Sunday, June 3, 2018

Beyond The Buzz III

Beyond the Buzz.  Is what you’ve heard true…or just new?

With so much information – and misinformation – out there, it’s hard to know what to believe.  Nutrition information is passed along through the media, from friends, the internet, and even some health professionals.  What is true or what is based on flawed data?  What is exploited by the food industry (they are trying to make a profit let’s not forget).  Here’s the truth about some of the foods and/or food trends that you see.

I start off with smoothies.  Yes, I’m going there.  It’s that time of year, almost summer, where it’s hot and all we want to do is drink to stay hydrated.  Enter smoothies (and not to be forgotten juices).  I don’t mean to ruin your smoothies (or your smoothie bowls) but actually that’s not true. I do.  Sorry.  Not sorry.  This is a trend that I’ve spoken about for a while now but still feel the need to do so because this trend has not gone away.  I even had the opportunity to speak with The New Tropic about this very topic.  I got so excited I said that “the blades been destroyed” when I think we all know I meant “the fiber has been destroyed”.  It gets me fired up talking about smoothies, what can I say?  See for yourself.  The first is linked through Facebook.  Not All Fruit Is Created Equal And the second link is through New Tropic’s website.  Click on the 2nd video on the page, Not All Fruit Is Created Equal

My face when someone tells me they're having a smoothie.
It’s popular.  I get it.  And even more so it has a health halo – where people perceive it to be healthy when in actuality it is not.  Now hear me out, I’m all about food having a purpose and a time and place that it might work.  But smoothies in general are being used as meal replacements, i.e. breakfast on the go.  I don’t want people drinking a beverage in the morning to have them hungry only an hour later.  And yes I’ve had people tell me that it keeps them full for longer than an hour, but regardless I don’t want people drinking their food.  You need to eat and chew your food to receive the full benefits.  Not to mention that smoothies most times are too high in carbs and well, no one needs that.  What we do need is balance.  So kudos to you if you’re adding some protein and healthy fats into that smoothie, but I’m still not giving my stamp of approval.  EAT your food.  CHEW your food.  And please pass this message on.
Brotherly Love - see picture above for "that face"
Dr. Robert Lustig is a leading pediatric endocrinologist.  I heard him on a podcast a few years back and have been quoting him ever since.  Our bodies absorb blended-fruit sugars differently than sugars from whole fruit.  (FYI I do believe this is also where some confusion comes into place when people are asking “Is the sugar in fruit bad?”  All depends on how you digest it).  Fruit contains two kinds of fiber:  soluble, dissolves easily in water, and insoluble, which doesn’t.  The two kinds of fiber work synergistically according to Lustig to “form a gel within the small intestine that acts as a barrier” ultimately slowing the rate at which your body absorbs nutrients.  This is a GOOD thing!  This helps to buffer the rate at which the fruit’s sugar hits the liver – allowing the liver to work efficiently and not in overdrive (because you’ve given it too much work at once).  If you puree the fruit, aka make a smoothie, the mechanical force of the blender’s blades “sheers the insoluble fiber into tiny pieces” and “functionally destroys it,” he said.  The liver is getting too much work all at once by the fruits (sugar).  That sugary jolt can trigger an insulin response – possibly leading to unwanted weight gain, insulin resistance, and/or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Mango Salsa - EAT your fruit
What’s the bottom line?  Eat your food.  And if you are having a smoothie, ask yourself what’s the real reason you’re having a smoothie in the first place?  Is it because people have said it’s healthy?  Is it easier to do than eat breakfast because it’s a grab and go?  Did you just finish a workout and don’t have time to eat?  All questions to ask yourself – but ultimately the more important thing is to find out how you can improve your eating habits and remove the smoothie.  If breakfast is the issue – think of ideas of foods you can prep ahead and have ready to go.  Time is always an issue when getting ready in the morning.  Spending a few minutes the night before can help tremendously the following day.  Because let’s be real – who really wants to clean a blender every day?  Not me.  
Strawberry Salsa - EAT your fruits
Jokes aside, I’m talking about this because I see it all over social media and see how people believe it to be healthy.  Even more so because I see dietitians promoting smoothies.  “How to make a smoothie healthier”.  Um, no.  You won’t see this dietitian promoting smoothies (yes I know all foods fit, but I’m talking if this is a very frequent habit that should be replaced with actual whole food, not a once in a blue moon occurrence).  This summer, let’s end the smoothie trend…EAT your fruit whole.  Which leads me into the next buzz in food trends. 

Fiber 101 – These days you look around and fiber is being added to everything!  Re-read what I just wrote, “it’s being added to everything!”  Since when did processed fiber become a fad?  We all know (or at least I hope you know) that fiber is healthy and as part of a healthy, balanced diet can help improve your overall health, i.e. lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, keep you fuller longer, and more.  But that’s naturally occurring fiber as found in plant-based foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains.   So what about added fiber?  Do the claims that manufacturers are making have any truth?  Does that double fiber bread work the same way as naturally occurring fiber?
Your best line of defense is to get your dietary fiber from a variety of plant-based foods naturally.  This is me you’re talking to.  I will never NOT promote eating whole food.  You can’t go assuming that by eating some of these products marketed towards being great sources of fiber are as effective as eating fiber in its natural form.  So what is fiber?  It’s a group of non-digestible carbohydrates that are not broken down in the upper gut – in the stomach or small intestine.  Which fibers do what – it depends on their physiological characteristics to their overall effect.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water.  Viscous, thickens or forms a gel when water is added.  Fermentable, it’s broken down by gut bacteria in the large intestine.  Processed fibers are soluble, non-viscous, and fermentable.  And that makes them the least likely to do much for your health.  Back to my original suggestion, eat real food.  Obtain your fiber from a variety of plant-based foods.

The company for the gummy bears, Smart Sweets, motto is to “Kick sugar. Keep candy.” They want your money.  Their marketing department is good, I’ll give them that.  But once you get into the ingredients and realize that their primary ingredient is a prebiotic soluble fiber from tapioca, or isomaltooligosaccarides, aka IMOs. IMO’s manufacterers are claiming that IMOs improve regularity.  It’s true that IMOs are prebiotics.  Prebiotics help nourish the good bacteria already in our gut.  IMOs are thus a fermentable fiber – so are they good for us because they boost our good bacteria?  Are there any other health benefits?  The research on fermentable fibers and the gut is ongoing.  One thing we do know for sure, fermentable fibers = more gas.  So you at least have that.  Maybe watch how many gummies you eat, each 90 calorie bag has 100% of a day’s fiber (28 grams).  That’s some powerful gummies.  I mean they do claim they’re candy and we all know you might not stop at just one bag.  Errrr maybe you will if you know they’ll give you gas? Can we just please eat real food for our fiber?
Not to be left out – Chicory root fiber, aka inulin.  What does inulin do?  Most studies find no effect on blood sugar, LDL (lousy) cholesterol, regularity, or food intake.  But it has been reported to cause more gas.  There we go again…full of hot air.  Wait, it’s not that kind of gas.

Polydextrose – This form of processed fiber is made by chemically altering the bonds between sugars so that your digestive enzymes can’t break them down.  They’re fermented by the gut bacteria instead.  The claim is that polydextrose will help people to feel fuller, ultimately helping people to eat less.  As I said, that’s the claim.  There are no studies to support this said claim. 

Soluble Corn Fiber aka Resistant Maltodextrin – this processed fiber is produced by using heat to make some of the chemical bonds in cornstarch indigestible, and by using enzymes to remove the remaining digestible bonds.  The claim is that this will help lower blood sugar levels.  There are no studies to report this to be true.  Their label also claims that there are “5g of fiber so you can enjoy every bite.”  I think I can enjoy dessert all on my own with fiber or without – there should never be guilt associated with eating – another blog topic, another day.

Your goal:  28 grams of fiber/day.  Know how much you’re getting naturally from food.  And aim to increase your intake from whole food sources.  Whole grains – so think brown rice instead of white rice, and if you’re not into brown rice, vary your grains up.  Use quinoa, farro, barley, etc. as a substitute for rice.  Beans are an amazing source of fiber.  Think whole beans again, not your bean chips or bean pasta here.  Whole beans – throw some chickpeas into your salad, eat more beans than rice, you get the idea.  Fruits and veggies are great sources of fiber, some more than others.  But the goal is to get 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies/day – more veggies than fruit, but ultimately increasing your fiber intake little by little.  Watch the wonder of fiber and know that you WILL become more regular, naturally.

 Probiotics – are live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.  That host is YOU.  Most bacteria have a first, middle, and last name.  For example, Bifidobacterium (the genus), lactis (the species) DN-173 010 (the strain).  All three parts are important.  You want to look for the strain with the particular health benefit associated with it.  The only problem is that the FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose which strains they use.  
Typically people start to think about your gut bacteria when there’s been a disruption – antibiotics, travel, or if there is a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Should we take probiotics to reinforce our normal intestinal bacteria?  Our normal bacterial flora do exactly that – keep foreigners out.  That’s what they’re designed to do.  There isn’t really any good evidence to show that probiotics do any good when taken on a day-to-day basis in healthy adults.  Again, remember, it’s meant more when there’s been that disruption.  The research is looking into different strains and benefits to our health from these specific strains.  Here’s one that looks promising.

Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 – is a probiotic strain that claims to help your body maintain cholesterol levels already within the normal range.  In the study that looked at this claim, it did show that this probiotic did reduce LDL cholesterol moderately.  This study needs to be confirmed by independent researchers, but this is a start.

The key points to remember when looking to include probiotics:

Find the strain for what you need – remember the first, middle, and last name – all point to what specific strain and what health claim they are suggesting to help with overall with health.

Take enough – You do have to take a lot because ultimately our bodies are good at destroying bacteria.  Labels will list the amount of probiotics as “living cells”, “viable cells”, or “CFU” (colony forming units).  How much you need all depends.

Follow storage instructions – Some probiotics need to be refrigerated; others don’t.  Simply follow the package’s instructions.

Check the expiration date – You want to get the most live cells, so look for probiotics that have months to go before the actual expiration date.

Try foods or supplements – Either is fine, though supplements in this case generally do have higher concentrations or probiotics and are more stable.

 Nutrition is a science that is always evolving.  I challenge you to go beyond the buzz - or wait for me to summarize it for you. Sorting out the research and separating food fact from fiction can be difficult – not to mention that new studies can always change the picture.  Pay attention to reputable sources of information - hello, that's me!  And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

5th Blogiversary

5th Blogiversary

Happy 5th Blogiversary to me!!  How has it been 5 years already??  I sat down to think about what to  write for my blog for this week and no one set topic was jumping out at me.  I always have a few ideas but none that I think will constitute being a full blog.  Over the years that I’ve been writing my blog I think the blog has actually evolved so I do write a little bit of this and that to keep everyone up on the latest headlines – and still sticking to my original reason why I started this blog – to help educate people about nutrition and to become healthier along the way, one step at a time.  So, yes, I’ve been writing in this blogosphere for the last 5 years.  Kind of like a part-time job but one I don’t mind doing. 

Blogging has changed more recently and while I never have profited off of my blog, many food bloggers and fellow dietitians are using their blog for profit.  Tie that in with algorithms that the social media outlets have and it actually makes it hard for people to write a blog for enjoyment with all the pressures that they face – are people there to really read the content, do they just want the recipe, or do they want people to click on their affiliate links so ultimately they can profit off of that one blog post they just wrote.  It’s complicated.  A food blogger I follow recently wrote an actual blog all about it, read about it here - All that to say, my blog started and was intended to help give accurate nutrition information.  I’ve never profited off of my blog (nor wanted to, although people tell me I should) as I feel that takes away from the authenticity – yes I buy products but there’s no reason for me to endorse the product when there are many other products out there that are similar.  The example I always give is with peanut butter.  Patients would ask me all the time what brand of peanut butter I buy.  It doesn’t matter what brand.  What matters is that the only ingredient that should be listed on that label is peanuts and maybe some salt.  I don’t care if your peanut butter is from Publix, Whole Foods, Aldi, or wherever, my job is to educate you on what products to buy.  I wrote about it here  and here  if you’re interested in reading more.
I never even took a look to see what blogs had the most views – can you tell I’m not making a profit off of my blogs?  I’ve never been about the numbers in all honesty, but as I was scrolling back through old blog posts I did get curious to see which topics drove the most traffic and which ones didn’t.  And it’s also possible that early on there weren’t that many people following my blog or maybe it’s my use of various hashtags and joining twitter that changed that all around.  Regardless, here’s a trip down memory lane for old time’s sake.

The blog that had the most views of all time and that doesn’t pale in comparison to my other blogs is a piece I did on Type 1 Diabetes.  My former employer actually rolled it out on their social media platforms.  I think that’s the only time I did check the analytics to see the views.  I mean we’re talking over 4,000 views in one day and a total of 10,000!  Glad to have passed along valuable information for a topic near and dear to my heart.  Type 1 diabetes is often misunderstood and even though it is manageable it is a daily job.  Throw in this diagnosis with a younger child and it transforms life as people know it in learning how to manage and control it.  You thought your 2-year old was a picky eater, but now throw in that you have to dose insulin based on what your picky 2-year old will eat and hope that they really do eat everything that you dosed that insulin for.   Every day is different which also can make it a challenge.  My blog post was simple and not even my best writing (ha!) but it did exactly what I wanted to do – help change the misconceptions associated with Type 1 diabetes.  Take a read here if you haven’t already. 

While I am not currently working with people with Type 1 diabetes I did find a way to help educate the community here in Miami.  Part of my current job is to create nutrition programs that are FREE to the community.  There was a request to create a carbohydrate counting class for those with type 1 diabetes.  Using my expertise and knowledge I’m doing just that.  If you know someone with Type 1 diabetes, adult or child, that struggles to understand carb counting – you didn’t know you needed to be a dietitian and mathematician after your diagnosis, see meme above – please come check the class out or even spread the word!  It’s completely FREE and open to the community.  Click on the link below to register.

As per the numbers, the most successful blog post I wrote wasn’t even about food or nutrition.  It was about self-care.  It’s quite a hot topic these days.  May is Mental Health Awareness month and to be quite honest it is often overlooked and/or not talked about.  Just last night when I was watching the NBA game there was a commercial promoting their NBA Cares commercial on Mind Health a few players have come out and said they too experience anxiety and are trying to raise awareness and give outlets for help.  I think part of it boils down to taking time to care for yourself.  We often times are so busy taking care of others that we miss out on giving back to ourselves.  Simply just taking some time to breathe during the day can be helpful in our overall health.  What’s your self-care routine?  How do you give back to yourself in order to give to others?  Check my blog out for a few tips/ideas.   Sounds like something so basic yet so often not implemented in our day-to-day living.  Self-care:  it costs nothing and you gain everything.
One of my least successful blog posts, errr maybe it was just one of my first blogs posted, was a piece I did on nutrition myths and exercise  - general helpful tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your exercise.  It’s quite common that people are going to the gym and are making the commitment to working out, but 9 times out of 10 they aren’t seeing changes because they’re not changing things in the kitchen.  It goes hand in hand. I can’t tell you how many people “carb load” and all they really need to do is eat healthy and balanced the whole week.  Not to mention that I saw a lady at Publix yesterday loading up on a specific sports drink that was on sale.  I asked her out of curiosity why she was buying so much (obvi it was on sale) but she told me that her kids play outside a lot and she didn’t want them to get dehydrated.  I started a whole discussion on hydration with her – there I go again, passing out nutrition information in the grocery store.  I can’t help myself!  While I’m not saying that sports drinks aren’t required at times the majority of the time you just simply need to make sure you’re hydrated in general with water (fruits, veggies, etc.)   The lady was surprised by what I was saying but she still bought the sports drinks.  I explained that the kids are used to it and it will take some time to adjust but her pocketbook would thank me not to mention her dentist might be thanking me too.  I did a quick follow-up piece on nutrition with the same myths where I updated some of my training regimen when I was training for the marathon.  It had a few more views, but still not that successful if you ask me.  Maybe all the sports people think they already know what they’re doing?  Maybe I need to be more creative in how I title/hashtag my blog?  Not completely sure, but this does lead to me where do I go next.
I did a podcast for FIU a few months back – take a listen here if podcasts are your thing.  Spoiler alert, it was REALLY fun!  I mean I had a really good time just sitting and talking to the hosts about what I love best, nutrition!  I do listen to a few podcasts on my own time and I do believe that they are getting more and more popular (they have been for a while now).  It got me to thinking – should I do a podcast?  Would anybody listen?  Some of the technology stuff has me feeling like I’m cornered and not sure where to go, but the truth of the matter is that I have to grow and learn new things.  A podcast would be the first step.

The other area that I have been working on is an actual website.  I have my blog and post my blogs there, but I had acquired a webpage and have never made it public.  I’m still learning things about it (it’s that technology that has me limited) but I’m determined to create a logo and really finalize my webpage in this coming year.

Other items I have on my list to do/learn – making food videos.  Yes I know these are even becoming overdone, but I think it would be fun minimally to do a FB live of my own and/or tape a few Instagram stories that are actual videos.  Those that know me have seen me in action, but those that just read my blog really don’t know that much about me.  It’d be nice to put a face with the person behind the blog. 

Those are just a few of my ideas to continue to challenge and grow in this whole blogging thing that started 5 years ago.  I have changed in this time – you should have seen some of the first pictures that I took! – I also transitioned in my jobs.  The irony is that I have more time now and blog less, or maybe it isn’t irony.  I channeled some of my stress in my blog and it was a helpful way to document my journey along the way.  I think my favorite piece was the blog I wrote after having my 2nd panel interview for my current job. 

I wrote about my presentation and how stress was stifling my inner creativity.  I had reached levels of stress that needed to change as it was ultimately affecting my health.  Work can do that to you.  Out of my stress and ultimate hope for a new beginning  came one of the most simple yet elegant desserts that I’ve ever made and ultimately one of the most simple yet effective presentations I’ve ever created.  I’m thankful each and every day for my new job – it’s a fresh start and full of opportunities.  
This is the same way I feel about my blog  - I’m able to document my experiences and while some people call it a diary if you will I think it chronicles my adventures all while educating people along the way, simple yet effective.  So many thanks to all of YOU that have been reading my blog.  I appreciate it – even if I don’t know that you’re reading (this internet is a crazy thing).  Here’s to the next 5 years and wherever it leads me…a podcast, videos, or more.  The adventure awaits!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Month in Review - April 2018

The Month In Review – and just like that it feels like summer!  I am not complaining but I am here to tell you that Miami had all of a few days of Spring like weather and then BAM the next day it felt like  summer.  I may be exaggerating and I am also well aware that other places feel like it is still Winter, hello snow in Minnesota! but I can only give you the latest update on the weather here in the MIA.  I think we’re all bracing for the summer weather that’s coming and know that it’s going to be a scorcher.  Which only means that smoothies and juices are getting ready to bombard our social media feeds, #worsttrendever, when all you really need is water, water, and more water. 

This month alone three of my favorite food bloggers have released cookbooks.  We all know I have a cookbook addiction, so it was easy for me to buy three of my favorite bloggers’ books.  But three in one month?  There are too many recipes to try and I can’t focus on one of their books because I have all three at once!  Real world problems, I know.

How Sweet EatsThe Pretty Dish – I tried to think back to when I first started following Jessica of How Sweet Eats and I can’t really remember.  What I do remember is that Jessica inspired me to get in the kitchen and really experiment with flavors and just go for it.  And I’ve never looked back.  It’s where it all started for me, the love of making everything homemade, of spending time in the kitchen and really creating healthy and nourishing dishes.  I also learned to never  doubt Jessica’s flavor combinations.  As weird as something might sound, do NOT doubt her.  The flavors are always on point!  Always.  Blood orange, avocado and beet salad; beet hummus; kale salad with blood orange vinaigrette are just a few of the recipes I’ve made so far.  And then today I made her scrambled eggs with ricotta cheese.  I’m not sure why I’ve never thought to put ricotta in my eggs.  So glad Jessica did, because they are perfection! 

I still haven’t made it to the section of her book where she makes homemade scrubs – food that you can put on your face.  I made a peppermint coconut oil scrub this past Christmas and it was divine, so I’m sure I’ll love experimenting with some of these DIYs.  I could go on and on about Jessica, but the truth is go check out her blog and see for yourself.  The other great thing about Jessica is she has a section that she writes on Saturday called, “CurrentlyCrushing On” and this is where I started finding other bloggers to follow.  Thanks Jessica!

What’s Gaby Cooking – her first cookbook was all about avocadoes so her next book was named after herself, What's Gaby Cooking:  Everyday California Cooking.  Makes sense.  I like Gaby’s recipes because they are simple, easy and delicious.  That’s a winning combo in my book.  I think part of the reason why I also love Gaby so much is because she’s on social media a lot (Snapchat and Instagram) that you feel connected in some way – she’s down to earth and super funny.  She just needs to make it down to Miami on her book tour!  I’ve tried a few of her recipes so far – Sesame-Miso Market Salad, Green Rice Burrito Bowls, Pico de Gallo, and her Basil Vinaigrette is everything.  Truly, you’ll want to drizzle that basil vinaigrette on just about everything.  Last week I made the cilantro vinaigrette and it’s great, but basil is happening this weekend!  If you’re looking for simple yet flavorful, Gaby’s your girl.

And last but not least, The FauxMarthaThe Minimalist Kitchen – I stumbled upon The Faux Martha’s blog as I said through one of Jessica’s posts.  I don’t remember which post that is was, but Melissa’s blog is so well written you’ll want to read it each and every time.  (There was a recent blog from another food blogger recently about how blogging is a thing of the past and do people even really read blogs anymore.  Some people even just scroll to the recipe and skip the reading altogether…which makes me wonder should I even be blogging anymore?)  But back to Melissa, her blog is easy to read and is so well written that even at times she’s made me cry – I mean this one about fellow blogger Pinch Of Yum was exactly just the right thing to say even when she thought it wasn’t.  Her cookbook is about minimalizing what it is that you have in your kitchen and cooking something almost out of nothing.  Well, not nothing, but with the basics and not having to go so over the top.  I made her dutch baby recipe the other day and to say it was delicious was an understatement.  Her bean tacos are also simplistic yet made flavorful by the slaw on top – perfect combo of sweet yet tangy.  If you know someone just starting out and learning how to cook (and even stock what they need in their pantry), The Minimalist Kitchen is a good one to have.  May we all learn a little something about minimalism. 

And FYI I am not promoting that you go out and buy these bloggers cookbooks.  I am summarizing what I did during the month of April.  I cook and I buy cookbooks, that’s my thing.  What I want is for people to take away the idea that cooking can be easy, flavorful, and healthy all at the same time.  These bloggers release recipes weekly (for free) on their websites.  You can even check your local library and check out their cookbook (no need to purchase).  Maybe you will be inspired and find a new recipe, or maybe you’ll even find someone else’s blog that you end up liking just by reading one of these – believe me that’s how I’ve found almost all of the bloggers that I follow.  Stay inspired with cooking, it’s too easy to get into the trap where we think that cooking has to be a chore.  These ladies will help inspire you to get in the kitchen, even if it’s just something quick that you can throw together and call a meal.

And in work news – last weekend we had a big event with the Dolphins – Family Fit Fest – Baptist is one of those unique organizations that as being not for profit we give back to the community.  Literally every program we do is FREE.  You heard right, FREE.  We might just be the best kept secret in Miami.  Free nutrition classes and freeexercise classes, all over Dade and Broward county.  We partnered with the Dolphins for the Family Fit Fest – it was a day of skills and drills for the kids, screenings, Zumba, yoga, free fruits and veggies and more! 

Talk about a fun-filled day!  The best part of my day was by far this little kid playing the “My Plate” game.  He looked at me and asked me, “Were you at the tennis event?”  I replied in shock, “as a matter of fact I was!”  He continued to tell me that he knew it was me because I was the lady that was teaching him how to eat healthy from the plate.  I mean I know kids have a pretty good memory, but I’m thinking I made an impact on this kid for him to have remembered me…or he’s going to be a future dietitian when he gets older J 

That’s community health nutrition in action.  Day in and day out we’re able to have different programs for the community and all for free.  It makes my job fun and interesting and is it really work when you love what you do?    

In the month of May Miami’s public learning station, PBS, is starting a health channel.  As it’s the first month some of the programs will be repeated as it is just getting started, but we will have doctors and specialists on for different topics all throughout the coming months.  They are going to feature myself and the dietitians I work with on the following topics:  Vitamins and Supplements – May 7th, Plant-Based Eating- May 16th, and Heart Health – featuring moi on May 21st.  Here is the website – allthealthallthetime – Stay tuned for future topics and the official schedule to be released.    And if there’s a topic you want to hear more about, email us with an idea.  Excited and nervous all at the same time!!  My TV debut coming right atcha!

While I worked at UM it was always my thought to go back and get my masters.  After I finished my undergraduate years ago (and having gotten two majors in 4 years) the last thing on my mind was going to school for another two years.  I also was thinking of how would I even pay for that?  So off I went into the workforce and never looked back.  But it always was something that I looked back and thought that I should’ve done.  So back to UM – it would’ve been ideal to have gotten a masters of public health while I was employed there.  The only problem?  When you work 8 am -8 pm it doesn’t really leave you any free time.  Not to mention most of the classes were in person.  Flash forward to present day and my current employer does offer tuition reimbursement as well.  I think this is something that I need/want to do.  So I’ve been researching a few programs, mainly online.  I got the GRE study guide and will be working on that in the coming weeks.  The only pitfall is that I have to be here (at my current job) for a full year before being able to get the tuition reimbursement.  While I will miss the cutoffs to get my application in for this year, I came to the conclusion that it will all work out in due time.  Sometimes I just need to slow down – literally adjust to my new job before throwing myself into a master’s program.  The other benefit of waiting till the next year,  one I can actually study for the GRE and not cram it all in in one weekend  (which could work, but let’s be real I’ve been out of school for forever and trying to sit down and study is a little bit like torture (when it’s for the GRE and not something I want to study).  Two, I am going to go on a few trips in this next year – at least in my head that’s the plan.  I already booked a trip to Baltimore for some continuing education.  Instead of staying local I opted to make a trip out of it.  Why not, am I right?  Next trip will be an actual vacation where I can fly away and literally relax – last time that happened was in Italy and I said then I’d travel more.  I haven’t so now’s the time.  Now just to decide where to?  Peru is definitely on the bucket list.  Spain – the northern region, although I enjoyed the south thoroughly so I’d go back in a heartbeat!  I’m going to just keep dreaming of where I’ll travel for now.

The last thing I’ve been working on is staying consistent with my meditation.  I’m actually less consistent now because I tap in to my meditation in times of stress.  I know it’s the opposite of what you might think, but that’s my tendency and I’m working on it.   I haven’t really been stressed at all since starting my new job.  So I stopped doing daily meditation and only occasionally meditate.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always trying to reconnect with my breath – short little reminders during the day to make sure I’m actually breathing.   But sitting down to actually meditate, it’s been awhile.  So yes, even I need to stay consistent.  It’s in those times of stress the consistency will help me reconnect back to my meditation and the skills I develop – it’s literally a bicep curl for your brain.  Seems I’m starting over at ground zero for now, with the intent to get stronger every day.

Hard to believe tomorrow is the last day of April.  It's been jam-packed and full of fun.  Can't wait to see what May brings.  Have a great month of May ya’ll!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Not Sponsored. Just A Fan. Part Deux.

I wrote a piece a few months back about food bloggers and dietitians being sponsored to promote products.  You can read about it here.  While I am not a famous dietitian (or blogger for that matter) I didn’t receive much feedback or commentary.  No problem.  I'll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years.  If my piece gets noticed, so be it.  I know that I have a few followers that do read the blog and for that, I’m grateful.  The reward for me is educating people and I hope through my blog I’m able to show people that healthy can taste delicious…I think my pictures are proof.

The background on my last piece is in regards to food bloggers and dietitians alike being paid sponsors for products.  Social media in the last couple of years has paid attention to certain marketing techniques (pun intended) and this is the new wave of how advertising is going.  A popular food blogger will write a quick blurb promoting said product in a cute fashion and somewhere in this blurb will need to use the hashtag #ad #sponsored  These hashtags are used to readily make the public aware that they are being paid to say this.  But in my mind I would believe that this food blogger might just believe in this product if they are being paid to sponsor it…or do they? Not all food bloggers are dietitians.  And even though they may not know the science behind whether a food is healthy or not they do have the power to influence their followers to buy the product.  Hence why companies are using this technique.  I readily admit to being prey to this said tactic.  Enter chocolate covered hemp seeds.  Probably never would’ve bought them until I saw them used as a garnish and thought…I have to have them!  Spoiler alert – I did not have to have them. 

On the flip side there are some food bloggers that are dietitians.  This is where in lies the problem (in my humble opinion).  There are dietitians promoting products, ambassadors if you will, that are not healthy.  If I were an unsuspecting consumer that saw a semi-famous dietitian (just checked one dietitian’s followers right now – 54,000 – there are obviously some with more or less, but holy smokes that’s a lot of people seeing what she posts.  Not to mention she recently promoted a sugar substitute that is now listed on CSPI’s “red” list – Chemical cuisine).  Talk about an ethical issue…#amIright??  All the work that I do to promote actual education to the community all down the drain by one single post that now confuses the community to think that a sugar substitute is healthy.  All because she’s getting paid.  Hmpf.  My job has gotten that much more difficult.  I was approached by a couple of companies a few years back and I’ll be honest, I turned them down.  Sure I was enticed by the money.  But it’s too hard to keep up with all the products they may produce and at the end of the day I didn’t want all my allegiance going to any company.  My allegiance is to educating and remaining unbiased.  But the truth is, money talks.  Dietitians need to be paid more as a profession.  I’m all for entrepreneurship and making something of yourself.  I am not for being paid to represent a product that isn’t healthy just to say how to use it in some recipe which then confuses people to wonder is it healthy or not?

At the end of the day patients do request for certain brands so that they can know what to buy while in the store.  I’ll say it again and again and again, it’s more about the education of the nutrition label than it is the actual brand because whether you’re in San Diego, CA shopping at Von’s or you’re here in Miami, FL shopping at Publix you should be able to know what to buy simply by looking at the ingredient list. If you need help Navigating The Supermarket, we offer store tours (for free!).  Take a look to see the upcoming tours in both Dade and Broward county!

The following are products that I use in my kitchen – no I am not sponsored and these are not ads.  It’s just what I eat.  And while this might seem like a product endorsement, I like to see it as I discussed, a teaching moment.  Read on to see what I say about the items and again, forget the brand, buy whichever brand you want that fits the bill of what I describe. 
Whole Grains.  Brown Rice.  Whole Wheat Flour.  Oats.  Barley.  & more!  Hard to believe that quinoa is now considered “old”.  But the truth is that recently other whole grains have started to gain ground in popularity.  I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten as popular as quinoa did, but I do believe that people are starting to try new whole grains out.  I myself just recently purchased wheat berries.  And while wheat berries are simply a whole wheat kernel, I’ve never tried it.  I won’t take it as far to grind these berries into my own whole wheat flour (because you can), but suffice it to say I too am experimenting with different whole grains.  Variety really is the spice of life.  The most common response I hear is that people don’t know how to cook these grains (or rather they don’t always turn out just right).  The truth is they do cook similar as you would brown rice.  These whole grains are going to be nuttier, chewier, and earthier in taste as they are whole grains.  So, find a recipe – hot or cold – that you’d like to try and see if you like them.  Always remember, rotate and keep trying!  Here’s a recipe to get you started.

I’ve still been on the search for a few more whole grain crackers.  If you follow me on Instagram I’ve featured a few recently on my #TasteTestTuesday.  I do ultimately want to make a homemade version, but until I do, here are a couple more that I’ve thrown into the mix and rotate through for my snacks or even a cheese board (shhh no one will know they’re healthy!)

This is the only flavor I have tried and that I can vouch for.  Two ingredients:  wheat bran and oat bran.  I think you know what that means.  Loads of fiber.  You WILL go to the bathroom.  If fiber is something you struggle with then these crackers will help.  Just remember to drink water to help with the increase in fiber you’ll be ingesting.  As for some of their marketing ploys – “appetite control” and “only 2g Net Carbs – I could do without.   I guess you can’t call them healthy without appealing to the masses without using some kind of recent “fad” in the news.  Me?  I just call them #dietitianapproved and #notsponsored  #justafan I simply aim to educate that with only 2 ingredients they’re a definite product to use!

This company makes a lot of different crackers, but they only have ONE that’s whole grain.  They are light and airy and paper thin, but they really paired well on one of the cheese boards that I did recently with some of the soft cheeses.  Options is what I say.  Definitely starting to get a slew of whole wheat crackers that I feel confident about and that I can rotate through.  And yes, I will still try to make some homemade, but in the mean time you can call me lazy…or maybe just resourceful.

The dairy aisle is/can be daunting.  I’m not going to discuss some of the controversies with dairy in general here on the blog today.  Rather I’m going to show you two products that are #dietitianapproved.
The first is a lower sugar option yogurt.  Yogurt these days can almost be considered dessert depending on the amount of added sugar they’ve included.  Chobani finally came up with a version that has minimal added sugar (probably to rival Siggis brand.  Although on a side note, Siggis now manufactures a version that really has no added sugar, however, it is 4% milkfat.  If you take sugar out, nine times out of 10 you add fat back in.  Animal fat that I choose not to ingest due to familial hypercholesterolemia). They need to adapt to the new label and tell you how much added sugar there really is, but for now this new “Hint” variety is their best version and your best version to transition to less sugar.  Because if you were able to see how much added sugar were in their “Flips” you’d realize it’s dessert.  The truth is my ultimate recommendation is to aim for plain yogurt and add your own fruit in.   I use non-fat yogurt and either add in some actual nuts for crunch or stir in some nut butters for some plant-based healthy fats.  I should’ve taken an after picture to show you how pretty the blackberries looked after I smashed them.  Next time.

People are realizing that nut butters are healthy for them as they are a source of protein with healthy fats (source is from a plant and not an animal).  However, companies are adding in either trans fat to make the nut butter solid and/or sugar to sweeten their product.  Why can’t we leave well enough alone?  I know people complain about stirring the nut butters, but the truth is the moment they’ve added “partially hydrogenated oils” into the mix I feel there went the health component and why are you even eating the product?  I was at the store yesterday and saw this brand (remember who cares about the brand, just using this as an example.)

Do NOT buy!!  This picture is ONLY for educational purposes.  Read below.
They were right next to each other and neither one is one I would recommend to buy.  I am showing the picture for educational purposes only.  Companies are trying to steer away from labeling their product with “partially hydrogenated oil” but instead using “palm oil”.  As if palm oil is healthier? Um, no.  If you want to read more about palm oil and the reasons why not to use it, check out what CSPI had to say here.  If you're concerned about how it effects the environment there’s a whole report about that here.  

I shouldn’t assume but I do think it’s safe to say in this situation that the average consumer would grab the “Bare Smooth” making the connotation that if it is bare then it doesn’t have anything added to it.  WRONG.  They added palm fruit oil in.  Can we just leave well enough alone and keep it to just one ingredient? Almonds plain and simple.  Is that too difficult?  Stay aware and watch that ingredient list.  Moving on. 
Tuna in a package.  Another example of what should be something simple to buy that isn’t.  I looked at a few different options that are sold in the stores and what you’re aiming for is no added flavors.  Once they start calling them “Creations” they’re adding in way too many additives that you should have more control over.  One brand even used MSG – which some people are sensitive to.  It takes a little more work, but go ahead and add in your own spices.  I use a little mustard to make it creamy (so that I use less mayonnaise) and if I have it, I’ll even mash up avocado to give it some flavoring.  I cannot promise that it will look Instagram worthy, but the taste?  Out of this world.  I’ve even been known to make it completely Mediterranean in flavor and only use olive oil and red wine vinegar (as well as sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, red pepper, and cucumber).  The sky is the limit, but definitely aim for plain when it comes to tuna so you can have the control.

Spiralizers are still having their moment.  But who wants to add another gadget/appliance to their kitchen?  Not me.  I don’t have enough space for that.  Although I was just gifted a really tiny hand-held spiralizer that definitely does the trick on zucchini.  Sweet potatoes, not so much.  I think making food attractive can be helpful in people trying new foods.  I am not for zoodles taking over the world and replacing them as carbs at a meal (that’s a topic for another day), but I am for including more non-starchy vegetables.  Enter these frozen options (there were a few companies in the store, I happened to take this brand’s photo).  I’ve noticed them fresh and in the produce area, but the truth is they are super expensive if you buy them fresh.  This frozen version was well within reason for cost based on amount and I’ve even seen them as a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal.  So keep your eyes peeled and stock up on a few of these if you don’t own a spiralizer and have been wanting to try them out.

My job as a dietitian is to educate people on how to make better food choices with the ultimate goal of helping people become healthier.  It’s a hard job to do with so many food options available, not to mention sifting through all the marketing confusion.  As a dietitian I don't want to be a part of the confusion.  Promoting a product and being sponsored by a food company might seem like a good way to bring in a few extra dollars to some, but to me that only creates even more confusion for the consumer.   I'll continue doing #TasteTestTuesday and showing different products on the market that are #dietitianapproved.  I'm NOT being sponsored and it's definitely NOT an ad, it's just me doing my job as a dietitian, promoting health and awareness.