Drop the food cop attitude

Drop the food cop attitude

As a mom of two girls growing up in a weight-obsessed society, I can’t tell you how nervous I am of them developing eating disorders.  Whether we notice or not, our kids are taking notice of our self talk and food choices.  They overhear us say, “Ugh, my pants are too tight”, or “time to get on a diet”.  The last thing they need, is for us to food shame them when they make a less-than-healthy choice for a snack or when packing their lunch.  If you didn’t want them to eat something, why is it in your pantry to begin with?  FOOD IS FOR EATING!  My philosophy is that any food can be part of a healthy diet.  Our food should not be punishment or used for reward.  The more food shaming we do, the more likely our kids are to sneak food, feel guilty about food and potentially develop eating disorders.


The article below is a great reminder of why we need to just shut up when it comes to our kids’ food habits.  Like mom used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.



Live more by eating less

Live more by eating less

Several studies have shown that being overweight or obese is linked with risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  Even a 5-10% reduction in weight can prevent the development and aid in the control of hypertension and diabetes as well as lowering blood cholesterol. 1 Beyond trimming your weight and waistline, there’s an even more important benefit to reducing calorie intake.  New research out of Duke University in Durham suggests that biological aging can be stalled with calorie restriction.  Biological aging, according to the study author Daniel Belsky, is “the gradual and progressive deterioration of systems in the body that occurs with advancing chronological age”.  Belsky believes if biological aging can be slowed, it may help to prevent or delay chronic age-related illnesses and disabilities.2


The scientists at Duke University in Durham evaluated a total of 220 subjects over 2 years-145 who reduced calorie intake by 12% compared with 75 controls who did not limit calorie intake. The average biological age of both groups was close to 38 years.  Readings that included total cholesterol, blood pressure and hemoglobin levels were used to calculate biological age.2


In the calorie-restricted group, biological age increased by an average of .11 years each year compared to .71 years in the control group, over a two year follow up. This was statistically significant according to the researchers.  Previous studies have shown that calorie restriction slows aging in worms, flies and mice.  This was the first human study to test if calorie restriction can reduce measured biological aging in a randomized control study.  The authors believe this study can serve as a model for developing and testing treatment designed to copy the effects of calorie restriction to delay or prevent debilitating diseases.2


In 2014, the Obesity Society put out an official statement to raise awareness of the availability and consumption of energy-dense food contributing to weight gain and obesity.  Foods high in energy include high sugar foods like soda, ice cream and high calorie desserts as well as fried foods, large servings of meat and full fat cheese.  A diet containing foods rich in nutrients such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and low-fat dairy products can help support weight management efforts.  The Obesity Society urges companies to test and market products that are lower in calories that will help consumers with weight management. The position paper can be found at: http://www.obesity.org/publications/energy-density-of-foods-influences-satiety-a-total-caloric-intake.htm. 3



1.    Klein, Samuel. Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans with ObesityCell Metabolism, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.02.005

2.    Belsky, Dan W., Huffman, Kim, Pieper, Carl, Shalev, Idan, Kraus, William. Change in the Rate of Biological Aging in Response to Caloric Restriction: CALERIE Biobank Analysis.  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci glx096. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx096 Published:22 May 2017

3.    Shu Wen Ng, Barry M. Popkin. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation PledgeAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014; 47 (4): 520 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.030

When eating is not an option

When eating is not an option

Eating is by far one of life’s greatest pleasures and one that we take for granted on a daily basis.  Think of how exciting it is when your baby takes his or her first bite of food or when you experience a delicious food for the first time.  Eating is so important to living.

But what happens when you, a family member, friend or colleague can’t physically eat or doesn’t eat enough calories to maintain normal biologic functions?  Would they simply starve to death over time?  The answer is complex and often ethical in nature.


All of us need food and water in varying amounts to survive.  If you’ve ever had to fast for 8-12 hours for a blood test or for religious reasons, you recognize that it’s not exactly a picnic to go without food.  It’s short term and you forget about it.  But what happens when you can’t eat for a prolonged time due to medical reasons?


Say for example, your mom has a stroke and she can’t swallow safely.  Or your uncle is diagnosed with intestinal cancer and he can’t digest food appropriately.  What happens next?  In the case of a stroke, she may need to be fed “artificially” through a feeding tube until she can eat safely on her own. Tube feeding helps prevent or treat malnutrition and keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning. Without a functioning gut, intravenous feeding may be indicated.  This type of nutrition therapy is called nutrition support and can be used in any age and population.


Feeding tubes come in various shapes and sizes.  They can be used short term (< 4 weeks) or placed surgically for longer use.  The short-term type is called an enteroflex tube and is usually placed in the person’s nose.  It goes down the esophagus and into the stomach or duodenum (first section of the small intestine).  Dietitians work with doctors to come up with a feeding plan including the formula, amount and rate that the person will receive to prevent or treat malnutrition.  Long term tubes can be placed in the stomach or small intestine if a person is not expected to eat for a longer period of time (or God forbid, never again).  Tube feeding can be done in a hospital, residential home or personal home.  Formulas can be basic or highly specialized, depending on the person’s medical condition.  Each contains carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet the RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for all nutrients.


In individuals whom cannot digest or absorb food appropriately (non-functioning gut) a type of nutrition support called TPN may be used.  TPN stands for Total Parenteral Nutrition and is provided through an IV catheter that is typically placed in the person’s subclavian vein (large neck vein) or through a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) in their arm.  TPN contains carbs, fat and protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the form of dextrose, IV lipid and amino acids that are provided directly into a person’s bloodstream.  This type of nutrition is typically used for at least 1 week, but can be used longer if needed based on a person’s medical condition and function of their gut.  TPN is very specialized and requires a pharmacist, nurse, dietitian and doctor to monitor.


For more detailed information on nutrition support, check out https://www.nutritioncare.org/

Your food, your mood

Your food, your mood

Are you a bit depressed?  You’re not alone.  With the rate of depression in the US almost doubling in a decade, researchers have been busy looking for causes and treatments.  When many countries with a low rate of depression were found to have several dietary patterns in common, researchers started looking more closely at the role food may play in fighting depression.


Scientists found that populations that consumed diets with large amounts of fatty fish were less effected by depression.  How fish-based diets protect against depression isn’t understood but its thought that the omega-3 fatty acids may make it easier for some brain chemicals to pass through cell membranes and positively impact mental status.


Uridine, a compound known as a nucleoside, may provide the materials needed to speed up these chemical reactions. Studies found that when omega-3 fatty acids were combined with uridine they had the same effect on laboratory animals as an antidepressant medication.


Below is a list of foods that studies have shown may be effective in reducing depression:


  1. Amino acids. Low levels of serotonin are thought to be a cause of depression.  Researchers know that the amino acid, tryptophan is needed to make serotonin.  Several studies have found that depression is decreased by a diet high in tryptophan.   Eat foods high in protein – beans, eggs, fish and turkey. Bananas also contain tryptophan.
  2. B vitamins. Studies have shown that people suffering from depression tend to have high levels of homocysteine (a protein) combined with low levels of folic acid (a B vitamin).  Homocysteine levels can be reduced by B vitamins – niacin, folic acid, B6 and B12.  A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains can help you get more B vitamins.  B12 is only found in animal foods, so include eggs, low fat dairy and lean meat in your diet as well.
  3. Complex carbohydrates, fruit & vegetables. These high fiber foods will be broken down more slowly to produce a steady source of sugar to be used by your brain.  Simple sugars or a diet high in processed carbohydrates is broken down quickly and causes blood sugar levels to go up and down quickly.  These quick changes have been found to increase the symptoms of depression.  Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole wheat or whole grains (bread, pasta, rice, etc).
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids. The low rate of depression found in countries that eat high levels of fish combined with several clinical studies have led researchers to conclude that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can be protective against depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, & sardines), flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil.
  5. Uridine-containing foods.  Researchers found that when uridine was combined with omega-3 fatty acids, a positive impact on depression was realized at lower doses.  Foods that contain uridine are sugar beets, sugar cane, molasses made from sugar beets or sugar cane, tomatoes, and organ meat.


The research linking foods and their effect on depression is still new and more studies are needed.  Including these foods in your diet is not a substitute for what is recognized as effective medical treatment for depression – medication and psychotherapy.  However, many medical providers believe that combining effective medical treatment with a healthy diet that includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, uridine, B vitamins and tryptophan should not cause any harm and who knows, and just may help.

National Family Meals Month

National Family Meals Month

With the return to school in August comes National Family Meals Month!  Who knew this was a thing?  But- it makes total sense to me.  Did you know that families that dine together have children with lower rates of depression and drug use?  Or that family meals foster better eating habits with less risk of obesity?  Meal time is about the only time in my day where I have quality time with my girls and husband, so I honestly hate to miss it.


Below are some tips for a healthier family dining experience:

  1. Look at your weekly calendar and carve out at least 4 out of 7 days you can dine together.  More is better, but life gets busy with work, school, sports, etc.
  2. Involve the whole family in meal prep.  This lessens the burden on you and encourages your kids that they can actively participate in meal planning.  Dad can grill, kids can wash and/or cut veggies or stir grains on the stove.  It also teaches kids cooking skills.  Win wiin!
  3. Try not to have “food fights”.  If someone isn’t wild about the dish prepared, politely ask him/her to help themselves to leftovers.  For younger children, have a healthy back up if possible.  Try to limit use of “kid food” like hot dogs, mac n cheese and chicken nuggets.  Kids eat what you feed them. Start healthy first.
  4. Don’t force feed your kids!  Making them “finish their plate” in order to have dessert only encourages overeating.  It’s like saying, “if you eat ALL of this, we’ll feed you more”!  Small servings of food are fine.
  5. Include fruit or dessert as part of the meal.  Alternate treats and fruit so kids get used to having both as their end of meal treat.
  6. Keep the chatter positive.  Limit talk about politics, family illness and gossip.  This is a time to share good news and not bring everyone down.
  7. Ask each family member about their day- name 3 positive things that happened.  It will lift everyone’s spirits.
  8. Serve water or milk at meals.  Soda and juice add more calories and sugar to everyone’s meal, which most kids and adults don’t need these days.
  9. Keep a variety of frozen veggies on hand and microwave them for simpler meal prep.
  10. “Reuse” leftovers in other dishes.  Add black beans or chicken to salads or pasta dishes.  Add leftover salad to sandwiches.  Teach your kids that food is a resource and should not be wasted.

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