The Hospital is No Place for Fast Food Chains

 In a recent interview with Neil Cavuto from Fox News I shared my support for the removal of McDonald’s restaurants from a number of hospital cafeterias. Click here to see the full interview on Fox’s website. Here are a few of the thoughts I shared on air:

1. Hospitals are notorious for serving bad food in their cafeterias

It seems crazy to me that a place where people are sick and having serious, complicated procedures and transplants, is serving such unhealthy food. They should have an obligation not just to patients, but also to their visitors to provide a healthy environment that promotes wellness. This isn’t a mall food court, it’s a hospital.

2. Perception is reality

Having fast food available in hospitals is also praying on those who are vulnerable and are more likely to lean on comfort food to ease the emotional stress of being at the hospital. In the 2006 Pediatrics Study they even found that people perceived fast food as healthier if it’s inside a hospital.

3. Hospitals should offer balanced choices

They should look at their food environment and help people get their 1/2 plate of fruits and veggies with their meal. This means offering salad bars and serving hot foods with non-starchy veggies and fruits as sides — not french fries and white rice.

4. Change is possible — some hospitals are already on board

The Cleveland Clinic has been a model hospital in making positive changes to their food service systems. They don’t have any fryers, have eliminated trans fats, and the fast food they do offer has a limited menu promoting healthier choices.

So what’s the answer?

Ultimately no one is forcing someone to buy fast food — it’s a personal choice. I don’t mean to pick on McDonald’s alone, they just happen to be the “big fish” and are always targeted with these sorts of issues. Hospitals have the power to create a healthy, positive environment for patients and visitors alike if they can just take a step back, look at their food environment as a whole and make changes that promote wellness.

Ch-ch-ch-chia Packs a Nutrient Punch!

By Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

Do you remember chia pets (ch-ch-ch-chia!)? Where you added small seeds to terracotta forms that eventually produced a plant? The same chia seeds are now carried in stores like Whole Foods…to eat.

Chia seeds have been grown in Mexico for thousands of years. They were even brought to the capital of the Aztec empire in several tons as a tribute to the gods. The seeds have impressive nutrition, containing lots of linolenic acid, dietary fiber, and protein. They are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants (specifically polyphenols)  which help to fight free radicals, or cell damagers, in the body. To add to the resume, chia contains ten times the omega-3 as salmon or other fatty fish (but no DHA for brain health which fish has) making it super heart healthy. Additionally, this little seed packs a punch of five times the calcium of milk, for strong teeth and bones. Talk about a power nutrient!

Chia, while usually consumed raw, is not limited to such a method of intake. The American Dietetics Association recently released a study in which chia was soaked in water, creating a gel like mass. Used as a thickening agent, but also an oil replacement, the chia was added to cake batter to reduce the overall fat content of sweet treats. Since it is a tasteless and odorless food, the taste is virtually unaltered but the nutrient content was improved.( I’ll be doing a test later to see how it turns out in a home setting. Be on the look out for a step by step blog post!)

Our favorite way to have a little chia on a regular basis is with a smoothie. In this recipe, the chia seeds are added directly into the blender along with your favorite fruit for an easy on the go breakfast. As chia seeds expand with the addition of liquid, this breakfast will also keep you full way past your commute!

  • 1 C Greek yogurt (high protein and low sugar compared to other yogurts!)
  • 1 C fruit (it could be fresh or frozen: strawberries, banana, raspberries…)
  • 2 T chia seeds

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy the multitude of nutritional benefits!

Are you #RD to Chat?

By Carlene Helble

The ultimate Twitter chat is ready to launch this November and it’s something you won’t want to miss! Registered Dietitian Janet Helm (@JanetHelm on Twitter) created #RDChat to help dietitians, students, and others interested in nutrition and health connect on fresh, hot button topics.

#RDChat will occur as a moderated conversation on Twitter the first Wednesday of the month from 8-9 pm ET in an hour long session. Things like headlines from newspapers, as well as new studies, and controversial topics will be covered with the help of special guests.

New to Twitter chats? Janet provided these step by step instructions to get you ready to go!:

  • The chat happens live on Twitter and you can jump in at any time during the hour.  Simply log on to your Twitter account and you can use any of these options to help you manage the conversations.
    • One option,  go to http://www.search.twitter.com and type in #RDchat.  Only the  tweets that include that hashtag (#) will appear.  You may have to refresh the page to get new results.
    • If you use Tweetdeck, start a column for #RDchat.  Only tweets that are tagged with #RDchat will appear in that column for you to respond to.
    • There are several other programs you can use that are specifically designed for chats on Twitter:   http://www.tweetchat.com http://www.tweetgrid.com http://twubs.com All you have to do is log on to one of those programs.  When prompted, type in #RDchat and you’ll only see tweets that include that hashtag.  It allows you to see the fast-paced conversation happening in real time.  You use just like Twitter;  reply, comment, retweet, etc.  All of your tweets will automatically be tagged with #RDchat.

See you for a #healthy #nutritious and interesting @Twitter chat in November!

Fruit Juice: Health or Hype?

Every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, drive down the road, we are bombarded with advertising from food marketers proclaiming that their product is the secret to weight loss, longevity, and pleasure. With over 200 food choices to make every day it is difficult to sort through claims produced by food manufacturers to make the best choice for your health. Today we’ll tackle the issue of fruit juices: health or hype

As part of its ongoing efforts to uncover over-hyped health claims in food advertising, the Federal Trade Commission has issued an administrative complaint charging the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said:

Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled. When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made. Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.

No one can argue that Pomegranates are a wonderful and healthy food, full of vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants, but a line must be draw as food marketers push their products to the extreme. According to Self Nutrition Data, pomegranates are a good source of dietary fiber (11 grams each), 5 grams of protein, folate (107 micrograms), calcium (28.2 mg), vitamin C (28.8 mg), and vitamin K (46.2 mcg). Since POM is made from 100% pomegranate juice, one would think it would have many of the same great nutrients.

Not so. A $3.99 16-oz bottle has 320 calories, 72 grams of sugar, no fiber, and no vitamin C, calcium, folate or vitamin K. Yes, the only ingredient many be pomegranates, but by stripping away the fiber and nutrients, you just have sugar-water. Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t much different from a soda. This isn’t unique to pomegranate juice. All fruit juice loses much of the original fruit’s nutritional value when the juice is extracted, but POM is going a bit overboard with their health claims. A glass of POM a day is not going to prevent heart disease if the rest of your diet is laden with trans and saturated fat. It is important to look at your diet in its entirety, rather than trying to gain benefits from a single serving of fruit juice.

So let’s get over this hype and get healthy! Swap out the juice and reach for a piece of fruit! Aim for 2-4 servings of fruit per day. If you enjoy fruit juice, try diluting it with sparkling water to make your own spritzer. Next time you are at a grocery store, take a closer look at the health claims the manufacturer proclaims. Turn the package over and take a look at the actual nutrition panel and judge the food for yourself. Knowledge is power, and make sure you are well-armed!

What are your thoughts on this Fruit Juice Debate? Do you have any other health claims that you are confused about?

Washington Post Deconstructs Problems with Obesity in America

In today’s Washington Post – Health and Science section the topic of discussion is obesity in America. Our own Rebecca Scritchfield was called to contribute about various restaurant meals and how, as the journalist labeled it, “Chains offer doses of Gluttony.”

The Health and Science section has a few articles discussing such topics as:

    Michelle Obama’s healthy food initiative, How to “lose the fat, but keep the flavor” – which oils or spices you can use to flavor your foods while also keeping your food low in fat,
    How insurance company’s are slow to cover treatment programs for weight loss, and which restaurants menu items are the most gluttonus.
    How restaurants are serving up portions that lack balance, exceed portion sizes, and contribute calories for several people on a single plate.

Rebecca is mentioned on page E4, where she contributes by explaining why these various menu items are so bad. Many of the meals mentioned are either close to 2,000 calories or more, which is generally considered to be an entire days worth of food. And people still wonder why America is so over weight?

Another tricky tactic these restaurants are using is claiming that a particular meal is four servings, however the person ordering the meal generally sees it as a meal for one person. Rebecca states in the article that “people envision what they’re served as their portion” no matter the size.

There is a lot of great and interesting information throughout the entire section regarding health and obesity. So go out and pick up a paper today before it disappears!