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.

Mary Hartley’s Plate for National Nutrition Month


This is Gypsy Soup, Cheesy Cornbread, and fat-free milk. It is a typical lunch or dinner.  I don’t distinguish between the two. Most of my food is eaten from a bowl, not a plate. I typically eat soups, ethnic dishes and full meal salads; I rarely eat meat with a side and I cook from scratch. (more…)

Dr. Oz’s Raspberry Ketones Dismissed by Dietitian as TV Hype

Is Dr. Oz more showman than doctor? His theatrical endorsement of dubious weight loss products points to the former. On his show this week, in a 75-second segment, he introduced a ‘revolutionary metabolism booster that you’ve never heard of’: raspberry ketones. While displaying a generic purple jar of capsules, Dr. Oz said, “I have vetted these; I’ve looked at them carefully; I am absolutely enamored. I know they work.” His segment assistant Lisa Lynn, a supplement-selling personal trainer, was by his side, along with a morbidly obese woman who had “tried everything.” Was Dr. Oz laying it on thick for a questionable product? No, not when you consider Dr. Oz is on TV.

Raspberry ketones are compounds that give red raspberries their aroma. In the US, they are used primarily in the food flavor industry. In Japan, however, raspberry ketone capsules are used as a weight loss supplement. Raspberry ketones are not to be confused with blood ketones produced in diabetes and on very low carbohydrate diets.

The hypothesis is that raspberries ketones affect biological activities that alter lipid metabolism. That fat-blasting claim rests on two small mice studies that show when mice are fed a high-fat diet supplemented with raspberry ketones they gain less body fat than expected. But be clear: raspberry ketones have not been studied in humans and they have not been proven to work. To be fair, Dr. Oz said, “There have not been a lot of human studies, but animal studies are favorable.” Somehow, for me, that got lost in the hype. (more…)

In February, Men Must Face the Facts of Heart Disease, too

Heart disease happens when a number of ‘risk factors’ add up. Some of the risks – gender, genetics and age – are uncontrollable; but others – smoking, inactivity, excess weight, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes – are within our control. The key to preventing heart disease is to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and take medications as prescribed. Use this Heart Attack Risk Assessment from the American Heart Association to find your risk for heart disease.

Men Need Help

Women take much better care of themselves. They might be programmed in to the system through OB-GYN care or maybe it’s taking care of the kids, but women visit their doctors for checkups, while men do not.

Over the past ten years, men have gotten fatter while women have stayed the same. In 2000, 27.5% of men were obese, but in 2010, it was 35%. In women, the obesity level remained stable at 33%. Along with obesity, men have more diabetes and high blood pressure, which places them at much greater risk. To their credit, men now smoke and binge drink less and they’re a bit more active. (1) (more…)

5 Things That are Wrong With Your Diet

Sometimes, good intentions go horribly wrong. How often does that happen with food and fitness goals? You aim to do the right thing but you don’t quite get it. If only the rules would stop changing! Here are a five diet errors I commonly see. Don’t let them happen to you.

You Eliminate Entire Food Groups

We all need a balanced diet to get a full complement of nutrients. The elimination of an entire food group – be it milk, meat, starchy grains, or whatever – calls for fancy diet maneuvers to make up for missing nutrients. In nutrition school, they teach us that eliminating entire food groups places people at risk for malnutrition.

You Neglect Healthy Fats

The focus is no longer on how low can you go with your fat intake. Those old, low-fat diets were often high in sugar and did not deliver health benefits as well as diets rich in healthy fats. The Mediterranean Diet, featuring nuts and seeds, olive oil and fatty fish, is the way to go. Just remember to eat healthy fats within your calorie budget.

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Vaportrim Claims Smell can Trick Your Brain Into Being Full

The concept is fascinating: message receptors in the brain tell your body you’ve eaten. Introducing Vaportrim, a new entry into the diet market. It is a plastic cylindrical device, the size of a ballpoint pen, that looks like an embellished electronic cigarette. The cylinder, or cartridge, contains a liquid solution of water and flavors (natural and artificial) in a glycerin base, along with an atomizer, a tiny heating element. When you inhale with your mouth, the liquid passes through the atomizer, turning into a vapor. The vapor is held in your mouth and exhaled, just like smoking. Vaportrim comes in 14 flavors including raspberry cheesecake, milk chocolate, vanilla cupcake, and cinnamon bun.

The manufacturer says it works because our smell receptors message our brain, which, in turn, release hormones that tell the body it’s full. Legitimate research does show that appetite and smell are closely connected and smell can trigger fullness before the stomach can, but whether Vaportrim can curb cravings is unknown. No research has been done using the actual product for appetite suppression or weight control. Le Whif is a similar diet aid, but with it, vapor is not exhaled, and the Sensa Sprinkle Diet, also relies on smell receptors, but calls for sprinkling crystals on your food.
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Dinner for One: Healthy Cooking and Eating While Single

Cereal for supper? Fast food out of the bag? That’s not how singles have to eat. Eating right can be challenging when living alone, but singles have options to match their preferences and skills. To cook or not to cook? What’s your singles eating style?

To Cook

Singles can cook either fast and slow. Fast cooking involves making one simple meal from scratch. Think about a spinach and cheese omelet, a big salad with rotisserie chicken, a quick pasta dish, or beans and rice. Without being elaborate, fast meals cover all of the food groups (don’t forget your glass of milk and piece of fruit.) The trick to cooking fast is to assemble a repertoire of tried-and-true recipes and to keep the ingredients on hand at all times. The shopping list must be always up-to-date. Reheating frozen entrees or burritos is a type of fast cooking. Buy them on sale and keep the freezer full.

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Congress Denies All Changes to School Lunch Throwing Children’s Health Under the Bus

This week, Congress threw the children of the United States under the school bus when they chose to reject the school lunch nutrition standards proposed by the Agriculture Department (USDA). By congressional mandate, the USDA had been tasked with bringing the National School Lunch (and School Breakfast) Programs into line the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Evaluations had shown that school meals were too high in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, and too low in fiber from whole grains and from fruits and vegetables. And because school meals are designed to make a substantial contribution to a child’s daily intake, the hope was that a revision would have a positive impact on childhood obesity.

To investigate the issue and make recommendations, the USDA contracted the scientists at the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM measured school menus against childhood nutrition standards as well as the practicality of mass food service within cost restraints. In the end, they recommended these service changes to align the program with the Dietary Guidelines:

  • Add more fruit at breakfast, including whole fruit
  • Add greater amount and variety of vegetables at lunch
  • Require both fruit and vegetables on every lunch menu
  • Add more whole grain-rich foods and subtract refined grain foods
  • Limit milk choices to fat-free (unflavored or flavored) and plain 1% fat
  • Increase the emphasis on limiting saturated fat
  • Encourage schools to cook with unsaturated oils within the calorie limits
  • Minimized the use of foods that contain trans fat
  • Using stepwise reductions, create a major reduction in sodium to be achieved fully by 2020

The USDA then put those recommendations into proposed rules* for meal planning:

  • Limit starchy vegetables, like potatoes and corn, to 1 cup (two servings) per week
  • Require schools to serve a dark green or bright orange vegetable at least once a week
  • Increase the amount of tomato paste that counts as one vegetable from 2-ounces, the amount typically served on one slice of pizza, to a 4-ounce (half-cup) serving
  • Make at least half of the grains served at meals ‘whole’ grains

How many recommendations did Congress take? None at all. (more…)

SMART Planning for New Year’s Resolution Success

Want to know about getting a jump start on lifestyle changes that commonly begin after the New Year? Here are a few reader question favorites from “Ask Mary Q+As” about planning for change.

Ask Mary: Where should I start with my healthy lifestyle change?

Start with changing one thing and add others over time. It’s always best to practice the change that brings you the most joy. To find the parts of your diet in need of change, keep a food log for 3 to 7 days – before changing the way you eat. Do you snack between meals, frequently eat in restaurants, or neglect to eat at least 5 fruits or vegetables a day? Would you like to give up soda or might you prefer to slowdown your eating? Each change is noble and should be greeted as an adventure. Once you decide upon a change to make, set a S-M-A-R-T goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to exercise”, get S-M-A-R-T. Say, “I will walk for 20 minutes at lunchtime Monday through Thursday”. Then envision yourself easily reaching your goal and you’re part way there!

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