C is for Cookie

Monday, February 05, 2007

Good Read: The Omnivore's Dilemma

I haven't bought this book yet, but I just read Professor Michael Pollan's New York Times article Unhappy Meals.

I love what he says and how he says it. For example: "... it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness." At C is for Cookie, we are champions of the poor vegetable underdogs! At every chance, we try to smack down those nasty General Mills cereals with a wet whole grain noodle to allow our life-saving veggies to have their day in the sun.

I support anyone who tries to cut through confusion, corporate manipulation and marketing mayhem in the name of helping people do what's right for them. Check out Michael Pollan's book 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' at his website: http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Video Games are Healthy

Finally some good press for video games. Hey, they aren't all about shooting and pillaging anymore, did you know?

The State of West Virginia completed a one year project to get obese children into shape using a game called Dance Dance Revolution which they had to play at home 5 times per week. The game involves listening to a song and following along to choreographed steps by stomping on a matching set of foot pads. It's sort of like a hopscotch-dance competition.

This attempt to improve children's health was a considerable success. Most kids in the test group did not lose weight over the 24-week period whereas kids in the control group continued to gain: about 6 pounds each in that same time period. The predicted weight gain for the test group kids appears to have been "halted". I'm sure there are a number of other factors for why the dancing kids did not actually lose weight: increase in muscle mass, increase in appetite leading to increased caloric consumption to name a couple. But, let's not forget that it's not all about numbers on the scale.

The really good news is that the kids showed an increase in aerobic ability and arterial function, as well as gaining some self-confidence in the process. Not only that, they had fun doing it. Aw...

Interesting Sidenote: At Burning Man 2006, I saw a version of this game called Dance Dance Immolation which required the player to don a fire-proof suit and dance the correct steps or he or she would be fired at with a flameshooter. I guess you have to understand Burning Man to appreciate this, but here's a link to a video of "DDI" for those of you with an open mind.

UPDATE: The newest video game console that requires players to "get physical" is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii remote (Wiimote) moves in 3-D to simulate gameplay and so playing tennis involves a lot of arm-swinging. This is making healthy subjects out of the Wii console owners and just last week, Reuters reported: "After six weeks and 21 hours of total game play on Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s new game console, Philadelphia resident Mickey DeLorenzo is nine pounds lighter and making a splash with his new svelte self." Go Game Geeks, Go!!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Designer Foods Are All Style No Substance

Keep your eyes on the news if you're interested in food innovation, because we're going to see a steady increase in the number of stories involving "designer foods". Scientists are working with farmers and food manufacturers to design - and patent - foods and animals, purportedly for the benefit of consumers. I am very apprehensive of the "designer food" claims and more than a bit concerned about how these foods will truly affect our health.

I consider myself to be an open-minded person who appreciates that science has made leaps and bounds in helping us understand the world around us. As I often say, I'm alive today thanks to modern science, which helped me survive a childhood troubled by chronic asthma. Most of the medicine we see on pharmacy shelves has undergone a lot of testing and those of us who are responsible take medication when we are ill or have an acute problem that requires a strong efficacious solution.

But now, scientists are itching to get into the kitchen. They're taking a number of isolated chemicals and food constituents that are known to have health benefits and are inserting them into foods, theorizing that eating these foods will bring similar benefits. I am dubious for a few reasons. Firstly, we are only now starting to understand the complexity of food constituents and their ability to protect our health. Hundreds of years ago, doctors found that people who ate citrus fruits were protected from certain illnesses and through study and research they discovered the health benefits of Vitamin C which was in fact ascorbic acid isolated from citrus fruits. With doctors touting the benefits of this new vitamin, soon many companies churned out laboratory-produced "vitamin C" pills and we swallowed or chewed them to ward off colds. In recent years, scientists have begun to understand that in fact there are a number of compounds that work together in the fruit and it's not just the ascorbic acid. In citrus fruits, one of these helper compounds is bioflavonoids, which aid the absorption of vitamin C and prevent its being oxidized. Bioflavonoids are one type of antioxidant. Lo and behold, antioxidants became the new buzzword and we now have a flurry of new product at the grocery store, with each manufacturer claiming that its food contains the most antioxidants.

Here's a crazy idea.....how about eating a grapefuit when you feel sick instead of taking an ester-c capsule buffered with extra bioflavonoids?

Secondly, I think that isolating one compound from a food may be missing the boat when it comes to trying to understand what really makes a food "healthy" or protective. Oranges are a highly-effective source and delivery system of vitamin C for humans, because we were designed to eat oranges. And while interferon is an important chemical for fighting cancer, it's normally released into our bloodstream as part of the natural immune response. So how do we know that interferon will be accepted by our bodies' immune system when we fry it up in an omelette?

It's heartening to see that many new studies are finding whole foods and vegetables - like the cruciferous family - to be cancer-protective. But these are offset by the amount of studies funded by drug and food manufacturers who are essentially looking for an ingredient to add to their product so they can claim it is "healthy" and then reap the financial benefits. Take, for example, the new genetically-modified hens that lay eggs which are filled with human interferon, a known cancer-fighting protein that our bodies produce naturally. Scientists genetically modified the hens (injected hen embryos with human DNA) and bred them with other hens, then modified and bred them again until their eggs contained an adequate amount of the desired proteins. Now we can have a daily dose of interferon with our morning eggs.

A serious critique of genetic modification is that we don't know what could happen if humans were to eat eggs from genetically modified chickens over the course of a human lifetime. That's because it's never been done before. It may be just the same as eating a conventional egg. But it may be drastically different. Are these laboratory recipes worth the risk?

I also find it interesting that we are bringing in science to put "health" back into eggs since we've managed to breed all the goodness out of the modern egg. Your regular grocery store egg is a product of the conventional chicken farming industry which begins with sick chickens imprisoned in small cages eating processed feed and laying eggs non-stop until they become too sick at the ripe old age of 18 months. Conventional eggs are much less healthy than they were 100 years ago and we have the science of modernisation to thank for that. Will science help us put our healthy egg back together again? I'd rather eat an egg that's naturally filled with Omega 3s and healthy proteins because the chicken that laid it walked around during the day and pecked and scratched its dinner from an unpolluted country field.

A cynical view might say that isolating the good components of food is all about economics. By identifying "healthy" compounds and adding them to a processed food you end up with a great marketing pitch and it allows a company to keep mass-producing their cheap products to maintain profits. Take the case of Wonder Bread Plus which has somehow been allowed to call itself whole grain bread due to clever wording but is still the same old white bread that has chemical vitamins added to it so it doesn't make people sick when they eat it.

Adding a healthy compound to an unhealthy food doesn't make good sense nutritionally, and you can only hide the truth from the public for so long. More and more we are learning that it's the combination of factors in foods that make them healthy: juice, pulp, fibre, naturally-occuring oils inside seeds. But food manufacturers aren't interested in packaging ordinary foods that we've all seen before. The best way to corner the market on a food is to make sure you are the only one who can sell it. And the only way to do that is to patent a way of processing a food or to patent the food itself, which is done by genetically modifying it. How can a manufacturer be competitive when all eggs look the same? How can a consumer tell the difference? Well if you are the only company to sell eggs with interferon in them, you'll find yourself ahead of the game with that Unique Selling Proposition.

Here's an example of this kind of ingenuity at work. Everybody knows that dogs need to eat healthy to grow up strong, and most dog owners find that Rover likes to munch on a carrot when thrown his way. So here's a company called Pegetables that makes pet treats "made from low-fat natural vegetable ingredients including carrots, celery and corn." They're shaped like vegetables too! I can picture the Marketing folks saying "Now how are we going to compete with fresh vegetables? I know! Let's take bits of fruit and veggies and mix them up with processed wheat gluten, food dyes and chemicals and then mould them into colourful vegetable shapes!"

I strongly support the need for scientific research that helps us extend our lives and protect ourselves from diseases. But must we constantly deconstruct things in order to put them back together in "new and improved" ways? I think that it's possible to pursue medical research and also appreciating natural sources of health, such as fruits and vegetables. And I really applaud when companies go out and use scientific analysis to find evidence of protective compounds in the foods that we eat. But I am wary of science's knee-jerk instinct of isolating those compounds down to the smallest chemical, because that's when a food component starts to become a commodity ready to be patented, processed and mass-produced for mass profits. This kind of thinking strikes another blow to our local farmer who is simply trying to produce healthy food for the people in his community. I'll be putting all my eggs in that basket.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lose Weight the Easy Way!

I just lost 4 pounds in a week! You can do it too! Now that it's holiday time I've been eating the many Christmas cookies I bake for meals and I've actually been feeling a bit under the weather so my appetite is weaker than usual. I also haven't gone to the gym lately due to feeling sick. This morning I stepped on the gym scales and learned I'd lost 4 pounds!

So to recap:
- eat fewer calories than normal
- eat whatever you like, without regard for nutritional value

And you too will lose weight.

Yes, folks, it really can be a numbers game. But is that the game you want to play? I feel like crap, and although my mouth is happy to be chomping on cookies, when I got on the treadmill, I sweat like a construction worker in July. I felt gross! Eating cookies has meant I haven't gotten any real vitamins and minerals into my body in about a week. And I've probably lost muscle mass, because it's been a week since I lifted weights. When I stand in front of my mirror in the nude, I feel jiggly. In fact, I wouldn't have realised I'd lost weight, had I not stepped onto the scales.

Lesson learned? Eating less can make you lose weight, but weight loss is not an ideal goal. Losing fat, gaining muscle and getting healthy is a much better goal to work towards. After the holidays - burp - I'm going to go back to eating healthy.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This is why you think you're fat

A lot of us who work with digital images know that many of the photos we see in magazines, on billboards and posters are manipulated. But the power of an image is so strong, that few of us actually see a woman on the cover of a magazine and think "Well sure she's beautiful but most of that image is fake."

The Dove Soap company's Campaign for Real Beauty is doing a great job of exposing this issue of advertisers showing us false images to make us feel inferior so they can sell us more stuff. On their site you can watch their Evolution commercial that shows the transformation a model undergoes from normal-looking girl to billboard beauty with the help of lots of makeup, lighting and much digital remodelling of her features.

But most of these transformations from plain Jane to va-va-voom take place behind closed doors, and with willing participants. What model doesn't want to look as beautiful as possible? Unfortunately, many models don't talk about how media editors are chopping up their bodies into smaller, thinner versions of themselves. Several years ago, Kate Winslet spoke out against GQ magazine for chopping up her image to make it thinner. GQ's editor defended the magazine by saying: "These days you only get two kinds of pictures of celebrities - paparazzi pictures or pictures like these which have been highly styled, buffed, trimmed and altered to make the subject look as good as is humanly possible. We do that for everyone, whether they are a size six or a size 12. It hasn't a lot to do with body size. Practically every photo you see in a magazine will have been digitally altered in this way."

Thanks to magazine editors everywhere for making women believe we're too fat because we don't measure up to your standards. Standards which don't exist in real life. Thanks also for showing men what beautiful women look like, but neglecting to tell them that noone looks like that in real life.

Despite this grand deception that is common practice, it's rare to see a celeb or model speak out against the endless need to cut women down to a tiny, unattainable size. That's why I applaud Vida Guerra for publicly complaining that FHM magazine made her butt look smaller when it featured her. Vida is no stick-thin runway model, but she ain't no fat girl either. She has modelled for Playboy and her website shows off her sexy curves and her very womanly body. So, it's interesting to watch her question the magazine's decision to cut her booty down to size.

I guess you really can't be too rich or too thin these days. I can't wait for this pendulum to swing back in the opposite direction; and it surely will. In the meantime, I'll focus on being healthy, thanks! And as long as my body allows me to jump and run and play, I will love and appreciate its non-Photoshopped shape.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

How to Trick Kids into Eating Veggies

I'm of the opinion that sometimes it makes sense to trick people into doing something that's good for them, even if they say they don't like it. No, I'm not talking about putting chicken broth into a vegetarian's soup as my grandmother once did to my cousin, claiming "it's good for her." I'm talking about sneaking veggies into children's food in an attempt to get some real nutrients into their unsuspecting little white bread and sugar-loving mouths.

Any parent out there knows what I'm talking about. It's a fact that kids tend not to like the bitter taste that is associated with certain leafy green veggies. However, there are many mild-tasting, highly nutritious vegetables that kids would choose if those poor veggies had PR machines promoting them everywhere the way that candy and breakfast cereals do. Where's my beloved Green Giant when we need him? Boo hoo hoo.

I find that most people abhor change, especially to their routine. When it comes to food, it's important to work with what folks say they like, and simply make these things more nutritious. This certainly applies to the adult nutrition clients I work with and kids, too, prefer the familiar. So while we still want to encourage kids to try new things, it's often easier to get them to eat new vegetables by sneaking a veggie or two into their favourite foods. I call it Stealth Feeding. We all need a variety of foods to give our diets a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, so it's especially important for growing children to eat more than just their 8 or 10 familiar foods. Here are some suggestions for how you can slip veggies and legumes into your child's meal today! He won't know and it will be painless for both of you.

  • Steam and puree cauliflower and add it to milk, butter and some parmesan cheese to make "cheese sauce"
  • Steam and puree veggies like carrots, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers and add them to your favourite spaghetti sauce.
  • Do the above and add it to your chilis and stews
  • Puree beans and add them to soup to thicken it (chick peas a.k.a. garbanzo beans are good for this)
  • Use veggie ground round instead of ground beef in tacos, lasagna or spaghetti sauce (this is a good way to get organic tofu into your kids, which is a nice alternative to conventional meats)

    Other tricks:
  • I also find that you can serve kids Campbell's vegetable alphabet soup, because the kids look at the letters not the veggies! And Campbell's is one of the lowest in sodium.
  • If you can find a "low-in-fat" dip your kids like, you can serve it to them with their favourite veggies using the "gosh we're all out of crackers" excuse. Mild veggies to try are of course carrot sticks, light green bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, celery sticks for older kids.
  • Have a make-your-own-pizza night and cut up a variety of meats, cheeses and veggies such as peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, artichoke hearts, etc. Have your child make his own pizza and encourage him to add vegetables. If they make the food, they will be happy to eat it.

    Let me know your suggestions, too, please!

    Labels: ,

  • Monday, November 27, 2006

    A Cheese by another name tastes great and is low-cal too!

    For all you cheese and dip lovers, I have a healthy new suggestion. I tried a new dip by the TreStelle company made with low-fat ricotta and it's a winner! I've been cooking with ricotta cheese for a few years now and it's a good, creamy, low-fat substitute for cottage or cream cheese, and an excellent ingredient in cheesecakes, lasagna, and other creamy dishes.

    TreStelle's new ricotta cheese spreads come in 1 savoury flavour and 3 sweet ones: spinach and garlic, strawberry, blueberry, and tropical fruit. I bought the Spinach one and I'll admit I added about 2/3 tsp of garlic salt to it because I found it a bit mild on the garlic side. Kudos to them for making a low-sodium product, too, and shame on me for wanting to add more salt. The best news of all though is that 4 whopping tablespoons of this dip amounts to only 100 calories and 6 g of fat*. That's incredibly low compared, for example, to cream cheese which has 8 times the calories and 4 times as much fat.

    I would recommend sticking to the savoury dip because it's easy to pair with cut up veggies like bell peppers, cucumber, celery, carrots, snow or sugar-snap peas and steamed broccoli, green beans or cauliflower. Fruit flavoured versions will keep up the sugar cravings because naturally they're sweet and they beg to be spread on bagels or have sweet fruits like strawberries or pinneapple dipped into them. The other benefit of the spinach spread is that it's a great alternative to butter or margarine as a low-fat spread for whole-grain crackers or healthy sandwiches.

    The more we support companies by purchasing their healthy products, the more we tell these manufacturers that we want them to produce foods that support our heath, not endanger it.

    *NOTE: the actual serving size says 5 Tbsp is 70g and contains 6g fat and 100 calories but that entire container only holds 270 g. There did not appear to be 15 or more Tablespoons in that small container so I was skeptical. I did my own measuring using my own scale and found that 70g was approximately 4 Tbsp of the spread. Still a great nutritional value though!

    Labels: , ,

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Harmful Drugs or Healing Mushrooms: It's Your Choice

    I've been very frustrated by the reports I'm seeing in the past two days. Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche got FDA approval for their drug Tamiflu, which is a potent chemical formulation made from a Chinese herb known as star anise. An aside - it's also a pretty tasty herb used in high-end cooking. The FDA approved this drug in December 2005 for treatment of influenza and possibly the avian flu which health officials fear could create a pandemic should it mutate into a form easily passed from human to human. If you look on the FDA's website, just one month prior to approval they released a report stating that Tamiflu was one of eight drugs to be examined by a Pediatrics panel. The reason: "...a number of adverse event reports were identified associated with the use of Tamiflu in children 16 years of age or younger. These adverse event reports were primarily related to unusual neurologic or psychiatric events such as delirium, hallucinations, confusion, abnormal behavior, convulsions, and encephalitis." Now medical reporting can be a bit detached in its descriptions. More recent reports of "adverse effects" of children taking Tamiflu includes two separate cases of children aged 12 and 13 throwing themselves out of the window of their apartment buildings and plummeting to their death. Nevertheless, in December of 2005 the FDA approved Tamiflu.

    Tamiflu has also been in the news because Roche claimed that it was a good contender to fight the potential avian flu epidemic that we've been warned about. A flurry of news stories centred around governments keen on stockpiling drugs that might fight the avian flu virus alternately ordering millions of bottles of the drug and berating Roche for not allowing other drug companies to make the drug as well. In the meanwhile, Roche's revenues rocketed skyward and by September 2005 their revenues for the year were already up 263%. And yet, there has been no definitive answer as to whether the avian flu virus can be stopped in its tracks by Tamiflu. Tamiflu has proved effective against H5N1 in mice in laboratory tests. But a look on the US Department of State website reveals this statement:
    "Based upon limited data, the DHHS/CDC (Centre for Disease Control) has suggested that the anti-viral medication Oseltamivir (brand name- Tamiflu) may be effective in treating avian influenza A (H5N1)."

    Now we learn about more than 100 new cases of children taking Tamiflu who are experiencing delirium, hallucinations and convulsions, so health officials must warn parents to watch children taking Tamiflu for signs of "bizarre behaviour".

    Let's step back from this situation for a minute. A drug company has come up with a drug to treat influenza. The accepted medical treatment for influenza is to drink lots of liquids and get plenty of rest. Why is there a need for a drug for this? Why does the FDA approve a drug that may only shorten the effects of influenza, that may or may not be effective against H5N1, and which causes harmful effects when given to children? Why do governments spend millions of dollars on such a drug? Why are parents giving drugs to their children when water and bed rest is recommended?

    There are safe and natural methods of combatting viruses that have none of these harmful effects, come from a number of companies, are not expensive and therefore accessible to most people? Case in point: New Chapter's Life Shield Throat Spray (a blend of 3 potent mushrooms) has been tested to actively fight 5 strains of the avian flu, West Nile, Yellow Fever and other viruses. Since the product is made from organic mushrooms processed at low temperatures and left mainly intact, they cannot produce harmful side effects and are safe even for young children over the age of two.

    New Chapter's Paul Stamets is a mycologist who has developed the LifeShield and other mushroom products and is currently involved in two National Institutes of Health-funded clinical studies on cancer and HIV treatments using mushrooms. His patent-pending low-processing technologies and high-quality organic mushroom sources are being tested in animal clinical trials and are successfully fighting powerful pox viruses. His products quite simply work. And some actually clean up the environment while they are growing, too in a process called bioremediation. That might help the contaminants produced by pharmaceutical companies. . But that's another story....

    I suspect that ignorance could be the only thing standing in the way of everyone choosing proven natural remedies for health concerns, rather than pharmaceutical ones which often come with a handful of risks and complications. When a disease is not life-threatening there is also the option to do nothing, to take no remedy and let the body fight the infection on its own. Of course, we always have the skeptics. A common skeptic response to alternative health claims is: "one should question whether or not these remedies, which tend to be pricey, actually work." I agree with the first part, and noone should take a product that has not been proven to work, unless taking it poses little risk. For example I might take a common herb to help me treat a headache and if it's ineffective, so what? But I wouldn't use it to "cure" cancerous cell-growth. But addressing the question of cost, is $25 for a bottle that can last a family of 4 an entire flu season pricey? How many pharmaceutical remedies are that inexpensive? I've never heard of prescription drugs for four people costing as little as $25.

    This $25 bottle of LifeShield Throat Spray is just one product that I know about because I've been doing product demos for New Chapter for years, and am now a vendor. New Chapter is quiet about their products' successes and seem to spend their extra dollars on manufacturing instead of marketing. But the point is, there are likely other high-quality non-pharmaceutical solutions out there. Why else would the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) be examining medicinal mushrooms in their joint biodefense antiviral screening program with the NIH unless they believed the non-pharma route was a viable option? This is the USAMRIID after all whose vision is "to be the Nation's preeminent research laboratory providing cutting-edge medical research for the warfighter against biological threats". These folks would not waste time investigating ineffective methods.

    We all owe it to our health, our pocketbooks and our peace of mind to investigate ways of treating health problems without pharmaceuticals, especially for common, generally low-risk health problems such as the cold and flu. Learn about better safer alternatives to drugs because they are out there. And don't forget that we choose where to put our money and that's how we show our support for businesses. I'd rather support a mushroom farmer who's trying to save the world through fungi than throw a few more dollars at a faceless, polluting big corporation billion-dollar revenues.

    Labels: , , ,

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Nutrition Labels - what's the score?

    Do you know how to read those Nutrition Facts tables on the labels of most foods nowadays? If the answer is no, you're not alone. Some good doctors at the Center for Health Services Research at Vanderbilt University did a study with 200 well-educated participants but only 22% could identify the number of carbs in 2 pieces of bread, even while looking right at the nutrition facts table.

    Why all the confusion? It's not like you need anything more than simple math to read these tables. But there's more to it than that. Manufacturers are now required to put tables on their food products and naturally they want their products to come out looking as attractive as possible. In some cases manufacturers give nutrition data for portions of food that are much smaller than what one person would eat. And many people nowadays eat portions that are much larger than what they should be eating. We owe it to ourselves to become experts in reading those nutrition labels, and understanding what "serving size" means. Nutrition facts are given for a single serving which can be anything from a few crackers to an entire hamburger. Each label is different and so reading that a serving has 100 calories is meaningless unless you understand how many of those servings make it into your mouth.

    For example, the serving size on the side of my cereal box is a generous 55g (some companies only show values for 30g). Apparently that's 3/4 cup of cereal. However, when I poured 55g of cereal into my regular bowl on my kitchen scale, it was a lot less than what I eat each morning. So, I'm not eating the mere 190 calories the nutrition table promises - without milk. I'm probably getting a lot more like 270 calories before I even pour my milk into the bowl.

    Once you know what you are eating, compared to the serving size, you can then calculate how many calories, carbs, proteins, fat, fibre, etc you are eating when you consume that food. It's important to look at all that information together too. For example, perhaps you are eating a handful of nuts that adds up to 170 calories. When you notice on the nutrition label that 15 grams are fat and only 6g and 5g of protein and carbs respectively, you see that you are eating mostly fat. In fact, 135 of those 170 calories are actually fat calories (because each 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories whereas 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate only provide 4 calories). This snack is more than 2/3 fat!!

    It's no wonder that many people are getting heavier, because most of us have no idea how many calories and fats we are consuming each day. It's worth visiting McDonald's website to try out their Nutrition Calculator. That's an eye opener, and a great service, although I'm not sure it's going to encourage inquiring minds to want to eat at McDonald's ever again. This tool allows you to choose items for the menu and then it will tally their caloric and nutrient values. I chose a Oreo McFlurry which even large-sized is only a cup and a half of sweet yummy ice creamy goodness. Even though you'd assume ice cream is made from milk and therefore a McFlurry might be somewhat healthy, this snack weighs in at almost 700 calories. That's almost half the calories a small woman needs for an entire day! I guess next time I need to get a sinful treat I'll stick to my own homemade cookies whose nutrient values I have assessed and accepted.

    For more information on reading Nutrition Facts labels, the Mayo Clinic has a wonderful interactive tool that allows you to point your mouse at different parts of the table and learn about them.

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Obesity Crisis Outweighs Malnutrition Worldwide

    A consortium in Australia met recently to discuss the global obesity pandemic. It's everywhere and not just in rich countries anymore. We know that the urban poor in North America are suffering - McDonald's is cheaper and quicker than cooking a healthy meal - but also the rural poor in countries like China are getting fatter. One in 6 people in the world are overweight or obese. That's over 1 billion fat people!!!! Read more here.

    What did this gathering of the International Association of Agricultural Economistsd decide? Some of their recommendations are:
    - subsidise fruits and vegetables
    - impose taxes for unhealthy choices such as soda pop and sugary foods
    - encourage more physical activity

    These are great suggestions but I think it's going to be tough to impose "unhealthy taxes" on multimillion dollar corporations. If governments and consumers truly believe that eating garbage foods is making us sick, then we may be able to put pressure on fast-food chains and sugary cereal manufacturers to start making healthier food. We can simply stop buying the garbage they try to sell us. But this brings the control back into our own hands. Our health is our own responsibility, and we cannot place this blame on others. We have to take control of how we treat our bodies.

    People know that I am a little piggy and I love my desserts. So they always ask me why I am slim. I have genetics on my side, to be sure. My parents are both fairly tall people and have thinner than average frames. But there are 2 reasons for my healthy figure, that are under my control:
    1. I love my food but I eat it in moderation. If something is YUMMY delicious but very heavy, low in nutrients or high in calories I either eat it all by itself (with no other food) and make sure that the rest of my food that day is very healthy. Or I save it for a very special treat. A once a week kind of treat.
    2. I am physically active every single day. I do not own a car and I walk or bike everwhere. I go to the gym three times a week, do yoga as much as I can, swim or go for bike rides. I like to move around and stretch and my body only feels good when it is being used in this way.

    It's pretty simple really. We are so lucky to live in a country where we have so many luxuries. Our food is a luxury; so much more than simply fuel. It's tough to hold back sometimes from all the treats we see around us. But we have to, or we will make ourselves sick. Overeating means giving in to temporary greedy pleasures. It's okay once in a while, but doing it regularly means you do not care about your body or your health. Who feels good with a stuffed belly? Nobody. Who feels good with a body that can run up a flight of stairs without puffing, that can jump around and feel light? Everyone does.

    We can blame the corporations for dangling unhealthy treats in our faces, especially when this food is what we're desiged to crave. We can blame corporations for taking advantage of the stress we're all under when they advertise that processed food is easier to prepare, tastier and makes our lives better. But, at a certain point we need to take responsibility for our own eating habits. We put food in our grocery carts, on our plates, into our mouths. We need to be sure that what we put there is what will make us healthy, not fat and sick.

    Labels: ,