Friday, August 31, 2012

24's Jack Bauer Bakes Cupcakes

Those first few seasons of 24 were great....and so is today's Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

(Email subscribers, you need to head to the blog to watch)

Bake it - with Kiefer Sutherland

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Collecting Pop-Tabs for Ronald McDonald House Is a BAD Plan

Another from the parental "No" files - this one from a frustrated Canadian mom.

She told me the story of her child's school and their campaign to collect pop tabs from cans of soda-pop to help raise money for their local Ronald McDonald house.

The campaign involved kids from Kindergarten through Grade 4 and prizes were awarded to the kid and the class who collected the most tabs. Ironically it was organized by the school's health teacher.

Now this mom's all for charity, but wonders whether or not the task and the competition attached to it wouldn't in turn encourage the community's consumption of soda pop, lead young and impressionable children to tie soda pop consumption with the very important and positive emotion and message of charity, and further normalize soda's regular consumption.

Apparently her child's school, collected 3 large garbage cans full of tabs - 90 gallons worth (340 litres for us Canadians).

Looking online it would seem that scrap aluminum sells for somewhere on the order of $0.30-$0.60/lb and that a gallon milk jug holds roughly 4,000 tabs and weighs roughly 3.3lbs.

Crunching a bunch of numbers tells me this:  A health teacher linked drinking soda pop with being charitable in the minds of kids between the ages of 4 and 10 and in so doing helped to galvanize her community of only 3,000 people to drink 360,000 cans of soda pop (an astounding 120 cans per resident) all in the name of raising a measly 133 dollars and 45 cents.

Now I'm all for raising money for charity, but is this really a wisest and best way to do so? Couldn't the health teacher come up with an actually healthy behavior with which to raise funds, let alone one that raises a more substantial sum? To give the briefest of examples - a few weeks ago my 3 little girls set up an organic vegetable stand at the end of our driveway to support their CIBC's Run for the Cure fundraising efforts.  In just 1 hour of selling our home grown cucumbers, oregano, and basil they raised 115,200 pop tabs worth of money ($48).  And if garden vegetable sales aren't the school's thing perhaps the kids could clean up local parks and go door to door asking for donations? Or how about a used book fair? Or a physical activity fundraiser where the kids ask for sponsorship? Or a kid run car wash?

Now this mom did in fact say "No" to drinking soda for Ronald McDonald House, but I wonder how many kids' parents, when asked while shopping with their kid if they could buy some soda to help raise money for kids with cancer, didn't pick up a case or two they wouldn't have otherwise?

Does your school collect pop-tabs for Ronald McDonald house? If they do, please show them this post - there's no doubt there are healthier and far more lucrative ways to raise money for charity than to promote the consumption of soda pop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: Bruce Bradley's Fat Profits

[Full disclosure: Provided with a free review copy of the book]

How far would Big Food go to protect its profits?

That's the basic question behind Fat Profits the fictional thriller written by ex-Big Food marketer Bruce Bradley.

Fat Profits tells the tale of a young snack food executive who learns that his multinational corporation's new miracle low-calorie snack food additive isn't necessarily as safe as it's supposed to be....which in turn leads him to find out that he's not as safe as he's supposed to be either.

The book's a great page turner and the read is all the more compelling given Bradley's history.  Before leaving the industry Bradley worked as a marketer for companies the likes of General Mills, Pillsbury and Nabisco and consequently has more insight into the ministrations of the food industry than most.

While the book itself is a work of fiction, given the stakes involved I wouldn't be at all surprised if the real world of Big Food is truly filled with corporate espionage, duplicity and even at times cover-ups and crime.

Fat Profits is an exciting read and the ease with which disbelief can be suspended speaks both to Bradley's skill as a writer, but also to the true-to-life track record of the modern day food industry.

To download a free chapter visit Bradley's Fat Profits page.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do You Want to be an Unwitting Coca-Cola Spokesperson?

Perhaps all you need to do is to casually work with them or even simply write something publicly that can be taken out of context.

Just ask my friend Dr. Arya Sharma. Over the years in his role as the Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network he's had the occasion to sit down with Big Beverage.  He's also blogged before about the surprising finding in a Canadian study that did not demonstrate an association between sugared sweetened beverages and obesity in children (except for in 6-11 year old boys and  that the study of course relied on dietary recall which with children and adolescents specifically has been demonstrated to be not even remotely reliable).  Now I'm not sure whether it was consequent to his face to face meetings, or to his seemingly soda friendly blog post, but Dr. Sharma's "views" were recently used as a center piece of Coca-Cola's angry letter to Ottawa's City Councillors and Mayor.

(If you're not sure what letter I'm talking about, you can read my post from yesterday)

So how did Coca-Cola leverage Dr. Sharma? With this paragraph:
"Dr. Arya Sharma, MD/PhD, FRCPC, a leading Canadian obesity expert and chair of the Canadian Obesity Network, recommends Canadians focus on the total amount of calories they consume and not target one particular source of calories when managing their weight".
So does Dr. Sharma think public health departments shouldn't encourage a decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages?

Seemed doubtful to me. While I know that Dr. Sharma does believe that it would be folly to blame society's weight woes purely on sugar-sweetened beverages, I also know that if calories do indeed count, and given sugared soda's complete and total lack of nutritive value, they'd certainly be a fair target for intervention. And that's putting aside the fact that sugared-soda is just as unhealthy a beverage for folks without weight to lose as it is for those with.  And guess what?  When I called Dr. Sharma to ask whether or not my characterization of his take on sugar-sweetened beverages was fair he readily agreed that it was and he also told me that he was entirely unaware of his use in Coca-Cola's letter writing campaign.

In case my positions aren't clear, at the end of the day I think Coca-Cola is well within its rights to try to market its sugar-laden beverages - that's literally their job. I also think it's well within public health officials' rights to, in varying capacities, discourage soda's consumption - their literal jobs. And lastly I think that Dr. Sharma's involuntary involvement in Coca-Cola's letter writing campaign is a great example of the risks health professionals face if they try to work "with" the food industry and why you might want to think twice before you sit down at their table.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Long Angry Arm of Coca-Cola

Not Actually a Photo of Dr. Isra Levy

First some brief background.

This May Ottawa's Public Health (OPH) department released their, Healthy Eating, Active Living Strategy which outlines some of the steps and recommendations OPH believes will further the health of Ottawans.

One of the items identified as an unhealthy behaviour is the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the strategy made the following singular recommendation therein:
"Launch social marketing campaigns focusing on walking and sugar sweetened beverages."
Oh the horror!

How dare OPH suggest that we launch a social media campaign that both champions walking and cautions against the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages?

What's amazing too is that here we are in late August and suddenly a strategy report released in May saw 117 news headlines about it show up last week.

Where did all this outrage come from?

The long angry arm of Coca-Cola.

And it's an amazing story too as it clearly demonstrates that those boys from Atlanta know what they're doing when it comes to commanding spin.

What'd they do?

First they launched a letter writing campaign. According to OPH no less than 14 identical copies of an angry letter (signed by 14 different local Coca-Cola executives) were circulated to various City Councillors and the Mayor.

Next they literally flew in a ringer Coca-Cola suit from Atlanta to chew out Dr. Isra Levy the City's Chief Medical Officer.

More importantly though they changed the message.

Suddenly the issue was no longer about whether or not we consume too many sugar-sweetened beverages and whether or not there's anything we can do to help reduce their unhealthy consumption (especially by our children). Nope, now the issue was our "civil liberties" and the bad guy was no longer sugared soda, it was Dr. Isra Levy.

And what insanity does Dr. Levy condone? Putting aside that all he's ever actually recommended is a social media campaign and that he once admitted under questioning that regulation was theoretically part of the city's toolkit (why let facts get in the way of a great narrative?) let's say media letter writers, news columnists, the internet's angry commentators and Coca-Cola were all right! That Dr. Levy instead has some master plan to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in publicly funded institutions? That suddenly you found yourself unable to buy Coca-Cola in your local city funded arena, community center or workplace?! I mean that'd be just steps away from full on fascism, no? You'd sure think so if you read the truly laugh-out-loud alarmist piece in the Ottawa Sun by Anthony Furey entitled, "Back Off Pop Police: Tell Ottawa's Top Doc He Has No Right to Ban Your Liberties Along with Drinks" and where he invites readers to write Dr. Levy to tell him what they think about his nefarious plans.

What's really telling about all of this though is that by creating such a big stink Coca-Cola's showing their cards. They're scared. If the specter of a social media campaign in a single line in an Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Public Health report is enough to launch a letter writing campaign and fly muscle in from Atlanta clearly they feel they've got a huge public relations problem on their hands and while they certainly did succeed in changing the subject here in Ottawa the way this all went down - it's actually quite heartening.

All that said, Dr. Levy's had a rough ride. If you're reading this and think that perhaps his identification of sugar-sweetened beverages as problematic is a fair one, why not drop him a line and let him know you support his efforts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Stories: Ass Kicking, Lazy Butts & Cadbury Cream Cows

Joel Runyon on what he calls, "An Unexpected Ass Kicking", and on what I call a kick-ass story.

Kat Tancock with a great piece in the Globe and Mail and how to get your kids to be more active - get off your own butt!

WPRI News on how cows are now being fed actual candy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

DAYUM! (World's Best Burger Commercial)

Though it isn't actually a commercial, at least not yet.

Today's Funny Friday is an auto-tuned video of the world's most enthusiastic Five Guys bacon cheeseburger video review.

Now no, they're not healthy, but having had 5 Guys' burgers before I would concur with the "Dayum", both for the taste and sadly too for the calories (the bacon cheeseburger in this video is 920 calories without condiments and the fries add at least another 620, though if you've ever gone, you'll know you get more than you ordered loose in the bag).

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers you need to head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Health Check vs. Guiding Stars Final Round: Soup and a Summary

Up today? Soups and a summary.

The soup situation is pretty easy to describe. In the entire Loblaws, and this was a gigantic Loblaws, there were only a literal handful of soups that had single Guiding Stars (and ironically only one of those had a Health Check). The rest had zero.

On the other hand, there were dozens of Health Check'ed soups - soups which contained in many cases  the Health Check maximal 480mg of sodium per 250mL serving.....yet virtually everyone serves soup in 500mL bowls.  At 500mL then you'd be having just under 2/3 of your day's Heart and Stroke Foundation recommended sodium allotment with many of these Health Check'ed soups.

To summarize. Health Check doesn't help and I think its nutritional criteria are so weak and the program so poorly executed that rather than help consumers, it hinders healthy choices. You can't compare Health Check'ed items to Health Check'ed items as an item either has a check or it doesn't. You can't compare Health Check'ed items to unchecked items as you need to pay the Heart and Stroke Foundation for the right to market your product with a Health Check but given the myriad of examples I saw where unchecked items had even 3 Guiding Stars, not every product wants to pay for Checks.

Worse still after spending an hour roaming the aisles the other thing that struck me about Health Check - it suggests to consumers that there are shortcuts to health. That cooking, actual cooking, isn't necessary - you could buy health in Health Check'ed cans and boxes.  That's a message amplified by the fact that there were virtually no check marks on actual produce and yet there were Health Checks on what I would honestly describe as candy.

And don't get me started on their restaurant and fast food Health Checks.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation should be championing one of two things - either a useful front of package program (and here my choice would be Nuval where rather than the 4 gradations of Guiding Stars comparisons there are 100) that would actually help inform consumers about the products they're considering, or skipping the boxes and restaurants altogether and sounding a clarion call that as a society we need to rediscover the love and use of our actual kitchens and provide Canadians with resources to help ease them into actual cooking.

[And if you missed it, you can click here for further background.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Health Check vs. Guiding Stars Round 3: Canned Produce

Up today? Canned produce. And while I know you'd think this would be an easy one, you'd be wrong.

First up Health Check peaches with one Guiding Star vs. non-Health Check'ed peaches with two Guiding Stars:

And that's of course the peril of not scoring every item in the store with your front of package program - healthier products may be right in front of your eyes but given that Health Checks are only allowed to be displayed on products that pay the Heart and Stroke Foundation for that right, you might miss up on better options.

Next up are Health Checked canned tomatoes with zero Guiding Stars (containing for whatever culinary reason - added salt) vs. Health Check'ed canned tomatoes with 3 Guiding Stars (with no salt added).

Same brand of tomatoes. Same Health Check. Zero vs. 3 Guiding Stars. Oy.

Ironically want to know where I didn't see a single Health Check but did see a galaxy of Guiding Stars?

The actual produce section pictured up above, and more thoughts on that tomorrow along with soup.

And if you missed it, you can click here for further background.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Health Check vs Guiding Stars Round 2: Chili

Up today? Chili. Staghorn Beef Chili to be exact.

And what do you get in your can? Almost half of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's daily recommended 1500mg maximum of sodium.

Health Check: Check!

Guiding Stars: Zero.

So as far as Guiding Stars go, Staghorn Beef Chili's grade falls between 0-25%.

Interestingly there's another Health Check'ed Staghorn Chili. It's their Vegetable Garden Chili.

Notice that it actually gets one Guiding Star (still not exciting as it in a sense reflects a score of 25%-50%, but still better than no stars).

Of course if you shopped using Health Checks you'd never know one was better (albeit marginally) than the other because Health Check pass/fail status doesn't allow consumers to compare one Health Check'ed item to another and consequently if sticking with the school analogy, kids getting 50% on an exam being marked by Health Check end up with the same grade as kids getting 100%.

More on that tomorrow with Round 3: Canned Vegetables.

And if you missed it, you can click here for further background.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Health Check vs Guiding Stars Round 1: Vegetable Juice

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program here in Canada sells companies the right to print the Health Check logo on the fronts of packages of products that satisfy anywhere from 3-7 nutritional criteria.  Health Check advertising tells Canadians that if they see a food with a Health Check they can feel assured that product is "part of a healthy diet" and that it's been evaluated by the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians. Only companies who pay can play.

Hannaford Brothers' Guiding Stars is a front of package food labeling program recently rolled out by Loblaws supermarkets here in Ontario. Foods are evaluated on 13 different nutritional determinants of health and are awarded from 0-3 stars with 0 being the worst (think of it as a grade of 0-25% on a test) and 3 being the best (75%-100%). Unlike with Health Check, every single item in the supermarket is scored with the stars appearing beside the price on each and every item's store display.

A few days ago I decided to take a field trip to my local Loblaws and further compare Health Checks to Guiding Stars.

Up today? V8 - the drink that pretends it's a vegetable.

Health Check: Check!

Guiding Stars: Zero.

I guess Guiding Stars doesn't think processed, salty (1/3 of your daily Heart and Stroke Foundation recommended maximum per cup), vegetable juice is so miraculous. And while there are certainly many who need not worry about sodium, somehow I'd imagine the folks who care most about the Heart and Stroke's recommendations (you know, the folks with heart disease, hypertension and vascular disease) are folks for who V8 would be a most unwise regular beverage.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Round 2 (Chili)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Stories: Healthy and Fast, Paleolithic MDs and Chasing "Greatness"

Can a former McDonald's executive make healthy, sustainable food, "fast"?

Paleolithic MD on being both an MD and a paleo adherent.

Medicine's poet laureate - Yale's Dr. David Katz - on whether those Nike ads are really about greatness?

And in case you're not into Twitter or Facebook here are a few links from me you may have missed:

My US News and World Report Column on the utility (futility?) of the parental "No" as a defense against our junky environment.

My CBC Ottawa Morning radio column on same.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Honestly, Some People Love Low-Carb and Paleo Eating

Just not today's Funny Friday video's featured pooch.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers need to head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why Big Food Sponsors Kid Sports (The Less Obvious Edition)

So here I'm not talking about their primary aim of hooking new customers when they're young by the association of their brands with fun, fitness, and health.

Nope, I'm talking about something else and I'll be talking about it by means of an incredibly telling quote from down under.

To set the stage New Zealand is considering the ban of junk food advertising on public properties. Such a ban would hit venues like bus shelters, hospitals and schools, and it would also hit public events.  They're also talking about zoning laws to prevent fast food establishments from setting up shop within walking distance of schools, parks and low-socioeconomic areas.  The aim of these recommendations of course is to start detoxifying their kids' environment and reduce the impact of junk food on socio-economically related health inequalities.

In a story published in the industry friendly and always fascinating e-magazine Food-Navigator Asia the chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council was quoted in regard to why she didn't think the suggested regulations would be approved,
"New Zealand food companies such as Sanitarium fund triathlons and other children's events. Other companies support children's rugby, soccer, and netball. Nestle's earlier this year launched a physical education program for New Zealand schools. All these sorts of sponsorships would cease."
Seems to me those same arguments were made about tobacco funding for the arts.

Public and health institutions considering Big Food partnerships really need to remember, when you dance with the devil you don't get to pick the tune. It's really high time we start hiring some exorcists.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will CSPI Sue the Heart and Stroke Foundation?

So in the news yesterday was a press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest that details their threat to sue Welch's if they continue to make claims about the supposed health benefits of their products (including of course their grape juice).

In the letter they sent the grape juice giant, CSPI details their  3 primary concerns that,
"1. Welch Foods claims that its 100% Fruit Juice product line is heart-healthy and may promote overall health. This claim is deceptive and misleading because Welch’s 100% Fruit Juice products may instead decrease overall health by contributing to insulin resistance and obesity, and may thus promote heart disease and diabetes.

2. Welch Foods claims that its Fruit Snacks, Fruit Juice Cocktails, Spreads, and 100% Fruit Juice drinks “Reward Your Heart” and are heart-healthy products. This claim is unlawful because it is a claim of heart disease prevention, it lacks substantiation, and it is deceptive.

3. Welch Foods claims that its Fruit Snacks products are nutritious and healthful to consume. This claim is deceptive and misleading because, far from being a healthful fruit-filled snack, Welch’s Fruit Snacks contain added sugars and artificial food dyes, lack significant amounts of real fruit, and contain no dietary fiber.
So what does this have to do with the Heart and Stroke Foundation? Well The Heart and Stroke Foundation happily sells its "Health Check" logo (the little red check mark) to 100% fruit juices (including Welch's) and fruit "snacks" and have themselves reported that consumers interpret their logo to mean,
"When you see the Health Check symbol on a food package or restaurant menu, you know the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dietitians have evaluated this item and it can contribute to an overall healthy diet. Look for the Health Check symbol to help you make wise choices."

"The Health Check™ symbol on food packaging is your assurance that the product contributes to an overall healthy diet."

"It's like shopping with the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians."
And what foods will consumers be assured contribute to an overall healthy diet and are endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation? Why the very same foods CSPI is threatening to sue Welch's over what they see as misrepresentations of their supposed health "benefits" - 100% juices and fruit snacks (filled with the added sugar that comes from fruit concentrates and purees).

A shame no one's threatening to sue the Heart and Stroke Foundation as the misinformation of their program, one that's run by a trusted health organization and not the food industry, abuses the public trust and misinforms healthy choices.

For a smattering of Health Check'ed nutritional catastrophes, see below:

3 teaspoons of sugar per 18g serving (66% sugar by weight  responsible for 80% of calories) coming from  concentrated apple purees and juices.  10X the sugar of 18g of actual apples and 40% more sugar bite for bite than you would find in Twizzlers.

2.75 teaspoons of sugar per 14g serving (79% sugar by weight  responsible for 98% of calories) coming from concentrated apple, pear, strawberry and grape purees and juices.  15.7X the sugar of 14g of actual strawberries.

9.25 teaspoons of sugar per 250mL serving (sugar responsible for 99% of calories) coming from concentrated grape, apple and raspberry juices.  One cup of this juice contains the equivalent amount of sugar as would 6.9 cups of actual raspberries.

9.5 teaspoons of sugar per 250mL serving (sugar responsible for 101% of calories?) coming from concentrated grape, cranberry and apple juices.  One cup of this juice contains the equivalent amount of sugar as would 9.5 cups of actual cranberries.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is This a Million Dollar Idea, Already Done, or a Dud?

As I was driving home yesterday following the taping of my monthly radio column with CBC's Ottawa morning I was wondering - would parents enroll children in schools where health was their focus of excellence?

Certainly there's precedence for parents paying more for schools known to be exceptional at things like drama, football, languages, University prep - parents pay more for these institutions because they want to give their kids a leg up on life. Are there schools out there with a health focus and is there anything that would give kids more of an up leg than health?

Given how far society has strayed from health, especially with our children, I can't help but imagine that a school which along with the provision of academic excellence made healthy living their exceptional focus would in fact be a great draw. And I want to explicitly note I'm not suggesting this school be established, designed or promoted with childhood obesity in mind or as a target as the lessons to be taught and the layout of the school day would benefit kids of all shapes and sizes.

So what would this school look like? Off the top of my head it would include a whole gamut of healthy living lessons, behaviours and choices. From from farm to table cafeteria meals, to involving kids in cooking (including for the school), to cultivating their own community/school garden, to standing desks (at least for some subjects), to actually healthy breakfast and lunch programs (proven to improve behaviour and concentration), to frequent and healthy snack and activity breaks (also proven to improve learning), to a focus on sport that includes both competitive and non-competitive activity outlets and programs, to actually useful and valuable nutrition and cooking classes, to a focus on the role of healthy living in primary disease prevention, and ideally take place on a campus that was not and could not be within walking distance of corner stores and fast food establishments.

Does such a school already exist? If one existed in your neck of the woods, would you consider sending your kids there?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Institutional Food Edition

Today's parental "No" comes from a registered dietitian reader from Peterborough Ontario. One of her 4 kids elected to go to a competitive lacrosse (Canada's national sport) camp this summer.

What was on the menu?

Well for just $40 per week he could have had:
Monday – Macaroni & Cheese, with fruit and vegetables.

Tuesday – Hot dog & chips, with fruit and vegetables.

Wednesday – Grilled Cheese & yogurt with fruit and vegetables.

Thursday – Individual Pepperoni Pizzas, with fruit and vegetables.

Friday – Chicken Nuggets & Fries, with fruit and vegetables.

Rotating Snacks for morning and afternoon breaks consisting of; Rice Krispy Squares, Jell-O, granola bars, yogurt, fresh fruits, freezes, pudding.

Juice, and water available at all breaks and lunch. Pop & milk available at lunch.
You might be thinking, "Hey, this post sure sounds familiar" as I already covered camp lunches a few weeks ago - but this post has a twist.

I'm not sure we can entirely blame the camp. You see my RD reader also sent along a link to Brown's Dining Solutions - the food service provider for the camp. Ironically Brown's brags that their meals,
"are built around promoting nutritious food and healthy lifestyles."
and I bet Brown's isn't alone in selling junk and calling it healthy. And that left me wondering - is there a healthy, mass market, food service provider that this lacrosse camp could have contracted with rather than Brown's? Could it be that there just aren't truly healthy options that would land in Browns' price range?

So while Mom can certainly still just say, "No" and pack a lunch that her kid may feel is a slight when compared with his or her buddy's pepperoni pizza and lunchtime root beer, I also have to wonder whether or not any camp is doing it any better.....and of course if there isn't a truly healthy food service provider option out there what does that say about the environment we're hoping parental "Nos" alone can defeat?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The World's Most Talented Baby?

Impersonators of the world look out! Today's Funny Friday video involves an astoundingly good baby celebrity impersonator.

Have a great weekend!

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

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Girl Guides Edition

This one got forwarded to me from a friend in Ontario. Her 3 daughters are all involved in the Girl Guides and her youngest is currently a "Brownie" (ages 7-8).

Each summer her group has a camping weekend.  The mom sent me the menu starting with their Friday night arrival:
Night snack: Relatively innocuous but includes a bag of chips per child.

Breakfast: Includes waffles with syrup, jam, whipped cream and chocolate chips.

Morning snack: Includes Girl Guide cookies.

Lunch: Includes s'mores.

Afternoon snack: Includes something called an "edible campfire" which consists of a fire pit made of mini marshmallows, corn flakes tinder, shoelace liquorice kindling, and pretzel and cheesie fuel logs.

Dinner: Includes a dessert of chocolate pudding and rice krispie squares

Breakfast: Includes banana bread and brownies
Now I would certainly agree that roasting marshmallows and having a few s'mores are definitely part of the rights of passage of kids' camping, but why does every single meal and snack time have to involve dessert?

This mom did in fact complain to her daughter's troop leader and was met with the, "but camping is supposed to be fun" argument. I guess that particular leader is so woefully lacking in creativity that she was unable to come up with ideas for fun that didn't involve spooning sugar into 7 year olds.

But no worry, clearly this isn't a problem because my friend doesn't have to send her daughters off with their friends troop members camping. She can just say "No", right? But isn't it sad that she might feel that she has to, and sadder still that at least one Girl Guide leader thinks 7 year olds having fun requires ridiculous quantities of sugar and junk food? Would camping not be the same if dessert weren't served every single time the kids opened their mouths to eat?

(Do you have any "Parental No" examples? Feel free to send them my way - yonifreedhoff via

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Parental "No" Files: My Kids Edition

(Not actually my kids' camp's "canteen")
Last week two of my kids attended camp at a local community center.

As part of their camp life, each and every day my kids' respective groups of 5 and 8 year olds were purposely paraded by the community center's "canteen" and were encouraged/allowed to buy themselves some junk food.  And each and every day my kids watched as their friends bought potato chips, candy, and chocolate bars.

We let them buy something on the last day - something we undoubtedly never would have done had their camp experience not purposely included planned junk food breaks and had they not been made to feel left out of the sugar on a daily basis.

The whole thing made me sad.  It made me sad that the camp was teaching young children that junk food is a normal part of everyday life; it made me sad that the camp was clearly choosing the community centre's profits over the kids' health; and it made me sad that my kids were made to feel left out because my wife and I don't think our 5 and 8 year olds need to eat junk food on a daily basis.

But clearly we could (and for the most part did) just say, "No".  But do our "Nos" excuse or indemnify the community center for literally pushing junk food on extremely little children day in and day out?

When looking at the societal overconsumption of empty calories by our children do you really want to hold onto the notion that it's consequent to an insufficient quantity of parental nos?  Using my kids' experiences as an example - shouldn't we be striving as a society to ensure that the default changes such that if parents and kids want to consume daily junk food they need to consciously choose to go out of their way to do so rather than have the default be a community center camp parade kids as young as 5 in front of a daily junk food salad bar?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Does It Matter if Almonds Now Contain Fewer Calories?

Image from Fooducate - one of my most favorite blogs!

Not sure if you caught the buzz on this, but according to a new study we've been measuring almond calories wrong for years.

So does it matter?

Depends. If you're aiming to ensure you hit at least a minimum number of calories per meal or snack - absolutely as if correct, you may be getting less than your aim (where hitting minimums may be part of a strategy to reduce hunger or to gain weight).

On the other hand, if your hunger is well managed and you're eating almonds as snacks - I certainly wouldn't take it upon yourself to up the number as despite the fact that each almond may have fewer calories than you thought, eating more of them will of course increase total calories.

And what if we're calculating the calories wrong in everything (which may in fact be what we're doing)? Well it'll certainly impact upon formal recommendations (including my own), but unless eating too few calories is your primary problem, it's nothing I'd lose sleep over.

My advice? Aim for the smallest number of calories that leaves you happily satisfied, and if suddenly that number is in fact smaller than it was before, that won't change the fact that you were already happily satisfied.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Saturday Stories: Nocebos, Prostate Cancer, and Enough

The Smithsonian Magazine covers the nocebo effect (think placebo, but bad).

Time covers the whether or not you should get a PSA test screening controversy for prostate cancer.

The Atlantic has a must read piece that may help you to determine if your life has "enough".

Friday, August 03, 2012

And You Thought the Shake Weight Was Sexually Suggestive

Today's Funny Friday video highlights what I'm told is a Korean infomercial for "Horse Riding Fitness Ace Power" exercise machine that mimics....horseback riding....yeah, that's it.

Video starts at 0:27s.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers you need to head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The "Parental No" Files - Organized Kid Sport Edition

These parental nos come from blog reader Lauren de Bruin's sister-in-law. You see Lauren's sister-in-law and her husband are enthusiastic competitive athletes and their 4 year old son is happily following in their footsteps.

That photo up above? That's a photo of the race kit that was provided to kids who participated in the "Kids of Steel" triathlon that took place as part of the 2012 ITU World Cup Triathlon tour.

What's a, "Kids of Steel" triathlon? Well for a 4 year old it's a 25m swim, a 1km cycle and a 200m run. My guess is the little guy maybe burned 100 calories doing the whole thing.

That race kit up above? The one that no parent or kid knows what's included until it's actually opened? My calculations have it containing 450 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar.

(Want to know what was in his Mom's race kit? A bottle of water, orange wedges and a banana.)

But that's ok. His Mom could just say "No". I mean that wouldn't put a damper on the day, would it? And even if it would, she could, couldn't she?

So sad that a day of healthy activity can be bought by Big Food who likely either donated the treats, or perhaps even paid for the right to distribute them, to the very kids who they claim not to target.

But at least parents can just say no.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The "Parental No" Files - City Summer Camp Edition

Today I'll be kicking off a new tag - "Parental No"

You know the parental no. It's supposed to be the sole line of defense in protecting society's children against the predatory practices of Big Food and from an environment that's completely stacked against our kids' weights and health.

It's the argument that the ignorant always fall back on to apologize for anything and everything Big Food throws at us.
"Parents can always just say NO",
they'll say, and then they'll often wax on about how crazy it is that there are people like me out there suggesting that the state has a role to play in helping to create a healthy environment for its most vulnerable population.

Easy, no?

Today's parental no requirement comes from Aisling Burke and the City of Brampton Ontario's camp system. Aisling's going to have to say "No" to letting the City run camp feed her kids. And yes, it's easy for her to do (though her kids may well feel left out if their peers are are chowing down on French fries, pizza, potato chips, hot dogs, cookies and freezies - but never mind that), but doesn't the fact that Aisling has to use up 5 parental nos a week on a publicly run camp lunch give you at least a moment of pause? More importantly doesn't it give you pause that the City of Brampton offers its children nutritional garbage for lunch each and every day of the summer?

Shouldn't publicly run institutions be safe havens for our children?