Choosing Breakfast Cereals


Original Image by Ramnath Bhat via Flickr
Original Image by Ramnath Bhat via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

During my community rotation, I’ve spent more time with the younger than 18 year old population than I can say I’ve ever have. Although, I’m more comfortable with the geriatric population, I’ve walked away from this particular part of my dietetic internship with some notes! I’m pleased to say more and more children are walking out the door eating breakfast.  Next obstacle to tackle, making sure they are eating quality breakfasts.  I asked some my summer campers what they eat for breakfast.  Most common answers: pancakes, waffles, cereals, oatmeal, toasted strudel and a breakfast sandwich.

I don’t know all cereals, but some helpful tips on how to discern which cereals are better than others.

  • Disregard the health claims on the cereal box–head for the nutrition fact label
  • Remember the sugar from fruit is included in the amount of total sugar
  • If “whole grains” (i.e. whole grain oats) is listed as one of the top ingredients it’s a better option than cereals that list rice or rice flour.  If the word “whole” is not listed before a grain, one can assume it’s refined.  Rice or rice flour is a refined grain, which you want to limit.
  • Compare the amount of sugar and grains to the suggested serving size.  If the amount of whole grains and serving size are close in number, that means it’s almost whole grain
  • Assess what the first two ingredients are on the nutrition fact label.  Ingredient amounts are listed in descending order.
  • Not all fiber is created equally. Many cereals contain isolated fibers, which are fibers that are made into powders (i.e. oat flour, soy flour and/or corn flour).  Ignore the claims of “high in fiber” and assess the whole grain status
  • Stay away from advertised yogurt clusters.  While it sounds “healthy”, yogurt clusters=oil+sugar–>no health benefits
  • Opt for cereals that contain: No more than 250 calories/cup; no artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame)

Some recommended cereals with their nutrition breakdown:

  • Post Shredded Wheat Original, 150 calories, 5.3 g of fiber, 0.4 g of sugar per 2 biscuits (46 g)
  • Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Wheat, 140 calories, 5 g of fiber, 0 g of sugar per 2 biscuits (40 g)
  • Kashi 7 Whole Grains Puffs, 70 calories, 1 g of fiber, 0 g of sugar per cup
  • Kashi Island Vanilla, 250 calories, 6 g of fiber, 2.5 tsp sugar per cup
  • Kellogg Unfrosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size, 200 calories, 6 g of fiber, 1 g of sugar per 30 biscuits (59 g)

It can be overwhelming to rummage through all the nutrition fact labels in the cereal aisle. Perhaps, head to the supermarket at 8PM or on Wednesdays, which are notoriously slower grocery days.  Take your time and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect fit!

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/10-best-new-healthy-breakfast-cereals

http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/06/health/time-healthy-breakfast-cereal/

How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/nutrition/food_shop_prep/food_shop/hgic4224.html

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/breakfast-cereal

http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/best-healthy-cereals

The Healthy,Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA)


food-assistanceBy: Nikki Nies

In December of 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (P.L. 111-296), which is valid until September 2015. While this act reauthorizes many child nutrition programs–National School Lunch and Breakfast program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Summer Food Service Program, the Afterschool Meal Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), many are not as familiar with the importance or impact it has on many American lives.

Highlights:

  • Increases after school Meal Program to all 50 American states
  • Supporting improvements to direct certification for school meals to reduce red tape in helping children obtain school meals
  • Allows state WIC agencies the option to certify children for up to one yea
  • Mandates WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) implementation nationwide by October 1, 2020
  • Improving area eligibility rules so more family child care homes can use the CACFP program
  • Enhancing the nutritional quality of food served in school-based and preschool settings
  • Making “competitive foods” offered or sold in schools more nutritious

This act provided an additional $4.5 billion for these funded assistance programs.  With September 2015 quickly approaching, what will be the fate of HHFKA? The most recent passing of this Act had its own troubles with Congress having to figure out how to pay for the increased investments through offsets. After the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there were struggles of offsets to cover new costs that were required to break filibusters of legislation in the Senate.  Additionally, many congressional leaders find the distribution of SNAP funds is counterproductive in the big picture goal of solving world hunger.

HHFKA may not be the most glamorous topic to talk about at dinner, but it’s very worth noting.

Photo Credit: Single Mommie

Sources: http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/July-2014/The-Healthy-Hunger-Free-Kids-Act-A-Top-10-List/

http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/healthy-hunger-free-kids-act

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/Child_Nutrition_Fact_Sheet_12_10_10.pdf

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/s3307

http://www.letsmove.gov/first-lady-column-healthy-hunger-free-kids-act

http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/healthy-hunger-free-kids-act-of-2010-summary.aspx

Maximizing F&V


By: Nikki Nies

Not sure what to do with the last mushroom in your hydrator?  Have to use that broccoli tonight before it officially reaches “old” status? Or just trying to get your child to eat more fruits and vegetables? Scrap together your odds and ends of food in the fridge and pantry and make a delicious mesh of your food!

The most effective, long lasting way to add fruits and veggies to meals are to personalize meals based on past favorite meals and branching out from there.  For example, if your child loves spinach, why not mix it up once in a while and buy kale one day? Additional suggestions: 

Original Image by Tony Webster via Flickr
Original Image by Tony Webster via Flickr
  • Customize your own smoothie
  • Customize your own tortilla, taco or burritos
  • Make berry picking a family outing and challenge everyone to come up with the most creative berry dish!
  • Make your own sushi rolls!
  • Customize homemade pizza
  • Grab some help from your children
  • Make zucchini noodles/ribbons instead of pasta as an added serving of vegetables

While a lot of the above suggestions include the word “customize”, don’t be too overwhelmed with that thought! Cooking and making meals should be seen as fun and a way to take part in creative outlets.

Got any other ideas how to make eating fruits and veggies more fun? Please share!

Sources: http://www.onceuponachef.com/2009/08/zucchini-noodles-with-pesto-pine-nuts.htmls

Middle Eastern Flavor Exposure


By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Divya Thakur via Flickr
Original Image by Divya Thakur via Flickr

You know how you get giddy when you’re able to share a passion or interest with some one and they “get” the hype?  My friend from Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of access to authentic Asian restaurants back home.  I found this past weekend to be the best time to introduce her to ethnic foods! The best part, she loved it!

After she had stuffed herself with the new flavor combinations, she inquired what food had she eaten.  Was it Japanese or Chinese? I corrected her telling her that since we had kimchi, it was Korean.  I wasn’t offended because she had a genuine interest in knowing exactly what she ate.  I brushed it off, stating I wouldn’t know what Middle Easterns eat besides hummus.  The Middle East consists of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey.

My conversation with her and a recent discussion I had in my Public Health class regarding culture sensitivity got me questioning why I didn’t know off the top of my head Middle Eastern traditional cuisines.  That’s my lead in to this blog post.

I’m taking this blog post as a way to increase not only your awareness of what it mean to be eating Middle eastern food and recognizing some differences within the regions.  As there are distinct tastes and ingredients in Asian cooking, it’s not fair to clump Middle Eastern cuisine under one blog post, but there are more similarities than differences in these Middle Eastern nations.  Ingredients that are commonly seen in such cooking and dishes include dates, olives, wheat, rice, legumes, and
lamb.

The Middle Eastern diet consists of the American MyPlate food groups, but has distinct emphasis on certain foods within the food groups.

Food Group      Customary Traditions
Dairy
  • More common to eat fermented dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt
  • Whole milk’s often used in desserts and puddings
  • Most common cheese: feta
Protein
  • Very common: lamb, kosher beef, kosher poultry, herring, lox and sardines
  • Pork is only eaten on Christmas
  • Pork is not eaten by Muslims or those that are Jewish
  • Less likely to see dairy and shellfish within the same meal
  • Common: black, kidney and navy beans, chick peas and lentils
Vegetables
  • Most popular: eggplant
  • Preferred to be used in raw or mixed salad with fruit
  • Can be seen stuffed in rice and/or meats
  • Olive oil commonly used in prep
  • Black and green olives are popular in many dishes
Fruits
  • Regularly seen in desserts and/or snacks
  • Fresh is the most desired kind of fruit type
  • Often used in compotes and jams if fresh fruit isn’t feasible
  • Flavorings regularly includes lemons
Grains
  • Wheat, barley or rice are often included in meals
  • Common grains: couscous, burghul, pita bread, freekeh,matzoh and/or unleavened bread
  • Filo dough frequently found in desserts

Overview of Middle Eastern Staples: 

Original Image by Mr.TinDC via Flickr
Original Image by Mr.TinDC via Flickr
  • Ful Medames: An Egyptian and Sudanese breakfast dish made from fava beans, olive oil, parsley, garlic and lemon; often served with a fried egg and pita bread
  • Manakeesh: Similar to U.S. pizza, a round bread with ground meat, herbs and/or cheese; preferably for breakfast or lunch
  • Grilled Halloumi: Cheese made from goat and sheep milk; no acid or bacteria are used during processing
  • Shanklish: Golf size cheese balls; rolled in herbs or chili flakes
  • Falafel: Deep fried ball or patty made of chick peas, fava beans or a combination of both; often served with tomatoes, sliced onion and romaine lettuce
  • Moutabal/baba ghanoush (aka baba ganush, baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug): Dip with an eggplant(aubergine)dish; aubergine often baked or broiled over an open flame to provide a smokey taste; sometimes eaten with pita bread
  • Fattoush (aka fattush, fatush, fattoosh,and fattouche): A Levantine tangy salad containing lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and mint; part of the fattat dish group–all being made from stale bread as its base
  • Tabouleh: A vegetarian salad dish composed of tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, olive oil, salt and lemon juice; can be modified for personal tastes
  • Shanklish: Golf size cheese balls; rolled in herbs or chili flakes
  • Mezze: Collection of small dishes that are picked at leisure: cheese, melon, nuts, various salads and dips, such as tabbouleh, hummus, mutabbal and/or pickles
  • Shish Tawook: Skewered chicken dish; can be served with French fries or pita bread
  • Dolma: Grape leaves, chard, and cabbage stuffed with rice, ground meat, pine nuts, and spices.  Will be stewed in oil and tomato
  • Kofta: Common Pakistani or Iranian dish; minced lamb or beef balls; served with its own spicy sauce
  • Kibbeh (aka kibbe): A Turkish dish made of bulghur, minced onions and finely ground meat; most common: torpedo shaped fried croquette with minced meat
  • Shawarma:Meat, such as lamb, turkey, beef or veal are placed on spit for hours at a time; shavings cuts off for serving; usually eaten with tabouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato and cucumbers
  • Quwarmah Al Dajaj: Curried chicken; has lime, ginger, turmeric, baharat, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika
  • Mansaf: Mutton with yogurt sauce; sprinkled with almonds and pine nuts
  • Umm Ali: Egyptian bread pudding; made with milk and cream; can contain vanilla, pistachios, condensed milk, raisins and/or croissant piece
  • Knafeh: cheesecake made of Nabusi cheese
  • Kebab Karaz (aka cherry kebab or desert candy): Syrian candy that contains sour cherries and pomegranate pip
  • Baklava: pastry made of filo dough; can contain nuts, sweet syrup and honey

I’m sure I’ve left out at least one or two staples, yet only a true Middle Eastern could share from experience.  If any one has any particular food staples in their house, please enlighten us!

Sources: http://travel.cnn.com/20-best-middle-east-dishes-324556

http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/publications/CaliforniaFoodGuide/20HealthandDietaryAffectingEasternEuropeansandMiddleEasterners.pdf

http://www.bonappetit.com/tag/middle-eastern-food

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5256.pdf

http://www.nal.usda.gov/foodstamp/Topics/ethnic.htm

http://www.semda.org/info/pyramid.asp?ID=1

http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/bibs/gen/ethnic.html#12

http://www.eatrightny.org/nutrition_resources/files/CulturalNutritionResources.pdf

http://www.pbs.org/food/cuisine/middle-eastern/

http://mideastfood.about.com/od/middleeasternfood101/tp/popularmideast.htm

Diabetic Complications


diabetescomplicationsBy: Nikki Nies

Care for diabetes is a long term treatment lifestyle.  When left untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can leave devastating results. 

Taking care of yourself and monitoring changes in your body and your environment is critical for optimal care.  By eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats and limiting sodium content, you’re more than half way there in beating the odds of diabetic complications!

Complication

Description

Tips for Better Care

Eyes

  • Diabetics are 40% more likely to have glaucoma than those without diabetes—risk increases with age
  • Vision suffers due to retina and nerve damage over time
  • Cataracts: Diabetics are 60% more likely to develop cataracts than nondiabetics; cataracts blocks light, making lens “cloudy”
  • Retinopathy: all disorders of retina caused by diabetes; 2 types: proliferative and nonproliferative
  • Factors influencing retinopathy development: genes, how long one’s had DM; blood sugar and blood pressure levels
 

  • Wear sunglasses more often
  • Use glare control lenses in glasses
  • Keep blood sugars closer to normal

Gastroparesis

  • Delayed gastric (stomach) emptying
  • If vagus nerve, which controls the muscles of stomach and intestines do not work properlyàmovement of food stops or slows
  • Symptoms: lack of appetite, gastroesophageal reflux, spasms of stomach wall, erratic blood sugar levels, weight loss, abdominal bleeding, early satiety, heartburn, etc.

 Monitor blood sugars

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome(HHNS)

  • Can occur in Type 1 or Type 2 diabetics
  • Usually due to an infection or illness
  • Blood glucose levels increase, yet one’s body tries to get rid of excess sugar by passing in through urine. Urine becomes dark and one may become thirsty.
  • Severe dehydration can lead to coma, seizures or death
  • Symptoms: excessive thirst, n/v, weakness or fatigue, fruity scented breath, confusion, shortness of breath, frequent urinating, abdominal pain
 

  • Drink liquids even when not thirsty
  • Control blood glucose levels
  • Check sugars regularly
  • Know target range for blood sugars
  • Adjust insulin dosages as needed
  • Check ketone levels

Hypertension

  • Nearly 2/3 of diabetics have high blood pressure
  • With high blood pressure, one’s heart has to work harder, which increases one’s risk for heart disease and/or stroke
 

  • Opt for whole grain cereals and grains
  • Read nutrition fact labels—opt for foods with less than 400 mg of sodium per serving
  • If needed, quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol  
  • Replace salt in cooking with herbs and spices

Feet

  • Most often in occurrence with neuropathy
  • Can lead to tingling, weakness, pain or stinging in feet
  • Can lead to loss of feeling in foot—unknowingly injuring foot
  • Feet problems may be due to poor blood flow or changes in shape of feet and/or toes
  • Can cause changes in the skin of feet—may become very dry and start to peel and crack
  • Calluses , foot ulcers, amputations and/or poor circulation can occur as well
 

  • After showering, dry feet and seal in remaining moisture with petroleum jelly or unscented hand cream
  • Do not place oils or creams between toes
  • To limit dry skin, limit soaking of feet
  • Let a health care provider cut off calluses
  • Increase amount of exercise if there’s poor circulation
  • Avoid smoking as it can impact small blood vessels and decrease blood flow to feet

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

  • Dangerously   high ketone levels or acids in the blood
  • More rare in those with Type 2 Diabetes
  • Ketones appear in urine when there is not enough insulinàcan poison body
 Eat small, frequent meals

Kidney Disease—Nephropathy

  • High blood sugars make it hard for kidneys to filter out blood
  • After years of exertion, kidney may start to leak and protein may start to be present in urine
 

  • Control blood pressure and blood sugars
  • Consume less high sodium foods
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Lose weight  
  • Low protein diet

Nerve Damage—Neuropathy

  • About ½ of all diabetics have some type of neuropathy
  • More common for those who have had diabetes for years
  • Types: peripheral,
  • Peripheral neuropathy: may experience tingling, pain or increased sensitivity, numbness or weakness, muscles and bone
 

  • Keep blood sugars on target
  • Manage pain
  • Protect feet
  • Medications to reduce burning and tingling

Skin

  • Skin conditions can often be early signs of diabetes—diabetics often have dry skin and are less able to fend off bacteria
  • If caught early, may be easily be treated
  • Inflamed tissues are often times hot, painful, red and swollen
  • Most common organism: Staphylococcus bacteria
  • i.e. bacterial infections, fungal infections, itching, diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica, diabetic blisters, eruptive xanthomatosis and/or diabeticorum
  • Use talcum powder in places with skin to skin touch
  • If skin’s dry, limit bubble baths
  • Avoid very hot showers or baths
  • Limit moisturized in between toes
  • Use mild shampoos
  • Avoid feminine hygiene sprays
  • See a dermatologist
  • During cold, dry months, bathe less if possible
  • Treat cuts right away with antibiotic cream
  • Check feet daily for sores and cuts

Stroke

  • A diabetic has a 1.5 times higher risk of having a stroke
 

  • Lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol on target with physical exercise, medicine and healthy eating
  • Quit smoking 

You’ve probably noticed that most, if not all, of these complications can be controlled with blood sugar levels.  By taking a proactive approach to treating you diabetes, you could live a more worry free life!

Sources: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/

http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/risks-complications-uncontrolled-diabetes

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/

https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/diabetes/problems_caused_by_diabetes.htm

http://healthy-ojas.com/diabetes/diabetes-complications.html

July’s National Pickle Month


By: Nikki Niesvariety-of-pickled-produce

I’m sure you know pickles are no longer limited to being served as a garnish to a hamburger or with your fries.  Since the 1960s, the act of pickling has been a time of relishing.  Pun intended.

Pickling’s a creative way to alter food’s taste and texture. With so many ways to pickle, there’s bound to be at least one type you like–vinegar, fermented, fruit, cucumber, beets, bean paste, relishes, kimchi, kraut, etc.  The variety of pickling is dictated by ingredients used and preparation method.

Caution–pickling requires a good amount of salt to inhibit spoilage and and bacteria.  In moderation, one can enjoy a pickle or two.  1 pickle spear=300 mg of sodium. Also, when able opt for dill or lacto fermented variety instead of sweet or bread and butter.  Check out previous post on The Salt Review for a refresher course on the difference between salt and sodium.

Furthermore, to reduce risk of spoiling, it’s recommended to process pickles in boiling water.

To celebrate National Pickle Month, try the Pickled Cucumbers  or Salt Free Dill Pickles recipes for some great flavor without the guilt of high sodium!

Sources: http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/July-2014/Celebrating-National-Pickle-Month/

http://www.ellis.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=117

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can6b_pickle.html

https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/pickles/pickling.html

http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/957833/pickling-basics-for-vegetables

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/adam-davidson-craft-business.html?_r=0


 

“The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.” ~Chinese Proverb

While we often rely on more than one of the five senses to decide what to eat, the saying that we “eat with our eyes” is sometimes too true!   One’s sense of smell and taste are distinct, yet visual stimuli can trump the 4 other senses, with color perhaps, the most visual cue.  Next time you’re sitting down for a scrumptious, indulgent meal, really try to embrace the flavors, who knows, you may only need a bite or two to really appreciate what’s in front of you! 1. Delwiche J. You eat with your eyes first. Physiology & Behavior [serial online]. November 5, 2012;107(4):502-504. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 3, 2014.

Diarrhea 101


By: Nikki Nies

Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of instigators (i.e. parasites or poor water).  It can also be indicative of an underlying disease.  Either way you look at it, when diarrhea is present, it’s worth looking into.

The definition of diarrhea is relative and is individualized to situations.  Although, the determination of diarrhea often includes the talk of frequency and consistency of one’s stools.  Absolute diarrhea is defined as having more bowel movements than normal.  Among healthy individuals, the maximum number of bowel movements is three.

Why are you having more than 3 bowel movements you ask?

Potential Causes:diarrhea

  • Stomach Flu–viral gastroenteritis: will go away in a matter of days
  • eating or drinking products that have bacteria or parasites
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Laxatives containing magnesium
  • Celiac Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Nerve Disorders that supply the intestines
  • Radiation
  • Gastrectomy

Without proper treatment of diarrhea, it can lead to dehydration, which can then lead to orthostatic hypotension. Electrolytes, such as potassium or sodium, may become lost with water, leading to electrolyte or mineral deficiencies.

Treatment: Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) are a mixture of carbohydrate (glucose) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, citrate or bicarbonate). The glucose forces the small intestine to quickly absorb the fluid and electrolytes.  Name brands of ORS includes Rehydralyte, Pedialyte or Resol.  Infants with diarrhea should not be given antibiotics, but be seen by their pediatrician to identify underlying cause.  For older children and adults, should drink diluted fruit juices, sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) and water.

Caffeine and lactose containing products should be limited with diarrhea as it can exacerbate the situation.  If there is no nausea or vomiting, solid foods can be continued to consumed.  It’s suggested to consume rice, bananas, toast, tea, cereal and/or lactose free products to calm one’s stomach.

It’s important to gauge diarrhea’s appearance.  If you’re finding black, blood or pus in stool, stomach pain that isn’t relieved after a bowel movement, diarrhea worsens or does not get better after 2 days, moderate or severe dehydration, diarrhea with a fever greater than 101F and/or you’ve developed diarrhea after visiting a foreign country,  contact your primary care physician (PCP).

Prevention of bacteria can include the regular consumption of probiotic rich foods, such as yogurt.  Also, frequent hand washing and hand gels, before eating and after using the restrooms can be a great way to limit germs.  When traveling outside of the country, especially those underdeveloped, only drink bottled water, do NOT consume dairy products, raw shellfish or raw meat and/or fruits and vegetables without peels.

Diarrhea is inevitable at least in once in a lifetime, yet hopefully you’re confident in the passing of stool.  Pun intended.

Photo Credit: Gena Livings

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-diarrhea

http://www.medicinenet.com/diarrhea/article.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/basics/definition/con-20014025

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diarrhea-basics

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/pubs/diarrhea/index.aspx

http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/diarrhea/overview.html

It’s All in the Name of the Diet


FAdDiet-BAd-Diet-1By: Nikki Nies

I was working recently at school in a computer lab and a student walked up to me asking to fill out her survey.  After filling out the typical female/male question, I already had questions regarding her survey.

Her first survey question asked, “Do you believe diets are healthy?”  She said what do I mean? I asked if she meant by diet as “eating healthy” or the more name brand diets, such as Atkins or Low Carb Diet. After some thought, she finally stated she was surveying on people’s perception of fad diets.

Of course, as a nutrition major I “strongly disagreed” with all claims that a fad diet is the most effective method of long term weight loss.  However, I started thinking about about “why” and “how” diets have evolved to be effectively hyped up and marketed.

It could be argued everyone’s on a diet–whether it’s a diet consisting of daily trips to McDonald’s to only chicken nuggets as main source of protein or eating 1/2 of one’s plate of fruit and veggies.  They’re all describing a type of diet.  A diet is:

 kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

To help you decide what kind of diet you want to go ahead with, let me give you some things to ruminate about certain diet features:

  • Rapid Weight Loss: Not only is weight loss more than .5-1 lbs. not the most effective way to lose weight, one will also lose muscle, water and bone.  With too much weight lost in a short amount of time, it can lead to the regain of weight
  • Complete Restrictions of Foods or Foods Groups: Mind you, I’m not talking about eating foods if you’ve got an intolerance, sensitivity or allergy, but be wary of diet claims that either state unlimited quantities of certain foods (i.e. cabbage soup or grapefruit).  You may think substituting a food group with a multivitamin will help compensate with missed food groups (i.e. no carbs), but you’ll still be missing critical nutrients.
  • Exercise is not needed: Regular physical activity is needed for optimal weight management; it’s recommended one gets at least 160 minutes of exercise per week
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  
  • Lose weight without making any changes!: Be wary of diet claims that you can eat as much high calorie foods and still lose weight.  In truth, it’s recommended to slash calories by 500 for a healthy, gradual weight loss.
  • Once and for all magic pill! Permanent weight loss requires the implementation of healthy lifestyle changes.  Doctors, dietitians and other leading experts are adamant that no “magic pill” exists.
  • Every body will lose weight: there’s no one size fits all solution.  Every one’s situation, body and needs are different! Contact a dietitian and/or your local health care provider to design a individualized nutrition and exercise plan.

The above claims are tempting to believe, but when looking for what you want to merge into your daily “diet”, think about the health claims that the latest diets have to offer.  To help you decide if the  latest diet is for you, ask yourself  “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, the diet isn’t for you.

Sources: http://www.eatright.org/Public/list.aspx?TaxID=6442452003

http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/fad-diets/

http://www.nutrition.gov/weight-management/what-you-should-know-about-popular-diets

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/

http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/myths.htm

http://www.webmd.com/women/fad-diets

The Pros and Cons of Fad Dieting

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0061-weighing-claims-diet-ads