
¼ c. white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together. Keep in fridge up to 7 days.
Nutrition information (2 Tbsp): 88 calories, 9 g. fat, 59 mg. sodium, 0 g. fiber
Get to packin’!


Filed under blog topic request, Flexitarian Diet, lunch

Melts in your mouth, not in your hands…and more

You may have heard rumors about green M&M dye and “mojo” but the blue M&M dye may have its perks, too. And proof of it.
Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that rats suffering from spinal cord injuries were able to walk again after being injected with the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG). BBG is the same dye found in blue M&Ms and blue Gatorade, go figure. Side effect: the mice turned blue [1]. I think it’s rather adorable, don’t you?
Previous research performed in 2004 looked at adenosine triphosphate (ATP), also known as the “energy currency of life”, and its effect on spinal cord injuries. The results found that oxidized ATP blocked the affect of ATP which caused harm due to the sudden influx of ATP which killed off healthy cells after an injury. What does this matter? Well, BBG acts in the same way as oxidized ATP following spinal cord injuries — favorably. In spinal injuries among rats which cause immobility, those treated with BBG were able to walk again while those left untreated never regained their mobility [1].
Why is this important? Approximately 15% of humans suffering spinal cord injuries receive steroids; the majority of spinal cord injuries (85%) are left untreated. Steroid treatments work moderately well, at best. Treatments such as BBG provide ground-breaking research. While BBG does not offer a cure, it offers more potential improvement than ever before [1].
Researchers are currently looking into getting the first clinical trial for BBG use on humans to be approved [1].
[1]. Blue M&Ms Linked to Reducing Spine Injury. CNN. July 28, 2009.

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Filed under research study, spinal cord injury

Eat This, Not That: Mayo

I had a blog topic request from my amazing mommy. So, mom, here you go!
Her topic proposal: Mayo with olive oil. She said in an email, “I’ve seen it advertised and on the shelf today. Us consumers will need to know it it’s good because it touts the words olive oil. If it is indeed beneficial, how much?”
Simple answer: It’s a condiment that contains calories, fat, and in some cases cholesterol. It should be used in moderation.
Reality, however, is not omission from the diet. So, let’s discuss.
Between the choices offered by Hellmann’s, my recommendation in order of “dietary preference” would be:
  1. Hellmann’s Canola Cholesterol-Free
  2. Hellmann’s Low Fat
  3. Hellmann’s Light
  4. Hellmann’s with Olive Oil
  5. Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
The logic?
The lowest option calorically is the low-fat Hellmann’s measuring in at 15 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving (1 tablespoon). The problem with it is the ingredients – water and modified cornstarch being the two main ingredients. Also, the sodium (while not high) is higher than any other Hellmann’s product. It is also the lowest in “good fat” – mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs).
Hellmann’s Canola Cholesterol-Free comes in as #1 in my book because it is 50% lower in calories than Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, contains no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and is lower sodium than the Hellmann’s made with olive oil. The olive oil product contains 5 more calories than the canola product and 5 milligrams of cholesterol, as well as 0.5 grams of saturated fat. Also, the olive oil product is not made of pure olive oil, but also contains soybean oil. Further, when you log-on to, the olive oil product is asterisked and noted to not contain olive oil. If that’s confusing and unclear to a dietitian, it’s certainly unclear to consumers.
Canola oil is a heart-healthy oil and inexpensive. It offers similar MUFA and PUFA content as olive oil, and can be used diversely in cooking and baking.
Mom: Buy the Hellmann’s Canola Cholesterol-Free. Love you!

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Filed under blog topic request, cholesterol, condiments, MUFAs and PUFAs, saturated fat

Moon Grub

This is more for fun than anything…plus it’s probably Trivial Pursuit-worthy.

Flying to the moon requires more compact, efficient, high-tech nutrition than that required on flights to say…Mercury (duh, right?). Designed using “scientific nutrition”, astronauts are certainly not bragging about “pills and paste”, the space-ready food served on their menus in the past. Such products were designed to provide calories, vitamins, and minerals… however, astronauts won’t eat the stuff. The “pills and paste” are packaged in squeeze tubes or as bite-size cubes coated in gelatin to keep crumbs from escaping. Warren Belasco, author of “Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food” describes the food as “edible biomass, food for function, not for the soul [1].” No kiddin’.
Astronauts were losing a lot of weight not only in part to the extremely unappetizing food, but also in part due to their increased energy needs. While “floating” sounds easy enough, a lot of energy is expended in space as opposed to gravity-ridden Earth. The calcium needs of the astronauts are also increased as bones regenerate more slowly in space.
However, Apollo astronauts were the first to have hot water aboard their space craft which allowed for dehydrated foods which were packaged like the military’s meals ready to eat (MRE’s) [1]. Unfortunately, the foods were typically consumed out of a pouch, allowing them to eat with a spoon versus the retired “pills and paste” alternatives in the past [2].
Flying in space causes a shift in body fluid to the head causing a decreased sense of smell. Because 85-90% of what we taste is what we smell, astronauts commonly use hot sauces, soy sauce, and other bold flavors to season their food and increase the flavor. Overall, the advances in selection and quality for our space crews have drastically improved. Those working for NASA have 180 varieties of freeze-dried foods from which to choose. They can even opt to include some of their favorite foods in the form of freeze-dried. A menu cycle is typically 7-days and many shuttle crews allow on foods representing their country to share with other astronauts. Carbonated products such as colas, however, are avoided as they cause “dry burps” when mixed with gravity.
Moral of the story: foodies probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about the cuisine in space. I’ll stick to my day job, that’s for sure.
[1]. LaRue Huget, Jennifer. Houston, We Have a Menu. The Washington Post. July 21, 2009.
[2]. Suddath, Claire. What Do Astronauts Eat in Space? Time. July 20, 2009.

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Filed under convenience foods, news

My music > Your music

Mark loves girly music — Madonna, Celine Dion, etc…it’s kind of embarrassing, but also a trait I find rather endearing (only a wife could say that!). So as he headed out for a run this morning with his headphones on, I could, of course, hear some “Material Girl” penetrating loud enough for me to hear. I gave him an eye roll and a smile…and he gave me blogging material.

Some good tunes are essential for enjoying a workout. My top 5 are eclectic, to say the least, but maybe they’ll enhance your workout play list, too.

In no particular order…

1. Madagascar 2 Soundtrack, Big and Chunky — it’s not the whole song…but I had to get the little animals dancing – get the whole song, though…surely some motivation there!

2. Machine Head, Bush — if you’re huffing through a run, the lyrics will help you out!

3. Nicole Scherzinger feat P. Diddy, Come to Me — not the best sound quality…but the dancing sure is!

4. Gaelic Storm, Nancy Whiskey — This song was played every week in a spin class I took with a lovely gentleman named Vince. Vince was incredibly buff and incredibly quirky – this song…has stuck. Very bizzare choice, I know, and you must download one that is NOT a live performance…YouTube was not much help in finding a quality version of that rare song.

5. Bob Sinclar, Love Generation — Spring Break ’06 in Acapuloco. I’ll say no more!

What are YOUR favorite workout tunes? Help me out, too! Post your answers in a comment for all to see, please!


Filed under exercise, marriage, music

Denny’s Downer

If you enjoy a good’ole Denny’s breakfast anything like my family — brace yourself. In keeping with yesterday’s topic of sodium…turns out, Panera may not be a leading offender.

A consumer activist group in New Jersey sued Denny’s Corporation this week because of the “dangerously high” levels of sodium found in their meals. As previously discussed, the recommended daily allowance for sodium is 1,500 milligrams for a hypertensive individual, and up to 2,300 milligrams for a healthy individual (some sources stick with 1,500 mg for all). Some menu items at Denny’s more than double Panera’s worst offender with nearly 6,000 milligrams of sodium. *blink*

As for the health implications of such foods, we know that diets high in sodium are major causes for hypertension, which is associated with heart disease and stroke — two of the leading causes of death. The Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Michael Jacobson, is quoted in saying, “For those Americans who should be most careful about limiting their sodium, such as people middle-aged and older, African-Americans, or people with existing high blood pressure, it’s dangerous to eat at Denny’s. Denny’s customers deserve to be warned about the considerable health risks posed by many of these meals” [1].

As for Denny’s…they have no comments at this time (duh).

It’ll break my brother’s heart to hear that the Denny’s Meat Lover’s Scramble which contains two eggs with chopped bacon, diced ham, crumbled sausage, cheese plus two bacon strips, two sausage links, hash browns, and two pancakes weighs in at an astonishing 5,690 milligrams of sodium — a scary 379% of the recommended daily allowance [1].

But the bleeding doesn’t end there. A Denny’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt with seasoned fries will provide 4,880 milligrams of sodium while an added bowl of Denny’s Clam Chowder would together boast a staggering 6,700 milligrams of sodium for the meal – an amount that should be consumed over the course of 4 1/2 DAYS. Medically speaking, the body has a difficult time ridding of that amount of sodium and excess sodium in the body can lead to fluid retention and accumulation in the lungs, presenting potentially severe medical consequences over time [2].
And, it doesn’t stop there. EVEN the smaller meals advertised specifically for children and seniors contain sodium in excess of the daily recommended intake [2]. Scary, isn’t it? Dr. Stephen Havas of Northwestern University explains high sodium intake to be one of the nation’s top health threats. He goes on to share that by reducing 50% of the sodium content in packaged and restaurant foods, there would be 150,000 saved lives each year. If that’s not evidence enough for change, I don’t know what is.

Beware of Denny’s! Though my hypertensive father doesn’t read blogs, this one will be printed and snail mailed to Chicago. While I know my parents look forward to retirement and “Lumberjack Slams” (850 calories and 3180 milligrams of sodium), the Food Police, as I’m so lovingly referred to, says “NO!” to Denny’s. Back to the kitchen, Maaaaaaaaaaaaa… also known as Jan’s Bar and Grill.

[1]. Activist Group Sues Denny’s Over Sodium Levels. Reuters UK. July 23, 2009.
[2]. Unsafe Sodium Levels at Denny’s Prompt Class Action Lawsuit. CSPI Newsroom. July 2009.

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Filed under hypertension, law suit, restaurant, sodium