Monday, November 11, 2013

FDA Proposes Trans Fat Ban


Last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed removing from the Generally Recognized as Safe list (GRAS), industrialized Trans fats or those that don’t exist naturally in foods. Yes, Trans fats exist in animal foods so we do consume them more than we probably think but most of the scientific evidence indicates that it is the industrialized Trans fats, those made in a food chemistry lab, that are connected to an increased risk of heart disease.

Most people know that there are good fats – plant fats – and bad fats – animal fats, and likely you’re aware of Trans fats as plant fats that are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, but you, like many others, may not think about all the foods that can contain Trans fats. The chemical process that converts plant oils into Trans fats acts to improve the stability of the plant fat making these fats good choices for foods that need a longer shelf-life like cookies, crackers, cakes, frozen baked good and pizza, coffee creamers, snack foods, and ready to use frostings.

Trans fats are listed on the label in the Nutrition Facts Panel but you can also see if they are present by looking in the ingredient list for the words “partially hydrogenated oil”. (PHOs) PHOs are vegetable or plant oils that have been chemically altered to change them from unsaturated fats to more saturated fats but the bigger concern is that the chemical process creates a more heart Unhealthy fat than naturally occurring saturated fats.

The FDA has issued a 60 day comment period for this proposal and if it is approved food companies will have time to make changes in their products. In the meantime, spend more time reading ingredient lists and looking at the Nutrition Facts panel. If a food has more Cholesterol, Trans or Saturated fat than another food, choose the one with less total of these three nutrients.

You can read more here:


Connie Diekman<

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hydration isn’t Just for the Summer


When outside temperatures are high you automatically feel the need to drink fluids so you might be surprised to know that fluid needs are just as high when the temperatures are low. It’s true, at extreme temperatures the body has to work harder to stay at an even, more ideal core temperature, requiring more fluids than when the outside temperature is closer to that core temperature.

As temperatures turn to winter you need to keep your sights on consuming enough fluids. Current guidelines recommend at least 91 ounces of fluids per day for women and at least 108 ounces per day for men. These amounts will increase with activity, time spent in dry heated rooms or offices and drops in temperature. These amounts do include liquid foods like soup and watery foods likes fruits and vegetables. Trying to quantify how much fluid is in a watery food is hard so make sure you are consuming beverages throughout the day.

Contrary to old beliefs you can count beverages that contain caffeine but if you’re working out or as it gets extremely cold, make sure you consume more decaffeinated beverages. If you struggle to get enough fluids consider the following:

  • Keep a mug or cup near your desk as a reminder
  • Schedule fluid breaks just as you schedule time for lunch or actual break times
  • Grab a beverage between meals before you grab a snack – hunger could really be thirst
  • Start each meal with a cup of water
  • Consume 3 cups of milk or soy milk for the nutrition and the 24 ounces

If you need to slowly increase your amounts that’s fine, just keep in mind the need for adequate hydration.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Candy Is Okay


Halloween is a special night for kids of all ages and besides the fun costumes the candy is often a highlight.

If you, and your kids, enjoy the special treats of Halloween you don’t have to feel guilty about eating the candy if you follow a few tricks – positive tricks not Halloween tricks.

· Choose candies that are dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate – more healthful fat and less sugar

· Look for candies that contain nuts - a touch of protein

· Go for the bite size bars and savor them, don’t inhale them

· Enjoy candy After a meal not in place of or in-between meals

· Develop a plan for how much candy to enjoy each day

When distributing candy watch how many pieces you eat while passing out the candy – this isn’t a “one for you, one for me” event. When trick or treating is complete, layout all of the candy and decide, which pieces do you really want to eat and which ones can you in fact “live without.” Take those that you don’t care as much about and either take them to your office or consider other options to give them away. The ones that you really want can then be divided into daily portions.

If you have focused on enjoying some candy and dividing it out to make enjoyment last longer you will have a plan that takes the guilt out of eating Halloween candy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Skinny on Low Calorie Sweeteners


Recently a national television show spent one hour on the topic of low calorie sweeteners. During the hour, several misstatements were made about low calorie sweeteners, not the least of which a “mistake” in terms of the amount consumed. Accusations were made that low calorie sweeteners can "pervert" the system when it comes to perception of sweetness, that they trigger weight gain, and that they cause weight gain in the all important to health area – the belly.  The problem with the discussion is that few scientific facts were presented; it was a show of much "sensation" and little substance.

As a registered dietitian (RD) I pride myself on knowing the science of food and nutrition and speaking about the science - not beliefs, myths or sensations. As an RD, I have read the science and because of that I have agreed to serve as a member of the Aspartame Advisory Panel. This panel focuses on reviewing scientific studies,advising the company on what the studies mean to consumers and how to communicate scientific facts about low calorie sweeteners, so let’s discuss some facts.

First, the body of evidence on the safety of low calorie sweeteners, in humans, is extensive and to this point it is safe for consumption by adults. Evidence is not as conclusive on use by children but thus far no human studies show harm when used by children. The presence of data in humans is especially important since – well we aren’t rats – and rats respond differently to low calorie sweeteners than do humans. example – rats like starch so they respond favorably to the sweetener Splenda but they do not like Sucralose. Rats are also indifferent to Aspartame, whereas humans find it to be sweet.

Second, during this show the host stated that the average consumption of low calorie sweeteners per year is 24 pounds or 10,000 individual packets per year or 27 packets per day or 9 packets per meal - Every Day. A search of the literature shows that the actual per individual intake is about one pound per year – so Not 24 Actually 1 pound/year.

Third, a significant number of scientific organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have all stated that low calorie sweeteners can be a useful part of a weight management plan and Not the cause of weight gain.

So what should you do with your low calorie Sweeteners? Continue to use them in place of sugar, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and other calorie sweeteners to get the sweet taste you love without the calories. But don’t forget that other foods can provide a sweet taste – Fresh fruit with low-fat yogurt, sliced bananas on cereal, a small glass of 100% juice combined with sparkling water for a refreshing drink and many other options.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Making Smart Sense out of Sodium


Last spring a report came out indicating that sodium might not be such a big concern to diet. However, a closer look at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report finds that the conclusion of the scientific group was that the Evidence showing clear “cause and effect” between high sodium intake and disease is lacking.

This conclusion might sound convincing but what it really means is that studies have thus far not been designed to demonstrate a “cause and effect” outcome. Studies thus far have shown an indication or association between too much sodium and heart disease risk, so this new report shouldn’t really change how you look at your sodium intake.

Currently Americans consume, on average, 3400 mg/day of sodium, this is in excess of the recommended 2300 mg/day. While sodium is found in all foods except for fruit, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported the top food sources of sodium were-

* Yeast breads

*Chicken and chicken dishes

* Pizza

* Pasta and pasta dishes

You might be surprised to see some of these foods on the list but one of the reasons several of them make the list is that we consume too much food from that group. Read more here -

Changing sodium intake takes a little time – taste buds have to adjust – so try these tips.

* Reduce intake slowly

* Use salt in cooking or at the table

* Read labels

* Try herbs and spices in place of salt

* Learn the right portions for bread and other grain foods

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fat Quality Does Make a Difference


For years there has been debate around which fats are the best to consume with most evidence pointing to consuming Omega- 3’s and limiting all other fats. Recently some reports have suggested that coconut oil is okay or that saturated fats aren’t so bad after-all, so what Are the Facts? Current scientific evidence seems to indicate that saturated fats need to be limited – so consume less animal fat (fish is an exception here) – and plant fats – canola, olive, soybean, sunflower oils and seeds, nuts and nut butter – are better.

Two weeks ago I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the International Experts Movement on Health Significance of Fat Quality (IEM) and researchers provided the latest science on How fat quality impacts risk for disease. The presentations identified the following points -

* Reduce saturated fats and use unsaturated fats likes nuts, nut butters, seeds, oils and margarines made from oil instead

* Control carbohydrates by choosing fruits, vegetables and whole grains – Not fat free foods

* Use oily fish more often – salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring

* AVOID trans fats, palm oil and coconut oil

For more scientific information and tips for use visit –

September is “Fruits and Veggies - More Matters” Month


While summer produce might be slowing down fall produce continues to provide a good variety of options and color at local markets and hopefully on your menu. If you find that keeping fresh produce “fresh” is a challenge, a new guide from the Produce for Better Health Foundation might help.

This handout outlines which produce should be stored in the refrigerator, which should stay at room temperature and which need a little time on the counter before going into the refrigerator. The handout also talks about proper produce cleaning tips to ensure that your produce is free from potential foodborne bacteria.

Before heading to the market this week take a look at this handout at -

Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FAND

Director of University Nutrition

Monday, September 23, 2013

Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products


Last year a news report looked at arsenic in rice and it generated lots of concerns. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a follow-up report that indicates that the levels of inorganic arsenic, the toxic form of arsenic, are too low to cause immediate health damage.

The FDA tested more than 1300 samples of rice and rice products and found a range in the amount of arsenic in the samples. In rice grains, the range was from 2.6 to 7.2 micrograms/servings, with instant rice having the lowest amount and brown rice the highest. When it comes to rice based foods the range was from 0.1 to 6.6 micrograms per serving, with infant formula at the low end and rice pasta at the high end.

While the FDA plans to continue assessing the health risks of rice consumption over a long period of time they do have some current recommendations.

The FDA recommends that -

* Consumers focus on a well balanced eating plan – get plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and grain foods.

* Choose a variety of grains – enjoy wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, wild rice which is a grass not really a rice, and other grains

* Choose a variety of grains for infants first solid food rather than only choosing rice cereal

For more information on arsenic and rice visit For help with your diet, contact a Registered Dietitian. You can find a Registered Dietitian at

Monday, September 9, 2013

Do you Know your Phytochemicals and Phytonutrients?


You’ve probably heard the words phytochemicals and phytonutrients but do you know what they really are or why they are important? The both terms have the same beginning and that is because both words refer to plants, so phytochemicals are plant chemicals and phytonutrients are plant nutrients but the two are often used interchangeably.

Phytochemicals and phytonutrients both refer to a wide variety of compounds in plant foods that provide health benefits beyond those of traditional vitamins and minerals. You might recognize words like antioxidants, carotenoids or flavonoids all of which are a category of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are thought to help in the prevention of heart disease and several forms of cancer along with the promotion of bone and skin health so including them in your diet is important to your overall health.

Fruits and vegetables can easily fit into any meal or snack so take advantage of fall produce to vary your diet and promote your health. Learn more about phytochemicals by visiting Fruits and Veggies More Matters at -

Connie Diekman, M.ED., RD, CSSD, LD

Directory of University Nutrition

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Eat Seasonally for Flavor and Nutrition


Enjoying produce when it is at its peak makes your dining experience better and it can also boost the nutrition in the foods you choose. When fruits and vegetables are consumed in season they tend to have more nutrients due to the better growing environment and often they are more recently picked thus preserving some of the more sensitive vitamins and minerals.

In addition to providing more flavor, and potentially more nutrition, eating seasonally often means you are purchasing foods that were grown closer to your home – a benefit to your community. Locally grown produce also helps the environment since transportation time is shorter, meaning less fuel usage.

If you’re working to include more produce in your meals but have run out of good ideas a great resource for tips on how to prepare fruits and vegetables, find recipe ideas and even lists of what items are in season, visit

Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, CSSD, LD

Director of University Nutrition

Friday, August 23, 2013

Plant Foods Pack Power


Plant foods offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals but they also offer a diverse package of phytonutrients which are associated with a variety of health benefits. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we consume at least one half of our plate from fruits and vegetables and slightly more than a fourth of the plate from grains. This push to boost plant foods is based on research that shows that the phytonutrients seem to help prevent heart disease, some forms of cancers, diabetes and that they may aid in memory retention.

What this means to your eating plan is that you need to focus on adding vegetables, fruits and grains to your meals and snacks so that your daily intake of fruits is about two cups, your vegetable intake about 3 cups and your grains makeup a smaller amount of your meal. Maximize the health benefits of produce by choosing darkly colored or strongly flavored fruits and vegetables like the following;

* Eggplant, blackberries, blueberries, purple potatoes

* Carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, mango, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes

* Brussels Sprouts, green peppers, leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli

* Cherries, cranberries, strawberries, red peppers, tomatoes

* Dates, cauliflower, onions, parsnips, white corn, garlic


Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD