Author Archives: Mary

About Mary

Mary has been a registered dietitian and leader in the nutrition field for decades. She has a B.S. in Food and Nutritional Science from the University of Rhode Island, a Masters of Public Health from the University of Minnesota, and completed a clinical dietetics internship at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Mary has logged more than 20,000 patient visits. When it comes to weight control, Mary is committed to a flexible, realistic and personal approach.

Forks Over Knives Plan Pushes Whole Food Vegan Diet for Beginners

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Most, if not all, chronic disease can be controlled, even reversed, with a diet that eliminates animal products and processed foods and is ultra-low in fat. At least that’s the premise of Forks Over Knives, the film and the book that “helped spark a nutrition revolution.” It spotlights the benefits of a whole food diet (nothing processed or refined) limited to plant products (no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, or gelatin) and with negligible fat (no oils, including olive oil and nuts). The Forks Over Knives Plan, a new book in the series, was written by two medical doctors, Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman, who treat patients with this dietary regimen. This book is designed to help with the transition and assumes the reader has embraced the premise and is ready to begin.

The book starts with a “background” of scientific evidence to make the case for the diet. (Just watch the film.) Next up is The Forks Over Knives Plan, the actual scheme the doctors use to complete the transition to a vegan diet over four weeks. Each week targets a particular meal to make vegan:

  • Week 1 focuses on breakfast
  • Week 2 on lunch
  • Week 3 on dinner
  • Week 4 focuses on lifestyle issues

The readings, oriented around the week, dig into nutrition information and practical issues. For instance, which foods to stock at home and what to eat in a restaurant. The information may or may not be new, depending on your level of veganism. ForksOverKnives.com has more tools to support this transition. (more…)

The Brown Fat Takeaway TIME Magazine Missed

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Full confession: I love to read about brown fat, a relatively newly discovered form of fat that burns calories directly. Brown fat might be the key to weight loss, writes Alice Park, who covers breaking health news for TIME magazine. Last week, she published, Why Brown Fat May Be the Key to Weight Loss. Kudos to TIME for covering valuable research (when others did not.) But there’s a lot more to add. First, some words about brown fat.

The body makes two kinds of fat: white fat, familiar to all, the storage form of energy, and brown fat that is not stored but burned directly as fuel. When triggered by exposure to the cold, brown fat generates heat (white fat just sits there). Hibernating animals produce brown fat to stay warm during the winter. Newborn babies have lots of brown fat, their own little furnaces, to protect against the cold. We used to think that adults could not make brown fat, but now we know everyone can turn white fat into brown when there is need. (more…)

Healthier Vending Machines are a Win-Win for All Hungry Consumers

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You’re running late and you haven’t eaten all day. You’re starving, your blood sugar is tanking, and you need a snack now. But wait! The vending machine is your only option.

Americans have busy schedules. They have less time available to plan and prepare a meal. According to government research, half of all Americans eats three or more snacks per day. Two generations ago, snacking was reserved for working men, growing adolescents, and toddlers with small stomachs. Most Americans ate three square meals a day. Now, meal skipping is common place, especially at breakfast. For teens, snack foods eaten outside of a sit-down meal provide one-fourth to one-third of daily calorie intake.

7 Wackiest Vending Machines: Automated Caviar, Lobster, and Burritos

Enter Healthy Vending Machines

At work, school, and in public places, vending machines are often the only source of food for sale. But food and beverages typically found in vending machines are a problem: high in calories, low in nutrients, and full of unwanted ingredients. Vending machines are seen as a major contributor to the poor food choices that lead to overweight and obesity. Improved access to healthy food is a key strategy in obesity prevention, a matter of great interest to anyone concerned about medical costs. (more…)

Pick a Pocket Full of Pawpaws: Sure to be the Hottest New “it” Fruit

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Now is the time for “pickin’ up pawpaws and puttin’ ’em in your pockets” as the children’s chant goes. The best pawpaws are the fully ripe fruits that have fallen to the ground between mid-August and mid-October, perfect for stuffing your pockets or your face!

Pawpaws are the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. and are an indigenous plant to 26 states east of Nebraska, reaching from Florida to New York. The fruit was an important food for Native Americans and early settlers. Pawpaws graced George Washington’s table in colonial days. And even animals aren’t missing out on this delicious treat — squirrels, raccoons, possums, and bears happily feast on aromatic pawpaw flesh.

Pawpaws are large fruits, similar to mangoes or papayas, ranging in color from yellow to green with skin often flecked. When over-ripe, the skin will turn brown like a banana. They have big black seeds that are easy-to-remove, a custard-like texture, and a flavor that is related to bananas, mangoes and melons. They are known commonly as a poor man’s banana.

“It has a sweet, yet rather cloying taste….a wee bit puckery” is the way their taste was described by a botanist of yore.    (more…)

Bye Bye Bloomberg! What NYC Gained Before it Lost its Biggest Health Advocate

With the new year, New York City bid farewell to Mayor Mike Bloomberg after a twelve-year term. Love him or hate him, his achievements in public health were stunning. While others only talked, he managed to act on smoking, obesity, and hypertension—and he placed the burden of fixing them on the industries that profited at the cost of the public’s health.

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The Mayor showed that public health is a priority for local government, not just for the federal government to create health policies from on high. Bloomberg used New York City as a laboratory for public health innovation, spotlighting issues and testing solutions on a relatively small scale.

Here’s a reminder of Mayor Bloomberg’s most significant public health campaigns:

(more…)

Detox Diets and Fasts Do Not Work and May Increase Toxins in the Body

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To detox or not to detox? That is the question I had for Gerard Mullin, MD of Johns Hopkins University as he spoke about nutritional detoxification at the 2013 Food & Nutrition Conferences and Expo a few weeks ago.

Dr. Mullin said that toxins are everywhere – in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the things we touch.

Bisphenol A (BPA), a carcinogen, is in plastics, dental sealants, canned food linings, and cash register receipts.

Phthalates, other carcinogens, are found in fatty milk, butter and meats, along with personal care products, detergents, children’s toys, printing inks, and more.

Heavy metals, like arsenic, mercury and lead, are in food, batteries, paints, plastics, and fertilizers.

For the most part, toxins are “endocrine disruptors” that change the way our hormones regulate bodily functions. In animal studies, endocrine disruptors are linked to cancers, birth defects, diabetes, and other diseases. What is worse is that, when they work together, the sum of their actions is greater than the whole, and they are stored practically forever in body fat. Whether or not an individual develops a problem depends on genetics, level of exposure, and the quality of nutrients in the diet. (more…)

Take Grain Brain’s Villainization of Carbs with a Grain of Salt

Grain Brain is the catchy title of a new self-help diet book on the New York Times Advice and How-to Best Sellers lists. The author, neurologist David Perlmutter, makes the case for a slow death to brain cells caused by wheat, “carbs,” and sugar. Those foods, he says, are behind most of the common but incurable neurologic diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, anxiety, depression, and others. To prevent and treat those conditions, he recommends a diet of fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil, sans the “carbs” from grains, milk, fruit, and sugary sweets. Grain Brain is in the same vein as Wheat Belly and other best-selling Paleo-type diet books.

grain brain

David Perlmutter and his co-author, writer Kristin Loberg, followed the diet book formula: reel in the lay audience with indisputable scientific facts and then lead them to ungrounded conclusions because they all sound good. With technical expertise, Dr. Perlmutter explains the workings of the brain and central nervous system. He is up on the hot nutrition topics and buzzwords of the day: inflammation, free radicals, bacteria in the gut, and metabolic fuels.

Sure, we agree that neurological diseases are scary and seem to be everywhere, but are gluten and carbohydrates the cause? Not so fast. David Perlmutter is often called “cutting edge,” which means research verification is needed.   (more…)

35 Kid-Friendly Snacks that Meet the New Smart Snacks in Schools Guidelines

Students are going back to a healthier school environment this year, as schools continue to advance Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Last year, USDA added more fruit, vegetables and whole grains to the school lunch program. This year, those healthy advancements extend to school vending machines and school stores. Expect to see more of the foods we should encourage – whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein – and less of the foods we should avoid – sugary, salty and fatty items. Read the guidelines in Smart Snacks in School, the USDA’s guide to the new nutrition standards.

healthy snacks usda guidelines

Download this Printer Friendly Version for your home or classroom.

We took those guidelines one step further by translating them into brand name foods to help busy parents and even teachers know what to look for at the store. Our list contains ­only foods that meet the new standards. There are no cookies or soda (too much sugar), nor meat jerky (too much salt), and several snack bars didn’t make the cut because they exceed the 200-calorie limit. While our list doesn’t include every acceptable packaged food on the market – and let’s make it clear, we love snacks made at home from healthy, fresh ingredients – we hope our list will help school administrators, teachers and parents to identify better-for-you commercial snacks that are more apt to promote our kids’ healthy lifestyles. (more…)

The Parents’ Checklist for a Proper Weight Loss Camp for Kids

The school year is over and for many parents of overweight kids the pressure is on to decide whether or not to enroll in weight loss camp. Do weight loss camps help or do they make things worse? It depends as much on the family and the child as it does on the camp. Done right, weight loss camp may jump start good habits that last a lifetime. Done wrong, camp may set the stage for years of failed diet attempts with feelings of failure and shame. The decision to take part in weight loss camp is a very important one.

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Children, teens, and young adults of both genders can go to a weight loss camp, which can last from two to eight weeks and cost between $2000 and $8000. They group children by gender and age to learn about food, nutrition and cooking, athletic skills, and tools to support emotional health. Building positive self-esteem must be a goal of the program.

Menus must be devised by registered dietitians and wholesome communal meals and snacks should be served. In the best camps, the common menu offers around 1700 calories a day, but the camper actually decides how much to eat. Nutrition education helps the child to learn which foods are necessary and appropriate all of the time or just some of the time. Children should learn how and when to start and stop eating. The emphasis should always be on healthy eating, not on calories. (more…)

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Relationships with Big Food Soil the Good Name of Registered Dietitians

A couple of bad reviews on Yelp can put a restaurant out of business. It’s called a reputation crisis. Registered dietitians (RDs) face a reputation crisis due to the actions of their parent organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). AND is being called out for having close ties to the food industry. For their nutrition conferences and events, AND accepts sponsorship from big food and beverage corporations. Sponsorship gives the appearance of conflict of interest, and in reputation management, perception is everything.

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It started last October when lawyer/author Michele Simon released a report, “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors.” She called out AND for having close ties to Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, and the like because those companies sponsor their continuing education activities. Soon, celebrity nutritionists like Marion Nestle and Dr. Mercola were writing about “How the Junk Food Industry Controls Registered Dietitians.” And then, this month, another incident made the New York Times, Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling. More negative press. I fear AND has sullied my unblemished reputation. (more…)