Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Vote For the World's Least Healthy Beverage

Grape juice.

Now I know some of you might be thinking but what about sugared soda or energy drinks or even alcoholic energy drinks?

Sure, all of those are horrible - but none of those are marketed in the name of health, and that's what puts grape juice at the top of my least healthy beverage pyramid.
"2 servings of fruit in every glass?"
I know I'm a broken record on grape juice, but who cares if it's got vitamin C in it? Would you drink nearly a quarter of a cup of maple syrup a day if it had 100% of your Vitamin C requirements? Probably not....yet it takes nearly a full quarter cup of maple syrup to reach the calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar provided by every cup of grape juice.

(BTW - Grape juice has double the calories and sugar of other juices. Given the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society both recommend limiting juice to 1/2 a cup for small kids and 1 cup for large ones, I'm guessing they'd recommend limiting grape juice to 1/4 of a cup for wee ones, and 1/2 for everyone else)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Badvertising: For God's Sake, Just Frickin' Eat Butter!

Yet another example of why national Food Guides matter.

Here's an advertisement from Becel for its Becel Buttery Taste Margarine which they flog as,
"having 80% less saturated fat than butter and with a delicious buttery taste"
They also make sure to note,
"A healthy diet low in saturated and trans fat may reduce the risk of heart disease"
Yet saturated fat has been exonerated as being an independent risk factor of disease....probably something worth telling the general public, but of course Health Canada can't possibly respond to a changing evidence base by actually changing recommendations. I mean come on, that would mean changing the Food Guide more frequently than every 10-15 years.  That's just crazy talk.

You know what else has a "delicious buttery taste"? Frickin' BUTTER! And it has the same number of calories as the margarine you're buying because you like the taste of butter but are scared of it because your government told you to be.  Well guess what?  Butter's not going to hurt you and guaranteed, it'll be far more delicious than your "buttery",
"Canola and sunflower oils 74%, water, modified palm and palm kernel oils 6%, salt 1.5%, buttermilk powder 1%, soy lecithin 0.2%, natural & artificial flavor, potassium sorbate, vegetable monoglycerides, citric acid, alpha-tocopherol acetate, calcium disodium EDTA, vitamin A palmitate, beta-carotene, vitamin D3."
Just frickin' eat butter!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biggest Loser MD Deluded, Unethical or Clueless?

Take your pick, but I think he's got to be one of those three.

His name is Dr. Robert Huizenga and last week he presented a Biggest Loser themed report at the 21st Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in Philadelphia.

The presentation detailed what an overly excited press release called a "pioneering study" whereby Huizenga found that when looking at 35 contestants from seasons 11, 12 and 13 of The Biggest Loser, severe dietary restriction combined with insane amounts of exercise dramatically improved metabolic outcomes including diabetes and hypertension.

That's "pioneering"? Is it really news that weight loss and exercise improve diabetes and hypertension? The only outcome related to hypertension and diabetes that would have been surprising to me would have been if they didn't markedly improve.

But where I'm truly left dumbfounded is Huizenga's reported consequent belief that the Biggest Loser modality of weight management - literally a minimum of 4 hours a day of exercise coupled with a highly restricted diet - is, "a better mousetrap".

I'm not sure what world Dr. Huizenga comes from, but in the one where I live people, even if they want to, don't have four spare hours a day to exercise. You see in my world people have jobs, families and other real-life-actual-human-being things that regardless of their weight or health intentions, are going to supersede any misguided physician's recommendations that in order to be healthy they need to spend every third waking hour of their lives in a gym. I'm thinking if 4 hours a day of exercise is his "better mousetrap", he'd best be prepared not to catch any mice.

And there are more differences between our two worlds. For instance in mine virtually everyone knows how incredibly unrealistic and perhaps even unethical it would be to suggest a better mousetrap had been built if it's build was based on Biggest Loser contestant outcomes without looking at whether or not those outcomes were preserved when the show turned off its ever present cameras. Not so apparently in Huizenga's world where his conclusions are indeed based on Biggest Loser participants' outcomes recorded only at the end of their 24 week contest. An end where his subjects were all still competing for huge sums of prize money, and where they were still being followed by television cameras, millions of viewers, and the potential to turn their experiences into careers. Hardly an end that's clinically applicable to the general population.

There's one other piece that's really bothering me. Why did Huizenga's study only include 35 contestants? By my count that's only 59% of those seasons' contestants. A pretty terrible loss to follow up in a venue where as is evidenced by each season's finale, there's virtually no loss to follow up.

Huizenga's apparently applied for a grant to compare outcomes between bariatric surgery and  Biggest Loser contestants. If funded let's hope that his study design doesn't include subject cherry picking, and that his follow up period is at the very least a clinically useful few years long, though given what he's done here, I won't hold my breath hoping for an ethical and appropriate methodology.

As to Huizenga's motives - well aside from supporting his show and television career I can think of two: Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.  Those two?  They're like the bed bugs of science, except instead of spreading disease, they spread delusion.

Someone ought to fumigate that guy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sick Kids Hospital Fights Childhood Obesity with Pizza, Onion Rings & Cake?

And gelatos, desserts at multiple restaurants, cookies at coffee shops, pub based fish and chips, massive sugary smoothies, and Chinese take out.

It's all part of their "Happy and Healthy Kids" campaign which according to their website, was launched because,
"Current trends are troubling. This is the first generation of children in modern history that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents because of child health issues like obesity."
So how is Sick Kids planning on fighting that?

By raising money.

And how are they going to do that?

By encouraging the ongoing normalization of eating out, supporting the health washing of junk food, and by providing consumers (including children and parents of children) further incentives not to actually cook.


What Sick Kids Foundation is doing - fighting childhood obesity by helping to sell junk food through cause marketing - it's akin to a cancer hospital fighting lung cancer by helping to sell cigarettes.

Except that cancer hospitals don't do that.  They don't because it would be unbelievably hypocritical and would encourage and excuse patently unhealthy behaviour.

They don't because it would be frankly inexcusable.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Stories: A's, POM and Apps!

My friend and colleague Arya Sharma on the launch of the Canadian Obesity Network's 5As of Obesity Management.

Marion Nestle explores POM's interesting take on the "truth".

Nice piece by David Freedman in the Atlantic on the quantified self and weight management.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Teaching the Young Bloods How It's Done

I might not love Pepsi Co., but there's no denying this is one helluva entertaining ad.

Today's Funny Friday stars NBA rookie of the year Kyrie Irving.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, you've got to head over to the blog to watch)

[Hat tip to LIVESTRONG's Adam Bornstein]

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are Public Drinking Fountains Disappearing?

Am I losing my mind?

Maybe it's just my addled memory but I seem to recall public drinking fountains being everywhere when I was a kid. Every school, every park, every playground, every public building - everywhere had a drinking fountain.

Nowadays they seem to be in much scarcer supply.

So what happened? Why have they disappeared?  Was it the insane rise of the bottled water movement that simply drove down demand?  Was it fears of communicable disease?  Were they purposely removed so as to encourage concession and vending machine sales?

Or is it just all in my head?

I know I have readers from all over the world. Would love to hear if your public drinking fountains are going the way of the dodo too. Have you noticed their removal?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ontario's Expert Childhood Obesity Panel Conspicuously Lacking in Experts

Did you hear?  Ontario is planning on reducing childhood obesity by 20% in the next 5 years!

I first heard that target when I was contacted by Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews' office back in early February. They wanted to chat with me about my thoughts regarding childhood obesity. I told them that I thought it was a symptom of a broken environment and that unless they focus on the environment as their target for change, they're not going to get anywhere. That'd be like trying to deal with chronic flooding not by building a levee, but rather by focusing on swimming lessons. Furthermore I told her that if the campaign targets obesity itself as the problem, that it might well increase societal weight bias and stigma as it suggests a blame and shame based individualized cause of obesity.  I also told her that I thought their 20% reduction in 5 years target was miles beyond hopeful.

I'm guessing what I had to say wasn't what they wanted to hear as I was not invited to join her office's Healthy Kids Panel.

So who was invited to join?

The panel is made up of a random hodge podge of folks. It's being co- chaired by a very nice former local politician turned newly minted hospital CEO and the dynamic head of a national encourage kids to exercise program. Having spoken with both in the past, I've no doubt they'll be able to "build consensus" (that's what the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel's webpage suggests they're there to do) among the members, but will the consensus be useful?  That would depend on the members.  So who is on their expert panel which according to the Healthy Kids Panel webpage, "possess(es) a broad understanding of childhood obesity"?:
  • 2 physicians, neither of who list obesity even as an interest on their own official bio pages.
  • A PhD researcher who while interested in obesity, is interested in the impact of the baby's in womb environment on obesity - fascinating, but far from prime time when it comes to interventions.
  • A Registered Nurse without any special interest in obesity mentioned in her Ontario Healthy Kids Panel bio.
  • A "young First Nations mother" (that's how she's billed by her official bio) who refers to herself as a "Senior Communications Specialist" on her LinkedIn page. 
  • An "award winning journalist and mother of 3". Despite trying, I couldn't find any mention of her having a special interest or expertise in obesity.
  • The Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness for Loblaw Companies Limited - a massive Canadian grocery store chain.
  • The President of YMCA Ontario.
  • A healthy living cookbook author and caterer.
  • The Executive Director of the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact whose biography doesn't list obesity as an interest or background.
  • The CEO of the Health Strategy Innovation Cell at Massey College and author of XXL: Obesity and the Limits of Shame. He has a true interest and expertise in obesity and while I may not share all of his views, I'm glad at least there's one person on the panel where obesity is a major part of their life's work.
  • The Vice-President, Food Policy Scientific and Regulatory Affairs with Food and Consumer Products of Canada - a food industry advocacy organization
  • A marketing and advertising expert with no reported special interest in obesity.
  • The head of the Canadian national office of Right to Play - a wonderful organization that aims to improve the lives of children through play. His biography lists no special interest or background in obesity.
  • The MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. According to Google, the word "obesity" doesn't appear once on her official campaign webpage.
I don't doubt the panel's sincerity for a moment, but caring about children or childhood obesity is not the same thing as having expertise, and while there are one or two panel members who truly do have expertise in childhood obesity, shouldn't there be more?  Moreover, do you really think the panel chairs are going to be able to build any consensus that would impact negatively on the food industry given their representation at the table?

As a highly complex and multi-factorial problem perhaps the silver-ish lining is that there is no shortage of initiatives we could undertake to tackle childhood obesity. Here's hoping that when I blog about this panel's actual recommendations down the road I'll be referring back to this post as prematurely negative and will speak glowingly of the panel's plans.

So here's my plea to the panel - please make me look bad.  Put out something more useful than just the same old, eat less move more drek we've all come to know and loathe.  Actually tackle issues like predatory food industry marketing and front-of-package deceptions, nutrition facts panel reforms, actually useful school food policies including the removal of sweetened milk from sale, childhood advertising bans, the return of home economics, zoning laws for fast food around schools, innovative incentive or disincentive taxation, an explicit recommendation that juice be limited to a maximum half a cup a day and that it's basically just flat soda with a smattering of vitamins and certainly not a fruit equivalent, a true discussion of energy balance that explicitly hammers home the fact that exercise is insufficient by itself to make any dent in weight, a campaign designed to combat caloric illiteracy, mandatory calorie labeling in restaurants, a fight against the ugly prevalence of weight bias, a massive campaign designed to increase home cooking by specifically recommending we eat out less frequently in restaurants and purchase fewer boxed meals - just to name a few.

There's nothing I'd love more than to have to eat a huge serving of crow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Have You Ever Experienced a Post Race Day Bonk?

(Not that kind of bonk!)

It's certainly happened to me. I've trained for months to run a triathlon or a plain road race, kicked my own butt on race day, only to find the next bunch of weeks (and at least once or twice - months) I take it far easier than someone committed to healthy living ought to.

I'm betting it'll happen to a few folks in my office too as this past Saturday just shy of 40 clients from my office ran in the now 6th annual Dr. Freedhoff Try-a-Tri Challenge (thanks Somersault!). For many, it was the their first triathlon. For some it was their first ever race.

I'd be willing to wager that at least one person from the race is going to see me in my office in the next few weeks inexplicably struggling with their healthy living behaviours - not just with fitness, but with food too - and all consequent to a post-race bonk.

Healthy living? It's a marathon. An ultra-marathon. A never-ending ultra-marathon.

Sure it's alright, in fact it's downright human, to relax here and there, perhaps especially after a major job well done.

But if you really want to finish this race remember consistency is key,and quickly getting back to your pre-race day lives is something you might want to strive for.

If you're really stuck?

You can always sign up for another race.

Congratulations to everyone for a really wonderful day!

Have you ever had a post race day bonk? How long did yours last?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Stories: Superweeds, Poetry and More HBO

Marion Nestle on the perils of genetically modified crops (hint, eating them won't hurt you, but planting them might).

Snarky, weight lifting, columnist and personal trainer James Fell writes what he calls, "the worst weight loss poem ever written".

Michele Simon, via Grist, on her thoughts after watching Weight of the Nation (assuming I get a chance to watch it this weekend, my thoughts may be in next week sometime)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The All New F*&% You Pizza From Pizza Hut

Did you happen to see the insane pizzas that Pizza Hut's making these days (like this one with the cheeseburger crust)?

Well today's Funny Friday is their all new F*&* You Pizza.

Fair warning! They use the word F*$@ a lot.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, to see the video, you'll have to visit the blog)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Actually Healthy Restaurant?

Maybe it is possible.

This one's in Tokyo and it was designed by the Tanita scale corporation.

According to this tiny news item,
"Each table is fitted with a weighing scale to ensure healthy portions can be measured out, while a timer tells the diner when the optimum duration of 20 minutes for completing their lunch is over. Professional dieticians are also on hand to provide free advice on eating regimes in a special counselling room."
Sounds fabulous to me (other than that weird timer thing).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Truth? Healthy Living Requires Effort.

(I want to preface this post by explicitly stating it isn't about weight. Healthy living isn't determined by your weight and this post applies to everyone regardless of their weight - being skinny is no more automatically synonymous with living a healthy life than being fat is with living an unhealthy one)

I need to expand a bit on my last few posts.

The unfair truth is that living a healthy life requires effort. It requires making time to include regular exercise. It requires making time to cook real food. For most, those two things will require reorganizing schedules, taking long hard looks at after school and work obligations, and for many it will require developing new skill sets involving both fitness and cooking.

It wasn't always this way.

Once upon a time many jobs were physically demanding. Once upon a time eating out and processed meals simply weren't an option. Once upon a time calories weren't cheap. Once upon a time we had more time.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting life was idyllic 60 years ago. Human nature being what it is I'm sure many still didn't prioritize exercise, and that many more, while cooking, certainly weren't cooking healthful meals.

That said, if someone wanted to improve their health 60 years ago, cooking wouldn't be a foreign concept, and their after work and weekend time for things like fitness would likely not have been taken up with after school chauffeuring or the electronic tethers to which we've all grown accustomed and dependent.

What you need to do to improve your health may not be in and of itself complicated, but finding the time and skill to do so in this current environment undoubtedly is.

But it's only a hardship if you make it one. Attitude's crucial to winning a healthy living fight. Exercise isn't about day to day suffering, it's about living a longer, better, more functionally independent, literally less painful life. Cooking's not about being a time consuming chore, it's about improving the health of your family and perhaps becoming less reliant on medications.

And one thing's for certain. It does require effort, and if anyone (including yourself) ever tells you differently they're either ignorant or they're liars.

Like anything valuable in life - education, marriage, parenthood, work - you get out what you put in, there are no shortcuts.

So what do you need to do? First I'd recommend you ignore the minutia and remember that there's no perfect diet (for health or for weight management) and no one way to go - and please ignore whatever the latest study they're trumpeting in the news. And then?
  • Cook more frequently from whole ingredients (eating out less frequently and eating fewer processed meals).
  • Move more and intentionally include as much exercise as you can enjoy into your life (your toothbrush level of exercise).
  • Live the life you want your children to live and include them in all of your health living endeavors (teaching them the joy and value of cooking and exercise)
  • Be a quitter if you need to.
  • Never ever forget that the best you can do varies day by day and that your personal best is always great.

Is it fair?


Is it easy?

Definitely not at the beginning, and certainly not always after that.

Is it doable?


It's about priorities and choices. That doesn't mean you're a bad person or parent if you don't choose to live with a healthy lifestyle - we're all entitled to choose the way in which we live our lives - but if your desire is a healthy lifestyle and you simply think it isn't doable then I think you're shortchanging yourself.

Health is incredibly valuable.  It requires effort.  There's just no way around that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Single "Food Product" That Encapsulates the Entirety of the Problem.

"Fast Franks".


Because cooking a hot dog and putting it in a bun is "slow"?

But this Frankenfood speaks volumes.

As a society we value convenience and speed over nearly everything else. Consequently there's a demand for products like "Fast Franks", or more commonly for health washed products that people feel give them the same benefits as from scratch but quickly and conveniently.

Is there anything in life that's valuable that requires little or no effort?

Cooking, and perhaps slightly more specifically, prioritizing and finding the time to cook healthful meals - at this point, there's no way around it.

[Hat tip to Twitter's @teacherace for sending me the photo]

Monday, May 14, 2012

McDonald's Helping Kids Get Their "5 A Day" With Fruit Soda?

They're selling it on the backs of the ridiculous notion perpetuated by the likes of Canada's Food Guide, MyPlate, and virtually every national eating guide that juice counts as a fruit.

It's called "Fruitizz", and it's a carbonated fruit juice being promoted by McDonald's as being a healthy choice for kids.

What's in it?

6 teaspoons of sugar per cup. For those counting, that's more than Coca-Cola. Oh, and they serve it in 500mL cups, so 12 teaspoons of sugar accounting for 98% of the drink's 200 calories.

But the best (worst) part?

They're rolling it out on the basis of national food guides and stating that drinking it, because it's a juice, makes it part of a kid's 5-A-Day (remember national food guidelines, including those in Canada, the US and the UK, explicitly and inanely consider juice to be a fruit).

Don't believe me?

Here's the cup.

The truly awful part?

There's buy-in.

Check out this completely clueless quote by Malcolm Clark a spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation funded Children's Food Campaign,
"It's encouraging to see companies like McDonald's making it easier for parents to make healthier choices for their children.

The best news for children's health will be if fruit-based drinks start to displace sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola from children's menus in McDonald's.
Yes Mr. Clark, it's so incredibly encouraging that McDonald's is giving parents another reason to feel comfortable not cooking their children a healthy dinner and that they're doing so on the back of a beverage that they (and you) are teaching kids and their parents is a "fruit" - a fruit that's nutritionally equivalent to sugared soda with a smattering of vitamins. Ugh. The best news for children's health would be if organizations like yours actually stopped supporting the notion that you can ever buy health in a restaurant let alone with beverages that drop per drop have the same, or in this case for heaven's sake more sugar than "sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola".


[And while you're at it, check out the commercial from the UK. Putting aside the fruit-washing, I'm thinking the kids in the video are likely accurate representations of what your kids will be like following their counts-towards-5-a-day sugar rushes.]

(email subscribers, you need to visit the blog to watch)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Stories: Disease Screening and an HBO Related Double Shot

Alan Cassels on how screening tests (for prostate cancer, breast cancer, etc.) over promise, under deliver and may cause more harm than good.

Jezebel's Lindy West and her Weight of the Nation inspired plea to stop shaming fat people.

John Hoffman, Executive Producer of HBO's Weight of the Nation discusses the basics of his documentary series.

[While a great many have been quick to condemn the documentary sight unseen, I'm looking forward to watching it. Certainly John's post suggests it'll be a far cry from individualized blame and instead  may well be a first mainstream and literally prime time foray into teaching the world that obesity's an environmental issue, that it's not as simple as just pushing away from the table and saying "no".  To me at least, that sounds like a monumental step forward and slamming folks for taking it may not be the best way to further, encourage or inspire an important shift in thinking.  Perhaps instead we should be looking to further their and the world's thinking through polite, thoughtful, and common ground acknowledging discussions.]

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just in Time for Mother's Day - Labor Reparations!

I can't help it.

I have to post a second Funny Friday video - in honor of Mother's Day.

Another must watch (with some cursing thrown in so turn down the volume).

An Absolutely Brilliant Commercial

Some Funny Friday videos are more must watch than others.

Today's is high on the must watch list.

Have a great weekend!

(Email subscribers, if you'd like to watch the video, you'll have to visit the blog)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Jeannie Marshall's Outside the Box - Why Our Children Need Real Food

[Full disclosure - book sent to me by the author]

I’m a newly minted Jeannie Marshall fan.

I first learned about Jeannie when she sent me a direct message on Twitter asking for my address so that she could send me a copy of her new book, Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products for review. Being immersed in writing my own book, having 3 young children, running a busy medical office, and working on two new ventures that still aren’t ready to be unveiled, I wrote back thanking her, but that I was likely too busy to read it right now. She rapidly tweeted back not to worry, I didn’t need to read it, I just needed to put a sticky note on it stating, “Brilliant” , and then leave it on my desk. I think I literally laughed out loud.

The book arrived a week or two later, and (sorry Jeannie), without a “Brilliant” post-it, it sat on my desk.

When it came time to pack for my recent 40th birthday trip to Scotland (thanks Dad!) for the Speyside Whiskey Festival (amazing), and having read a beautifully written article by Jeannie in the Globe and Mail, I decided to bring it along.

It didn’t disappoint.

Simply put, in the book Jeannie uses her own personal experiences raising her young son Nico in Italy as a means to frame her thoughts around the role of food in modern culture. Her thesis is one that I wholeheartedly share – that a global loss of cooking and its replacement by “food products” created by profit-driven corporations is one of the primary drivers of malnutrition and chronic disease in society today. It’s an ironic cause given that many of these products are being marketed on the basis of claims of health benefits, claims often splashed on the product packaging and advertising, but really where as Jeannie so aptly puts it,
Science again is being used as a marketing tool to convince parents that these children’s foods are superior to the traditional foods that previous generations have eaten”,
and that in turn that we as consumers,
read the health pages of the newspaper for advice on which nutrients we need, or we read the labels on boxes to find out what to eat instead of following the traditional wisdom of our culture”.
Scarier still that traditional wisdom is often two generations old at this point, and is at risk of disappearing altogether.

Jeannie’s concern is that our tastes and our relationships with food are forged when we’re young - really young, and that our busy lives might be setting up a generation for struggle. In discussing ready-to-eat baby foods she notes,
If we feed babies food like this, even though it might not be bad for their overall health, that’s the taste we are teaching them to like”,
and then in a commentary on food advertising targeting kids and its impact on their relationship with food laments,
I don’t really want Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola and other food companies giving my child health and nutrition advice. The problem is not only what these companies tell children to eat, but how they depict food as entertainment, and as something to grab on the run.
Jeannie’s writing is a delight. Very easy to read, warm and engaging, and she makes a strong case for a return to home cooking. The bond she’s forming with her young son Nico permeates her work, and more to the point, it's being forged in her kitchen.

Politically Jeannie wonders, as I do, why the multinationals' interests seem to matter more to folks like the World Health Organization than in fact, our health. She interviews a senior nutritionist with the UN who notes that at a recent conference around the challenge of ensuring adequate nutrition that virtually every single one of the hundreds of talks and posters dealt with the fortification of heavily processed foods, and states that,
The food industry acts as though micronutrient deficiencies are a disease that people need to be cured of, rather than something that happens when you don’t have enough to eat.
The one area where I wish Jeannie spent more time were in solutions. While she definitely covers the issue of the time involved well (it doesn’t need to be fancy or take forever), she doesn’t spend much on the dollars involved in procuring fresh food and indeed, this is a very common and regular argument that comes up when discussing home cooking. That said, in part I think it’s about priorities. I’d argue that actual food and cooking are often prioritized far lower on the totem pole of needs than they need to be, where families, including poor ones, are spending as much or more on a fast food dinner than they might have on home cooked meals.  What I think is missing isn't necessarily the direct dollars, but the indirect effect poverty might have on the skill set as a function of lesser access to higher education and greater time demands, and that failing is part and parcel of the problem Jeannie’s described – the industrialization of not just modern day food, but also our modern day relationship with it.

I’d also have loved a few recipes. Whether it was for her pappa, Valencia’s soup and meatballs, fresh pasta, or a pasta madre – her writing is so passionate, it made me want to try them all. I also have to call her on one small paragraph of the book where she suggests whole foods have magic calories that somehow don’t count (they all do, healthy or otherwise), but all told, this was a wonderful read and one I’d recommend to everyone, and especially to families with young children.

Ultimately I think this is Jeannie’s real message,
The one thing I feel I cannot do is abandon my little boy to the food industry. Individuals can do whatever they want. They can microwave frozen dinners or order in Thai food. But parents have to protect and nurture their children, and feeding them is part of that job. Many parents try to do it within the confines set by the food industry, but I don’t think an industry can give us the foods our children really need to eat”,
I have friends who defiantly refuse to cook for themselves and their families: they buy frozen pizza, canned soup, salad in a bad and factory-made cookies. I don’t think that’s the way to go. It seems like refusing to brush your teeth or wash your clothes. Cooking is a life skill. It’s one we should practice and definitely share with our children.
Jeannie, thanks for a great read, and if you’re ever in Ottawa and you’d like to trade an airport pickup and a night in my home for teaching my wife and I a few recipes from Italy, you’ve got a deal (and if you bring me part of an old pasta madre, I'll even share some of the 30 year old Glenfarclas I was drinking while reading parts of your book).

Consider this my "Brilliant" post-it.

(You can follow Jeannie Marshall on Twitter)

[Here's an Amazon Associates link to the Canadian Amazon listing of Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products (for some reason, I can't find a US Amazon link, but Amazon Canada does ship books to US as well]

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Badvertsing: Swanson's Garlic Chicken Skillet Ain't Home Cooking

"It looks like home cooking.
It tastes like home cooking.
Because it's just like home cooking

It's called "cookwashing" - where the food industry has hoodwinked us into believing that mixing and stirring packets together constitutes "home cooking".

So is Swanson's Garlic Chicken Skillet really like home cooking?

Sure if you normally would add a near literal teaspoon of salt and a dollop of trans-fat to a skillet meal of chicken, vegetables and pasta. Maybe too if these are the ingredients you'd likely be cooking with,
"Vegetables: Broccoli, Carrots, Corn. Pasta With Garlic Sauce: Cooked Enriched Pasta, Vegetable Oil (Soy And Coconut Oils And/Or Hydrogenated Soybean Oils), Sweet Cream Powder (Cream, Skim Milk, Soy Lecithin), Skim Milk, Salt, Seasoning (Garlic Powder, Enriched Flour, Parsley, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural And Artificial Flavour, Spice), Natural Flavour. Grilled Diced Chicken Breast Coated With Seasoning: Chicken, Water, Isolated Soy Protein, Seasoning (Sugar, Garlic, Dehydrated Romano Cheese (Milk, Bacterial Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Dehydrated Onion), Salt, Sodium Phosphates, Natural Flavour. Coating: Corn Flour, Wheat Flour, Salt, Corn Starch, Spices, Paprika, Maltodextrin, Caramel Colour, Defatted Soy Flour, Sodium Alginate, Baking Powder, Extractives Of Paprika. Contains: Milk, Soy, Wheat."
While I've certainly come across far worse processed meals than this one, home cooking it's definitely not, while the suggestion that it is, that's simultaneously the food industry's most seductive and destructive lie.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Badvertising: Quaker Oatmeal's Super Grains?

I know you've heard of super fruit (even though there's no such thing), but have you ever heard of "super grains"?

I hadn't, at least not until I saw this badvertisement for Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal.

So what's in a packet of this stuff?

About the same amount of fibre as a slice of whole grain bread along with 3.5 teaspoons of sugar (and that's before you add any of your own).

Super grains?


More like "Sugar grains".

Monday, May 07, 2012

Badvertising: KD Smart High Fibre....Still Stupid

So does 5g of orphaned fibre make Kraft Dinner a nutritious choice?

Looking at the KD Smart homepage you can read Kraft's rationale for creating their KD Smart line,
"Why did we create it? We know the dinner table can become a daily battleground between parents and picky eaters, especially when nutritious foods are involved. So we set out to make a new KD that kids would love to eat and parents would be proud to serve.

KD Smart has added ingredients, contains no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, and has the same cheesy taste that even the pickiest eaters can't resist.
So it would seem that Kraft wants you to believe that KD Smart is a "nutritious food", and for good measure also invokes the natural fallacy to hammer that message home.

So what do you get in a box of KD Smart?

Refined white flour to which orphaned oat hulls, some inulin and a whole pile of salt are added.

Ok, so it doesn't actually read "orphaned oat hulls" on the label, instead it reads "oat-hull fibre". I'd argue orphaned oat hulls would be more accurate as adding just the oat hull fibre does not convey the same nutritional benefits as actually eating whole grain oats that includes not only the hulls, but also the germs.

And is 5g of fibre really brag worthy? It's less fibre than your child would get consuming a fruit with a peel, and less than they'd likely get eating a sandwich made with actual whole grain whole wheat flour.

Sure, KD's definitely a North American rite of childhood passage, but "nutritious" and "Smart"? Not on your life.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Saturday Stories: Vitamins, Soccer Snacks, and Murderers

Sweat Science's and Which Comes First Cardio or Weight's Alex Hutchinson gives 3 reasons why you might want to reconsider your multivitamin

David Staples from the Edmonton Journal on why he hates soccer snacks (I do too).

The Globe and Mail's Andre Picard discusses the incredible stigma of mental illness through the lens of Norway's Anders Breivik

Friday, May 04, 2012

Looking for the Next Big Thing? How About Dance Walking?

First there was Zumba.

Now? There's this Funny Friday's Dance Walking.

Have a great weekend!

(Friday's my day off preaching. Email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Badvertising: Fruitsations +Veggies are Neither Fruit Nor Vegetable

Undercover veggies eh?

I've blogged about undercover veggies before. Not sure what your definition of undercover veggies would be, but mine would be pureed vegetables.

Unfortunately that's not Mott's definition.

Mott's definition is adding concentrated carrot juice, cucumber juice and bell pepper juice to apple sauce.

Vegetable juice is most assuredly not a vegetable.

And that's not all. The ad copy reads,
"There is now one serving of fruit and veggies in each delicious cup"
So there's one serving of fruit and one serving of veggies in each cup, right?


If you follow the symbol to the fine print you'll discover that according to Mott's definitions of fruits and veggies there is 2/3 of a serving of fruit and 1/3 of a serving of veggies in each cup.

Funny thing though, despite Fruitsations +Veggies claiming to provide 2/3 of a serving a fruit and 1/3 of a serving of veggies each container has only half the fibre and 1/40th the Vitamin A of one lonely carrot.

So what do you actually get with a container of Fruitsations +Veggies? A container full of sugary mush where 80% of its calories come from sugar and where nearly all of the vitamins, phytonutrients of fibre of fruits and vegetables have been stripped away.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Sometimes it's Good to be a Quitter!

One of the most common struggles people recount in my office is time management.

Yet oftentimes, on review, many of those same folks' lives are filled with obligations that are far from required.

Clearly we can't just decide to stop working or caring for our families, but no doubt most of us fill up parts of our lives with volunteer work, over the top dedication to the office, and/or unnecessarily involved parenting.

Work-life balance is definitely a determinant of health. Stress due to lack of time can wreak havoc on many areas of life including sleep and mood where disturbances in either in turn may lead to increases in appetite or cravings.

There's no doubt it's not fun to admit to yourself you've got too much on your plate, and even less fun to clear it. That said, if you're feeling constantly overwhelmed I'd argue you owe it not only to yourself, but to the causes you might be quitting, to take a step back - because if you're not able to give them your full attention, you're taking up a spot that might be filled by a person who could.

Are there things in your life that you can let go of, but simple guilt or pride is stopping you? Are there things you can delegate to others? Are there things that if they weren't hanging over your head you might feel lighter, sleep better and have more time to dedicate to yourself?

Is there something you can quit?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Nutella Canada Yet to Get the Memo that Nutella's Not Nutritious

In case you missed it, Nutella USA is paying $3 million dollars to settle a class action lawsuit that was launched due to what the plaintiffs felt were advertisements that misled people into believing that Nutella, spreadable candy, was nutritious.

Just had a quick peek at the Nutella Canada website.

What'd I learn there?
"Moms across Canada choose NUTELLA® as a part of their children's nutritious breakfast."
I also learned that along with piggybacking on feel good charities like Breakfast for Learning, Nutella Canada healthwashes itself by supporting the Canadian Soccer Association, and tries to appear credible and health conscious by quoting the Canadian Pediatric Society on its website.

Spreadable candy ought to be marketable as spreadable candy, no? Why resort to pretending it's healthy?

[For the folks who think Nutella's being unfairly treated, I'd recommend you keep in mind the fact that compared with no-name chocolate icing, from a health perspective, the chocolate icing's the better choice.]