May 20, 2007

This is why this blog is called RightSizingAmerica and not RightSizingKorea.


May 15, 2007

McDonald's serves up myths with those fries

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest comes a complete debunking of fast food myths and half-truths as it relates to putting nutrition information on its menus.

Myth: Restaurant nutrition labeling will force mom and pop restaurants out of business.

Reality: The proposed legislation would apply only to restaurants that belong to chains with 10 or more outlets. Small business owners would not be affected by this legislation.

Myth: Special orders are common, and it would be impossible for a menu to list nutrition information for all possible different food preparation options and combinations.

Reality: The bill would require fastfood and other chain restaurants to provide nutrition information for menu items as “offered for sale.” It does not apply to customized orders or to daily specials (which are not standard menu items). If restaurants can provide nutrition information on websites and brochures, they should be able to do so on menus and menu boards. Even if people customize their orders, providing nutrition information for standard menu items at chain restaurants would provide a good basis for comparison from which customers could make informed choices.

Myth: The current system of voluntary labeling at restaurants is adequate.

Reality: Under the current system of voluntary labeling, fewer than half of the largest chain restaurants provide any nutrition information about their food to their customers. We know of no restaurants that provide calorie labeling for all menu items directly on menus or menu boards. A system requiring all chain restaurants to provide nutritional information on menus and menu boards would provide a level playing field in a highly competitive industry.

Myth: People already have access to nutrition labeling at restaurants.

Reality: The approximately one-third of restaurants that do provide nutrition information usually do so on websites, which have to be accessed before leaving home, or on hard-to-find and difficult-to-read posters or brochures in their stores. Placing the nutrition information on the menu or menu board would be right at the point of decision making, more convenient, and easier to use.

Myth: Nutrition labeling at fast-food and other chain restaurants will not help to reduce obesity because people eat out so infrequently.

Reality: Americans are relying increasingly on restaurants to feed themselves and their families – restaurants are not just for special occasions any more. Americans are eating out twice as much as in 1970. Adults and children eat about one-third of their calories from restaurants and other food service establishments. On a typical day, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that more than four out of ten adults patronize restaurants. Providing nutrition information at chain restaurants would provide an important tool to allow people to make informed choices for a significant and growing part of their diets. Eating out is associated with higher calorie intakes and higher body weights. Children eat almost twice as many calories when they eat a meal at a restaurant compared to at home (770 versus 420 calories). Portion sizes at restaurants often are large and for just a little more money customers can upgrade to larger serving sizes. Restaurant meals often provide a half to a whole day’s worth of calories.

Myth: When people eat out they want to splurge and do not want nutrition information.

Reality: While people may choose to ignore nutrition information on certain occasions, two-thirds of Americans support requiring restaurants to list nutrition information, such as calories, on menus, according to recent national polls by the Harvard Forums on Health and by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Myth: The cost of nutrition labeling would drive chain restaurants out of business.

Reality: Many of the largest chain restaurants already provide nutrition information on their websites and would not incur any new costs for analyzing their products. The cost to have a product analyzed is about $220 per menu item. A restaurant chain with 80 menu items would incur a one-time cost of approximately $18,000 to have all its menu items tested—less than ten dollars for each Denny’s outlet. The cost of redesigning menus and menu boards would be modest. Many chain restaurants centralize menu development and printing and restaurant headquarters incur the costs.

Myth: Nutrition labeling at restaurants is a radical idea advocated by the “food police” trying to tell us what we can and can not eat.

Reality: Nutrition labeling would not limit choices at restaurants. It simply would provide clearer information regarding those choices. Supporters of better nutrition information at restaurants include: The U.S. Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services’ “Call to Action” on obesity recommends “increasing availability of nutrition information for foods eaten and prepared away from home.” Seventeen cities, states and territories have introduced legislation to require better nutrition information at fast-food and other chain restaurants. Two-thirds of Americans support requiring nutrition labeling of restaurant foods.

Myth: Nutrition labeling on packaged foods in supermarkets has not been effective in helping people to make healthier food choices.

Reality: Americans rank nutrition second only to taste as the factor most frequently influencing food purchases. Three-fourths of adults report using food labels. People who read nutrition labels are more likely to have a diet lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in vitamin C. Also, packaged-food labeling has resulted in reformulation of existing products to improve their nutritional quality, as well as the introduction of new nutritionally-improved (low-fat, low-sodium, etc.) products. Finally, the rise in obesity rates began well before Nutrition Facts labels were required on packaged foods. Nutrition Facts labels 3 have only been required on packaged foods since 1994. Obesity rates started to increase in 1980.

Myth: Menu labeling is not necessary because restaurants already provide a wide variety of foods to meet any individual’s dietary needs.

Reality: The nutritional quality of restaurant meals varies and a range of options is usually available. However, without nutrition information, it is difficult to compare options and make informed decisions. Studies show that estimating the calorie and fat content of restaurant foods is difficult, even for nutrition professionals. Few people would guess that a tuna salad sandwich from a typical deli has 50% more calories than a roast beef with mustard or that a sirloin steak has half the calories of a porterhouse.

Myth: Physical inactivity is primarily responsible for obesity, and unhealthy eating habits play only a minor role.

Reality: The high levels of obesity in the U.S. are attributable to both unhealthy eating and physical inactivity, and both must be addressed to help reduce obesity, heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Most Americans are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity. However, existing data and societal trends suggest that activity levels were already low by 1980, when obesity rates started to increase. Many major societal trends leading to decreased physical activity occurred before 1980 – the move to the suburbs, shift to an information economy and more desk jobs, reliance on the car, and wide availability of labor-saving devices. It is not clear whether further declines in physical activity have occurred since then. In contrast, the data and societal trends are clear regarding the importance of increased caloric intake in driving the rising obesity rates. National surveys and food-supply data show that adults and children are consuming more calories (about 168 more calories per day for men and 335 more calories per day for women between 1971 and 2000). In addition, since 1980, there have been increases in portion sizes, eating out, and of soft drink intake. It would require a great deal of physical activity to burn off the calories in many popular restaurant foods and meals.

May 14, 2007

Why have government at all?

When I recently suggested that we all should unite behind the Center for Science in the Public Interest's campaign to put nutritional information on menus, I received the typical argument. Not against the intent of the bill, but the wrong-headed argument that government has no business telling anyone what to do.

The exact words were:
In my opinion this is the problem with legislating health. It is up to the consumer to STOP supersizing; STOP ordering mega portions or worse, complaining of how expensive the food is when served a NORMAL portion-why do you think restaurants starting making larger portions in the first place. We need to stop blaming governments, restaurants, fast food joints for what WE BUY. Don't buy mega meals and the food service industry will respond, Don't buy what you don't want to eat... there are plenty of options out there, but 'its too expensive', 'its too much trouble', PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND THE INDUSTRY WILL RESPOND. We can't expect 'big brother' to baby sit us... I certainly don't want the government telling me what I can and can't eat; I don't even let my fiance do that and I love him a lot more than I love my congressman, governor, legislature and president!
But of course the government does tell us what to eat. We can't eat tainted food. We could back in the 1920s, but the muckrakers forced government into action, stopping industries from poisoning us. We can't eat food picked by underpaid migrant workers. The government in the 1970s declared workers had certain rights. I can go on and on with how government currently tells you what to eat.

And today, government makes it easy and cheap to eat "junk" food. Why is it even possible for restaurants to "supersize"? Because the government has legislated it. And you paid for it. By changing the farm policy 40 years ago, corn is cheaper than what it costs to grow it. That supports the beef and fast-food industry. McDonald's should have to pay the true costs of hamburgers and french fries.

My critics say it's "too expensive" to eat healthy. They're right. The government doesn't subsidize carrots.

It's naive to think restaurants will do what's right. If it wasn't for government, they'd serve you trans fats, underpay their employees, have unsafe working conditions and monopolize industries. Good government is not big brother. Good government is you and me protecting our fellow citizens and children.

May 12, 2007

The 20 Best Weight-Loss Foods

Runner's World -- a magazine I rarely read -- recently listed the The 20 Best Weight-Loss Foods.

Now I'm not a runner by any means. But right off the bat, I thought this is a realistic list.

My top picks were:

For Breakfast: Green egg whites. I try to have this 3 or 4 times a week. It's mushrooms and spinach sauteed, and then stir in 1/2 cup of egg whites. Most times I add a little salsa on the top.

The fruit smoothie is also a great breakfast. Today I had a fresh strawberry, banana, orange juice, wheat germ (with ice) smoothie from the blender. Both my wife and son had a glass as well.

Runner's World suggested Health Valley chili for lunch. I like Cincinnati Chili made with 99% fat free ground turkey. I guarantee you'd think it was prime beef.

For dinner they suggest complex carbs, but I prefer grilled chicken salad with calorie-free Caeser dressing.

Try these suggestions just for a couple of weeks, instead of eating fast foods. Skip the enormous bagels in the morning. Forget the sandwich for lunch. And definitely avoid the red meat and fried foods for dinner. No ice cream for dessert, either.

In just a few weeks, you'll be feeling and looking better.

May 10, 2007

Small portions make smaller people

It takes a village to raise a child, and to make that child a little smaller.

Somerville Massachusetts, with 80,000 residents, like many American cities has overweight children. Tufts University with a grant from the CDC is starting to change that by targeting 1st through 3rd graders in an experiment to battle obesity.

The results after just eight months showed that students in first through third grades gained one pound less than students in similar communities. While it may not sound like a lot, this shift in weight gain over time would actually move many children out of the overweight category.

The grant, Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart Play Hard.™, was awarded to Dr. Christina Economos (N96) in September 2002 for three years.

The project is a community-based environmental approach to obesity prevention. The interventions take place through community partnerships that create healthy eating and physical activity messages and increase opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating, specifically fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grain products throughout the children’s day. Some of the interventions include:


Shape Up Somerville has been working with restaurants across the city to enhance the options for people and families who eat out. 20 restaurants have come on board and are now “Shape Up Approved”. In order for restaurants to be “Approved” they must meet the following criteria:

  • Offer low fat dairy products
  • Offer some dishes in a smaller portion size
  • Offer fruits and vegetables as side dishes
  • Have visible signs that highlight their healthier options

School Food Service

For the past two years Shape Up Somerville has worked with the Somerville School Food Service Department to enhance the quality and quantity of healthy foods for students. During the first year, a specific fruit and vegetable was highlighted each month in all ten elementary schools and there were taste tests done during lunch periods at all schools.

New kitchen preparation and serving equipment was purchased. All food service staff were trained on nutrition education, knife skills including working with the new equipment, and food safety. New vegetarian recipes were developed and salads were made fresh each day. A La Carte items were changed to meet specific nutritional standards and fresh fruit was made available everyday for breakfast and lunch. Ice cream was made available only one day per week and sugared cereals were limited at breakfast.

May 8, 2007

Fast Food Fraud Fools Folks

Ever wonder why fast food looks so good in the ads, and looks so bad in reality?
Because it's not real! Can you guess which picture above is real and which is marketing?

Marketing takes great care in "styling" the food shown in print and video ads to make it appear tasty and healthy. When we know it's not.

Jeff Kay from West Virginia Surf Report went to various fast food outlets and compared his "real" food with those same styled advertisements.

As he writes, "each item was purchased, taken home, and photographed immediately. Nothing was tampered with, run over by a car, or anything of the sort. It is an accurate representation in every case. Shiny, neon-orange, liquefied pump-cheese, and all."

Take a look at all his pictures. If you saw his reality pictures on a billboard, would you stop at McDonald's or Wendy's or KFC ever again?

May 5, 2007

Poor people don't have a chance when it comes to healthy foods reports, "How can people on a modest income eat a healthy diet and lose weight when they can't afford it?" The question stumped author Kimberly Floyd during a health seminar and she became determined to find the answer. Her new book "MoneyWise Weight Loss: The Faith-based Plan for Building a Better Body on a Budget" contains the strategies she uncovered.

Having lost 85 pounds herself, the former Registered Nurse found that conventional weight loss programs cost up to $14 a day. After reading that the average low income family can only spend $25 per person per week on food, she decided to see if she could still eat healthy while spending that amount each week.

"I did it for a month and it was challenging," Floyd said. "In my research, I discovered that there is indeed a 'rich people's diet' and a 'poor people's diet.' The rich diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. The poor diet is high in sugar, fat, and starch. These foods contribute to obesity. In this country, higher obesity statistics run along socioeconomic lines."

To prove her point, Floyd sited an August 2006 article by Dr. Adam Drewnoski in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the article Drewnoski states, "There is no question that the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States follow a socioeconomic gradient, such that the burden of disease falls disproportionately on people with limited resources, racial-ethnic minorities, and the poor."

Floyd went on to discuss her difficulty in saving money on fruits and vegetables during her challenge. "To save money, many experts advise you to buy fruits and vegetables in season. But what are the seasons? After a lot of digging, I found the answers, and then combined other food budgeting strategies with the principles I used to lose weight. That's how 'MoneyWise Weight Loss' was born."

She concludes "Achieving our optimal weight is one way that we can regain our energy, joy, and live the abundant life that we are called to live. My dream is to make wellness affordable for everyone."

May 4, 2007

You know you're a redneck, if you have heart disease

"Does the higher incidence of obesity come from the traditional Appalachian Sunday dinner, or is it from the spread of convenience stores and fast food in the last 25 years?" that's the question a two-day conference is trying to answer.

USA Today reports, doctors, lawmakers and specialists hope to launch a public health network in 13 states to change one of the stark facts of Appalachian life: Residents are 20% more likely to die from heart disease than the rest of the country.

The task won't be easy. States in Appalachia lead the country in heart disease risk factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise, and those factors could partly come from long-held cultural practices and beliefs.

That's why the two-day conference that began Thursday includes historians, who can explain the unique characteristics of the region that stretches from Mississippi into upstate New York, including parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and all of West Virginia.

Four of the five states with the highest rates of common heart conditions are in Appalachia, according to the CDC. West Virginia is the highest in the country, with about 10.4% of adults reporting a common heart condition such as coronary heart disease, compared to a national average of about 6.5%.

Four Appalachian states also rank in the top five for the highest rate of cardiovascular disease-related deaths, according to the American Heart Association, which also sponsored the conference. While researchers have known that for years, they still don't have a good explanation for it.

May 3, 2007

You want to eat less from your plate? Make your plate less

One of the easiest changes I made in my diet had nothing to do with food. And everything to do with eating.

After reading Brian Wansink book, "Mindless Eating" I decided to take much of his advice to heart. (And help my heart.)

Like most American dinner plates, mine were pretty big — almost 12 inches in diameter. “Pretty ample,” as Wansink said. Fifty years ago, when Americans were a lot skinnier, plates were a lot smaller. Large plates and bowls lead to more eating for the same reason giant popcorn buckets do: they make portions look smaller. Short, wide drinking glasses have a similar effect.

So I changed my plates and forks for good measure. I now eat off of salad plates and use my smaller salad fork. And in 8 months I have lost 80 pounds. I'm sure most of the reason for the weight l0ss has been the small portions I have been eating. But just a little bit of the reason has been the fact that my mind has new cues. When I load up my plate with my smaller portions, my plate looks full. In fact a few times, it looked too full. (That never happened on my old 12-inch dishes.)

I know intellectually that it's just a mind trick. But it's the same trick McDonald's uses to tell you a large order of french fries is a serving.

I was reminded of how fantastic Wansink's observations are after reading his recent interview in the New York Times.

Here are five other lessons from research by Wansink:

1. Hide the cookies; uncover the carrots.

You eat what you see. If you have to look at soda every time you open your refrigerator, you will spend more time thinking about soda and, ultimately, will drink more of it. So keep the sweets tucked away, and move your carrots and celery from the vegetable crisper to the top shelf of the fridge, where they will be at eye level.

2. The same goes for the office.

If there is a public stash of candy at work, make sure it’s not in a glass bowl. In one experiment, Mr. Wansink and another researcher, Jim Palmer, found that secretaries sitting near clear dishes filled with Hershey’s Kisses ate 71 percent more — or 77 calories a day — than those sitting near white dishes of Kisses. Over the course of a year, Mr. Wansink writes, the clear dish would have added more than five pounds of extra weight.

3. Convenience leads to consumption.

The easier food is to grab — even if the difference can be measured in seconds — the more you will eat. So before you move the carrots and celery to the top shelf, wash them and cut them up. You’ll eat more of them. And be wary of resealable cookie and cracker packages that make high-calorie snacking too easy. Leaving one of these packages open on a counter all but guarantees gluttony.

4. Don’t get rid of the evidence.

In another of Mr. Wansink’s experiments, people dining on chicken wings ate more if the bones were cleared away. When the bones were left on the table, diners had a tangible reminder of how much they had eaten. This also helps explain the results of the wonderful “bottomless soup bowl” test. When a bowl was secretly refilled with tomato soup — using a tube hidden beneath a table — people ate far more of the soup than when it disappeared from their bowl as they ate it. In effect, they were using the amount left in the bowl as a measure of how much they had already eaten.

5. Use your eyes to your advantage.

Since your stomach isn’t able to keep perfect track of the calories you are eating, you rely to a large degree on your eyes. The bigger something looks, the less of it you will eat. This is why soup is generally so healthy: the amount of water in it causes people to feel full when they actually are full — rather than a few hundred calories later.

Read the article and read the book. It will be difficult to Mindlessly Eat again