Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Doubles Down On Its Endorsement of Candy as Fruit

As mind boggling as the Heart and Stroke Foundation extending its official seal of approval to products with more sugar than candy, that contain virtually nothing in the way of vitamins, or minerals, and with health-washed packaging that dupes parents into thinking they're fruit equivalents, more mind boggling is their defense of that practice this morning.

Here are some tweets from both @TheHSF and @HSFHealthCheck to those who have expressed their concern that candy is being sold to parents as fruit.

I'm embedding the tweets so if they disappear, it's because the Heart and Stroke Foundation deleted them - it also means if you're on Twitter you can interact with them directly with replies straight from this blog post.

Before reading the tweets, have a peek up above at the nutritional information for SunRype fruitsource bites which per recommended serving have 6 teaspoons of sugar, bite per bite double the sugar of nibs, and they don't contain the vitamin C of even one lonely actual strawberry.RDs, would love for you to weigh in here. Are SunRype fruitsource bites a healthful product? Would you recommend them to parents?

And here again, is my video regarding this inanity.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Owes Canadians an Apology and Action

There's just no way to sugarcoat this. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, and specifically their Health Check program, in their selling of check marks to so called fruit leathers and fruit gummis, is overtly harming Canadian children's health - a generation which quite literally is the sickest generation of kids in modern history.

In the United States, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued General Mills for their fruit roll up labeling, and yet here in Canada we see the Heart and Stroke Foundation selling its front-of-package Health Check to products like SunRype fruitsource bites where by weight they're 80% sugar, with sugar being responsible for 96% of their calories.

And who buys these products? Parents for the most part, as consequent both to the Health Check and to the health washed package labeling that explicitly states that a serving of these candies replaces 2 actual servings of fruit, many parents truly believe that they're good for their kids.

A veritable case study in health-washing

It's no surprise that Health Check is trusted. In fact the Heart and Stroke Foundation's own research has shown that consumers interpret their Health Check marks to mean that product is,
"'nutritious', 'healthy', 'good for you' or 'approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.'"
And according to Health Check's About Us page,
"The Health Check logo tells you the food or menu item has been reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dietitians and can contribute to an overall healthy diet."
You tell me, does this product's nutrition information suggest to you that it contributes to an "overall healthy diet"?

Where's the fruit? All I see is sugar.

And if after peeking at the nutritional information you're still on the fence consider this. I went out and purchased some NIBS for a comparison. Here's a photo of 30g (fruitsource's recommended serving size) of each.

Not only are NIBS lower in sugar, you actually get more of them per 30g

While no one would ever confuse NIBS with health or fruit, consequent to health washed labeling and that Heart and Stroke Foundation Health Check up top, many might confuse fruitsource with actually healthful fruit. I wonder how many of those folks would be surprised to learn that per 30g serving the NIBS have 2.5 teaspoons less sugar than the fruitsource bites, which, bite per bite, contain nearly double the NIBS' sugar.

If you're angry, feel free to click here to send your message of concern to Ms. Bobbe Wood, the President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Please share this post and/or the video above far and wide as this is not ok. The Heart and Stroke Foundation and their dietitians do know better, and we as a nation, and especially our nation's children, deserve better - way, way, better.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Does Drinking Milk Pre-Meals Reduce Appetite?

Certainly that's what this study, Effects of milk as a recovery drink following exercise on subsequent appetite and energy intake in female recreational exercisers seems to conclude,
"In conclusion, the consumption of skimmed milk following 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous cycling exercise resulted in a reduction in subsequent energy intake, in female recreational exercisers."
But the thing is, it probably doesn't, at least not in the broad based way the conclusion is written.

It probably doesn't because what the study explored were the total calories consumed by female recreational exercisers who, an hour prior to an all-you-can-eat meal, drank either 600mL of skim milk or 600mL of orange juice.

Turns out, subjects who had a ginormous pre-load of milk instead of a ginormous pre-load of orange juice consumed 193 fewer calories (where the total included both the beverage's and the meal's calories).

So definitely, if you're planning to down more than half a litre of either juice or milk before your meal, it would seem that you'd be far better off with the milk.

But what about if your preload was water because, after all, 600mL of water has zero calories while 600mL of skim milk has 228 calories? My bet is that you'd consume fewer total calories because studies looking at the impact of caloric beverages vs. water and other zero calorie beverages demonstrate that indeed, we don't fully compensate for liquid calories (meaning drink calories with your meal and you'll consume more in the way of total meal time calories). In this study's case, if the choice had been water rather than milk, those sitting down to their all they can eat pasta meal would have needed to consume more than a cup more pasta to gather up milk's 228 calories.

What also seems impossible to me is that the study's authors weren't aware of the phenomenon of incomplete compensation for liquid calories when consuming a subsequent meal which in turn led me to wonder why their methodology didn't include a water arm, or a zero beverage arm for comparison. Could their omission have been purposeful, where the purpose would be to allow the authors to conclude that milk consumed post exercise is a wise plan for calorie reduction, this despite the very strong likelihood that doing so will almost certainly increase total calorie consumption for the combined meal and beverage?

So I asked one of the authors, Dr. Stevenson (far right in photo up above), on Twitter (@emmajstevenson), why there was no water arm,
But unfortunately, despite responding to other queries, she did not choose to respond to that one.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Bribery, RDs, Health-Washing, and Thrive Vitamin Fortified Ice Cream

I almost don't know where to begin, but let's start at square one which is a product called Thrive Ice Cream.

What's Thrive ice cream? Well think actual ice-cream, but fortified with vitamins, protein and pro-biotics.

Now think ice-cream fortified with vitamins, protein and pro-biotics, with voluminous amounts of health washing (including their tag line, "Frozen Nutrition") that suggests what they put into the ice cream somehow changes the fact at its base it's actual ice cream replete with ice cream sized piles of sugar and calories (or more as for instance Thrive Homemade Vanilla has 22% more calories and 2 teaspoons more sugar than an equivalent 6oz serving of Breyer's All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream).

Now think ice-cream fortified with vitamins, protein and pro-biotics with voluminous amounts of health washed ad copy whose parent company buys a booth at the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 8000 RD strong #FNCE conference and installs in it a money blowing booth in a bid presumably to quite literally buy the goodwill of dietitians.

I'm honestly not kidding. Here are some photos:

Making it rain at #FNCE 2013

According to the tweet, this RD left with $209 in her pocket!
So is Thrive really a bowlful of "Frozen Nutrition"? That's your call, but if you decide that it is and Thrive's not available near you, just go out, pick up some Breyer's and scoop yourself 3/4 of a cup, crush in both a multi-vitamin and an acidophilus tablet, and on the side eat a small 24 gram cube of cheese - because that'll give you pretty much the same "Frozen Nutrition" as Thrive.

Or, here's an idea, if you're worried about your health (or counselling anybody about theirs) don't frickin' pretend that vitamins, pro-biotics and protein make ice-cream a healthy choice!

To be fair, the product's FAQ says Thrive vitamin fortified ice-cream is for people who aren't in fact eating well and might otherwise be drinking Boosts and Ensures,
"Any individual in need of additional nutrition, such as those who are in or recently released from the hospital, skilled nursing, or assisted living facilities. It is especially beneficial to those individuals who are suffering from flavor fatigue or unable to consume adequate nutrition through conventional methods. Children under 12 should consult a physician."
But I don't think that's really their target market given that in one of their videos on YouTube, Thrive's CEO proudly explains,
"Thrive appeals to a very large demographic because 98% of the people in the US love to eat ice cream"
And have a gander at this 16 second video originally published by Thrive on YouTube.

Sure looks like they're marketing it to anyone with a pulse and not just those chugging back Boost....and what do you think the chances are that they contacted those kids' physicians prior to handing out their samples?

At the end of the day there's no doubt that for many ice cream is one of life's simple pleasures, but regardless of what you or anyone else puts in it, it'll never be better or worse for you than ice cream ever was.

[I wonder if it was worrying about shots like those up above, of RDs being showered with actual money at the booth of a questionable product, that led AND to ban photos from #FNCE this year - though they wouldn't have stopped these photos as these photos were taken and shared by Thrive's own RD, Holly Raine who, believe it or not, also just so happens to be the president elect of the Missouri Dietetic Association.]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Public Health, Halloween, and Hershey's

I've regularly stated that parenting, while incredibly challenging, can be boiled down to one straightforward instruction, "Live the life you want your children to live".

And while all of us parents do our bests therein, sometimes I feel that the same can't be said for our proverbial parents in health - public health departments and their kin.

This past weekend saw the City of Ottawa host a Halloween Trick or Treat with the Mayor. Sponsored by Hershey's, here's the description of the week before actual Halloween bash,
"Receive a warm welcome from the Mayor and get sweet treats from some of your favorite costumed characters in Jean Pigott Place, enjoy medieval fun at the Lisgar Street entrance and classic Halloween movies in Andrew S. Haydon Hall. The fun continues outside on Marion Dewar Plaza where you can decorate your very own miniature pumpkin in the outdoor pumpkin patch and enjoy horse-drawn hay rides, where even more treats from our sponsors await you!"
For my non-Ottawan readers, our Mayor, Jim Watson, was formerly Ontario's Minister of Health Promotion and knows well the challenges our current environment poses. No doubt, these days, our children are not lacking in opportunities to be given candy, especially not in October, and from a public health perspective, our children need fewer opportunities for treats, and cities, public health departments, schools, hospitals and the like, need to provide more examples of working with children without leaning on the crutch of candy to make them happy.

I tweeted Mayor Watson my concerns and he let me know that alongside the candy the City was also handing out apples, tooth brushes and glow sticks.

Maybe next year they can ditch the candy (and the tooth brushes, and Hershey's sponsorship), keep the glow sticks, and also pick up some temporary tattoos, stickers and the free passes for swims and skates at City recreation facilities as I'm pretty sure Ottawa's kids won't be lacking in opportunities to be given candy this week.

All of this to say, we can, and should, do better.

For more thoughts herein, if you haven't watched it already, here's the talk I gave last year to the Ontario Public Health Association (which led to their being strong-armed briefly with the threat of a lawsuit from the food industry) where I point out many more contradictions in public health.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jimmy Kimmel Makes Me Laugh (aka I'm a Simpleton)

Today's Funny Friday is Jimmy Kimmel's weekly instalment of unnecessary censorship

Have a great weekend

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Making Halloween a Little Bit Less of a Nutritional Horror Show

It's coming.

And I'm not really all that worried. At least not about Halloween night.

The fact is food's not simply fuel, and like it or not, Halloween and candy are part of the very fabric of North American culture and to suggest that kids shouldn't enjoy candy on Halloween isn't an approach I would support.

That said, Halloween sure isn't pretty. On average every Halloween sized candy contains in the order of 2 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of 2 Oreo cookies and I'd bet most Halloween eves there are more kids consuming 10 or more Halloween treats than less - 20 teaspoons of sugar and the calories of more than half an entire package of Oreos (there are 36 cookies in a package of Oreos).

So what's a health conscious parent to do?

Use Halloween as a teachable moment. After all, it's not Halloween day that's the real problem, the real problem are the other 364 days of Halloween where we as a society have very unwisely decided to reward, pacify and entertain kids with junk food or candy (see my piece on the 365 days of Halloween here). So what can be taught on Halloween?

Well firstly I think it's worth chatting about sugar and calories, and those rule of thumb figures up above provide easy visualizable metrics for kids and parents alike.

Secondly it allows for a discussion around "thoughtful reduction". Remember, the goal is the healthiest life that can be enjoyed, and that goes for kids too, and consequently the smallest amount of candy that a kid is going to need to enjoy Halloween is likely a larger amount than a plain old boring Thursday. In my house it's 3 pieces - so our kids come home, they dump their sacks, and rather than just eat randomly from a massive pile they hunt out the 3 treats they think would be the most awesome and then take their time enjoying them.

The rest?

Well it goes into the cupboard and gets metered out at a rate of around a candy a day....but strangely....and I'm not entirely sure how this happens....after the kids go to sleep the piles seem to shrink more quickly than math would predict.

You might also consider donating the candy to a local food bank or mission, or you could check to see if the Switch Witch works in your neighbourhood, where like the Tooth Fairy, the Switch Witch, on Halloween, flies around looking for piles of candy to "switch" for toys.

And if you do happen upon our home, we haven't given out candy since 2006 and we haven't been egged either. You can buy Halloween coloured play-doh packs of 50 for $15 at Costco, Halloween stickers or temporary tattoos at the dollar store, or if your community is enlightened, you might even be able to pick up free swim or skate passes for your local arena (they run about 50 cents per so if you're in a very busy neighbourhood this can get pricey).

Do you have other strategies you'd like to share?

[Here's me chatting about the subject with CBC Toronto's Matt Galloway]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Banned #FNCE Expo Photos?!

This one's too fascinating not to mention.

The past few days the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) held their massive annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.

Now I would have thought that an "exposition", a large public exhibit of art or trade goods, would by definition encourage the dissemination of said public exhibit.



Instead AND had a "No Photography on the Expo Floor" policy which according to the photo up above's source, RD Andy Bellatti, was only enforced by Coca-Cola (way to "Come Together" Coca-Cola - nothing says "together" like a photo ban) and PepsiCo.

Regardless of whether or not the ban was enforced or who enforced it, I'd say the simple fact that the exposition floor photo ban existed speaks volumes about AND's credibility and transparency as the only reason to have a ban against photos of an exposition is if there was something (or someone) there they (or one or two of their most major sponsors) wanted to hide.

If I were a member of AND, I'd be furious, as no doubt the ban looks far worse on them than any pictures ever could.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Childrens' Hospitals' Slices For Smiles Pizza Pizza Partnership WAY Worse Than I Thought

Pic Courtesy of David Huynh
I've blogged about Slices for Smiles before (for those who aren't aware, Slices for Smiles is a fundraising partnership between Canadian fast food giant Pizza Pizza and all major Canadian children's hospitals via the Children's Miracle Network of hospitals) - and recently my brother-in-law Lorne received an advertisement via email that it was coming back for its second two week stint of the year.

But of course it's not just a two week period. Here's Pizza Pizza to explain,
"Pizza Pizza´s fundraising campaign for Slices for Smiles is a year-long initiative. There are a number of ways to get involved and support a great cause!

Donation boxes: drop off change in our counter-top donation boxes in all participating restaurants

Your own fundraiser: organize an event with your family, friends or community to help contribute to the Foundation.

Customer Appreciation Days: held at locations across the country, these events feature fun activities and donation drives. Bring the whole family for pizza, games and fundraising for children´s charities.

Slices for Smiles weeks: Show your support during Pizza Pizza´s Slices for Smiles Weeks throughout April and October. Purchase special menu items or add a donation onto any order.
According to Pizza Pizza the partnership has raised $1,000,000 for the network since 2007.

12 hospitals are supported by the Children's Miracle Network.

$1,000,000 divided by 7 years of fundraising = $142,857.14 per year.

$142,857.14 divided by 12 hospitals = $11,904.76 per hospital per year.

And in return?

Well as least here in Ontario, in return for a measly $11,904.76 a year, Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, McMaster's Children's Hospital in Hamilton, and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) allow year long store based co-branding of their institutions with Pizza Pizza, and then spend a full month directly promoting, permitting and health washing the sale of fast food pizza - a food that is the number one provider of sodium in the average North American child's diet and the number two provider of calories (behind sugar sweetened beverages). So, doing the math, assuming an equal split between hospitals, the annual return for the childrens' hospitals for health washing fast food pizza amounts to $32.61 per hospital per day.

While personally I'm of the mind that no amount of money would justify the co-branded sale of junk food by hospitals, here's hoping the hospital administrators take a moment and ponder whether or not their ongoing help at normalizing the regular consumption and purchase of fast food might be worth more than $32.61 a day, which assuming an equal split between hospitals, in the case of CHEO, over a year, represents 0.005% of their annual revenue which in turn covers a grand total of 4.36 seconds of their daily operating expenses. I mean if your hospital is going to be a complete and total sell out, might as well go big or go home, no?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Canadian Diabetes Association Health-Washes 7.25tsp of Sugar Per Glass!

Though I can't say I was shocked, I can say I was horrified when while visiting my parents this past weekend I opened their fridge only to find the Canadian Diabetes Association's (CDA) logo emblazoned on the side of an already insanely health-washed bottle of Lassonde's Oasis "Cranberry Antioxia" (and no, "antioxia" is not a typo).

Like all such beverages Oasis Cranberry Antioxia is basically sugar water. The first ingredient is water. The second, third, fourth, and fifth, for all intents and purposes, are sugar in that they're "fruit juice concentrates" because when you concentrate a juice, you're left with a heaping pile of sugar, which in the case of Oasis Cranberry Antioxia amounts to 7.25 teaspoons of sugar per glass.

While 7.25tsp of sugar a glass is a bad plan for anyone, and even a smidge more than you'd get in an equivalently sized glass of Coca-Cola, it'd be an especially poor choice for a diabetic.

And yet, there's the CDA's logo on the bottle.

And why's it there?

While I'm only guessing, it would seem it's there because the CDA thinks money is more important than integrity or health as the fine print just above the horrifically ironic inclusion of their logo on a glass of sugar water reports that Lassonde's Oasis is a "proud supporter" of the CDA.

And given Lassonde's Oasis product repertoire I think it's totally fitting for them to give money to the CDA, but at the cost of this sugary co-branding I would have hoped that the incredibly minute amount of wisdom required to see these as ill gotten gains, would be possessed by someone over at the CDA.

Guess I'd have been wrong.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What If Characters in Horror Films Acted Sensibly?

Loved this quick take on horror films. That said, today's Funny Friday, a trailer for "Hell No!", has a foul language warning.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine, or is Cocaine as Addictive as Oreos?

In case you hadn't heard, rats like Oreo cookies. How much do they like them? I'm not sure anyone will ever really be able to quantify that, but that didn't stop a recent press release that highlighted a study that looked at, not whether or not Oreos are addictive, but rather how long rats who had enjoyed Oreos on a particular side of a maze spent on that same side when Oreos weren't there, from concluding that Oreos are at least as addictive as cocaine.

Results wise, not even remotely surprisingly, rats lingered on the Oreo side of the maze longer than they did on the rice cake side of the maze. Apparently they lingered on the Oreo side for just as long as they did when the conditions were changed to include a shot of cocaine or morphine vs. a shot of saline. Researchers went one step further and after harvesting the rats' brains they measured how much of a particular protein (c-Fos) was being expressed in the rats' brains' pleasure centres in both the Oreo condition and the cocaine condition.

And can you guess what happened next?

Turns out rat brains' reward centres respond to Oreos.

Turns out too that the media like stories that suggest junk food is more or similarly addictive to cocaine.

I find these stories frustrating. Putting aside any concerns with experimental methodologies, if our pleasures centres didn't light up like Christmas trees when faced with sugars and fats then I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be over 7 billion of us walking the planet, because up until only about a millisecond or so in the grand scheme of time, those who were more driven to eat were the only ones who survived. To put this another way, the fact that energy dense foods are neurochemically rewarding is anything but surprising when considering the hundreds of millions of years of dietary insecurity that have seared and forged our physiology.

So what's fascinating to me isn't the fact that Oreos light up the parts of our brains that enjoy cocaine, but rather that cocaine lights up those parts of our brains that enjoy Oreos.

[Thanks to blog reader Rosemary Rich for sending the incredibly amusing Gawker writeup of this study my way]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Real Life Example of Healthful School Fundraising!

It can be done!

And for many other suggestions of how to do it, CSPI has compiled a handy dandy resource (though please ignore their inclusion of granola bars in their healthy column....not sure what they were thinking there given the majority of granola bars are basically just less yummy candy bars in their nutritional breakdowns).

[Thanks to Jonathan Clow for sending my way!]

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Boxer Mikaela Mayer Sells Out Her Young Impressionable Fans to Dr. Pepper

Original Image Source - EveryJoe
Hot off the heels of last week's study that explored the nutritional awfulness that professional athletes endorse comes this video from Mikaela Mayer.

Ms. Mayer, also a former model, at 22, is the number one ranked amateur female boxer in the world, and judging from her latest video for Dr. Pepper, which leads with a reference to, "millions of girls", Dr. Pepper is targeting young women with her campaign for the beverage that in a single can has just shy of 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Now I wouldn't have expected Ms. Mayer to have given a second thought to agreeing to shill for Dr. Pepper because quite frankly, to date, it's considered a totally normal behaviour for athletes and celebrities to endorse soft drinks, fast food and junk food. Consequently if the behaviour is normal, why would anyone, let alone a young, up and coming boxer, think about the impact of their decision to join the fray?

Here's hoping that awful normal changes with time.

[Thanks to blog reader Verna Clark for sending the advertisement my way]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Corporate "Social Responsibility" Coca-Cola Teens' Style

Do me a favour.

Have a peek at the pictures and watch the video below and tell me if you think Coca-Cola's "social responsibility" efforts are about being socially responsible, or about brand building and health washing?

When I watched the video (released by Coca-Cola and featuring young teen soccer players) a quote from Michael Moss' fabulous Salt, Sugar, Fat - How the Food Giants Hooked Us (which I reviewed here) leaped to mind. It was from a Coca-Cola executive who was discussing Coca-Cola's (rather empty) promise not to target kids under 12,
magically, when they would turn twelve, we’d suddenly attack them like a bunch of wolves."
Gotta love their spunky t-shirts too - describing Coca-Cola to the highly jazzed young children as,
"A Refreshing Summer Boost"

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Stories: Losing Weight, Vitamins and Homework

Great post from my friend and colleague Arya Sharma entitled, "No, You Do Not Need to Lose Weight".

One of my favourite science writers Alex Hutchinson (author of the awesome Which Comes First Cardio or Weight which I reviewed here), in Outside magazine ponders whether or not vitamin supplements are useless, or worse than useless?

An amazing read from Karl Taro Greenberg in the Atlantic on the week he decided to do his 13 year old daughter's homework.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, my weekly US News and World Report piece is on how while you are almost certainly not protein deficient, you might not be using it properly, here's a piece of mine from Fitocracy on the dreaded "CE Syndrome" that affects gym goers everywhere, and here's a segment I did with CTV News where I compared a Starbucks Walnut Banana loaf slice to a Burger King Double Stacker]

Friday, October 11, 2013

"I Don't Think That Was a Grape Nut"


Today's Funny Friday is beyond insane....for so many reasons....but it's not for the weak of stomach.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Even Little Kids Know That "Kids' Foods" Are a Bunch of Sugary Bulls*&!

Thanks to my friend and Canada Research Chair in Food Marketing, the University of Calgary's Charlene Elliot, for sending me her 2011 journal article on what actual kids think about kids foods.

They think what I think - that kids foods are generally sugary junk food designed to appease children.

Some quotes,
"Moderator: When you think of kids’ food, what do you think of? Why?

– Junk food! (Grade 1)
– Junk! (Grade 1)
– I think sugary stuff…cause lots of kids like sugar. (Grade 1)
– Um, it makes me think of candy. (Grade 3)
– Candy and chocolate because they are unhealthy and no good. (Grade 1)
– What comes to my mind is junk food. Well, it’s not just for kids but kids usually enjoy it because it’s sugar and kids love sugar. (Grade 3)
– Cookies and candies and that kind of thing. It’s food thatkids appreciate. It’s better. (Grade 3)
– Lucky Charms because kids like, um, sugar. (Grade 1)
– All of these great cereals…because it’s all like sugary!(Grade 3)
– I don’t know…I think some foods are made for kids… Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, Alpha Bits…because they have, um, pictures of characters on them. (Grade 5)
– Well, I think that kids’ foods are like stuff that you see on TV, like pretty much comic characters. I mean like the Dora would be good for little kids, and the Mini Chefs…and you just think of mini and you think of kids. Kids’ food would mean food that you kind of either have more sugar in them or be like Mini Chefs that have the animal shapes and stuff. (Grade 3)
And all of this leads me to my colleague Dr. David Katz' recent editorial. It's worth a read (they don't call him the poet laureate of medicine for nothing), but the gist of his message is his call to action to end the practice of kids' food and the establishment of a symbolic day of national kid food boycott. Here's my favourite line from his tremendous piece,
"Most mammals seem to take the basic care and feeding of their offspring very seriously. Most mammals seem to recognize childhood as the time to cultivate the dietary aptitudes and attitudes that will shape a lifetime of sustenance. Our own species, or at least its currently prevailing culture, seems inclined to treat the feeding of our children as something of a joke. We seem inclined to confront the prominence of junk food in the diets of our children with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, as if it were at worst cute—at best, a legitimate food group in its own right."

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

If I Hadn't Seen It, I Wouldn't Have Believed It.

Yet believe it I do.

It's a photograph taken by a patient (who wishes to remain anonymous) whose physician works at Rockville Maryland's Spectrum Family Health Center where if you join their practice you too can redeem their coupon for a free bag of chips, a candy bar or a soda for any new or transferred prescription!

Of course you could also choose to hightail it out of there as clearly the physicians there simply don't have a clue.

(And in an apropos twist, Spectrum Family Health Center's website, at least according to Google Chrome, is infected with malware. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they also struggled to keep their plants alive.)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Book Review: The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens, and Teens Thrive

[Full disclosure: This is an unsolicited review of a book I personally purchased]
Today's is a guest post by my wonderful wife Stacey, who also happens to be an MSW who has dedicated her professional career to working with children, and who is now also part of our office's Family Reset program.
I have been working in the field of child and adolescent mental health for almost ten years as part of our local children's hospital's crisis intervention unit. During those same ten years I have been raising three little girls. As a clinician, I give advice to parents almost daily about child development, discipline, structure, healthy living, communication and self-esteem. As a parent, I have perseverated about all of them as they relate to my personal life and in particular my own parenting style: wondering if I am too strict or at times too lenient and if the consequences make sense; asking myself if my concerns are valid or over-reactive; questioning whether correcting my children’s oddities are more harmful than helpful. In essence, and like many parents that I meet, what I worry about most are my children’s self-esteem, and what kind of influence, good or bad, I am having on it.

The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens, and Teens Thrive by Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a relatively short and sweet, well-crafted book that offers direct answers to some very difficult questions that most of us will face throughout parenthood. Marci has spent much of her life struggling with her own disordered eating while giving advice to others on how to live healthy lives. She explains at the onset how her recovery impacted on her desire to help others through the “Fit vs Fiction” project, which is aimed at arming kids with the self-confidence they need to be who they want rather than who they think they are supposed to be.
Teaching others to change themselves in order to be accepted/not bullied is never a good idea. If our self-esteem was supposed to come from other people, it would be called “others-esteem” instead!
Chapter by chapter Marci provies guidelines that help us to address and challenge myths, stereotypes, fat-bias, negative self-talk, media and advertising (including cartoons, magazines and the internet), peer influence, intergenerational baggage, the role of schools, teachers and coaches, and difficult questions that will confront us from the mouths of our babes. The message throughout remains clear: healthy role-modeling is the key to influencing our children and improving their self-esteem. We are reminded that our children are always listening and watching, even when we think that they are not, and that if we want our children to be comfortable in their skin, then we need to show them how by first being comfortable in our own.

Useful tips with “Try This!” suggestions for family games and activities appear throughout the book along with real questions and solid answers that address self-esteem, bullying, body-image and more. These are presented again with a nice little Quick Reference guide at the back of the book that also includes Internet resources mentioned throughout the book and Eating Disorder warning signs. The final two pages of the book are possibly my favorite part. They are sample body image pledges. LOVE. THESE.

By shifting the discussion from “weight” and “diet” to “health”, Marci guides us to redefine our happiness, our value as human beings, and our self-worth in relation to who we are and what we do, not by how we look or what we weigh. The “focus should be on raising healthy kids, not necessarily skinny ones.”

While I did not see eye to eye with Marci on the importance of role-modeling by our schools as far as making food options there more healthful (she argues that this is not the solution, but rather teaching our children about healthy living is; I believe that both are essential, as Yoni often says, flooding can’t be managed through swimming lessons alone), I agree with her overall message that we need to arm our kids with information about the health benefits of nutritious food and active living rather than focusing on the impact of calories on weight.

I have been and will continue to recommend this book to many of my parent-clients of children with overweight/obesity as well as parents of children without overweight/obesity. It is a concise, well written, incredibly useful guide for all parents who have ever worried about their child’s self-esteem or body image, and for those parents who have struggled with these issues themselves.

(If you'd like to buy a copy for yourself, here's an Amazon Associates link.)

Monday, October 07, 2013

Athletes, Junk Food, and The Genesis of Shame

Photo via my friend and colleague Rob Stevenson (coincidentally sent to me yesterday)
In an article published today in the journal Pediatrics, Kelly Brownell and his team quantify the food endorsements of professional athletes in terms of nutritional quality.

In what no doubt is an entirely unsurprising result, the authors found that the foods endorsed by athletes were pretty much garbage. 79% of the foods the top 100 athletes (as determined by Bloomberg's 2010 Power 100 rankings) shilled for were energy dense and nutrient poor. 93.4% of the beverages shilled had 100% of their calories coming from added sugars.

And the world's worst sport celebrity offenders? LeBron James, Peyton Manning and Serena Williams.

The study's authors point out that back in the day Big Tobacco also used sports celebrities to endorse their poison, but that in 1964 the tobacco industry adopted the voluntary Cigarette Advertising Code that forbid the use of sports celebrities.

Now I don't expect Big Food to follow suit, at least not any time soon, but the authors also discuss an interesting 2004 story out of China back when their largest cigarette company (one not beholden to the American voluntary code), signed a 21 year old Olympic gold medalist hurdler to endorse their brand in print ad and commercials. What happened next is heartening. Criticism was so fierce that Beijing TV dropped the commercial. Eventually, even Liu, an athlete reported to "endorse everything", said no to the Big Tobacco paycheque.

Exactly why Liu finally walked away is something we'll never truly know, but I can't help but imagine that shame, or at the very least intractable embarrassment and/or scrutiny that was anathema to his desired image, helped to make his decision.

And that's why this journal article's important.

It's not that it was ever a secret that athletes abused their fans' trust by endorsing junk food, in fact their endorsements have become so normalized that no one thinks to criticize. Writing this article on Saturday morning, two days before the embargo lifts, I'm betting this story is going to make a great many newswires today and in so doing, markedly help in the denormalization of sport-celebrity junk food endorsement. More importantly, it will provide the media with an easy and obvious hat to hang an article on each and every time the LeBron James, Peyton Mannings and Serena Williams of the world try to make a buck off the health of children.

And let me say to Mr. James, Mr. Manning and Ms. Williams specifically here - shame on you. Shame on all of you.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Saturday Stories: Guns, Bias and Oz

A fascinating long read from last Sunday's New York Times on kids and guns and the true number of accidental deaths.

Caitlin Seida on Salon talks weight stigma and her.

Scott Gavura on Science Based Medicine takes on Dr. Oz' 15 superfoods.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this week's US News piece preaches calorie awareness and foodscapes, and here's a podcast I did with Evil Sugar Radio discussing weight loss philosophies, our kids' program and the Biggest Loser.]

Friday, October 04, 2013

LOL Advice on How to be a Tourist in NYC

Having had the need to visit NYC a great deal these past few years, today's Funny Friday video spoke to me directly.

And it called me a jerk.

It's probably right.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

BREAKING NEWS! Nutella USA "Grossly Exaggerating" Serving Size. Urgent Recall Pending?

So remember that Nutella video I posted? The one where I explored what's in 2 TBSP of the stuff?

Well in one of the funniest (truly) pieces I've read in defense of a product, Ferraro Canada President Allan Cosman, in an email to Global News' Carmen Chai wrote that my deconstruction was a "gross exaggeration", in that two tablespoons is twice the serving size on the label.

Now of course I explained in my video that I relied on what most people actually put on a piece of bread rather than the recommendation which led Cosman to state,
"In this context, the premise that the demonstration is based upon is a gross exaggeration, as are the conclusions"
But have a peek up above.

That jar of Nutella's serving size is described as 2 TBSP.

That's the jar sold all across the USA in what is clearly a "gross exaggeration" of what people should (or do) actually use.

The best part of that global article though had to be Ferraro's website defense of their hazelnut icing as brain food by including as described by Chai,
"Ferrero also says that scientists worldwide suggest that the human brain needs 130 grams of glucose to function daily. One tablespoon of Nutella has about 11 grams of sugar, 100 calories and six grams of fat, according to its website."
In case you missed the video the first time around, here it is again:

[Thanks to Twitter's afarmer316 for the photo!]

The Staggeringly Stupid Tweets of Coca-Cola's SVP of Communications


If this is what Coca-Cola's Sonya Soutus says about healthy eaters and those of us who think the world drinks too many sugar-sweetened sodas through the wide open door of Twitter, I can't imagine what she says behind closed doors.

And before you get to the tweets (and a quick quip from me), bear in mind, Ms. Soutus is Coca-Cola's Senior Vice President of Communications.

Seems to me what she's communicating is disdain and anything but "Coming Together" (Coca-Cola's catch phrase to describe how much they care about helping to fight obesity).

BTW - I RT'ed Ms. Soutus' first tweet. Click here and you can read what others had to say (and join in yourself if you were so inclined).

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Can Salads Ever Be Considered "Fast" Food?

I think it's an important question given all of the hoopla over the announcement that over the course of the next seven YEARS McDonald's will allow consumers to order side salads with their Big Macs and other sandwiches (see Marion Nestle's always thoughtful take on this here).

So here's the rub as I see it.

Salads aren't fast. I mean they're literally not fast. You can't really eat a salad on the run. Instead you have to sit down, tear open the dressing, dress the salad (sometimes more than once if the container is deep), toss the salad, use a fork, and chew a fair amount. Contrast that with sandwiches and fries that can be eaten with one hand, and which are designed to almost be swallowed without chewing.

Perhaps that's why McDonald's reports that their current salad offerings (which have been on the menu for an awfully long time) only make up 2% of sales.

And consider this. 65% of McDonald's sales come from their drive-thru windows.

Take a peek at the McCombo in the advertisement put out by McDonald's to celebrate their announcement. Do you think that's drive thru fare?

At the end of the day people go to fast food establishments for literally fast food. Unless someone can figure out how to make salads literally fast, putting them on menus is not likely to lead to salad sales, but it will likely lead to decreased scrutiny of McDonald's - something I have no doubt they're literally banking on.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A Personal Request for Help

Dear folks,

Long term readers know that every once and a while I'll ask for some help, and that more often than not it has to do with charitable fundraising. In this particular case, fundraising for breast cancer research.

In what looks to be my new tradition, if you value my ad-free blogging, I would love for you to consider sponsoring my 9 year old daughter's CIBC Run for the Cure fundraising effort (you should know too, CIBC and Komen are NOT in any way related and CIBC has not sold out the way Komen has to pink wash questionable products, though I am saddened to see East Side Mario's getting pink washed via the CIBC run - may need a new cause to run for next year).

This will be her 4th year running the full 5kms, and as parents my wife and I are hoping that these runs will help in part to teach her the importance of community - and that's where you come in.

While I'll never ask you for money for the work I do here, if you had even just $5 or $10 to spare, I'd love it if you could both support worthwhile research, and at the same time help to inspire my daughter by teaching her about the generosity, caring and power of a community.

Please click here to be taken to her fundraising page to make your fully tax-deductible donation.