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Archive for June, 2014

Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

New York City lost its final appeal to limit the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

In a 20-page report, the New York State Court of Appeals issued its final decision on the Portion Cap Ruling. Justice Pigott wrote:

We hold that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule,” exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority. By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York.

The Portion Cap Ruling, commonly known as the soda ban, was to restrict the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.

The decision is disappointing and a defeat to public health advocates urging the government to curb the sale of oversize sugary drinks thought to be a major contributor to America’s obesity crisis.

Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of health for the city, issued the following statement:

Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.

Mayor Bill De Blasio also expressed his disappointment in the court’s decision. As written in Capital New York:

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s Court decision that prevents the city from implementing a sugary drink portion cap policy,” de Blasio said in a press release. “The negative effects of sugary drink over-consumption on New Yorkers’ health, particularly among low-income communities, are irrefutable.”

As a nutritionist and portion size advocate, I too was disappointed with the court’s decision.

Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years and rates of obesity have skyrocketed. In the 1950s, a soda at McDonald’s was 7 ounces; today, the company sells a quart-size soda nearly five times larger than its original size. KFC sells a half-gallon size with nearly 800 calories.

As I told Food Navigator USA:

From a consumer perspective, this was not about banning soda. This was about how much is reasonable for one person. There are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity. One very major one is the fact that what used to be a normal size is now called “mini.”

Indeed, we need to change our food environment if we want to reduce obesity rates and encourage consumer to select healthier food choices. That means selling smaller size portions of foods and drinks that provide no nutritional value. In my opinion, curbing the sizes of sugary drinks was certainly a good place to start.

I applaud the health department’s efforts and hope that we can all work together to promote a healthier food environment for our children to grow up in.

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5 Ways to Build a Better Burger

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “5 Ways to Build a Better Burger.”

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is the season for barbecues. That often means burgers and hot dogs. As a nutritionist, I suggest limiting our intake of red meat and processed foods. However, if you want to indulge in an occasional burger, here are five ways to build a better one.

1. Top your burger with sliced tomato.

Instead of using ketchup, opt for fresh tomatoes, which are low in calories and sugar and contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C.

2. Add fresh avocado to your burger.

Instead of adding mayonnaise to your burger, try adding several slices of fresh avocado instead. Not only is avocado moist and delicious, it offers up health benefits as well. A UCLA study found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a lean burger, rather than eating a burger alone, may curb the production of compounds that contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor that may be associated with heart disease. An added benefit to eating avocado is that it contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and the antioxidant vitamin E.

3. Choose a whole wheat bun.

Instead of grabbing for a white bun, use a whole wheat bun instead. A whole wheat bun is more nutritious, boosting your fiber intake and your intake of vitamins and minerals including magnesium and folate. Current guidelines suggest that we limit our intake of refined grains and choose whole wheat products instead.

4. Go single.

Watch your portion size by choosing a single hamburger patty instead of the double and triple burgers we so often see at fast-food chains. Indeed, a double burger will give us twice the calories and fat as would a single burger.

5. Try a veggie burger.

Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a regular hamburger. Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. Not only do veggie burgers taste great, they are rich in soluble fiber and devoid of saturated fat and fairly low in calories.

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Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While Traveling

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “How to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling.”

You can also read it HERE.

This is the season for traveling and summer vacations. While we often do lots of research to find a great travel destination, we often do not have a plan to stay healthy while we are away.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time this season teaching clients how to stay healthy, lose weight, and keep it off while enjoying summer vacations. I also enjoy traveling for fun and travel for work as well, so I am always fine tuning simple strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being out of town.

Here are five simple and painless strategies to implement while taking on your next trip.

1. Drink a lot of water.

Staying hydrated is very important while traveling. Often, especially when flying, you may feel sluggish and fatigued due to dehydration. People also mistake feeling hungry when they are really just dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy while traveling. If you are going to an exotic location, find out in advance about the safety of drinking the tap water and then plan accordingly. If you are taking a road trip or a bike trip, always keep some water on hand.

2. Watch your diet.

Be mindful of what and how much you eat. As I tell clients, vacations are not a time to begin a diet. It is also not a time to go completely overboard. I suggest enjoying the local cuisine but do not overdo it. Planning in advance helps a lot. Identify the local cuisine that you want to try and plan your eating around that. If you want to enjoy local pasta in Italy, for example, skip the bread. An occasional alcoholic drink is also okay, but best to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner as opposed to on an empty stomach. When it comes to food and drink, think moderation.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

One of the easiest ways to keep your eating plan in check and to avoid going overboard is to be conscious of including fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. I suggest incorporating a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Try to include a fresh fruit serving in the morning with breakfast or as a mid morning snack, and include some kind of vegetable dish with lunch or dinner. It can be a fresh salad, a cooked vegetable, or a healthy soup option.

4. Eat structured meals.

Eating structured meals is one of the best ways to keep your diet in check. Try for a healthy breakfast including some protein to keep your blood sugar in check. A Greek yogurt with fruit, eggs with whole wheat toast, or whole grain toast and peanut butter are some good choices. Try to skip the pastries, especially in the morning. Do not skip lunch. If you are on the run, be mindful to sit down and enjoy a healthy lunch even if it is a quickie. A salad with grilled fish or tofu, a turkey sandwich, or a veggie burger is a good choice. If you want to indulge in the local cuisine, that is ok on occasion, but think portion control. And skip the fried foods. Finally, don’t go totally overboard at dinner.

5. Get active.

One of the best ways to explore a new location is to walk, walk, and walk. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes so that you can get plenty of exercise. Other types of exercise, such as swimming and biking, are also great, especially in summer months. Find out if there is a pool where you are staying, or better yet, if possible, book a hotel with a pool. Regardless of what exercise you choose to do, the most important point is to incorporate it into your day and do it.

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