Monday, September 30, 2013

Dietitian's Lunchbox - Karen's Favorite Meal

The President of Nutritional Guidance, Inc. has a pretty busy schedule. Between mentoring dietitians here at NG, acting as Clinical Director for Blue Horizon Eating Disorder Services, LLC, reaching out and collaborating with the medical community here in Central Florida and serving on the iaedp board, it's a wonder Karen Beerbower can fit in time for her lunch every day.
"Lunch is a top priority." Karen is sure to clear out time for her lunch each day, not just for herself, but for her staff as well. She makes time for a lunch meeting each week to go over cases, answer questions and give the benefit of her 20-plus years of experience to the dietitians under her tutelage.
What does Karen look for in her lunchbox? A variety of temperatures, textures and colors in the meals she brings to work each day helps keep her satisfied with her meals.
On today's menu -- "My absolute favorite lunch!" A meatloaf sandwich complete with sliced tomato, a side of pasta salad, a banana and a bottle of water. A quick round in the microwave for her sandwich, and her lunch is good to go! And the clean-up is easy, since the pasta salad fits easily in a reusable bowl, and the banana comes in its own wrapper.

"The secret is that ranch pasta salad -- tricolor pasta, cucumber, petite peas, carrots, yellow tomato, sweet bell pepper and of course, ranch dressing! It's absolutely delicious and carries me through until dinner at 7pm!!!"
Next, we'll catch up with Holly and peek in her lunchbox to see how she fuels up for her day here at NG!

- Les, MS RD LD

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eat like a Caveman

The Paleo diet is by no means a new way of eating.

One may go so far as to say it is the oldest diet in human history. Advocates of this lifestyle will often cite the new-age diseases that we suffer from -- diabetes, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome -- and point to our food supply as the main culprit. What about our modern diet causes these problems? Too much processed food, too little fruits and veggies, too much fat, too little nutrition.

To some degree this is true. There are certainly more processed foods available today than back in the days of the caveman. And I'm certainly not looking to debate the merits of a processed vs a largely whole food diet today. But the question here is really, is there a way to find balance with this diet? Is it better to look back on our ancestors for nutrition advice?

Rather, my mission is to answer a few basic questions: What is a paleo diet? Is this how our ancestors ate? Is there any merit to eating this way today? For the sake of simplicity, we'll look at these ideas in general, rather than the geographical differences between cavemen and what foods they may have had available. It's important to remember that Neanderthals were very much at the mercy of their environment when it came to food (and pretty much everything else), but I digress.

What is the Paleo diet? Is this how our ancestors ate?
Modern renditions of the paleo diet started in the 60s and 70s. Today, as then, the diet was marketed as a way to get lean, fit and stave off disease. It is predominately meat based, with vegetables, seeds and nuts. This diet has no dairy, beans or legumes and limited grains and fruit. There are, of course, variations of this diet, but the principle is the same: more meat, less wheat. The diet emphasizes whole foods rather than anything processed.
My caveman friends didn't follow this diet to get fit, they followed it because they ate what they had. Mammoth hunting is (probably) hard work. I say probably, because I've never done it myself, but I can scarcely catch a fish without modern technology, let alone hunt down a massive beast. Small game is another story. Rabbits, squirrels and deer are much easier to hunt. And, being wild, they are a much leaner source of meat than our modern farmed cows (grass fed or not). Chicken breast? I think not. If you are going to go to all the trouble and hassle of hunting down a bird, you are probably going to make it worth while - organs, marrow and all. (There's even evidence of harvesting marrow from bones in the fossil record!)

It's interesting to note the aversion to many grains in the diet, especially as we have fairly strong evidence of the use of grain by our ancestors. We know milling of grains occurred because we have found mortar and pestles at archaeological sites. Additionally, food as we know it today was very much created by our more recent ancestors. Genetic Engineering is by no means a new concept. While we are able to do it in different ways (in a lab) than before (cross pollinating plants), the technology isn't as new as we like to think. Many vegetables and fruits would be unrecognizable should we hop in a time machine -- bananas have smaller seeds, carrots no longer have tough, woody, bitter root systems, berries are bigger, and avocados are certainly more fleshy than ever before. This isn't a bad thing, it's just different.

So different that today's Paleo isn't really what my Neanderthal cousins would have eaten, if for no other reason than our plants have changed, too.

Is there any merit to eating this way today?
No. Yes. I don't know!

There are plenty of good, wholesome things about the Modern Paleo Diets that I think we can learn a thing-or-two from. More veggies? Of course! Emphasis on whole foods? Absolutely!

Elimination of grains? Uhm... Our ancestors didn't eat this way, and I don't think it's advisable for most of us modern-day folks as well. Grains are an important (and nutritious!) part of the diet. Remember, this is a fabulous source of carbohydrate (brain food, I call it), fiber, vitamins and minerals. Many grains today are fortified with iron and folic acid, in addition to the selenium, magnesium, mangenese and B vitamins they naturally contain.

What about dairy? Dairy is an awesome source of protein, calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin. Many coaches will even use a low-fat milk as a post-practice supplement for their athletes, so good are its benefits to the body. What's interesting to note is that many proponents of this diet will assert that our bodies are very much the same as they were 10,000 years ago, and that if they didn't drink milk we shouldn't either. Lactase -- the enzyme that allows us to break down lactose (milk sugar) -- evolved in humans over the course of some 6,000 years. So we could (and I will) argue that while our basic physiology is very much the same, we have had plenty of time to evolve (just a bit), and that as a result, our diet can, too.

In conclusion...
There are some good ideas at work with the Paleo diet. In the end, balance and variety will help us ensure we are meeting our needs every day -- both for our physical well-being as well as for mental maturity and growth.

"Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the Earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes.” - William Leonard, Northwestern University, 2002

For more information on this topic: 

-- Les, MS RD LD

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dietitian's Lunchbox - The Moran Family

As a part of our new series, we are peeking inside the lunches here at Nutritional Guidance, and finding out what the Dietitian's are doing at home to make sure they are getting their needs met each day at the office.

This week, we're checking in with Meghan to see what works for her family.

"Packing lunches is definitely a family affair -- Nate and I both eat lunch at work, and we like to make sure Lucas has everything he needs! You'd think it would be tough with a toddler at home, but it's actually a great time for us to wind down in the evening and spend time as a family."

Meghan and Nate share tastes which works out great, since they can prepare larger meals to share the next day. "Last night, we had some leftover baked chicken, so we tossed it together with grapes, walnuts and mayo for a quick chicken salad. Since Nate is usually on the go during the day, sandwiches are a go-to for his lunchbox." With some cut-up melon and a bag of sun-chips, this lunch is ideal to meet Meghan's needs during the day. "It's great having the chips on the side, since they add that satisfying crunch -- I'm big on texture, and it really helps me enjoy the meal!"

As for baby Lucas? "He loves the melon since he can poke at it on his plate, and feed himself. He's not quite ready for the chicken salad sandwich yet, but he likes the chopped bits of chicken with a few crackers."

In the Moran household, lunch is a family affair, even when they aren't together.