Category Archives: Eating Behavior

One Year Plus ‘Til National Calorie Labeling Takes Effect

As you may have heard, the health care reform enacted earlier this year touched on more than what many think of plain ‘ol healthcare. Included in that “other” category was menu labeling in chain restaurants and vending machines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has one year to formulate national menu labeling regulations. These regulations require that all chain restaurants with more than 20 locations AND operators of 20 or more vending machines provide calorie counts for each item. However, it’s not clear when the federal law will actually be enforced.

This will no doubt make it easier than fitting the patchwork standards that had begun to pop up in cities and states, which was making it a bit confusing, costly and time consuming for chains to comply. It also will help with the confusing variety for folks who were looking for that information to help make better choices. Would this city/state have the information available? Would it not? 

It’s cool to know that eventually, wherever in the U.S. we are, we’ll be able to count on standard calorie info in chains. And the vending machine piece will be a small sliver of a boost that will help people make more informed choices wherever they are – and it’ll also contribute to the school-focused arm of the nationwide Let’s Move! campaign aimed at tackling childhood obesity within a generation. Until then, blissful ignorance will continue!

CSPI Releases its Extreme Eating Awards for 2010 Restaurant Food

The nutrition watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released its Extreme Eating Awards for 2010. These awards go to restaurant dishes that are frightenengly laden with calories, saturated fat and sodium (salt).

Among the winners are dishes from Outback Steakhouse, Five Guys Burgers, Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen.

There’s not doubt that if people are eating these types of entrees on a regular basis as a “normal” lunch or dinner, this is a pretty briskly-flying red flag (and not just the ones that made this cut – there are plenty of options high in calories, fat and sodium out there). However, if you’ve planned all week/month for a fun occasional celebratory meal, you’re not a bad person. We all do have our cravings from time to time! Moderation and how often we eat these kinds of meals is the key to maintaining a healthy balance in life.

Possible Pesticide-ADHD Connection

A research article published in the well-respected research journal Pediatrics found a link between pesticides and ADHD in kids. The research measured the level of pesticide residues in urine of children and noted that kids with high levels of a certain type of pesticide residue in their urine were nearly twice as likely to have ADHD than kids who didn’t have any traces of the pesticide (Note: We can’t determine cause-and-effect from this).

It’s good that they actually measured the levels in urine, instead of just asking kids/parents what the kids were eating and making estimates of pesticide intake based on that – at least this research was more direct.

It is important to note that this is just one study – it isn’t the end-all, be-all that indicates a trace of pesticide is going to kill our kids or will make them go nuts. More research on this is definitely needed before findings can be confirmed.

However, in the meantime, it’s a great idea to always very thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables. And, while not all foods always have to be organic (organics aren’t allowed to use synthetic pesticides), always washing food thoroughly and opting for organic produce some of the time can help limit your pesticide exposure.

Food Insecurity Goes Up, Free Dinners Become Popular

As reported by the Associated Press, the number of food insecure households (households that don’t always have enough nutritious food available) has risen drastically from 36 million in 2007 to 49 million in 2008, according to the Economic Research Service. These are the latest numbers, but it makes one wonder what 2009 and the beginning of 2010 would show.

Currently, 13 states provide an option for free after-school supper programs in at-risk communities where at least 50% of the population is below the poverty level. Currently, 49,000 kids in the U.S. take advantage of after-school meals. These programs appear to be increasing in popularity, especially as families are losing their jobs and homes.

Kids who get enough food to eat are able to think more clearly, make better decisions and develop well.  Filling kids (but not stuffing them!) with nutrious meals can help kids grow and learn their best. Despite whatever hiccups do exist with federal nutrition programs, the fact that these kids are getting to eat dinner when they otherwise might not be able to is definitely a huge help.

Food Labeling: Your Voice Can Be Heard

Everyone in the nutrition arena is talking about it. TIME just put an article out about it.

If you’d like to shape how food labels, front-of-package labeling and shelf tags present and/or rate nutrition information for foods and beverages, now’s the time to comment. Members of the public have until July 28 to submit comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about point-of-purchase food information – especially if you have insights on any of the following concepts:

  • Data/info on the extent to which consumers notice front-of-pack labeling/shelf tags in retail stores (this doesn’t require an advanced degree, luckily!)
  • Research comparing the effectiveness of different methods of this labeling
  • Graphic design/marketing/advertising data that can guide the development of better point-of-purchase nutrition info
  • The extent to which point-of-purchase nutrition information may affect decisions by food manufacturers to reformulate products.

FDA wants its front-of-pack nutrition labeling effort is to “maximize the number of consumers who readily notice, understand and use point-of-purchase information to make more nutritious choices for themselves and their families.” Submit comments to http://www.regulations.gov.

FDA has commissioned the Institute of Medicine to provide a recommendation on front-of-pack labeling by the end of the year; this recommendation will very likely have a strong impact on front-of-pack labeling in the U.S. for many years to come.

Bad Habits May Age Us 12 Years

A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine and covered in USA Today found that the combination of four common bad habits – smoking, drinking too much (3+ drinks/day for men and 2+ drinks/day for women), poor diet (eating fruits and veggies less than 3 times/day) and lack of activity (less than two hours per week) may age us by 12 years.

To us, there is a “Duh!” component to this research. However, the limits of “bad” habits weren’t too extreme – further encouraging us (and people we talk to) that moderate changes and improvements in our lifestyles can make a difference. Being healthy doesn’t have to be a joyless all-or-nothing lifestyle!

High-Fat Foods May Require 12-Step Program

According to CalorieLab, research at Scripp’s Research Institute in Florida found that with rats, high-fat and high-calorie foods affect the brain’s pleasure centers much like cocaine does and are similarly addictive. They also noted that, over time, it took more and more of this type of food to get that once-easy high. Rats wouldn’t even stop when shocks were given while they ate these foods.

There’s no doubt that high-fat and high-calorie foods can be hard to pass up. Again, moderation and knowing ourselves and our triggers is our best defense.