Let Evidence be Your Guide

July 24th, 2017 No Comments Tags:

I have heard the cheers for the proposed plans of the new Canada’s Food Guide. I’ve been pondering this more deeply though, hmmmm. I want to join the throngs of enthusiasts, but to me, the jury is still out until I see the final product. You may recall the post I wrote: Does the Food Guide make my butt get fat? a while back. I revealed that creating any educational material for a target group of people poses many challenges. So devising a new Guide for 35 million people over the age of two, living in a culturally and geographically diverse country such as Canada makes this a mammoth task – understatement of the year…

The Good

At first blush, the guiding principles seem sound: The first outlines what to eat (more veggies, fruit, whole grains and plant based proteins), the second cautions what not to eat (ultra processed and prepared foods, especially those containing a lot of saturated fat, sugar and salt) and the third provides strategies on how to eat (highlighting a need for more cooking and eating together) – very Brazilian Guide-esque, don’t you think? That guide received rave reviews, so including these elements makes sense as these issues are applicable to Canadians too. The devil is in the detail. People want specifics; however, like “what should I buy, then what and how much should I eat?” Don’t leave consumers hanging Health Canada because people will fill in the blanks which could lead the population down another dark, new epidemic alley.

The Bad

I believe in the old adage “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. This rings true in this case. Don’t call me a Debbie Downer. I am certainly hoping for the best, really I am. But as I read the centrefold of the Globe & Mail’s National News section on July 19, 2017 a few alarm bells rang. Put the pom poms down and hear me out.

The Consultation Process I liken Health Canada’s consultation process to sending a “Dear Santa” letter when I was young. It’s a dark hole where everyone and their monkey’s uncle weigh in. Many people feel because they eat, they must know a thing or two about food. I am all for the democratic process but when building a document as important as the new Food Guide the final decisions must be based in food and nutrition scientific evidence, not popular opinion. Should the loud minority be hushed by making changes? I certainly hope not. Decisions need to be made seeped in evidence – period.

For example, just because a very small percentage of the population don’t drink milk in their culture shouldn’t mean we remove that section of the guide, especially if a vast majority of the population benefit by it. I am sure the Canadian Consumer Health Survey results are in and I’m guessing the findings about what Canadians are eating are grim, thus the need to make such sweeping change. I surmise that Canadians are snacking more of ultra processed food, cooking less, not meeting requirements for essential nutrients, eating alone and eating out a lot. If one nutrient rich food, such as milk can single handedly fill an array of nutrient gaps for many age and gender groups when you do a modelling exercise, wouldn’t that be a good reason to keep it in the new guide? Including nutrient rich choices makes sense. I have many more reasons why dairy belongs in the guide: Don’t be a dairy contrarian?

The Ugly

Creating this is difficult enough with food and nutrition as the primary focus, but Health Canada wants to pull in environmental sustainability too. I want to believe this can be included, but I encourage them to put food and nutrition as the primary goals and the environment as a secondary one, after all it’s a Food Guide.

Look folks, I’m all for “making our planet great again”. In my very household, we are getting rid of two gas guzzling vehicles and replacing them with one electric car, putting solar panels on the roof and more (and yo, if you see me hitch hiking by the side of the road because I forgot to recharge my car like I sometimes do with my phone, have a heart and give me a lift, would you?). In the balancing act of creating a new guide and covering all of the evidence-based food and nutrition bases, making the environment central to the decision making might be a stretch, especially if we end up nixing important dietary elements because of it. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by trying to be all things to all people.

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know! I have been a sad spectator of this “gluten-free” craze over the years. It’s been “a thing” for much longer than expected unfortunately. I know some intelligent people who have assimilated that “a diet must be healthier without gluten” because we’re still bombarded with all of these alternate facts and nonsense for so long. Alternative facts are permeating people’s consciousness as a consequence. If Health Canada decides to remove the dairy group to shut the loud minority up, I worry people might make similar wrong assumptions.

Empower the People!

If Health Canada wants to empower Canadians to make better food choices, then they should be committed to providing the best tools to do so. Usher in a better Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) for instance. If you want Canadians to eat less sugar, add that line with grams of added sugar per serving right on the panel? Also, while the Skip the Dishes app seems to be all the rage as consumers eat out more, why not mandate all of the NFP information be available to Canadians for restaurant food, starting with fast food. The fact that only a few tidbits of nutrition information of menus is available in various provinces isn’t something to cheer about. Consumers need all of this info available in every province now. What are you waiting for Health Canada?

Alas, I applaud the Food Directorate’s efforts in this painstaking exercise. Do keep food and nutrition scientific evidence as your primary focus and don’t let popular opinion of the loud minority influence your decisions. Get all of your policy ducks in a row – from food labels for all food Canadians consume – packaged and restaurant food alike. Don’t make sweeping change for the sake of making change. Include dietitians as the “go to” experts to help Canadians make sense of all of the food and nutrition non-sense. And at the end of the day, realize that whatever you decide, people won’t be holding hands and singing Kumbaya, but it is a necessary task nonetheless.
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Unapologetic Expert…Time to Speak UP

June 30th, 2017 No Comments Tags: , , ,

Canada Day is fast approaching, our 150th, no less. We Canadians are know for being polite, watching our p’s and q’s and for apologizing, “oops, sorry”. We are bombarded with an avalanche of misinformation almost everywhere we turn which has amped up over the decade… big sigh. Whether at the family table, the hair salon, social media or any sort of gathering with fellow humans, life feels like an information battlefield sometimes – one I prefer to retreat from.

Years ago when someone checked out alternative medicine as a last resort when everything else failed, I thought, “Why not, what harm could that do?” But fast forward to today and I know too many people who choose alternate therapies as their first line of treatment then bring in the “trained guns” – doctors, dietitians, for example – those of us who are registered professionals governed by a college to protect the public, when things goes south. Sadly many of us sit by in silence.

Case in point, I visited my neighbourhood salon recently. I asked a simple question “how are you?” and got a long and winding tale. Happy to be an ear, I heard about the plight of my stylist visiting a chiropractor for various ailments. I was told how this person tried various maneuvers, yada yada yada…. I was also told that before starting anything she had to sign a release form “in case I had a stroke or died”. Say what??!! Instead of sitting in silence I decided to politely weigh in. I asked whether her medical doctor requires her do the same thing and noted that if THEY did something wrong they could get their licence revoked, sued or charged. Then I asked “so why did you go in the first place?” and she told me “because it’s covered by my insurance”. Great big sigh.

Well my fellow experts, I say it’s time to break the silence and weigh in on such conversations. When everyone out there claims to be an expert, it’s time for the real experts speak up, unapologetically. You with me??

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Tails of Trails

June 4th, 2017 No Comments Tags: , ,

I have been having meandering thoughts while on meandering walks of late. June 4th marks #NationalHealth & Fitness Day so I felt it was a fitting day to feature this. Let’s keep in mind though that ANY day is perfect to start your own “movement movement” and pay attention to your health and fitness!

Exercise and activity provide a whole lot of benefits. For starters there’s an endorphin boost which can provide that “runner’s high” and lift your mood, decrease stress, ward off depression, boost self esteem while improving sleep to name a few. Fit in moves you enjoy so you will vamoose your caboose more often!

Over the past year I have been lucky to wander along some enthralling paths from Cinque Terre, Italy then Sagres Portugal, then Malta trails to scaling up Table Mountain in Cape Town and then back in Kelowna trekking the Mission Creek Greenway, Kalamoir Park, Paul’s Tomb trail, Myra Canyon trestles and up Mt. Knox – phew. When I reflect on my progress or lack thereof I continue to be a self proclaimed tortoise. It really isn’t getting any easier. I have won no prizes, received no fan fare and at times had my Apple Watch not register the full extent of my moves. Despite that I go forth!

I have had my share of bonding with Mother Nature when walking these picturesque trails. I love how your thoughts get lost in Mother Nature’s glory feeling sand between your toes, admiring lovely wildflowers as the pollen tickles your nose, get shaded by towering pines, inspired by a soaring eagle, feel the power of a river’s rushing water. On this fine day I had a chuckle after hearing a sassy quail’s mocking call outing this city girl as I struggled to catch my breath.

As I rang in the New Year I professed my word of the year to be robust and I stand by that. I decide where my walk will lead me today. With robustness in mind I will snake up a trail even if the incline is a few kilometres up, up and up; boot me to get my weights lifted and mat routine finished; assist me to improve my balance and assist me to overcome my fear of heights.

If activity hasn’t edged into your calendar lately, evaluate how you can find 15 minute here and another there. Surely you can schedule it in. Our bodacious bodies were meant to move! Get your masterful machine moving more often throughout the day each and every day – walk, mosey, sache, samba, climb, dance, shimmy, jog, saunter, run….. Do it for someone who cannot, but do it. There’s really no excuse not to!

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Calling All Canadians: March for Science, Stand UP for Evidence!

April 18th, 2017 No Comments Tags: , ,

Earth Day is fast approaching. It’s time to lace up and join in the March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017. Mark your calendar and spread the word.

As Archie-Bunker-in-Chief south of the border rounds out his first 100 days in office our Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad world has gone “mad-er”, sadly. We now live in an era with admitted “alternate facts” in a seemingly parallel universe. I’m not referring to a Sci-Fi flick but the daily news we use…big sigh…

Life threatening climate change is plaguing our world. Instead of instituting measures to help, with one signature, he drags coal out of the dark ages and back into the picture, what gives?! I wouldn’t be surprised if he ushered Gwyneth Paltrow, promoter of Goop into a key position in the White House. Good grief. The sad thing is we can’t change the channel, this is the new world disorder.

In times of despair, do something constructive and March! Join in won’t you? You don’t need to be a science geek to take part. But believe me, a science geek has made a difference to you or a loved one by their tireless work efforts, expertise and exactness, whatever their discipline. Activate your circles of influence to get involved, calling all Canadians:

  • Calling all teachers: address these modern day issues in your class and encourage your students to participate
  • Calling all health professionals: post a sign in your waiting area and motivate your patients to join in
  • Calling all fitness instructors: sway your clients to get involved this weekend
  • Calling all parents: rally all generations of your family to share in the opportunity to walk, wheel and weigh in
  • Calling all social media mavens: post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more using #ScienceMarch
  • Calling all artists: get crafty, make some signs and lend a hand!

It’s a perfect way to take a stand and a great way to get your daily steps in. Walk, tweet #ScienceMarch, donate, don’t let it pass you by. Bring a friend or ten. See you there!

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Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the greatest superfood of all?? #NutritionMonth

March 30th, 2017 No Comments Tags: , , ,

Well folks, March is Nutrition Month. The theme this year is Take the Fight out of Food! Spot the problem. Get the facts. Seek support. Who doesn’t have a fight with food? Practically no one, that’s who!

I’m shining the spotlight on food fads. When I was a newly minted dietitian it seemed like some “people out there” in the “joe general public” followed food fads. But fast forward to today and many people I know are following so many misguided notions. Sadly the information highway is littered with “alternate facts” which are myths in disguise. Good grief…. Check out this three step approach:

Step 1: Spot the problem.
Let’s focus on super foods, shall we – one day the media goes cuckoo over coconut, the next season they go gaga over goji berries then on to accolades of acai, what gives? Reading and trying to follow these fads does one thing with certainty – they pack a punch on your pocketbook and create confusion for many consumers. One thing I know for sure is fundamental nutrition doesn’t go in and out of style like bell bottoms or platform shoes. Still wondering what food IS the greatest one of all?

Step 2: Get the facts.
You might have an urge to follow the “food fad du jour” with spring in the air. But remember, your bodacious body requires the entire array of nutrients every single day to run on all cylinders. The super foods I mentioned might be high in various nutrients, yet they cannot sustain life on their own – poof goes the magic! You still need to balance your nutritional requirements.

There are so many local foods that might not make it to the spotlight, yet are super just the same. Why not save your money and go loco over local every day of the year! Here are a few ideas:

  • Can’t beet a bargain! – Last year I found 10 pound bags of beets and carrots for under $5 in my grocery store. Every few months I haul one home, scrub ‘em up, roast, peel and freeze them in 1 pound bags. They are at my fingertips to make salads and add to dishes any old time.
  • Don’t be a diary contrarian! –  I am an self proclaimed dairy queen! Every week you’ll find milk, Greek yoghurt, various cheeses and even real iced cream in my grocery cart. Dairy’s nutrient richness fills any nutrient shortfall and tastes great. In my e-book Skinny on Slim, the little black dress of diet books, I suggest 4 NOT 44 changes to make to your diet. Check it out!
  • Finger on the pulse- Beans, peas and lentils are making their way to the centre of my plate more and more. There are so many delicious dishes that are also economical, it’s astounding! Give them a try!
  • Unpretentious potato – Sadly there are many unfounded starchy misconception about our PEI potatoes that need to end now.

Step 3: Seek support.
The bottom line: Make your diet super by ensuring it’s balanced. Save your money and find many nutrient rich foods right in your grocery store for a fraction of the cost of the marketed super food du jour, but with the many benefits for your body!

Do you want more advice? Find a dietitian near you: www.dietitians/find.ca

It’s not too late to take the pledge to Take the Fight out of Food! and subscribe to the e-News at www.NutritionMonth2017.ca

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Unchained

February 9th, 2017 2 Comments Tags: , , ,

I found myself on the quaint island of Malta recently. Time to dump the winter slump wrapped up with a side order of world chaos and fill my soul with peace and sumptuousness, ahhhhh.

Talk about well-timed. It’s a relief to be away from the epicentre of doom. In a mere two weeks there have been marches around the globe, wall-building plans and upheaval galore post-inauguration of Archie-Bunker-in-Chief. I shudder to think what the next 80 days will bring. It is a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad world, sadly. People will be getting their daily steps in though because of many marches to come (plan for the science march on Earth day!), but I digress.

Malta’s beautiful rocky, rolling hills, rugged cliffs and Mediterranean sea breeze are incredibly embracing. The northern countryside is dotted with yellow and white clad towns, family farms and an expanse of charm. The Maltese people are benevolent.

I love being in a place that’s perfectly unpretentious. There’s natural raw beauty, meandering trails and scrumptious, local, wholesome food with barely a restaurant chain in sight! Food miles are limited, spying a fishing boat in the blue yonder. It’s catch ended up on my plate. Nothing can be finer!

Well folks, next month T & T will feature the Nutrition Month theme – Take the Fight out of Food! Spot the problem. Get the facts. Seek support. The only food fights I’m having this week is what to choose from the nourishing offerings.

While the sequel to Alice in Wonderland meets Poltergeist unfolds, I’ll be chilling on this little isle of Heaven….

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My word for 2017 is ….

January 3rd, 2017 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

I have done a lot of soul searching this holiday season. As per my usual routine, I drafted a few New Year’s type blog posts. None have seen the light of day as they didn’t quite hit the mark for how I’ve been feeling lately. I have been inspired by what some people have chosen as “their key word” for 2017 though. That got me thinking more deeply, hmmmm.

Although I have written a lot this past year, I have not posted much. Various family members have been experiencing their share of challenges, so my usual musings about food and nutrition didn’t quite feel right to post about in the grand scheme of things.

I did host a pre-Christmas get together with one of my sisters. I connected up with my many aunts to meet our new great nephew – Russel. I reflected on this get-together with awe about how lucky I am to have so many amazing women who are fabulous role models in my life in addition to my own Mom and Mom-in-law. Each has soldiered through their fair share of life’s challenges without the helicopter-type safety nets many young folks possess today. Yet each show up with smiles, love and enthusiasm, like always.

I am out at my hide-away as I write this and have been taking in the brisk winter outdoors with deeper reflection. On New Year’s Day I took the trek up snowy Knox Mountain. It’s is a love-hate thing – love it when I’m done and hate it while I’m trudging up…. a perfect way to contemplate life….

As I plodded along, it came to me: ROBUST!

  • This word sums up what my Moms and aunties have shown in their rich lives as they take on the world.
  • This explains the gumption you need to face an extreme challenge with courage, grit and a smile.
  • It goes deeper than merely “shaking a leg” in life, but losing one and making the best of it.
  • It’s what you need to break out of your routine and follow your dream.
  • It’s not spinning the yarn of mundane pettiness of the status quo, yet implies vitality & vigor, toughness & sturdiness, health & enthusiasm, to make a difference. Yes robust is my word this 2017.

May this word have meaning for you as you grab 2017 by the horns: Go forth and be ROBUST!

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The 12 Days of Christmas Remix

December 5th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , ,

Hem hem hem…. Ok my cherished T & T followers. Another year is zipping by and the Christmas season is in full swing! Let’s sing along from the same proverbial song-sheet to get through to the other end the same jean size, shall we?

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

One Daily BreakfastSuccessful losers say and research shows it’s the most important meal of the day. Don’t miss it!

Two Little SnacksKeeping your hunger at bay will really help you from feeling ravenous and overeating.

Three Square MealsHaving a regular eating routine with balanced meals helps you fire on all cylinders while kicking hunger to the curb. Remember that hunger management project you started in November?

Four Small PlatesKeeping your eyes on your serving size by using smaller plates is an easy way to help you eat less over the holidays and everyday!

Five Quiet MomentsLet stress flow away when you find quiet times to ponder life and all it’s wonders. Ummmmmm.

Six Times a Movin’Keeping regularly active (at least six, five minute intervals of moving daily) and even taking it up a notch this time of year to offset any extra nibbling will help you burn any extra calories, keep on track, feel fit and even ease stress.

Seven Beauty SleepsGetting enough zzzzz’s helps with appetite control and allows you to be more productive. Nitey nite.

Eight Mugs a Chuggin’Always keep that water goblet of life half full and by your side. Sip, sip, sip to my Lou throughout the day to stay well hydrated. Infuse your water with fresh mint, zesty citrus or frozen berries. Bottoms UP!

Nine Ladies DancingRocking around the clock at your Christmas party like it’s 1999 will help you burn baby burn 276 calories an hour!! Bye bye extra serving of Christmas trifle calories…..

Ten Fruit & VegEating your quota of these puppies everyday will help fill you up and ease those extras out because you’re simply feeling full. Poof, like magic!

Eleven Saboteurs to Deal WithPrepare yourself with how you’re going to deal with food pushing saboteurs. Take the high road with a polite “no thank you” and HO HO HOld the attitude!

Twelve Drummers Drummin’ Marching to the beat of your own drum puts you in the dietary drivers seat. Stick with it soul sister, you’ll be glad you did!

Ok folks, if you follow this beat for the coming weeks you’ll be in good shape and feeling extra cheer by New Year. Equip yourself with my e-book for more healthy and stealthy tips for 2017.

God bless us every one!

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Want to reframe? Make a small change!

November 25th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have written many times that it’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad world. Last season it was BREXIT, this season the Gong Show to the south….. Somehow it feels like it’s the end of the world, good grief. Quite serendipitously, I was hanging out in the Algarve, Portugal where centuries ago it was believed that the world was flat. I stood near that very edge, hmmmm.

Alas, I decided to crawl out from under the bed and face the world again. Sometimes when you feel there is little you can control, taking charge even in a small way can be uplifting. We’re staring down yet another Christmas season, followed by New Years resolution time. I say get back to that 100 Meal Journey started this past March and make a little change for the better. Are you with me?

Truth be told, I was so enthusiastic about the whole 100 Meal Journey concept that as March meandered to April, May, June with a fast forward to today the cumulative changes made have me feeling better, more energized and in better shape. Consider these ideas:

Be Adventurous
Who doesn’t love an adventure let alone someone who is adventurous? Gear up to trying something new.  Try a new recipe, such as Tangine cooking or this savoury tomato soup served with gourmet grilled cheese. How about some yummy satisfying salads to enjoy for lunch instead of fast food. Check out even more ideas.

Seal it with a KISS – better Hunger Management
Keep it simple, sweetie! Start by managing your hunger better. NO you are not going to start a diet – coconut water, eating raw or a cleanse are NOT what’s on tap now or ever. Avert your thoughts from dieting for good!
1) More Protein & Fibre at Meals – Instead of taking away food which will make you hungry, add in satisfying choices that help manage hunger optimally and make you feel fuller longer. Work in more dairy products at meals or snacks. Add nuts and/or seeds to salads. Use dinner leftovers of meat, fish or chicken in lunches in wraps or sandwiches. Include eggs as a powerhouse of protein. Up the ante on using more pulses like chick peas or lentils and choose whole grains more often.

2) Slow Down Your Eating Pace – Doing the “whoa horsey” by slowing down, tasting and enjoying food is essential. Experiencing the feeling of fullness and stopping when you begin to feel satisfied, instead of eating like a buzz saw will help you eat less almost effortlessly.

3) Strategic Snacking – If you find you’re usually ravenous at mealtime, work in a small snack or two each day in-between meal to help take the edge off. Managing your hunger more strategically will help you slow down your pace too. Forget the vending machine and choose a fresh fruit, some cut up veggies or have a handful of unsalted nuts as your perfect go-to snack.

Awareness is Bliss
Time for a reality check! Get back to facing the scale and weighing yourself regularly. Then make a routine of checking the number a few times each week. Awareness (not ignorance) is bliss!

Remember folks, one month meanders into another, then seasons come and go. We’re staring down another new year. Take it easy on yourself and embrace a small change for the next 100 meals to a healthier you. Today is a perfect day to press the re-start button!

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Scan for Solutions: Nutrition Facts for Chain Restaurant Food

June 23rd, 2016 No Comments

The pendulum has swung from consumers eating at home most of the time to eating out of the home more. I recently read that Americans are spending more on restaurants than groceries, big sigh. Back in the day eating out was considered an occasional treat. Fast forward to today and it has become a regular part of people’s eating routine. I was taking a stroll before dinner recently and heard one young girl call to her neighbour to “come outside and play’. She was met with the response, “No I need to go inside, we’re ordering dinner!” OUCH. Welcome to 2016 I guess. Time for a moment of silence…

Anyone who follows T & T will recall my stand on this issue. Some may even call me a broken record (or worse)…. All I want is for consumers to have access to the same food offering nutrition info that packaged foods provide with the nutrition facts panel. Knowledge is power and people do better when they know better. Here are a few of my posts:

I can relate though. Although I value eating nourishing home-prepared food regularly, I’ll confess that I travel a lot and consume my fair share of restaurant meals. Because of the frequency of eating out, it isn’t necessarily an indulgent treat. I aim to eat as healthfully as I can, trading off and making better choices. I’m lucky that I have a degree in nutrition and am a registered dietitian. Consumers don’t have this luxury. It is helpful that people who actively want to know what’s in their food have been used to accessing the nutrition facts panel when grocery shopping for well over a decade now.

Half of Canadians over the age of 20 live with a chronic disease like diabetes or heart disease and four out of five are at risk, with diet and lifestyle being major factors. Now that people are eating out more now than ever it’s time to reconsider making this info – and not only calories – available for consumers.

We also live in an era with technological advances up the wazoo. I can now pay for a quart of milk with my Apple Watch for goodness sake. So when I hear the chain restaurant industry drag their feet and exclaim how they would only confuse consumers by providing the nutritional profile of their offerings I say “bupkis”! Of course you can’t display a nutrition facts panel on a jammed menu board, but with human ingenuity there are certainly viable solutions.

I was in a small fishing town in Italy in May and enjoyed dinner at a tiny restaurant. On each table a scan icon similar to this image was burned in the wood that accessed their website. Upon scanning it, I had an AHA moment: Perhaps scan technology can be available for people to view chain restaurant food offerings before they get in line to order!

Not only are people spending more of their money on eating out, they have health conditions which can be helped by better nutrition. When this info – especially the astronomically negative content is central in the public eye, the offerings will be reformulated. Yes another reason to mandate this info be available.

Come on folks, it’s 2016 – certainly there are solutions for making nutrient profiles available and accessible to consumers. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

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