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Nutrition panel urges American’s to eat green, limit sugar, drink coffee and more

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC):  Nutrition Panel urges American’s to eat green , limit sugar, drink coffee and more.

You can also read it HERE.

new report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which convenes every five years and advises the federal government on the official dietary guidelines, calls for some changes to the American diet.

The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the government on the scientific evidence related to diet and nutrition. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly write the Dietary Guidelines, which are due out later this year.

According to the DGAC:

… about half of all American adults — 117 million individuals — have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults — nearly 155 million individuals — are overweight or obese … Poor dietary patterns, over consumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders.

Americans eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and salt. We don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish.

The report further states that:

… individual nutrition and physical activity behaviors and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.

The report by the committee eased certain restrictions (those for cholesterol, total fat, and coffee) and stressed limits for other restrictions (such as those for added sugar and saturated fat).

Rather than obsess over individual nutrients, the committee urges Americans to strive for a healthy dietary pattern: a diet with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and low- or non-fat dairy, and less red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains.

According to Dr. Marion Nestle, my NYU colleague, author, and nutrition policy expert: “The DGAC has produced an honest, straightforward, courageous report thoroughly based on research and at long last without mincing words.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., also supports the report and issued the following statement:

The report of the DGAC is mostly unchanged from the reports of 2010 and years past, and in the ways it differs, the changes are mostly for the better. Contrary to some media accounts, the pendulum is not swinging wildly back and forth on most of these scientific questions; the basic advice to eat less saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, is largely the same.

Here are some of the committee’s key recommendations.

SUSTAINABILITY

The committee, for the first time, urges American’s to eat green.

The report recommends that the government consider the environment — along with their heart, of course — when advising Americans about what they should eat.

The panel wrote “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

This move could have a significant impact on how much meat people eat. Not surprisingly, the meat industry called the report “flawed” and “nonsensical.”

ADDED SUGAR

The committee stressed that Americans consume too much added sugar and recommended a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet. To put this in perspective, “12 teaspoons of sugar” is just a tad more than a can of soda. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. This is why the report recommends that Americans drink water instead of sugary beverages such as soda.

Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but this is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting sugar. Indeed, too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease.

The CSPI welcomed the DGAC suggestions to consume less sugar along with the report’s blunt advice to drink fewer sugary drinks. They said, “The strong recommendations on added sugars are important and have far-reaching policy implications.”

I also applaud the recommendation for limiting added sugar along with environmental and policy changes like those suggested by the committee. As I toldFood Navigator, “The DGAC report supports the possibility of soda taxes as an incentive to promote purchasing healthier beverages, policy changes for SNAP…and limiting food marketing to kids, all steps in the right direction to promote a healthier food environment.”

The American Beverage Association (ABA), however, issued a different sentiment on restricting sugar and sugary drinks. According to Food Navigator, the ABA said: “Numerous studies have shown that restricting one food or food group is not the best approach for achieving calorie balance and maintain a healthy weight.”

Indeed, drinking less soda would be bad for their business.

FAT

The Committee is recommending that we limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories. Saturated fat may promote heart disease by elevating blood cholesterol levels. Americans are urged to eat unsaturated fat — found in nuts, fatty fish, olive and vegetable oil — instead of saturated fat, found in red meat, cheese, butter, coconut, and palm kernel oil. While many celebrities and Atkins devotee’s heavily promote both coconut and red meat, the committee report advocates the contrary.

The DGAC, however, dropped a suggestion from previous guidelines to restrict total fat intake to no more than 35 percent of daily total calories. While previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines have advised Americans to eat a low-fat diet, the committee suggests that reducing total fat intake does not appear to decrease our risk for heart disease. Rather, replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates — including low-fat cookies and cakes — increases our disease risk.

CHOLESTEROL

The committee dropped its long recommendation that Americans limit their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs and shellfish to no more than 300 mg per day. (One egg contains nearly 200 mg cholesterol.) The committee cites research showing that cholesterol from the diet has little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people.

Dr. Nestle, however, wrote a thought-provoking blog post raising several important points on the research. She states, “I’m wondering if research sponsored by the egg industry could have anything to do with this.” Furthermore, she writes, “if the Advisory Committee is dropping the cholesterol recommendation, could it be because so many people are taking statins that dietary cholesterol doesn’t appear to matter so much anymore?” These are certainly points to consider.

COFFEE

If you enjoy several cups of coffee, you are in luck. The committee advised that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day (or up to 400 mg of caffeine) is okay. However, I suggest you watch the size of your mug to partake healthfully in those “five cups of coffee.” As I told Food Navigator, “3-5 cups translates into 2-3 Starbucks-sized cups … I worry that the public may think they can drink more coffee than the guidelines really suggest. Education on serving size is necessary here…”

Finally, will the feds accept these recommendations, and how will we implement them?

The DGAC report states:

It will take concerted, bold actions on the part of individuals, families, communities, industry, and government to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population. These actions will require a paradigm shift to an environment in which population health is a national priority and where individuals and organizations, private business, and communities work together to achieve a population-wide “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative — both at home and away from home.

According to Dr. Nestle, a former member of the DGAC:

Whether the agencies — USDA and HHS — will accept its recommendations remains to be seen. Congress has already weighed in and said that the Dietary Guidelines cannot consider sustainability in making dietary advice. Much will depend on the response to the call for public comments.

Stay tuned.

We would love to hear our thoughts on the DGAC report. And you can tell the gov’t what you think by weighing in here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Health benefits of legumes

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post on the benefits of legumes.

You can also read it here.

Legumes — a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils — are terrific to include in the diet. They are rich in and fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also economical and easy to store, and can be used in many dishes.

A terrific substitute for meat, legumes offer a nutrient-dense plant protein that is much lower in saturated fat and a good source of fiber and phytochemicals. No wonder they have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and lower body weights.

Even if you are a meat lover, I would still suggest incorporating legumes into your diet.

(Note: Legumes are not fattening when consumed in place of high fat-meat! I stress this because as a clinician, I have had many clients afraid to eat legumes for fear of gaining weight.)

Here are six winners that I love and recommend. They can be incorporated into a salad dish or in a soup.

  • Lentils offer the added benefit of being a significant source of iron, in addition to the benefits from the soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates that all legumes offer. Lentils are also high in the B-vitamin biotin, which aids in the body’s metabolism and growth.
  • Kidney Beans are a chock full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, including potassium and the B-vitamins folate and thiamin.
  • Green Peas offer a significant source of fiber and protein. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that are essential for good eye health and have been suggested to lower rates of cataracts. Peas also pack vitamin K, which helps with bone health and blood clotting.
  • Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and their fiber, they also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.
  • Black beans, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and offer a great alternative to the saturated fat found in meat. What set black beans apart, however, are their at least eight different flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which serve as cancer-combating antioxidants in the body.
  • Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. It is no surprise that regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them in place of other high-fat foods.
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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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Healthy grains!

The post below also appears as a blog post for  Huffington Post and can be found here.

With the low-carb movement, so many clients that I counsel fear eating grains and starches altogether, and think they are better off without them. This is false!! Certain starches are not particularly healthy such as bagels and muffins; they are oversized and each are equivalent to eating around 6 slices of bread. But many grains–whole grains–are indeed healthy and should be included as part of a healthy diet. Indeed, the 2010 dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of our grains be whole grains.  Here’s why.

Including whole grains in your diet is a great way to boost your nutrient intake. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, and protective phytonutrients. A good source of fiber and complex carbohydrates, they are relatively low in calories and fat. It is no surprise that diets rich in whole grains may offer protection against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.

Whole grains are healthier than processed grains because they provide many more nutrients. They also offer a greater sense of fullness in people who eat them. Whole grains are made from the whole kernels of grain, including both the inside part of the grain and the outer covering. Processed grains remove the outer covering along with a lot of the nutrition and fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation, and may cut the risk of heart disease, diverticulosis, and certain cancers.

Most Americans do not consume enough whole grains. For many of us, eating more whole grains requires learning about foods rarely seen in the traditional American diet.  As you will see below, many delicious and nutritious grains exist.  And, if you are gluten free, no need to worry, as many terrific and versatile grains are now readily available on the market.

Skip the white pasta and white rice and include healthy grains instead: brown rice, kasha, quinoa, spelt, and whole wheat pasta, to name a few.  Here are some nutritional benefits of some healthy, tasty, and versatile grains:

Amaranth is a great grain for those with gluten intolerances and wheat allergies. It also has a terrific nutritional profile.  One cup of cooked amaranth delivers lots of fiber, protein, and is rich in minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. It also contains betalains, a class of antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation.

Barley is a good source of soluble fiber which may reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Barley contains B vitamins, and the minerals selenium and copper. While pearled barley is not technically a whole grain, as it is polished, and some nutrients are lost, hulled barley is healthier, and contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  However, even pearled barley is a healthier alternative to refined grains such as white rice, couscous, or pastas made from white flours.

Brown rice is a much better choice than white rice. It contains fiber, B vitamins, and a variety of minerals. It contains nearly three times the fiber as white rice. A mere ½ cup serving of cooked brown rice contains nearly a half day’s worth of the mineral manganese which works with various enzymes facilitating body processes.

Buckwheat brought to America by Russian and Polish immigrants who called it “kasha,” is a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and zinc, as well as flavonoids like quercetin and rutin which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A great choice for those following a gluten free diet.  One cup cooked Kasha contains 5 grams of fiber.

Bulgur wheat is higher in fiber than most grains. One cup cooked bulgur contains 8 grams of fiber. The insoluble fiber it contains is helpful in preventing constipation and diverticular disease. It also contains iron, magnesium, manganese, and  B vitamins. Because bulgur is made from precooked wheat berries, it can be reconstituted by soaking or by simmering. It’s wonderful nutty flavor and light texture makes it a great choice for salads and side dishes.

Millet contains manganese and phosphorus which may contribute to bone health. It is also rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6, and folate. Added bonus: it is gluten-free.

Oats are a good source of soluble fiber and contain beta-glucans which helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. They also contain insoluble fiber which prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. Moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats are tolerated by most people with celiac disease, but it is important to be aware that many commercial oat products on the market have been cross-contaminated with wheat, barley and/or rye.

Quinoa is a nutrition treasure and has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. It is high in the amino acid, lysine, which is important for tissue growth and repair. It is also rich in the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper, and a great choice for the gluten free.

Spelt has gained popularity as a healthy and delicious grain due to its nutty flavor, high protein and nutrition content. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and contains B vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, manganese and copper. And it has gained a following for those intolerant to wheat. Many people with wheat allergies can tolerate spelt well.

Whole wheat products are not stripped of nutrients and fiber like refined products. Whole wheat foods such as whole wheat pastas, breads, and couscous contain insoluble fiber, which prevents constipation and may be protective against certain cancers. They also contain an array of vitamins and minerals.

Aim for 100% whole wheat products such as whole wheat pasta and couscous.

Wild rice is high in protein and fiber and low in fat. It also contains the minerals potassium and phosphorus and B vitamins.

Savvy shopping tip: Choose grains that are 100% whole grain. When reading food labels, look out for words such as “multigrain” or “stoneground” which do not necessarily mean whole grain. And the phrase “made from whole grain” is generally used on products that aren’t 100% whole grain.

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Why eat vegetables.

Eating a diet with plenty of vegetables has been linked to improved health, and for good reason. Veggies (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 linked with prostate health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that we eat a diet plentiful in vegetables. And for some great news, here is  food group 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.)

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

VEGETABLES

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family that also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, brussel 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, 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, and vitamins A, K, C, and the B vitamin folate.  Spinach also contains phytochemicals which 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, vitamins B6, folate, and 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.

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!!

Go LOCAL and eat what’s in season. 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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“Get Your Plate in Shape” for National Nutrition Month.

March is National Nutrition Month©, an annual nutrition education

campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  (formerly

the American Dietetic Association) to focus attention on the importance

of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating habits.

This year’s theme, “Get Your Plate in Shape,” encourage consumers to

ensure they are eating the recommended amounts of foods from each food

group: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Here are some practical tips to get YOUR plate in shape:

Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Choose a colorful

variety of fruits and veggies; the different colors impart different

nutrients and health benefits. Be sure to include dark leafy greens

such as spinach and romaine lettuce as well as and some orange choices

such as carrots, cantaloupe, and butternut squash. Fresh fruit and

veggies are great but so are frozen varieties. Choose fresh fruit

instead of juice.

Practice portion control. Eat realistic portion sizes by using smaller

plates and bowls. Get into the habit of dining at home, where you can

control the ingredients of the foods you eat.

Snack wisely. Add fruit and veggies to snacks too. Enjoy baby carrots

and hummus, celery and peanut butter, fresh fruits such as apples,

pears, and berries

Choose whole grains. At least  half of your grains should  be whole

grains. This includes oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole

wheat pasta, and other grains such as soba noodles, millet, and

quinoa.

Drink low-fat or fat-free milk. These have the same valuable nutrients

without the calories calories from fat, which is mostly in the form of

saturated fat.

Choose healthy proteins. Eat fish at least twice a week. Good choices

include salmon, sardines rich in omega 3 fatty acids. When you eat

meat, choose lean cuts, and when selecting poultry be sure to remove

the skin.   Include plant based proteins such as beans and legumes.

Slash salt and empty calories. Check out labels when you go food shopping.

Get rid of sugary drinks and opt for water instead. Watch out for

added sugars and foods high in sodium.

Eat WHOLE foods and limit processed foods. Choose more fresh fruit and

veggies, and less refined junk food.

Include alcohol in moderation. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and two for men.

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National nutrition month is here!

March is national nutrition month.

National nutrition month is a nutrition education campaign sponsored yearly by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). This year’s theme is “Eat Right with Color.”

Here are some tips to help you eat healthier:

  • Include fruits and vegetables at each meal. Sprinkle in berries to your yogurt, add a colorful green salad to your lunch, and include vegetables with your dinner.
  • Eat a variety of foods from each food group.
  • Aim for color!! Choosing a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene, for example. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene.
  • Include whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal instead of refined grains.
  • Choose locally grown produce that it is season.
  • Include plant based proteins such as beans, nuts, and legumes. They not only give you protein, but they have an added bonus as they are chock full of fiber.
  • Try new foods. A huge assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables are available to us. But we often get into a rut and stick with the usual fare. Give a new food a try. You may actually love it!
  • Spring is coming, so use this as an opportunity to get more active and take advantage of outdoor activities such as walking and bike riding.

UPDATE 2012: The ADA has been renamed to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

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Eyeballing serving sizes

Eyeballing serving sizes: a visual guide

As I often tell my clients, if you happen to be cooking and eating at home, it is a great idea to measure your food on occasion, as a way to gauge how much food you actually eat. (Most of us think we eat less—often much less—than we actually eat.) But if you don’t have easy access to a food scale, or if you regularly eat out, it’s helpful to use everyday objects to visualize healthy portions.

To help you eyeball some standard serving sizes, here are some simple visuals from my book The Portion Teller Plan. I have developed a set of useful images of real life objects, like baseballs and walnuts, as dimensional indicators for standard serving sizes of commonly consumed foods.  Because most of us can visualize these objects, it’s a great way to keep portions in check. It makes you think about how much food you’re piling on your plate.

  • Nuts, 1/4 cup = golf ball
  • Salad dressing or olive oil, 2 tablespoons = shot glass
  • Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons = walnut in a shell
  • Ice cream, ½ cup = ½ baseball
  • Cheese, 2 oz = 8 dice
  • Pasta or rice, 1 cup = baseball
  • Oil, 1 teaspoon = water-bottle cap
  • Meat, fish, or poultry, 3 ounces = deck of cards
  • Bread, 1 ounce slice = CD case

Here’s a slide show I worked on with msn.com with useful visuals. Enjoy!

The Australian edition of Woman’s Day featured a full page article on some of the visuals from The Portion Teller Plan. [ NOTE: The Aussies have become big like us so they can use some portion-control tips.]

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Welcome to The Portion Teller

Welcome to The Portion Teller!

This blog will discuss issues related to portion sizes,

highlight current events, nutrition trends, and provide

useful diet and portion control tips.

Have a healthy day!

Dr. Lisa Young

Your portion-control and nutrition expert

“All things in moderation, including moderation.”

Contact Dr. Lisa for 2011 Consultations.

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD


About Dr. Young: Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD is a registered dietitan in private practice, adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU, and a portion size researcher tracking trends in food portions.  She teaches, lectures, writes, and counsels on nutrition and diet.

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