Celebrity Night

You guys. Last night was the greatest night! I got to meet my long time hero!! This dude.

photo(5)If you don’t know who this is, you should get to know who this is. It’s

Michael Pollan!

Michael Pollan is an author of several amazing books including: Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. He is in documentaries including: Killer at Large and King Corn. Plus he writes regularly for the New York Times. I love love LOVE all of his books and articles. A couple weeks ago I had a job interview and they asked me who my hero was and I said Michael Pollan- no joke. He is my hero because he knows what’s up when it comes to food and nutrition. He is so versed and his research is pretty ground breaking. But not only that, I idolize him because of his ability to connect with the average Joe. He has this really easy-going yet highly motivating way about him. He was completely captivating to listen to, and he reinforces my passion for nutrition and explains why I do what I do. (I didn’t get the job by the way, maybe I should have said my mom or Mother Theresa)?

But that’s enough of my public display of affection. I was able to hear him speak last night on his new book Cooked. To sum it up, Michael Pollan has discovered and decided that the way to attain good health is to spend more time in the kitchen. There’s so much confusion in regards to nutrition and diet and so much all muddled in between. But maybe the answer to good health is really as simple as cooking more. And not the type when you nuke something in the microwave for 2 minutes and call it good. In fact, he made this interesting point: His research has found that the average amount of time people spend cooking each day has decreased over the past 2 decades to a mere 37 minutes. Total. With 4 minutes a day for cleaning up. So what can you assume about that type of cooking? Ahem, Fridays potatoes skins and Stouffers lasagne… And look whats happened to our obesity rates over the same time period…

I can’t give a thorough review of the book because I am not quit finished. I just have about 415 pages left. BUT I am already captivated. There are recipes, humor, nutrition facts, etc. You will laugh and cry and mostly want to get off your butt and spend more time in the kitchen!

photo(4)Did I mention in 2010, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world?

photo(1)I was so giddy when I met him! I wanted to tell him I used his research to complete a policy analysis on school nutrition, and that I used his articles to debate the reorganization of government agriculture subsidies, or at least tell him that he is my hero, but instead all I got out was: “Thank you, thank you so much, really thank you.” I didn’t even take a breath in between those three identical phrases. Gah!

photo(2)We love each other already.

Also, I cannot fail to mention that during the question/answer portion I was selected to ask my question. ME. Out of 15 people raising their hands. And it was like magic because as he was answering my question, he stared right at me. He literally granted me 5 minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. It was like no one else was in the room. Just he and I. Now would also be a good time to mention that I am happily married to my #1. MP comes next though!

P.S. I titled this celebrity night because Ty Burrell was also there. Local celeb night.

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OpEd

So school is definitely in full swing. For one class I need to write a Opinion Editorial on a two sided issue presented in a policy analysis we are working on. Good stuff right?

My topic is the CDC’s winnable battle : Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Since I have already been writing, I figured I would share, and in return can I get your feedback? I am curious to know your thoughts and opinions about the topic mostly. I would like to have more support or opposition to include. I am also ok with writing critique if that’s what you would rather dish out. I can take it, I can welcome it.

The Cost of Vending Machines

It is no surprise that teenagers are quick to adopt the latest trends, and in the case of obesity, they are the ultimate trendsetters. It also should be no bombshell that teens are drinking too many sugary sodas. Perhaps it is time we start connecting the dots, and even better, intervening.

Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that obesity rates among adolescents have tripled over the past 3 decades. Nearly one out every five teens is packing more body fat than is appropriate for their height.  While the numbers are shocking, the social impact is even more alarming.

Quality of life effects of obesity are similar to those caused by smoking, drinking, and poverty. 365,000 deaths per year are attributed to poor diet and physical activity, second only to tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death. And if that’s not disturbing enough, overweight youth are more likely to experience lower-self esteem, depressed moods, body dissatisfaction, and social marginalization and discrimination.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. School. 95% of adolescents attend school outside of their own home. Therefore schools have the unique ability and responsibility to create an environment that may encourage healthy behaviors. One way in particular is the regulation or banning of sugary drinks on campus.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 requires that all school districts include their own wellness policies for regulating “competitive” foods and beverages, or rather, those sold separately from the commodities provided from the National School Lunch Program. The problem is obvious here. Districts establish their own guidelines.  There is a lack of conclusive evidence as to what policies or best practices contribute to the reduction of student’s over-all weight status. The strongest evidence though, based on available data, suggests that prohibition of sales of sodas in schools have the greatest potential for impacting adolescent obesity.

The most tragic part of this situation is that even after the alarming statistics, supportive evidence, and feasibility of the solution, there is significant opposition from school faculty, parents, and community members when it comes to banning the vending machines.

School administrators argue that if soda is not available in the school, teenagers are likely to leave campus, hit up the local 7-11 for a 32 oz. fountain soda, and money that could have potentially benefitted the school, will be lost.  This also creates a crisis for the custodial team who will probably have more soda spills because cups with lids are not as preventative as capped bottles. The most substantial argument made by faculty is that it is ultimately the parents’ responsibility to exemplify and monitor healthy behaviors for their own child.

It is safe to assume that no parent would ever start the day by scooping 15 teaspoons of table sugar into a Ziploc bag and passing it off to their kid to constitute their lunch. But in reality, parent’s who provide their kid with one dollar to hit up the soda machine for a 20 oz Coke are doing just that.  It could also be assumed that no parent would intentionally inflict harm or risk upon his or her child. Something is clearly afoot in this situation, and the truth might be lack of knowledge or skills from the home front.

The question is not whether or not it should be the school or the parent’s responsibility to imbue health practices, but rather where will have the greatest impact. 5A high schools have over 2,000 students usually from vast racial and socioeconomic backgrounds that are influenced by commodities available or unavailable to them at school. Any educator should know that providing and environment conducive to learning and growth is the only practical solution for impact. It is a paradox that the risks and harms of obesity may be drilled during the health class lecture, but take 10 steps from the classroom and their stands the soda machine shining enticingly before the students. Something doesn’t add up.

One thing does add up well, and that is the annual medical costs associated with obesity each year. An estimated $14 billion dollars each year are attributed to obesity. In 2008 persons who were obese had medical costs that were $1,429 higher than the cost for people with normal body weights. With the fragile economic state our nation is currently facing, can we truly defend vending machines in our schools?

Whether it is changing the status quo, rearranging social norms, or schools taking an incremental financial cut, it is absolutely the first and most feasible step to tackling the obesity epidemic facing adolescents. This is a situation of quality of life and potential death and cannot be passed by.

My Favorite Thing

A lot of my friends have gotten pregnant or had a baby this summer it seems. Crazy to be in that phase of life… but the beauty of new babies is that they remind me of my favorite thing ever. For those of you who know me well, you know what’s coming…

BREASTFEEDING!

Yes, that’s exactly right. Breastfeeding. In my English 2010 class we had to write a persuasive research paper, and my professor encouraged us to think of a topic we are very passionate about so it would be easy to defend. Well after two weeks of trying to come up with something I was more passionate about then Deron Williams, I started my paper “The Breast is Best”

So ladies, truly the breast is best. Let me tell you why. First of all, human milk contains over 200 components, most of which cannot be duplicated in formulas. It’s been said that “human milk is an elegantly designed natural resource.” I want that framed in my bedroom. Elegant is the truth! Human milk is formulated to act as a sole source of complete nutrition for infants for up to sixth months. The composition of milk is changeable over a single feeding, over a day, or over the first few months of life. What I am saying here, is that human milk can change the composition of vitamins, fat, protein, etc to be exactly what the infant needs. No switching up formulas, adding vitamins, or stressing. And not only is breast milk formulated to nurture, but also to protect infants from infectious and chronic diseases. Can your Enfamil do that for you? NO!
So let me lay out the difference for you here:

This is a chart provided by WIC (a national program from Women, Infant, and Children). Look at all those fabulous things that you can only get from breastfeeding alone. Even from the very beginning, the first 3 days after an infant is born, the woman produces colostrum. Colostrum is a thick yellowish fluid that contains secretory immunoglobulin A and lactoferrin. Why is this important? Well exposing your infant to these immunoglobulins so early in life will set their immune system up for good health the rest of their life. Numerous studies show that breast-fed babies have stronger immune systems.

Other benefits for the baby:

  1. Human milk is isosmotic and meets the requirements for infants without having to add other fluids.
  2. Human milk has a lower protein content than formulas, and therefore will not overload the immature kidneys with nitrogen.
  3. Whey protein in human milk forms a soft easily digestible curd (aka you wont get those clay-like diaper surprises like those you find with formula fed infants.)
  4. The higher cholesterol content in human milk has been linked to lower serum cholesterol levels in people later in life who were breastfed.
  5. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), promote optimal development of the central nervous system. (Side note- some formulas now contain DHA, but others do not.)

On the flip side, babies who are formula-fed compared to breastfed infants are more likely to have: pneumonia or asthma, ear infections, diarrhea or constipation, allergies, meningitis, UTI’s, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and illnesses in general. I know this seems shocking and a little scary? But the studies don’t lie.

And let’s quickly talk about the benefits for momma’s. One time I over heard two ladies talking about the arrival or their unborn bebes. One (who was expecting her first) was discussing her indecision whether to formula feed or not. The other (who was a veteran mother) quickly jumped in with the affirmative; yes she should absolutely NOT breastfeed. Her reasons were because “you will feel like a machine, always tied down to dish out the milk. You’re body won’t feel like your own, you will be tired, and you will never feel sexy” Seriously, she said that. Well I won’t argue with the last statement, but I was ready to jump in and print them off a copy of “The Breast is Best!” I did not want this total stranger to miss out on the mommy benefits.

Benefits for Mom

  1. Breastfeeding stimulates the hormone oxytocin (needed for milk ejection) which stimulates uterine contractions to return the uterus to non-pregnancy size. What’s sexier than that?
  2. Breastfeeding delays the return of fertility for the duration (aka save some bucks on birth control!)
  3. Many women who breastfeed experience psychological benefits, including  increased self-confidence.
  4. And need I mention the bond that is formed between the mother and the baby. Every mother I know who chose to breastfeed says it was the most special time to attach and grow close to their new infant.
  5. But if that’s not a good enough reason, lactating can require up to 500 calories a day, so those who breastfeed typically get back to their pre-pregnancy weight much quicker. So if the gym isn’t for you, you should highly consider breastfeeding.
  6.  And finally, women who nurse at a younger age and for a longer duration have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

I apologize if this post is uncomfortable. Should I be concerned that talking about breasts and uterine contractions are so easy for me? Maybe it’s just obvious WIC should offer me employment. Please check out their website, I will post it again. WIC. If you need more advice as to how to actually go about breastfeeding, this is your link. They offer classes and employ amazing mentors. This is also a good one. There are no excuses, unless you have AIDs.

So, you have a sweet tooth eh?

I came across this really great article in Delicious Living magazine. I want to share it. And as a disclaimer, this is me paraphrasing the article pretty heavily. So I will not take credit for the research or opinions expressed below:

The article is titled : Reduce Food Cravings. It’s super awesome because it shares the opinions and advice from a Doctor, a Registered Dietitian, and a Psychologist on why we crave foods (especially sweet and delicious foods).

Doctor Walter Crinnion says: Many people crave sugar because it allows more of the amino acid tryptophan to reach the brain and bind to the endorphin receptor sites. When this occurs, the body produces seratonin – ya know, that happy feel good hormone ;). This is why we LOVE our sweets and we CRAVE them. They make us feel GOOD! He also mentions that food cravings often stem from adverse food reactions, AKA ,poor digestion. If you are not absorbing the healthy nutrients that you need, your cells will essentially feel hungry, and you’re body is going to start the cravings. This is a biological cue your cells send your brain that they aren’t being nourished. So make sure you’re gut is in check! Consider looking into digestive enzymes if you think it is necessary for you to acquire optimal digestion.

A final tip from the Doc is that sometimes food cravings aren’t about food at all. You know how when we are bored we suddenly crave snacks? It’s just because we are bored and our body is craving something to do. So the next time you want to jump up off the couch to grab some more gummy bears or peanut butter pretzels, think about why you are actually feeling cravings. A glass of water or a short walk may alleviate that craving desire you are experiencing.

Dietitian Jessica Crandall says: The most commonly craved foods are simple sugars like candies and white carbohydrates because they provide short burst of instant energy. They can stimulate us when we are feeling sluggish. Combat this by getting enough zzzz’s. Shoot for at least 8 hours (personally, I don’t think that’s realistic for anyone these days! But good luck!). Also, eating a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can also cause food cravings. For example, an insufficient amount of iron and vitamin D can contribute to cravings. So consider foods like meat, beans, and green leafy veggies (iceberg doesn’t count).

And of course, if you want your sweets you gotta have your sweets, BUT, do so in moderation. Try not to binge. If you crave ice cream, switch to frozen yogurt. If you crave potato chips or french fries, try a baked potato instead. And as always, control your portions when indulging. Portion out your chips and jelly beans, don’t eat straight from the bag.

Psychologist Wansink says: It is possible to “rewire” yourself to want foods that are good for you. For example, if you associate ice cream sundaes with happy occasions , slowly start to connect fresh bananas with light whipped cream with birthdays and parties instead.

Combat the urge. There is little evidence to suggest that giving into a food craving with satisfy your hunger. It will more likely ignite an appetite. So when you crave something unhealthy, occupy yourself with another activity to focus your mind elsewhere. And finally, it is ok to binge on an unhealthy food occasionally, but be sure to get back to normal eating habits as soon as possible so you won’t disrupt the good you have going.

I hope you have enjoyed this tid bit. I have been feeling extra snacky lately so I really needed this advice. Happy not giving into cravings too often!

50-25-25

I have been reading this great book and I have been pleasantly surprised that I agree with the nutrition advice. One concept I would like to share today is the 50-25-25 rule.

This rule says that 50% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% of your daily calories should come from protein, and the last 25% of your calories should come from fat. According to Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, this is good advice for runners (and may I add most athletes). This theory of calculating our daily allotment into three groups rather than individual and specific calories will lighten your dieting burden loads.

This rule does 4 important things:

  1. It allows you to incorporate moderate amounts of carbohydrate int your daily diet
  2. It gives you sources and options for foods that give quick energy for physical activity
  3. It provides the right balance of protein and fat to give you continued energy
  4. It allows you to remain content and satisfied throughout the day while still losing weight and having enough energy

As I continue to blog and break down the three macronutrients I will give you specifics and suggestions and this 50-25-25 ratio will make more sense. This is a teaser post I guess you could say.

I also want to share this chart. This breaks down calorie portions. Again, consider your personal calorie range and keep this in mind for the posts to come!

50-25-25 Calorie Distrubution

 Daily Calories                   Carbohydrate kCals         Protein kCals             Fat kCals

1,200

600

300

300

1,400

700

350

350

1,600

800

400

400

1,800

900

450

450

2,000

1,000

500

500

2,200

1,100

550

550

2,400

1,200

600

600

2,600

1,300

650

650

Happy National Nutrition Month!

Here it is folks, an entire month dedicated to nutrition! Did you even know March is National Nutrition month? I’m waiting for Martha Stewart to come up with crafts, meals, and decorations for this holiday, because it’s epic!

This years theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape!” Remember this? The FDA came up with the new plate method just last year, so this March to celebrate, the theme is based around adapting the plate method into every meal. Let’s get our plates together people! (I said that in a very Tina Fey from 30 Rock style).

Check out what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has to say about this month: National Nutrition Month Press Release

And some tips to help you get your plate in shape: Simple tips from Registered Dietitians

For those of you who hate following links (it’s ok, I am one of them), I will give you a run down. There are 4 areas of emphasis when it comes to your plate.

  1. Making half your plate fruits and veggies
  2. Incorporating more whole grains (1/2 of your choices ideally)
  3. Including a variety of lean proteins
  4. Adding more low-fat diary foods to your diet

I thought I would dedicate a blog each week to one of these categories, followed by a personal goal I am working on to shape up my plate. So you better stay tuned ya’ll!