Archive for the ‘Francy Rants’ Category

Unchain the Nutrition Facts, Chain Restaurants!

April 15th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

I woke up this morning reading about “….why health advocates want calorie counts on your menu and in your face” on the CBC website. Ahhh yes, my favourite subject “menu labelling” on a sunny Friday. Who needs an espresso to wake up with when there’s a headline like that – thank you world!

Fact: Ontario chain restaurants must post calorie counts on menus by 2017. In my opinion this move is ‘good from far, but FAR from good’. Hear me out will you??

Food Package Labelling – Canadians and Americans have been exposed to and are used to having the accessible array of nutritional information on food package labels for over a decade. Industry’s argument that giving more information than only calories will cause confusion is a foot dragging tactic that makes no sense whatsoever. This information is NOT new. As a consumer and health expert, I’m left scratching my head wondering why the food package sector needs to disclose all of this information and the fast food sector does not. There are people who want this information, need it and use it.

Why is the Fast Food Sector exempt? Because of this lack of convenient disclosure of nutritional information, the fast food sector is like the wild west. If you have read any of my posts on this topic one thing will jump out at you in spades: the numbers are absurdly astronomical. Check these posts out: Mulling Over Menus; Blizzard to Cool You; Summertime ScoopAwareness is Bliss. When this array of information is eventually disclosed in an open and user-friendly fashion, this sector will be motivated to reformulate their offerings. So mandating disclosure of this information is good for consumers who seek it and good for everyone else because in time I’d wager many of the offerings’ nutritional info will improve and be easier to swallow…. on many levels.

Multiple Health Epidemics – You have been living under a rock if you didn’t know our world is facing multiple health epidemics. Knowing how many calories is in your food is a start, but we need full disclosure of chain restaurant offerings, the same as what’s on the food labels – why should we expect any less as consumers? The industry will argue about how difficult it is to make this info available. Please! Yes it’s true a menu cannot post nutrition facts tables with their menu board. Given human ingenuity however, I’d wager we can come up with a solution that is doable.

Consumers’ Changing Habits – Convenience and Fast Food – We know that consumers’ habits have changed dramatically being time starved and seeking convenience. We also know that people are eating out more and more where it has become routine and not just a treat. Because of this people really need to know what’s in their food if they want it. As I have often said – awareness is bliss. Anyone who has driven by a fast food restaurant at dawn or dusk has seen the drive thru line snake out of the parking lot. I don’t think the cars are empty, do you?

So folks, we need to keep banging the gong on this one. We deserve to know what’s in our food, the same information that is available on food package labels. Don’t settle for anything less.

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Proposed Food Label Changes – Good From Far BUT Far From Good

June 12th, 2015 1 Comment Tags: , , ,

Mandatory food product labelling in Canada was introduced many years ago. At a glance the Nutrition Facts panel and Ingredient List allow consumers to learn about what’s in the food they choose. Not all countries have mandatory food package labelling, so I feel lucky that Canada has this. Spoiler Alert! …. this information is still needed for restaurant food given consumers are eating out more than ever mounting a significant proportion of our intake. I have written in my ebook and this blog that awareness is bliss, simply put, people will do better when they know better.

The Nutrition Facts table has come under much scrutiny as it potentially confuses consumers. There was a public consultation on this last year and today Health Canada has announced this Canada Gazette 1 proposal of changes to the label. There is a 75 day response period where Canadians can provide comments on their proposal before it goes to the Canada Gazette 2 stage.

As I sat to pen my thoughts on Health Canada’s proposed changes to the food label, the skies became dark, thunder rumbled and rain teemed down. Here’s an overview of the main proposed changes that I feel Canadians really care about outlined in Dietitians of Canada’s press release:

  • Mandatory standardized serving sizes for the Nutrition Facts table
  • Improved legibility of the Ingredients list on the label with consistent placement for allergen information
  • Sugars grouped together in the Ingredient list plus a %Daily Value for total sugars in the Nutrition Facts table
  • Updated % Daily Values to reflect the most recent nutrient recommendations
  • An exemption for requiring a Nutrition Facts table on pre-packaged vegetables and fruits before making a Health Claim

Here are my preliminary thoughts:

Uniform Serving Size
Standardizing serving sizes is a great idea. This will make comparing various brands easier. I cannot stress enough, though, that we need to get this right.  We live in an era with multiple health epidemics – namely obesity and diabetes. If Health Canada rounds UP the sizes too much I fret what message this will give to consumers about diet quantity. I was at the Dietitians of Canada conference last week and an RD friend and colleague of mind said the company she works for is worried about this as some of the proposed serving sizes are too large. When big food industry is worried, then I become increasingly worried….

Sour About Sugar Labelling
In last year’s consultation with Canadians the notion of having an extra line on the Nutrition Facts table to highlight added sugar was a fabulous idea. Sadly though, this did not make the cut in today’s recommendation. What they have proposed appears more confusing to me as an RD and probably to consumers at large.

Firstly, cutting back on added sugar has been raised as an issue by none other than the World Health Organization and the Heart & Stroke Foundation suggesting no more than 6-12 teaspoons of added sugar daily. Our current labels AND the proposed labels make it impossible to discern the amount of added sugar in any product.

Right now the ingredient list positions ingredients from most to least by weight. Consumers can review that to get an idea what the product is made of. In terms of sugars in various forms they are scattered among the list based on amounts. What has been proposed is to group them all together in a bracket in the list. That is all fine and good to do this but consumers still don’t know how much added sugar is actually in the product. I fret for a product like milk which has natural lactose that people might cut back because they’re not really sure.

Also, adding a % Daily Value after sugar on the panel sends me the message “…that although 15% might be deemed as “a lot” I can have more to make it to 100%…” when this is the last thing we want consumers to think. If consumers are told simply by WHO and HSF to eat no more than 6-12 teaspoons of added sugar each day throw them a bone and help them discern this without the need to play Where’s Waldo? making it impossible to figure out. At least in Where’s Waldo? you can eventually find him, on the label you have no clue whatsoever….

What Can YOU DO?
Take advantage of the comment period and weigh in on these recommendations by August 26, 2015 when our window of opportunity closes. Don’t lose heart!

I love our country but it’s times like these I find myself saying “OH Cana-DUH”! Let’s get this right, shall we?

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Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Francy Rants, Policy for the People | 1 Comment »

Blizzard to cool off? These findings will chill you…

May 13th, 2015 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

Ahhh the sights, sounds and smells of summer are here. The magnolias are blossoming, birds chirping while the coif of fresh cut grass abounds, ahhh. Nothing can be finer, truly. I shared a tweet with my better half of a picture of the cartoon Snoopy enjoying an iced cream cone treat, mmmmm. It got me contemplating a visit to MooLix in Kelowna for a scoop and an evening stroll beside Lake Okanagan sometime soon. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen my share of DQ and Blizzard commercials, haven’t you? I decided to check out their promos like I did last year in my Summertime Scoop post to see how special these specials really are…. Awareness is bliss when discovering the nutritional value of those seasonal treats to cool off by!

Want a Blizzard? Let Hell Freeze Over First!
My fingers did the walking through the cesspool of nutritional data finding delectable choices such as Peanut Butter and Brownie Cookie Dough, Cotton Candy and Salted Carmel Truffle aka the PMS Buster. Hmmm, my dietitian antenna go up with anything served in a super duper sized cup with a spoon that stands on end. Put these benchmark nutritional requirements for an average male/day in your bonnet to compare what I found: 2,100 calories, 13gm saturated fat, 6-12 tsp sugar and 2,400mg sodium.

I sleuthed through the numbers for the large portion of the selections, so play along with me won’t you with some examples:

Brownie Cookie Dough Blizzard – 1510 calories; 63gm fat (14 tsp); 138gm sugar (35 cubes)

Note that the so called PMS Buster has 750mg sodium, so if you were retaining fluid before you gobbled this goblet of goo down you won’t be able to remove your rings until a week Sunday. Awareness is bliss alright and menu labelling would probably stop you in your tracks if you saw these numbers BEFORE you purchased. DQ is doubling down and promoting their buy one get one free to boot, good grief. Save yourself the sugar rush and think this through. With the winter we experienced who even wants to think about blizzards? If you’re looking to cool off take a jump in the lake instead!

The “Not So Special”, Special – Walk 20 Miles to Burn it Off
My attention turned to their summer “not so special”, lunchtime special, hmmm. This combo of doom includes a bacon cheeseburger, fries, 21oz drink and a sundae that can be swapped for a small Blizzard for a buck extra, oh joy. My calculations included a regular soda pop plus the dessert swap:

1,990 calories; 75gm fat (17 tsp); 198gm sugar (50 cubes); 2,090mg sodium

Oh my achy breaky heart! You can build the Wall of China with all of those sugar cubes. How much money are you saving on this “not so special”, special? The numbers hit the stratosphere when compared to those benchmarks for daily intake noted above. If you wanted to burn this lunchtime letdown off you’d need to take a 20 mile walk which is a 7 hour stroll. Now I need some air…

Sink With this Drink!
Then I surfed through the Julius bevys with fruity and refreshing sounding names of Triple Berry to Strawberry Kiwi or Pina Colada. What can be wrong with any of these? Well, everything, that’s what! In one large serving of the Pina Colada here’s what you get:

760 calories; 151gm sugar (38 cubes)

That big gulp will put a lump in your throat among other places. I can hear the honey bees buzzing over now to get at this one with their honey bee noses smudged up against the DQ window! These numbers are far from refreshing so save your money. What began as a humorous little exercise is no longer funny.

Test, Test, Time to Do the Eating Satisfaction Test
I refer to myself as a “non finger waging dietitian” folks and suggest you make decisions for yourself. Begin with my Awareness is Bliss exercise that I describe in my ebook Skinny on Slim the Little Black Dress of Diet Books and gain a better understanding of what’s in your food by knowing what the nutritional numbers are before you choose. You will do better when you know better. That $5 lunch special provided more than my nutritional requirements for energy in 1 day and is “not so special” after all. Take my Eating Satisfaction Test described after Halloween where you hone in on how your food choice made you feel 1 hour after consuming it. I’d wager that after that Blizzard choice you’d be reaching for Tums and a soft comfy cushion to nap like Dilbert feeling the afternoon slump in spades not to mention indigestion. You are not experiencing joy from eating, but misery. Find joy people.

When I say all foods fit I mean a snack sized morsel, once in a while, such as 1-2 small treats each week – sit, savour and enjoy then forget about it. There are many summertime joys and savouring a simple ice cream cone can be one of them. Remember, there’s more to life than stuffing your face!

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Don’t be a Dairy Contrarian!

April 29th, 2015 No Comments Tags: , ,

I was grocery shopping this past weekend and found myself by the dairy case. To my dismay there was an array of weak milk imitations from soy to cachew to goat’s milk, what gives?! I almost let out a loud “Nayyyyyy” as I had difficulty finding my usual choice of pure and delicious skim milk… I remembered that a book was launched recently poo pooing Mother Nature’s nearly perfect food. It’s unfortunate that it caught media’s attention. It’s a mad mad mad mad mad world, sadly.

Call me a dairy maiden, I don’t really care. But when your nutritional goal is to count a bouquet of nutrients and not just calories the last items you want to omit from your shopping list are dairy products!

Some decades ago I was one of the authors of a paper published in The Lancet evaluating milk’s impressive and lengthy nutritional profile. Actually, I was the pion who did the calculations, reviewing nutrient requirements of various age groups and comparing these to milk’s nutrient profile. This work convinced me of the many nutritional attributes of milk. That work sold me to forever be a dairy queen and to milk this group for what it’s worth!

The nay sayers spend their time classifying dairy products as simply a food chocked full of calcium and protein. They couldn’t be more wrong. This nearly perfect food has a vast array of 16 essential nutrients – it’s impressive. There’s so much more to dairy foods than simply the calcium and protein. It’s difficult to make up the nutritional shortfall if you omit it. Today, Canadian’s diets lack nutritional quality. There is much more to food that just calories: the nutrient profile of the food and natural nutrient richness are paramount. Milk has this in spades.

I dare you to walk down the mile long beverage aisles in your grocery store and compare the nutritional profile of every other product to milk. Everything else pails in comparison. So when experts downplay the importance of milk and dairy products in your diet ask them what you should drink in its place! Undertake a food modelling exercise while you’re at it to convince you.

Incidentally, those so called milk replacement drinks require you to use your spatula to scoop out the nutritional goodness from the sediment at the bottom of the carton, UG. So much for the “natural veneer” they paint their products to be. Who needs that aggravation when you can drink the true natural goodness of milk and not have to give it another thought.

Check out my ebook Skinny on Slim The Little Black Dress of Diet Books and review my four [not 44] most fundamental food-related suggestions in Chapter 7 and don’t give the dairy contrarians another thought.

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New word du jour “bleach-a-what”?

December 10th, 2014 No Comments Tags: , ,

I’m deep in the pluck dow of late. I feel more pensive this time of the year, as a New Year is rolling around. How about you? I find myself mulling over life and reflecting for more meaning. My navel gazing came to a screeching halt when I scanned a tweet about a new word of the day “bleachorexia”, hmmmmmm. My mind wandered.

What pratel would that be? Could this mean someone who wants to bleach their clothes too much demanding their whites be “whiter than white”? Nay nay, I say! How about bleach blonds and that whole phenomenon then? Nope! Ahhh then the meaning of this new age term “bleachorexia” as 2014 comes to a close (drumroll please) is: whitening your teeth too much…. sigh…. good grief …awe come on….say whaaaaat?

I’ve written before that it can be a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World in my ebook. Now I know it! Don’t get me wrong, I love a pearly white smile, but a fluorescent set, not so much. As I try to find more meaning in life, this is what the world is doing too much of: tooth whitening? I felt like rolling up in a ball and hibernating from everyone for a few days to divorce myself from the ridiculousness.

I pondered this some more and thought well next year’s new word will probably be “textorexia” maybe I missed it and it was last year’s. How about “sit-on-your-butt-orexia”? That would fit our current state of inertia. So would “screen-time-orexia” too…. We can certainly use some “fruit&veg-orexia”, don’t you think?

This time of year I’m searching for something meaningful. Let’s hope for more in our world like “peace-orexia” “hope-arexia” and “charity-orexia” with a splash of “love-orexia” on the side…. we can only hope…

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Don’t Mess with the Machine… Especially a Baby’s!

November 27th, 2014 2 Comments Tags: , ,

I wrote a blog post recently exclaiming NOT to – mess with the machine… your bodacious body, that is! I devoted an entire chapter in my e-book Skinny on Slim, The Little Black Dress of Diet Books generally explaining how the body works with the hope of convincing readers NOT to mess with biological and physiological principles or with Mother Nature in general. There certainly could be dire consequences.

It drives me nuts when people will treat their tech toys and muscle machines with greater care than their own unique being by trying crazy diets, pills or potions, some purchased off the internet. My hair stands on end when certain practitioners preach wonky methods to innocent consumers who are seeking nutrition nirvana in our complicated world.

I was really seeing red though when I read about the latest trend of well-meaning parents who opt out of breast feeding, looking to make their own batch of infant formula at home instead of using those commercially available. Good grief in spades. I spent my first 10 years of being a dietitian specializing and practicing in the paediatrics arena at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, so I know of what I preach.

I cannot stress boldly enough that the nutritional needs of infants are so highly specialized compound with how fragile babies are biologically, immunologically and physiologically. I understand deeply when parents’ want to provide the best for their families whether though supporting organic, local, and balk commercialism etc. But do understand the hugely regulated and controlled environment of the infant formula sector – one sector providing Mother Nature’s human milk replacement – infant formula. As a consumer, you may want to use as few packaged foods as possible – I get that. But this is one specialized class of food developed for infants that needs to be precise every single feed of every single day of your precious baby’s life. Concocting a CONSISTENT and SAFE replacement for breast milk is no small feat. It is one not to muddle with in your kitchen from basic ingredients.

This is not any usual rant folks and has nothing to do with supporting commercial infant formula but has everything to do with supporting the well being of infants. This is a plea to all parents: if you cannot or choose not to breast feed your baby, use infant formula that is commercially available knowing when you follow the directions it will be CONSISTENT and SAFE every single feed of every single day of your precious baby’s life you choose to use it. Their life and well being depend on it. May I proclaim again: Don’t mess with the machine, especially a baby’s!

And please, spread the word.

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Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Francy Rants, Nutrition News, Policy for the People | 2 Comments »

Getting the Juice, NOT!

November 19th, 2014 No Comments

I had my semiannual, routine dentist appointment recently. While he was cleaning and polishing my pearly whites he was filling me in about the latest diet craze among his “golf playing” friends – touting “the juice diet”…. good grief. I nearly choked on my saliva if it wasn’t for that suction device hooked into my cavernous pie hole. “MMmmMMrickemrachemMmmMM” I muttered while he scraped away the plaque.

I’m sure my face turned beet red while my blood pressure rose as he raddled on about this nutty new craze where the company actually delivers these delicious tasting bevy’s to your door. While I was silenced by the work being done in my grand bouche thoughts bubbled through my brain about this fruity proposition, hmmmm.

Any car lovin’ man I know would never question the quality of petrol they pump into their muscle machines following the manual to the letter, yet they’re willing to pump anything novel and new down their own gullet that might in fact mess with their machine, their bodacious body. Gracious me.

I think we should all come with a manual from the nursery when we’re itty bitty baby’s. People might pay more attention to how special our “body as temple’s” actually are.

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Sports Snack Pact

November 5th, 2014 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been reading all sorts of nuggets on what to eat before sports and after sports and mulling all of this over, hmmmm. It seems to me that those of us from the Couch-Potato World who chronically sit all day and intersperse it with mere movement ought not qualify for the pre or post game snack. Don’t you think?

I have heard that for the average person there is very little if any “discretionary calories” to spend on extras for most adults given our sedentary lifestyles. Many of us have jobs where we sit at a desk for much of the day. Yes my hand is up on that one. So we probably have not earned extra to burn. Think about this folks.

I’m surmising this is the case for a vast majority of people who fit in stealth activity. I suggest you sip on some water to wet your whistles then off you go to get moving. None of this protein bar business is needed, nor is an electrolyte and sugar sweetened laden bevy in order for you. You might just be negating any good you’re doing by sache’ing your way off your easy chair and into mere movement.

Listen up, a solemn, medium sized apple has 72 calories in it so will take 3/4 of a mile to walk off. Take the innocent energy bar which has 220 calories in it, this will take about a 2.2 mile walk to burn that off, catch my drift?

So make a sports snack pact with me now that unless you take up your activity level MANY levels, you can forgo the treat that some have us convinced we actually need before or after activity, when we actually don’t.

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Weight loss fast or slow? Changing habits is the way to go!

October 20th, 2014 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read the headline flurry about that study conducted deducing whether you lose weight at a fast or slow rate, people gain the weight back. Somehow I knew that UNsound sound bite would be retweeted by many, good grief.

I get my eyeballs frosted with studies AND reporting like this. Both groups of study subjects were put on diet regimens designed to lose weight quickly or slowly both groups using some degree of liquid meal replacements. The last time I checked I don’t believe Optifast was served at my Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, how about at yours? I describe in my ebook Skinny on Slim, The Little Black Dress of Diet Books that before you try any diet make sure it passes the Thanksgiving Dinner Test. Hit the buzzer on these folks as they fail on all accounts.

If you talk to any Yo-Yo dieter I’m sure all will agree how easy it is to lose weight, as many admit “I’ve done it many times!” There’s a clue in that statement folks it’s the word “diet” because diets don’t work – period. If you do want to lose weight the secret is in your ability and commitment to change habits and your mindset for the better, for good. I discuss in my ebook details about the National Weight Control Registry of “Successful Weight Losers”, which is a perfect group to emulate if you want to do this.

I feel for people toying with the idea of changing their habits for the better who many now stop in their tracks and exclaim “forget about it!” after reading those headlines.

Let’s hope they find wisdom to embrace change one tiny step at a time so the pebbles of change turn into an avalanche of positive results in time. Don’t give up!

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Posted in Francy Rants, Miss Behavin', Nutrition News, Successful Loser Logic, Who's Zoomin' Who?? | No Comments »

Who’s winning the war on “healthy” at schools? Garbage cans perhaps

October 17th, 2014 2 Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been mulling over study findings showing healthy food served in school food service departments has been feeding the garbage pales since the school’s cleansing of less healthy food. These findings and a healthy debate with colleagues got me thinking more deeply and blogging about what might be happening in this regard.

I used to work with a passionate paediatrician Dr. Bob Hilliard many years ago at Sick Kids Hospital who often asked our team “Are we winning?” I have often asked myself this question through my career to do a gut check: are we are taking the right measures and achieving the planned outcomes? Are we winning?

I’ll be honest, my heart sank when I heard this study’s findings presented about healthy food wastage in school cafeterias, good grief. When I think about these kids having unique energy and nutrient needs, many going through growth spurts, I wonder what on earth are they eating to make up for what they’re discarding to fill that hunger void?

I recall having one-on-one sessions with teens many years ago who would openly admit to me that when they have a limited amount of money on hand what they seek is food that’ll fill the hunger void economically. The word “healthy” was rarely used to my recollection, sadly. Unfortunately, what they can afford are fast food offerings. So many schools I pass are surrounded by these places. So are we winning?

Could we the experts be exacerbating even worse eating habits after this less healthy food cleansing we’ve done in schools? I have heard about positive experiences where some schools had kids involved in the decision making of food service options. I love Brian Wansink’s healthy and stealthy approach to setting up a healthier cafeteria, described in his new book Slim By Design check it out.

The bottom line for me is the importance of doing further research on this to ensure there are no unintended consequences. After all we don’t want another wave of an epidemic on top of those we already have and add psychological eating issues to the mix, which would be more difficult to fix. For kid’s sake, let’s make sure we ARE winning and make necessary changes as needed.

Something to knaw on, that’s for sure….

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