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Archive for category: Food For Thought

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Saying Good-bye to Gluten? Think Twice

May is Celiac Awareness Month and for those with celiac disease, an estimated 2% of Canadians, going gluten-free is a must.  Celiac disease is more than a gluten intolerance, it is a genetic autoimmune disease that is triggered by the consumption of gluten.  To learn more check out our post:  What is Celiac Disease?

So why are so many others saying good-bye to gluten?  What effect does going gluten-free have on the other 98% of the population?  The answer is:  nothing.  The following from CBC News discusses a recent study and its findings that:  “going gluten free is not a magic bullet for losing weight and improving your health for individuals who don’t have celiac disease.” Check out the article to learn more about the study and its findings.

CBC News:  Healthy hearts: Gluten-free diets don’t help people without celiac disease, study finds

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Why You Should Reduce Your Salt Intake

Eating well for a healthy heart requires you to monitor your intake of salt.  Sodium can lead to high blood pressure and water retention, both of which can lead to heart disease.  Learn more about how reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure and more in the following care of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal.

McMaster Optimal Aging Portal:  Does salt really affect blood pressure?

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Are You Making These Common Nutrition Mistakes?

Eating well is something that is vital to your overall health and though many try to eat well, supplement, and add “superfoods” to their diets, there are still some small blunders you may be making.  Take a look at the following from The Toronto Star to learn more about these mistakes and how to overcome them.

The Toronto Star:  Top 10 nutrition mistakes even healthy people make

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Can Your Diet Help Prevent Cancer?

The old adage “you are what you eat” is becoming more prevalent in today’s health conscious society.  There is an importance in selecting the proper foods to fight off disease and nourish our bodies to optimum health.  In honour of Cancer Month we’ve decided to share with you some of the top cancer fighting foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily meal plans.  Check out the following article from Reader’s Digest.  

Reader’s Digest:  30 Proven Foods to Help Prevent Cancer

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Can Dietary Treatments for Autism Help?

The great debate about dietary treatment for autism continues.  Many parents with children who have autism are moving towards a strict gluten/casein free diet.  Although this diet has not been medically proven to help with the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s), many feel that it does.  Read the following from Autism Speaks to learn more about the debate over whether or not this special diet can help.

Autism Speaks:  How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet?

We want to hear from you!  Has the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet worked in your situation?

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Tips for Coping with Picky Eaters

March is Nutrition Month and to celebrate our Food for Thought series will focus on some of the main factors that influence what and how we eat.

Picky eating is something quite common in children and youth and can cause great worry and disruption for many parents.  Take a look at the following from the Dietitians of Canada to learn how to manage mealtime meltdowns and overcome the picky eating problem.

The Dietitians of Canada:  Take the Fight out of Food

For more information on picky eating and solutions to help, check out the following video from our OT-V series:  Solutions for Picky Eaters.

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Fact or Fad? Health Information You Can Trust

March is Nutrition Month and to celebrate our Food for Thought series will focus on some of the main factors that influence what we eat.

The world is becoming increasingly obsessed with weight and body image and as such the internet is full of websites, blogs and products that may or may not be providing you with reliable information.

While it’s extremely important to be informed so you can eat well for weight management and overall health, how do you know what information to trust?  The following fact sheet from The Dietitians of Canada discusses how to know identify health and nutrition information you can depend on.

The Dietitians of Canada:  Food Fads– Ugh! How do I know which information to trust?

 

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The Healthy Menu Choices Act – Will This Trim your Waistline?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Here is some rocket science: being obese is a well-known contributor to poor health.  The secret to not being or becoming obese?  If you are obese, it is “move more and eat less”. If you aren’t, it is “keep moving and eat well”.  I was at the gym today and heard someone make a great comment “just show up and do something”.  Is it that simple?

In the interest of public health, Ontario has a new law effective January 1, 2017:  the Healthy Menu Choices Act.  In this, all food-service chains with 20 or more locations in must now post calorie information on menus for the food and drink items they sell.  Further, as of January 1, 2018, all menus must post the following statement:

Adults and youth (ages 13 and older) need an average of 2,000 calories a day, and children (ages 4 to 12) need an average of 1,500 calories a day. However, individual needs vary (1).

So, will this help continue to the better health of Ontarians?  People are complicated and behaviors ingrained, so do we know if having more information about calories will contribute to different choices? 

First, let’s define a calorie – it is actually “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).”  Huh?  So why does that matter?  Because in nutrition calories refer to energy consumption through eating and drinking, and energy usage through physical activity.  For example, an apple may have 80 calories, while a 1 mile walk might use up about 100 calories.  Our body uses calories as our energy source to breath, digest, circulate our blood, etc.  So, these are important and we get them from foods and beverages (2).  But knowing how many calories one person needs to maintain their weight and be at optimal health will depend on several factors including metabolism, level of activity during the day, age, and even genetics.  I need way less calories as a middle-aged active woman than the 12,000 calories per day consumed by Michael Phelps when he is training for the Olympics. 

So, to the common consumer that knows little about nutrition, but is interested in trying to eat well, will the calorie information on menus help?  Well, the math will be simple.  If the sign says I need an average of 2000 calories per day, and my Big Mac, Biggie Coke and fries is 1200 calories, I will consciously know that I have 800 left (for weight maintenance).  But when I go home, will I check labels, pull out a scale, and put together my remaining meals to not exceed 800?  Probably not because the common consumer does not tend to behave that way because if they did, we would not have an obesity problem in the first place.  However, for the educated consumer things might be different.  Personally, having fitness, health and body composition goals, I have already changed my food choices at fast food places because the calories in what I really wanted was starring me in the face, making me feel guilty already.  And I was still able to enjoy what I did order, recognizing that another element of health is “consistently making good choices” when most of the options out there (for convenience food anyway) are poor.  So I felt good (emotionally) making a better choice.  But when dealing with people and behavior, it is much more complicated than simple math.

It is also important to look at the stages of change when considering whether having transparent information about calories will actually lead to people making better decisions.  There are five stages of change – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation for action, action and maintenance (3).  Described briefly, in the first stage people don’t know they have a problem and the behaviors are risky and potentially life-threatening (like stress-eating, overeating and becoming obese).  In the second stage the person identifies they have a problem, or there are signs of the problem worsening (the number on the scale, bloodwork results, Diabetes starting etc).  In Preparation for Action, the person is ready to make a change and is seeking information and guidance.  This is when someone might start to understand what a calorie is, and how that relates to them.  In Action, the person starts actively changing.  This is where I see the Healthy Menu Choices Act being helpful.  It will provide people the information they need to make choices that are better than others, as part of their “action” towards improved health.  The Healthy Menu Choices Act will also be helpful in the last stage of Maintenance as people can use the calorie information to make choices that align with their desire to maintain the gains they have made, or to be healthily mindful in selecting foods.

From a health perspective, I think that the more information people can have about the choices they are making, the better.  Even if they don’t yet understand it, or choose not to use it, or it does not result in behavior change, it is there when they are ready for “Action”.  From a business perspective, restaurants and establishments might want to review their menus and look at the balance between their healthy and not-healthy choices.  Further, they will also want to look at how orders change with this new act.  If people stop ordering the White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino (at 510 calories) and instead sales of Iced Skinny Flavored Lattes (at 80 calories) soar, your consumers are telling you something.

Honestly, I am all for a nice bucket of poutine once a year, but beyond that I will pick the healthy options on a menu, if these exist.  If they don’t, I will go elsewhere.  It is that simple.  So I appreciate the added information the Healthy Menu Choices Act provides, and will use the calorie information in my meal decision making.

Resources:

(1)   https://www.ontario.ca/page/calories-menus

(2)   http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263028.php

(3)   http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/women/the-5-stages-of-behavioral-change/5/