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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Vegetables - Nutrition and Recipes

Fall is in the air as leaves are falling and cooler days are encouraging you to pull sweaters out of the back of the closet. We tend to crave heartier meals during cooler months, so to ensure that you're meeting your daily vegetable needs, try these hearty fall vegetables:

Pumpkin is full of fiber, which can help keep you full throughout the day, and vitamin A, which helps with vision. Autumn's that time of year when everyone's ordering pumpkin spice lattes, which are often high in calories and fat and offer no fiber. Instead, try a pumpkin cheesecake smoothie  or pumpkin bread  to get your pumpkin fix.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a role in tissue repair and growth. For an easy snack, try sweet potato crisps. They're a great alternative to regular fries.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts provide fiber, vitamin C, and folate, but they often get a bad rap, and I'll admit that I disliked them up until a year ago. Before then, I had always had them prepared in a way in which their bitter taste remained. If you're a newbie to Brussels sprouts, I recommend roasting them, which will reduce their bitterness. Toss Brussels sprouts with canola oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes (time may vary depending on size of the Brussels sprouts).

Cauliflower contains vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K. Folate promotes healthy pregnancies, and vitamin K helps with blood clotting. Try cauliflower popcorn  for a warm, tasty treat as the days get colder.

For more recipes, visit 

Written by: Danica Pelzel, Fontbonne University Dietetic Intern
Reviewed by: Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oh No Another Low-Carb versus Low Fat Diet Study!

Last week, sorry the start of a semester can be crazy, another study came out looking at which diet yields more weight loss. The results pointed to the benefits of the low-carb diet But there are some question marks.

The study, which appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was a 12 month randomized, parallel design study, meaning that two different groups followed similar study trial plans with the only difference being the type of diet they followed. At the end of the 12 months the results showed about an 11 pound weight loss for those on the low-carb diet and a 4 pound loss for those on the low-fat diet.

The study did have some limitations so the outcome may not be generalizable to the everyday "real" world. The limitations were 1) diet information came from recall of food consumed, which is of course very subject to memory lapses. 2) the dietitians who collected the recall information knew which subjects were on which diet and even though they followed a standard method, this could impact data collection. Finally, 3) the study also looked at heart health parameters but did not go long enough to see if the diets had any impact on heart health.

So what does all this mean.
1 - we still don't know if or what the "perfect" weight loss diet might be
2 - both diets averaged close to 1500 calories at the end but during the study the low-fat diet often was at a higher calorie level - so was it the calories
3 - weight loss should be a lifestyle focus, not a diet focus

If you need help finding the right diet for health - and a healthy weight - contact a Registered Dietitian (RD). If you are a WUSTL student you can meet with a Registered Dietitian in Student Health. If you are not a student you can find an RD at

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Freshman Fifteen Isn't Inevitable

As summer winds down and high school seniors head off to college many of them might be thinking about the dreaded "Freshman 15!" Fortunately not only is that weight gain not inevitable some studies say it really is a myth and few college students gain that much.

If you're headed to Wash U or any college for the first time this fall there are some things you can do to keep your weight in a healthy range. Staying at a healthy weight not only is good for you but it helps you feel more energetic and it makes it easier for you to do the things you'd like to do at college.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain a healthy weight.
* Don't feel compelled to sample everything on the menu in the first month
* Do keep physical activity in your schedule
* Don't skip meals
* Do establish a meal and snack pattern - every 3 - 4 hours is a good meal spacing
* Don't skimp on sleep - fatigue leads to overeating
* Do learn about proper portions sizes
* Don't snack right from bags or boxes of food - you will overeat
* Do take time to sit down and eat your meals and snacks

In addition to these tips, make sure you check the dining services website to learn more about nutrition. Many universities have Registered Dietitians on campus, and Washington University is one that does, so find out if you can make an appointment to talk - healthy dining?

Have a great first year!

Connie Diekman, M.Ed. RD, CSSD

Friday, August 15, 2014

Carbs Aren't Bad For You!

Current diet trends continue to focus on eating fewer or totally eliminating carbohydrates, especially grain foods, but are these diets simply one more fad diet?

As celebrities and athletes talk about their new attempts are going "carb free" or choosing the "keto" diet it can make these new diets tempting options but if you look at what you need for health, you might want to look at the reality of why we eat carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, which are found in grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, beans, nuts, seeds and sugary foods are all built around molecules of glucose. Some carbohydrates are very short chains of glucose molecules so they provide fast, short-term energy - fruits, dairy and sugary foods are in this category. While others provide much longer chains and therefore energy that lasts longer - grains, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are in this category.

Glucose is the fuel that propels the body, allows you to participate in physical activities and it keeps your brain thinking. Glucose is needed for a healthy body! If you consume the amount of energy from carbohydrates that your body needs, All of that energy will be used and None will be stored as body fat. Carbohydrates only become a problem when we eat more than we burn.

Improve your health by trying the following:
* Choose whole grains all the time or most of the time
* Limit your intake of sugary foods
* Consume the amount of fruit and vegetable you need each day
* Learn about proper portion sizes 

Visit to learn more about carbohydrates, proper portions and exactly how much you need each day.

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Foods and Inflammation

The role of foods in health is very clear - foods provide the calories we need to "make it through the day", the nutrients we need to be healthy and some might help us fight diseases like osteoporosis or hypertension. Now researchers are looking at how some foods might promote disease prevention through the role they play in inflammation.

Most people know inflammation as the redness that happens around a cut but inflammation also occurs inside the body. This internal inflammation appears to be connected to the development of some types of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer's. While the exact mechanism on how inflammation triggers disease isn't totally clear - and likely is different for each disease - what is clear is that diet can help fight inflammation.

Consider adding the following foods to your meal plan to provide an anti-inflammation boost.

* Tomatoes, red peppers, beets
* Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, cranberries
* Soybeans, fatty fish and nuts - especially almonds and walnuts
* Garlic and onions
* Spinach, kale, broccoli and other dark greens
* Olive oil

If you see a theme here, you are correct - consume more plant foods to maximize health, increase enjoyment and possibly prevent disease.

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Facts Up Front

        Food labels can help you choose which food product best meets your nutritional needs but sometimes using those labels gets time consuming.  A new food labeling tool brings nutrition information from the Nutrition Facts Panel on the back of packages, up to the front.

Facts Up Front is a new front of package tool that is reflected by icons that call out key nutrients so that you can more easily compare products. Facts Up Front is a joint effort of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). GMA is the organization that represents food and beverage companies and FMI represents food wholesalers and retailers. Together they have partnered to develop Facts Up Front and the educational campaign that supports it. I have been a member of the Facts Up Front Advisory group since its inception, which has allowed me to review the science behind this new labeling and provide guidance to best educate consumers on how to make this new tool work for them.

Packages that carry the Facts Up Front label must show four nutrients – Calories, Saturated Fat, Sodium and Sugars (small packages are allowed to show calories only). Food manufacturers may add up to two additional nutrients, out of a list of 8, if they are a good source (at least 10% of the Daily Value) of the nutrient.

The four nutrients that must appear on every Facts Up Front label are those which consumers should limit, since most people consume above and beyond what’s recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The optional nutrients are those we need to consume more of, such as calcium, potassium, fiber and vitamin D.

If you haven’t seen this new labeling, start looking for it on packages in your store. For more information about the labels, or for recipes, shopping tips and a nutrition calculator option, visit  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Choose MyPlate


Developing a Healthful eating plan is easiest when you use MyPlate to guide your choices. MyPlate graphically shows you how to balance food groups to maximize your nutrition. With 3/4 of the plate coming from plant foods MyPlate provides the opportunity for a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

MyPlate is the visual representation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, guidelines that are aimed at promoting health, achieving a healthy weight and meeting nutrient needs. You can learn more about MyPlate by visiting -

When you visit the website you will notice that the site not only guides you on how to make food choices but it offers tips for shopping, reading labels and physical activity. The new year is just barely started so there is still time to start the year with a new – Healthier – routine.

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Best Diets for 2014


US News & World Report Best Diets for 2014 provides their recommendations for diets to checkout this year and the list does not include some “popular” choices. The winners in the Best Diet Overall category were - 1. The DASH Diet; 2. TLC Diet; 3. Mediterranean Diet.

The Best Diets list is designed to help consumers choose a diet that will meet their needs and goals. The list provides the “best” recommendations in 7 categories besides the best overall. The rankings were done by a team of health experts who scored the diets for short and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition.

The popular Paleo diet tied for last place with the Dukan diet. You can see more results at

If you’re planning to start the New Year with a new diet, consider a few of these points.

· Look for a diet that includes all food groups

· Look for a diet that provides guidance on portions

· Make sure your physician approves of the diet if you have any medical conditions

· Remember to include activity in with your diet plan

· Consider using for well-balanced advice

For a personalized plan, contact a Registered Dietitian. You can find a Registered Dietitian in your area by visiting and clicking on Find A Dietitian.