Opinion: Nutrition Literacy for the Health Literate

Stefania Velardo wrote . . . . .

A recent discussion with a family member brought to light a new diet plan that had endorsed by her personal trainer. As we engaged in discussion, she excitedly recounted the list of food inclusions within the new diet; for example, she could eat white table sugar and saturated fat aplenty, amidst other appealing food choices. Yes to baked potatoes with lavish lashings of butter. Yes to coffee with sugar and cream.

As the conversation progressed I became more intrigued as she out-lined an extensive list of food exclusions, including whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

This provided a great contrast to her previous diet plan, which emphasized lean protein, limited fat and dairy, and an abundance of raw vegetables.

When I questioned her about this apparent contradiction, and the fact that this plan undermined well established government dietary guidelines that promote a wide variety of foods, she assured me that this diet was based on concrete scientific evidence and further legitimized through a worldwide movement of online posts, blogs, and forums. This is not the first occasion on which I have engaged in conversations that elicit differing views of scientific nutrition recommendations.

One woman recently testified, “I read that I should be eating rice malt syrup instead of honey.” whereas another person pondered, “Should I be eating a Paleo Diet?” Such conversations reflect a healthism discourse that emphasizes the need to know about our food and take responsibility for making the right choices. But what happens when the right choices are confusing?

A key tenet of nutrition literacy is one’s ability to access, understand, and use nutrition information in ways that promote health. Whereas low nutrition literacy presents a barrier to healthy eating, less is known about the challenges faced by supposedly health-literate individuals who are health conscious and possess a basic level of nutrition knowledge.

In revisiting the opening example, it is important to note that the family member in question is an enthusiastic, fit woman in her thirties who boasts high levels of literacy and numerous university degrees. On paper she demonstrates a strong ability to access, understand, and use nutrition information and resources in a health-promoting way. She cares about nutrition; yet her ideas clearly contradict government advice. She is arguably health literate, but to what extent?

This is not a new problem by any means. Health and dieting are profitable markets that continue to expand globally. Over the years we have witnessed countless pervasive weight-control myths and fads along with various products and lifestyles promoted within a health discourse. Yet the proliferation of the Internet and a surge of short courses, inflated credentials, and pseudo-expert blogs arguably make it more difficult to educate consumers about what constitutes professional nutrition advice. The existence of multiple stakeholders with competing interests means that consumers are confronted with increasing amounts of contradictory nutrition information through the media. It is not surprising, then, that nutrition messages are often a key source of confusion and uncertainty for individuals.

Nutrition practitioner and health educators have a clear role in promoting and disseminating credible, reliable nutrition information and resources to the public. More than ever, our roles must extend to challenging art increasing wave of pseudo-science while advocating for sound nutritional guidance so that people can develop positive relationships with a wide range of foods. High levels of critical nutrition literacy are clearly required to discern credible information based on rigorous scientific evidence from personal testimonials endorsed by so-called professionals. Developing these skills among different population groups, including the supposedly health literate, is essential at a time when many consumers feel confused, skeptical, and helpless.

Source: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour

Mexican-style Vegetarian Wrap


1 onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
8 oz mushrooms
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp medium chili powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander sprigs and 1 lime cut into wedges, to garnish
4-6 flour tortillas, warmed, to serve


1 ripe avocado
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 green chili, seeded and roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime


  1. Slice the onion. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into strips. Combine the onion and peppers in a bowl. Add the crushed garlic and mix lightly.
  2. Remove the mushroom stalks. Slice the mushroom caps and add to the pepper mixture in the bowl.
  3. Mix the oil and chili powder in a cup, pour over the vegetable mixture and stir well. Set aside.
  4. To make the guacamole, cut the avocado in half and remove the stone and the peel. Put the flesh into a food processor or blender with the shallot, green chili and lime juice. Process for 1 minute, until smooth. Scrape into a small bowl, cover closely and put in the fridge to chill until required.
  5. Heat a frying pan or wok until very hot. Add the marinated vegetables and stir-fry over high heat for 5-6 minutes, until the mushrooms and peppers are just tender. Season well.
  6. Spoon a little of the filling on to each tortilla and roll up. Garnish with fresh coriander and lime wedges and serve with the guacamole.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Essential Vegetarian

What’s for Lunch?

4-course Asian Vegetarian Lunch

The Menu

Lettuce Salad

Creamy Corn and Carrot Soup

Udon with Curry Vegetables Sauce and Deep-fried Potato Croquette

Dessert – Green Bean Sweet Soup

The Restaurant – 551 Vegetarian Resturant in Taipei, Taiwan

Sodium Warnings Will Stay On The Menu In NYC After Court Ruling

Mary Beth Quirk wrote . . . . .

Nine months after a New York court denied a request from a restaurant trade group to stop New York City’s rule requiring warning labels on foods high in sodium from going into effect. The eateries took their gripe to an appeals court, which today ruled that these warnings aren’t going anywhere.

The regulation was first approved by the city’s Board of Health in Sept. 2015, and requires chain restaurants to include a salt-shaker-like icon next to any menu item with more than the daily recommended dose of sodium, 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon).

The National Restaurant Association first sued in Dec. 2015, arguing that health regulators had gone too far. In Feb. 2016, a lower court ruled in favor of the city’s health department. A few months later, a panel of justices from the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Manhattan said the city could start enforcing the rule as planned in June, while the trade group’s lawsuit appeal was still pending.

On February 10, 2017, another panel from the appellate division agreed with the lower court that NYC’s Board of Health “did not exceed their authority” in requiring the warning.

The panel concluded that the rule “has a rational basis, and is not unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious,” despite the trade group’s claims to the contrary.

The board had argued that because the rule applies only to large fast food chain restaurants, it is arbitrary and capricious. However, the court found, the board made the rule applicable to chain restaurants “based on health considerations and for the purpose of making the Rule possible to comply with and administer. Accordingly, this aspect of the Rule has a rational basis.”

The National Restaurant Association had also argued that the regulation failed to meets its goal, because ostensibly, a customer could order items separately, each of which does not by itself exceed 2,300 mg of salt, but when consumed together exceed the recommended daily salt limit.

“However, as plaintiff points out, federal law will soon require that these same Chain Restaurants make the sodium content of each menu item available,” the justices wrote. “Accordingly, the same hypothetical customer can also determine the total sodium content of an a la carte order.”

The city is pleased as punch with the panel’s decision.

“This rule helps New Yorkers make informed decisions that can contribute to lower sodium intake,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Health Department will continue developing polices that uphold our mission of promoting and protecting the health of all New Yorkers.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has long championed the idea of presenting nutritional info on menus, applauded the ruling.

“Now that the courts have ruled that New York City’s sodium warning notices can continue to stay on restaurant menus, we hope other cities, and even states, consider enacting similar measures in their own jurisdictions,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. “Once again, New York City and its Department of Health and Mental Hygiene deserve credit for their pioneering work helping New Yorkers and its many visitors reduce their risk of diet-related disease.”

The National Restaurant Association says it’s now going to explore all its legal options moving forward after today’s ruling.

“Local mandates on sodium regulation are a costly and onerous burden on all New York City restaurateurs,” Cicely Simpson, Executive Vice President, National Restaurant Association said in a statement. “Instead of confusing state and local mandates, we believe the best approach to disclosing nutrition information is the uniformed national menu standard that will go into effect this year.”

Source: Consumerist

Whole-Grain Foods May Help You Stay Slim

Kathleen Doheny wrote . . . . .

Switching to whole-grain foods might help keep your weight in check as much as a brisk 30-minute daily walk would, a new study suggests.

Whole grains seem to both lower the number of calories your body absorbs during digestion and speed metabolism, explained study author J. Philip Karl. He’s a nutrition scientist who did the research while a Ph.D. student in nutrition at Tufts University in Boston.

While other studies have found that people who eat whole grains are slimmer and have lower body fat than those who do not, Karl said it has been hard to separate the effects of whole grains from regular exercise and a healthier diet overall.

So, for the new study, “we strictly controlled diet. We didn’t let them lose weight,” he said.

The researchers did that by pinpointing the specific caloric needs of each of the 81 men and women, aged 40 to 65, in the study.

For the first two weeks of the study, everyone ate the same types of food and the researchers computed their individual calorie needs to maintain their weights. After that, the researchers randomly assigned people to eat either a whole-grain or refined-grain diet.

The men and women were told to eat only the food provided and to continue their usual physical activity.

Those on the whole-grain diet absorbed fewer calories and had greater fecal output. Their resting metabolic rate (calories burned at rest) was also higher. The fiber content of whole-grain foods, about twice that of refined-grain foods, is believed to play a major role in those results, Karl said.

“The energy deficit in those eating whole grains compared to refined grains would be equivalent to the calories you would burn if you were to walk about a mile [in] about 20 or 30 minutes,” he said. But the study did not prove that whole grains cause weight loss.

”We don’t know over the long term if it would translate to weight loss,” Karl said, but his team suspects it would. “This would translate to about 5 pounds in a year,” Karl estimated.

The study is solid, said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It provides good evidence that consumption of whole grains is an important part of a healthful eating plan,” Diekman said. The study documents how whole grains contribute to feelings of fullness and appear to increase metabolism, she added.

“The study was short in duration and somewhat limited in population diversity, but the outcome is a positive nutrition recommendation that anyone could benefit from,” she said.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In a related study in the same issue of the journal, the same group of researchers found that people who ate whole grains had modest improvements in healthy gut environment and certain immune responses. Whole-grain intake has also been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, the researchers noted.

When shopping, how do you find whole-grain products?

Look on the label for ”100 percent whole grains,” Karl said. “Just because something is made with whole grains doesn’t mean there has to be much in there,” he explained. “Look to see if the first ingredient is whole grain, and 100 percent.”

There may also be a label, issued by the Whole Grains Council, that indicates what percent of whole grain a food contains, he added.

Karl is now a nutrition scientist with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating six servings of grains daily, with at least half of those servings being whole grains.

Source: HealthDay

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