Monday, August 25, 2014

What Makes a Superfood a Superfood?

During my free time, I often ponder life’s greatest questions... 

What came first the chicken or the egg? What do I want to be when I grow up? Before money was invented, what did women find attractive about men? If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it? Are Jay Z and Beyonce really getting a divorce? What fruit or vegetable is the best? 

Ok so maybe that last one is just specific to dietitians, but I am often asked what fruit or vegetable is the best. While I was in school studying to become a dietitian, there was never a lecture on what fruit or vegetable is the best. So what is my response when I am asked this question? All of them, one is not necessarily better than the other. All of the different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients that your body needs. Asking what fruit or vegetable is the best is like asking which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is the best. Even though I have a preference towards Michelangelo, I recognize that each turtle has special talents that when pooled together, help them save NYC from Shredder. Not to be all hippy and sappy but this picture gets my point across pretty well…

Well What About Superfoods?
Again, back to the whole studying to become a dietitian thing. There was never a lecture or test question asking us to name the top ten superfoods. Actually, the term superfood was never even uttered. The term superfood is merely just a marketing term that really doesn’t have any meaning. To help explain this, and so you do not need to read my ramblings, check out this video.

Note: the ladies in this video say nutritionist but they mean registered dietitians. On that note, do yourself a favor and never call a dietitian a nutritionist. For more info why check out my previous blog post

Are some fruits and vegetables more nutrient dense than others? Yes. Let’s take iceberg lettuce for example. Compared to spinach, iceberg lettuce does not contain as many nutrients. Does this mean you should never eat it? No, it still has desirable traits such as being low in calories and a good source of fiber. Yes, spinach is a better choice nutritionally speaking, but eating iceberg lettuce isn’t going to wreck your diet. Nutrient density is relative. After all, iceberg lettuce is more nutrient dense than chips or soda. Next time you hear the term “superfood” take it with a grain of salt, like my friend Dr. Evil...

Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Clean Plate Club: Good or Bad?

Ahh tis’ that time of year again, back to school! How can I tell you may ask? Well between the backed up traffic/lack of parking spots on campus, dozens of annoying banks trying to get me to sign up for a credit card, and freshmen walking around like lost puppies sometimes with tears in their eyes, I think it’s a pretty safe bet. With the return of freshmen, comes the threat of the freshman 15. However, weight gain is not just limited to freshmen. Welcome to the process of aging my friends, where your metabolism starts to slow down and you can no longer eat or drink whatever you want without gaining weight! I decided to dedicate this blog to the clean plate club and how it can affect your waistline.  Without further ado…

As a child you probably have all been there; sitting at the dinner table staring at those peas on your plate and your father barking at you with the logical, “kids in Africa are staving so you will clean your plate,” or, “you are not leaving this table until your plate is clean.”   When you were a toddle you could get away with just throwing the peas on the ground, but once you reach a certain age it is not found to be quite as cute. Also not found as cute was my smart aleck response of…

I was just trying to show both my mastery of logic and giving, compassionate side, but that response never seemed to get me far. To my disadvantage in this situation, we were not allowed to have inside pets growing up (at least when my parents were home), so feeding the peas to the dog was not an option so I had to get creative. After carefully assessing the situation, my six-year-old self came up with two options. I would either A-shove them all in my mouth and run to the bathroom to spit them into the toilet or B-stealthily put them in a napkin and throw them away as quickly as possible. Did these tactics work? Maybe the first time or two, but unfortunately my parents caught on to these tactics pretty quick so I was forced back to square one: clean plate club. Looking back one of my brothers may have had a better strategy. After eating my father’s cupboard meatloaf, where he went through the cupboards and added whatever was stale to the meatloaf including but not limited to fruit loops, he made himself sick and was never again forced to eat meatloaf.  I hate to admit it, but he was on to something with that tactic.

You are probably all wondering where I am going with this about right now; so let me get to my point. As described above, most of us have been trained from childhood to “clean our plates.” Is this necessarily a bad thing? Does anybody doing the ice bucket challenge actually know what ALS stands for? No. However, research shows that typically people eat all of what they put on their plate. How can this be bad you ask? Well, let me give you another one of my scenarios. You have managed to survive your first couple of days at college living in a dorm X many hours away from mommy and daddy. You just had your first day of class and are overwhelmed and exhausted after crying yourself to sleep for the past three nights. All you want is some comfort food. You stroll up to the dish of meatloaf and mashed potatoes and pile it on your plate. (Consider yourself lucky; my father lives in Ohio so you can rest assured there are no fruit loops in it.) You sit down and start eating. Now for the tricky part, you get halfway through and realize that you are full but feel that you made a commitment to the food on your plate. You start to channel your inner Adam Richman. In the battle of (wo)man vs. food, you are  determined not to (wo)mankind down. You heroically battle forkful after forkful until your plate is clean. You triumphantly stand up on your chair and pump your fist in the air! Instead of being greeted with a round of applause and your picture on the wall or a free tshirt, you are greeted to the meat sweats, carb overload, extra calorie intake, and best of all weird looks from your new friends. You quickly get off of your chair and run back to your dorm room to put sweatpants on because you know in about 10 minutes you are going to want to explode. You probably all know where I am going with this on how it relates to nutrition, so I will just save it and share this picture instead.

Now, this whole clean plate concept doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Chances are it was some sort of fruit or vegetable that your parents were trying to shove down your throat. Now that you are a grown up and hopefully like fruits and vegetables, you can use this concept to your advantage to make yourself eat more of them. Load up your plate with fruits and veggies and voila! Its like magic, you eat more fruits and veggies due to your traumatizing childhood clean your plate mentality.

Other recent research shows that by you cleaning your plate, it does not actually help the starving kids in Africa in any way, shape, or form. You no longer have to feel bad about not cleaning your plate! Also, now that you are in college your parents can no longer force you to clean your plate! You can just eat until you are full and then stop. Your new hipster friends may judge you a little bit for being wasteful but oh well.

Another obvious tip to avoid this situation in the first place is to not put as much food on your plate; you can always go up for seconds after all. These tips will help you from feeling like Honey Boo Boo when your freshman year is over…
Next time you are eating think about if you are cleaning your plate because you are still hungry or if you are cleaning your plate just because. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go send my parents snapchats of half “clean” plates of food to spite them. Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Monday, August 11, 2014

My Story

I often get the question as to why I became a Dietitian. I usually begin by telling people that I always liked math and science in grade school; yet often pass out/get squeamish at the sight of blood, especially if it is my own. That being said, becoming a doctor or nurse was out of the picture. Somewhere during the high school years, I came across the job title of dietitian and haven’t looked back since.

What I usually don’t tell people is that, growing up I myself was obese. In fact most of my immediate family was. I weighed more then as a ten year old, than I do now as a twenty something. Since most people never believe me when I tell them this and because I have no shame, I am going to share a picture with you. Before I do that, I have two disclaimers. The first being that I am the only girl in my family so I was a HUGE (no pun intended) tomboy growing up. The second is that I had a tragic haircut, for which I blame my mother. She thought it would look cute, but you can see for yourself that cute is not quite the word that comes to mind. This resulted in me looking like a boy. But without further ado…

If you couldn’t tell, I am the kid all the way to the right in the white shirt. 

Now, the reason I am writing about this and sharing this picture with you is not to throw a pitty party, get a pat on the back, or become the next Jared Fogle. What made me think of writing this blog was this video.  

During my fat phase as I affectionately call it, I, along side my family, ate like crap. Oreos, Doritos, Little Debbies, Gushers, soda, fast food, you name it, I ate it all. I hated most fruits and veggies, which is ironic since I am now a vegetarian. I was physically inactive; sitting in front of the tv, computer (yes, they did have computers when I was a kid), or playing video games (yes, they had those as well).  

I wrote last week  about how others influence your eating and physical activity habits because I am a living example of this. I ate like crap because that’s how my family ate. I was sedentary because my family was sedentary. What caused me to change my eating habits and exercise habits you ask? My mother. She decided that she was going to eat healthier and start walking for exercise. Did she know that the rest of the family would follow suit? Probably not, but it is amazing what the power of influence can do. If it weren’t for my mother’s motivation to make healthy lifestyle changes, it could have been me in that video; it also could have been her.  (Mom I know you are reading this…please don’t let this go to your head, but do remember this post from your favorite child come Christmas time.) 

The reason I became a dietitian is so that I could not only help people struggling with weight issues, but more importantly to help prevent them from even having weight issues. If you are an avid reader of my blogs, which I know you all are :) , you should know that there is no miracle pill for weight loss. All you have to do is eat right and exercise. Now I recognize that this is easier said than done, but seek out positive influencers in your life to help you along the way. Now if you will excuse me, I have to browse for an equally heinous haircut to pay back my mother for when its time to put her in a home. Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Monday, August 4, 2014

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?

You probably have all heard the saying, “you don’t become tall by hanging around tall people,” which is in fact true. Being tall is not contagious, but what about if you hung around overweight or obese people? Would you then become overweight or obese as well? First let me clarify that overweight and obesity, like height, are not contagious in the way that the beloved cold, flu, and the trending ebola is. What recent research (caution: read at your own risk it is a rather dull article) has found is that overweight and obesity may be a socially transmitted disease. Think about it. How often do you meet up with friends, family, old co-workers, classmates, etc to exercise? My guess would be hardly ever. What do we do instead you ask? We meet up for coffee, dinner, drinks, or to watch a movie/tv show. Basically all we are doing is sitting around, eating, and talking, but do you ever think that the people you eat with influence you? To help illustrate this phenomenon, I am going to delight you with yet another one of my hypothetical scenarios.

Lunch Scenario
Let's say that I came to lunch with you, maybe it’s a date or maybe not, I’ll let you decide. (That’s right I am still single...despite my mothers attempts to marry me off.) Anyways, before we even order you are a little paranoid because you are eating with a dietitian and we only eat lettuce, apples, and sometimes if we splurge, carrots, so I am obviously going to judge you based on what you order. think to yourself, 

"Should I  go with a salad? Should I get the dressing on the side? What about a diet soda? Does adding lemon to my water count as a serving of fruit? What if I get the fried pickles…pickles are a vegetable? I want a burger but maybe I will get a veggie burger because it has veggies in it so it has to be healthy right? Wait…let me get the sweet potato fries because they are better for you right?"

Whew...decisions decsions. Anyways, what if on our lunch date, I ordered a salad with no cheese or croutons (shameless promotion: did I mention that all of our croutons on campus are made in house and delicious?!?), just veggies and oil & vinegar dressing? Chances are you would order something a little healthier, even if you really wanted a baconator and fries. Fast forward through random small talk about the weather and our childhoods mixed in with small white lies and half-truths, I eat half of my salad and stop and say how stuffed I am and ask the server for a box (because everybody loves leftover salads right?). You on the other hand are halfway done with whatever option you deemed a little bit healthier than a baconator and are still hungry, but I stopped eating and you don’t want to look like a pig right? So you stop eating as well and try to fill the remaining room in your stomach with water or whatever it is you ordered to drink. We both get boxes for our remaining food and the server hands us the bill, which I might offer to go halfsies on but I don’t really mean it, so you pay the bill and we leave. Noticed how my order and actions dictated what and how much you ate? Did I intend to make you to choose a healthier option or to eat less? Yes, because in studying to become a dietitian we all take we take a class called how to judge people and make them feel bad 101, but me being a woman, am a natural and tested out of it. Ok, so maybe I am just kidding on that one, but the real answer is no. My actions still influenced you though.

Now, what if on our date I ordered first and ordered a baconator with fries with ranch (I am from the Midwest after all and we do love our ranch)?

My guess is that your reaction would be something along the lines of, “heck yeah, this chick is the coolest dietitian ever!” and you would proceed with your order of a monster burger and fries. Again, fast-forward through random small talk about the weather and our childhoods mixed in with small white lies and half-truths, but instead I annihilate my baconator and fries with ranch. Not wanting to be shown up by a girl, you join the clean plate club as well. Blah, blah, blah, you pay the bill and we leave. Notice how I dictated what and how much you ate differently than in the first scenario? Note: This really is hypothetical because A-I am a vegetarian (gasp, one of those hippy tree huggers) and B-You should never take someone to Wendy’s on a first date.

Breaking it Down
Is the moral of the story to eat with a dietitian? No. Should you never eat a baconator and fries? No. Should you abandon all of your friends, family, etc that do not eat as healthy? No. The moral of the story is to be more cognizant of the influence that whoever you are eating with has on you. If you want to eat healthier stick to it, heck maybe you can be the leader of team nutrition and unintentionally get whomever it is you are eating with to eat a little healthier or to eat less, but beware you may get the title of food police or nutrition nazi... 

Now if you will excuse me, I am late for my daily ritual of singing Beyonce’s Single Ladies while parading around my living room with my dog.

Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,