Thursday, September 27, 2012

Living in Poor Health

From September 13-19, 2012, 26 high-profile Saskatoon individuals experienced food insecurity.  They received a food bank basket, a few pantry items/staples, and a $5 food budget for the week.  The participants were not allowed to eat out or accept free food/drink, but could use community meal programs to help them through their week.

This was the second year of the Food Basket Challenge, which is meant to create conversation, awareness, and relationships between those who live in poverty and those who do not.  While it is only one week, and the participants get to return to their lives at the end, I am sure they all learned something and perhaps that will be enough to start creating change so that people do not have to go without nourishment.  One of the main issues is Food Security - access at all times to safe, nutritious food to maintain health and activity.  

I was in touch with 2 participants (Jill Smith and Heather Morrison) on twitter as they were concerned about the nutritional implications of the challenge.  Heather recorded her daily intake on the challenge blog which allowed me to do a nutrient analysis.  Heather is gluten and lactose intolerant which definitely affects the food choices she makes on a daily basis - this can be a real concern for those who are struggling to get enough food, but also perhaps have restrictions which can reduce their already limited choices.  

Heather's basket included spinach, yogurt, strawberries, deli meat, potatoes, rice, applesauce, canned pears, canned corn, V8 juice, and yogurt.  The food basket is meant to last 2-3 days, but for many people it must last weeks.  For her pantry items she chose corn flour, salt, oil, honey, and ketchup.  She spent her $5 on eggs, beans, and apples.

There are so many factors to consider - Heather knew to budget her food so she meal planned for the week so as not to run out.  She also knew to spend her money on healthy foods that would provide nutrients (not just Calorie dense foods - burger, fries, pop, chocolate bar, etc.).  Heather also had the equipment and skills to make modified corn bread (with potato water as her liquid) and potato pancakes.  She was also able to use community meal programs, but some people may not have access to transportation to get to them, or may feel ashamed, etc. for needing to seek help.

I used the Dietitians of Canada EaTracker website to enter Heather's food.  The results are approximate because I didn't know the exact recipes/composition of her corn bread or potato pancakes, and borscht didn't exist in the database.  It still gives us a glimpse as to how much food she was getting (Calories) and what nutrients were lacking.

Depending on Heather's weight, height, age, and activity level she likely needs between 1900 - 2300 Calories per day and it is typically recommended that women do not go below 1200 Calories per day (or men below 1800) because it is too hard to meet nutrient requirements.  That being said, here is approximately how many Calories she received during her 6 day challenge:
Day 1: 982, Day 2 = 1054, Day 3 = 994, Day 4 = 1273, Day 5 = 1618, and Day 6 = 1308.  That is just the food energy, but due to a lack of choice and variety she was consistently low in certain nutrients.  Based on daily recommendations she was less than 50% for potassium, fibre, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and iron on every day of the challenge.  Most days she exceeded her sodium requirements (too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease).  She met her vitamin C and most of her B vitamin requirements most days, although was low in folate a few times.  She also only met her protein requirements half of the days.

What are potential implications (chronic low intakes)?
Potassium - for control of fluid balance and blood pressure; allows nerves and muscles to work together.
Fibre - for a healthy digestive system, can help reduce blood cholesterol and control blood sugar levels, and can also help you feel full longer.
Vitamin A - important for healthy eyes; protects you from infection by keeping your skin and other body parts healthy, as well as promoting normal growth and development.
Calcium - for healthy bones and teeth; allows muscles and your heart to work properly.
Vitamin D - important for increased absorption of calcium and phosphorus to be deposited in bones and teeth; keeps your immune system healthy.
Vitamin E - also helps keep your immune system strong and is an antioxidant working to protect your cells from damage.
Iron - carries oxygen to all parts of your body and as such can prevent you from feeling tired/fatigued; iron deficiency anemia is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world (WHO).

Another basic way to look at Heather's intake is compared to Canada's Food Guide recommended servings.  For a woman age 19-50, she would need about 7-8 vegetables and fruit, 6-7 grain products, 2 milk and alternatives and 2 meat and alternatives.  However, most days she has the equivalent of 3 servings of vegetables and fruit, 5.5 servings of grain products, 0 milk and alternatives (yogurt in Tablespoons just doesn't add up to be enough), and 2 meat and alternatives. 

A chronic low intake of the nutrients listed above could lead to more colds, flus, and other disease states.  This can make is harder for people to go about their daily tasks (going to get food, searching for work, caring for family members, etc.).

You may choose not to eat certain foods or to include Calorie dense rather than nutrient dense foods at times, but for many people the CHOICE is gone and this can affect their health and ability to live their life.

Thanks for sharing your information Heather!

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another Day, Another Diet?

If you read my blog often, you will know that my favourite words as a dietitian are VARIETY, MODERATION, and BALANCE.  I feel that those terms can be applied to our food choices so that we enjoy what we feed ourselves and don't feel deprived.  My nutrition intern Samantha was also thinking along those lines when she wrote the blog post below.  With Sam's post in mind and since it's Q's Day - I would like to know:

What do you label your eating pattern/diet?

Do we have to be on a diet to be healthy?
By Samantha Sielski, Dietetic Intern (for Steph Langdon, RD)

Every day I notice more people giving themselves a label to identify the type of food they eat – lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, pesco-vegetarian, gluten free, raw foods, etc.  Then they have this guilt run over their face and they add “but I eat cheese!”  Why do people put themselves through the cruelty of avoiding the foods they love, and then feel outrageously guilty for cheating on these favorite foods?  I swear sometimes that I need a psychology degree to work in the nutrition profession.

Hollywood bombards us with the newest, fad diets 24/7. But this is exactly what they are, a fad, which are difficult to sustain long term.  It is always interesting to hear what lactose free, raw, juice cleanse diet a client or family member is on next.  But does a person really need to be on any special diet to be healthy? 
My answer to this question is yes and no.  If you have a diagnosed allergy or disease such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease, then there are definitely foods you have to avoid.  Otherwise, if you are a perfectly healthy individual then there is no need to be on a restrictive diet, but this does not mean you can’t try a gluten free or vegan meal.  People actually do more damage to their digestive system when they are voluntarily jumping from food restriction to food restriction.  This is due to the fact that the healthy bacteria in your gut do not like the food rollercoaster you are putting it through. 

There are some great things we can take away from different ways of eating, such as incorporating a vegetarian meal into your otherwise carnivorous eating habits or experimenting with ancient grains.  Some of my best recipes are from a vegan website, but this does not mean I am a vegan.  It means I see the value in the variety that other ways of eating can add to my ever expanding food enjoyment.  I challenge you to eat what you love and experiment with new foods; don’t become a restrictive dieter!
Vegan Zucchini Bread (Source
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    2 ripe bananas
    1/2 cup applesauce
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup brown sugar (reduced from original  
    1/2 cup white sugar (reduced from original recipe)
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    3 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease 2 8x4-inch loaf pans.

Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Beat the bananas, applesauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice together in a separate large bowl. Beat the flour mixture into the banana mixture; add the zucchini and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pans.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 90 minutes. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. 

Thanks Sam!

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You're Grrrrrrrrrrrreat

Often times my husband's industry (advertizing) works against my industry (health and dietetics).  It's not him personally, but so many ads promote processed food, fad diets, and poor body images.  He recently shared Nike's Find Your Greatness campaign with me.  I love the concept, sort of like the Dove Beauty campaign.  Yes, these messages are meant to sell products, but they can also inspire people.

I am a former professional and national team athlete and within me is a drive to succeed - a drive to be great you could say.  I am very competitive and work everyday to be the best version of myself (ya, I'm a perfectionist which doesn't make for an easy life!).  I am constantly learning the importance of perspective because in my mind I will never be good enough - there are things I am good at, but am I great? 

We can ALL be great, I'm not sure why we try to all fit the same mold or definition though. Greatness is within your grasp, you're likely already great, but possibly don't know it!  So, since it's Q's Day I want to know:

What makes you great or what greatness are you striving for?

Have a GREAT day!

Steph Langdon (Wheler), RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Who, What, Where, When, Weekend?

I am amazed that it's September already!  Where has this year gone?  On Friday I suggested a long weekend with food, fitness, friends, and fun.  Since it's Q's Day, I want to know:

What did you eat Labour Day long weekend?

I was able to enjoy time with many different friends and family members.  We took in the Saskatoon Fireworks Festival from 2 different vantage points (East and West side).  I'm not much of a sparkly/glitzy person, but I do enjoy the simple pleasure of fireworks over the river on a beautiful Autumn evening (it was chilly, so I think it felt more like Fall than Summer).  

We enjoyed some great meals as well.  Lots of fresh fruit with Greek yogurt, brunch at Truffles where I enjoyed the very flavourful feature.  They had a great description, but it was something like - a poached egg with kale, cherried bacon, a garlic and tomato coulis, served on a biscuit.  That's how I like to indulge - with vegetables making an appearance and decadent flavours in a small portion.  There may have been a delicious latte too!

We also enjoyed roasted Parmesan zucchini from a recipe I found on Pinterest.  It is quick, simple, and tasty.  Preheat the oven to 400F, wash and chop your zucchini, place it on a cookie sheet, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.   Cook for 10-15 minutes until cheese starts to brown, but zucchini is still tender.

I enjoyed some great walks - 3 greyhounds for one day made things a little more exciting than just having our Albert.  I did a little shopping with a girlfriend and started making plans for an upcoming vacation.  Being a 'do-er' I also minimized some clutter in the house, organized photos, and caught up on some reading.  Overall a September long weekend success if I say so myself!  Here's to a great September - I'm already looking forward to making warm soups as the temperatures continue to drop.

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching