Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pre-packaged food purchases in U.S.

“Packaged Food Purchases at Non-Grocery Stores are Up but Nutritional Quality is Down”

                A new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina revealed that American consumers are making more prepackaged food purchases (PFPs) at convenience stores, warehouse clubs and mass merchandisers.  They have determined the offerings available from these kinds of retailers contain higher calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium compared to grocery stores.  Researchers utilized a method called Nielsen Homescan, which records all packaged foods and beverages purchased and store source from a representative sample of U.S. households.  The data, pulled from the U.S. Homescan Consumer Panel from 2000-2012 revealed that 78% of store-based food purchases were from PFP’s.  Top purchases included grain-based desserts, regular soda, savory snacks and fruit drinks.
            This study is important to community dietitians because it provides new information about purchasing habits.  Although it’s commonly understood that food deserts, housing mainly convenience stores, increase PFPs with decreased nutrient quality, the present study reveals that mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs also contribute to a disproportionate amount of low nutrition quality food selection.  This finding creates an opportunity for dietitians to work with these retailers in promoting healthier selections and educating consumers on healthier options and tips when shopping, or simple recipes.


Recognizing the Reality of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Zelman, K., MPH, RD. (2015, September/October). From Myth to Mystery: Gluten Sensitivity. Food & Nutrition, 17-20.

Many of us have wondered and questioned the recent gluten craze, which has become one of the hottest diet trends in the US. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether gluten sensitivity is a real problem or if it is a ploy to boost the sales of expensive gluten free products.  According to an article from the September- October issue of Food & Nutrition, the answer to these questions may not be so simple. Emerging research has shown that gluten can induce symptoms in non-celiac patients.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is the diagnosis used for individuals who present with a gluten intolerance that does not meet all criteria of Celiac Disease. While symptoms of NCGS do not cause inflammation or damage to the intestinal cells, which is characteristic of Celiac Disease, this condition can cause a high level of discomfort to its sufferers.  Other research, conducted in Australia in 2013, has suggested that Gluten alone may not be responsible for these symptoms and that FODMAPs may be the true culprit. In this study, eight percent of participants improved on a gluten-free diet, while 100% of participants improved on a low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharaides, and polyols diet (FODMAP).

 It has been difficult for Dietitians not to be skeptical about NCGS, considering that the number of people going gluten free greatly outnumbers the number of people who truly experience physiological problems.  With recent research findings, Dietitians should see this “Gluten Craze” as an opportunity to take a leadership role. Dietitians can play an essential role in the treatment of NCGS.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Working Mothers’ Challenge — Finding a Way to Pump Throughout the Day

Breastfeeding offers both mother and baby many health benefits; Breastfeeding mothers experience a decreased risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers, increased iron status, faster postpartum recovery, and returning to prepregnancy weight sooner. Infants who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of age and continuously for the first year of life have stronger immune systems, decreased risk of developing chronic diseases, and allergies. Unfortunately, many mothers are switching to formula after returning to work because of the obstacles they are faced with including lack of privacy, support, and time to pump at work.

While many workplaces allow mothers to breastfeed, it is usually during their lunch breaks, which does not allow mothers to consume their increased caloric needs. Lactation is heavily dependent on a supply and demand system, so if women are not pumping enough, their milk supply will decrease. The Breastfeeding Promotion Act aims to provide support to breastfeeding mothers in the workplace by providing tax incentives to companies who offer a private place to express milk or breastfeeding consultations which educate mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding. In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was amended which requires employers to provide break time and a private lactation area for mothers.

Allowing mothers to breastfeed in the workplace is extremely important for the community as a whole because of the long term health benefits for both mother and baby. With all the knowledge and research that promotes the importance of breastfeeding, employers need to support a mother’s right to breastfeed her child for optimal nutrition. Returning to work for a mother should not be the reason to start formula feeding.

Gedney, L. (2010, May). Working mother’s challenge — finding a way to pump throughout the day. Today’s Dietitian, (12)5, 32.

Putting Calorie Counts on Fast Food Menus Won’t Make People Eat Less, Experts Say

“Putting Calorie Counts on Fast Food Menus Won’t Make People Eat Less, Experts Say”

Announced towards the conclusion of 2014 by the Food and Drug Administration, fast food restaurants will soon be required to have the number of calories per item listed on their menus. However, some researchers who study food trends and how labeling influences food choices feel that this mandate will not result in better choices being made by consumers. Often in fast food establishments, many order without looking at the menu and therefore calorie information has no influence on the customer. Perhaps the most alarming reason why researchers feel that this new requirement will have little effect on the public is because many do not understand how many calories should be consumed in a typical meal and cannot discern between healthy and unhealthy options. Some may assume that the calorie amounts for fast food entrees is “normal” and poses no real threat.

To the restaurant industry, this article provides relief to the worries that this FDA requirement will cause loss of business. However, from a dietitian’s perspective, it is alarming that some research shows such requirements will not change consumer’s habits. It highlights the importance of educating the community about what calories are and how many an individual should consume on a daily basis. Without properly educating the general public, these new laws will not actually yield any healthier changes made by consumers when it comes to fast food dining.  


Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Nutrition Facts Labels Gets a “Facelift”

In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was signed which mandated that all packaged foods should include a nutrition label. With the exception of including trans fats, it has not changed since. Nutrition is a growing science, and the label should reflect this. Changes are to include more relevant information based on how Americans realistically eat and will be in a much easier format to understand. The most important change is inclusion of added sugars because not every sugar is the same, as many believe. The population’s sugar intake is too high; studies show that American’s consume 16% of their total calories from added sugars. The calories from fat line will be removed as this information is not helpful in deciding if a product is healthy or not. Knowing the type of fat is more beneficial.

A major change proposed is increasing the serving sizes to what Americans are realistically consuming and having a larger display of calories per serving, but some fear that this might encourage individuals to eat more. Dietitians are suggesting that using visual aids, such as the stop light color system or a thumbs up/down sign will be more effective. There are other ways to be as effectiveness without encouraging consuming a larger portion. It will also make the label easier to read and understand. Inclusion of additional vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin D is proposed since Americans do not consume an adequate amount. The percent daily value will be removed and milli or microgram values will be listed so people can easily track exactly how much or their recommendation they are actually. These changes to the label will help community members make better choices and could influence food companies to want to change some of their products so they don’t have to expose how unhealthy it really is. Seeing a poor nutrition label will influence community members not to buy it, so these proposed changes can be a threat to some food companies.

Yeager, D. (2014, July). The nutrition facts label. Today’s Dietitian, (16)7, 44.

School wellness policies: Effects of using standard templates

Smith, E.M., Capogrossi, K.L., & Estabrooks, P.A. (2012). School wellness policies: Effects of using standard templates. American Journal for Preventative Medicine, 43:3, 304-308.

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of wellness policies at schools that used a standard template compared to those who did not in Virginia schools. Out of schools surveyed, only 17% of school wellness policies had met all of the standards (related to physical activity, physical education, nutrition, and nutrition education). This statistic is surprising all by itself that the vast majority of schools are not meeting the guidelines in this state. Interestingly enough, significantly more locally developed policies met the standards compared to template-using policies. This article supports the possibility that schools that create their own policies may be more effective than those who follow templates. Of course, more research is needed in this area to determine if this works beyond Virginia.

Simply sticking to the basics and following a soon-to-be outdated standard will not create the change necessary for supporting the health of the public. As a dietitian, it is our responsibility to envision the future and provide creative policies to ensure the health and wellness of the populations we deal with.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Support for Mothers When it Comes to Breastfeeding

As nutrition majors we all know the benefits of breastfeeding. What is sometimes overlooked is the difficulties and roadblocks that mothers can go through when trying to breastfeed. It is extremely important that the first few weeks after giving birth the mother has a good support system and is able to care for herself when nursing her baby.

This article discusses how to overcome some of the roadblocks that can make breastfeeding stressful. After having a baby mothers are exhausted and it is hard to feed a baby at all hours of the day. This is where a good support system comes into place. Breastfeeding is a learning process for both the mother and baby. During the hospital stay the mother should use the resources available for her regarding breastfeeding. A lactation consultant can help with latching difficulties and different positions to hold the baby that are both comfortable for the mother and baby.

Some family members may be disappointed that the mother is breastfeeding because they want to feed the baby themselves. This can be stressful for the mother because her support system does not support her decision to breastfeed. There are other ways that family members can help with the baby other than feeding, they are: keeping the mother company, getting up in the middle of the night with her, changing diapers, grocery shopping, making a meal for the mother, and help with cleaning. Words of encouragement are also really important. Since, the mother is breastfeeding she is the only one that can give the baby nutrition, and that can be stressful. Telling the mother she is doing, "a great job" and telling her, "to keep it up" can go a long way. Keeping the mother as least stressed as possible is best when she is breastfeeding.

Loyola University Health System. (2015, June 9). Early support vital for success in breastfeeding. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 26, 2015 from