Whole Foods: A Hyper-Local Grocery Store!

Short Pump Virginia was in the news this past week when Whole Foods Market announced they took over an acre in  for a community garden that will help supply its local store. This is the first on-site field-to-store garden in the country and was exiting news to proponents of the Local Food Movement. The garden has separate areas for composting, an orchard and space for individual gardens and for demonstration and educational programs. By producing food on site, it will be much more sustainable and energy effecient, since this food will have no “food miles“- a buzz word that indicates how far, and how much gas has to be burned for that food to reach your table from the field.

The goal of the community garden plot is not only to have items for sale, but to create a space for education. The company invites the public to an open house and there is the potential that a few of the plots will be rented to individual growers.

Visit the Whole Foods Short Pump Website here or they can be found on Twitter @WFM_Shortpump

What’s your take on Local Foods? Do you make a special effort to buy locally grown produce? What do you think about Whole Foods taking this extra step? Is it just a publicity gimmick or can this create positive change towards a more sustainable food system ?

Serving Sizes, Packaged Food Nutrition Labels May Get a Makeover per the FDA

If you have ever read a nutrition facts label, you have probably seen the “serving size” listed right at the top. But do you know where that number comes from? (Hint, not an independent third party.) It’s actually the manufacturers themselves. Buy a big packaged muffin in the store and chances are the serving size is half a muffin. Check the cookies. The serving size is probably one or two. It’s not just junky foods either. I checked my package of alfalfa sprouts. One serving is supposedly 2/3 of the entire package. Now, I love my sprouts, but I’m lucky to get a small handful on a sandwich or salad.

So why is this an issue? Well, if you haven’t heard there’s an obesity epidemic going on in the United States. We don’t get enough exercise. We don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. We sit too much. We eat too much food we don’t bother to make ourselves. We eat a lot of stuff out of boxes and packages. Probably most important, many Americans don’t really know how to nourish ourselves and balance out our eating.

Weight management is multifaceted. But when it comes to the purpose of nutrition facts labels, it’s all about educating the consumer about how much food, calories, and nutrients are in a realistic serving. So recently, the FDA has said they need to look at what they can do to help people manage how much they eat and make sure they aren’t confused by the information provided.

Recently, Barbara O. Schneeman, director of the F.D.A. office that oversees nutrition labels was quoted in the New York Times on this topic as saying:

“We are actively looking at serving size and evaluating what steps we need to take. Ultimately, the purpose of nutrition labeling is to help consumers make healthier choices, make improvements in their diet, and we want to make sure we achieve that goal.”

Right now they are considering doing two things: bringing the serving size more in line with what people actually eat and then moving key information to the front of the package. The front-of-package initiative is part of the bigger issue of all the “spots, checks, marks” and other labels that food manufacturers use to give packaged foods a “health halo.” I think this is an important step for the FDA to get involved. The manufacturers’ front-of-package labeling is nothing more than snazzy marketing designed to make people put the package in the cart. If the FDA can oversee a single system for front of package labels that brings some key information to the front (like 120 calories per serving, 2.5 servings per container) this may help bring awareness to how much they are actually taking in if they consume half or the entire container.

The FDA says the front of package label would be voluntary for companies, but what they are considering is regulations that would prevent companies from promoting “benefits” on the front, while downplaying any “downsides” to the foods. I think this step is crucial. The more messages you have, the more potential for confusion. There’s only so much space on the package.

It’s not like this is the first time the FDA has tried to step in and tell companies that they should accurately portray the amount in the package on the nutrition label. Here’s a warning letter they issued back in 2004 (yep, about six years ago):

FDA also recognizes that there is a growing trend in the marketplace for jumbo or super-sized servings. When such products are intended to be consumed by one individual in one eating occasion, the nutrition information should be based on the entire contents of food in the container. We recognize that the current serving size regulations allow for such products to be sold as either one, or more than one, serving even if they are usually consumed at one time. FDA intends to re-evaluate this aspect of the serving size regulations. In the meantime, we encourage manufacturers to provide the most accurate and useful nutrition information to consumers by taking advantage of the flexibility in current regulations on serving sizes and label food packages as containing a single-serving if the entire contents of the package can reasonably be consumed at a single-eating occasion.

If FDA has addressed this in 2004 and warning letters to companies have not inspired any positive change in nutrition labels, then maybe it is high time they set tougher regulations. It does not appear that self-regulation is working.

I’m not so sure how changing the serving size standards to reflect what people actually eat would work because we eat too much now. How do you determine the “real” size people eat? It’s better to show the real size people should eat, but the problem with that is it depends on age, gender, weight, and amount of exercise. It’s hard to give a “one size” serving to fit all Americans.

Let’s take cereal. Toasted oats serving size is usually one cup. Other sugary cereals usually have a serving size of 3/4 cup. I don’t think it should be permissible for companies to choose 3/4 cup to make their products look nutritionally comparable to other cereals (calories and sugar look lower because the serving size is smaller). But what do you choose as the new standard? Even if “two cups” is more like what people actually eat, is it more than they should eat? Maybe for a 50-year-old overweight female, but maybe not for a 17-year-old high school track star. I would love to hear your comments below with good suggestions for how this would pan out in a realistic way.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides food and nutrition advice for anyone over age two, gives custom recommendations for servings of foods. Anyone can get a custom recommendation and track their intake for free online. So that’s a place to start. Educate yourself on what you should eat. Buy fewer packaged foods in general. Eat smaller portions. Only eat when you are hungry. All these things will help you in your “healthy weight” journey.

What do you think the FDA should do to educate consumers on food packages?

Read more: Serving Sizes, Packaged Food Nutrition Labels May Get a Makeover per the FDA http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/02/serving-sizes-packaged-food-nutrition-labels-may-get-a-makeover-per-the-fda/#more-17235#ixzz0rPyNzMaz

2010 Dietary Guidelines Summary Released!

It’s big news for nutrition. We may have new advice for eating healthy… and you can give your 2 cents, if you feel so inclined. Every five years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated to reflect the latest knowledge in science and research. The Guidelines are used for government nutrition initiatives, programs and education, as well as by dietitians and health professionals to help educate people about eating healthier.

Dietary Guidelines (DG) Advisory Committee released their Executive summary on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010. The full report can be found here and is currently open for public comments. (that’s you, the public…let your voice be heard and comment on the Executive Summary).

The Committee has used a state-of-the-art, web-based electronic system and methodology, known as the Nutrition Evidence Library, to answer the majority of the scientific questions it posed, about specific nutrients and foods.

What’s New in 2010?

The 2010 Guidelines are different from previous reports in that this one addresses an American public of whom the majority are overweight or obese and yet under-nourished in several key nutrients. (It may sound strange, but it is possible to be overweight and under nourished at the same time.)

This DG also focuses more on children because primary prevention of obesity must begin in childhood. They say this is the single most powerful public health approach to combating and reversing America’s obesity epidemic over the long term.
To reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity in our country they recommend that we:

  • Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
  • Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats because these dietary components contribute excess calories and few, if any, nutrients. In addition, reduce sodium intake and intake of refined grains.Daily sodium intake be 1,500 mg, (down from 2,300mg in the 2005 recommendations).
  • Eliminate Trans-fatty acids from the diet, and seeking to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in diet.
  • Increase physical activity: adults should get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types. Kids and teens should do an hour or more of moderate-intensity to vigorous physical activity each day.

While I strongly support these recommendations, there are several things that must be changed about our  Food environment so that eating healthy is easy, accessible and affordable. Hopefully our government will launch initiatives that seek to improve the following points:

  • Improve nutrition literacy and cooking skills, including safe food handling skills, and empower and motivate the population, especially families with children, to prepare and consume healthy foods at home.
  • Increase comprehensive health, nutrition, and physical education programs and curricula in US schools and preschools, including food preparation, food safety, cooking, and physical education classes and improved quality of recess.
  • For all Americans, especially those with low income, create greater financial incentives to purchase, prepare, and consume vegetables and fruit, whole grains, seafood, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, and other healthy foods.
  • Improve the availability of affordable fresh produce through greater access to grocery stores, produce trucks, and farmers’ markets.
  • Increase environmentally sustainable production of vegetables, fruits, and fiber-rich whole grains.
  • Encourage restaurants and the food industry to offer health-promoting foods that are low in sodium; limited in added sugars, refined grains, and solid fats; and served in smaller portions.

With over two thirds of our population either overweight or obese, this has a huge impact on the healthcare system, and our entire nation. On average, Americans of all ages consume too few vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, and seafood and they eat too much added sugars, solid fats, refined grains, and sodium. Added Sugar and Fat contribute approximately 35 percent of calories to the American diet. (these are just empty calories) The current US Food environment is loaded with excess sodium, sugar, fat and refined grains, making it harder for the average consumer to eat healthy. We have to seek out healthy foods and do some detective work when eating out.

This summary is now open for public comments-so what do you have to say? Tell me here or submit your comment to the committee here! You can also read what others are saying here. Will changing the recommendations help make American healthier or do we first need to change the entire food environment?

Cancer Panel Sets Sights on Food

Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

The President’s cancer panel for the first time in its history is releasing a report that advises Americans to be more vigorous with chemical regulation and supports the organic food movement. Since its establishment in 1971,this panel of experts has suggested that cancer risk be reduced through self-exams, screenings like mammograms, and doctor’s visits. A great source of information on cancer risk can be found on the American Cancer Society website. But the newly released report cites weak laws, enforcement, and the ‘presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary’ as a reason to focus cancer prevention strategies on food. Such controversial chemicals include bisphenol-A or BPA, found in food and beverage containers. In addition to more astringent control of chemical use in food products, the cancer panel urges the consideration of organic food usage and foods without preservatives, filtering drinking water, and storing food in glass or stainless steel containers (to avoid chemicals from plastics).

The suggestion of organics has piqued the interest of many. For some consumers, the biggest hurdle in joining the organic movement has been price compared to conventionally grown foods, and the ‘Why bother? How would it help?’ mindset. The release of such information by highly regarded medical professionals to answer the ‘why bother’ may start to tip the balance more in favor of organics for consumers. For those who have joined the organic movement, this suggestion may seem slow on the uptake.

The fact that the president’s cancer panel is beginning to recognize the importance of what we eat and put into our bodies is a great move in the right direction. Not only are the suggestions put forth by the panel important, but will hopefully encourage the population to take more of an interest in produce and whole grains as opposed to processed snacks.

See the New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/opinion/06kristof.html?th&emc=th

Food for your Whole Life: Nutrition Today for a Healthy Tomorrow!

By: Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

It’s no secret; nutrition can affect your health at every stage of life. California Walnuts held an amazing symposium and webinar, Food for your Whole Life, that brought experts like Dr. David Katz, from across the country to focus on each life stage. The panel of specialists included a representative from the USDA, who gave us a sneak peek at what is being worked on for the new food pyramid that is being released this fall. Look for a new view on the calories obtained from fat and carbohydrate sources as well as more information on trans fats. The children’s specialist talked about one of our favorite topics, school lunches. He described studies that he and his team members were working on to increase healthy choices in students. Small changes can make students lean towards healthier options just by, for example, asking students if they wanted a side salad before they were served the entrée in line. For young adults, the panel mentioned eating out instead of cooking at home as a big problem. Eating out is related to a decrease in vegetable consumption and an increase in sodium intake, setting you up for more problems in later adulthood. The older adults specialist discussed a media favorite, the anti aging powers of berries and other fruits. Be the audience, young or old, a common and favorite theme of mine I found was that of mindful eating. People make over 200 food choices a day, something hard to believe because we do it so mindlessly! By being aware of the choices we can make about what we eat and what we feed our kids each day, nutritious living will naturally become part of your whole life.

Want to watch some of the symposium? See it on demand here! http://www.thomsonwebcast.net/us/dispatching/C4STUDIOS20100607

Michelle Obama’s Script for Let’s Move Announcement


First Lady Michelle Obama Launches Let’s Move:

America’s move to raise a healthier generation of kids


THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama today announced an ambitious national goal of solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight and unveiled a nationwide campaign – Let’s Move – to help achieve it.

Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama
As Prepared for Delivery

Let’s Move Launch
Washington, DC
February 9, 2010

Hello everyone, thank you so much.  It is such a pleasure to be here with all of you today.

Tammy, thank you for that wonderful introduction and for your outstanding work in the White House garden.

I want to recognize the extraordinary Cabinet members with us today – Secretaries Vilsack, Sebelius, Duncan, Salazar, Donovan and Solis – as well as Surgeon General Benjamin.  Thanks to all of you for your excellent work.

Thanks also to Senators Harkin and Gillibrand, and Representatives DeLauro, Christensen and Fudge for their leadership and for being here today.

And I want to thank Tiki Barber, Dr. Judith Palfrey, Will Allen, and Mayors Johnson and Curtatone for braving the weather to join us, and for their outstanding work every day to help our kids lead active, healthy lives.

And I hear that congratulations are in order for the Watkins Hornets, who just won the Pee Wee National Football Championship.  Let’s give them a hand to show them how proud we are.

We’re here today because we care deeply about the health and well-being of these kids and kids like them all across the country.  And we’re determined to finally take on one of the most serious threats to their future: the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today – an issue that’s of great concern to me not just as a First Lady, but as a mom.

Often, when we talk about this issue, we begin by citing sobering statistics like the ones you’ve heard today – that over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled; that nearly one third of children in America are now overweight or obese – one in three.

But these numbers don’t paint the full picture.  These words – “overweight” and “obese” – they don’t tell the full story.  This isn’t just about inches and pounds or how our kids look.  It’s about how our kids feel, and how they feel about themselves.  It’s about the impact we’re seeing on every aspect of their lives.

Pediatricians like Dr. Palfrey are seeing kids with high blood pressure and high cholesterol – even Type II diabetes, which they used to see only in adults.  Teachers see the teasing and bullying; school counselors see the depression and low-self-esteem; and coaches see kids struggling to keep up, or stuck on the sidelines.

Military leaders report that obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service.  Economic experts tell us that we’re spending outrageous amounts of money treating obesity-related conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  And public health experts tell us that the current generation could actually be on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

None of us wants this kind of future for our kids – or for our country.  So instead of just talking about this problem, instead of just worrying and wringing our hands about it, let’s do something about it.  Let’s act…let’s move.

Let’s move to help families and communities make healthier decisions for their kids.  Let’s move to bring together governors and mayors, doctors and nurses, businesses, community groups, educators, athletes, Moms and Dads to tackle this challenge once and for all.  And that’s why we’re here today – to launch “Let’s Move” – a campaign that will rally our nation to achieve a single, ambitious goal: solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

But to get where we want to go, we need to first understand how we got here.  So let me ask the adults here today to close your eyes and think back for a moment…think back to a time when we were growing up.

Like many of you, when I was young, we walked to school every day, rain or shine – and in Chicago, we did it in wind, sleet, hail and snow too.  Remember how, at school, we had recess twice a day and gym class twice a week, and we spent hours running around outside when school got out.  You didn’t go inside until dinner was ready – and when it was, we would gather around the table for dinner as a family.  And there was one simple rule: you ate what Mom fixed – good, bad, or ugly.  Kids had absolutely no say in what they felt like eating.  If you didn’t like it, you were welcome to go to bed hungry.  Back then, fast food was a treat, and dessert was mainly a Sunday affair.

In my home, we weren’t rich.  The foods we ate weren’t fancy.  But there was always a vegetable on the plate.  And we managed to lead a pretty healthy life.

Many kids today aren’t so fortunate.  Urban sprawl and fears about safety often mean the only walking they do is out their front door to a bus or a car.  Cuts in recess and gym mean a lot less running around during the school day, and lunchtime may mean a school lunch heavy on calories and fat.  For many kids, those afternoons spent riding bikes and playing ball until dusk have been replaced by afternoons inside with TV, the Internet, and video games.

And these days, with parents working longer hours, working two jobs, they don’t have time for those family dinners.  Or with the price of fresh fruits and vegetables rising 50 percent higher than overall food costs these past two decades, they don’t have the money.  Or they don’t have a supermarket in their community, so their best option for dinner is something from the shelf of the local convenience store or gas station.

So many parents desperately want to do the right thing, but they feel like the deck is stacked against them.  They know their kids’ health is their responsibility – but they feel like it’s out of their control.  They’re being bombarded by contradictory information at every turn, and they don’t know who or what to believe.  The result is a lot of guilt and anxiety – and a sense that no matter what they do, it won’t be right, and it won’t be enough.

I know what that feels like.  I’ve been there.  While today I’m blessed with more help and support than I ever dreamed of, I didn’t always live in the White House.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a working Mom, struggling to balance meetings and deadlines with soccer and ballet.  And there were some nights when everyone was tired and hungry, and we just went to the drive-thru because it was quick and cheap, or went with one of the less healthy microwave options, because it was easy.   And one day, my pediatrician pulled me aside and told me, “You might want to think about doing things a little bit differently.”

That was a moment of truth for me.  It was a wakeup call that I was the one in charge, even if it didn’t always feel that way.

And today, it’s time for a moment of truth for our country; it’s time we all had a wakeup call.  It’s time for us to be honest with ourselves about how we got here.  Our kids didn’t do this to themselves.  Our kids don’t decide what’s served to them at school or whether there’s time for gym class or recess.  Our kids don’t choose to make food products with tons of sugar and sodium in super-sized portions, and then to have those products marketed to them everywhere they turn.  And no matter how much they beg for pizza, fries and candy, ultimately, they are not, and should not, be the ones calling the shots at dinnertime.  We’re in charge.  We make these decisions.

But that’s actually the good news here.  If we’re the ones who make the decisions, then we can decide to solve this problem.  And when I say “we,” I’m not just talking about folks here in Washington.  This isn’t about politics.  There’s nothing Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, about doing what’s best for our kids.  And I’ve spoken with many experts about this issue, and not a single one has said that the solution is to have government tell people what to do.  Instead, I’m talking about what we can do.  I’m talking about commonsense steps we can take in our families and communities to help our kids lead active, healthy lives.

This isn’t about trying to turn the clock back to when we were kids, or preparing five course meals from scratch every night.  No one has time for that.   And it’s not about being 100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time.  Lord knows I’m not.  There’s a place for cookies and ice cream, burgers and fries – that’s part of the fun of childhood.

Often, it’s just about balance.  It’s about small changes that add up – like walking to school, replacing soda with water or skim milk, trimming those portion sizes a little – things like this can mean the difference between being healthy and fit or not.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here.  Instead, it’s about families making manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes.

And it’s about communities working to support these efforts.  Mayors like Mayors Johnson and Curtatone, who are building sidewalks, parks and community gardens.  Athletes and role models like Tiki Barber, who are building playgrounds to help kids stay active.  Community leaders like Will Allen who are bringing farmers markets to underserved areas.  Companies like the food industry leaders who came together last fall and acknowledged their responsibility to be part of the solution.  But there’s so much more to do.

And that’s the mission of Let’s Move – to create a wave of efforts across this country that get us to our goal of solving childhood obesity in a generation.

We kicked off this initiative this morning when my husband signed a presidential memorandum establishing the first ever government-wide Task Force on Childhood Obesity.  The task force is composed of representatives from key agencies – including many who are here today.  Over the next 90 days, these folks will review every program and policy relating to child nutrition and physical activity.  And they’ll develop an action plan marshalling these resources to meet our goal.  And to ensure we’re continuously on track to do so, the Task Force will set concrete benchmarks to measure our progress.

But we can’t wait 90 days to get going here.  So let’s move right now, starting today, on a series of initiatives to help achieve our goal.

First, let’s move to offer parents the tools and information they need – and that they’ve been asking for – to make healthy choices for their kids.  We’ve been working with the FDA and several manufacturers and retailers to make our food labels more customer-friendly, so people don’t have to spend hours squinting at words they can’t pronounce to figure out whether the food they’re buying is healthy or not.  In fact, just today, the nation’s largest beverage companies announced that they’ll be taking steps to provide clearly visible information about calories on the front of their products – as well as on vending machines and soda fountains.  This is exactly the kind of vital information parents need to make good choices for their kids.

We’re also working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, supporting their groundbreaking efforts to ensure that doctors not only regularly measure children’s BMI, but actually write out a prescription detailing steps parents can take to keep their kids healthy and fit.

In addition, we’re working with the Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal, and Viacom to launch a nationwide public awareness campaign educating parents and children about how to fight childhood obesity.

And we’re creating a one-stop shopping website – LetsMove.gov – so with the click of a mouse, parents can find helpful tips and step-by-step strategies, including healthy recipes, exercise plans, and charts they can use to track their family’s progress.

But let’s remember: 31 million American children participate in federal school meal programs – and many of these kids consume as many as half their daily calories at school.  And what we don’t want is a situation where parents are taking all the right steps at home – and then their kids undo all that work with salty, fatty food in the school cafeteria.

So let’s move to get healthier food into our nation’s schools.  That’s the second part of this initiative.  We’ll start by updating and strengthening the Child Nutrition Act – the law that sets nutrition standards for what our kids eat at school.  And we’ve proposed an historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years to fund that legislation.

With this new investment, we’ll knock down barriers that keep families from participating in school meal programs and serve an additional one million students in the first five years alone.  And we’ll dramatically improve the quality of the food we offer in schools – including in school vending machines.  We’ll take away some of the empty calories, and add more fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious options.

We also plan to double the number of schools in the HealthierUS School Challenge – an innovative program that recognizes schools doing the very best work to keep kids healthy – from providing healthy school meals to requiring physical education classes each week.  To help us meet that goal, I’m thrilled to announce that for the very first time, several major school food suppliers have come together and committed to decrease sugar, fat and salt; increase whole grains; and double the fresh produce in the school meals they serve.  And also for the first time, food service workers – along with principals, superintendents and school board members across America – are coming together to support these efforts.  With these commitments, we’ll reach just about every school child in this country with better information and more nutritious meals to put them on track to a healthier life.

These are major steps forward.  But let’s not forget about the rest of the calories kids consume – the ones they eat outside of school, often at home, in their neighborhoods.  And when 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million American children, live in “food deserts” – communities without a supermarket – those calories are too often empty ones.  You can see these areas in dark purple in the new USDA Food Environment Atlas we’re unveiling today.  This Atlas maps out everything from diabetes and obesity rates across the country to the food deserts you see on this screen.

So let’s move to ensure that all our families have access to healthy, affordable food in their communities.  That’s the third part of this initiative.  Today, for the very first time, we’re making a commitment to eliminate food deserts in America – and we plan to do so within seven years.  Now, we know this is ambitious.  And it will take a serious commitment from both government and the private sector.  That’s why we plan to invest $400 million a year in a Healthy Food Financing initiative that will bring grocery stores to underserved areas and help places like convenience stores carry healthier food options.  And this initiative won’t just help families eat better, it will help create jobs and revitalize neighborhoods across America.

But we know that eating right is only part of the battle.  Experts recommend that children get 60 minutes of active play each day.  If this sounds like a lot, consider this: kids today spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching TV, and playing with cell phones, computers, and video games.  And only a third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity.

So let’s move.  And I mean that literally.  Let’s find new ways for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school.  That’s the fourth, and final, part of this initiative.

We’ll increase participation in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge.  And we’ll modernize the challenge, so it’s not just about how athletic kids are – how many sit-ups or push-ups they can do – but how active they are.  We’ll double the number of kids who earn a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award in the next school year, recognizing those who engage in physical activity five days a week, for six weeks.  We’ve also recruited professional athletes from a dozen different leagues – including the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the WNBA – to promote these efforts through sports clinics, public service announcements and more.

So that’s some of what we’re doing to achieve our goal.  And we know we won’t get there this year, or this Administration.  We know it’ll take a nationwide movement that continues long after we’re gone.  That’s why today, I’m pleased to announce that a new, independent foundation has been created to rally and coordinate businesses, non-profits, and state and local governments to keep working until we reach our goal – and to measure our progress along the way.  It’s called the Partnership for a Healthier America, and it’s bringing together some of the leading experts on childhood obesity, like The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The California Endowment, The Kellogg Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which is a partnership between the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation.  And we expect others to join in the coming months.

So this is a pretty serious effort.  And I know that in these challenging times for our country, there are those who will wonder whether this should really be a priority.  They might view things like healthy school lunches and physical fitness challenges as “extras” – as things we spring for once we’ve taken care of the necessities.  They might ask, “How can we spend money on fruits and vegetables in our school cafeterias when many of our schools don’t have enough textbooks or teachers?”  Or they might ask, “How can we afford to build parks and sidewalks when we can’t even afford our health care costs?”

But when you step back and think about it, you realize – these are false choices.  If kids aren’t getting adequate nutrition, even the best textbooks and teachers in the world won’t help them learn.  If they don’t have safe places to run and play, and they wind up with obesity-related conditions, then those health care costs will just keep rising.

So yes, we have to do it all…we’ll need to make some modest, but critical, investments in the short-run…but we know that they’ll pay for themselves – likely many times over – in the long-run.  Because we won’t just be keeping our kids healthy when they’re young.  We’ll be teaching them habits to keep them healthy their entire lives.

We saw this firsthand here at the White House when we planted our garden with students like Tammy last Spring.  One of Tammy’s classmates wrote in an essay that her time in the garden, and I quote, “…has made me think about the choices I have with what I put in my mouth…”  Another wrote with great excitement that he’d learned that tomatoes are both a fruit and a vegetable and contain vitamins that fight diseases.  Armed with that knowledge, he declared, “So the tomato is a fruit and is now my best friend.”

Think about the ripple effect when children use this knowledge to make healthy decisions for the rest of their lives.  Think about the effect it will have on every aspect of their lives.  Whether they can keep up with their classmates on the playground and stay focused in the classroom.  Whether they have the self-confidence to pursue careers of their dreams, and the stamina to succeed in those careers.  Whether they’ll have the energy and strength to teach their own kids how to throw a ball or ride a bike, and whether they’ll live long enough to see their grandkids grow up – maybe even their great grandkids too.

In the end, we know that solving our obesity challenge won’t be easy – and it certainly won’t be quick.  But make no mistake about it, this problem can be solved.

This isn’t like a disease where we’re still waiting for the cure to be discovered – we know the cure for this.  This isn’t like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet – it doesn’t take some stroke of genius or feat of technology.  We have everything we need, right now, to help our kids lead healthy lives.  Rarely in the history of this country have we encountered a problem of such magnitude and consequence that is so eminently solvable.  So let’s move to solve it.

I don’t want our kids to live diminished lives because we failed to step up today.  I don’t want them looking back decades from now and asking us, why didn’t you help us when you had a chance?  Why didn’t you put us first when it mattered most?

So much of what we all want for our kids isn’t within our control.  We want them to succeed in everything they do.  We want to protect them from every hardship and spare them from every mistake.  But we know we can’t do all of that.  What we can do…what is fully within our control…is to give them the very best start in their journeys.  What we can do is give them advantages early in life that will stay with them long after we’re gone.  As President Franklin Roosevelt once put it: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

That is our obligation, not just as parents who love our kids, but as citizens who love this country.  So let’s move.  Let’s get this done.  Let’s give our kids what they need to have the future they deserve.

Thank you so much.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Biggest Loser Couples Reflections

So I’ve been thinking about The Biggest Loser and its impact on American culture for some time. I can’t help but notice all the efforts in government and healthcare to inspire change and how little really gets done. Cross that with The Biggest Loser and you have to ask – is The Biggest Loser scalable to the population?

What I am most impressed with is the “short timer success”. Estella was only on the ranch for a week and at her age all the odds were against her. I mean, only young males lose weight right? It’s too hard to teach an old dog new tricks… maybe not!

Estella started at 242 and weighed in at 159# losing 83 pounds, 34% of her body weight.

Jerry at 63 years old started at 369 and weighs 192# now losing 47% of his body weight. He passed out his first hour on the ranch and he was only there two weeks! Wow.

Damien and Nicole had similar results! I think that she is a role model for many women, but especially African American women who have a higher rist of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

from the Black Women’s Health Imperative

Black women have the highest or near highest rates of most major chronic conditions (hypertension, diabetes, stroke, most cancers, glaucoma, arthritis and lupus) and risk factors for poor health (obesity, sedentary lifestyles, drug dependence, tobacco use, depression, sexually transmitted diseases, low immunization rates and partner violence). This is not surprising given the barriers created by government health and welfare policies to comprehensive health services for women. There are welfare policies that discourage pregnancy by denying dependent care coverage for subsequent children; and “reforms” that force women into the minimum wage workforce without affordable childcare, job training or family supports. These barriers must be pulled down.

You can’t discount Carla in that inspiration either… as a young, obese black woman who weighed 379# and lost 128# – and entire person! 34% of her body weight. Do the math. Losing 10% can cut risk of diabetes and heart disease. Imagine how much healthier you are at losing 34%

Filipe and Sione are also inspiring. Their work with their Island culture and bringing it back to the community is exactly what needs to happen to create systemic change. You start in the family and community with people you know, trust, and love. That’s motivation for you! How many people will they touch who will then go on to a healthier life?

I think Dane, Blaine, Mandi and Aubrey’s experiences also shed some light on the realities of weight management. How do busy parents, single parents, working parents raising kids and trying to keep a family together make that dramatic change to initiate weight loss. It shows the importance of taking that first crucial step and sticking with it; maintaining – not gaining; and enjoying the journey. Bernie Salazar wrote about the importance on enjoying the journey . So Aubrey gained 9 pounds… but she realized she was going in the wrong direction.

I loved her quote on her spot.

“every day I have to make the conscious decision to do things the healthy way”.

She’s right. It does get easier to do make those decisions. They become second nature. Pick something and make that change. If you drink coffee for breakfast and that’s it. Start there. Research shows a healthy breakfast helps in weight management. In fact, 78% of the members of the national weight control registry eat breakfast. Get on it. Start with one or two “easy” changes…

Jerry had a great quote too…

“Once I let my mind go, my body could do the work.”

Our brains can absolutely sabotage us. The subconscious does not allow you to become the person you deserve to be! This is a key point in one of our “mantras” in The Nurture Principles – motivational wellness “edutainment” and workshops Bernie and I developed together.

I think it Mike’s story is particularly troubling. 18-years-old and that quality of life. He had to work hard to get that big and we saw him work even harder to get that small. What does his story say about the influence of family on weight status – a lot! Ron (Mike’s dad) takes a lot of responsibility for his sons and he should.

I think there is a scary side to the show too. Helen is 5’6″ and now 117#. That puts her BMI at 18.9 at risk of underweight. Is 117# really a realistic long term weight for her or is she trying to win the money? I would hate for people to be discouraged by her results by feeling that Helen’s outcome is unattainable. I actually think she was healthier when she ran the marathon. She left the show at 140# so this 117# seems too low. Contrast that with Mike’s BMI at 5’11” and 181 pounds is 25.2 which is “overweight” on the BMI scale – anything over 25 is in the overweight category. But he looks so healthy. Tara too… 139 pounds and 5’9″ gives her a BMI of 20.5 – a “normal” category BMI. I think Tara is adjusted back to reality. I am not sure about Helen… she seemed desperate to nail it. Tara only lost by 5 pounds. Looks like Helen should gain a little. I think she will when the fanfare wares off. If she really wants to inspire she needs to be real.

Bottom line. It’s a tv show. It’s a fantasy land. But the reality is lives are at stake and lives are changed. The changes catch fire in families and communities and a lot of good can come out of it. But there is such thing as “too much” of a good thing… balance is important. Don’t lose sight of what’s important. It is not about the money. It’s about life.

Sports Drinks Tax to Fight Obesity?

I’ve seen some lame ideas in my day, but this one takes the cake. The Washington Post reports that Kelly Brownell thinks the government should tax soda and sports drinks as a way to curb obesity rates in the United States. (Brownell is a professor of psychology at Yale University and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity).

As a sports nutritionist I think it makes no sense to tax sports drinks. They provide a fueling and performance benefit to people competing in races (and training for them) for any event over 60 minutes. 10-milers, half marathons, marathons, triathlons, cycling races and let’s not forget team sports. Discouraging their use puts people at higher risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and hyponatremia (all of which can be deadly). Way to sabotage all the athletes and active people out there. Bad idea.

I think people need to get off the HFCS soap box and just consume less “empty calorie” processed foods period. It’s not rocket science to know that an apple is more nourishing than a candy bar. But is the apple available for purchase at the local inner city corner market? Not always. I don’t think caloric sodas or juices should be taxed either. That’s calling out one particular culprit for obesity and that is a huge mistake. Too many calories period (from high fat, high sugar, refined carbs etc.) is the problem. I’ve seen clients who are super health conscious but the amount of nuts they eat per day puts them over the limit for weight loss. So do we tax nuts too?

I also have a problem with the comparison to cigarettes. All cigarettes are bad. They all contain nicotine. But with sodas, do you tax diet soda too? No sugar. No calories. But some research argues diet sodas cause people to crave more sweets.

I believe one of the reasons people gain weight is the lack of movement and regular exercise – on top of poor nutrition. Our bodies are meant to move. How many people actually get 10,000 steps a day? If you have a desk job and don’t exercise, I bet you only get about 3000-4000 steps. Guidelines are at least an hour a day. Get up and move and maybe you’ll feel like eating healthier foods. I’ve seen it first hand. Exercise also elevates mood, which can fight “the blues”.

If the government wants to get involved they can start with any of these simple things:

  • bring physical education back into schools
  • improve nutrition education in schools and communities
  • cover 4 family visits a year with a registered dietitian – a nutrition expert who can come into the home, observe the family environment and teach the family how to improve their nutrition habits
  • provide free nutrition lectures and free physical activity to communities
  • make race entry fees and big item purchases (like bicycles and other sports equipment) tax deductible.
  • give incentives to businesses who provide physical activity and nutrition services to employees as a free health benefit

But don’t open up the tax can of worms. Take a sensible, positive approach.

Nutrition Services for Obese Kids – Change Coming?

Sadly, insurance companies think obese kids don’t deserve nutrition counseling. But the Alliance for a Healthier Generation may help change that. According to a 2/19 press release…

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the AmericanHeart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, announced the formation of the Alliance Healthcare Initiative, a collaborative effort with national medical associations, leading insurers and employers to offer comprehensive health benefits to children and families for the prevention,
assessment, and treatment of childhood obesity.

This effort marks a major step forward in a holistic approach to reduce childhood obesity in the United States.  The Alliance Healthcare Initiative will enable healthcare providers to be an active part of the solution to the obesity epidemic by providing children with primary care visits, and visits to registered dietitians as part of their health insurance benefits. Additionally, the Alliance Healthcare Initiative will educate parents about childhood obesity and the expansion of services available to their children as a result of this effort.

Eligible states include: targeted groups in the following states:
(Northern, Central Valley, Southern)
Florida (Northern,
Georgia (Atlanta area, Marion);
Kentucky/West Virginia;
New Orleans Area;
Maryland/Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts;
Minnesota;New Jersey
(Northern, Southern);
New York (Upstate, New York City, Western);
Ohio (Central);
Pennsylvania (Central, Philadelphia, Southeastern);
Texas (Dallas, Houston)

Help Obama End Childhood Hunger

Share Our Strength has launched a brand new campaign to raise funds to help end childhood hunger. “Operation No Kid Hungry” responds to President-elect Obama’s call to action to end childhood hunger by 2015.

Share Our Strength has partnered with AT&T to offer two great ways that you can support and participate in “Operation No Kid Hungry”:

1.Donate by text: Text “SHARE” to 20222 on your mobile device to donate $5. AT&T will match all text donations up to $100,000. Help us meet this challenge grant! Find out more here.

2.Hold a food drive: Beginning January 19th, a national day of community service, help feed those in need by holding your own community food drive. Visit http://Strength.org to find a food bank and a list of the most needed nutritious foods.

For more information about “Operation No Kid Hungry” and how you can help end childhood hunger, visit Share Our Strength’s website.


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