Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Healthy Overdose?

The following post was written for one of my favorite sites Blisstree,  please note that I also stole the carrot photo from their site. After you read this, cruise on over there because they are not afraid to get down and dirty when it comes to food and weight (and lots of other things).

 Most likely, a lot of you spend a chunk of your time worrying about food. This makes sense, given that each day seems to bring another food recall, growing concern over mercury levels in fish, and pesticides on produce. Without completely igniting a rash of food fears, what if I told you that some your basic run-of-the-mill foods also carried their own risks? In excess, foods such as carrots, green tea, and even bran can be problematic. I learned my lesson first-hand 15 years ago. I was a college student with aspirations to be healthy (okay, skinny), and limited culinary skills. My cooking repertoire amounted to brown rice, black beans, and scrambled eggs. I also ate carrots – a lot of carrots – because they required no cooking at all.

When I came home for Thanksgiving during my sophmore year, my mother thought I was jaundiced. Though a fair assumption for a college student in New Orleans, it wasn’t the Jägermeister or Jim Beam that proved to be the problem. It was the carrots. I had carotemia – mainly due to an excessive intake of carrots. Carrots contain significant amounts of carotenoids. When the amount of carotenoids a person ingests exceeds the body’s ability to use or store it, levels build up in the bloodstream, which causes the skin to turn orange or yellow. Way too much of a good thing.

Lately I started thinking: What other good things can we get too much of?

Some foods and supplements act as natural blood thinners. I always keep this in mind when clients are taking blood-thinning medications. (If your blood is too thin, it doesn’t clot. And if you bleed, you bleed a lot…Not good.) If you aren’t on blood-thinning meds, you still should bear in mind that certain foods can block Vitamin K (which helps with clotting), and thin your blood. Spices that are high in salicylates (such as curry powder and cayenne), fruits such as grapes and oranges, and even cider and honey may not be beneficial in huge quantities. Fish, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, can thin your blood if you ingest or supplement with more than 4,000 mg daily (or 4+ servings of salmon). Of course, all of these foods are healthy, and most of the blood-thinning is undetectable (and can be desirable), but if you’re a twice-daily salmon-eater, or consume pounds of grapes, it may be time to branch out.

Because I was investigating “overdosing” on seemingly healthy foods and nutrients, I was curious about fiber. It’s recommended that women get 25 grams daily and men get 30 grams. But believe it or not, too much fiber can actually cause constipation. Huge amounts of fiber can cause an intestinal blockage which can be serious enough to require surgery. So anything above 50 grams a day may be way too much.

When Blisstree asked me to weigh in on this subject, they asked me about avocados, which are rich in potassium. We need potassium, but it’s tricky because it affects the way our heart beats. For this reason, I never suggest that clients supplement with potassium, but instead get it from their diets. Too much potassium can lead to a dangerous condition called hyperkalemia, which can lead to heart palpitations. Because the RDI for potassium is 4.200 mg (or 4.79 avocados), I don’t suggest exceeding this amount in your diet – no matter how much you love guacamole.

As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Nutrients, like diets, are best when balanced. Too much of anything – even if the thing is natural and healthy – can be a problem. And now that I’ve freaked myself out a little, I could really use a shot of Jägermeister.
Have you ever had an overdose (healthy or otherwise)? Are there certain foods you eat too much of? Do you like Jagermeister? Please comment, otherwise I may hit the carrots again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Market Foodtraining: After School Snacks

Truth be told, getting back into a routine after the summer is kind of nice. For parents, September presents the challenge to come up with ideas for after school snacks. Unfortunately, many of the snacks that are marketed for children do not meet Foodtrainers’ snack criteria - i.e. no high fructose corn syrup, artificial food colorings and partially hydrogenated oils. Food dyes just may be the real culprit when it comes to behavior problems in children that parents often chalk up to “too much sugar”. However, sugar is hardly innocent when it comes to children’s health. Always read the ingredient list before buying something in a package.
We encourage clients to think outside of the “child-friendly” box and keep it simple. Don’t worry your kids will like snacks even without Sponge Bob on it. Ideally, a good afternoon snack should contain both a source of protein (such as low-fat dairy or nuts) and healthy carbohydrates (which include whole grain crackers, fruits and veggies) to fuel activity for the remainder day. Our September newsletter focused on snacks. We had requests for additional after school options. Melissa (aka Market Melissa) put together some of our favorites and hopefully soon to be your children’s’ favorites too.

 1. Funky Monkey freeze-dried organic fruit snacks and Horizon String cheese.

 2. My Family Farm organic whole wheat crackers (they come in individual sized bags for on-the-go) and Organic Valley low fat milk boxes.

3. Clif Z Bar and apple slices.

 4. Earthbound Farms Carrot Dippers - carrots with ranch dip.

5. Lifeway Probugs Kefir drink and an Asian pear.

And for a homemade treat try making these Energy Bars, recipe from Ellie Krieger.
For more information on our Market Foodtraining fall tours please email

What are your favorite after school snacks? What were your favorite snacks as kids? Would you give your children what you used to eat?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coconut Water Comments

I received the following question as a comment on Monday's post:
I have been really curious about this coconut water craze. Everyone swears by it but I am not sure if it based in "buzz" or nutritional information. People are treating it like the holy grail of hydration. Hmn.

This is a great question and whether its pomegranates, acai or coconut water it’s important to breakdown the buzz and look at the real nutrition information. Coconut water is from young, green coconuts and not the brown, hairy variety. Unlike coconut flesh or coconut milk coconut water contains no fat. Coconut water does have calories, 34 calories per 8 oz for the plain or natural version. This is lower in calories than Gatorade and higher than water.

I think coconut water got its buzz in part because it’s a natural drink and also of course due to celebrity endorsements. In some ways it’s a good thing people chose to emulate Madonna’s beverage choices and not her faux accent. Coconut water is also an excellent source of potassium, helpful for athletes and debloating (I’ve overruled my spell check and debloating is now a word). For athletes, potassium can help prevent muscle cramps. In terms of bloat, sodium and potassium work in a balance and if you increase potassium you decrease sodium.

As far as taste, while I really like the taste of coconut water I find a good number of people do not. Clients have described it as “milky” and “odd”. I find it mild and refreshing and because of this drink it a little faster than I would plain water. I have coconut water at home and at work and personally prefer the Zico brand though I liked the old packaging (tetra pak versus bottle).

Coconut water is great once a day. It’s a good pre workout drink or mid morning pit stop. I do not think it should be consumed throughout the day as calories add up and I would stick to the natural varieties as other flavors (for some brands) are higher in sugar. It is not the ideal drink during endurance events as there is too much potassium versus sodium for this purpose. It also isn’t a recovery choice after long workouts unless it is paired with some protein, for example in a smoothie. I still think if there is a holy grail of hydration it should always go to plain water or actually filtered water but that’s a whole other subject.
Do you like coconut water? When in your day do you drink it? How would you describe the taste?

Monday, September 20, 2010

reGen to Recover

I love freebies, don’t you? One of the perks of having a nutrition practice and blog is that fairly often I receive packages from food companies who want us to sample their “goods”. Let’s just say some of the “goods” are better than others and some aren’t very good at all. In early September I received one such package. It was from a company called reGen. Enclosed in the package was a nice, handwritten, note from their PR person suggesting I try reGen for my marathon training. This was a nice gesture but I wasn’t initially itching to try reGen and it remained in the box for a couple of weeks.

Last week, Deena Kastor was interviewed on one of my favorite blogs Running Dialogue . Deena Kastor is the queen of US running. She is also someone I cite in sports nutrition talks as she had an unfortunate porto potty stop last year in the Chicago Marathon, the very marathon I’m training for. My message, in mentioning Denna, is that “it”/ GI distress can happen to any runner. Due to jet lag, she ate too close to the start of the race. She tinkered with her eating routine on race day, a big sports nutrition no no. This blog post focused on what Deena drinks during the race. I was a little shocked that she uses rather processed products (I actually didn’t remember the specific names). While I thought I read the post and forgot about it, I think the fact that Deena consumed these engineered sporty beverages stuck with me. Despite her mistake, surely Deena must know a thing or 2 about these marathons.

In general though, I’m an advocate of whole, real food. I subscribe to a couple of Michael Pollan’s food rules in that I am fine with treats as long as they are homemade and also feel ingredients should be pronounceable. Throughout my marathon training I’ve kept products to a minimum and only used sports drinks and the like for long (over 12) mile runs. I prefer Honey Stinger and Clif offerings as I feel their ingredients are far better than most. In terms of recovery, I generally concoct a smoothie with protein powder, fruit, fresh ginger, coconut water and maca. This gives me protein and carbohydrates, potassium, a natural anti inflammatory and a little energy. This has worked well as my post-run stomach is a little off.

This past Thursday, I was leaving the office. I knew I had a 21 miler to run Friday and spotted the reGen package. I grabbed one of the containers which resemble the soft zico packaging before they went to the plastic bottle. When I got home, I put the reGen in the refrigerator. I ran the 21 miler, with help from a Chelsea Handler audio book and a new playlist. Normally, when I get home from a long run I just want to sit down. I usually stretch and then go to the computer with ice packs under my temperamental hamstrings. This time, I grabbed the reGen first thing, on my way to my desk. I didn’t ice as I was toying with the idea of an ice bath (which never happened). Instead, I took a hot bath (ahhh), did some work and went along with my day.

I am not one to believe in nutrition magic and instead maintain that how we feel is a composite of many health behaviors versus any one supplement or product. I just have to be honest and tell you I wasn’t sore at all the next day. This is unusual. My mind initially went to reGen, was this the reason? I think reGen is a good product. It is cocoa based and studies documenting cocoa’s ability to improve blood flow and therefore improve soreness were sent to me along with the beverages. I didn’t not read this literature until yesterday, 2 days after the run in case you suspect the placebo effect is at play. Additionally, I consumed the reGen sooner after my run than my typical smoothie. It was ready and waiting and I had it as soon as I got home. I would use reGen again (who can argue with those results) as I’m curious to see if my lack of soreness can be replicated. In the meantime, I will pull my cocoa out of the pantry and make my smoothie before I run so that it’s ready. And finally, when it comes to recovery I also have to look at the meticulous training schedule I’ve been following.
What do you consume after a long workout? How did you hear about it initially? Do you have any “magic bullets” in your nutrition arsenal or things you simply swear by?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Culinary Jew

Let's play a little game. If you're atoning chances are you will not be reading this post anyway. When I say religion, what's the first thing you think of? If church, temple or services came to mind, you and I are different (and that's ok). If matzoh balls, Christmas cookies or kugel popped into your head, give me a virtual high five. For us, religion is pretty much all about the food. We're secular but connected to our roots enough to carry on, in my opinion, the most important traditions of all and that's the food. I grew up in a house devoid of organized religion. Though I didn't think it possible, I married someone even less religious and on this day of atonement, my boys are playing ice hockey.  I read a fantastic post on my friend Rebecca's blog that summed up all of this in a far more eloquent manner that I ever could have. Read  "finding my religion in a bowl of matzoh ball soup" and enjoy or don't enjoy because today is solemn. She's deserves the credit for "Culinary Jew" though I don't think this is limited to any one religion.
On another related note, I spoke to many clients this week who will fast and then break fast at the end of the day. These are not Culinary Jews what I"ll call Level 2 (or above) Jews. Anyway,  it's easy to go overboard after not eating all day. I asked one client about this meal and he said "I think it defeats the purpose to gorge at break fast." I asked him to explain and he said, and I paraphrase, after spending the day reflecting on my sins, some of which have to do with my health, it makes no sense to splurge in an unhealthy manner the second it is over. Just a little food for thought today, this type of food is allowed, I think.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Anniversary

My wedding anniversary is in June and though I’m sure I could find a way to tie that to food (we did have an amazing New Orleans-inspired menu), it isn’t generally relevant to Foodtraining. Today is a different sort of anniversary, the anniversary of this blog. I’ve had a lot of fun with the blog this year. I had a chance to start conversations on timely nutritional issues. In turn, I heard from readers outside of my NYC office as far away as Mexico and Kuwait and Iowa. We had a scuffle with Pinkberry and then most recently teamed up with Open Sky creating a Foodtrainers’ store.

For today, I thought I’d share my first post on this blog. I’m sure many of you missed it. After all, my web designer was the only one who commented and I’m that was only to test the functionality of the site. Thank you for your comments and criticism, I appreciate both.
What posts have you enjoyed reading? Any topics you’d like to see covered in the months ahead? How often should I blog? And what other blogs do you enjoy?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who has the time?

Last week, I did a segment for a local TV show called Moms and the City. A study was released revealing that 40 percent of NYC kindergarteners are overweight or obese. Even more disturbing were the numbers for certain neighborhoods where over half the children were overweight. Neighborhoods with high mean income levels had some of the lower percentages. Moms and the City asked me for some simple tips all moms could follow in light of the study. I didn’t want to sound extreme and yet, clearly, NYC parents need some help. I said:

The one skill that can transform a families eating, many mothers possess already and that’s organization. When it comes to food organizing:
1. Make a weekly menu plan to avoid waste and up the nutritional ante in meals.

2. Cook- this doesn’t have to be a 100% cooking commitment but 2 times a week if you aren’t already.

3. Shop- seek out farmers markets as the selection of produce in some urban supermarkets is lousy. Farmers markets excite children about healthy food.

If you’ll notice none of these tips involve removing things from your diet. There isn’t “no” preceding any tips and yet following these guidelines would make a huge difference for many families obese or not. I felt good about my segment and was excited to watch it. Thursday night at 10:00 I turned on the show and the obesity statistics were the first item discussed. They ran the clip, taped in my office, and despite only 1 take I thought my message came across as clear and reasonable. A nanosecond later, one of the 3 moms said “I’m sorry but who has the time?” One of the other moms Melissa Gerstein, who had interviewed me, said “we go to Fairway on Sunday and we figure it out.” She proceeded to give some examples of meals her family ate and made a good case for planning. I was a little disappointed. The format of the show is 3 different moms giving their opinion on various issues. While this mom, Raina, was probably expressing an opinion many moms relate to, I felt it could quell any newfound inspiration moms watching may have been feeling.

Last night something made me rethink my reaction. I was out with 2 friends, 2 other moms in the city (no connection to the show) and we were discussing housekeeping. My friend mentioned this glow system  that teaches you how to be more efficient in cleaning your house or apartment. My friend said “they have these tips that allow you to leave for work with a spotless kitchen.” I smiled, thinking about the dishes in the sink and breakfast remnants that greet me when I return from my run and dropping the kids at school. “It isn’t going to happen for me, as it is I am up at 5:30 to return emails and get breakfast ready.” In my own way, I was pretty much saying “who has the time?”

Most people I know are time-starved but use their time for things they deem important. I will change my day around to get to the market but have a huge stack of papers sitting on my desk. I have clients who wake up at 4:30am to exercise and others who work until 4:30am. They key is to make the time for the areas previously marginalized and for many of us that includes food. The key is to get the ball rolling, even if it rolls slowly. I put the milk away and washed out the coffee pot this morning. I wonder if Raina would be willing to cook a bit.
What are your weak or strong areas? What do you always make time for? What could you carve out more time for?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hitting Fit

I didn’t get to see Kim Clijsters win the Open Saturday night because I was in a tent at the Bronx Zoo (more on that later). I did watch her entire match against Venus Friday afternoon. I have been a Clijsters fan for a long time. She’s exciting to watch with her splits and her grit. It’s another subject entirely but I didn’t jump on the Clijsters as super mom bandwagon. I’m thrilled she has a baby but don’t think it’s that amazing that she has a child and works. Many women do. I digress, back to Friday’s match. I sat in the living room and watched the 3-set match. I routed for Clijsters even as my 8 year old insisted “Venus is the only American left, how can you not route for her? And the truth is I love Venus and would’ve cheered for her if she wasn’t playing Clijsters.

As I watched the roller coaster of a match I did what we all do and perhaps don’t admit. I “sized” the players up. First there was Venus in her slinky black tennis dress, leggy and lean. She’s come a long way from the awkward teen with braces years ago. And then there was Kim. I don’t know Kim but you get the sense from her slightly messy hair and sporty outfit that she probably doesn’t over think her appearance. I think that’s part of her appeal. She’s relatable. As Kim stood at the baseline preparing to serve, I saw something else. I saw some jiggle in the middle. To us regular folk, that’s not a big deal. After all, we’re not all cut out to be rail thin or have abs of steel. But what do we think of a professional athlete with a little extra? During the Open, the Wall Street Journal had a piece about male tennis players being too skinny, so maybe I’m not the only one watching more than the match.

A while back I wrote about golfer Phil Mickelson and his penchant for burgers . In my brief research on Clijsters, I didn’t hear about burgers. Instead, I was happy to learn she and her husband make their own baby food. She told CNN that when she arrives in a new city she scopes out an organic food store for this purpose. I’m not sure what Kim eats but one would hope she’s getting some things for herself once in the store other than carrots to puree for her daughter. The WTA has Clijsters listed as 5 foot 9 and 150 pounds. If this is accurate Clijsters is an appropriate weight for her height. I haven’t looked into it but highly doubt players are actually weighed or measured to arrive at these numbers.

Some of you reading this, I’m sure, will point out that Clijsters did just win her second consecutive US Open title. Doesn’t that prove she’s in excellent shape? To a certain extent it does, no regular person will ever accomplish this and she beat some of the best players on her way to the title. Clijsters though, even genetically, is not a regular person. She’s the daughter of a professional soccer player father and a gymnast mother. Athleticism is in her blood. Some of what we see is talent she was born with. A few extra pounds may affect the rest of us more as we exercise or compete. After all, no matter what the training regimen, I will never slide into a complete split reaching for a groundstroke.

So if a little extra doesn’t hinder Kim’s performance does it matter? I think it might for a couple of reasons. First, with the type of game she plays, being a little leaner may decrease Clijsters injury risk. Second, if it is a reflection of her diet (and I’m not saying it is) improving in this area could perhaps help her maintain this level of tennis and even improve her speed and fitness.  In the meantime, I’m going to go work on that split.
This is a subject I’d love your input on. Does it matter if a professional athlete has a little bit of a gut? Do you think it’s mean spirited to point out? Would it be the same way if this was a male tennis player? Do you examine the physique of athletes when you watch sports? And finally, do you feel extra weight affects your athletic performance?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pinkberry Phone Call

As you may know, on August 9th we wrote a blog post about frozen yogurt shops, including Pinkberry. Our intention was to show our readers that some options at Pinkberry (and similar places) were healthier than others and that if customers need to pay close attention to yogurt calories and additional toppings. The next thing we knew we were contacted by Pinkberry’s legal team and we decided to replace the original post with a replacement post Pinkberry Peace Talks in which we invited Pinkberry to speak to us sans lawyers, answer our questions and dispel some of our confusion. This new post was written on August 18th. I was hopeful Pinkberry would be in touch but there was no word when I left for vacation on the 19th.

A week later, I was in our hotel room in France and saw an email on my blackberry entitled “Pinkberry Request” it stated:

I work with Pinkberry and Suzanne Ginestro, Vice President, Brand Management; Pinkberry would like to have a conversation with you at your convenience. She has a written response to your blog, which she would like to go over and answer any questions.

I was happy to hear from Pinkberry but after the previous legal communication I was appropriately nervous. After some schedule negotiating a conference call was slated for September 1st. Prior to the call, we were sent Ms Genertro’s statement. In the first paragraph I was encouraged to read “we are grateful for you for seeking a constructive dialogue and we apologize for the formality of our original notice and agree that in this case, personal contact with you would have been a good route from the onset.” Regardless of any “brand managing” at work, this was very nice to hear.

As for the answers, below you’ll find our questions raised, portions of Pinkberry’s answers and our conclusions.

1. Would you be open to presenting your nutrition facts in a manner that’s easier to understand?
Pinkberry: stated that if they were to list nutritionals for all flavors and sizes on their website it would be quite cumbersome. They also stated that in New York city and in January nationwide, by law, all calories are on the menu. Pinkberry uses the smaller sizes in all marketing and displays information that is “consistent with industry standards.” Pinkberry also said they find that most people order smaller sizes for snacks and the larger sizes for meals or to share with others.

Foodtrainers: as we told Suzanne on the phone, the nutritonals on the website are difficult to follow and compute. Just because confusing serving information is the norm doesn’t mean it works for consumers. We love that Pinkberry chooses to highlight the smaller sizes for marketing but customers should note that what they may choose will be larger or more calories. And if all frozen yogurt customers saw smalls and minis for snacks and larger sizes for sharing, we’d be thrilled. We asked Ms Ginestro if Pinkberry would consider labeling the large a take home container, they were excited to share the news that they were releasing a take home container-which is in fact larger than the large! Hm. Credit to Pinkberry though, throughout our conversation our comments were met with “we don’t disagree” or “we would consider that” and we were never met with defensiveness or indifference.

2. Have you considered flagging lower calorie or healthier options for your customers?

Pinkberry: pointed out that they tend to feature fruit in all of their images and that “well over two thirds of orders are topped with fresh fruit.” Their fruit is hand cut daily. They also have other fun toppings and that they pride themselves on giving customers “a tremendous number of choices which satisfy their needs which change depending on the occasion.”

Foodtrainers: we suggested to Suzanne perhaps having a card or notation for “under 200 calorie options.” The number of choices Pinkberry mentioned makes it difficult not to be tempted, at the register, to add chocolate chips or brownie bites to your yogurt with blackberries. Though yogurt and topping calories are provided adding them all up on the spot isn’t the easiest. Our other comment was that in some ways the small with a fruit topping on the flyers can be very different from what our clients may actually walk out with which was the sentiment of our initial post. We’d love to work with Pinkberry on some “sensible snacks” if they’d like our help.

And finally the swirl size, our question on our post was “can you clarify some swirl size questions”
Pinkberry: explained to us that there’s a “standard procedure on how to swirl yogurt, which includes weighing.” Each size, takes into account the cut and a swirl above it. Ms. Ginestro told us all about the swirling and even told us how “beautiful” the proper swirl was. In the course of the conversation, we sensed Ms. Ginestro’s enthusiasm for her brand.

Foodtrainers: this was a topic I was so happy we received information on. The swirl size, though not uniform upon observation at some local stores is meant to be. Furthermore, the lack of using the scale was a break from procedure and a case of franchise variety. Every store has a scale and any order can be weighed upon request. A mini is 3 ounces and a small is 5 ounces. You definitely need to be careful and ask for your cup to be weighed if you want to know how many calories you are getting and avoid an over-filled cup. When we inquired why they do not indicate how many ounces should be in each cup size and that it would be helpful to indicate this so that customers would know how much each size should weight, Suzanne said they would consider sharing this information. It would be nice to post a reminder similar to “employees must wash hands” something along the lines of “weigh your options, for proper portions all orders should be weighed.”

We finished the conversation with renewed faith in Pinkberry and their effort to provide healthy options. They take their product very seriously and understandably stood by customers having a wide array of interesting, tasty options at their stores. We think Pinkberry is a good choice for many of our nutrition clients, for a treat, provided they have the information to know what they are choosing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

US Open your mouth

In NYC, there are 2 telltale signs summer is drawing to a close. One is the sudden dearth of available taxis and the other is the US Open tennis tournament. Yesterday, on Labor Day (the real scrooge of holidays after which there is said to be no more white and shortly light) my family drove out to Queens for a day at the Open. I hadn’t really been in Queens since the Sahara-like half marathon so I was excited to return for a day with more moderate temperatures and activity.

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only fan who was as interested in the food as I was in the tennis. The food at the Open has come a long way. This isn’t the land of hot dogs and hamburgers stands anymore. There is a large food court area with options ranging from sushi and edamame to soft fish tacos. The pizza and pasta section offered salads with grilled chicken or shrimp and there was even Niman Ranch sausage (not low cal but at least no fillers) at the BBQ kiosk. So there is an impressive array of sound, though pricey, food options…but that doesn’t mean people are gravitating toward them.

I had seen a stat that over 115,000 hamburgers had been sold as of Sunday at the Open. And the line at Classic Burger, offering a “1/2 pound burger” or ½ pound chicken sandwich was clearly the longest. I even asked my favorite research scientists (AKA my children) to walk up and down 2 aisles of tables and “spy” what people were eating. Their report was succinct “hamburgers, burritos, fries, popcorn and Gatorade.” Having, patrolled the aisles myself, I would have to agree with their observations.

While most patrons would know that their hamburger wasn’t necessarily the healthiest choice, I think the beverage calories are a little more sneaky. Every vendor offered Snapple, Gatorade and Evian. Sixteen ounces (and I believe the Open’s beverages are 24 ounces) of Snapple or Gatorade can run you up to 200 calories, for Snapple 184 of these calories are from sugar. A couple of these in a day can really add up not to mention the calories in the Cosmos and other drinks offered. *For full disclosure, I’ll admit my research scientists did share a Snapple Peach Iced tea with their sushi, edamame and pasta.

I have to say that my Foodtrainers’ favorite food moment of the day happened right after we left the tournament. Stonyfield, who had a café in the food court, was stationed yards away from the tournament exit. They were giving out their vanilla yogurt (4 ounce size). I grabbed 2 yogurts for my kids and started walking. At some point I looked back, my 6 year old was lagging behind. As far as I could see was a swarm of people, young and old, some in yarmulkes others in baseball caps all clutching their yogurt and mini spoons. As I started to get emotional from the extent of health eating around me, we took the staircase down to the parking lot. Under the staircase you could see a heap of empty yogurts. Rather than finding a trash can, people had tossed their trash on their way out. Oh well, it is NYC.
Have you been to the Open this year? What did you eat? What do you think it says that the healthy options weren’t the most popular? And finally, for extra credit, what’s with tennis scoring? My son asked why it was love, 15, 30, 40 and I had no answer, help!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Potty Talk Part Deux

It’s Labor Day weekend. I figure most of you are away or en route to various places and perhaps will miss this post. I’m counting on that because for the final of 3 travel-related commentaries, I am returning to a subject I touched on in April. I think it’s time for some more Potty Talk . Travel involves change, a break from normal routines and this often results in changes in bathroom routines as well. If that’s not the case for you, if you’re bowel movements are the same whether you’re in Manhattan or Madras, pat yourself on the back (side) you don’t need to read any more. For the rest of us, we tend to fall into one of 2 travel camps, I’m going to call them “Hard Rock” and “Loosey Goosey.”

It’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about me (as if from Facebook, Twitter and this blog there’s anything hidden) but I am in the Hard Rock camp. In college I was on Semester at Sea. I returned to the ship after an excursion, only to find my roommate curled up in bed. I asked her what was wrong and she moaned “Delhi Belly” and then sprinted to the bathroom. Not me, I had traversed India by train, had eaten curry from places with questionable sanitation, even ate fruit I didn’t peel myself and nothing, nada if you know what I mean. And in Mexico, the first trip with my then boyfriend (now husband), Marc had to go into a pharmacy and with no Spanish explain my condition. It seems clenching all your muscles and pointing to your stomach is universal.

The thing about bowel movements is that although, to some extent, we all have them. Unless we’re truly sick or sidelined, once they occur we move on with our day. I gave a talk to some soon-to-be marathoners Wednesday night and someone brought up the fear of not having proper time to relieve herself  before the race. Once this topic was mentioned everyone added their potty stories and strangely seemed to enjoy the conversation. We don’t do this often. Despite the fact that in my work day I do talk bathroom and bowels, I don’t spend too much time dwelling on my own doody. I certainly didn’t when I was packing for France. Yet this was like almost every other trip and though our hotel bathroom had a great view of the Eiffel tower, I didn’t go in it all that much.

Upon returning home, I was on a mission. For someone who does exercise when away and eats similarly, I had to know what was “behind” these changes. This is what I came up with:

• Nervousness associated with flying or changing destinations can lead to diarrhea or constipation.

• Changes in normal diet and routine are disrupted (food available at airports and on planes can cause diarrhea or constipation).

• Early flights or early wake ups lead to GI disruption.

• Increasing or decreasing coffee consumption can affect bowels.

• Digestion slows in-flight due to change in altitude and air pressure.

• Changes in blood pressure in-flight; restricts blood flow (why we see our hands and feet swell).

• Altitude causes dehydration in flight; consuming alcohol pre or during flight and high sodium airport and airline foods worsens this; can lead to diarrhea or constipation.

I then consulted Foodtrainers’ resident medical expert, Dr O. I  apologized for bothering an ER doc with my potty talk and she said this. “One of the main reasons people get backed up during long travel is because of immobility and dehydration. I tell all the patients who come to the ER with constipation (yes, people come to the ER with that complaint) to exercise and drink lots of water. At higher altitudes you have less oxygen in your blood so the intestines actually get less oxygen which slows them down.”

When I look at this list and Dr O’s comments I am a little confused. Though these are all valid points, I am not someone who eats airport or airline food if at all possible. I exercise before and during trips, I ran 10 miles the morning we left for France (marathon training not compulsive). I also drink water during travel. Yet, in reviewing these points some are inevitable. There are dietary changes, even with healthy eating, and that’s part of the fun of travel. Circadian rhythms are thrown off; your body seems to get confused even if you think you adjust quickly. I had never considered the lingering effects of high altitude and less blood flow to the intestines…hmn. I think I have some answers. Rather than winging it and living in denial of my habits, next time my secret weapons will go in the suitcase. Not to worry security people, my weapons are fibrous.
So don’t be shy, are you in either camp? Or does it vary for you? Any fun potty stories? Do you think, perhaps, the more routinized you are on a daily basis the more sensitive your body is to change?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where have all the fat people gone?

I see life through nutritionally tinted glasses. My food and nutrition radar is always there whether I am at work or at home, I can’t help it at this point. On the other hand, when my husband has an observation that has to do with food or weight, it’s rare. I tend to think if he notices something, it has to be glaring and most likely true. On our first day in Paris, we checked into our lovely left bank hotel, had some lunch and walked toward the Tuilerie Gardens. There was a small carnival set up we thought the boys would enjoy. We strolled through the carnival with the Louvre in the background and Eiffel tower within sight. Marc turned to me and said “do you see what I’m seeing? Everyone is in shape, nobody is overweight.” I looked around, always determined to find the exception but he was right. There were no fat people and we were at a carnival!

When we returned to the hotel room I wanted to see if there was evidence to support our observation. Sure enough, the health statistics ranking obesity by country lists the U.S. as #1 with 30.6% obese. France is way down on the list with 9.4% obese. While this is a big difference, I would have suspected it was even greater. These statistics are for obesity, perhaps for merely overweight the gap is indeed larger. Now, this is not necessary news. Mireille Guilano wrote “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and a follow up cookbook on the topic. Her book focuses on French women but seems to also apply to men and children too. And I was last in France 5 years ago and saw these same thin French people but for some reason on this last trip found this more noticeable.

As we travelled around sightseeing, I made a few observations:

1. There was no eating on the go. Nobody was walking down the street with a smoothie,sandwichor even coffee. Aside from people carrying groceries or picnicking in parks there was no food to be seen outside.

2. Meals are leisurely and manners matter. I may have been minding others’ manners as I was traveling with kids and reminding them to put their napkins on their laps but there was a difference in how people eat. A sandwich is held in the bag it comes in and nibbled on. People put their utensils down and talk versus the speed eating so common here.

3. Presentation is everything. If our fruit was presented in the manner blueberries were boxed at the fruit markets in Paris, everyone would fight over them. I expected tiny portions and we didn’t necessary find them but food, even at casual places, was presented in a manner that you couldn’t help but savor it.

4. Many people are biking and walking in the course of the day. I didn’t see a lot of biking for exercise or the number of runners as I see in Central Park yet there seemed to be more general activity.

It seems Americans don’t get fat in France either. We ate more loosely, had wine almost every night (ok every night) and exercised less than we do at home and didn’t gain a pound. I mentioned some of my theories in a Facebook post. I was wondering what others’ thought and whether my observations rang true. One of my friends said “sweetheart, they’re too busy smoking 60 Gitanes a day to eat.”
Have you noticed anything similar in your travels? What do you think accounts for this? Is it eating habits? Smoking? For extra credit we noticed tourists from 2 other countries were large, like the Americans, what countries do you think these were?