Thursday, October 30, 2008

A range of "budget" meals

It seems like eating well on a budget is a hot topic now in the media. Here is a sample of some of the things I have come across:

A few months ago, Whole Foods Market launched a campaign to attract budget-minded consumers, called the Whole Deal. Since then the food chain has offered budget tours, published newsletters with healthy recipes with cost estimates.

This month's dinner for four suggestion is Sour Cream and Chicken Pasta. Although some find it high in fat, it can easily be cut back. The total cost to feed a family of four is $12.68 (3.17 per serving). That's if you don't add the green salad and bread as sides.

Apparently, in response to a KFC $10 meal special, USA Today also is featuring $10 healthy meals to feed 4. The article is not that user-friendly, but there are quite a few suggestions.

I just came across a blog called $5 Dinners. Check it out.

Save-A-Lot, a no-frills grocery store that has a similar working model as Aldi's (mainly generic, food not "shelved", but put out in cartons, etc.), also came out with a feed 4 for $4! The campaign started as fuel you family for less than a gallon of fuel. Thankfully, gas prices have gone down quite a bit around here.

Oh and by the way, my spam blog status still hasn't been cleared. Just so you know what I'm talking about, here is the word verification I need to publish or save this post (of course I'll need to enter another one because of the time lapse):
It's actually not that bad this time, but now look what it's like when posting a comment on another blog:
Big difference! Anyway, I'm going to appeal this again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Please help me figure this out...

I know that healthy means a lot of different things to different people, but I am always humored when I see announcements like this health screening/fall fest with trick or treating (i.e. lots of candy), pizza, and soda for all.

I've had concerned friends call me and ask if it is OK with me if they serve fried chicken (and other "evil" foods) when I come over to their house (I know one of my friends who did this reads this blog. Don't worry, you're not the only one, so I'm not singling you out). I appreciate their concern, given I am a nutritionist. There are probably some that would be offended. I'm not. I hardly ever eat fried chicken, so it doesn't bother me when I do. So just let me make it known that I do not customarily make nutritional analysis in my head of what my friends are eating. And if you know me, I L-O-V-E pizza.

But back to the health fair... I guess I just scratch my head sometimes when there are foods offered at health fairs that are high in added sugars and saturated fats, which is associated with poor health outcomes. Sure, that one pizza slice and soda won't kill you (And it sounds much more attractive than say, a roasted chicken dinner). It's the lifestyle and behavior patterns an individual has that promotes or hinders health. But I still am trying to work this all out in my mind.

Granted, I wouldn't be one to protest this generous offering (pizza ain't cheap nowadays), but am I being oversensitive? Maybe I have food discrimination. What do you think? Should these be mutually exclusive (i.e. never offered together), or not?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm a spam blogger?!

I believe my blog was flagged for "innapropriate content" and now I have to use word verification to save drafts and publish posts. After having this blog for almost 2 years and 140+ posts later, someone has decided there is something indecent about what I write.

My goodness, I average about 20 hits a day. Give me a break! It's not like I'm shaping the thoughts of the entire world!

I had this happen to my infant feeding blog, but I figured it was because I used the word "breast" in it too much and some search bot decided it was probably a spam blog. I requested a review and they "cleared" me in what seemed no time.

The nice thing is that the word verification turns off the auto-save feature, which often causes me more problems than not. The problem is that now they have accumulated all the word verifications that are most unidentifiable so that I have to try about three times before I can save a draft. And blogger seems to be taking much longer at reviewing this blog for appropriateness than they did with my other blog. Maybe it's because I post more often here that it seems like they are taking longer.

Well, now that I've said this, I bet blogger will read this now and drag this out a little longer. Please don't. I'm sorry. I haven't been trying to do wrong. Really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Closing the Food Gap

Earlier this year, I read "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the table in the Land of Plenty" by Mark Winne. If you have been following my blog this year, you may recall me reposting an interview Mark had with Parke Wilde of the US Food Policy Blog. I finished reading the book in May but it stirred so much in me that it's taken this long to write about it.

It is easy to tell people what we (or science) think they should be eating, but what is often overlooked is the reality people live in that hinder them from actually applying these recommendations to their lives. In particular, limited income areas are often at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing healthy food. In many cases, the supermarkets in their communities --if existent-- have a lower quality selection and higher prices. Also, many of us take for granted that we have vehicles to get us to grocery stores, farmer's markets and warehouse clubs. And the foods offered through food banks and pantries are most commonly of poor nutritional quality. The food system is so complex that even if people have the ability to get healthy food, they may lack the resources to prepare and consume it. Furthermore, lower-income communities are the ones most struck by lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is more to this disparity than calories in/calories out, or eating the "wrong foods".

Yet, what do I know? I didn't know hardship growing up. Although my parents came from humble backgrounds, they were able to provide opportunities for me and my siblings that kept us from ever really knowing want. Even during hard financial times (because we have gone through those), we were at a greater advantage than others because we still had a car, a nice home to live in, and staying at home afforded me to prepare foods from scratch. This year, I even had a small garden! I am an outsider. I hadn't even lived here a year, although my husband and I decided a long time ago we'd come here because we care about the city. Yet what do I know? Then I read the following:

"I do not feel that these facts negate my involvement or those of other privileged people in the long-running campaign to end hunger and poverty. Yes, I am privileged. Yet I have chosen to regard that privilege as a gift that I will share as best I can until it loses value or is no longer needed. And as as I use the talents God gave me--carefully honed as they were by education, opportunity, and an upper-middle-class upbringing--to make the lives of others at least a little better, I will pave the way for, make way for, and get out of the way of those whose voices more genuinely call out for change than mine ever could."(p.191)

Although I learned a lot from his experiences and insights, this phrase resonated so much to me. It reminded me why I pursued a degree in public health and why we moved here in the first place. I am so grateful for this book and its timing and today I had the opportunity to thank Mark Winne -- in person.

Last week, I found out that he was coming to speak to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition. Although I had learned of the coalition this past April, I have waited on other life events to take part in it, not knowing what kind of commitment I can provide at this time. So when I heard of this event, I decided now was as good a time as any.

In addition to thanking Mark Winne in person, I was able to learn what is happening in Cleveland. There were people from all sorts of organizations, from grassroots to government. It dawned on me when I got there that I knew n-o-b-o-d-y and I didn't come representing any organization. I was totally on my own. So I signed in, got my bagel, and sat next to someone. By the end of the program, I didn't feel like an outsider anymore. There were people I wanted to talk to to follow up on what they mentioned during the session. In one of my conversations, I even found out about Ohio City Bicycle Co-op, where I will certainly take my bike to get it back in working order.

One of my assignments in graduate school was to prepare a grant proposal. My group proposed forming a coalition for the health district we were partnering with. Although our presentations all took place in the classroom, several public health figures were there as the panel for us to present with. Our idea of forming a coalition was not favorably seen upon and we were grilled for our suggestion. Certainly not all coalitions work out, but when they do work out, much more can be accomplished than all the initiatives working on their own. It also gives "little people" like me an opportunity to contribute. And it appears that the coalition I saw today is quite alive and well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vitamin D in breastmilk

Yesterday, there were several reports in the news that the American Academy of Pediatrics was increasing the dose of vitamin D supplementation in infants.

There is growing evidence that rickets, the manifestation of severe vitamin D deficiency, can actually occur at higher circulating vitamin D levels as once thought. And there have been a flurry of vitamin D studies that are linking vitamin D deficiencies with many diseases, both chronic and acute.

Yet vitamin D is very different from the other known vitamins. The natural dietary sources are not widespread, and is most commonly found added to foods, such as milk. Our bodies were not designed to depend on dietary sources of vitamin D, it was designed to produce its own through sun exposure to the skin. However in the age of skin cancer, urbanization, and computer games, many people are simply not getting enough sun to produce it. The body's production also varies by skin color and age, so one cannot easily prescribe a certain amount in the sun, and some areas don't receive enough UV radiation in the wintertime to produce anything. Several groups have recommended conducting a vitamin D test to see if one is deficient (young and old alike). Although that is ideal, if your insurance company doesn't cover it, then you could be paying quite a hefty sum for a test.

So increasing the supplementation recommendation is a step in the right direction. Yet, another message some pediatricians have been giving out is a wrong step. And that is that "breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D". Over and over again, I heard reports of that in the news. It is important to note that if a mother has adequate vitamin D status, her milk may not be very rich in vitamin D, but it is rich enough to give to her baby. Whether that is enough for the baby is another story, but it isn't because breastmilk is deficient. It's because breastmilk wasn't designed to be the primary source of vitamin D. The sun was.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

O, for grace to trust Him more...

To say the last year has been a test of my faith is quite an understatement. I was hoping the test would be over by now, but it's not. And now more than ever I struggle with faithlessness.

Yet, it doesn't matter what I do, say, or think. Actually, many times I don't know what to think anymore. Then somehow my Lord shows me in one way or another that He is with us, as present as ever before, although my eyes would like to tell me He is far off, unaware of my circumstances and that He doesn't really care. And many times, I have complained that His presence isn't enough. Yet He keeps telling me it is enough, and it will always be.

Our family is going through hard times -- nothing I would consider tragic. I want so badly for God to act on our behalf, but He hasn't yet (as far as I can see). He has acted in different ways, just not where I'd like to find relief right now.

Somehow God is trying to teach me more about His grace. At this point, it is hard for me to say that God's grace is sufficient. And I think it has to do with me not fully understanding what grace is really about. I often have heard grace defined as receiving what we don't deserve. That makes it a bit easier to understand His grace in the context of salvation, but it has to mean more than that. Strength is associated with grace. God told the Apostle Paul that His grace was sufficient, and that His power was perfected in Paul's weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul also reminds Timothy to be strengthened in God's grace (2 Timothy 2:1). So I am learning that strength and contentment do not lie solely in my faith in Christ, but in His grace.

So here I am, trying to figure it out. Trying to wait on God and trust in Him. Trying to deal with the unknowns and cope with the knowns. I don't have the strength to do it myself. But Jesus says:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:18-30, emphasis mine)

Oh, Lord, I'm learning. Slowly... but still learning.

O, for grace to trust Him more...*

* From the hymn: 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A call for breastfeeding mothers who are scheduled for biopsies

This is a message I am posting for Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. Feel free to pass this on.

Hi everyone,

I'm writing to ask for your help publicizing a call for moms who are breastfeeding and scheduled for biopsies to participate in an important study based at the University of Massachusetts.

I wrote about the study and how to participate yesterday:

The primary goal of the study is to identify molecular biomarkers for breast cancer. This could lead to breast cancer detection long before we notice lumps, and as you know, early detection is the key to survival.

Another benefit could be the development of a simple breastmilk test which could determine if breast cancer is present - at its earliest stages - through epithelial cells in the milk, and without the need for biopsies. Biopsies are obviously invasive and stressful, and to make matters worse, mothers are often told that they must wean before they can get one performed (I know that this isn't necessarily true, but it's fairly common to hear).

This study is a featured research project being promoted by the Dr. Susan Love/Avon Army of Women initiative, and you can read more about it here: (scroll down to "Molecular Biomarkers...")

I'd really appreciate it if you could blog (or post a note on your website) about this study and encourage mothers who are breastfeeding and scheduled for biopsies to participate. Contact information is in the blog post. Please pass this along to anyone else who might be interested in posting about it. The goal is 250 women who meet the criteria, and it may take some work to find them.

Thanks so much,


Monday, October 6, 2008

Depression-Era Cooking

In this series of videos, 91 year old Clara gives a wonderful demonstration of depression-era cooking.

Pasta with Peas

Egg Drop Soup

Poorman's meal

HT: Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD.