Monday, June 25, 2018

Where The Hell Is Canada's New Food Guide?

In case you missed the news, New Brunswick recently banned the sale of chocolate milk and juice in their schools.

It's a welcome move, and one that will be undoubtedly be adopted nation wide following the long delayed publication of Canada's next Food Guide.

Canada's Food Guide, last published in 2007, inexplicably and explicitly, reports that chocolate milk is a healthy dairy choice (that it also suggests dairy is such a magical food that it requires it's own Food Guide category is a whole other kettle of inexplicability). Or maybe it isn't that inexplicable in that on the then Food Guide's 12 member advisory committee was Sydney Massey, the Nutrition Education Manager and Spokesperson for the BC Dairy Foundation, where their homepage at the time featured the campaign,
"Don't tell Mom, but Chocolate Milk is good for you"
The next one, won't.

I know this in part because back in 2014, Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, the Director General of Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion (the office in charge of the Food Guide), agreed with me during our then debate, that chocolate milk shouldn't be deemed a health food by our Food Guide,
"One thing we're doing right now is doing a reassessment of all of those things and certainly me personally, I agree with Yoni that it (chocolate milk) should not be there either"
And in May 2015 he was quoted by the CMAJ on juice stating,
"You won’t be seeing that anymore … and there’ll be a fair number of new materials coming out in the next few months."
I also know this because even McDonald's appreciates that chocolate milk, with more calories and sugar drop per drop than Coca-Cola, shouldn't be routinely offered to children.

So here's my first question.

If, in 2007, Canada's Food Guide had explained that chocolate milk is to milk what apple pie is to apples, and that it should be considered a treat rather than a health food, and that no, juice is not the same as fruit, do you think we'd be seeing these actual responses and comments posted on Facebook and on the CBC article in response to the news out of New Brunswick?
"How the hell can juice be bad for you I doubt orange and apple and cranberry juice is bad for your health CFDA would have ban the stuff decades ago"

"It is crazy and stupid. especially since the school officials are comparing the natural sugars found In the cocoa that makes it chocolate to the artificially added high fructose corn syrup used to sweeten coca cola."

"Ugh get a life people! Chocolate milk is some parents only option to get their kids to drink milk. And as far as juices they sell apple and orange at school so are they now telling us apple and OJ juices are bad??"

"I agree, pop and juice fine. Chocolate milk is filled with nutrients."
Because the thing is, though no one shops with Canada's Food Guide in hand, its recommendations do permeate national consciousness. And more to the point of this post, they inform school food policies. Once the new Food Guide is published, and assuming it explicitly recommends limiting sugar sweetened beverages and juice (and it will), all provinces will undoubtedly soon fall in line with New Brunswick.

And here's the most pertinent question. It's been 4.5 years since Dr. Hutchinson agreed chocolate milk should be off the Food Guide's menu, and 3 years since he went on record stating that juice's days are also numbered, so how is it possible that we're still waiting?

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday Stories: False Hope, Dr. Ruth, and Opioids

By Rhododendrites - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Lindsay Gellman, in Longreads, on German alternative cancer treatment clinics catering to foreigners and selling very expensive hope .

George Packer, in the New Yorker, with another reason to adore Dr. Ruth.

Elisabeth Poorman, in Common Health, with her personal take as a physician on the opioid crisis.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's a recent episode of my much neglected Weighty Mutters podcast where I chat with my 11 year old about sports drinks and track and field days]

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ParticipACTION Report Cards Remind Us Every Year How Badly We're Failing Canadian Children

(Originally posted in 2016. Since nothing's changed, reupping it with 2018 data)
We suck at helping our kids to be active.

Here are the past 14 years of ParticipACTION kids' activity report card grades (click on 2018 for this year's edition):

2018: D+
2017: Didn't happen
2016: D-
2015: D-
2014: D-
2013: D-
2012: F
2011: F
2010: F
2009: F
2008: F
2007: F
2006: D
2005: D

So what has Canada done about it?

From my vantage point, it sure doesn't seem like much.

As to what we could we doing, I'm honestly not sure.

One thing I am sure of though, simply telling kids to be more active (or telling them and/or their parents how inactive they are) clearly isn't doing a whole heckuva lot. We need changes that change the default.

If you're a parent, I've blogged about the simple solution you could employ to help your kids move more (move with them).

If you're an educator, how about making every classroom/student reward an active one instead of relying on junk food (same goes for all of your various fundraising endeavours)? Oh, and get rid of inane over-protective schoolyard rules like bans on hard balls that effectively stifle active play.

If you're a city planner, how about more time and attention paid to developing safe, comprehensive, and unified biking and walking infrastructure?

And consider too the fact that decreasing kids' physical activity may well also be influenced by their rising weights (and not the other way around). I've worked with so many parents who report that as their kids gained weight, suddenly their interest in favourite activities waned. The why is something people either forget or overlook. Kids are cruel. Being picked last because you're slow, or simply not being able to keep up, would make most kids not want to play. One comment about "jiggling" while a kid runs is liable to lead a kid to stop running. Not wanting to change in front of your peers because of fat jokes and weight bias makes is another common hurdle. Here we need to see calls to action to tackle weight bias, and continued work towards improving the way we use food with our children, and ideally ending the regular use of foods by our kids' schools, teachers, coaches, cities, scout leaders, friends' parents, etc. to reward, pacify, and entertain them at every turn.

So how many more years of reading these depressing report cards before we either stop issuing them, or actually do something about the problem?

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Dear @ChronicleHerald, Publishing Industry Talking Points As "Commentary" Does A Disservice To Your Readers

More than one person shared this "Commentary" published last week by The Chronicle Herald entitled,
"Keep Canadian juice on the table for better health"
It was written by Pierre Turner and it asserted that 100% fruit juice is a source of essential nutrients and phytochemicals and that by extension juice is
"essential in helping to treat or reverse some of our leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension."
The commentary goes on to talk about how juice helps combat food insecurity, that it's nutritionally equivalent to fruit, and that the food guide is going to explicitly encourage people to consume moderate amounts of ice-cream and bacon, but to avoid juice, and that these recommendations in turn will worsen Canada's rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Now as ridiculous as the piece is, it's not particularly surprising given the author is vice-president Quality, Sustainability, Research and Development at Lassonde Industries. It even says so at the end of the piece.

Want to take just one guess as to what Lassonde Industries produces?

So did The Chronicle Herald, who reports in their Vision statement that they're proud of their integrity, get paid for this juice industry advertorial disguised as opinion, and was this just an example of their promise to,
"innovate to remain a relevant and competitive channel for advertisers to reach their consumers."?
Or was this just poor judgement?

Either way, publishing industry talking points as if they're thoughtful commentary does a disservice to readers, who instead should be taught to eat their fruit, not drink it, and also that the World Health Organization, Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and more all recommend explicitly limiting fruit juice's consumption. Yes, if people followed these recommendations it would be decidedly bad for the juice industry, but why that's a concern of The Chronicle Herald (unless they're being paid), is beyond me.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday Stories: Plagues, Emotional Abuse, And Being Black in America

Triumph of Death by Bruegel the Elder
Ed Yong, in The Atlantic, with his sobering thoughts on what will happen when the next big plague hits.

Chloe Dykstra, in Medium, writes about her years of emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her then partner.

Olga Khazan, in The Atlantic, with her masterful must read story covering why being black in America is hazardous to your health.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Guest Post: Celebrated Canadian Chef Fred Morin Reflects Darkly Following His Friend Anthony Bourdain's Death

I've had the pleasure of knowing Fred (co-owner/chef at Montreal's Joe Beef, Liverpool House, Le Vin Papillon, and Mon Lapin) since we met on a panel during the 2012 Trottier Symposium. One of the things I never did, but always wanted to, was ask him to let me know when his friend Anthony Bourdain was coming to town as I, like it seems everyone, found Bourdain's authenticity and manner intoxicatingly cool. I didn't ask because it would have been the opposite of cool to do so, I'd have been comparably, insufferably, boring, and it would have overstepped our friendship, and so too, when I heard the news of Bourdain's death, and my mind immediately turned Fred, and I wondered what his thoughts were and how he was doing, I didn't feel it would be appropriate for me to add to his likely large pile of inquiry. All that said, he contacted me a few days later with some dark reflections, and I think they're very much worth reading, even if they may shine a light on things in a manner that is unsettling. People, and life, are complicated.
Recently as I lost a friend, we all lost a hero. Most struggle to grasp why our culinary knights while basking in praises and porcine dripping can still pay rent on such a dark den within the tenements of their souls. Here is a short tale of how and why based on my livings.

There is an ancient proverb that say’s that war killed many folks but not nearly as much as the table!

The chubby teen didn’t attend prom, for a slew of made up reasons, mostly because he was a chubby teen. He failed at getting shit done although all the while labelled as somewhat a genius, I could extend, explore and extrapolate on the topic and throw his parents and teachers into the crosshairs of his own failure, but he pays a good chunk of cash weekly to decipher what is etched deep in the confines of his “why”.

School, life and jogging were arduous tasks that he fractioned into infinite parts of bearable duration, hoping that soon enough more had passed than remained to come, until it was over for good. Until someone told him that cooking might be what he was chasing since his early days, and whatever academic pursuit that stood in his path should be dropped out of, wise words.

Time spent cooking, the coup de feu, the dinner rush, there was no “prior”, there was no later, all the boxes on the list; checked! The shrieking grind of the dot matrix printer sounded to him like a cheer from his corner-man, 45 veal chops to prep, 45 veal chops to cook, 45 veal chops to re-order, bliss! Nothing left undone, forgotten, no neglected to-do’s . Everything tasted great, when he left, surfaces were clean and reeked appropriately of bleach.

The pudgy teen had fun, but he couldn’t find sleep, 44 chops were great but the 45th was a bit rough, perhaps he who ate it didn’t know real veal from tenderize Tyson shit!? The waiter dropped the wrong knife? Or the supplier sent us shit calf! Anyway, he rehearsed the shit stew he will lay thick onto the innocents. He fell asleep, but printer woke him up, there was no printer.

55 veal chops, 75 veal chops, 90 veal chops; the pudgy teen is a warrior, a hero, his skin now bears the seared branding of his culinary kin. The printer still shrieks at 4 am but he doesn’t hear it because he hopped along with the tribe for some beers, a lot of them.

He missed the shriek of the printer, but the calls he didn’t, he got up, sobered up and went, he picked up his tribe-mates, from the ground they fell on, from jails and from the psych wards.

Now half an hour after the printed used to buzz, he would expects the phone to bling, most of the time it doesn’t, when it doe’s he’s there in an instant to sanitize the grounds and heal the troops after the bloodbaths. Sometimes it rings and it’s just bad news, but he’s not going back to bed; overdoses and murder suicide are no lullabies.

The beers, Jagger bombs and Player lights no longer dampen the bleeps of the 4 am calls, furthermore, it sorts of make you tired. Cocaine is conveniently priced and packaged, it certainly doesn’t mute the rings, but the buzz generated by this circle jerk of tongue chewing dick heads redoing the world with false promises effectively muffles it.

Among the fans of pudgy teen’s veal chop are a few doctors, and pudgy teen, not completely honest, opens up about his anxiety and his inability to sleep. Sure, he omits a few details; the thefts, the betrayals, the powders and the liquids. After all the life of a chef without the inclement add-ons it's harsh enough to legitimize a Xanax script!

Solace! The beer numbs the anger of the night’s mistakes, the vodka catalyses the beer’s effect, but cocaine is there to help you go further, Xanax will soon shield the rising sun, awesome.

Most of his culinary heroes count their achievements in vintages and grams, anyways, he looks up to them, they seem happy doing it, he will get there someday, just has to dial in the dosage.

He misses the phone calls, fish didn’t come in, later that night, 5 or 6 veal chop sucked. Of course, it not his fault, he’s not cooking them anymore, using the people skills he learned however he could, he addresses the situation, a dish basket nearly misses his head, later the dishwasher stabs a happy go lucky manager with a bottle.

Pudgy kid took from his paycheck to pay the night chef on site, so the House could serve Grey Goose until 3am.

Earlier that night, a food writer managed to snatch a table at 9:30, between the Buddha Bar replays and the budding DJ remixes of U2. Not glorious, it’s obvious. Will be either stars in print or stars on pills.

Pudgy teen worked long shifts so now another voice joined the choir of screams, he’s never home, leaves too early and can’t stop looking at his phone. But he’s a cool dude now and he drinks champagne, he’s an epicurean Mohican, not a trashy line cooks that drinks beer, he tells himself that.

When the Champagne swells his forehead a bit too much he moves to craft beers and small batch spirits, helping the small farms and artisans in the process. He makes wise decisions, socially inclined choices of intoxicants. He drinks from magnums to lower his bottle count, lays down early, or so he was told.

But he’s not cooking 45 chops a day anymore, there’s no ways he could. People who flock in love him for who he has become, a legendary glutton, an emotional cesspool of epic proportions who turned to wheat grass and one liners to limp his way thru service.

He stacks fatty cuts, and metaphors, skillfully intersects them with meaty opinions, he gets quoted by media folks.

Pudgy kid is grown up, mostly happy now, but still stuck; between wine soaked layers of truffles, pills and crafty banter.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The American Heart Association's Alliance For A Healthier Generation Labels Diet Coke and Pop-Tarts (And More) As "Smart Snacks" For Kids

In case you're not familiar with it, the Alliance For A Healthier Generation is the name given to the partnership program founded by the American Heart Association, The Clinton Foundation, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with pretty what at first glance looks like pretty much every food industry corporation on earth.

The Alliance's stated mission is,
"to create healthy changes that build upon one another and create a system, a nation, that makes the healthy choice the easy choice"
So what are some healthy choices according to the Alliance's Amazon based,
"One Stop Shop for Healthier Generation vetted Smart Snacks and products for students in and out of school"?
Here are some select choices:

How is it possible that the American Heart Association, The Clinton Foundation, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation would describe a child washing down a bag of Doritos or a Pop-Tart with a can of Diet Coke as them consuming a Smart Snack?

Anyone?

(My answer of course is because the Alliance For A Healthier Generation is a partnership with the food industry whose job is to promote sales, not to protect health, but as to why these particular products were deemed Smart, and the larger question of why partnering with the food industry was considered a thoughtful plan, there you've got me)

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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Saturday Stories: Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, and Salt

By Anthony_Bourdain_on_WNYC.jpg: WNYC New York Public Radio. Cropped and edited by Daniel Casederivative work: Adriankwok (talk) - Anthony_Bourdain_on_WNYC.jpg, CC BY 2.0, Link
Anthony Bourdain, in The New Yorker, with his debut piece in 1999 Don't Eat Before Reading This (I, like everyone else, adored his work and will miss it/him greatly).

Laura Thomas, Sarah Dempster, Helen West and Rosie Saunt's open letter to Jamie Oliver asking him to stop (indirectly) fat shaming children.

Sarah Zhang, in The Atlantic, on the prison study that may provide more insight into how bad salt is or isn't for our health.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

You'll Never Guess Why My 11 Year Old Daughter And Her Friend Are Excited For Their School's Track And Field Day

It's not for the track and field.

It's for the junk food.

In my daughter and her friend's case, they're specifically excited about the sport drinks the school sells the kids at the event (they also sell them Freezies, chips and popcorn).

You see neither have ever tried one.

Honestly, it's not because my wife and I are dietary ogres who deny our kids any taste of sugar sweetened beverages, but clearly we don't have sport drinks at our house because if we're going to give our kids candy, we're going to give them candy way better than sport drinks, and without sport drinks' undeserved health halo.

And it's a health halo that my daughter's elementary school is helping to solidify given that according to my her, last year's track and field day saw the school bringing all sorts of different brands and flavours of sport drinks to the meet.

A meet where by the way, if you ran every single event you'll have run a grand total of 3km, done a long jump, and thrown a shot put.

Not a single kid on that field would benefit from or need a sport drink, yet plenty will further internalize the notion that exercise requires or deserves them.

Schools shouldn't be in the business of peddling junk food to children, and instead should be taking advantage of events like Track and Field Day to teach them that sport drinks are just liquid candy, bad candy at that.

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