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  • 5 Best Bets for a Balanced Thanksgiving

    Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

    Childhood Thanksgivings conjure up memories of a table laden with a huge turkey and hundreds of sides dishes, along with pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert. I recall the flurry of activity and delightful aromas of the dinner cooking in the kitchen and the seeming eternal wait for the food to finally make it to the table. At the end was the feeling of being stuffed to the brim only to turn around a couple of hours later for a “supper” of leftovers!

    Today my Thanksgiving dinner is a calmer affair. And as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I believe every meal can nourish the body and the soul and provide the opportunity for families to gather and enjoy each other’s company. But, you say, a holiday like Thanksgiving comes around only once a year so why worry about what or how much you eat? True enough - but there are a few tactics I use to make sure I don’t feel as stuffed as the turkey.

     

    1. Choose the best and leave the rest.  I like to savor traditional holiday foods and pass on those I can eat all year long. For instance, I would choose sweet potatoes and stuffing instead of mashed potatoes and a dinner roll or pumpkin pie instead of chocolate cake. Only choose those that you won’t be seeing again for another year.

     

    2. Pare portions. I’m fond of saying, “The first bite tastes as good as the last.” So a small portion of several of the delicious holiday foods can satisfy my appetite and cravings without overdoing it on calories. I make sure to balance my plate with 1/2 fruits & veggies, 1/4 lean protein, and 1/4 grains.

     

    3. Make simple substitutions. It’s easy to create traditional recipes with lower fat and calorie ingredients that taste just as good. Substitute evaporated fat-free canned milk for cream in pie recipes or reduced-fat mushroom soup in green bean casserole.

     

    4. Add activity. One of the best ways I offset extra calories is to balance it with more physical activity. A walk after the big meal is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and burn calories, or spend time with your family tossing a Frisbee around. If you shop on Black Friday, take a few extra laps around the mall.

     

    5. Leverage your leftovers! There is always plenty of food left after the Thanksgiving meal. When preparing meals the next few days, I like to use them in different ways rather than simply repeating the holiday plate. Create a turkey salad with some raw veggies or try making a soup.

  • Real world issues and nutrition education

    Carol Sloan, RD

    Nutrition consultant to the Food and Beverage Industry

     

    Last Thursday I followed the elections with the rest of America, and was eye-pulled by Measure D, the “soda tax” initiative in Berkeley. The majority voted “yes” for additional taxes (1 cent per ounce) on sodas and other select sugar sweetened beverages, to be directed to the distributor and likely be passed onto the consumer.

    Having worked in a school district for several years with the charge to decrease type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity in K-8 students, (not all too different from the concerns of my Bay area neighbors…) never did nutrition and health educators point to one food or beverage as the cause for these health issues.  Instead we taught portion control, label reading, and to enjoy consuming a variety of beverages including water. We shared the details on the sugar content of sodas but also talked about cookies, chips, candy, and how to fit all foods and beverages into a regular meal plan. I could see the students listening intently, absorbing this knowledge to take home to share with their families. These kids were learning to make their own informed decisions on what to eat and drink -without added costs to persuade their purchases or the government in their groceries.

    I believe that the proponents of Measure D had good intentions, but sin taxes are not the way to go. Limiting calories in general is a tip I share with clients, but I would never discourage the consumption of any specific food or beverage group. Nutrition education that encourages portion control, daily physical activity, and a balance of calories is what can, and does, work.

    I’m sure the proponents of Measure D are still celebrating their “success” in Berkeley.  However, I see the majority of the population in small towns and cities across the nation trying to manage daily groceries on a budget, to get their kids to school on time, and to provide a healthy dinner after working a long day. It may be too late to educate Berkeley, but let’s celebrate and support these families by continuing to provide nutrition education about soda and other drinks utilizing sources such as the Clear on Calories initiative or the Calories Count initiative.


  • The Politics of Food Choice

    Amy Mydral Miller, MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

    Carmichael, California

    I was raised on a farm in North Dakota. My dad was a Democratic farmer, my mom a Republican politician. Political issues were the cornerstone of any family conversation at the dinner table. Today I’m a registered Independent voter, free to make the best choices based on my values and beliefs versus party politics.

    Freedom of choice is an essential American value, one I cherish. And freedom of choice is just as important to me when it comes to politics as when selecting foods in a supermarket or on a restaurant menu.

    I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and I believe in helping people make informed choices. I’m not in favor of taxing specific foods or beverages, but rather in favor of providing information that helps consumers make informed choices when it comes to nutrition, physical activity, and creating environments that support healthful eating and physical activity.

    I was concerned but not surprised to see that voters in Berkeley, Calif., passed a soda tax. I’ll be interested in seeing if the tax has any significant impact on public health. The causes of obesity and diabetes are many, and so are the options for improving public health. I am doubtful that the penny-per-ounce tax on soda will see much improvement in health.

    If activists in Berkeley want to promote the health and wellbeing of all citizens, I’d recommend they look at actions like increasing PE class requirements in public schools, improving access to and safety in city parks and recreation centers, re-paving cracked and broken sidewalks, improving street lighting to improve the safety of walking to/from public transportation, or adding short-term bicycle rental stations throughout the city.


    You know, now that I think about it, the soda tax may actually do some good; it may encourage people to choose to walk or bike to Albany, Oakland, Emeryville, or other neighboring cities to buy their soda. 



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