Monday, August 30, 2010

Les Enfants

(We were in France for vacation; this is a first of a few travel-related posts)

Earlier this summer my friend Courtney was visiting from San Francisco. Courtney and I met 8 and half years ago, a month after we each had our first child. We were seated next to each other at one of those new mothers’ luncheons. Courtney made sarcastic comments about the “lecture” and rolled her eyes in my direction, we were instantly friends. This was before Courtney left NYC for SF and before Courtney had 2 subsequent beautiful babes. In the years since, Courtney has been my traveling idol. We had our second children around the same time. Before I had mastered getting a 2 year old and an infant in a taxi, Courtney was boarding the red eye with 3 kids. We all hope parenthood will not slow us down but for Courtney it didn’t. Emails came from Switzerland skiing, on a train in the South of France and it seemed it was possible, at least for her.

As we sat on my couch with a glass of wine, we were just starting to plan our trip to France where Courtney had just been. We talking about traveling with young children and Courtney remarked “there was not a kids menu on this trip, the kids did eat a LOT of Caesar salad, they really ate what we ate.” This instantly struck a chord. My children are good eaters. They eat all fruits and vegetables, salad, sushi and Thai food. And they also have cookies and ice cream and all the normal kids’ treats. Last summer, in the UK, they did well food-wise but most of what they were eating was fairly familiar and I wasn’t as fixated…

We left for France and I was determined for my children to eat anything and everything, most likely too determined. Our first few days in Paris were fantastic on all fronts, including eating. The boys were in bread heaven devouring croissants and baguettes, their new favorite word boulangerie. Our third day was my birthday. My husband nicely offered to take the boys for a couple of hours while I did some shopping. We planned to meet at the café at Colette for lunch. While I like shopping and loved browsing, I lack endurance and arrived at lunch a little early. I decided to order and have things ready when the boys arrived. I ordered an egg dish, Caesar Salad, chicken with lentils and a cheeseburger for good measure.

The food was on the table as the boys came in. “What are we eating?” they asked. I placed the cheeseburger in front of my younger son, the carnivore and the salad for my older son, the veggie lover. “I don’t like this burger” Weston whispered, aware it was Moms birthday and also the “eat anything” pressure. My husband examined the burger and said “there’s a lot going on there chutney and pickles and some ham, I’ll take some things off.” I held ridiculously firm and said “Wes, we’re not in NY foods aren’t always the same.” Truth be told, in NY I wouldn’t have ordered this burger. The dissent intensified as Myles said “this salad is too cheesy and the cheese is strong.” I started to unravel as though my vision of their eating was shattered, abnormal I know. But I didn’t stop, I pouted, I bribed until finally I asked the boys if they wanted to try my poulet and lentils. Really trying to please, they tasted the chicken and lentils and ended up sharing the dish.

We left Colette, I felt terrible. My husband pulled me aside and said “you have to lighten up; they’re trying but aren’t going to change their habits overnight.” Wow, if anyone should know this it’s me! As we walked along Rue St Honore, I knew he was right. I had to let go of the way I envisioned the boys eating as it was backfiring and causing tension. We ended up at Brasserie Lipp for dinner that night. The boys had melon and jambon, poulet with haricot vert. They tasted ratatouille that came with my salmon and picked frites off of Marc’s plate. It was a delicious dinner that we all enjoyed.

For the remainder of the trip I didn’t abandon all hopes of the boys trying new foods. I generally ordered a few things for the table and let them decide what they were interested in. I also learned that sometimes sampling involves trying pistachio or caramel ice cream or some of the exotic jams delivered with breakfast. There wasn’t even the temptation of a menu pour les enfants, which was nice. In France, if they exist we didn’t see them. So while they may not love chutney or stinky cheese there wasn’t a buttered noodle or nugget in sight.
When you travel do you seek out the familiar or branch out? Have you ever noticed, despite good intentions, placing food pressure on your children? And what’s your favorite French Food?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pinkberry Peace Talks

You may have noticed our August 9 post regarding Pinkberry was taken down. At work Monday night I saw something from Pinkberry in my inbox. I was excited. I thought perhaps they had read our post and were contacting me to provide additional information or even inviting me to assist them in sorting out some of the points we had raised. Instead, when I opened the email I found a letter from Pinkberry’s attorney.

The previous post was not intended to offend Pinkberry or discourage our readers and clients from patronizing Pinkberry or similar yogurt shops. Rather, we wanted to present the pros and cons of frozen yogurt from a nutritional standpoint. We’d love to allow Pinkberry to approach this in a positive manner and have a dialog with us, our readers and their community as well.

Our Pinkberry queries:

1. Would you be open to presenting your nutrition facts in a manner that’s easier to understand?
Instead of having to multiply 120 calories per serving (if you like the pomegranate flavor) by 2.3 servings (if you choose medium), couldn’t you instead state medium pomegranate = 276 calories?

2. Have you considered flagging lower calorie or healthier options for your customers? We’re thrilled you added the mini size. Perhaps you could depict a mini or small Pinkberry with multiple fruit toppings so that it’s clear and inviting for clients with health or weight concerns to pinpoint their preferred picks. There is a huge range of options at Pinkberry and even a medium with more indulgent (though delicious) toppings is a treat, we think that’s fair to say.

3. In terms of those toppings, on your website the total fat isn’t listed. Is there a reason for this? Including the total fat would help when comparing consumers make educated decisions.

4. Can you clarify some swirl size questions? We didn’t know that some Pinkberry’s weighed their frozen yogurt cups for customers until hearing so in comments on our, now removed, post. Is this up to the particular franchise? Can customers request this? Does the machine have any valve to only dispense, for example, 6oz for a small? Our concern was that, in our unscientific experiments, a small appeared to be larger and smaller (different height and girth) from day to day or store to store.

5. And finally, the probiotics. How does Pinkberry’s probiotic content compare to other frozen yogurt stores? And do these probiotics survive freezing? While I have 2 nutrition degrees, my biochemistry is a little rusty and don’t really have good answers to this to share with my clients or readers.
Rather than resorting to threats and demands, we would welcome the opportunity to speak to Pinkberry to share our thoughts and hear their answers to the questions posed. Perhaps we could have a yogurt summit of sorts? Maybe we can meet at our local Pinkberry. I’ll have a mini Original with coconut and mango.
Which questions above are most important to you? Anything you’d like us to ask Pinkberry given the opportunity? Do you think we did the right thing taking down our previous post?

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm not who I think I am

Not to worry, I still run, I still cook, I still take Zyflammend but a few incidents recently made me think that I’m not the Lauren I think I am and it’s time to come to terms with it. Let me explain. My husband and I have spent some time this summer looking at sleep away camps for our boys, yes- for next summer. I know it’s a pretty Northeast thing this sending your children away, I mean sending your children to these great places where they get dirty, play sports, eat far less healthy food and never brush their teeth. Camp is not where my dilemma lies; it’s choosing the right camp. In our minds, our choice boiled down to 2 camps. One camp, though a great camp, had the reputation for being “too sporty” and not campy enough. The other camp, to which many people we know went, is more casual, less structured. People talk about the amazing friends they made at this camp and how, I’m not exaggerating, it changed their lives. We were leaning toward the casual, live-changing camp.

Off we went for a special “rookie day” for prospective campers at sporty camp. It was a gloomy, rainy day not exactly the best weather for touring a camp. Before we could open our car doors, a smiling counselor was unloading our boys, asking them their names and, of course, their favorite sport. Well my boys’ favorite sport is hockey and yards from our car was a huge, sparkling roller hockey rink. We eventually tore the boys away from hockey heaven and were directed to a log cabin style building. Inside, we chatted with more smiling counselors from England and Australia before our boys were whisked off for their multiple scheduled activities. Casual this was not. The parents went on their own tour, in the rain. We saw the tennis courts and heard about the tennis program run by a pro who spends winters at a well known resort in Jamaica and summers at sporty camp. We went into the bunks where each boy had soccer shoes and tennis rackets and baseball mitt all organized in cubbies, by sport naturally. And we heard that the younger children have more female counselors around them as they tend to miss their moms more; these counselors escort them from activity to activity so they feel comfortable. Our boys knee boarded, went on a ropes course and zip line, toured the nature cabin and were returned to us dirty and happy.

A couple of weeks later, we visited casual camp. We drove into casual camp which unlike sporty camp had no guard posted at the entrance. We found our way to the directors’ area where we were warmly greeted by the camp director. There wasn’t a specified rookie day and so we all went as a group to see the camp. The director showed us the schedule which he hand wrote daily depending on the activities the children requested. We toured the bunks and met the counselors. We heard that 80% of the staff were prior campers (that’s loyalty). It was also alumni weekend so we had the chance to talk to many people who told us casual camp was “the greatest place” and that we had to send our kids there. We saw the waterfront (very pretty) and the basketball courts, we saw the tennis and also the hockey (as my 8 year old said “smaller than the other rink”) but this place wasn’t about bells and whistles or big rinks and organized bunks. This was about having your life changed…

We discussed our thoughts on the way home and listened to the kids’ opinions. Myles, my older son, said it was “a hard choice to make.” Today I emailed with a friend who has a son Myles’ age (this is my friend whose husband requested Dude Food). She saw sporty camp and liked it but saw another camp that she felt was “less a clipboard camp.” I listened as she described a camp not unlike casual camp. She liked the spirit and the vibe. I then asked my friend what was wrong with a clipboard? I told her I kind of liked the “clipboard” camp as to me this implied they were on top of things. And so I’ll end the suspense and say that we’re sending our kids to the sporty, clipboard camp and I couldn’t be happier for the kids…but I do wonder what it says about me.

Then, on Thursday, I had lunch with another friend. And yes, because we’re New Yorkers we talked about camp but we talked about a lot of other things blogs, food (she’s a pescatarian, take that) and travel. This friend went with her twin girls to Italy for the entire summer last year. She blogged about the experience and I cannot say enough about these posts. I mentioned we were headed to Paris and she asked “are you renting an apartment?” I loved the sound of renting an apartment but hadn’t even thought of it. I told her we were staying in a hotel. Lunch ended, we said goodbye but I was stuck on the Paris portion of our conversation. Should we have rented an apartment? Would we have had a more authentic experience? After all, not only were we staying in a hotel, I had been emailing with Christophe, the concierge, nonstop organizing our tours and meals.

And finally, the third incident that shook my previously secure sense of self happened with yet another friend. I told this friend that there were extra tickets to the Bronx Zoo fall sleepover. She said it sounded fun but asked where you sleep. I told her each family stays in a tent. Without missing a beat, this friend said “I draw the line at tents, I’m a hotel girl.” No apologies, no pretending, no guilt.

So while part of me likes the idea of casual, loosey goosey call it what you will, when it comes down to it I’m more comfortable with things scheduled and planned. And because all roads, in my life, lead somehow to food, I started thinking about my realizations and how it affects my clients. After all, it would seem that much of Foodtraining has to do with reshaping (literally) who people are. How can I expect the exercise hater or asparagus-averse to change while I cast aside casual camp? After mulling this over I realized that, with each client, I fully consider their daily schedule, their history and personality in formulating an appropriate food plan. We all have to admit who we are. I wish I could be like my anti-camping friend and declare my name is Lauren and I like bells and whistles, concierges and clipboards because I do. In fact, I’m going to email Christophe now.
Have you ever realized the self you’d like to be and the self you are can be very different? Which camp sounds better to you? Are you more the winging it type or planner? How do you think personality affects weight loss efforts or eating?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foodtrainers' Favorite Bars

Man, times have changed. There was a time, not long ago, when my favorite bars would include directions to the best martini on the planet (London) or maybe I’d discuss the bar, in New Orleans, where my husband and I had our first date, or the reasons why drinks always taste better with the ocean in sight. But no, now bars are things you eat before a workout or at the airport, or anytime you need a portable, relatively healthy snack. So, in keeping with the changing times, here are my top 10 energy/nutrition bars from a post I did for my favorite website Blisstree.


We cannot keep Zing bars in stock at Foodtrainers. Zings are the perfect number of calories (210) for a snack bar; and they’re gluten- and soy-free, yet do have that candy bar taste. But what candy bar has 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber? Chocolate coconut is our new favorite Zing flavor, but Foodtrainers clients adore the peanut butter. And certain flavors are dairy-free.


Kind Bars let you can peek inside the clear wrapper to see the nuts and fruit. Kind bars don’t grind ingredients up into a paste, but rather produce insanely delicious bars that have an almost homemade feel to them. Plus, Kind Bars have good karma – the company is very charitable.


If you don’t eat wheat, you may think your cookie-eating days are over. They’re not. Kookie Karma , organic, vegan bars made by Juli Novotny, are so delicious that it’s hard to believe they’re healthy. Some flavors are raw, and all are made without wheat, soy, or dairy. We love Holistic Chocolate Chip and Choco Lot. It may be called a kookie, but it’s made with many of the same ingredients our favorite nutrition bars contain – and is the perfect mid-afternoon treat.


Mini Lara Bars get the super-cutesy award. Our clients eat these 90-100 calorie bars mid-morning, or before a workout when they just need a little something in their stomachs. Lara Bars were the pioneers in the less-processed, more-natural, yet still convenient nutrition bars. And though their newer flavors tempt us, Cherry Pie remains our #1 flavor. You can also do the full-size Lara Bar, but the minis are, in our opinion, more fun.


The Real Bar is truly unlike any nutrition bar we’ve tasted. It’s not a candy bar or a cookie, it’s not like peanut brittle or granola. It’s satisfying and serious, like healthy fudge. Real Bars founders are a husband and wife team – he (John Marsh) is a chef with a natural foods restaurant, and she (Gigi Barlowe) is one of New York City’s top fitness trainers. We love to chill Real Bars; then slice pieces off. (Do not leave them on the cutting board or they will disappear.) Real bars have an almost cult-like following – they’re having trouble keeping up with the demand.


Whether you’re on a road trip or packing an after-school snack, kids deserve a bar, too. Clif ZBars are tasty, packed with good ingredients including flax seed and oats. And adults looking for a lower-calorie (120) snack are free to partake.


College is a time of transition. Our teen and college-age Foodtrainers clients don’t necessarily live on kid food, but they’re also not all grown up. Most of all, college should be fun. (And what’s more fun than a nougat center?) Kashi Go Lean Rolls are low-glycemic, satisfying bars with a phenomenal taste. Self-confessed junk-food-junkies love these. If you’re skeptical, try the Caramel Peanut. If you don’t love it, send even your half-eaten rolls our way!


Someone we were working with told us they were sending over their favorite energy bars. We rolled our eyes, certain that they’d be highly processed or average tasting. (After all, we’ve been around the bar block.) Little did we know. Good On Ya Bar’s motto is “every ingredient matters,” and they deliver on this. (Good on Ya was founded by a former Olympic athlete.) Ingredients are organic; there are no fillers; and the taste nails that heavenly salty/sweet combo. We can’t all be Olympians, but let’s at least fuel like one.


All we have to say about Gnu Bars is 12 grams of fiber. Most of us don’t get enough fiber, and this little bar provides almost half of what you need in a day. With flavors ranging from Cinnamon Raisin to Peanut Butter, these are certainly worth a try.


Think Thin bars have 20 grams of protein, which makes for a satiating snack. While we don’t love that the protein is soy and whey (we’d prefer whey-only), these taste great, and hey, if they’re good enough for Gwyneth, they’re good enough for us.
Did we miss any of your favorites? What do you like or dislike in a bar? Ever make your own? And ifnutrition bars aren't your thing, what are your favorite bar bars?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smell Yourself Thin? Sniffing out Sensa.

Recently, I received the following question on my Facebook page:
Lauren, have any of your patients asked you about Sensa? Don't get mad at me for asking... :)
I’m happy to answer questions about anything food or weight-related no matter how far-fetched. What’s interesting is that in this question you can see my “friend” had suspicions about this product...but still wanted to know more. If you’re unfamiliar with Sensa, it’s a scent-based weight-loss product made of natural and artificial ingredients that comes in a salt-like shaker and resembles powdered sugar. You sprinkle Sensa onto your food prior to consuming it in the same way you would sprinkle salt or pepper. The shaker has two sides; a sweet side to be used on sweet foods and a salt side to be used on savory foods. This shaking isn’t cheap, the Sensa program is suggested for 6 months; a 6 month supply costs $235.

Sensa was developed by Dr. Alan Hirsch, a board certified neurologist and a psychiatrist, who specializes in research of sensory response. The idea is that Sensa enhances the smell and taste of food, which suppresses hunger. Dr. Hirsch calls this “sensory specific satiety.” Whether or not Sensa suppresses hunger, the connection between flavor and satiety is interesting. On one hand I think of artificial sweeteners, which enhance the sweetness of food and increase caloric intake. Then there is the notion that spicy foods, with intense flavors, increase satiety as you are satisfied by the flavor and eat less. Intrigued, I had a look at the research.

Dr. Hirsch says he has proof of the effectiveness as he conducted a 6 month study in which 1,500 participants lost an average of 30.5 pounds during the 6 months. The problem is, he never published the study. It’s difficult to agree with the results of a study that is not in a peer reviewed journal. Another important thing to note about his study is that the participants weighed themselves and reported their weight without being checked by his team. The show 20/20 contacted 4 people that were said to be participants of the study and although they all claimed to have lost weight during the 6 months, none of them had been able to keep the weight off. I read a bunch of testimonials on various websites and some people swear by Sensa while others say they haven’t lost an ounce and that it’s a waste of money. This makes me think that aside from the fact that the jury is still out (or hung) on Sensa, our response to scent and its relationship to hunger may vary from person to person as do food preferences and food-related memories.

I would love to see Dr Hirsh publish his studies or have aromatherapy and weight loss studied more. Scent is our most primitive sense. Scent has been shown to trigger memories. Certain scents such as mint and eucalyptus are energy boosting. Others, like lavender are relaxing. I use Origins lavender oil nightly on my wrists and swear by it. In terms of appetite, there are 2 scents that repeatedly. One was vanilla, the scent of vanilla is said to decrease sweet cravings. The other is patchouli, patchouli is said to decrease appetite. Maybe that’s why lots of hippy chicks are skinny, it may not be the concert dancing after all. I would save your money and skip Sensa for now. I don’t think it’s dangerous but I’m not convinced it’s effective either. In the mean time, sniff some patchouli oil (or its relative the under arm) and let me know how your appetite is.
What do you think of Sense? Sensible or scam? How do you decide whether to invest in a weight loss product or supplement? And are there certain scents that you feel increase or decrease your appetite?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Confidence Diet

I love to network, to brainstorm, cross-promote call it what you will. Every day I talk to my clients’ therapists and trainers, chefs and doctors. In NYC, it does indeed seem to take a village. A couple months ago I was contacted by an image consultant who had worked with a client of mine. We exchanged a few emails but, to be honest, an image consultant sounded hoity-toity though I’m far from low maintenance. In June, I received a phone call from the impressively persistent image consultant  Amanda Sanders. I explained how I worked; she did the same and then through my multitasking haze heard something that aroused my interest. She said “I can’t tell you how often I work with people and when I see them again, they’ve lost weight without necessarily trying.” If weight loss without trying isn’t music to a nutritionists’ ears, I don’t know what is.

I set up a meeting with Amanda at my office. In person, I could see why clients would be comfortable with Amanda. She was easy to talk to but full of energy when talking about her work; she is beautiful yet approachable. She mentioned working with men and I joked I should send my husband to her. Before I knew it I made an appointment for my fit and handsome but clothing indifferent husband to sample Amanda’s styling services (thanks Amanda). I fired away a few questions for the expert to answer:

OK so what is an image consultant? Somehow the title intimidates me a little.
I start with a questionnaire to get a sense of client’s lifestyle, career, budget and size. I used to work with celebrities styling for movies and TV but my clients now are everyday people who just want a change. After getting a sense of a client, I’ll edit their closet and then take them shopping.

We all want to look our best, for many people that means slightly thinner (or in my case taller!) what clothing tips can you offer or what are common “don’ts” in this department?
We can all look thinner and taller! Long thin verticals create the illusion of being taller and thinner. A slightly pointy, preferably nude shoe works well for women, nothing should wrap or tie around your ankles! Also, an updated bra fitting is crucial, the higher the “girls” the longer your waistline will appear. Long necklaces can create a good vertical line and long earrings elongate a round face. Boot cut pants balance out slightly larger hips and dark colors make you appear smaller.

In terms of mistakes shapeless or ill-fitting clothing is a big one. A lot of what I worked on with your husband was sizing and tailoring. People often have emotional attachments to pieces that no longer fit or are dated.

What are other tips or tricks for appearing more fit?
Good posture is a biggie, Pilates and yoga can help with this. Other helpers include a spray tan, heels and spanks.

I loved these tips but still couldn’t get out my head what Amanda had mentioned about her clients losing weight after working with her. When we met, I asked Amanda and she said clients gain confidence after receiving advice and “have a better sense of how they want to be perceived.” It’s almost as though something as superficial as clothing has the ability to affect much deeper things such as our self image. I have seen the same thing with weight loss over the years. At times, the sense of accomplishment or success with losing weight is a springboard for career changes and new relationships. It’s not that looking better enables these things to happen. It’s almost as though both clothing and weight loss have the ability to inspire other changes. And hey, if cleaning out my closet with an expert or going to the tailor will make me lose weight, I’m in!
What do you think of the confidence/weight  connection? And what experts do you depend on (therapist, organizer or maybe Mom)?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I Died

A couple of weeks ago I somewhat foolishly ran the Queens half marathon in sweltering temperatures. As I was recovering from the race I received the following email:

Oh my gosh did you really run the Queen’s Half today? You are my hero. I am working in the ER today (thankfully not one in Queens) and we were all saying how happy we were not to be working in one of the Queen’s ERs. I have worked in some of the medical tents during marathons, halves and triathlons and all I can say is WOW…healthy people can get sick fast.

This email was from a star Foodtrainee who is training for the NYC marathon. We’ll call her Dr O (or in this case maybe I should say Dr Oh No!). It was opportune to hear from Dr O as I happened to have a few questions for her. Not only had I crashed and burned in Queens but I also observed countless fellow runners “losing their Gatorade” and lying down on the sidelines in what yogi’s aptly call corpse pose. I emailed Dr O some of my questions:

In hot weather what do you see in the medical tents, it sounds like MASH?
We see hyperthermia, heat stroke, dehydration, hyponatremia and general orthopedic injuries like pulled muscles, stress fractures etc.

Why was Queens so miserable? I trained well, felt good, hydrated appropriately what is it about the heat that killed me?
I think the Queen's 1/2 was so miserable for many reasons. One, it was in Queens (I did that run a few years ago and it is not pretty). It was so hot that your core body temp had to have been very high which makes the muscles and heart demand more fuel and oxygen, also it was humid...humidity is dangerous. One way for the body to cool itself is by sweating and then having that sweat evaporate. When the air is already saturated with water (high humidity) the sweat does not evaporate....and you don’t cool ! With no way for your body to cool your internal temperature rises. Throughout the race your core temperature was rising which is why, despite fuel, things felt harder as the race went on. If you want to keep up a certain pace, either the blood (and oxygen) goes to your muscles to keep up with the pace demands and you start to overheat because less blood is going to the skin for cooling or the blood goes to the skin for cooling, but less blood goes to your working muscles. Either way demands exceed supply. When we have a hyperthermic patient we cover them in ice and put fans on them (well we did before we got a $250,000 hypothermia machine). No machine at the half marathon though.

What does your GI system take a toll when running in the heat?
Dehydration seems to exacerbate GI symptoms and that may be why it’s worse in hot weather. Also, blood is redistributed during extreme exercise and there is some ischemia to the diaphragm. At rest 15-20% of the blood goes to skeletal muscle but during exercise this increases to 80-85%. The jolting of running stresses the ligaments that support the abdominal wall. You see more GI issues in running than in cycling. Vomiting can be a sign of hyponatremia, which though extremely dangerous is still fairly rare and usually involves hydrating 2-6 liters beyond what is suggested.

Thanks Dr O. I now understand what was happening. I’m still slightly flummoxed (and jealous if I’m honest) that some people seemed to be unaffected by the heat. They ran well and finished respectably. Maybe it’s A/C. In my obsessive research I read to truly acclimate to hot weather one shouldn’t spend the majority of their time in A/C….too bad that’s not going to change!
Do you have any medical questions for Dr O about eating or exercise? Do you prefer extreme hot or extreme cold (seems people pretty split)?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moderation Schmoderation

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for an article about soda . I am not anti caffeine or completely anti sugar but I am not a soda fan and if you read this article that’s very clear. From my research, I am convinced soda is not something I should drink, nor do I keep it in the house or have my children drink it. One of my colleagues, a colleague I respect tremendously, read the article. She’s a diet soda drinker and proceeded to make a good case for her habit. She explained she had an “otherwise healthful and balanced diet” and that we all have our vices and said ‘if I were convinced from the research that it was really the devil I would find a way to cut it out.” I love a debate and here, in my face, was the case for moderation, the case for there being no bad foods, a case that is sensible, logical and completely not the way I think when it come to food and weight.

No List
For better or for worse, I believe there are foods or food products we shouldn’t eat. I don’t believe in artificial sweeteners blue, pink or yellow (though there is probably a hierarchy of nastiness). I also have a hard time with fake meats and many meat substitutes made with TVP. I think many vegetarians and vegans who rely on these products are replacing one dietary danger with another. I don’t eat wheat and feel there are many better, more wholesome grain choices even for those who do. And I’m not afraid to say most bread, at delis and sandwich shops, that people eat is junk. I am also frankly scared by factory farming. I don’t know how anyone can see Food Inc, read the work of Michael Pollan and others and not be. And finally there are products with multiple food colorings, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, that means most supermarket products unless you sift through carefully, skip those too. Simply said, choose natural over chemical in all cases.

The Research
I see approximately 10 clients a day in at Foodtrainers. In these sessions I get a good sense of what they are eating and also the questions that arise as individuals try to change their diets. “Is sugar free Jell-O going to kill me” or “how bad is HFCS” are the types of questions that come up time and again. The truth is no research study, no matter how well designed, is going to prove that eating a food (no matter how chemical or fake) will lead to immediate death. It would be unethical to administer the amounts of these ingredients in a matter that would simulate 36,500 sodas (2 a day over 50 years), 87,600 packs of aspartame (4 a day over 60 years). In the meantime, I think we have to see the worrisome writing on the wall. Whether it’s cancer, kidney damage, diabetes blood sugar complications or any other lifelong ailment, if I see a few studies connecting a food to a disease, I’m going to take it seriously. If, in the process, I cut out a food coloring from my diet or my clients’ diets that ends up seeming safe, no harm done. Call it alarmist, extremist (wow I sound like a terrorist) whatever you will (and you will) but with food I say guilty until proven innocent though our government seems to disagree.

The Passion
I am not a vegan or vegetarian but admire them. While I have no plans to give up fish or eggs, I know the passion it requires to maintain a meat or animal free diet successfully. I also enjoy the manner in which vegans network, share ideas and inspire others to try new recipes or discover new ingredients. A post on one of my favorite sites, No Meat Athlete, caught my attention. Here, (he happened to be explaining the use of the term “no meat” versus pro vegetable) he said “safe has a shortcoming: by its very nature, it doesn't hold onto passionate people to help share it. I don't know many passionate almost-vegetarians.” I completely agree though I’d like to hold the flag for passionate almost-vegetarians. Though not everyone will jump on board and some will run away I think, when it comes to helping people navigate their food choices, you have to take sides. I too think safe has a shortcoming and frankly isn’t always safe. Web media expert published a list of 15 steps to social medial success. I especially liked “be daring. The most memorable stories tell the unexpected, speak directly to the heart or dare customers to live life to the fullest.”

The fun
And that’s just the thing, when you suggest that there are things we shouldn’t eat you’ll inevitably encounter someone saying, as another commenter did following my soda summary “You can always just drink water, if you want to remain totally safe and consume no calories. Gee, what fun” I call it the where’s the fun retort. The truth is, eating chemical-free, well produced food is fun and there’s a wonderful peace of mind that comes from putting good, real food in your body. And though this commenter thinks differently, there are lots of beverages to drink, even with the removal of the soda group. I love fruit smoothies and coconut water, Fizzy Lizzy drinks and all sorts of iced teas. As for food, believe it or not, I don’t suggest my clients hole up with organic broccoli and brown rice and call it a day. I love Farmers’ markets and fresh herbs, spices and once in a while a juicy (grass-fed) burger and yes, I’d like a glass of wine with that burger.
Do you think (and be honest) that all foods, even soda, have a place in our diets? Do you believe in moderation? I’d love to hear what you think.