Friday, February 17, 2017

“Food and Fear: How to Find Facts in Today’s Culture of Alarmism”

What a great title! That was the title of a great conversation held last night in the Clark-Fox Forum here on the Wash U campus. The conversation lasted not quite two hours and it covered topics ranging from food, farming, technology, hunger, where do we go next and many other issues.

The panel who offered their expertise before opening the conversation to the audience included - Dr Liza Dunn, @DrLizaMD, an Emergency Medicine Physician, Medical Toxicologist and Medical Outreach Lead for Monsanto; Lora Iannotti, PhD, Associate professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work; Joni Kamiya, @hifarmersdtr, an occupational therapist and farmer blogger; Steve Savage, PhD,@grapedoc, a plant pathologist and consultant in the areas of plant genetics and sustainability and Amanda Zaluckyj ESQ, @farmsdaughterusa, a practicing attorney and agriculture blogger.

The presentations and the conversation demonstrated how confused most consumers are when it comes to how their food gets to their table; how anxious people are about what is “right” to eat, and how this fear and confusion is impacting what people eat – sometimes to the point of triggering poor nutritional intake.

An almost two hour conversation can’t be easily condensed but some key outcomes.
1.      This conversation is just starting
2.      Education on how to separate “fake news” – in terms of food – from the science of food is desperately needed
3.      Understanding the issue of food and nutrition to help prevent malnutrition is a growing priority – 48 million people are undernourished
4.      Nourishment is more than just calories, it is about the nutrients

My take-away – it’s time for all involved with food to step back and then sit down and talk the science of food and how we help share that science, in a usable manner, with consumers. Where will you be in that next step?

Connie Diekman, MEd., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, FAND

Nutrition Communication Consultant 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Facts on Fats

The recent media blitz around butter and health or even cheese and heart health can make it very difficult to know – what should I eat, how much is okay and are these foods okay in an eating plan aimed at promoting heart health?

Science is constantly evolving and this is why dietary recommendations can, and do, change but what is important to remember is that single studies should never be the trigger for eating behavior changes. In light of a recent conference, where I was a sponsored attendee, there was a session on this topic so it is very timely to talk about dairy fat and health.

Starting at the beginning, the issue with dairy fat is that science has long looked at animal fats – meat,  poultry, eggs and dairy fat – for the amount of saturated fat that they contain. Saturated fats have long been shown to be triggers for elevated LDL, or bad, cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease. Dietary guidelines throughout the world have been developed based on this evidence and all currently recommend some level of limitation of saturated fat.   All fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, are made up of a variety of fatty acids so most foods contain a mix of saturated fats and a mix of unsaturated fats, often you will hear them referred to as fatty acids. What has long been known is that different fatty acids act differently in the body and therefore have different impacts on blood cholesterol. However, since we eat foods and not individual fatty acids, dietary guidance has long been focused on the impact of the whole food on health or on the risk of heart disease.

With all of this background where does that get us on the issue of dairy fat and health? The bottom-line right now is that different saturated fatty acids affect our blood lipid levels differently with most causing not only an increase in levels of ‘bad’ LDL, but also in concentrations of HDL, the good cholesterol. Some small scale studies have shown little impact on heart disease mortality when the saturated fat consumed was from dairy foods, and from cheese in particular But more studies are needed to determine if the impact is related to the cheese consumption or to the saturated fat content of the whole diet. When discussing how to include foods that contain saturated fat in the diet the key is what foods you consume in place of them and right now the evidence points to including plant fats – nuts, oils and seeds – in place of saturated fatty acids. If you love cheese, you can include it in a heart healthy eating plan but you need to know how to balance the saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats and talking with a Registered Dietitian might be a good idea to achieve that goal.

The adage might seem trite but all foods can fit in a healthy eating plan it is a matter of portions, balance among the foods and remembering that no food will offer magical health benefits or be the single cause of disease. #fatfacts #registereddietitiancanhelp #dairyfatupdate #communciatesoundscience

Monday, January 5, 2015

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick!

The beginning of January is an exhilarating time! A new year to lose weight. A new year to eat healthier. A new year to be a new you. These New Year’s resolutions invoke feelings of excitement and motivation but as soon as people start to settle back into their normal routine, these feelings start to fade.

It’s easy to fall back into old unhealthy habits so having a defined and attainable goal, with a plan in place to achieve this goal, is the key. For many, a common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. From there, decide how much weight you want to lose in what period of time. Losing 1-2 pounds a week is a good goal. Once your goal is set, planning how to achieve the goal is the next step.

Losing weight in a healthy manner is characterized by two aspects: consumption of more nutrient-rich foods and an increase in physical activity.

That being said, careful thought needs to be put into how an individual will carry out each of these aspects. Planning out weekly meals, shopping with a well thought-out grocery list, and setting aside time each day to workout are great starts to achieving your goal. By planning out a routine that you can hold yourself to, the temptation to revert back to your old habits is much harder to do.

Incorporate these tips into your new routine:
·       Make sure half of your plate is fruits and vegetables, color is key!
·       Make at least half your grains whole grains
·       Replace sugary beverages with water
·       Reach for a fruit or vegetable when snacking
·       Use moderation when consuming sweets
·       Eat smaller portions
·       Be mindful of what you’re eating

For more information about healthy weight loss, visit

Written by Annie Cameron, undergraduate Nutrition major at Saint Louis University
Approved by Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, FADA

Nutrition Communications Consultant

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Coming to Food Labels - Added Sugars

The Food and Drug Administration has been working to update the Nutrition Facts panel that appears on packaged  foods. The new proposal includes many changes to help make choosing more healthful foods easier but one big change is the proposed addition of "Added Sugars."

The addition of the line "Added Sugars" will help consumers see the difference between naturally occurring sugars and those that are added to the food. While the body might not recognize any difference in natural or added sugars the amount of added sugar that we are consuming is much higher than the recommended amount.

Colleagues at Appetite for Health have created a useful infographic that shows amounts of added sugars we consume, common names of added sugars and some of the foods that contribute the largest amounts of added sugars to our diets. This infographic can be a useful tool to guide you as you read food labels, plan menus and work to balance your nutrition.

Checkout the infographic at -

Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA
Nutrition Communications Consultant

Friday, October 24, 2014

Immune Health starts with a Health GI Track!

It might come as a surprise that your gastrointestinal (GI) track plays a role in the health of your immune system but in fact, it plays a rather sizable role. Our intestines are filled with healthy bacteria, antibodies and a variety of immune cells that all work to keep us healthy. The next time you get a cold, don't just think about who got you sick, think about - your diet.

While the research in gut immune health is still underway what seems to be especially important is the consumption of plenty of plant foods.   The variety of bacteria in plant foods, along with the variety of phytonutrients makes plant foods - grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds - good choices to fuel a healthy immune system.

If your diet is still a bit animal food heavy, take sometime to look for ways to sneak in more plant foods - try a few of these ideas.

  • Add shredded carrots and squash to chili or try 2 -3 different beans
  • Try dried fruit, nuts and shredded veggies in your next batch of muffins
  • Stretch your omelet veggies to squash, broccoli, green peas and carrots
  • Add diced beets to a beef casserole - they look like meat
  • Cut the amount of beef you use in a dish but adding chopped mushrooms
  • Fruit salsa flavors meat nicely and cranberry sauce on salmon is a nice twist
  • Chopped dried fruit and throw it into yogurt with some nuts or seeds
  • Combine brown rice and veggies for a colorful side
You can make these changes slowly if you need some time to adjust to the new look and different flavors.

Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD
Nutrition Communications Consultant

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hip Fracture and Soda Intake?

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition soda consumption has seen a small decline in the past 10 years but adults consume close to 100 Kcalories of sweetened soda per day in 2010. Diet soft drink has gone up with 28.3% of women 40 to 59 years and 23.1% of women over the age of 60 consuming diet soda on any given day.

At the same time the study looked at the incidence of hip fractures, especially in post-menopausal women. What the researchers found was that there seems to be a slightly increased risk of hip fracture with the consumption of larger amounts of soda, whether it is sweetened or not.

While the cause of this increased risk was not clear, what the researchers did report was that failure to consume enough calcium, while consuming more phosphorus from the soda, could be a factor. The researchers also noted that women who consumed more soda tended to have higher body mass indexes (BMI) so weight could be a factor.

So what does this mean if you are a soda drinker?

  • If you are drinking soda in place of calcium rich dairy - take time now to make that switch
  • Work to include at least 3 servings of dairy each day - - provides good ideas
  • Assess your body weight and develop a plan to achieve a healthier weight if you need to - a Registered Dietitian can help you do that
  • Make physical activity a part of your day - a good goal is 30 minutes, most days of the week
Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA
Nutrition Communications Consultant

Friday, October 3, 2014

Whole Grains – Health Benefits and Tips

You’ve probably heard of grains and whole grains but do you know what makes them different? Grains, which include wheat, barley, oats, cornmeal, rice, and other cereal grains are further divided into 2 groups: whole grain (e.g., whole wheat bread, oatmeal) and refined grains (e.g., white bread, pretzels). Whole grains contain the bran, germ, and endosperm of the grain kernel, whereas the bran and germ are removed in refined grains.

Whole Grain Nutrition
Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, which may help prevent heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes and bowel dysfunction.  In addition, fiber can also help provide a sense of fullness with fewer calories. Whole grains also contain some iron, which carries oxygen to the blood. If iron intake is inadequate, anemia may occur, which is common in young women. The type of iron in whole grains is better absorbed with vitamin C, so try pairing whole grains with foods high in vitamin C. Whole grains also are full of B vitamins that help your body get the energy it needs from food that you eat.

The removal of the bran and germ in refined grains removes the dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Although, some B vitamins and iron are added back in “enriched” refined grain products. MyPlate recommends that at least half of your grains are whole grains, and when choosing refined grain products, look for “enriched.”

Try the following tips to increase your whole grain intake:
·       Substitute whole grain breads and pastas for white, and substitute brown rice for white.
·       When baking, substitute whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the portion of white flour. This will add whole grain without compromising the texture of the product.
·       Snack on 100% whole grain crackers instead of refined grain crackers or chips.
·       Choose whole grain cereals, like oatmeal, instead of sugary, more refined cereals. Add an orange or a glass of orange juice for vitamin C.
·       Look for food products that are high in fiber. 10-19% of the daily value (DV) is good, while 20% or more is excellent.
·       Add barley or brown rice to soups and stews.
·       Pair broccoli or other vegetables high in vitamin C with brown rice.

For more information about whole grains, visit MyPlate (

For more whole grain recipes, visit the Whole Grains Council (

Written by Danica Pelzel, Dietetic Intern Fontbonne University
Reviewed by Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA
Nutrition Communications Consultant