New Food Trends, New Food Labels

The food labels you’ve come to know and recognize are getting a facelift. On May 20, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced changes and updates to the food labels required on all manufactured food and beverage products. This is the first significant change to the label since the early 1990’s, and all companies must incorporate the changes by July 2018. According to the FDA, the new label design more accurately reflects the way Americans eat today as opposed to how they did in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

A key change to the label, and probably the most noticeable change, is that the calories are written in a large, bold font. This is meant so that a person can quickly see how many calories are in a serving. Additionally, standard serving sizes have also been updated to better reflect the increasing serving sizes in America. For instance, a standard ½ cup serving of ice cream on food labels now has been increased to 2/3 cup (have you ever tried to eat only a ½ cup of ice cream? It’s impossible!). And, a standard 8oz serving of soda is now 12oz. Calories are listed per serving, and sometimes per package, depending on if a person is likely to consume an entire package of a food item at once (i.e., a large bottle of soda containing two servings instead of one, or a bigger bag of chips).

Another change is the addition of a line under “carbohydrates” that discloses the amount of added sugars. Personally, I think this is a great idea, as it can bring awareness to how much added sugars someone can actually be consuming throughout the day. Increased calorie intake from added sugars can contribute to the development of obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers, so this is a very positive change. I think it may also encourage food companies to reconfigure their manufacturing processes to decrease the amount of added sugars in their products, now that the amount of added sugar will be fully on display.

The last of the major changes to the new food label are the vitamins and minerals that are required to be listed. Currently, the amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron are standard. The new label will now require Vitamin D and potassium content, and does not require Vitamins A and C. The FDA reports that the reasoning behind this change is because in the early 1990’s, more people were lacking vitamins A and C in their diets, however deficiencies are not that common today. Research has shown that more people are not consuming enough Vitamin D and potassium, which can lead to the development of certain chronic diseases such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease, respectively.

Take a look at the comparison between the old label and the new label below. What do you think of the changes? Do you think it will improve the health of the American people?

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 5.47.48 PM

You can find a more detailed look and explanation of the new labels by the FDA here..

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CSA All the Way

Hi there! It’s been a very busy summer, I feel like I blinked and it was over. For this summer, I decided to do something a little different from my typical weekly food shops and signed up for a CSA.

CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the growing season to a farm, and in return, you get a “share” of their produce every week. After researching the different CSAs available in my area, I decided to go with a partial share from the Turtle Bay CSA. The vegetables are grown by Free Bird Farm in upstate New York (which also services other CSA’s throughout New York City). Every week from around mid-June to mid-November, the CSA has a vegetable pickup where they hand out the week’s vegetables. In return, you must volunteer at least once at a vegetable pickup to help things run smoothly. Additionally, if you want to pay a little extra, you can purchase an egg share, a butter share, a maple syrup/honey share, a poultry share, ground beef share, and/or a fruit share. Click here to learn more about what a CSA is, how it works, and where to find one near you in NYC.

You don’t have a say in what vegetables are given out each week, and a lot of what the farm produces depends on the weather and the rain conditions of the season. For instance, this summer has been dryer than previous summers, and therefore the vegetables we received this year were a lot different than last year’s produce. Additionally, the farmers of Free Bird Farm send out a weekly newsletter that share a little bit about life on the farm, the work that goes into growing a successful crop, a detailed list of what vegetables are being offered that week, and different recipes incorporating those vegetables.

The vegetables I’ve received so far have been varied and interesting, but we still have received a lot of the familiar vegetables that I’m used to eating. So far we’ve gotten a lot of garden tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, red potatoes, cabbages, and beets. Some of the weirder vegetables of this season include kohlrabi, fennel, japanese radishes, and tongue of fire shell beans. There has also been a lot of salad greens, red lettuces, and kale. I have been loving it so far, because the CSA has been getting me out of my comfort zone of buying the same vegetables over and over, and has been pushing me to discover new recipes that I typically wouldn’t try. Of course, when I have no idea what to do with a vegetable, which will occasionally happen, I can rely on cubing it and roasting it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and eat it as a side dish throughout the week, and that works just fine (usually my standard temperature and time for vegetable roasting is 350 degrees for 30 minutes – stirring the vegetables at the 15-minutes mark).

I also find that the fresh herbs and vegetables that I’m used to eating, like the tomatoes, carrots, and lettuce, taste so good and stay fresh for way longer. This may be likely due to the reduced transit time from the farm to my kitchen. Also, the vegetables you get are actually in season, and are therefore at the peak of freshness and their highest nutritional quality.

Some tips if you’re thinking about joining a CSA next season:

  • Start a Pinterest page that’s dedicated to the vegetables you get from the CSA to keep everything in one place. My CSA Pinterest board has been a lifesaver.
  • Save the greens of everything. Radish greens, turnip greens, and especially beet greens are delicious when sauteed with oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions, and although it may seem like too many greens when you pick up your vegetables, they usually cook way down. This is an easy way to reduce waste and to give your meals a big nutritional boost.
  • If you really don’t like something, you can swap it for something else at your pickup location. I try not to do this because I want to try everything, but if we get something that I know I just won’t eat and would prefer to have more of another vegetable, then I will swap it.
  • Kind of along the lines of the above point, if you don’t think you will like something, be open to trying it. I honestly did not think I liked kale or beets before this summer. Now, after researching different ways to cook them, I love them. I’ve made countless kale-based smoothies, beet chips, and beet hummus. I don’t even dream of swapping these super-foods out.
  • WASH EVERYTHING. INVEST IN A GOOD SALAD SPINNER. The farm does a pretty good job with hosing everything down before handing out the vegetables, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find the occasional critter or dirt in your pickup. Gross, yes, but remember these vegetables are fresh from the farm and it’s as natural as you can get.
  • Talk to other people when you’re at the pickup to get ideas for how they cook and eat their veggies.
  • Enjoy it! This CSA season has about a month left and I honestly am so sad. But I’m going to keep looking for the more out-of-the-box veggies at the supermarket over the winter.

If you want more of an idea for what type of vegetables, fruit and other food items that can come in a CSA, check out the Turtle Bay CSA website (link above in text). Also, check out my friend and fellow dietitian Rachel Greenspan’s amazing instagram. She belongs to a CSA that uses Free Bird Farm as well, and makes amazing and beautiful dishes. The link can be found here: wholegreens.

Caprese salad with lettuce greens, fresh basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Easter Egg Radishes!
Easter egg radish, sweet potato, and kohlrabi, pre-veggie roast
Fresh corn veloute soup
Another crazy roast of kohlrabi, fennel, and golden beets.
Hi! Me volunteering at the veggie pickup – weighing out red potatoes and studying a kohlrabi – which honestly looks like an alien.
My first attempt at making spaghetti squash! Only got one of these things so far, wish we had more.
An example of the beet hummus I made for the Pretty Little Liars finale – felt the rich red color and “A” was appropriate. Recipe can be found on my Pinterest CSA board and it is AmAzing (see what I did there?).
An example of just taking all the greens and throwing it in a pan with some chicken, this dinner is basically a hodge-podge of all the different greens, purple cabbage, and easy.
Bacon and escarole soup. First time I ever had escarole, now a big fan (bacon does that with a lot of foods, doesn’t it?). 

The Best Diets in 2015

First and foremost, HAPPY NEW YEAR! New Years Day is one of my favorite days of the year because: 1) I feel like it’s one big culmination of all the joy, family, and friends of the holiday season; and 2) I love the idea of starting with a clean slate. The new year is an opportunity to reevaluate your life. It’s a time to look back on the past year and see how you’ve grown as a person, what changes you have made, and think about the direction you want to take yourself in the year to come.

I’m going to be cliche here and say it,  you have to admit that this is a good time to try out and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Be it new eating habits or new fitness routines, we have just come off of a holiday season full of celebrations, fancy dinners, sugary cocktails, and cookies galore. Why not take the month of January as an opportunity to start with a clean slate?

Which brings me to the point of this post. For the past 5 years, US News has been putting out rankings of the country’s most popular diets. And they have just published  The Best Diets of 2015. To quote US News, the diets are ranked as follows:

“A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.”

Here are just a few of my thoughts. This post may come off as biased, but these are my personal (and dare I say it, professional) opinions. You can find the full article here:

Best Diets 2015 – US News

The best diets overall, according to this article, are the DASH diet and TLC diets. As a registered dietitian working in a large city hospital, on two different cardiac units, I teach patients about both the DASH diet and TLC diet several times a day, every day. These diets discuss lowering sodium intake and trans fats and replacing them with more whole grains, healthy fats, and colorful fruits and vegetables. These diets really are amazing for everyone, not just people with heart issues, and can help you look better and feel better just by eliminating a lot of the processed foods that have infiltrated the typical American diet.

The best diets for weight loss are Weight Watchers and the Health Management Resources (HMR) diet. While I honestly have never even heard of the HMR diet, I must admit it does sound… interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of diets that include home food deliveries or shakes and meal replacement bars (like Jenny Craig or Medifest – both also made this list). I think a good weight loss diet shouldn’t have to incorporate a particular product made by a manufacturer to be successful. On the other hand, I think Weight Watchers is wonderful and I like that it incorporates real life techniques. I’ve done Weight Watchers myself in the past and found that it taught me how to prioritize healthier foods. It made me focus on eating foods like fruits and vegetables a habit that I still practice daily today.

I’m also really happy that the Volumetrics diet made this list again in 2015 (#6). Call me biased but I love this plan because it was created by Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Penn State, in a metabolic kitchen right next door to the research lab I worked in as an undergrad. BUT, Nittany pride aside, I do believe this diet has the research and the theory to back it up.

And finally, I have to say I’m kind of surprised that the Paleo diet came in last place for the second year in a row. Yes, I do think the Paleo diet is difficult to replicate in modern times, and I do love my legumes, whole grains, and cheese (which are alas, forbidden). But I think a lot of the key points behind it are pretty sound (focusing on lean meats and increasing fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds), and I definitely don’t think it’s worse than say, the Acid Alkaline diet and the Supercharged Hormone diet. I mean, really?

So, if you’re curious, take a moment to read this list and see if there’s anything out there you want to try in the new year. Some of these seem a little out there and whacky, which honestly makes me question the validity of this list, but there are a few good ones that may be worth your while.

Best of luck in achieving all your health and fitness goals that you have set for yourself this year, and Happy Eating!