Category Archives: Nutrition

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Michelle Obama, FDA Introduce New Food Labels

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Michelle Obama and the FDA have proposed changing the Nutrition Facts label.

The First Lady Michelle Obama and Food and Drug Administration Commisioner Margaret Hamburg spoke today introduced a proposal for new nutrition facts labels to help consumers make healthier eating choices, and reflect more accurate serving sizes. Have you ever eaten a bag of potato chips, only to look at the nutrition facts and realize you had eight servings at 200 calories per serving? With the modified labels, the nutrition facts would reflect the whole volume as one serving size and help you comprehend just how much you are consuming of your daily intake.

Michelle Obama said Thursday that American families will benefit from the modified nutrition labels.

“Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” Obama said in an FDA news release. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.” (Source)

The proposed changes would remove  the “calories from fat” in favor of total calories for each serving. It is now widely viewed that the type of fats you ingest are more important than the calories themselves, so the fat vs. unsaturated fat and trans fat line would remain. Additionally, the new labels will emphasize added sugars and specific nutrients such as potassium and Vitamin D.

While sugars are seen as something Americans do not know how much they are over consuming, there has been a notable deficiency in Vitamin D and potassium in the average American diet. The labels, if passed, will certainly help Americans become more aware of important nutrition facts such as calories, sugars, fats and vitamins if they care to look. Or at the least, we’ll know exactly what those bags of  chips are putting in our bodies.

 

 

 

 

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What to Do About Halloween Candy

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Wondering what to do about your kids and their Halloween trick-or-treat candy? In a word: enjoy.

In a time when America has grown increasingly health-conscious concurrently with the rising obesity rate, it’s understandable that parents would be frenetic over the couple pounds of candy their children have hoarded each year. So when I say enjoy,  I’m not saying this so much because I think letting a bunch of kids dressed up as Spiderman and Disney characters eat all the candy they want is a healthy choice (although it does make for adorable photos), but that overtly restricting them from their prized candy can result in worse behavior. In a recent Slate article, Melinda W. Moyer cites a study that tested patterns of restricting palatable foods from children. Based on the results, Jennifer Orlet Fisher and Leann Lipps Birch concluded that,

Restricting access focuses children’s attention on restricted foods, while increasing their desire to obtain and consume those foods. Restricting children’s access to palatable foods is not an effective means of promoting moderate intake of palatable foods and may encourage the intake of foods that should be limited in the diet.”

The results are not necessarily surprising. It’s pretty much human nature for someone to desire something when they are specifically told not to, kind of like how when someone tells you not to think about something…and then you instantly think about that thing they mentioned. Furthermore, restricting food access can lead to overeating, obesity, and even develop into eating disorders. Not that these potential results are a risk every time, but the point is it is generally better to find a way to leave your child’s candy on the table, then take it away from them and say no.

Worried about your kids running around like crazy after eating copious amounts of sugar from sweets? Well, fortunately for you there is a growing body of research that finds the mythical link between sugar and hyperactivity to be surprisingly slim. Hyperactivity following an event such as Halloween seems to be a more behavior based association than a physical connection to the consumption of sugar. Similar to the idea of restricting foods from children creates a stronger desire to attain those foods, the placebo effect comes into play surrounding Halloween and trick or treating for candy.

While we do know eating lots of high-fructose candies is not good for you or your child, understanding that behavior plays a a larger role than the actual candy can provide a great opportunity to focus on the other aspects of the Halloween festivities. Remember that the actual act of trick or treating is an exercise in community involvement, friendship building, and social engagement. If you are worried that your child may focus too much on the candy alone, start off by making sure they eat a nutritious dinner  high in fiber before going out in costume. Stress to them about the fun they will have with their friends, what their costumes will look like, who they will see and what new streets and adventures they can go on. You do not have to be strictly covert, but talking about the overall experience of Halloween and focusing on the candy as little as possible can help get them excited about more than just how many Reese’s cups and Butterfingers that will be appearing in their little bags or buckets.

Of course, what makes these studies subjective is their reliance on cause and effect relationships, which can be subjective and tied to the context of say, why you behave the way you do and towards your child and vice versa. Still, one of the most important messages to take away is finding a way to embrace the excitement of Halloween (and the candy that comes with it) and transform that excitement into a well-rounded learning experience. What you do with all that Halloween candy after the big day is up to you,  there are cool alternatives  you can try, but you might as well enjoy the one time a year you’ll have so much sugary goodness in front of you. You might find yourself this once eating too many candies, but hey, it’s not like a few handfuls of Reese’s and Milkway bars were not eaten in the making of this post!

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What is Water Poverty?

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Starting from a young age, we are taught the vital importance that water has in our lives. We are taught it makes up more than 50% of our own bodies, we cannot survive more than three days without water, how water is, perhaps outside of high intensive exercise, the most hydrating fluid we can have daily. What we are not taught explicitly, is be aware of how lucky we are to have consistent, clean sources of water at our disposal. We are not taught that there is a term for not having running water, the ability to take a shower every day, to cook, to hydrate, to fight illness. This term, water poverty, is a state in which over 782 million people worldwide find themselves. 782 million people that are disrupted from working, going to school, and other basic staples of living in our American society.

Water poverty is comprised of three key issues, quantity, quality, and cost. These issues are outlined here by the End Water Poverty coalition:

  • Quantity - If a water source is more than a 30 minute round trip away, then studies show that much less water is brought back (not surprisingly) and so less is available for washing and drinking.
  • Quality – The main water quality issue is contamination both with faeces which leads to diseases like cholera, and with chemicals from the ground such as fluoride which causes a very painful disease called flouridosis.
  • Cost - If a pump costs too much to keep up, then it will fall into disrepair. This is extremely common. Often, in urban areas, this means that people have to rely on standpipes or water deliveries by lorries. These methods can cost a large proportion of a family’s income, plus the firewood to boil the water also has to be paid for.

These issues add up to an insurmountable situation for water impoverished people, who have little choice but to choose between paying for water or paying for medicine, dealing with constant weakness, dealing with vaccines that are less effective without proper hydration, spinning in a “cycle of poverty”. Disrupting this cycle of poverty is what the End Water Poverty coalition seeks to achieve, and why over 18,000 Ghanians have appealed to the United Nations during their most recent gathering of world leaders this past week. They are part of a petition crafted by the End Water Poverty organization in demanding safe sanitation and drinking water for all. Finding solutions to these problems is a global challenge, but hard, collaborative efforts like End Water Poverty and related organization are paving the way for change, making our wold more inclusive and better conditions for human life everywhere.