Category: Nutrition

Masters of Disguise: How artificial sweeteners make it past consumers

Viewed by consumers as a healthier alternative to sugary drinks, artificially sweetened beverages are becoming increasingly popular. These drinks include most diet sodas and juices, energy drinks, and flavored water. The shift away from drinks sweetened with sugar came after research showed the relationship between sugar intake and excess weight, obesity, and diabetes. Artificially sweetened beverages have little-to-no calories; however, the medical community has not supported any of their proposed health benefits. In fact, many scientists believe that artificially sweetened drinks lead to overeating and encourage sweet cravings. They could be an alternative route to health problems. Researchers are still looking into these associations, but for now, water is always a safe choice. Check out this article for tasty ways of sprucing up your water.




What’s on tap for 2018?

As the calendar year winds down, we naturally find ourselves both reflecting on the year that was and looking forward to what is to come. I always love to hear what trend analysts suggest will be popular for food and drink in the upcoming year. According to Unilever Food Solutions, health-conscious trends will continue in to 2018. Keep an eye out for:

Poke bowls

Poh-keh – cubed raw fish – is a Hawaiian staple. Poke bowls are essentially deconstructed sushi and may include rice or quinoa and vegetables.

Hybrid food

Although these may not be the healthiest of options, the flavor combinations of two or more foods are an experience to be had. Some popular examples include: cronuts (croissant meets donut), waffogato (ice-cream waffle soaked in espresso, and bruffins (brioche meets muffin).

Plant-based options

Vegan, vegetarian, pescaterian, flexitarian – the bottom line is restaurants are and will continue to offer more plant-based meals to meet diners’ demands.

Fermented food

Known for their probiotics and ability to positively influence digestive health, fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, pickles, kefir, and yogurt pack a punch of flavor and health.

Natural colors and floral flavors

Consumers are demanding more ‘natural’ ingredients, and the food industry is responding with more ‘natural’ ways of coloring food (think beets). Edible flowers are also making a bigger splash on the scene as part of baked goods and cocktails.

Since these are just predictions, it will be interesting to see one year from now which trends caught on and which trends flopped. Cheers to a happy, healthy 2018.



Unilever Food Solutions. 2018 Food Trend Predictions.

Food talk: The words that influence what we eat

This past Friday I had the pleasure of jumping in for the back half of a webinar led by Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND of Famer’s Daughter® Consulting about how we, as consumers, talk about food. While a short blog post cannot do justice for the variety and depth of topics she covered, it really got me thinking about my own conversations about food.

Local. Seasonal. Sustainable. Organic. Natural. Clean. Artisan. Genetically modified. Fresh. Processed. Irradiation. What do these terms mean to you? Which terms conjure a positive image about the health or environmental effects of a food? Which terms conjure more negative images?

You may be surprised to learn that not all of these terms are regulated, and some don’t even have an agreed upon definition. If you buy something labeled as ‘organic’, you can rest assured that the United States Department of Agriculture is overseeing the production to ensure the food meets defined criteria. But when it comes to the terms local or sustainable, there is no universally accepted definition. Even ‘natural’ has yet to be defined.

The way we talk about and market food may be one obstacle to improving our health. According to the 2017 Food & Health Survey, the health value of foods and beverages is a major point of discussion. However, despite reporting taking steps to be healthy, Americans have varying definitions for what is healthy and have seen minimal improvements in the quality of what they eat or drink.

The words we use to describe foods can create a health halo – meaning that a food may be perceived as healthier than it actually is, either because of the way it is labeled or because some aspect of it may have health benefits. But if we think about it, soda made from ‘real’ or ‘natural’ sugar is still soda, and an organic cookie is still a cookie.

Definitions or not, the way we describe food can influence our purchasing and consumption behaviors. Ultimately we need to take a closer look at the food and determine how it fits in to the healthy lifestyle we have defined for ourselves. What terms or phrases do you look for? Do you find your own biases for buying or eating foods with particular labels?



International Food Information Council Foundation. 2017 Food and Health Survey. 9/22/2017.

Wang DD, Leung CW, Li Y. Trends in dietary quality among adults in the United States, 1999 through 2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(10):1587-1595. Doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.3422

Get out that grocery list

Last week, we dove into nutrients that may help the body reduce stress and anxiety. Many of those nutrients were B vitamins! Now let’s take a look at some of the food sources naturally high in vitamins B1, 6, 9, and 12.

Vitamin B1

Vegetables: green peas, asparagus, spinach, acorn squash

Nuts: macadamia, pistachio

Seeds: sunflower, flax, sesame

Fish: trout, salmon, tuna

Pork: lean cuts (loin, tenderloin, chops)

Beans: edamame, navy, pink, black, mung

Vitamin B6

Fruit: dried prunes, dried apricots, raisins, bananas, avocados (I know—technically a fruit!)

Nuts: pistachio

Seeds: sunflower

Fish: tuna, salmon, halibut, swordfish, herring

Meat: lean pork, lean beef, turkey, chicken

Vitamin B9

Legumes: lentils, black eyed peas, mung, pinto, chickpeas, pink, lima, black, navy, kidney

Vegetables: spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, broccoli

Fruit: avocado, mango, pomegranate, papaya, oranges

Vitamin B12

Shellfish: clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp

Fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, trout, striped bass

Meat: liver, beef steak

Dairy: milk, yogurt, swiss cheese

With finals coming up, do what you can for your body to not “B” stressed!


Using Mass Communication to Curb Obesity

Internationally we continue to see substantial increases in overweight and obesity rates. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that about 39% of all adults were overweight. Since overnutrition seems to traverse cultures, languages and international waters many people are looking for the most effective and efficient way of promoting positive health behaviors that promote a healthy weight. I believe mass media campaigns could serve as a solution to the problem. Health professionals can use mass media to improve the dietary habits of populations through multimedia-based communication efforts.

Over the past ten years, we have seen considerable changes in mass media communication largely due to increased use of mobile technology, especially social media. As access to mobile technology increases and people use smart-technology at increasing rates, health professionals have increased opportunities to address the importance of nutrition and physical activity. I believe that no other intervention approach has the potential for as wide a reach as mass media. Mass media campaigns that target individual dietary behaviors like increasing vegetable intake or reducing sodium are effective at promoting those behaviors (1). The “5-A-Day” campaign was successful in its efforts to increase fruit and vegetable intake. It was associated with a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and increased awareness of health benefits associated with consuming fruits and vegetables. The success of mass communication in campaigns and interventions is not exclusive to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This method has also proven effective at promoting folic acid supplementation and the maintenance of weight loss The Community Guide (2). I believe mass media campaigns advance nutrition efforts to reduce overweight and obesity rates because of the extent to which media is incorporated into people’s daily lives. Mobile technology gives health professionals a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals outside of clinical settings. I believe engaging with individuals in spaces they already visit may help people feel more comfortable and make them more receptive to adopting health-promoting behaviors.

It’s all in the name: Can labels influence eating behavior?

While cruising nutrition-related headlines, I stumbled across “Call a Snack a Meal, and You’re Less Apt to Overeat”. Hmmm, this sounds easy enough and therefore worthy of a click to learn more. The consumer news piece summarized that those participants asked to eat pasta as a snack (eaten standing up from a plastic pot with a plastic fork) ate “much more” during a subsequent taste test than those who had been asked to eat pasta as a meal (eaten seated at a table from a ceramic plate with a metal fork).

The title and content of the article seemed disconnected, so I decided to do a quick review of the peer-reviewed publication. Turns out the seemingly simple advice that caught my eye – prevent overeating by changing how you label a meal or snack – is in fact too good to be true, at least based on the evidence from this study.

The study’s actual intention was to look at the independent and combined effects of labeling the pasta dish (meal or snack) and the location of eating the pasta dish (standing with plasticware or sitting with silverware). There were actually no differences detected in changes in hunger, fullness, or motivation to eat across the four study groups. While there were statistically significant results for increased food intake during the subsequent taste test (sweet and savory snacks), this was limited to those participants who received instructions to eat the snack while standing, not those instructed to eat the snack while sitting. Thus, simply calling something a snack did not prevent overeating.

Another important note is the final quote offered by the study author – “To overcome this, we should call our food a meal and eat it as meal, helping make us more aware of what we are eating so that we don’t overeat later on,” – may have been reported out of context and overly generalized. The study included mostly college students in the United Kingdom who are considered to have a normal body mass index, which does not represent a majority of the population.

Picking apart results of nutrition research and missreporting those results is a disservice to consumers. The bottom line: don’t believe everything you read, and if you have questions or need support for lifestyle changes, seek guidance from trained professionals.



Ogden J, Wood C, Payne E, Fouracre H, Lammyman F. ‘Snack’ versus ‘meal’: The impact of label and place on food intake. Appetite. 2018 Jan 1; 120:666-672. Doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.10.026.

Preidt, R. University of Surrey, news release, Oct. 30, 2017. Call a Snack a Meal, and You’re Less Apt to Overeat. HealthDay News.

A Toast to the Fall Roast

Hey there,

Happy Fall! Just here to give a quick plug for a hearty fall roast as a delicious and nutritious, easy-to-make-a-vegetarian’s day option. The best part? It’s seasonal and local-find friendly.  Whether you’re at the store or a farmer’s market, go ahead and pick out:

  • the best lookin’ squash you see (be warned–as I recently discovered, a butternut squash is much easier to cut than an acorn squash–and a spaghetti squash may be better suited for other Fall meals given it’s stringy texture once cooked)
  • Complement that rich squash flavor with a sweet potato or two, rich in anti-oxidants, and plenty filling
  • See any fresh beets? Doubling up on antioxidant power and also vitamin-rich (particularly Vit C, Vit B6, iron, and folate) plus you get a gorgeous, deep purple to balance your fall colors–remember, you eat with your eyes first. Bonus–you can use beet leaves and another leafy green of your choice for a quick side salad!
  • No beets? No sweat! See any carrots calling to you? Maybe a red bell pepper? Cauliflower steak, anyone?
  • Chickpeas/beans of choice. Adding a can of beans to your roast is a quick way to add in a hearty amount of protein and a welcome contrast in texture
  • Seasoning is always in season! A little salt helps accentuate flavors, but you really don’t need too much to let these veggies sing. I like to add a generous amount of a fresh herb if you can find some (loving rosemary right now)

Nothing like letting the scent of roasting vegetables and fresh herbs envelop your kitchen and living room 🙂 Happy roasting!


A Different Type of Stress Eating

Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?

Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).

Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.

Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.

Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.

Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.

Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).

Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Check back next week for a post on what foods are a good source of these nutrients!


Cultural Challenges with the DASH Eating Plan

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States contributing to over 633,000 deaths annually. Like most chronic diseases, individuals can reduce their risk of developing this condition with proper diet and exercise. When someone is at extremely high risk of developing heart disease, nutrition professions suggest a few things: exercise, stop smoking, eat nutrient dense foods and reducing sodium intake with the DASH eating plan. While these modifications are proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, the DASH eating plan can be problematic for communities of color.

DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a proven eating plan for lowering blood pressure without the use of medication. The reason blood pressure is so important is that it is one of many factors that contribute to heart disease. DASH recommends the following:

1. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
2. Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products
3. Consume fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils
4. Limiting foods high in saturated fat
5. Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

This diet is excellent for promoting a healthy diet; however, for communities of color which suffer in greater numbers from lactose intolerance DASH’s promotion of dairy products can cause discomfort. Lactose intolerance results in symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, indigestion, flatulence and fatty stool after consuming lactose, a sugar found in dairy. The premise behind increasing dairy consumption is its higher calcium content which is associated with reducing blood pressure. The eating plan fails to acknowledge that there are other excellent sources of calcium like broccoli, calcium-fortified real fruit juices, beans, almonds, and sardines. In doing so, DASH recommends a diet that may lower hypertension, but that also makes people sick. This could diminish its credibility in communities of color. By including non-dairy sources of calcium, our healthcare systems and dietary recommendations could acknowledge and accommodate all people instead of offering a one-size-fits-all approach to health.

Garlic: bad breath, good health?

Yesterday was Halloween, and I hope y’all aren’t feeling too much like zombies after walking Franklin Street. See any vampire costumes?

Garlic is in the onion family. The separate sections that comprise the garlic bulb are cloves, and most of the health benefits come from when a clove is crushed or chewed when raw. This produces a sulfur compound, allicin.

In addition to allicin, garlic seems to be a nutrient powerhouse. Three cloves (9g) contain manganese (8% DV), Vitamin B6 (6%), Vitamin C (5%), calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, and zinc.

Research has shown that garlic may:

  • Boost immune system
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower LDL cholesterol
  • Fight oxidants
  • Protect against heavy metal toxicity

Okay, but why the connection with vampires? Perhaps since garlic has been used as a known mosquito repellent, the connection between the bloodsuckers was made. Some also believe the legend of vampires possibly had its fangs in porphyria, and garlic exacerbates the symptoms of this disease.

Though unlikely you’ll need garlic for folkloric purposes, it may still be beneficial to add it to your diet!