Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Extreme Eating

Extreme eating has really taken off.  First there was the Double Down from KFC and not to be left out of the fun, Friendly's has announced their new offering, the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt.  What makes this melt so extreme?  Try starting off with a not-so friendly burger patty.  Then surround it with not one but TWO grilled cheese sandwiches.  But that might get a little dry right? So why not add some mayo to that just to make sure it can slides down easy.  Missing some veggies, well the friendly people at Friendly's decided to add a tomato slice and some lettuce.  How nice of them!   So what is the nutritional damage?  Try 1500 calories (over half from fat),  97grams of fat (38g saturated),  and 2090mg of sodium.  Not a very friendly choice at all.

Just like I mentioned before here, we are amazed and disgusted by these new crazy foods, but we will still eat it.  Right now someone is just hearing out about the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt and trying to figure out where the closest Friendly's is and how soon can he/she get there. 

Where will it all stop?  My guess is that it won't.  Wait another month and there will be yet another announcement from some fast-food chain about their latest "extreme" meal.  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weighing In on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines

This week the UDSA-DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released their report for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.  For RDs there is always excitement and interest in the Dietary Guidelines because they set the national framework for much of our nutrition education for the next 5 years. 

This year's report does not offer huge revelations in terms of overall nutrition. Check out the graphic on the right that I got from Marion Nestle's post.  These are the guidelines from 1980!  Not big shock that a lot of similar recommendations are in this years report. 

What is interesting is that some of the more subtle wording in recommendations might make some waves (my emphasis added):

  • "Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds."

  • "the goal [for sodium] should be 1,500 mg per day for the general population."

  • "Improve nutrition literacy and cooking skills, including safe food handling skills, and empower and motivate the population, especially families with children, to prepare and consume healthy foods at home."
Changing to a mostly plant-based diet, reducing sodium and improving cooking skills so that we can cook more meals at home would be a huge shift for this country.  As mentioned briefly in my previous post, we might need a food revolution to help reverse the current obesity epidemic. Well all three of these subtle changes, sound pretty revolutionary to me.  We are a nation of convenience especially when it comes to food.  We want the easiest, simplest, meals to eat.  We complain we don't have enough time to cook when in reality I think we just don't make it a priority.  

But let's be honest with ourselves.  How much change will these 2010 Dietary Guidelines really bring?  Just to give you a little Government 101, this report is from the Advisory Committee. The report is open for public comment from now until July 15th.  After July 15th,
.. [the] USDA and HHS will consider these and other comments as they translate the Advisory Report of the Committee into the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Sebelius will release the 2010 Dietary Guidelines policy document jointly at the end of 2010.
In lay mans terms, the Dietary Guidelines are not set in stone yet.  There is going to be some changes so stay tuned!

Regardless of what changes are made to the final guidelines, it's clear to me that more and more people are understanding the importance to making real food at home. I think Michael Pollan says it quite well when he writes, "“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

The questions remains, will this country do it?  I think we can! 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Issues with the ADA

Spring is a time for renewal, and not just in the garden.  It is also the time of year when RDs are asked to renew our membership to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).  As many of my colleagues will attest, I have struggled with my membership to this organization recently. 

In comparison to other professional organizations, the ADA is relatively small. We don't have the power (aka money) compared to other food corporations and food lobbyists to meet our vision which according to the website is:
Optimize the nation's health through food and nutrition
Like any organization, ADA gets donations to help accomplish its goals. Go to the ADA Corporate Sponsors page here and you'll see for yourself who has been donating money to the ADA. The list includes companies like Unilever, Mars Inc, The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, and PepsiCo to name a few.  So what's wrong with taking a few bucks from some corporate sponsors?

My issue is that some of these companies are a big reason why RDs are so busy these days.  Added sugar in cereals and beverages, highly processed foods and candy bars just some of the many reasons for the growing obesity epidemic in this country.  And like I highlighted in a previous post here, some of these companies are even trying to convince us that their high sugar foods are healthy choices! What message does it send to our community when as a profession we say, "Drink less soda, eat more high fiber/low sugar cereals and choose healthy snacks," but then the ADA takes contributions from the companies that profit from these same foods.  To me, it undermines our credibility and without credibility can we really accept the title of "nutrition experts"?

I follow Marion Nestle on Twitter and always find some interesting new tweets from her.  Last month this tweet popped up.  I followed the link to Michele Simon's blog Appetite for Profit.  Her post detailed how a RD from Canada, Sybil Hebert, had similar concerns with her professional organization, the Dietitians of Canada.   Ms. Hebert's original post is here.  In writing about the exact same moral dilemma she says,
How does this affect DC's [Dietitians of Canada] message? How does this make dietitians look? Do you think they can be unbiased and critique the food industry, if they're getting money from it? 
She wrote a great letter that she sent to the DC and I applaud her efforts! 

So where did that leave me as the June 1st deadline approached?  After a lot of thinking, I decided to renew my membership for another year.  A friend said, "Maybe you can make more change from within an organization rather than just dropping out?" So that is my personal challenge. I'm not going to be a silent observer.  I plan to write a similar letter to the ADA that Ms. Hebert wrote to the DC.   I'm going to make my voice heard for the next year and I encourage other RDs to do the same if they agree.