Food Trucks- Safe or Risky?

With an economical and attractive price, like arugula pizza or fish tacos, America’s 15,000+ food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and a lot of small towns across the US.

The burning question: Is it safe to grab a bite to eat from a truck that cooks for hundreds in a space that’s a fraction of the size of your kitchen?

According to Health.com, yes, yes it is…

Just as the prices from their peers, though, some food trucks are better bets, food safety-wise, than others. Before you line up for your favorite lunchtime hoagie, here’s what you need to check for:

License

By law, food trucks need a license to operate so the local health department can track them for inspections. Why does this matter to you? Well, illegal operators tend to not worry as much about temperature and proper storage as an owner who knows an inspector could drop by at any time.

In many towns across the country, food-truck operators are required to post their license on the window, in a place where customers can see it.

Good grades

A number of cities require that food trucks place their latest inspection grade on the window that they serve food from. The worse the grade you see at your favorite food truck, the greater your chances are of getting a food-borne illness (FBI). If your city doesn’t post grades, they’re likely available on your local health department’s website.

Gloves

You might think your biggest worry is that the chicken or beef is undercooked, but you’re actually more likely to get sick because a food truck employee has bad hygiene. In fact, one of the leading causes of FBI is contamination from someone’s dirty hands.

Employees should be wearing gloves when handling your food, and changing them often, to avoid transferring bacteria from their hands to your food.

Gloves aren’t legally required everywhere, and an employee without them can handle food safely with utensils and regular hand-washing.  This is a good sign that food safety is taken seriously at a restaurant/food truck.

Dangling hair

If employees don’t pull back their hair, they’ll be constantly moving it out of their eyes, then touching your food, which could get contaminated with bacteria from their face. Messy hair can also be a sign that a business isn’t following the food safety rules.

Lukewarm food

“Temperature problems are one of the most common violations in food trucks,” says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. Salads and deli sandwiches should feel like they’re straight out of the fridge, while soup and burgers should be piping hot.

Messy sink

If you have a chance to peer inside the truck, try to find the sink. Look for soap, towels and a clear place for hand-washing. If the area is stacked up with dishes or there’s no soap in sight, where are employees going to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or touching raw meat?

Food Trucks in my hometown of Harrisburg, PA to look out for:

MAD Sandwiches

          The Must-Try:  The Cuban sandwich stacked with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and mayo on a crusty 12-in. Italian roll.

          Location: Forster St. and Commonwealth Ave. in front of the Keystone Building Tuesday-Wednesday and Walnut and Third streets in Harrisburg Thursday-Friday.

          MAD Sandwiches

A Moveable Feast

          The Must-Try:  Fish tacos with avocado and a honey wasabi and cilantro dressing are healthy and out of this world.

          Location: N. 2nd and Pine St. in Harrisburg on Friday and Saturday nights.

          A Moveable Feast 

Chef Ed’s Lunch MOB

          The Must-Try: Fish tacos are a signature item and worth ordering. The Asian hot pot with its noodles, flavorful broth and vegetables is pleasantly unexpected for food truck fare.

          Location: Near 400 block of Walnut Street in Harrisburg

          PA Lunch MOB

CNN: Are Food Trucks Safe?

HBG food trucks

Hormone Replacement Therapy Increases Risk For Breast Cancer

A new analysis of data from the Women’s Health Initiative now casts doubt on previous researcher’s findings that taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) isn’t dangerous. The study, published Friday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concludes that the prognosis for cancers related to hormone replacement therapy is just as dire as for other breast cancers. As a result, women who turn to the treatment are more likely to die of breast cancer than their non-hormone-taking peers.

The principal investigator for the Women’s Health Initiative and lead author of the new study stated, “You could fill a basketball arena with the women who get the disease.” “It seems like you’d want to reach a higher threshold before you take it.”

Nearly 70,000 postmenopausal women participated in randomized clinical trials as part of the Women’s Health Initiative project. The study participants who took estrogen plus progestin had higher rates of breast cancer diagnoses and of breast cancer deaths.

At the same time, more than 90,000 additional women took part in a related observational study that tracked details about their health and hormone use over an average of 11 years. Along with other observational studies, this one found that women who took hormones to treat menopause symptoms and got breast cancer were less likely to die from the illness than women who got breast cancer without taking hormones.

So he and his team identified a subset of more than 41,000 women from the observational study who more closely matched the women who took part in the randomized trial. In doing so, the researchers set aside data on women who were not using hormones when they participated in a study but had taken them in the past — a factor that had the potential to complicate the findings.

The new results fell more closely in line with the findings from the original randomized trial: Survival after breast cancer was similar for both hormone users and non-users. Tumors that arose in women who took hormones were no less deadly.

They had appeared to be, however, because women who had taken hormones years before might have already developed aggressive cancers and would not have been able to participate in the study in the first place.

HRT Study

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April is National Preceptor Month!

April is National Preceptor Month!

As an essential component of any dietetic internship, preceptors play an important role in the lives of dietetic intern students everywhere. Within each rotation of a dietetic internship, there exists a preceptor that decides to take on the role of a mentor and personally teach their intern(s) the specialty skills for that specific rotation.

Starting in the month of April, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) will celebrate National Preceptor Month by beginning a preceptor drive!

ACEND will unveil a database which allows practitioners to register to potentially become preceptors and join the effort to guide and educate the next generation of dietetic professionals. In addition, the Academy and ACEND will establish a Find-a-Preceptor Database so directors and students members of the Academy can search for a preceptor within a certain geographical or specialty area.

Applications and efforts, like the preceptor database, are so important in the field of nutrition, as well as the profession. It’s important for other RDs to promote the growth of tomorrow’s RDs, to try and keep America healthy!

Become a Preceptor!

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ACEND

 

Chain Restaurants Impact on Kids’ Meals and their Health

Kids Meals Get an “F” in Nutrition at Chain Restaurants

Nearly all of the meal possibilities offered to kids at America’s top chain restaurants are of poor nutritional quality. A report released today found that fried chicken fingers, burgers, French fries, and sugar drinks continue to dominate kids’ meal setting, with 97% of the nearly 3,500 meal possibilities not meeting CSPI‘s nutrition criteria for 4- to 8-year-olds.

And if you don’t believe CSPI, ask the National Restaurant Association (NRA): 91% of kids’ meals at America’s major chains do not even meet the nutritional standards of the industry lobbying group’s Kids LiveWell program.

One out of every three American children is overweight or obese, but it’s as if the chain restaurant industries didn’t get the message. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention” and addressed these health concerns for further research and studies to use in the fight against childhood obesity.

Two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, representing young and old, urban and rural, and majority and minority populations. This epidemic of excess weight is associated with major causes of chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesity-related illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.

Most chains seem stuck in this time warp, serving the same dated meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda. I know that they can come up with healthier, cost-effective, nutritionally beneficial meals that are more current than these.

One chain that has gotten the message is Subway. All eight of Subway restaurants’ Fresh Fit for Kids meal combinations met CSPI’s nutrition criteria. Subway is the only restaurant chain that does not offer sugar drinks as an option with its kids’ meals, instead including low-fat milk or bottled water along with apple slices with all of its kid-sized subs.

“Our goal has always been to provide the most nutritious, balanced kids meals in the industry and we are proud to be recognized by CSPI for achieving that goal,” said Lanette Kovachi, corporate dietitian for the Subway brand.

To meet the CSPI’s nutrition criteria, kids’ meals must be at or below 430 calories, no more than 35% of calories from fat, or no more than 10% of calories from saturated plus trans-fat. Meals that meet CSPI’s criteria cannot have more than 35% added sugars by weight or more than 770mg. of sodium. The criteria require meals to make a proactive nutritional impact either by providing at least half a serving of fruit or vegetable, including an item that is 51% or more whole grain, or including specified levels of vitamins or fiber. CSPI’s criteria exclude sugar drinks in favor of water, juice, or low-fat milk. The NRA’s standards are quite similar, though they allow more calories.

Here are some of the least healthy kids’ meals available at chain restaurants:

–        Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2% Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62g of total fat (46% of kcal), 21g of saturated fat (16%), and 2,340mg. of sodium. That meal has nearly three times as many calories, and three times as much sodium, as CSPI’s criteria for four-to eight-year-olds allow.

–        Chili’s Pepperoni Pizza with Homestyle Fries and Soda has 1,010 calories, 45g of total fat (40% of kcal), 18g of saturated fat (16% of kcal, and about as much saturated fat as an adult should consume in an entire day), and 2,020mg. of sodium.

–        Denny’s Jr. Cheeseburger and French Fries has 980 calories, 55g of total fat (50% of kcal), 20g of saturated fat (18%) and 1,110mg. of sodium. Denny’s does not include beverages with kids’ meals.

–        Ruby Tuesday’s Mac ‘n Cheese, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Fruit Punch has 860 calories, 46g of total fat (48% of kcal) and 1,730mg. of sodium. Ruby Tuesday’s does not disclose saturated or trans-fat content on its menus or website.

–        Dairy Queen’s Chicken Strips, Kids’ Fries, Sauce, Arctic Rush (a Slushee-type frozen drink) and Dilly Bar has 1,030 calories, 45g of total fat (39% of kcal), 15g of saturated fat (13% of calories), and 1,730mg of sodium.

At 19 chain restaurants reported on, not a single possible combination of the items offered for children met the CSPI’s nutrition standards. Out of these restaurants, 9 (that included McDonald’s Popeye’s, Chipotle, and Hardee’s) not a single kids’ meal met the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell standards. At Wendy’s, only 5% of 40 possible kids’ meals met the CSPI’s standards. Most of these items were either too high in sodium or saturated fat. At Burger King, just 20% of the 15 possible kids’ meals met CSPI’s criteria.

The last time the CSPI reviewed the nutritional quality of kids’ meals at chain restaurants, in 2008, it is reported that these restaurants have made little progress. In 2008, just 1% of kids’ meals met the CSPI nutrition standards, compared to only 3% in 2012. Only one-third of the chains had at least 1 meal that met the nutritional standards in 2008. This number scaled to 44% in 2012- good, but not great improvement.

While the CSPI report recommends that companies consider several changes, it also encourages the chains to participate in the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program. For these restaurants to do so, they would need to restructure their kids’ meals to meet these standards. The bottom line is that these restaurants should offer more fruits and veggies, and to offer these fresh options as an alternative side to French fries. Whole grains should be offered more, as well as removing soda or other sugar sweetened beverages from the kids’ menus. And just because Subway was the only chain restaurant to meet CSPI’s criteria for all kids’ meals, it should increase the whole grain content of its breads and continue to lower sodium.

The long-term problem I see in this article is that the chain restaurant industry is conditioning children to accept a really narrow range of food options. More chains are adding fruits and veggies at this point, but realistically- a lot more could offer these options. And given the childhood obesity epidemic that America is currently attempting at combating- you would think that more restaurants would want to take action in the health of their future consumers.

CBS News Clip

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This is a standard Subway Kids’ Meal option

Does Social Isolation Leads to an Early Death?

Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality, but it is uncertain whether their effects are independent or whether loneliness represents the emotional pathway through which social isolation impairs health. People who are socially isolated are more likely to die prematurely, regardless of their underlying health issues, according to a study of the elderly British population.

The research found on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that when mental and physical health conditions were factored out, the lack of social contact continued to lead to early death among 6,500 men and women tracked over a seven-year period.

People were recorded as dying from natural, normal causes but, isolation did have a strong influence as well. The study also appeared to diminish the role that subjective feelings of “loneliness,” as opposed to the lack of social contact, may have on a person’s life span. Both lead to higher mortality rates, but the effects of feeling lonely is reduced once demographic and health factors are weighed in.

Regardless of the distinction, the study reinforces the need to increase social support for the elderly, even as it adds to debate over the intertwined effects of social contact and feelings of loneliness in old age. A similar look at retired Americans in 2012 reinforced multiple studies that link loneliness to numerous illnesses, including heart trouble and high blood pressure.

Both studies come as British and U.S. populations have become more solitary. People living alone compose more than a quarter of U.S households, and the proportion of Americans who said they had no one to talk to about important matters grew from 10% in 1985 to 25% in 2004.

Separating the effects of loneliness from those of isolation, however, has not been easy for those who study rates of illness and death. While isolation can be measured directly — by how many friends you have or how often you have contact with family — loneliness is more subjective, measured through survey questions about whether social needs and expectations are being met.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

Last year’s report on loneliness, based on the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, showed that loneliness appeared to increase mortality risk over a six-year period, an association that could not be attributed to social relationships or health behaviors, such as smoking and drinking.

The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded both the British study and last year’s report on U.S. retirees. Loneliness and isolation “should get lots of attention because they may be as important, as joint factors, as smoking.” However, the effect of loneliness was not independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and did not contribute to the risk associated with social isolation. Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.

Social Isolation and Health

Social Isolation, Loneliness, Mortality

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Will Children Be Attracted to Caffeinated Gum?

Caffeinated Gum?

Wrigley’s gum, the national gum company powerhouse, will be launching a new chewing gum next month with added caffeine. This new gum, called Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, is supposedly only to be targeted towards an adult population. We’ll see if that sticks (no pun intended)…  

The gum looks like it’s going to have about 40mg of caffeine per piece of gum. This is about half the amount of caffeine in 1 cup of coffee. So, on one hand there’s a small amount of caffeine in the stick of gum. But, on the other hand, what if you chew multiple pieces of gum per day? That’s a lot of caffeine that can add up really quick. And knowing Americans and our problems with portion control, I could see a lot of people consuming a lot of caffeine without trying even hard. It’s bad enough that healthcare providers are currently advising people to cut back on caffeine. But, with this added source- I think people really need to be careful and aware of what they’ll be consuming.

Normally people should not ingest more than 200-300 mg of caffeine per day. When people consume more than this, side effects are associated like shakiness, sleep problems, and GI disturbances.

The new gum will be sold in convenience stores and food retailers all over America. This isn’t the first caffeinated gum to hit the market though but, it’ll be the first from Wrigley’s brand and its associated marketing power behind it.  

Energy drinks have become an in-demand product over the years. According to Euromonitor International, a global market research firm, U.S. gum sales are down 3.8% since 2008, while sales of energy drinks are up 41% during the same period. Wrigley’s sales make up more than half the gum market, according to Euromonitor.

Again, Wrigley claims that it intends to market the gum to consumers age 25 and older. A warning label is placed on the back of the gum package saying it’s “not recommended for children.” The public should be concerned about this. In October, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against energy drink maker Monster Beverage after a 14-year-old girl died of cardiac arrest. The suit charges that she had 2 of the drinks in 24 hours before her death. The FDA has also started a probe into whether there are deaths tied to another energy drink, Five Hour Energy.

CBS Local

Money CNN

wrigleys caff gum

The Plant-Based Mediterranean Wallet

The Mediterranean Wallet

Americans constantly correlate a healthy lifestyle to expensive foods. This is not always the case. Yes, fresh foods, like produce for example, are normally higher in price compared to canned foods, or foods with a longer shelf-life.

Studies have shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks, amongst other chronic health disparities. The lifestyle stresses the importance of plant-based meals. One major ingredient in the diet is olive oil. The introduction of olive oil into the diet has been determined, to aid in feeling fuller long or the feeling of satiety.

Studies have also shown that an increase in plant-based meals can lead to a decrease in food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or some meals for members of a household.

Researchers conducted a study to emphasize the use of simple, plant-based recipes and olive oil, following a Mediterranean diet pattern. A number of participants commented on how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was.  So, the study approached a local food bank about designing their study using food pantry items for the program’s recipes.

Most people, who attempt at putting together a nutritionally balanced menu for their family or household, spend the bulk of their budget on meats, poultry, and seafood. These items, specifically lower-fat versions, tend to be the most expensive items someone will see on their grocery store receipt. Low socioeconomic status families will normally purchase these items first, leaving little left in the budget for healthier fruits and vegetables.

The researcher on the study explained that if the focus of the shopper could be changed to eliminate foods that are not needed to improve health from the shopping list, a healthy diet can be more economical.  Certain foods that could be crossed off that grocery store list include meats, snacks, desserts, and carbonated beverages/sodas.

The first 6 weeks of the study consisted of cooking classes where instructors prepared quick and easy plant-based recipes that incorporated ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. The participant’s progress was tracked for 6 months after the conclusion of the cooking program.

One particular benefit for those attending the 6 week cooking class was that they were provided with groceries that contained most of the ingredients discussed by the class facilitators. The chosen ingredients provided to the participants would allow them to make 3 of the discussed recipes for their family members.

Once the classes were over, the researchers collected grocery receipts throughout the remainder of the study. Analysis of these receipts showed a significant decrease in overall purchases of meats, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks. This was particularly interesting to the research team as they never offered instruction to the participants to avoid buying these items.

The further review of the grocery receipts showed that each household enjoyed an increase in the total number of different fruits and vegetables consumed each month. Participants cut their food spending in more than half, saving nearly $40 per week. The study also found that the reliance on food pantries decreased as well, indicating a decrease in food insecurity.

The research team also found that the cooking program had unexpected health benefits as well. Almost one-half of the participants presented loss in weight. This was not an objective in the study but, raised a few eyebrows. The study also showed an overall decrease in BMI of the participants.

Overall, this study shows that a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, not only contributes to an overall improvement in health and diet. The study also highlights how a plant-based diet can contribute to decreasing food insecurity in America.

Plant-Based Med Diet Can Be Easy On the Wallet

6-week Cooking Program on Plant-Based Recipes

plantbased diet

food inse

med dietmed diet cooking class

Qatar Outdoes America in Obesity Rates?

Well, America isn’t the Only Heavy Hitter Anymore…

The obesity epidemic in America has obviously generated a lot of publicity, in recent years. And more specifically, West Virginia has been in that spotlight with its towering obesity rates, let alone its childhood obesity rates.

But, now Qatar has been given that title of being the most obese country in the world.  According to new data release by the Supreme Council of Health, about 70% of people in Qatar are overweight and some 41% are obese.

If you’ve read my blogs before, I have posted about the Middle East and its urbanization, associated with fast food chains and obesity rates. The rapid urbanization in Qatar, and many other states in the Arab Peninsula, following the discovery of oil has contributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Coupled with a lack of exercise culture and diets high in fats, salts and sugar, obesity has rapidly increased in the Middle East.

The rapid increase in obesity has led to an increase in several non-communicable diseases in the small Gulf country, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the rate of diabetes in Qatar has climbed to 20.2% of the population.

Often people think that they need to do a lot to prevent illnesses. That is not the case. Often simply making minimal changes will help. The incidence of these diseases can be significantly reduced by simple lifestyle changes, such as increased regular exercise and integrating healthier foods into your diet.

Just alone is 2012, studies showed that 45% of adult Qataris were obese and up to 40% of school children were obese as well. Many Qataris, especially dietitians, are worried that in the next 5 years that 73% of Qatari women and 69% of Qatari men will be obese. Combined with high rates of diabetes, often triggered by excess weight, this has become a national… Wait, now a global concern for the country. In 2012, 15.4% of adult had diabetes, with rates in children below the age of 5 ay 28.8%.

Qatar surpasses US in obesity

Qatar is World’s Wealthiest and Obese

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Qatar sign

RDN… Hmm, Interesting

Every RD is a Nutritionist. But NOT every Nutritionist is a RD.

What is this new credential they are calling a “RDN”?

Well, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Board of Directors and the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) have recently approved the optional use of the credential “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” (RDN) used by Registered Dietitians now.

The new optional RDN credential will not affect licensure or other state regulations. Plus many state licensure/certification laws already use the term “Nutritionist” (i.e.: LDN or CDN)

Many people, and especially RDs, are wondering why the Academy is offering this new credential. The reasoning behind this is to further enhance the RD brand and more accurately reflect to consumers who RDs are and what they do. This makes sense, when the Academy puts it like this…

This will distinguish the demanding credential requirements and focus that all RDs are Nutritionists but NOT all Nutritionists are RDs.  

The inclusion of the word “Nutritionist” in the credential itself, communicates a larger concept of wellness and treatment of conditions. This option is also consistent with the inclusion of the word “nutrition” in the Academy’s new name. Again, this makes sense and definitely seems innovative for the future of the Academy.

There is an increased awareness of the Academy’s role as a key organization in food and nutrition by media, government agencies, allied health organizations and consumers. This provides additional rationale for the incorporation of the word “nutrition” into the RD credential resulting in the optional RDN credential.  

But, here lies a substantial question… Was there any AND member input considered?

In 2010, the Academy began exploring the option of offering the RDN credential. It was supported by participants in the 2011 Future Connections Summit and most recently by the Council on Future Practice in its 2012 Visioning Report. The recommendation was shared and discussed in the House of Delegates at the Fall 2012 meeting. The 2013 joint meeting of the major organizational units (CDR, Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), Council on Future Practice, Education Committee, and Nutrition and Dietetics Educators and Preceptors (DPG)) supported moving forward.

But here is my question- Do RDs have to use the RDN credential now?

No. The RDN credential is offered as an option to RDs who want to emphasize the nutrition aspect of their credential to the public and to other health practitioners. Plus, the new RDN credential has the exact same meaning and legal trademark definitions as the RD credential.

The credentials should be used, identical as a RD credential.

So, for example: Jess Brantner, RD = Jess Brantner, RDN. —-> (In time my friends… In good time)

The new RDN credential should be prioritized just like a RD credential, when other credentials are involved. So, 1st– Graduate degree credential, 2nd– RDN or RD, 3rd– special certifications with the CDR (CSSD, CSO, CSP, CSG, CSR), 4th– licensure designation or other certifications like Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).

Here is the twist to my story- the CDR registration identification cards WILL include both the RD AND RDN credentials. So, be on the lookout for your 2013-2014 CDR registration identification cards, because it will have both credentials listed! But, don’t worry about costs, because there will be no additional fee for all these changes.

The opportunity to use the RDN credential is offered to RDs who want to directly convey the nutrition aspects of their training and expertise.

“This option reflects who Registered Dietitians are and what we do,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Ethan Bergman. “The message for the public is: Look for the RD – and now, the RDN – credential when determining who is the best source of safe and accurate nutrition information,” Bergman says. “All Registered Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Registered Dietitians. So when you’re looking for qualified food and nutrition experts, look for the RD or RDN credential.”

AND RDN

Happy RDN Day?