Thoughts about food: A nutrition conference

Good Sense eating

Many interventions need to come together—like sandbags in a levee—to help turn the tide against our nation’s obesity problem. So says Dr. David Katz, one of the leading nutrition scientists who spoke at the Nutrition and Health Conference 2009, sponsored by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.

Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, addressed the issue head on."Don’t blame the victims. It’s our environment that’s obesogenic.” Part of the problem is a food supply that’s highly palatable, he says."We’ve gone from a world where calories were scarce and exercise unavoidable to a place where exercise is scarce and calories unavoidable.”

People who become overweight at a young age"will struggle with their weight like never before,” he says. Young people who develop type 2 diabetes and heart problems are prematurely aging."We’re obsessed with slowing the aging process in adults, but we’re accelerating the aging process in children.”

The organic decision

For those who want to eat organic, Dr. Benjamin Kligler, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center, recommends starting with milk, eggs and meat.

It’s not so simple with produce, he says. For example, there’s no restriction on organic plants being grown in soil contaminated by heavy metals.

“It’s a really challenging and difficult question” whether it’s better to eat organic foods brought in from a great distance or eat local and fresh foods, he says.

Fish on the plate

Fish was discussed often during the conference. On the one hand, its health-promoting properties were extolled, especially those varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, worries about mercury contamination of certain species cast a pall on the discussion.

One resource for families is the Safe Fish Chart, downloadable at

More conference tips

•Overall food patterns are more important than individual nutrients. Eat a whole palette of different vegetables and fruits to enhance health.

•Look at ingredient labels. If it has five or fewer ingredients and you can pronounce them all, the food is probably OK.

•Never heat foods in the microwave while they’re in plastic containers.

•When eating fish, use cooking methods that reduce PCBs and dioxins. These include trimming skin, fat and dark meat; avoiding frying; and removing mustard from crabs and tomalley from lobsters.

•A DHA deficiency may be the cause of postpartum depression. Prevent it by consuming fatty fish, such as canned salmon, during pregnancy.

•High-quality white pasta is nearly as good as whole wheat if it’s eaten al dente. In Italy, Americans are surprised at how firm al dente pasta is.

•Foods that are advertised 0 trans fats are not always a healthy food.

•The fish that are highest in oils are also highest in vitamin D.

•Breast milk does not provide vitamin D to infants. More than half of American infants are born in a D-deficient state.

Ask Good Sense Eating

How can I make fruited yogurt healthier?

A: While you can’t beat the convenience of yogurt with fruit already added, consider adding fresh fruit to unflavored yogurt. For example, by adding your own raspberries to plain yogurt, you’ll increase the amount of fruit and fiber, which will make it more filling. You’ll also reduce its sugar content.

Cereal Bowl Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito


1 flour tortilla (6-inch)1 egg2 Tbsp. finely chopped red, yellow or green bell peppers1 Tbsp. shredded cheese1 Tbsp. salsa

1. Line 2-cup microwave-safe cereal bowl with microwave-safe paper towel. Press tortilla into bowl.

2. Beat egg together with chopped peppers until blended, and pour into center of tortilla.

3. Microwave tortilla and egg on high 30 seconds; stir. Microwave until egg is almost set, 15 to 30 seconds longer.

4. Remove tortilla with paper towel liner from bowl to flat surface. Top egg with cheese and salsa. Fold bottom of tortilla over egg, then fold in sides.

Nutrition facts: 203 calories; 10 g total fat; 4 g saturated fat; 1 g polyunsaturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat; 218 mg cholesterol; 408 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrates; 2 g dietary fiber; 11 g protein; 948 IU vitamin A; 17 IU vitamin D; 64 mcg folate; 120 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 130 mg choline. Courtesy of the American Egg Board

Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a registered dietitian in private practice in Naperville. She can be reached at (630) 369-8495 or

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