Friday, June 24, 2011

Back to Work

I'm sure you've noticed that I haven't been blogging much lately. My 1-2 time per week posting schedule has sort of gone out the window this past month. It's not because I don't have anything to say, it's just that I've found myself using my time for other things lately. It's not that I don't think blogging is a worthwhile use of my time. It's more that I have such limited time right now that other things (such as chores) take priority. Cleaning the floors, for example, has become a recent priority as JC has discovered mobility. She's not quite crawling yet, but she does this sort of "froggie shuffle," where she propels herself forward on her belly (literally, on her belly), by pulling herself with her arms and pushing off with her feet together. She's actually quiet adept at it and she can get moving quite quickly. And, if I don't want her shirts and dresses looking like used Swiffer sheets, I have to stay on top of the sweeping, vacuuming and floor-washing.

More than anything, though, the recent time crunch is a result of my decision to go back to work. I didn't expect that I would go back to work early (JC is 8.5 months), let alone full-time, but here I go! On Monday, in fact! Yes, it was a tough decision, but I think it's a good one. My husband will be able to claim the rest of the parental benefits, so he can stay home with JC for the summer and still make a bit of money.

I have to admit that I was pretty excited to be offered this full-time position initially. That first day I felt pretty awesome. However, the next morning I woke up thinking about how I'd be "abandoning" JC to go back to work and I cried ... A LOT. I spent the next week crying most days, feeling like I was never going to see her again. After chatting with some friends and my mom, I started to look at the return more optimistically rather than as "impending doom." ("Impending doom" describes, to a tee, how I had been perceiving my return.)

Now I'm trying to think of it as just another activity that I'll be doing on weekdays. I'll still get up in the morning and cuddle my little bean, and nurse her and feed her breakfast and get her dressed. But, instead of being the one to put her down for her morning nap, I'll let her daddy do it, and I'll go out for the day (to work). I'm sure I'll miss her during the day when I'm not busy, but I'll be home before 5 o'clock most days, so we'll still have plenty of time in the evenings (she goes to bed ~9:30 pm). I'll miss 2-3 feeds while I'm at work, so I intend to pump so that she can take it by sippy cup or bottle.

So, why has this upcoming employment interrupted my blogging routine? Well, I guess in a way I'm nesting. I know, it makes it sound as if I'm about to go into labour again, but it makes sense that I'd be nesting again. I'm rushing around trying to tie up all the loose ends before things get really busy. My to-do list is a mile long and so it leaves little time for blogging. I hope to continue to write posts, but please forgive me if they are not as regular as they once were.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Confessions of a Doubtful Dietitian

First off, let it be known that I respect Canada's Food Guide and its creators. I know if by heart and agree with its messaging. In fact, when I reach for a snack, I do a mental tally of all of my food group servings that I've had so far in order to decide which food groups will make up my snack. Yes, I am, admittedly, a total nutrition nerd. But, you already knew that.

What I am here to confess, however, is that while I respect the food guide and use it myself, I don't think it is a great tool for the general public (gasp!). Sure, I use it as a point of conversation with clients, and I have a stack available to offer, but it is not, by any means, my flagship communication tool.

I would love to tell you why (and I will), but first I must explain what provoked this post.

Usually I like to keep opinions like this to myself. Not because I'm not comfortable with my opinion, but because I have a fear of offending other dietitians (or of making them think I'm some crackpot dietitian that doesn't have a clue). However, this morning I read a blog post by Dr. Arya Sharma about the new US food guide. Yes, he, too, blogged about the new MyPlate that I talked about just last week. However, the title of his post was: "Plate or Pyramid - Why Nobody Really Cares About Nutrition Guides." I have to admit that when I saw the subject line in my inbox, I thought "Whoa! That's a bold statement!" And it is! But then I read the post and watched the accompanying video, and all I could think was "Finally! Someone else agrees with me!"

It's not that food guides are a bad idea. They just aren't the solution to the core problem of why people don't eat healthfully. It's not that people think the foods listed in the guides are bad, it's just that the food guides don't make it any easier to eat well. Food guides are sort of akin to flossing. We all know we should floss daily, but how many people do? (Yes, some of us do, but not that many of us!) Yep, we all know we should have so many servings of this, this, and that, but how many of us ACTUALLY do?

I think one of the biggest issues with the food guides is (as Dr. Sharma notes in the video) that dietitians often don't see the design flaws of the food guides. Why? Because we're nutrition nerds! It seems logical to us to tally our servings, because that's what we're trained to do! THAT IS NOT NORMAL!!!! Lovely if it were, but it just isn't!

The solution? I wish I had it. Perhaps what we really need is to have a non-"nutrition nerd" create a "food guide," and to have some liberal dietitians proofread it. Maybe we need a food psychologist to help. I don't know, but I do know that current food guides just aren't fresh and sexy enough to get people to pay attention.

So, assuming you don't have a food guide hanging on your fridge, here's my best advice to you:
Eat fresh foods. The fresher the better; the closer to the farm, the better.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Collapse of the Food Pyramid

Yesterday the USDA unveiled their new food guide. Previously, the recommended food pattern for Americans was represented by a pyramid. However, as you'll read in the all the news articles, many found the pyramid confusing. Take a look below:

The new "food guide" is based on a plate model - something that I have used extensively in teaching healthy eating principles to clients. The idea behind the plate model is that it is less abstract, so it's easier to translate healthy eating recommendations into practice. Take a look below for the new guide, also known as "MyPlate."

A pretty simple principle, really. Load up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, then finish off with a protein source and some whole grains on the other half. Top it all off with a glass of milk or alternative, and you've got a balanced meal. Does this sound like something you do at home? I hope so, but the reality is that it's not what most people do. However, it's never too late to start.

Here are my best tips:

1) Prepare more than one type of veg if you want to make your plate half veggies. For example, cook a vegetable, such as asparagus, and then have some raw veggie sticks or salad as well.

2) Add fruit to your salads or your main meal. For example, throw some apple slices or mandarin orange segments on your salad. Raisins are fantastic when added to couscous, quinoa, or rice.

3) Put the veggies on your plate first. If you put the protein and grains on your plate first, you're unlikely to leave enough space for your veggies. Fill up half your plate with the veggies first, then go from there.

4) You've heard it from me before, but here we go again! If you're not going to have a milk or alternative as your mealtime beverage, just have water. No pop, coffee, tea, or juice at meals.

In case all this talk of the US food guide has got you wondering what Canada's Food Guide looks like these days, here's a preview (for the full guide, go to the Health Canada website):