Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

Maggie is a journalist with a passion for nutrition, fitness and environmental health. She's a lifelong figure skater who continues to coach, and also enjoys cooking and running.

Get Your Plate in Shape During National Nutrition Month

national nutrition month 2012 themeIn honor of the National Nutrition Month 2024, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is launching a campaign to help “Get Your Plate in Shape” this March. The theme encourages Americans to eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s in accordance with the MyPlate guidelines. “USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool to guide and help us be mindful of the foods that make up our balanced eating plan,” states Academy spokesperson Andrea Giancoli. “Make sure your eating plan includes foods from all the food groups and in appropriate portions.”

Those familiar with MyPlate will recognize most of the recommendations to get your plate in shape:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Half of your grains should be whole grains.
  • Vary your protein choices.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.


The Acid Reflux Diet: My Year of Treatment

acid refluxAbout a year ago, I attended a cooking demonstration for a book called Dropping Acid: The Reflux Cookbook & Cure. A colleague invited me to the event after learning that I avoided coffee because it gives me heartburn.

I hoped the demonstration would give me some new ideas about what I could eat that wouldn’t give me heartburn. I had first been diagnosed with heartburn during college, after experiencing chest pain so severe it woke me up in the middle of the night. I vaguely knew that I shouldn’t eat citrus, drink excessively or eat spicy foods, but typically found it easier to pop a few Tums rather than think too much about my diet.

As Master Chef Marc Bauer demonstrated his recipes, Dr. Jamie Koufman, the principal author of Dropping Acid, also described the prevalence of acid reflux and some of its accompanying symptoms. As she spoke, I realized that I suffered from a number of other symptoms related to acid reflux in addition to heartburn: chronic hoarseness and coughing, the feeling of something stuck in my throat, and a voice that was easily fatigued. After the presentation, I was eager to speak with Dr. Koufman more, and requested an interview. After hearing about my symptoms and the sound of my raspy voice, she suggested I come to her office for treatment so that I could write my story from a patient’s perspective. I was so happy about the project that I nearly burst into tears while telling my mother about it on the phone later that night.


“I STAND…” Campaign Takes Creative Aim at Georgia’s Anti-Obesity Ads

fat activist marilyn wannMarilyn Wann has worked as a fat activist full time since the mid-90s, dedicating her time to fighting weight discrimination. She’s the author of the book FAT!SO? and also publishes a ‘zine by the name, and regularly gives talks on the subject. When she first saw Georgia’s Strong4Life anti-obesity ads, she “felt angry, sad, and afraid for the health and happiness of children of all sizes and their families.”

Wann channeled these feelings into a new project, re-creating the ads to send positive messages about all body types. “I was very angry when I saw one particular image used in the Georgia hate campaign,” Wann explained to me in an email. “It shows a fat girl (an actor!) in a striped shirt, with this slogan over her belly: ‘It’s hard to be a little girl when you’re not.’ This is not a health message, it’s a hate message. I decided to put a photo of me in the place of that girl, with a slogan that tells children of all sizes I’ll stand up to their bullies, even if it’s a big hospital system (or the first lady) who does it. My credo: ‘I stand against harming fat children. Hate ≠ health.’ I want to show the world that it’s not okay to shame fat children or to give them dangerous, discriminatory health advice. I posted my ‘I STAND…’ photo to my Facebook profile and offered to make similar photos for anyone who wanted to join me.”

Many people have joined. Their images of people with all shapes and sizes, along with their personal messages of acceptance not only criticizes the mainstream conception of beauty, but also embrace an alternative. (See more of the “I STAND…” images here.)


The Best Weight Loss Camps for Kids

campers rowing a boatA traditional summer camp gives kids many more opportunities to be physically active than they have during the school year, but for some simply being active is only a part of what they hope to get out of camp. Each year, thousands of children are enrolled in summer weight loss camps, where they not only enjoy swimming, hiking and boating, but can also learn about healthy eating and weight management.

Picking the program that’s right for your child is key to a successful summer. Although there are few boot camp style programs that are aimed at children, it’s important to know a camp’s philosophy towards weight loss. “I know we’re bombarded with all kinds of fads and new plans,” says David Ettenberg, who founded Camp Shane along with his wife Ziporah Janowski. “Everyone is looking for something very easy, but the bottom line is eat less and exercise more.”

Camp Shane, the oldest co-ed weight loss camp in the United States, doesn’t eliminate particular foods from the menu, but works to teach kids about making better choices. “We try to deal with reality,” says Ettenberg.


Inside Justin Gelband’s ModelFIT Workout Class

modelfit workout classes logoYesterday morning, I made my way to a small private gym not far from Union Square to check out Justine Gelband’s ModelFIT class. The class is held at Mushin Mixed Martial Arts, an unpretentious space that’s half padded with wrestling mats for mixed martial arts.

After a light warmup, the small class divided for either circuit training or kickboxing. I started with the five-station circuit with Gelband. Using a step, resistance bands, medicine balls, a bosu ball, a balance board, and floor station, no exercise was repeated twice. Each client was given individualized exercises as they cycled around the circuit, based on their needs and fitness level. As someone who spends much of my day hunched over a keyboard, Gelband asked me to focus on my posture continuously.

After the circuit, I went to kickboxing, led by Muay Thai trainer Joe Hernandez. Like most of the other women working out with me, I had never done kick boxing before. Although we covered very basic technique, there was a lot of action and I definitely worked up a sweat. The ModelFIT class concluded with everyone coming back together for stretching. However, Gelband’s workouts are never identical, and the ModelFIT classes incorporate elements from Zumba, martial arts, functional strength training, Pilates and yoga.


FDA to Investigate AeroShot Caffeine Product

aeroshot caffine inhalerThe FDA plans to investigate the safety of AeroShot, a lipstick-shaped dispenser that delivers a does of caffeine without the liquid. Users inhale a vapor of caffeine and B vitamins, which are then swallowed. The caffeine-filled inhaler is sold online, and at some stores around New York and Boston.

New York Senator Charles Schumer encouraged the FDA to look into the product, and wrote a letter to the agency expressing his concerns back in December. He argues that there may be legitimate uses for the AeroShot, like “the business man staying up late who doesn’t want to drink that cup of coffee, that’s OK.” However, he’s worried about potential abuse of the product, such as people who might use it to be able to drink more alcohol.

AeroShot creator David Edwards is confident that the product is safe and says that it was thoroughly tested. Furthermore, there are many liquid energy shots on the market that with much higher levels of caffeine. The AeroShot contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine total, roughly the amount found in one cup of coffee. Two hundred to 300 milligrams of caffeine is considered a safe and moderate dose per day for adults.


Scientists to Dish Up “Test-Tube Burger”

test tube and pipetteScientists in the Netherlands have been growing meat tissues in the laboratory, and hope to create the first ever “test-tube burger” by the end of 2024. Also known as “in vitro” or “cultured” meat, the researchers have successfully used stem cells to grow strips of muscle in petri dishes. This tissue will be combined with blood and artificially grown fats to make meat with a hamburger consistency.

The project was funded by an anonymous investor, who contributed roughly $330,000. Although this is a high cost to produce just one hamburger, lead researcher Prof. Mark Post is confident that costs can be dramatically reduced by commercialization, like so many other inventions.

The concept of lab-grown meat may trigger a gag reflex in many, but a number of organizations argue that it can reduce the environmental damage caused by raising livestock. The global demand for meat continues to climb, particularly in Asia and Africa. It’s hoped that artificial meat will use fewer resources to produce, in addition to cutting down the animal cruelty so too often found in factory farms. PETA endorses lab-produced meat, going so far as to offer a million dollars to the first scientist able to bring the product to the commercial market.


Obesity Costs More than the War on Terror

bookcover of "i can fix america" by dave duleyIn his book I Can Fix America, author and entrepreneur Dave Duley explores the ways individual Americans can take stewardship of the privileges that come with U.S. citizenship. One of the major premises of the book is that Americans need to take responsibility for their personal health, because the government simply cannot afford the costs entailed by our current obesity crisis. “In my analysis, one of the major issues that jeopardizes the finical stability of our country is our rising health care costs,” Duley tells DietsInReview. He concludes that obesity is unpatriotic.

To further his point, Duley compares the costs of obesity to the cost of the War on Terror. “More people have died in the past ten years from obesity than terrorism. More money has been spent to treat the obese than to engage in the War on Terror, on both the Afghan and Iraqi fronts.” The direct costs of the War on Terror amount to $1.3 trillion, while the costs of obesity amount to $1.5 trillion from 2001 to 2024. The tally of deaths makes for an even more dramatic disparity over the same period of time: the war caused the deaths of 6,850 Americans, while obesity is responsible for the deaths of over one million (see Duley’s sources here). Then there are indirect costs associated with obesity, such as lower productivity and increased numbers of sick days.

“This behavior is hurting America. It’s jeopardizing our whole medical infrastructure system. It’s creating this burned for future generations,” Duley says. “How can we justify that to our grandchildren? We’re doing them a disservice by not taking care of ourselves and ratcheting up this debt.”


King Cake Gets a Calorie-Cutting Makeover this Mardi Gras

round king cake with purple and green sugarFor some, indulging in King Cake on Mardi Gras is well-worth the calories, particularly if sweets are something one is giving up for Lent. However, there are some creative ways to save on calories that are in keeping with the festive spirit of the holiday. Below are some ideas and lower-cal recipes to consider before you bake a cake with 250 to 500 calories per serving.

Calorie Saving Swaps

Former Biggest Loser contestant Heba Salama suggests having a healthier Fat Tuesday by making your King Cake with an angel food cake and frozen low-calorie whipped topping. “To make it a layered cake simply slice the cake in half, spread whipped topping down the middle, re-stack and keep cool until ready to serve,” she recommends. You can use food coloring to add the right colors without adding more sugar.

If King Cake just isn’t right to you without puff pastry and cream cheese, use these healthy swaps in any King Cake recipe. “You could replace nonfat Greek Yogurt for the sour cream and use four egg whites instead of the two eggs and use skim milk in the icing,” says Alison Lewis, cookbook author and president of Ingredients, Inc. “If a recipe calls for cream cheese, the light one-third less fat cream cheese is a great substitute.”


Joy Bauer Addresses Gluten Confusion on Today

Gluten-free diets have caught mainstream attention in a big way, but it’s also a subject that’s widely misunderstood. Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley and rye, which means that gluten is also in any product that contains these grains as an ingredient.


The Nutrition Society Launches Open Access Journal

jnsThe Cambridge University Press and The Nutrition Society have partnered to launch an open access online journal, called Journal of Nutritional Science. The goal of the journal is to publish peer-reviewed research articles on a number of nutrition related subjects, including public health, epidemiology, metabolic studies, body composition, microbiology, nutritional requirements, obesity, appetite and aging.

The journal’s open access platform means that both readers and authors will be better served. “The value of open access journals is that they make their content immediately available on the Internet for free,” comments DietsInReview’s resident dietitian Mary Hartley. “Copyright is retained by the author, and the articles can be distributed and cited so long as the original authorship is properly attributed.”

Founded in 1941, The Nutrition Society is well-respected in the scientific community and is the largest society for nutrition in Europe. “Because The Nutrition Society is behind it, we should expect the new journal to retain the high standards and high quality they bring to their other scholarly publications,” says Hartley. The Nutrition Society also published on behalf of the society: British Journal of Nutrition, Public Health Nutrition, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society and Nutrition Research Reviews. Professor Philip Calder, the Editor-in-Chief of British Journal of Nutrition will also take on that role at the new publication.