September at a Glance

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It’s almost been two months that I’ve been at my new job. Talk about time flying! I mean it feels like it was just yesterday that I was starting to get adjusted to my new schedule, new co-workers, and new job duties. To say that I have been happy is an understatement. I'm doing what I love and loving what I do and I have amazing co-workers - really truly family oriented.  But I think one thing that stands out with my new job is the ability to control my schedule - I feel blessed. I’m not dependent on a patient showing up late anymore and there’s no late night charting after the full slate of patients in a day. I work my 40 hours a week (not 50 or 60) and again have the ability to work 6 hours one day if the next entails 10 hours – it’s all dependent on our programs and events happening for the week. Planning and organizing is key – but I’m good at that (I’d like to think). And the reason why I mention the timing part is that was what I’ve mentioned on the blog here and here – I wasn’t balancing my work and home life well at all. How could I when I was consumed with work? Not to mention my social life was effected. I wasn’t practicing the very thing that I would tell my patients and I was walking around stressed out – not good for my health and unfortunately not good for my co-workers at the time. The transition to the new job has been good. I’m doing what I love – teaching nutrition in a group setting. Just last week I did a supermarket tour. Everyone came with such great questions and being right there where all the products are really made it hit home with some of the participants about how to make the healthier choice. Call me a nutrition nerd, but how fun! I love passing on the message of how to eat healthy and learn to decipher what products to buy.

NEWtrition Facts Labels

In May 2016, the Food and Drug Administration finished its overhaul of the Nutrition Facts labels, giving larger companies a July 2018 deadline to put them on packages. Not trying to talk politics here, but in June the Trump administration postponed the deadline (ugh). However, some companies have updated their labels even with Trump’s postponement (woohoo)! Here is a new label to see what’s different:

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The new labels distinguish between natural and added sugars. This will be an eye opener for some in seeing how much sugar they are actually taking in. The recommended amount is just 6 teaspoons/day (~25g) for women and children and just 9 tsp/day (~36g) for men. It can get confusing at times, but the truth of the matter is that we need to start cutting back on our total amount of sugar – start by adding up how much you are currently consuming with the intent to cut back. Yogurt would be your first area –

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Trader Joe’s avocado-citrus– has 12g of added sugar (that would be half my days' worth) in a 5 oz. cup in addition to 3g of naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose. My advice, opt for plain yogurts and add in your own fruit to have naturally occurring sugar provide the sweetness. Remember the intent is to start where you are at and begin to cut back.  Yogurt, a seemingly "healthy" food loaded with sugar.  Glad the added sugars have now been added to the labels.

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Quaker Orchard Peach Oats – You might think you’re doing well eating oatmeal, when in fact you’re eating ½ your day’s added sugar ladies! The orchard peach flavor has 13g (3 teaspoons) of added sugar. Gah! 4g is from the actual peaches and that’s why the total shows 17g. I’m here to tell you that yes, I know adding in some sugar or maple syrup will make it taste better and maybe you are doing better by eating oatmeal than before when you were eating pancakes and syrup in the morning. Point taken. But it’s astounding to me how much they add in to these products and now are having to out themselves. As an educator, my hope is that as people become more aware they can begin to now lessen the amount they are taking in. Try doing your own overnight oats – here's a recipe example here -it's a simple ratio, equal oats to equal milk.  Just be careful with the sweetener you're using, aim to use as little as possible and add in fruit to naturally add the sweetness.  Flavor combinations are endless!

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Izze sparkling grapefruit juice – Not to confuse you, but let’s face it, it is confusing. Their exact words from their website – “70% pure fruit juice and a splash of sparkling water. That’s it. No added sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup, no preservatives, no caffeine, and no evil sciency chemical concoctions. Because at IZZE, we believe juice should be pure with a splash of sparkle.” Juice is juice (I don’t care that they diluted it with water). This 12 oz. bottle has 29g of sugar from apple, white grape, orange, and grapefruit juice. No juice sugars don’t count as added sugar, but the truth? No one needs to drink juice even if advertisers say you should and it looks natural. Sorry not sorry. Eat a piece of fruit and get the added benefit of fiber in your diet.

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Kind Fruit/Nut Delight bar – has 4g (1 teaspoon) of added sugar. For a nut/fruit bar, that’s actually not too bad. 3g is coming from the actual fruit – they’re using an added sugar to help the nuts and fruit bind together - a better grab and go option. Just be careful with some of the KIND bars as they do use palm kernel oil to help them bind - this particular “Fruit and Nut” bar doesn’t but many of their other products do. Keep in mind the FDA is basing the Daily Value on “added sugar” to be 50g. The American Heart Association recommends what I stated earlier – 6 tsp/day (25g) for women and 9 teaspoons/day for men – way less than the FDA’s recommended amount. This is one area I would not recommend looking at the percentages for – definitely look at the grams of added sugar and aim for as little added sugar as possible.

My new job title is “Wellness Dietitian”. The department I work for is called Community Health and I do just that – educate out and about in the community. But it bodes the question what is wellness? It’s a more commonly used term within different health professionals, but within nutrition what is it really? How are you well with nutrition? The dictionary definition of wellness:


1. the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.

2. an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.

I’ve always wanted people to prevent diseases rather than have to treat them (after the fact). I think sometimes I live in a nutrition la la land. But the truth is many times people don’t change their eating habits until after they’ve had a diagnosis made. So back to this wellness definition, recently people have been talking about how to connect all 6 dimensions of wellness – physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and occupational.

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The other night I did a presentation where I talked about the “Hunger Fullness Scale” I think this is a good example of combining different components of wellness – are you actually hungry? Are you eating because you’re bored? Anxious? Or are you simply eating out of habit? All of this pertains to one’s nutrition and why we eat, but the truth of the matter is we need to hone in on our actual hunger cues (the physical sign) where we sometimes don’t pay attention to. We do often eat based on our emotions (the emotional) even when we know better (intellectual). And sometimes we’re eating just because others are eating (social). Nutrition can get complicated. Many people “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”. We should be mindful (spiritual) of this in helping ourselves to have nourishing meals that sustain us and provide us the nourishment we need. It doesn’t always work this way, but that’s the goal and what we should aim to do. My yoga teacher recently wrote an article on what “wellness” means -  Seven Simple Rituals for Creating Wellness in Your World I think the definition can be intermixed and it’s still evolving, but the truth of the matter is that in order for us to be mind-body-spirit connected, we really need to know ourselves and be present in the moment (as much as we can).

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month - The statistics are startling.  1 in 6 (17%) children in the United States are obese.  Children with obesity are at a higher risk for having other major chronic health conditions and diseases - asthma, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes.  They also have more risk factors for heart disease:  high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Children with obesity are also more likely to be bullied and teased more so than their normal weight peers.  This can lead to social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.  Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults.  This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems - type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer. 

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Childhood obesity is influenced by many factors:  eating and physical activity behaviors, genetics, metabolism, family and home environment, and community and social factors.  Obesity may also be influenced by:  too much time being inactive, lack of sleep, lack of places to go for physical activity, lack of access to affordable, healthier foods.  How can you as a parent help prevent obesity and support healthy growth?  There are many things parents can do to help their children achieve a healthy weight and maintain it.  

  • Be aware of your child's growth.

  • Provide nutritious, healthy foods in place of foods that are high in added sugar and fat. Aim to serve more fruits and vegetables at meals - even if they kick, scream, and cry when veggies are being served.

  • Make sure water is available and limit sugary beverages (sodas, teas, punches, juice, etc.)

  • Help kids get active - this could be helpful for parents too! Aim to have them move more.

  • Be a role model. When you're eating healthy meals and snacks, they will too! If you're not eating vegetables, odds are they won't want to. Try to find a new veggie each week to prepare and trial. Keep in mind it might take up to 10 introductions (or more!) before a child will be willing to try a new food. Be patient & keep experimenting!

Veggie Transformation - Broccoli Stems -

Veggie Transformation - Broccoli Stems -

The goal is to raise awareness in regards to childhood obesity.  Start where you are at and aim to implement healthy habits, one at a time.

September is also officially National Yoga Month.  It's a national observance designated by the Department of Health & Human Services designed to educate people about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle.  If you've never practiced yoga, I invite you to try.  Yoga is unique because you connect the movement of your body and the fluctuations of your mind to the rhythm of your breath.  Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward.  Through this process of inward attention, you can learn to recognize your habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them.  You become more aware of your experiences from moment to moment.  The awareness that you cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or goal to be completed.  Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.

Writing my blog a day early - one because I have the time and two because we are bracing for Hurricane Irma here in Miami.  While this week has been one of anticipation, stress, and preparation, the storm has ultimately moved west.  We will get tropical storm/hurricane strength wind and rain from the bands of the storm (so there may be power outages), but we are not getting a direct hit or "the big storm" of the century as had been expected.  While I am grateful for this shift in the storm's path, I do not wish this storm on anyone.  We just saw the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and now are all waiting to see the wrath of Irma.  Prepare as much as you can (evacuate if necessary) and stay safe, Florida!