Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alberta's Ministry of Health recommends post meal cheese to prevent cavities?!


Christine, a blog reader and bariatric nurse from Alberta, sent me an email last week tipping me off to Alberta's The Amazing Little Cookbook.

The book, published by the "Healthy U" arm of Alberta's Ministry of Health, is a cookbook meant for children that aims to teach them how to cook healthy meals.

So what's my proverbial beef?

Simple. The recipes represent lowest common denominator nutrition. Nary a whole grain to be found. White bread, white flour, added salt, processed cheese, instant oatmeal, processed meats, bouillon cubes, tortilla chips, white pastas, oodles of juices, oodles of store bought sauces, gobs of ice cream and squeezes of fudge sauce.

And it wasn't just the recipes that got to me.

Smattered throughout the book are tidbits of "helpful" information.

Here are a few that caught my eye,

"Try not to portray food as "good" or "bad." Encourage a healthy attitude towards food — all foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet."

"Chocolate milk is just as nutritious as white. It has no more sugar than unsweetened orange juice - and kids think it’s a treat. Only you need to know its good for them too!"

"A cheesy smile is a good smile! Eating a piece of cheese after a meal or snack may actually prevent cavities because it helps protect against tooth decay."
Yes, Alberta's Ministry of Health in a cookbook specifically commissioned to help teach healthy eating to children teaches kids that there's no such thing as a bad food, that chocolate milk's a great choice and that eating cheese after a meal prevents cavities.

Hmm, those messages sure sound like Big Dairy messages.

And hey, when you look closer you find that of the 59 recipes, 49 include dairy products.

So colour me not surprised when I reached the end of the book to find the "Special Thanks" given to the Dairy Council of Alberta on the last page.

What an incredible waste of an opportunity to teach kids the joys of healthy cooking with whole fresh ingredients and provide some useful nutritional guidance. Instead Alberta's Ministry of Health has allowed their province's Dairy Council to put out a cookbook where the recipes basically scream out nutritional surrender; where they encourage child readers to grow themselves out of junk food; where they explicitly tell kids there's no such thing as junk food; where milk, even chocolate milk is magic; and where rather than make the crazy recommendation that kids brush their teeth after meals to prevent calories, advises them to eat cheese.

Brilliant work Alberta.

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10 comments:

  1. I actually had read elsewhere that cheese is good for dental health. As so often happnes, I haven't had time to confirm or refute.

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  2. Amanda S11:50 am

    I particularly like the Razzle Dazzle smoothie recipe on page 19 that calls for ¼ cup of sugar for 4 servings. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a smoothie with that amount of sugar as an ingredient! Or how about the Oh How Very Berry Delicious recipe on page 16 that teaches your children that fruit is not sweet enough – you need to dip it into a bowl of brown sugar to like it! There also seems to be a lot of butter and shortening used as ingredients, as well as only one little box encouraging whole grains. You can’t encourage whole grains but then show pictures of white pasta and bread! What kid isn’t going to like a recipe full of sugar and using white grain products?

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  3. Anonymous2:18 pm

    Playing the devil's advocate... I do think that a lot of the recipes are not very healthy; however, I do feel that it would be also wrong to create a resource that completely eliminates "bad" foods. Teaching people that there is a magical list of "good" foods and "bad" foods is not the way to go. It's trying to teach them how to eat healthy most of the time and to allow for some treats here and there. Therefore, I would suggest the creation of a resource that is more balanced. One that offers more healthy recipes but does allow for the occasional treat.

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  4. S Buhler MSc, RD6:21 pm

    I have some issues with the comments made in this blog post. First, cheese has been shown to have cariostatic (cavity preventing) properties. For a review of this literature see:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1834-7819.1991.tb01340.x/pdf

    Yes it would be good to have a recommendation about brushing your teeth but it's a cookbook not a dental hygiene guide. And, while I'm on cheese I didn't see any recommendation for using processed cheese.

    Also, I find it frustrating to focus on stopping children from eating fruit dipped in sugar when we know that the majority of children are not meeting guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. Lets get them eating actual fruit before we get concerned about the fact they might be dipping it in sugar.

    Also with respect to chocolate milk, it is similar to the example above. If the choice is between not drinking milk or drinking chocolate milk, the latter is a better decision. It may have more sugar but still contains the same calcium and protein as white milk.

    I agree there is not an emphasis on whole grains however it also doesn't specify white flour or white bread. In addition there are many recipes with beans as an ingredient which pack a significant nutritional punch.

    Yes there are things that could be done to improve the cookbook but to dismiss it outright using provocative words like "oodles" and "gobs" is not helpful to anyone. (By the way I would hardly describe one scoop of vanilla ice cream or sherbert as gobs, that's a pretty evidence-based measurement Dr. Friedhoff).

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  5. "Also, I find it frustrating to focus on stopping children from eating fruit dipped in sugar when we know that the majority of children are not meeting guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. Lets get them eating actual fruit before we get concerned about the fact they might be dipping it in sugar.

    Also with respect to chocolate milk, it is similar to the example above. If the choice is between not drinking milk or drinking chocolate milk, the latter is a better decision. It may have more sugar but still contains the same calcium and protein as white milk."


    While we're certainly allowed to disagree S. Buhler, I've got to say your quotes up above reflect what I believe to be wrong about the way many health professionals, doctors and dietitians alike, provide nutrition advice.

    Placing a focus on ensuring such things as an adequate calcium or protein intake without considering the bigger picture is what hamstrings efforts at encouraging healthy patterns of eating.

    Please see my post on this tomorrow.

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  6. *Sigh* Welcome to the province where they blow up hospitals.

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  7. mavis, CLWM, CPT5:41 pm

    Kids should not be provoked to select between chocolate milk or milk. That is retarded. ANY kid would pick chocolate milk. If the choice is between no milk and chocolate milk, CHANGE THAT by getting rid of the chocolate milk as an option.

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  8. Anonymous12:52 pm

    I'm a dietitian and also a parent to 3 children. I don't buy chocolate milk. When my kids are having a treat out, chocolate milk is an option along with pop and juice. I don't feel it is equivalent to white milk. Not even close. I teach my clients and my kids how much sugar is in chocolate milk, just as I do for pop and juice. They are usually dumbfounded as to how much is added.
    I cringe when I hear fellow dietitians spewing the 'everything in moderation' message without really considering the big picture. And I absolutely hate the assumption that kids won't eat fruit without additional sugar added. So one commenter says to get them eating fruit at any cost first...then they will suddenly start to eat it without the sugar???? Arggggg......!!!!!!!

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  9. I am not pro or against this cookbook - in fact, I was just about to post it too my blog when I found your article in an image search...
    You have given me quite the chuckle. I appreaciate your honest look and comments about this book.
    Have you come accross a book that you would recommend to families? Possibly one that is available for free like this one.

    cheers, Jen
    PS: Brushing your teeth 20 minutes after a meal is recommended. Eating a slice of cheese right after a meal puts good bacteria into your mouth that well... eat cavity causing bacteria. You still have to brush.. true- but the cheese thing is a better idea than dessert.

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  10. Hi Jen,

    I'm a fan of Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Canada's Podleski sisters.

    Best,
    Yoni

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