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Archive for July, 2012

Public Hearing on Sugary Drink Ban in NYC

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the hearing for the ban on oversized drinks in New York City.

Here is the link.

It was a busy afternoon at the Gotham Center in Long Island City, the headquarters of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Today was the public hearing on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict the sizes of sugary beverages to no more than 16 fluid ounces in New York City food establishments. The Board of Health will vote on the proposal in September.

Advocates lined up at the public hearing to speak in favor of the ban on supersized beverages, while opponents complained that the ban was unfair and violated public freedom.

Channel 7 News featured a brief clip of my speech (below is my full speech) and that of several others. More than 60 people pre-registered to speak out while walk-ins were also permitted to sign up speak. It was standing room only.

Speaking in support of the ban was Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition professor from the Harvard School of Public Health, who called soda in large amounts “metabolically toxic,” and my colleague, public health lawyer Michele Simon, founder of Eat Drink Politics, who succinctly said that “it is the soda industry … that has taken away the choice of reasonable portions.”

A spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association complained that they were being singled out and said the ban “unfairly targets restaurants and small business owners…” and a spokesperson for the NYC American Beverage Association said the ban is “distracting us from the real issues” as they made sure to mention that they are responsible for 8,000 jobs in NYC.

Here is my five-minute speech in its entirety (a bell goes off if you speak more than five minutes) in support of the proposal:

“Good afternoon. I am Dr. Lisa Young. I am a nutritionist [in private practice], author of The Portion Teller Plan, a user-friendly weight-loss book on portion control, and an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.

I am in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces in food establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, delis, and street carts. It would include the popular 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters.

This campaign makes sense at a time when food portions have increased and so have rates of obesity. Obesity is currently a major public health concern in New York City and is caused by an imbalance of energy intake (calories in) and energy expenditure (calories out).

Sugary, sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic. The mayor’s Task Force on Obesity states that “Americans consume 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks.”

As a researcher tracking portion size trends, food portions have increased steadily over the years, and so have the waistlines of Americans. We have grown accustomed to oversized portions, and we have come to expect them. My research found that portion sizes are now two to five times larger than they were in the 1950s. When McDonald’s opened, for example, the only size soda available was 7 ounces. When Burger King first opened, the company offered a 12-ounce small and a 16-ounce large. Burger King’s small is now 20 ounces and its large is 42 ounces. I think it is time to return to those more reasonable sizes.

In a new paper co-authored with my NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle, and due to be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, portion sizes in the first decade of the 21st century continued to increase despite public health initiatives encouraging the food industry to reduce portion sizes. It is now time for action.

Large portions may contribute to obesity in several ways. They contain more calories than small portions. For example, a small soda (which is 16 ounces) at the fast food chain KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (which is 64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories (and 50 teaspoons sugar). This cup holds a half gallon of soda; it is far too much soda for one person. Indeed, it contains more than one-third of the calories recommended for an entire day for certain segments of the U.S. population.

Large portions also encourage us to consume more and to underestimate how much we are really eating. Sugar-sweetened beverages, in particular, provide no nutritional value whatsoever. As a registered dietitian counseling clients on healthy eating, I advise eating a small portion of foods low in nutritional value.

Mayor Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

As an educator and clinician, I would absolutely continue to advocate for better education and public health campaigns. The NYC health department found that 15 percent of patrons improved their choices by looking at calorie counts on menu boards. Indeed, we need to take this a step further. And Mayor Bloomberg is taking action.

Given the health consequences and enormous cost of our country’s obesity epidemic, it is time to return to eating less. And restricting the large sizes of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent place to begin. Thank you.”

It is my hope that by this time next year, it will be hard to find oversized cups on the streets of New York City.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them.

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Benefits of fruits and veggies: Eat MORE

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the benefits of fruits and veggies.

Here is the link.

According to new data published by the NPD Group, a market research firm, most American are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables. As reported in USA Today, children and adults eat an average of slightly more than a cup of vegetables a day and a little more than a half a cup of fruit.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that we eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. And according to USDA’s dietary guidance system MyPlate, half of our plate should consist of fruits and veggies. For a 2,000-calorie diet, it advised that we eat two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies each day.

Eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health, and for good reason. Veggies and fruits (both fresh and frozen) are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which have been shown to protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They are also low in calories, making them a great choice for your waistline. Choosing a colorful assortment vegetables is best, as different benefits exist in the different color spectrum. The orange pigment found in carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, for example, contain the antioxidant beta-carotene. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked with prostate health.

And for some great news, here are two food groups where you can eat a large portion and not have to worry about weight gain. (Just watch your portion of starchy veggies such as corn and potatoes.)

With so much of a focus on eating low-carbohydrate diets, as a practicing nutritionist, I often get asked by my clients, “Will I gain weight if I eat too many fruits such as watermelon?” The answer is NO! In fact, quite the contrary. They are also low in calories, making them a great choice for your waistline. And, they are good for your health.

While all fruits and vegetables are healthy, below are several pointers on some nutrition powerhouses.

Vegetables

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse: It is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance. The orange pigment found in carrots are due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and protect against certain cancers.

Spinach is available year-round in grocery stores around the country, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers.

Sweet Potatoes are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are also full of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and the mineral potassium. They are especially nutritious when eaten with the skin on, and contrary to a popular dieting myth, they are not fattening!

Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer.

Fruits

Cantaloupe. This member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is terrific if you are watching your waist — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories.

Watermelon, which is especially terrific this time of year, offers a juicy, sweet taste and a high water content, while packing in the antioxidants lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium.

Citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruits, provide a significant source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, as well as fiber. Pink grapefruits are particularly rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Eating these fruits whole yields more nutrients than drinking the juice.

Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

Grapes. Consuming grapes may reduce the risk of blood clots, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and prevent damage to the heart’s blood vessels, aiding in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. Antioxidants called flavonoids may even increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The resveratrol found in the skins of red grapes may interfere with cancer development. Eating the whole fruit instead of consuming the juice contains the added benefit of fiber.

Kiwifruit, with its brilliant green inside, is packed with vitamin C and fiber.

Healthy Tips:

It is best to eat your fruits and vegetables from whole foods. Popping a pill — such as taking a beta-carotene supplement — does not do the trick. Fresh and frozen vegetables offer a combination of many health benefits that you will not find in a pill. So, remember to chew!!

When you can, opt for local produce that’s in season. Chances are, it did not have to travel too far to get to you. Go organic when you can.

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Healthy holiday tips: Happy 4th!

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post to help you have a happy and healthy holiday!
Here is the link. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/health-tips_b_1644929.html

Happy 4th!

Holiday Eating Tips: 10 Ways to Enjoy a Healthy Holiday Season

With summer season upon us and the Fourth of July around the corner, I’ve been helping clients struggle with issues surrounding holiday eating. With Independence Day falling in the middle of the week this year, and not sure which weekend to celebrate (license to overindulge), so many people that I have spoken to have decided to make it a 10-day holiday. Holidays are a time for pleasure and enjoyment, family and friends, and food should be enjoyed during this time. Whether you are going out of town, attending a summer barbecue, having a party on the beach, or just staying at home with your family, follow the principles of moderation.

Here are some tips and tricks so that you can have a healthy holiday season. Enjoy!!

1. Watch portion sizes.

  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take a small portion.
  • Avoid portion distortion: Moderation is key.
  • Fill up on more fresh fruits and veggies. Follow USDA’s MyPlate guidelines by filling half of your plate with fruits and veggies.

2. Banish your membership in the “clean plate club.”
Leave a few bites over. Ask yourself: Am I hungry?

3. Be realistic about weight loss during the holidays.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Try to maintain your current weight. At the very least, now is not a time to begin a diet.

4. Don’t go to a holiday party starving.
Eat before you eat: Enjoy a healthy snack — yogurt, fruit, veggie soup, salad — before your event.

5. Balance party eating with other meals.

6. Don’t skip meals. Make a plan.

7. Make only one trip to the buffet table.
Choose only the foods you really want, and keep your portions moderate.

The good news about buffets is that there will usually be some healthy choices. And so often, there will be a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. My rule of thumb: Do a lap around the buffet and sample the choices before making your selection. Take one plate of food (not five mini-plates), and make sure your plate is not piled so high that food is ready to fall off the plate. Eat until you are comfortably satisfied (and it’s okay to leave a little room for your favorite dessert), and enjoy the company.

And finally, move away from the buffet table when socializing.

8. Eat your calories instead of drinking them.
Choose your beverages wisely. Remember that soda, iced tea, and lemonade all have lots of sugar and calories. Flavored seltzer, water, and unsweetened iced herbal tea are great choices.
And remember that alcohol is also high in calories. Moderation is key. Go for a white wine spritzer or a light beer.

9. Be a healthy host.
When you are the host, include nutritious and lower-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes.

10. Continue a regular exercise program.
Swim, take a bike ride, or even walk on the beach. Take advantage of being outdoors and choose an exercise you like. What matters most is that you move!

Finally, enjoy good friends and family.

Happy holidays!

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