Pina Colada Smoothie Recipe

it’s tropical fruit tuesday! you will love this pina colada smoothie recipe

Dietitians Ring The Bell NASDQ – March 12, 2009

Registered Dietitians Ring NASDAQ on March 12 2009

Registered Dietitians Ring NASDAQ on March 12 2009

Just wanted to share my excitement for the American Dietetic Association members invited to ring the bell today at NASDAQ.

Video here:

About American Dietetic Association (ADA):

The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at

Is The Biggest Loser Scalable to the Population?

I’m watching The Biggest Loser. I have to say I love this show. Always have. Props to Cheryl Forbery, RD the show’s dietitian. I wish she got more screen time.

I was surprised (and not at the same time) with the contestants being clueless to the calories in the “super bowl foods”. The guesses between them for 7-layer-dip varied from 800 to 4,500 calories!

I though the celeb chef segment was excellent. He focused on flavoring healthy foods — without fat! He took 900 calorie chicken wings and converted them to a 200 calorie dish. He spent a day with one contestant, took him to the grocery store and cooked with him.

These small changes give big reactions! The contestants realize that the fatty foods aren’t worth the calories and hard exercise especially when there are alternatives that “taste better” in there opinion.

So I have to wonder… it is great that this show can reach the public… but is it scalable for public health?

Can’t we figure out how to get this type of personal attention (trainers, dietitians, and chefs) to families ready for a change? Sure… for the “right price”…

I would think that for one visit with a trainer, RD and chef it would run around $500-600. Multiply that times several hours a day of focused attention.

How do you take something that obviously works and scale it to the masses? Any ideas????

One criticism of the show is all the product placement. I don’t mind the “healthy” ads – loved the ziploc steamer bags (veggies, herbs, micro… done and done). But when “trainer” – not RD – Bob tells people to put away their oatmeal – a 1 cup portion… and replace it with “fiber one” cereal – a 1/2 cup portion, I just want to put a dunce cap on him. Hello???? A. Don’t treat oatmeal like a poor breakfast choice B. who in the world only sticks to 1/2 cup? Nobody. Now, don’t get me wrong… I love my fiber one cereals and bars. But be realistic with what you show…. Bob is mis-educating people. Show the world a real breakfast that includes the product placement (e.g. 1 cup cereal with milk and fresh fruit). Don’t make them think to eat a healthy breakfast they need to deal with 100 calories of cereal and 90 calories of milk.

To end on a high note, they did air that contestants skip breakfast… a big health no-no.

Updated List on Peanut Butter Recall

Just to help spread the word about the list of foods that have been recalled, here’s the FDA list:

Do the new High Fructose Corn Syrup ads throw dietitians under the bus?

I just saw a full page ad in The Washington Post “Registered Dietitians agree that HFCS is the same as table sugar and can be enjoyed in moderation.”

As a communications expert and future dietitian, this bothers me. While the statement is not technically false, it is twisted. I think it uses dietitians as a way to position HFCS as recommended or even healthy and that’s dangerous for the field.

What is “moderation” anyway? It’s subjective. A young, active athlete has a lot more room for “moderation” than a sedentary, overweight 40-year-old female with a family history of diabetes and obesity.

White sugar is refined, just like HFCS. The first thing a dietitian is going to do is ask a person to add healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains to their meals and replace them with junk foods of poor nutrition quality -processed sugary and sweet foods – most of the stuff the CRA is promoting as “enjoy in moderation” foods.

I think this is an excellent “textbook” PR ad. If I had this assignment in grad school, I would use this same approach. I think it does its job to reach those “on the fence” to view HFCS positively “oh, ok fine in moderation”. But it is not good for the reputation of dietitians. It leaves the perception that dietitians are “in bed” with food companies. Perception is reality. Just like HFCS is perceived as unnatural or even poison dietitians could be perceived as thoughtless drones who are afraid to say “eat less” of anything — and that’s just not the case.

Here are some other interesting reads on the issue:

Marion Nestle – What to Eat blog

Serious Eats – the reader comments here indicate what’s going on with HFCS. Strong opinions that it is unnatural and discussion about whether or not it is “different” than other sweeteners.

BlogHer – opinion about how the ads are perceived as insulting – most likely by people who choose to avoid HFCS. So if the campaign goal is to shift some opinion positively toward HFCS, it may be failing.

Ask the dietitians blog – five HFCS facts, including “Reducing your intake of HFCS can help reduce calorie intake which in turn assists in weight management.”

Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

My hubby’s cousin is a mom to two cute kids. One of them is headed back to school and she asked me for some ideas for packing a healthy lunch. She e-mailed me a list of what she is currently packing and I have to say… she is already doing an excellent job. However, I do have a few ideas to spice up the lunch box.

  • Breakfast for lunch – kids love breakfast so why not give it to them for lunch instead? Breakfast burritos with egg, salsa, and crunchy peppers on a corn tortilla would make a tasty entree. Throw in a string cheese, an orange and some graham crackers to complete the meal. How about a twist on PB&J? Make extra silver dollar pancakes over the weekend. Then make a PB&J sandwhich with two of the pancakes for a school lunch. Add a milk, sliced strawberries, and celery sticks to complete the meal.
  • “Soup up their engine” with a hearty soup at lunch. Black bean soup provides protein, carbs, and fiber that will keep them full. You can make your own by pureeing a can of black beans with a can of vegetable stock then adding a can of whole beans with another can of stock in a pot. Add a can of diced or crushed tomatoes for more flavor. Simmer for a couple hours and you have a big ole pot of hearty soup. You can also try chicken noodle or minnestrone soup. If you can’t make these from scratch add frozen veggies to prepared canned soups.
  • swap a sandwich – sammies are a great choice, but here are a couple ideas for a new twist. Hummus roll up. Smear hummus on a small wheat tortilla and add shredded lettuce, cucumber sticks, and any other veggies your kid likes and roll it up. Serve one or two, depending on your kid’s appetite. How about sending leftover sloppy joes in a thermos your kid can eat with whole grain crackers?

Here’s the bottom line to packing a good lunch:

  • variety, variety, variety – keep lunch exciting by changing it up. It’s easy to get into a lunch rut and give the same-old same old, but you can make easy swap outs so each day is a little different.
  • Include fruit – your best bet is fresh, whole fruit, but you can give canned fruit packed in their own juices when fresh fruits aren’t in season. This is also a nice back up if you run out of fruit at home. Since lunch these days is practically over before it begins, consider packing fruits that peel easy like banana. Help your kids out by peeling oranges in advance. Slice apples in advance, but be sure to add lemon juice to prevent browning.Keep fruit juice to 100% juice in a 4 oz portion.
  • Include veggies – any veggie will do! Be consistent with giving veggies. Find out your kids faves, but don’t be afraid to try something new – even if it is a veggie you don’t like because your kid might love it. If your kid is notorious for rejecting veggies, think outside the box. Will cole slaw do the trick? There is cole slaw and broccoli slaw packages in the store. You can mix the two and prepare a vinegar, dijon mustard dressing with a little mayo.
  • Include dairy – lowfat chocolate milk, string cheese, and yogurt are just a few of the dairy staples that will work for a lunch box. Be careful on the yogurts… many of the “kids” yogurts have lots of added sugar. I like the Fage greek yogurts. Also yo-yo baby and Stonyfield farm have a reputation for being healthy choices. As far as cheese goes, whatever your kids like will do. Just keep the portion size to one ounce.
  • include water – proper hydration is important for people of all ages and that means your kids too. The juice or milk you provide with lunch might not be enough so include some water in the lunch box.

Have fun with the lunches — and please share your ideas for lunches. I recommend the book, blog, and podcast for Meal Makeover Moms. If you need help with portion sizes, use your hand with this hand-y handout!

Only In America

Only in America can you find inspiration from a man who personifies strength through adversity during these times of economic trouble. Regardless of your party – or your candidate for 2008 – it feels good to be American, doesn’t it?

Here’s a link and the lyrics played at the end of Obama’s acceptance speech at the DNC.

Brooks And Dunn – Only in America

Sun coming up over New York City
School bus driver in a traffic jam
Starin’ at the faces in her rearview mirror
Looking at the promise of the Promised Land
One kid dreams of fame and fortune
One kid helps pay the rent
One could end up going to prison
One just might be president

Only in America
Dreaming in red, white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance
Only in America

Sun going down on an La. freeway
Newlyweds in the back of a limousine
A welder’s son and a banker’s daughter
All they want is everything
She came out here to be an actress
He was the singer in a band
They just might go back to Oklahoma
And talk about the stars they could have been

Only in America
Where we dream in red, white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance
Only in America

Yeah only in America
Where we dream in red, white and blue
Yeah we dream as big as we want to

Zap or Don’t Zap?

Remember the “spinach scare of 2006″ when the nation stopped eating fresh spinach due to contamination with the harmful strain of E. coli? Surely you haven’t already forgotten about the tomato contamination this summer that turned out to be jalapenos, not tomatoes after all.

The FDA has approved irradiation of fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce to kill some – not all – of the potentially harmful bacteria, according to this opinion piece in the New York Times. Raw meat, oysters, and other foods have already been approved. Here’s an excerpt from the piece.

Add fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce to the shortlist of foods that companies can zap with radiation to kill off many dangerous pathogens. With concerns about food-borne illnesses rising — tainted spinach and lettuce in 2006 sickened hundreds of people and killed several — the Food and Drug Administration has wisely approved the use of ionizing radiation to kill dangerous bacteria and extend the shelf lives of these vegetables.

Irradiation will work very well to eliminate parasites and bacteria from food, but will not work to eliminate viruses or prions from food. In other words, we don’t have a panacea on our hands with irradiation. Raw meat irradiation can stand the most benefit to prevent contamination from E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. These organisms currently cause millions of infections and thousands of hospitalizations in the United States every year.

Is it safe? The FDA reviewed studies and for the most part, there was no evidence of toxicity and nutritional values were reduced, but evidently it was so small that it would have little impact on total dietary intake of the vitamin.

A distinctive logo has been developed for use on food packaging, in order to identify the product as irradiated. This symbol is called the “radura” and is used internationally to mean that the food in the package has been irradiated.

I think the logo is funny looking. I don’t get “irradiation” from it. I get an image of the sun shining on green plants. What do you think of this logo?

CDC has an excellent FAQ on irradiation for those wanting to understand more.

So of course I want to know what you think about irradiation in general. Have you seen the logo at all? I have not. What about the new approval for irradiating fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce? Does irradiation worry you or do you think it is a necessary step to improve food safety?

Review of NuNaturals Stevia Products

Months ago, I was contacted by Ron Redding, the VP of sales and marketing for NuNaturals, a Eugene, OR based company selling stevia and other dietary supplements. He asked if I would try stevia and report my thoughts on the blog. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant because I was not up to speed on the knowledge and evidence on stevia. But then I figured what the heck, I have a degree in chemistry and I’m used to experiments. Might as well do one on myself!

I got several products in the mail and I’ve been using two of them pretty consistently – Liquid cocoa bean extract and liquid vanilla stevia. I’ll start with the cocoa bean extract.

Ok, so who doesn’t love chocolate? Who was elated to learn that chocolate can be good for you? The day I learned about flavonoids in chocolate acting as powerful antioxidants to promote health I was practically dancing in the streets. To my surprise, I actually found that I love dark chocolate (65-75% cacao) and not only do they have the most antioxidants, but they have fiber to boot! Of course there’s still those pesky fat and calories that keep me trying to stick to a 1 oz portion (in case you are wondering that is about the size of three fingers – the one time I am grateful for having big hands!).

Needless to say, I was excited to try the cocoa extract. I loved the instructions “use 20 drops directly in your mouth” (OK!) “or mixed in your favorite beverage”. The bottle also tells you exactly what’s in there. One dropperful has 100mg of theobroma cacao, standardized for 15% polyphenols and 10% theobromine.

Theobromine is a metabolite of caffeine, and it has a similar (but weaker) effect on the body. Like caffeine, it is a vasodialator and helps to lower blood pressure. But if you can’t handle caffeine, you might be able to tolerate theobromine. Theobromine has a bitter taste. Notice how dark chocolate is more bitter than milk chocolate? That’s the theobromine talking to you.

Polyphenols are the 4000+ different species of antioxidants that combat oxidative stress, promote heart health, . The bottle boasts “our cocoa extract is higher in levels of total phenolics and flavonoids than green tea, black tea and red wine. “. Dietary polyphenols can be consumed up to about 1 gram per day, according to this report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other ingredients include: water, 20% pure grain alcohol (something to think about if you are sensitive), vegetable glycerine, stevia extract, and natural flavors.

I started using the extract once a day in my morning coffee. I liked that it added a subtle cocoa flavor to my coffee. I could taste the bitterness a bit, but I didn’t mind it. Honestly, I didn’t know if it was the coffee, the product, or both! I also found that I could skip creamer and still have a flavor in the coffee. It wasn’t quite like a mocha, but then again I was not adding in all the sugar typical of mocha beverages. All in all, I found it to be very pleasant.

Now, on to the liquid vanilla stevia… Stevia essentially comes from a plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, yet it has no calories. It is not yet approved as a food additive in the U.S. so it is now sold as a dietary supplement. I have a feeling that will change soon since Cargill and Coca Cola announced the launch of Truvia, the brand name for the stevia derivative rebiana, which they intend to use as a natural sweetener in food products.

The bottle says it has 200 mg stevia extract per ml, but it recommends .25ml as a serving size because it is so sweet. The other ingredients include water, vanilla bean extract, 35% pure grain alcohol and natural flavors.

I used this in my coffee, and like the cocoa extract I found it to be very pleasant. I could use it with or without creamer. I particularly liked this one with iced coffee and a little creamer. But I really hit the jackpot when I put it in my famous fresh fruit smoothies…

I have a crazy sweet tooth – always have and probably always will. I can’t resist things like homemade chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake. mmmMMMMmmm…. I have been on a quest to find a truly healthy way to satisfy my sweet tooth on a regular basis so I can enjoy the indulgent sweets once in awhile. My fruit smoothies are my solution. When I added the vanilla stevia, I took a good treat and gave it that extra zing it needed. I probably have these smoothies 3 times a week and with the weather getting better I am sure I will have them more often.

By now you might want the recipe. Well it is not rocket science really… I just use 1/2 cup of any fruit (usually berries, mango, and banana work well – fresh, frozen, doesn’t matter), 1/2 cup fat free greek style yogurt (You can do plain yogurt, but I gotta tell ya, I love the greek style. It is so thick and creamy and it has just a few ingredients.), 1/4 cup ice, 1/4 cup water (you can use milk or juice if you want too) and 1/4 dropper of the liquid vanilla stevia. Mix in a blender an enjoy!

This treat has about 100 calories, plus protein, carbs, and vitamins. I find it very refreshing after a workout.

So, what is the bottom line on stevia? Well, it really depends on who you listen to… If you believe the FDA, then there aren’t enough studies to prove it is a safe food additive, but it can be used as a dietary supplement (but that doesn’t say much because no supplements are regulated by the FDA – so essentially it is FDA removing itself from the equation). If you believe others who have used stevia, then you probably agree that it is a safe alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Who are these “other” people? Well, stevia has been used for centuries in Paraguay and Brazil as a sweet tea, it has been embraced by Japan where it is used in soy sauce, Coca Cola, and sweet pickles among other foods, and there are people in the U.S. who have migranes, diabetes, or ADHD who are trying to avoid sugar or artificial sweeteners who swear by it. But ultimately, you are going to have to make your own decision. I was happy with my experience using the products. I look forward to watching news unfold about stevia because I believe we are on the cusp of a new food industry trend.

Probiotics: Hope or Hype?

Foods with probiotics were the “it” products in 2007. Dannon’s Activia yogurt alone accounts for 40% of it’s U.S. sales. In 2008, as the the products become even more prevalent, consumers and health experts are asking, does this stuff really work? Well, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published an interesting review on the state of pre- and probiotics, based on the scientific evidence that exists today. Here’s my summary of the review article.

First, disclosures – gotta love ‘em. The article authors received funding to write this article and to give a presentation at the 2007 Food, Nutrition Conference and Expo. The funders were California Diary Council and Dannon.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide a health benefit to the host. That’s the scientific definition. There is no legal definition to-date.

Here’s what we know about probiotics:

  1. microbes influence immune development and resistance to infection
  2. microbes are “co-residents” of our bodies (befriend the microbe – they help make vitamin K and they keep the pipes clean)
  3. compared to our ancestors, we consume fewer microbes and we have less environmental exposure (long live the antibiotic)

The hypothesis is that this lack of exposure could be related to health problems, including allergy disorders. The concept behind probiotics is they can support overall health **IF** the right microbe is consumed in the right amount.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

So where are we with the scientific evidence? The literature reports the following benefits:

  • regulate immune function
  • prolong remission in people with pouchitis
  • decrease duration of infectious diarrhea in infants
  • enhance GI tolerance to antibiotics
  • control of lactose intolerance symptoms

According to the authors, there is new evidence “still emerging” to support the following benefits. (Note: emerging meaning, we still don’t know.) Please post links to studies that support or refute any of these claims.

  • decreased symptoms and incidence of allergic disease
  • improved therapeutic outcomes with bacterial vaginosis
  • improved IBS symptoms
  • decreased dental caries
  • decreased severity of symptoms and incidence of respiratory infections
  • decreased C. diff toxin in patients with antibiotics
  • decreased absence in the workplace

The authors also noted reputable studies with outcomes that did not support the following claims.

  • antibiotic associated diarrhea
  • prevention of surgical infections
  • improvement of IBS (note, this was reported above as a benefit… more evidence that we just don’t know yet)
  • remission of Chron’s disease
  • post antibiotic vaginal yeast infections

Now, all this being said, it is important to remember that scientific research is difficult and expensive. Companies that spend significant dollars on research need to recoup costs and that could get passed on to you. Evidence is important – and necessary – but when you can try a special yogurt and only spend a few bucks, that might be the way to go. Everyone is different. If it works for you (placebo effect or not) then that’s still a good outcome, right? If it doesn’t work for you, spend your money elsewhere. Just my rationalization here.

Probiotics in the Food Industry

One of the challenges is that the term probiotic is used in the food industry even when minimum scientific criteria is not met. Further, it is rare that the manufacturer provides third party analysis to the public that verifies the product is what it claims to be. Uh oh. What’s the lesson? Buyer beware. You’re going to have to do some leg work if you want to be sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Use product labels and their websites to determine:

  • type of microbe (most common are: lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, enterococcus, bacillus, escheria, sacchromyes cerevisie – last one is a yeast, the rest are bacteria)
  • levels in the product through the end of the shelf life – is it high enough? Stomach acid is very strong so there has to be enough of these microbes to survive that environment to make it to the small intestine and do their “work”
  • whether the claims can be substantiated – are there human studies that demonstrate benefits?

The figure below lists strains of probiotics that are supported with scientific evidence.



It’s tough to accurately generalize a minimum dose because it varies depending on the strains and desired health effects. The literature shows at least 10^8 colony forming units (CFUs) are required, but much higher doses may be needed. Studies show up to a 4-fold difference in the dosages needed to create an effect.

Retaining viability is also a challenge and it can affect the dose. Products are sensitive to heat, light, moisture, oxygen and acid. These are controlled for in food processing, but all bets are off once the package is opened.

In addition, survival after consumption is strain-specific so your particular strain may not even make it past the stomach to do it’s magic. There are products with an enteric coating, but a good rule of thumb is to look for the human studies and make sure your product has that amount.


No health claim to use with probiotics has been FDA approved. Products may contain truthful claims about structure and function. The article authors did mention that reports have shown failure of some products to meet their label claims. So some products may not be what they say they are.

Final Word

Do your homework and try to make the best choice for your health issue. See what works for you. One product may and another may not.


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