Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quit smoking (and junk food?) through brief exercise?


Brains are crazy places.

So neuroscientists using fancy brain imaging (fMRI) devices have demonstrated that nicotine stimulates the brain's mesocorticolimbic system (a reward centre).

Other research has demonstrated those same centres lighting up with food cravings.

Old news, no?

Sure, but new fMRI studies combining smoking cues with exercise may help to explain how exercise helps with weight loss.

Now most people believe exercise's role in weight loss is purely mathematical - it burns calories. While indeed that does play a role, unfortunately exercise doesn't burn nearly as many calories as would be fair and really is generally a minor mathematical player in weight loss. Yet despite it's minor role there's a robust evidence base that suggests exercise is essential in weight management, especially weight maintenance.

So how does it help? If it doesn't burn many calories, what exactly does it do to help with weight control?

Perhaps it changes your brain.

You see a recent study published last year in the journal Psychopharmacology demonstrated that smokers who were nicotine abstinent for 15 hours, when faced with images of smoking had their mesocorticolimbic systems light up like Christmas trees. Yet Those same smokers, when exposed to 10 minutes of exercise prior to the smoking images showed no such lighting.

So could the role of exercise in weight management have more to do with craving control than burnt calories? Do the folks who exercise more effectively turn off the parts of their brains that at times make cravings irresistible?

Only one way to find out. If there's a time of the day that's more difficult for you to manage cravings why not try to build in 10 minutes of brisk walking, gardening, stationary biking, dance or active play and see if it helps to take the edge off? Worst case scenario? You get 10 extra minutes of healthy exercise.

Janse Van Rensburg, K., Taylor, A., Hodgson, T., & Benattayallah, A. (2008). Acute exercise modulates cigarette cravings and brain activation in response to smoking-related images: an fMRI study Psychopharmacology, 203 (3), 589-598 DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1405-3

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Monday, June 29, 2009

UK anti-obesity advocate pays student volunteers with junk food!?

Meet Ms. Annette Brook.

She's the British Liberal Democrat MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole. She's also a staunch crusader in the fight against childhood obesity.

She's quite outspoken.

Here's a smattering of quotes from her website:

"We welcome the removal of vending machines selling chocolate, fizzy drinks and crisps to encourage young people to seek alternative snack options."

"We have allowed food marketing companies to influence our diets and the television media to further develop our already sedentary lifestyles. We need to empower our citizens to lead a healthy lifestyle and action now is imperative."

"For every £1 spent promoting healthy eating £500 is spent marketing unhealthy food, so the market has clearly failed. Advertising promotions determine our children's food choices and propel them down a single route. The producer is king. I agree that if we limit the advertising of unhealthy food for children, many parents will be under less pressure to give in to their requests for fast food."

"Let us ponder on "You are what you eat". If we keep that at the back of our minds, we will be able to get totally on message."
So how "totally" on message is Ms. Brooke?

Ummm.

You see a story came out in the UK Telegraph yesterday detailing the fact that Ms. Brooke in her submitted annual expenses billed UK taxpayers for all those things she wants to see gone - fizzy drinks, chocolate and cakes.

So wait a second here, aren't I the guy that says life includes chocolate? Yup. So why am I blogging about this? Isn't it Ms. Brooke's right to choose what she wants to eat?

Sure it is, and while it certainly wouldn't look great for Ms. Brookes to regularly be munching on vending machine fare, that's not what makes this story blogworthy. What makes it blogworthy is that Ms. Brookes spokesperson, in defending the expenses explained that the junk wasn't for Ms. Brookes but rather it was for the students who were working in her office without pay.

Yup. Ms. Brookes, crusader against Big Food marketing to kids and junk food in schools pays her own student volunteers with, yup, junk food.

Oy.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Saturday Edition (and Update)


Had a nice meeting yesterday with Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Wendy Warburton and (I'm really sorry very nice well-spoken guy with glasses, I can't remember your name, I want to say Peter but not positive). While I won't go into the nitty gritty of the meeting I can tell you that I believe the Citizen is sincerely considering the publication of nutritional information and that there are some real logistics to overcome. That said, given that the total time cost of the endeavour would be between 10 and 20 minutes weekly I'm hopeful that the logistics are surmountable.

Here are the nutritional breakdowns for today's recipes:

Sweet Chili-Maple Grilled Chicken Sandwich:

(per serving NOT including marinade): 620 calories, 829mg sodium, 8g saturated fat, 37g total carbs

Classic Mojito

(per drink): 96 calories, zero fat, 28mg sodium, 8g total carbs

Maker's Margarita
(per drink): 193 calories, zero fat, 2mg sodium, 35g total carbs

'Bin'-gria
(per cup): 174 calories, zero fat, 97mg sodium, 16g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Cash4Gold - the answer to American economic woes?

Today for Funny Friday here's the Onion News Network exploring a new plan to help refloat the American economy.

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 6 - Great News?



It's been a very exciting week for the "ask before you order" campaign to encourage the Citizen to include nutritional information for its recipes.

(for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

Last weekend, via the social media wonder Twitter, Ron Eade the Citizen's Food Editor and I had a quick back and forth that culminated in us having a nice chat on the phone about the issue. It became clear fairly quickly that we are actually on the same page about the utility and importance of providing readers with nutritional information and that barring any unforeseen logistical barriers, the publication of nutritional information in the Citizen is something he'd be willing to support.

Then two days ago I received an email from Wendy Warburton who had returned from vacation and she let me know that she certainly agrees in principle that publishing nutritional information would be great for Citizen readers and is hopeful there's a program/way out there to do so that's not overly onerous.

And then yesterday Gerry Nott, the Editor in Chief, invited me to come by tomorrow to see if we can't figure out a way to make this happen!

Kudos to the 3 of them and the Citizen for taking the time to honestly consider this.

As part of the campaign I've opted to collect the opinions of influential Canadian health professionals as to the utility and value of nutritional information. My hope is that perhaps some of my blog readers might these posts to help inspire their local papers to consider posting as well. Last week we heard from Dr. Kevin Willis from the Canadian Stroke Network as to why he felt the Citizen ought to take the initiative and publish nutritional information. This week we've got Dr. Norm Campbell.

Dr. Campbell is really a tour-de-force in the global hypertension landscape and among his many accomplishments he is the Canadian Institute of Health Research Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control, he chairs the Steering and Executive Committees for the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP), a program designed to improve the treatment and control of hypertension in Canada. He also chairs the Outcomes Research Task Force for the hypertension recommendations process and is a past president of the Canadian Hypertension Society (CHS), the Canadian Coalition for High Blood Pressure Prevention and Control (now Blood Pressure Canada), and the Canadian Society for Clinical Pharmacology.

Here's what Norm had to say - use the slider to zoom in or the far right button below the PDF to get a full screen (email subscribers if you don't see an embedded PDF then click the title at the top to get taken to the blog),



Again, the issue here is simple. There are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. Those individuals would greatly benefit from having access to the nutritional breakdown of the recipes published by the Citizen.

If you've got a moment, even if you've sent emails before, could you please take the time to drop the Citizen a line again to let them know how thankful you are they're seriously considering this initiative? Please email Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

Here's the breakdown for this week's batch of Citizen recipes:

Szechwan and Heritage Beer Sauce
(per tablespoon): 13 calories, trace saturated fat, 22mg sodium, 3g total carbs

Strawberry Smootie
(per cup): 95 calories, trace saturated fat (assuming low fat yogurt used), 28mg sodium, 21g total carbs

Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse
(per serving (assuming 6 and 2 tbsp sweetened whipped cream per)): 441 calories, 25g saturated fat, 140mg sodium, 16g total carbs

Jasmine & Lychee Iced Tea
(per cup): 119 calories, trace saturated fat, 8mg sodium, 30g total carbs

Heritage Baby Back Ribs
(per serving): 1,494 calories, 31g saturated fat, 1,279mg sodium, 102g total carbs

Mill Street Coffee Porter Brownies
(per entire recipe): 5,411 calories, 200g saturated fat, 2,904mg sodium, 636g total carbs

Traditional Dark Lager and Cranberry Salad Dressing
(per tablespoon): 26 calories, trace saturated fat, 7mg sodium, 1g total carbs

Mill Street Coffee Porter Chocolate Cake
(per serving assuming 12): 399 calories, 12g saturated fat, 372mg sodium, 53g total carbs

Southern Sweet Tea Pops
(per pop): 248 calories, zero fat, 9mg sodium, 65g total carbs

Grape Pops
(per pop): 140 calories, zero fat, 9mg sodium, 35g total carbs

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 3 minutes per recipe]

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

World's Greatest Treadmill Desk?


I love this desk. It's Steelcases's "Sit-to-Walkstation"

I've thought about building my own treadmill desk but my concern has been that certainly at times I'll need to sit.

This desk can do both (it moves).

It can be yours for "just" $4,899

(BTW, in case anyone's feeling stupidly and irresponsibly generous my birthday's at the end of August)



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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An open letter to Canada's Minister of Health

June 23rd, 2009

Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health
House of Commons
460 Confederation Building
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Aglukkaq,

My name is Yoni Freedhoff and I'm a physician located in Ottawa with special interests in nutrition and in public health advocacy.

I'm writing you today with regard to trans-fat.

As I'm sure you're aware, on June 20th, 2007 your predecessor Tony Clement ignored the recommendations of the Government's own Trans-Fat Task Force that called for the immediate regulation of trans-fats and instead announced,

"today industry is being given notice they have two years to reduce the levels of trans fats or Health Canada will regulate their use."
So how did the food industry use their two-year free pass?

Not well.

Sally Brown, Chair of Canada's Trans-Fat Taskforce reports,
"Although some companies and sectors have stepped up to the plate and done well, overall the food industry is not sufficiently reducing trans fats voluntarily."
What else has happened over the course of the past two years?

Well according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Centre for Science in the Public Interest as a consequence of Health Canada's two years of inaction on trans-fat over 6,000 Canadians lost their lives due to its inclusion in Canada's food supply.

And of course it's not as if Health Canada is incapable of bans on dangerous chemicals. Here's Health Canada's rationale for the banning of bisphenol-A from baby bottles,
"We have immediately taken action on bisphenol A, because we believe it is our responsibility to ensure families, Canadians and our environment are not exposed to a potentially harmful chemical."
Yet in that same press release Health Canada stated,
"The scientists concluded in this assessment that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk"
And just last week Health Canada announced a ban on six phthalates compounds that the most recent comprehensive review article notes,
"Analysis of all of the available data leads to the conclusion that the risks are low, even lower than originally thought, and that there is no convincing evidence of adverse effects on humans. Since the scientific evidence strongly suggests that risks to humans are low, phthalate regulations that have been enacted are unlikely to lead to any marked improvement in public health."
Contrast those actions with the inaction on trans-fat, a compound that head of the Trans-Fat task force has stated is,
"a "toxic" killer that need to be removed from the food chain as soon as possible"
where,
"the longer we wait, the more illness and in fact death will happen, so we know we have to get it out of our food supply"
and that,
"there is no safe amount of trans consumption"
Superficially it would appear to me that Health Canada only tends to leap into action on matters that are politically palatable.

If it truly is Health Canada's
"responsibility to ensure families, Canadians and our environment are not exposed to a potentially harmful chemical"
why then is trans-fat still on Canada's store shelves?

Two years is two years too many. Minister Aglukkaq, how many more thousands of Canadians need to die before Health Canada takes real action?

Sincerely,

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute
575 West Hunt Club, Suite 100
Ottawa ON K2G5W5

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Monday, June 22, 2009

My CBC interview regarding menu and newspaper calories

Thanks to the crew over at CBC Ottawa Morning for being so kind, courteous and engaging.

For those who might have missed the interview, here it is:



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Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Recap!


Welcome CBC Ottawa Morning listeners (and if you're reading this before 7:30am, have a listen to CBC Ottawa Morning this morning at 7:30am!)!

Hopefully you've found your way here to help with the "ask before you order" campaign to have the Citizen include nutritional information in their published calories.

To recap. Roughly six weeks ago I blogged about how I had written a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen asking that they publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes.

It didn't get published.

I then wrote Ron Eade, the Citizen's longstanding, entertaining and informative Food Editor with the same request and he informed me that it was a budgetary issue and suggested I contact Wendy Warburton the person in charge of making the decision to spend the $16.99 it would cost to buy the software to analyze the recipes.

And so I did.

She didn't write me back.

The next week I offered to do the Citizen's work for them. I offered to use my own software and my own time to analyze the recipes for the Citizen. Ron reported that he'd pass my offer up the chain of command.

I didn't hear back from anyone.

Two weeks ago I emailed the Citizen's Publisher, their VP of Sales and Service and their Editor-in-Chief and I was pleased to hear back from Gerry Nott, Editor-in-Chief. He let me know it was the first he'd heard of the initiative and that he'd discuss our request and my offer with Wendy on her return from vacation on June 22.

Again, the issue here is simple. There are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. Those individuals would greatly benefit from having access to the nutritional breakdown of the recipes published by the Citizen.

Given that I've offered to do all of the Citizen's work for them for free, there really shouldn't be anything stopping them from taking me up on my offer, and today is actually an important day for this campaign as today is the day Wendy Warburton returns from vacation.

On a very positive note, I had a nice chat with Ron Eade this past weekend and it would certainly seem that we're both on the same page with regards to the great importance of societal nutritional awareness.

If you'd like to see nutritional information included in the Citizen, please take a few minutes out of your day and send an email to the Citizen's Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

Remember, it was the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus who suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather that consumer demand would do the trick. Let's see if they were right in regard to their own paper.

Bloggers, Twittawa - please consider reposting this today and for those not so savvy with social media - please email this post to your friends.

Who knows, perhaps this campaign can serve as a model for other newspaper changes. Perhaps by getting involved here you'll actually be helping to pave the road to making newspaper published nutritionals the new normal.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch on Monday's CBC Ottawa Morning!

So we're leaping from social media to real media on Monday morning when following the 7:30AM news I'll be on CBC Radio One's Ottawa Morning.

Tune in to hear about the initiative to have the Citizen provide its readers with nutritional information and about the bizarre concerns of the Dietitians of Canada with NDP MPP Frances Gelinas' private members bill set to put calories on the menus of chain restaurants!

Spread the word!

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Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch - Saturday Edition


Here are the nutritional breakdowns for today's two recipes - hope you like 'em salty!:

Mama's Meat Loaf:

(per loaf (whole recipe makes 3 loaves)): 2,447 calories, 66g saturated fat, 6,207mg sodium, 117g total carbs

Mama’s Delicious Smashed Potatoes:
(per serving): 386 calories, 12g saturated fat, 634mg sodium, 43g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 2 minutes per recipe]

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Forbidden Brownie

Who among us hasn't eaten something that's hit the ground?

Enjoy this brownie for Funny Friday!

Have a great weekend!

[Happy Birthday Dad!]

video

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dietitians of Canada hits bottom, digs


Wow, I'm almost speechless, but don't worry, only almost.

Yesterday Don Butler from the Citizen called me about my post regarding Dietitians of Canada's non-support of mandatory calorie labeling.

When he interviewed me he asked me what I thought DC was worried about.

I told him I didn't know but that common arguments include a mistaken belief that posting calories will cause a sudden outbreak of anorexia; that calories are not the only nutritional determinant of food; and that restaurants may have a tough time making calculations (not true for chain restaurants where uniformity of meals is integral in their success and where calorie counts already exist).

I was way out to lunch.

Nope, apparently the Dietitians of Canada are worried that,

"If a person looks at food that way, would they be more likely to make a higher-calorie choice because they think it's going to taste better?"
Oh and also that people aren't going to understand how to use the information,
"If you just post calories on the menu, how well can consumers use that information? That's a question we have."
So basically it seems that Dietitians of Canada are concerned that Canadians are nutritional morons and that they're going to believe menu posted calories are in fact some sort of new fangled taste-score and consequently choose foods with higher numbers because they think that food is likely to be "more tastier".

As I mentioned yesterday, if I were a Canadian Dietitian, I'd be absolutely mortified.

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Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 5 - Waiting



So we're still waiting for Wendy Warburton to get back from vacation.

To recap. Over a month ago I blogged about how I had written a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen asking that they publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes.

It didn't get published.

I then wrote Ron Eade, the Citizen's longstanding and well known food columnist and blogger with the same request and he informed me that it was a budgetary issue and suggested I contact Wendy Warburton the person in charge of making the decision to spend the $16.99 it would cost to buy the software to analyze the recipes.

And so I did.

She didn't write me back.

The next week I offered to do the Citizen's work for them. I'd use my own software and my own time to analyze the recipes for the Citizen. Ron reported that he'd pass my offer up the chain of command.

I didn't hear back from anyone.

Last week I emailed the Citizen's Publisher, their VP of Sales and Service and their Editor-in-Chief and I was pleased to hear back from Gerry Nott, Editor-in-Chief, that he'll discuss our request and my offer with Wendy on her return from vacation on June 22.

Again, the issue here is simple. There are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. Those individuals would greatly benefit from having access to the nutritional breakdown of the recipes published by the Citizen.

For the next little while I'm going to try to bring you the thoughts of other Ottawans who care a great deal about nutrition.

This week I'd like to introduce you to Kevin Willis. Kevin's a great guy who cares a great deal about nutrition. Kevin's the Director of Partnerships at the Canadian Stroke Network and part of Health Canada's taskforce on Dietary Sodium Reduction.

Here's what Kevin wrote to Wendy about our "Ask before you order" initiative,

"Dear Wendy,

I am writing to urge you to include nutritional information with your recipes. Everyone needs to be aware of the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in their food so that they can make informed choices. The Citizen has been one of the leading media sources in explaining to the public the links between dietary sodium and blood pressure. Please give your readers the information they need to help them limit their sodium intake and manage their nutrition.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Kevin Willis
Member of Health Canada’s Working Group on Dietary Sodium Reduction
--
Director of Partnerships
Canadian Stroke Network"
Now I realize you may have sent emails already, but if you haven't, or if you've never sent one to the Citizen's Editor-in-Chief perhaps you could drop Mr. Nott a line (and included in the email will be Wendy Warburton) and let him know how you feel about the matter so that he's armed with our thoughts before his meeting with Wendy. Please email them by clicking here.

I know this subject has started to be cross-posted on various blogs and Twitter accounts (thanks!) - please consider reposting again or for the first time.

We ARE building momentum. The first two weeks, almost no-one reposted or tweeted this story. Last week I believe over a dozen retweets and it's now been posted on at least 5 local blogs.

Remember, it was the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus who suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather that consumer demand would do the trick. Let's see if they were right with regards to their own paper. Please consumers - make some demands.

Here's the breakdown for this week's batch of Citizen recipes:

Char-Grilled BC Spot Prawns
(per serving assuming no salt to taste and unseasoned breadcrumbs): 565 calories, 7g saturated fat, 388mg sodium, 21g total carbs (a surprising number of calories for a small appetizer)

Ron’s Favourite Maple-Whisky Planked Salmon
(per serving): 369 calories, 1g saturated fat, 119mg sodium, 28g total carbs.

Pacific Cod Skewers with Whiskey Pomegranate Sauce
(per serving assuming 1/16 teaspoon salt each to taste): 304 calories, 2g saturated fat, 156mg sodium, 12g total carbs.

Grilled Atlantic Squid on Pasta Bundles with Chutney

(per serving): 796 calories, 10g saturated fat, 387mg sodium, 68g total carbs

Dad's Fibre Rich Bran Muffins
(per muffin): 153 calories, 1g saturated fat, 170mg sodium, 25g total carbs

Berry Yogurt Parfait
(per serving): 120 calories, 3g saturated fat, 58mg sodium, 16g total carbs (this one will vary dramatically based on your type of yogurt)

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 4 minutes per recipe]

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dietitians of Canada opposed to calories on menus?


Calories on menus.

I would have thought it's pretty much a no-brainer for any one who cared about nutrition and heath. I mean who could possibly have a problem with providing consumers with information that might help them make better dietary decisions? The information isn't meant to be judgemental. It's not meant to teach people that calories are bad any more than price tags are meant to teach people that dollars are bad. It's just there to help allow consumers to actually make informed choices.

So who's come out vocally in favour of calorie labeling?

The list grows daily and among many others includes:

  • American Association of Retired Persons
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • Canadian Obesity Network
  • Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
  • Canadian Teachers' Federation
  • Canadian Women's Health Network
  • Centre for Science in the Public Interest
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation
  • Institute of Medicine
  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association
  • Ontario Medical Association
  • Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public
    Health
  • Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
  • Society for Nutrition Education
  • United States Food and Drug Administration's Obesity Working group
  • World Health Organization


  • So who else wants calories on menus?

    The public. Polls have consistently placed public support of mandatory calories posting on menus at around 80%.

    Who else?

    The food industry. Recently in the United States the National Restaurant Association has joined hands with lawmakers to support the passing of a federal bill that would mandate chain restaurants post menu board calories in every single chain restaurant across their country.

    So who doesn't want calories on menus?

    The Dietitians of Canada.

    Yup, that's right, the Dietitians of Canada upon review of Ontario's Bill 156, a bill designed to force chain restaurants in Canada to publish calories on menu boards, decided to send out an email to its members to ask their opinions. You might be thinking that clearly here I'm out to lunch, that there's nothing wrong with DC gathering members' opinions, and you'd be right, assuming that the email simply asked for opinions. But the email didn't simply do that though. No, instead the email primed members' opinions by stating that DC was "concerned" regarding providing Canadians with information about the single most important nutritional determinant of food - calories,
    "To: DC Members

    Posting of caloric information on menu boards or through a tag attached to individual food items is being proposed through a bill introduced in the Ontario legislature by Frances Gelinas, MPP and NDP Critic for Health. The proposed bill would apply to foodservice operations with annual revenues greater than $5 million, and non-compliance would be fined. The bill also proposes limits on artificial trans fats.

    Dietitians of Canada is concerned that there is limited evidence to support a move to posting energy content of foods on restaurant menu boards as a means of influencing consumers to make positive changes in their food selection at this point of purchase. We are interested in identifying your views on this issue as well as identifying relevant evidence to support your views.

    Your input will help shape the DC response to this issue. Please take a few moments to complete this brief survey.

    The survey should take no more than 5 - 10 minutes to complete. Your response by April 17 is appreciated.

    Thank you
    Posted by
    Linda Dietrich, Regional Executive Director Central and Southern Ontario"
    So just to put this in perspective - nutrition advocacy and professional organizations (including the American Dietetic Association - the DC's American counterpart) support mandatory menu labeling, medical organizations support mandatory menu labeling, non-profit health groups support mandatory menu labeling, the public supports menu labeling, even Big Food supports mandatory menu labeling and the Dietitians of Canada have concerns?

    What could they possibly be concerned about? They talk of a lack of evidence, but yet there's ample evidence that menu board calories are both an important need and a great idea. But really, even if there wasn't yet ample evidence, what possible reason could DC have to deny Canadians the ability to make more thoughtful dietary decisions by ensuring restaurants provide them with more information? Does DC feel that the calorie section on nutrition facts panels should be removed as well?

    Dietitians out there? Do you have any thoughts as to what the Dietitians of Canada might be afraid of and why they seem to be having more difficulty assessing the evidence base than even the food industry?

    [If you want your voices heard and you didn't happen to notice the email above, feel free to write to Linda Dietrich and let her know how you feel about the need for menu board labeling by clicking here.]

    UPDATE: Thanks to RD who in the comments posted the results of the incredibly skewed survey (meaning if you prime your members by telling them the organization "has concerns" go figure people aren't going to support the concern in question).

    So unbelievably only 47% of Canadian dietitians who participated in the survey felt that posting calorie information on menus is an effective means of public education and modifying food choices.

    Even more unbelievably only 71% of Canadian dietitians who participated in the survey felt that trans-fats should be banned.

    If I were a Canadian dietitian, I'd be absolutely mortified.

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    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    You're a bad parent if you don't feed your kids chocolate


    That's my take on Kinder's new, "Have you played today" campaign".

    The gist of the campaign?

    Treats are an important part of parenting and so to be better parents you've got to make sure you give them treats, more specifically - Kinder chocolates.

    Now it's true the chocolates are smaller than regular Kinder chocolates, but that's not really the point. The point is here's a campaign with an incredibly unique marketing pitch. Forget probiotics, omega-3 and fibre. Here we've got chocolate being pitched as a parenting tool; a pitch that suggests that you're a bad parent if you don't give them Kinder eggs.

    How does it do that?

    By recruiting experts to push their message.

    Experts? What expert in their right mind would agree to pitch chocolate to children under the banner of good parenting?

    Two in fact. Registered Dietitian Mary Bamford and child Psychologist Dr. Anthony Volk.

    So what did they have to say?

    When I read Mary's piece entitled, "Treating with Food: What's Okay", I learned that Mary advocates giving children 10-15% of their total daily calories in treat form and that doing so would, get this, teach them about portion control,

    "For younger children, allowing around 100 calories per day as a treat allows you to teach the importance of portion control. Older children and female teens are allowed 150 to 200 calories per day and 200 to 400 calories per day for active teen boys."
    More strikingly I learned that Mary doesn't seem to be aware of treats other than food as not once does she suggest that such treats exist. She also advises parents not to stress about giving their children chocolate every day because,
    "The Kinder Survey reveals that 91% of dietitians agree that parents should feel comfortable including chocolate in their children’s diets on a periodic basis."
    I suppose "daily" is technically "periodic". Gee thanks Mary for the sage advice of parents' own hands providing 10% of their children's daily calories as treats and backing that up with a spun-by-you statistic that clearly did not apply to the daily provision of the caloric equivalent of 1 can of Coca Cola for toddlers and small children, 2 cans of Coca Cola to teen girls and 4 cans of Coca Cola daily to teen boys

    (I use Coca Cola as an example because Mary has also worked for them suggesting that sugared soda availability helps teach about choice and that it's fine for 10% of your child's daily caloric intake to come from sugar lest they become apparently sugar-crazy teenagers,
    "If parents don't expose kids to things in our culture, they're going to go crazy in their teens and so really teaching them reasonable choices is a good way to go so getting 10 per cent of your calories from added sugars is quite reasonable")
    And the child psychologist, what about him? He had a lot to say - 4 pieces in total. In his article, "Why Treat" he explains that giving your kids Kinder chocolate every day will:
    1. Encourage sharing between children, promoting patience, fairness, and social skills.

    2. Teach patience and perseverance.

    3. Reward positive behaviour.

    4. Encourage play.

    5. Help build positive parent-child relationships.
    To his credit, unlike Mary Bamford he does suggest and support the provision of varied treats but overall hammers home this message,
    "Did you know that treats of all kinds – from a special shared experience to a simple chocolate bar – can be used to help build those positive parent-child relationships? In fact, when used as part of overall positive parenting practices, treats can:

    • Show children that their parent is concerned about making them happy, and willing to do things that make them happy.
    • Set a positive mood to make a child more receptive to what a parent has to say.
    • Foster positive interactions between parents and children.
    Giving and receiving treats – shared moments of joy – can help to build strong parent-child relationships.
    "

    To be clear, it's not as if my wife and I never use food treats with our own children - we surely do but certainly not every day. More importantly our food treats are never given as rewards like Kinder's purchased experts suggest. Why not? Because it's thought that rewarding with food treats (called instrumental feeding) encourages and teaches children to eat for a myriad of cues and may further their risk of eating more than they need, which is probably why in guidelines on the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity rewarding with food is explicitly cautioned against.

    So when do we use food treats? Pretty much on a just because/sometimes food basis and we certainly don't link them with the completion of any activity or eating behaviour. We do however treat regularly. Treats may be "special time" with mom or dad, telling them how proud we are of them, how much we love them, warm hugs, favourite activities, etc.

    Now I can only hold out hope that Dr. Volk and Mary simply didn't think their involvement with Kinder through, and certainly from Dr. Volk's quote in Sarah Schmidt's article published yesterday in the Vancouver Sun, I wonder whether or not he really understands how Big Food works its magic,
    "I think we live in a consumer society, and it’s very refreshing to see companies taking interest in the welfare of children that they’re marketing to. You have to buy things for children, so for a company who wants to sell to children, I think it’s very responsible that they actually try to get experts on board"
    Dr. Volk, Kinder's job is to sell chocolate. They used you to do that. Nothing refreshing about it.

    [I had seen the campaign months ago but didn't look carefully enough at it. Thanks to Sarah Schmidt from Canwest for forcing me to take a closer look.]

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    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Thoughtful elementary students ignored in quest for healthier cafeteria.


    This is not a happy story.

    So roughly two weeks ago I received a series of emails from kids in a Canadian elementary school. The emails were sent to Health Canada as well as their school trustee, local papers and television as well as me (thanks kids!). The emails were quite straightforward.

    You see the kids were concerned that the food being sold to them in their school cafeteria did not reflect the food they were taught to eat in class.

    Here's a sampling of some of their concerns,

    "I think that it is not fair that you guys talk about healthy things and then you put junk food in our school's cafeteria. There is no healthy food in our cafeteria, but only deep fried garbage food."

    "We learned form our classes that we should not eat junk food too often, but I have to eat from the cafeteria because my mother works too much and has no time to cook for me. So, I want healthy foods served to me in my school."

    "I don't find it sensible to learn repetitively in science and phys.ed class about healthy food choices and be served the exact opposite in our school cafeterias."

    "I do not want to have angina or a heart attack in my early 20s because of the junk food in my school cafeteria. I do not have a variety to choose from. Many of this foods that are being served in my school's cafeteria are extremely unhealthy for us, so I want better and healthier choices in our cafeteria."

    "We had study in our science textbook that we have to eat healthy, but our school cafeteria sells junk food to us. So what's the point for studying health and eat heathy, when the bell rings and all we can buy is unhealthy food?"

    "I would REALLY appreciate if the cafeterias stops selling fried food, and sell some more healthy food like salad, which can actually HELP us grow, not destroy us."

    "My school cafeteria and food dispenser machines offer DEEP FRIED French fries, baked pizza, DEEP FRIED burgers, DEEP FRIED potato chips, DEEP FRIED apple pies, DEEP FRIED beef patties, candy, cookies, muffins, and sodas. Help us help ourselves. What can you do for us? Is there any hope to see healthy food in schools?"
    Great stuff right? Very valid concerns by real kids facing a real problem.

    So what did the school do to these young activists? I was curious myself so I decided to follow up with the kids and ask them what happened.

    Apparently the kids were given a private lecture where they were chastised, intimidated and shamed for what they'd done. They were told they were irresponsible for sending letters outside of the school; that their letters might cause the folks in the cafeteria to lose their jobs; and they were told that what they did was wrong. Here's one kid's words,
    "We were reprimanded, even though they told us that we weren't in trouble. They were just "disappointed and upset" because we had not told them about this. We were very intimidated, and felt like we were being looked down upon, for having our opinions."
    How sad is that? As if the school itself doesn't know what it's serving. Clearly the school was aware of what was being served and had they themselves cared the students would have already had healthy fare to choose from. And what kind of a lesson did the school just teach them - that they shouldn't question authority? That they shouldn't stand up for the causes they believe in?

    School cafeterias certainly need to change, hopefully there will be more students like these elementary students who are willing to stand up and demand good nutrition.

    Shame on everyone who gave those kids a hard time. As educators, you should know better. You not only owe those kids a healthy cafeteria, you owe them an apology.

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    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch - Saturday Edition


    I've noticed that there are often Saturday recipes as well.

    Here are the nutritional breakdowns for today's two recipes:

    Braised Beef Ribs with Pomegranate Jus:
    (per serving): 447 calories, 10g saturated fat, 838mg sodium, 21g total carbs.

    Cretons:
    (Not sure how to break this down - makes 2 pounds but is spread. Here's the breakdown for the entire recipe and if anyone makes it, email me and tell me how many cups it made and I can break it down by teaspoon): 3,793 calories, 105g saturated fat, 7,937mg sodium, 137g total carbs.

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 1.5 minutes per recipe]

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    Friday, June 12, 2009

    By 2025 American kids to be too obese to ride hoverboards?

    Oh ONN, how I love you Onion News Network.

    Today for Funny Friday watch and hear how Obama's vision for America changed after he visited a neighbourhood Denny's.

    [Fair warning - some occasional yet very foul language makes this NSFW or young ears]

    Have a great weekend!



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    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 4 - Progress?



    So yesterday I sent a letter to the Citizen and this time I expanded the list of folks to include the Citizen's Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott along with their publisher James Orban and their VP of Reader Sales and Service Paul Sarkozy. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, here's the letter which will help to explain,

    Dear Mr. Orban,

    My name is Yoni Freedhoff and I’m a Citizen subscriber here in Ottawa. I’m also a physician with a focused practice that deals with weight and nutrition. Advocacy is something I feel very strongly about and wish that more physicians and professionals would use their voices to help improve the life of their fellow Canadians. My advocacy efforts tend to focus on what I know best – nutrition.

    In April I was invited by the Ontario Medical Association to help them with their launch of an initiative to have calories legislated to be posted on chain restaurant menu boards and in school cafeterias. The Citizen, in their editorial on the matter (April 10th) did not support the initiative stating that legislation would not be necessary if consumers simply mounted an “ask before you order” campaign. Soon afterwards I noticed that in the Citizen’s Food section the published recipes lacked nutritional information and I wrote a letter to the editor asking that in the spirit of the “ask before you order” campaign suggested by the editorial board for posting of menu board calories, that I was asking the Citizen to publish nutritional information for its readers.

    Nothing came of that letter and so I decided to in fact go ahead and mount the campaign the editorial board suggested.

    First though I’d like to explain why. It’s not to vilify specific recipes or nutrients. Certainly life should include indulgent meals from time to time, but it is about providing a level playing field to help your readers make their own decisions as to whether or not the recipes meet their needs nutritionally. The fact is there are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. In fact I’d go further and state that even individuals who don’t currently feel nutritional information to be important, when faced with actual numbers, might well utilize them in their decision making. In publishing this information the Citizen would be doing a great service to its readers and providing the newspaper with a value added that could be promoted both in terms of Thursday sales and in terms of the Citizen’s caring for its readers.

    Three weeks ago I emailed Ron Eade with these suggestions and he kindly informed me that it wasn’t his decision to make and that instead I should contact Wendy Warburton as he was concerned regarding the cost involved. I did email Wendy and let her know that the cost would be negligible or even free as the internet has free resources to analyze recipes' nutritional content and there are programs such as the one I use that cost less than $20.

    I never heard back from her.

    The next week I emailed Ron privately and let him know that I was going to offer to do the work for the Citizen for free. I offered that were the Citizen to provide me with the recipes 24hrs. prior to the copy deadline that I would personally take the time to calculate calories, saturated fat, sodium and total carbs for each and every one. Ron emailed me back to let me know that he’d pass the request on up and again, I haven’t heard a peep.

    The campaign to have nutritional information published in the Citizen is slowly permeating local social networks. I blog about it weekly on my blog Weighty Matters and it’s been picked up by at least two other local bloggers and multiple local Twitter users and while I’m not suggesting that the Citizen must simply acquiesce to the request I’m surprised, especially given the uniform support expressed by folks commenting on the initiative, that to date the Citizen has simply chosen to ignore it. While I can’t imagine what it would be perhaps the Citizen has a reason why they would not want to take me up on my offer to provide them with free work that would serve to both enhance their content and empower their readers and I’m writing to you today in the hopes that you, or any of the other folks I’ve included on this email, might be able to provide me with some insight as to the decision making over there at the Citizen.

    Yours sincerely,
    Yoni Freedhoff
    So the good news?

    Gerry Nott, the Editor-in-Chief wrote me back to tell me it was the first he'd heard of my concerns and offer and that he'd bring it up with Wendy on her return from vacation on June 22.

    I realize you may have sent emails already, but perhaps you could drop Mr. Nott a line (and included in the email will be Wendy Warburton) and let him know how you feel about the matter. Please email them by clicking here and please consider doing so even if you've already emailed in the past (you can even cut and paste your old email from your sent messages folder).

    I know this subject has started to be cross-posted on various blogs and Twitter accounts (thanks!) - please consider reposting again or for the first time.

    Remember, it was the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus who suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather that consumer demand would do the trick. Let's see if they were right with regards to their own paper. Please consumers - make some demands.

    Here's the breakdown for this week's batch of three lonely Citizen recipes (The fact that this week's recipes are supposed to be geared towards diabetics certainly highlights the need for posted nutritionals as many diabetics utilize nutritional information to help manage their treatments):

    Basil Lamb Chops
    (per serving with low sodium V8 and no added salt): 362 calories, 13g saturated fat, 77mg sodium, 3g total carbs (add in the regular V8 and salt and sodium rises to 551mg per serving)

    Bar-B-Q Chicken/Foil Pack
    (per serving assuming 4): 274 calories, 3g saturated fat, 553mg sodium, 16g total carbohydrates.

    Bar-B-Q Sauce for Diabetics

    (per tablespoon): 10 calories, trace fat, 146mg sodium, 3g total carbs.

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 3 minutes per recipe]

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    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Jamie Oliver's at it again!


    You've heard of Jamie Oliver, right?

    He's the British chef who single handedly changed his nation's school meals, who's hired street kids and turned them into world class chefs, who's tried to use social networking to teach entire towns to cook.

    Now he's trying to create healthy kids' meals at hotels.

    Lord knows healthy kid meals are tough to come by on the road. Usually all you'll see are staples such as chicken fingers and fries, grilled cheese and fries, hot dogs and fries, macaroni and cheese and maybe a pizza.

    Well Jamie's now partnered up with Sweden's Scandic Hotels to revamp their nutritional fare and he's starting with the kids.

    Good on you Jamie. Hopefully it's a trend that other hotels will jump on.

    [Hat tip to Lorne, BMI's director of operations]

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    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    What the American Beverage Association and Philip Morris have in common.

    There was a letter to the editor in yesterday's New York Times. The letter was written by Ms. Susan K. Neely, the President of the American Beverage Association. According to their website the ABA`s members,

    "market hundreds of brands, flavors and packages, including regular and diet soft drinks, bottled water and water beverages, 100-percent juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and ready-to-drink teas."
    Susan was writing in response to an editorial where the New York Times called on the imposition of an excise tax on sugary beverages given their clear cut linkage to obesity and their dearth of health benefits.

    Those madmen!

    In any case, Susan was understandably upset. You see Susan represents many of the beverages upon which such a tax would impact. So what did Sally do? She followed the Big Tobacco Playbook. If you'd like to read the playbook have a gander at Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner's recent paper, The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food? in which the authors spell out how Big Tobacco's spin machine set out to delay the inevitable taxation and vilification of their product and then draw comparisons with Big Food.

    According to Brownell and Warner if Big Food plays by Big Tobacco's rules these are the plays we'll be seeing (with excerpts from Sally's letter italicized throughout):

  • Focus on personal responsibility as the cause of the nation’s unhealthy diet.

  • Raise fears that government action usurps personal freedom.
    "There are better initiatives to tackle obesity than discriminatory taxes."
  • Vilify critics with totalitarian language, characterizing them as the food police, leaders of a nanny state, and even “food fascists,” and accuse them of desiring to strip people of their civil liberties.

  • Criticize studies that hurt industry as “junk science.”
    "As policy makers seek ways to finance health care reform, we encourage them to seek broad-based, equitable solutions based on science, economic realities and common sense."
  • Emphasize physical activity over diet.
    "Balancing calories consumed with those expended through physical activity is the critical factor in preventing obesity."
  • State there are no good or bad foods; hence no food or food type (soft drinks, fast foods, etc.) should be targeted for change.
    "Scientists agree that there is no single cause of obesity, and there will be no single solution. In fact, a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reaffirms that calories are calories, regardless of their source. "
  • Plant doubt when concerns are raised about the industry.

  • Not bad Sally. You hit 4 of 7 plays in only 159 words!

    Thanks to the refreshments industry in both Canada and the US for providing such easy fodder for blogs.

    Oh and Brownell and Warner, you guys rock.

    Kelly D. Brownell, & Kenneth E. Warner (2009). Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food? The Milbank Quarterly, 87 (1), 259-294 PMID: 19298423

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    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Media chastised for not enough fatism?


    View Larger Map

    Nope, it's not happening in Bizarro-world, but certainly you'd never see this in North America!

    It's an article from a Dubai newspaper detailing the "flaying" of their media for not doing enough to dispel the

    "deep-rooted misconceptions about excessive weight being an indicator of good health"
    by the combined forces of their Ministry of Health and UNICEF.

    Contrast that with North America and Europe where you'd be hard pressed to find a non-negative portrayal of obesity in the press or elsewhere. In fact just this past year alone the press has managed to "link" obesity with global warming, rising fuel prices and contagion (the message being don't hang out with fat folks or you're liable to get fat too).

    I wonder what Dubai would make of the recent paper published last month in Obesity authored by Rebecca Puhl and Chelsea Howard who cover the stigma associated with obesity. Sadly their paper clocks in at a meaty 24 pages and covers the negative bias seen in:

  • Health Care Settings (including doctors, nurses, dietitians, medical students, and fitness trainers).
  • Educational Settings
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Entertainment Media
  • News Media
  • Advertisers

    And then they cover the unfortunately devastating impact this has on the obese.

    If I can give Dubai some words of advice - be careful what you wish for.

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  • Friday, June 05, 2009

    One monkey, no cup.

    Forgive the reference in the title (and if you don't know the reference, consider yourself lucky) and forgive the toilet humour. What can I say, I'm a simple man.

    Today's Funny Friday proves why it's always handy to have a camcorder when visiting the monkey cages.

    Have a great weekend!

    video

    [Hat tip to Lorne our Director of Operations at BMI]

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    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Help get nutritional information into the Ottawa Citizen!



    Unfortunately it seems this may become a recurrent Thursday topic.

    A few weeks agoI blogged about how I had written a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen asking that they publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes.

    It didn't get published.

    I then wrote Ron Eade, the Citizen's Food Editor with the same request and he informed me that it was a budgetary issue and suggested I contact Wendy Warburton the person in charge of making the decision to spend the $16.99 it would cost to buy the software to analyze the recipes.

    And so I did.

    She didn't write me back.

    So I'm at it again.

    The issue here is simple. There are tens of thousands of Citizen readers for whom nutritional information would be beneficial. Readers with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease and those who simply are concerned about their nutritional health. Those individuals would greatly benefit from having the Citizen publish nutritional information along with their recipes and frankly it's dead simple and dirt cheap to provide it.

    How dead simple and dirt cheap?

    It can't get any easier than this:

    If the Citizen provides ME with their recipes 24hours before their copy deadlines I will personally take the time to calculate the nutritional information for each and every Food Section recipe they print.
    So what say you Ron and Wendy?

    Zero cost, zero effort.

    Feel free to email Ron and Wendy by clicking here.

    If you're a local blogger or Twitter'er please repost. If you're not into blogging and such, just email this to your friends. Perhaps we can make enough noise to affect change for as you may recall, the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather than consumer demand would do the trick. Please consumers - make some demands.

    Until I hear back from them I guess you'll have to tune in here for breakdowns.

    Here's the breakdown for this week's batch of Citizen recipes:

    Saucy Spinach-Dressed Baked Spuds

    (per serving assuming 1/16 teaspoon of salt per): 449 calories, 10g saturated fat, 826mg sodium, 25g total carbs [A lot of salt and calories for a side dish and even if you leave out the salt altogether sodium only goes down to 692mg per].

    Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Glaze
    (per serving if you serve 6 and use 1/8 teaspoon salt to taste spread over the entire recipe): 487 calories, 817mg sodium (can easily trim this to 487mg by using light soy sauce and not adding salt to taste), 4g saturated fat, 53g total carbohydrates.

    Grilled Brats in Beer

    (per serving): 482 calories, 9g saturated fat, 832mg sodium, 31g total carbohydrates [This one will really vary dependent on your bun and bratwurst. I would take the numbers here as low estimates and figure they could easily double depending on what you buy - read your labels!]

    To-Die-For Decadent Burgers
    (per burger with NO fixings): 776 calories, 29g saturated fat, 592mg sodium, 22g total carbs [Obviously these numbers will climb with the fixings.]

    Roast Rack of Lamb
    (per serving with no salt to taste): 1,501 calories, 54g saturated fat, 871mg sodium, 34g total carbs.

    Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad
    (per serving): 36 calories, trace saturated fat, 98mg sodium, 7g total carbs.

    Tube Steaks (Hotdogs) with Pickled Onions
    (per serving not including ketchup or mustard): 554 calories, 13g saturated fat, 2,219mg sodium, 42g total carbs [Really, are hot dogs worth more than a day's worth of sodium? Your call of course].

    [All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 4.5 minutes per recipe]

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    Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    Flying Pig Served at Australian McDonald's?


    Not unless you think the photo above is helpful.

    To summarize, apparently McDonald's Australia is pushing for the mandatory posting of calories in fast food restaurants and their submission has received very positive play both in the news and the blogosphere.

    So what exactly is going on? Click here and you can read Peter Bush's, the CEO of McDonald's Australia's submission to the Australian's Parliament's Standing Committee on Health and Ageing's inquiry into obesity in Australia.

    To quote from the submission,

    "McDonald's Australia calls for the Federal Government to introduce mandatory nutrition labelling for quick service restaurants."
    Sounds good right? Pig droppings falling from the sky good right?

    Um, not so much.

    Let's read the next line,
    "By nutrition labeling we are referring to the Nutrition Information Panel"
    What's a nutrition information panel?

    It's a poster on the side wall of a restaurant that has lots of small print that no one reads or in some cases, a trayliner or a panel on the food itself (as in the photo above). That's a far cry from menuboard calories and according to a recent study I blogged about out of Yale, something that virtually no one ever bothers to look at.

    Sorry folks, nothing to see here - just a pig wearing fake fairy wings.

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    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Refreshments Canada President playing from Big Tobacco's playbook

    There was a letter to the editor in yesterday's Edmonton Journal. The letter was written by Mr. Justin Sherwood, the President of Refreshments Canada. According to their website Refreshments Canada,

    "represents more than 30 brands of beverages including bottled waters, juices and carbonated soft drinks, all of which have a place in a healthy, balanced lifestyle and offer consumers choice and variety."
    Justin was writing in response to a column written by Dr. Louis Francescutti (an ER doc and the President of the Alberta Public Health Association) who called for government regulations to ban trans fats, regulate advertising targeting children and remove harmful foods (trans fats, high-sugar and high-fat foods, and low-nutrient foods) from school vending machines.

    That madman!

    In any case, Justin was understandably upset. You see Justin represents many of the beverages that Dr. Francescutti's plan would see leave the schools. So what did Justin do? He proved Dr. Francescutti's point that Big Food is playing by Big Tobacco's playbook. If you'd like to read the playbook have a gander at Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner's recent paper, The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food? in which the authors spell out how Big Tobacco's spin machine set out to delay the inevitable taxation and vilification of their product and then draw comparisons with Big Food.

    According to Brownell and Warner if Big Food plays by Big Tobacco's rules these are the plays we'll be seeing (with excerpts from Justin's letter italicized throughout):

  • Focus on personal responsibility as the cause of the nation’s unhealthy diet.
    "Proper nutrition education at home and in the school system is the most effective way to teach young people to make choices in a healthy and balanced way"
  • Raise fears that government action usurps personal freedom.
    "I am writing to express concern over the heavy-handed approach to the theme of this opinion article."
  • Vilify critics with totalitarian language, characterizing them as the food police, leaders of a nanny state, and even “food fascists,” and accuse them of desiring to strip people of their civil liberties.
    "The author is obviously an experienced medical practitioner, but his misguided advice reflects his role as a civil and public servant, in that he insists on more government regulations to protect adults and children from making poor food choices."
  • Criticize studies that hurt industry as “junk science.”

  • Emphasize physical activity over diet.

  • State there are no good or bad foods; hence no food or food type
    (soft drinks, fast foods, etc.) should be targeted for change
    .
    "Obesity is a very complex issue which cannot be blamed on a single food or beverage group as the major cause."
  • Plant doubt when concerns are raised about the industry.
    "Refreshments Canada members have been working closely with nutrition experts in the education system to ensure that healthy beverage choices, which are age appropriate, are presented in public schools across Canada."
    Pretty impressive Justin - you hit almost all the plays and in only 225 words! No wonder you're the President of Refreshments Canada.

    Justin, if you're reading this, I don't hate your products. I do believe in choice. I don't however believe in misleading the public, spinning the truth and doctoring the message.

    Let's all hope that this time around the public is more savvy than during those bad old days of Big Tobacco.

    Kelly D. Brownell, & Kenneth E. Warner (2009). Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food? The Milbank Quarterly, 87 (1), 259-294 PMID: 19298423

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  • Monday, June 01, 2009

    Hamilton-Wentworth Schoolboard Votes Calories In!


    So in April I helped the Ontario Medical Association roll out their call for calories to be posted both on chain restaurant menus and in school cafeterias.

    I'm please to report that Hamilton Wentworth district schoolboard voted last week 5-4 to require cafeterias to "prominently display calories" of all menu items by September!

    Some of the dissenting members displayed common misconceptions about calories. Wes Hicks was quoted as stating,

    "It's the quality of what you eat and it's what you do after you eat calories"
    I suppose Wes thinks that exercise will burn off those calories and that if you choose healthy foods you needn't worry yourselves about calories.

    Frankly I'd be surprised if all 4 of these misconceived arguments didn't rear their heads:
    1. There's more to nutrition than simply calories (True. That said, I challenge everyone out there to tell me what nutritional determinant is more important at the end of the day than calories.)

    2. We should be focusing on exercise, not food (False. Despite a ridiculous amount of attention, research and program development there has yet to be a school based public health intervention focused on exercise that has impacted upon weight).

    3. Highlighting calories will promote eating disorders (False. There has never been a study to suggest that calorie awareness leads to eating disorders and further more I'd argue that taught properly kids should learn that there are in fact minimum numbers of calories per meal, snack and day that they should be seeking to both meet their nutritional needs and circumvent the influence of hunger).

    4. It's too difficult to organize (False. Calculating calories is not particularly difficult and furthermore, given the large institutional contracts for food provision, something that certainly could be included in negotiating the next year's delivery).
    Kudos to Hamilton-Wentworth for leading the way!

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