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Nutrition Merchandise

For a change of pace this summer, I’ve been working on the entertaining project of creating an online store which contains amusing nutrition merchandise.  I came up with 13 designs with the help of a talented graphic designer named Samm.  I was driving along a couple months ago and chuckled to myself when for no apparent reason, the slogan “I may be drinking the Kool-Aid, but at least it’s sugar free” entered my head.  I thought this would be a funny phrase to have on a T-shirt.

I started thinking about my life as a person who generally likes to eat healthfully.  For much of my life, my healthy behaviors have been viewed by most people I have encountered as either somewhat nerdy, square, or just boring.  I’ve been urged to “live a little” and informed that “we’re all going to die of something” in people’s efforts to impress upon me just how uncomfortable they were with my eating habits.  Never mind that it’s not generally considered polite to make fun of someone who is eating unhealthfully, many don’t hesitate to comment on the other side of the spectrum.  “Is that spinach you got there?  Gross!”  In many a break room I’ve dealt with staff examining my Tupperware containers as if trying to make sense of the soup, stew, or stir fry I had in my container, rivaled by their easily recognizable bag of fast food.  Their eating habits were considered normal, while mine were considered strange.

I did however observe an interesting shift when our company a few years ago implemented an employee wellness program. The program offered monetary incentives to participate in certain wellness behaviors, such as exercise and eating well.  Each site had a wellness leader, who would oversee health activities (a group walk on the lunch break or everyone joining a 5-K walk together).

What really struck me was the shift I saw in even voluntary behaviors.  Whereas it had always been the norm to find boxes of donuts, cookies, and cakes in the break room, those things just sort of disappeared.  When lunches were ordered for meetings, no longer were large amounts of pizza ordered; instead deli sandwiches with salad and fruit as an alternative to the cookie were ordered for all.  And, no one complained.  In fact, if something unhealthy was ordered or placed in the break room, people would actually turn their noses up at it and criticize its presence just as they used to criticize my lentil soup!

Well, I’m sad to say that under new management at that company (at which I’m no longer employed,) the employee wellness program went away (along with a lot of the previous employees) and with it, the healthy culture.  But, it amazed me at how quickly a culture could change.  And, even more amazingly, I have noticed this sort of change starting to occur in this country.  More people than ever are making healthy habits a part of their normal lifestyle.  Junk food is being passed up in favor of healthier snacks.  Health food stores are popping up on more corners; labeling laws are being passed to cater to general health as well as subsets of health within our population, and restaurants are starting to seriously consider reducing the sodium and calorie contents of their menu items, or at least display the nutrition information on the menu.  Awareness is increasing, and the culture is changing from one that scoffed at a healthy lifestyle to now starting to rebuke the unhealthy mentality and way of life.


The essence of my store is this:  products that poke just a slight bit of good-natured fun at those who have not yet embraced a healthy lifestyle, while also displaying pride for those who have.  There are designs that work for adults and kids alike.  For men or women, on T-shirts or bumper stickers.
Please visit, enjoy, and spread the word.  A healthier culture has become viral; you may as well jump aboard!

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Poison or Just Another Sugar?


An article published yesterday by the Huffington Post states that the Corn Refiners Association has applied with the federal government for permission to use the name “corn sugar” on food labels instead of “high-fructose corn syrup” (HFCS).  Over the past 20 years, the consumption of products containing HFCS has declined due to a widespread belief that it is more harmful than regular sugar.  Therefore, manufacturers hope that changing the name will distract consumers from the stigma surrounding HFCS, the harmful affects of which they claim there is little scientific evidence to sustain.


Many people are confused about HFCS, thinking it leads to obesity more so than regular sugar.  This is the claim manufacturers state there is not enough scientific evidence to support, and they are correct.  Dietitians have maintained for years that “a calorie is a calorie” whether it comes from table sugar or HFCS.  But is that really true?  It depends on what you’re talking about.  This old mantra may be oversimplified as although each form of sugar contains 4 calories per gram, their effects on the body and on our risk for chronic disease are very different.


Research tells us that free fructose is bad for us.  Fructose bypasses the metabolic control pathway which regulates sugar’s conversion into fat.  By bypassing the regulatory control, it causes the liver to increase fat production.  This leads to more triglycerides in the bloodstream (free-floating fatty acids, often tested in your cholesterol blood work panel by your doctor) which increases the risk of heart disease.  A high consumption of fructose also increases insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, and uric acid levels which can lead to gout.


Let’s look at some commonly-consumed food items and their sugar breakdown:

1. Fruit – Combination of sucrose (fructose bound to glucose at 50/50 ratio), free fructose and free glucose (bound up in fiber)

2. Cane sugar – made of sucrose which again is fructose and glucose bound together, 50/50

3. HFCS – 55% free fructose and 45% free glucose

4. NEW to the market – Agave Nectar – 90% free fructose

So which is worse for us?  Well I have conveniently listed them in order from best (1) to worst (4).  Although calorie for calorie the sugars are equal, the sugars containing more free fructose will have more harmful affects to our bodies.


Cane sugar does not contain free fructose; rather the fructose is bound to the glucose and therefore does pass through the control pathway of metabolism.  High fructose corn syrup, even though it has essentially the same fructose/glucose ratio as sugar, is worse for you than cane sugar as it contains 55% free fructose.  And interestingly, Agave Nectar which is being marketed as a healthy, “natural” sugar is worst of all for you, with a whopping 90% free fructose.  Fruit, although it contains some free fructose, contains a mixture of other sugars and the free fructose that is present is bound up with fiber, which slows sugar absorption.


Despite what we know about these pathways, the American Medical Association maintains that more research is needed before we have enough evidence to restrict the use of HFCS.  Although there is no ban on  it, many food companies are restricting its use simply because of the stigma attached to it.



My recommendation:  Don’t avoid it like the plague as many people do:  it’s not poison.  If it’s way at the bottom of the ingredient list of a food item that is low in total sugar, you’re probably fine.  A little bit will not overload your liver with fructose, creating massive amounts of fat production.  But I would recommend avoiding foods with high amounts of HFCS or Agave Nectar, or sugary foods in which one of these is the main sweetener. Sodas still use HFCS as the primary sweetener, so that’s a place to start cutting back.  Finally, be aware that we may soon be seeing the phrase “corn sugar” on food labels as a fancy name for HFCS…don’t be fooled!


Try reading the food labels of some of your household products and let me know what you find by commenting below.

Americans Get an “F” in Meeting Fruit/Vegetable Goals


A thought-provoking article I stumbled across today discusses a common problem I see with clients and a nutritional issue that’s consistently overlooked by many Americans. The article, “Most Americans Still Not Eating Enough Fruits, Veggies” posted Sep 9th by Healthy Day News, explains that we have failed in meeting the Healthy People 2010 goals set by our government in 2000 for fruit and vegetable consumption. The goals were as follows:

Healthy People 2010 Goals
75% of adults to eat fruit at least 2 times daily
50% of adults to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables per day

Actually, as reported by the CDC in 2009, 67.5% of adults eat fruit LESS than twice daily. And, 73.7% eat vegetables LESS than 3 times daily.

In fact, despite these efforts fruit consumption has DECREASED 2% over the last decade while vegetable consumption has remained the same.

We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us. Or do we? It seems judging by these numbers that although people know they are, they don’t really know HOW important they are or what they can really do for us. Of course, as the article states, there are barriers for many people to purchasing adequate fruits and vegetables, including the cost of fresh produce, accessibility, and difficulty in carrying them with you during the day.

Eating fruits and vegetables plays a significant role in helping prevent many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. The problem is, these are all consequences that will occur in the future that many of us don’t worry about today. And, we don’t understand how today’s choices really affect our risk.


Another major factor the article briefly touches on is that many people simply don’t like the taste of fruits and vegetables. One reason is exposure…as vegetables little by little get displaced by restaurants and food manufacturers as part of a meal, many children of today are only exposed to the basics…carrots, potatoes, corn, and green beans. They don’t like other vegetables because they’ve never had them! And foreign foods frankly scare us sometimes. Even further, the taste of even the most flavorful fruits and vegetables cannot compare to the more powerful flavors of salt, fat, and concentrated sugars we have become accustomed to in our food supply. Think for a moment of a vegetable you do like, and how it would taste to you before and after you eat a cheeseburger.

This is one area of nutrition where I have personally placed a lot of importance over the years.  I am able to eat about 5 servings of vegetables  every week day (maybe 3 on weekend days) and 2 servings of fruit on most days without much difficulty:  you just have to set up a routine for yourself. When things become automatic, you no longer have to struggle or think about them. And, 3 servings of vegetables is not as much as you may think. 1 serving of vegetables = ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw veggies. So, a large chicken salad for lunch or a generous helping of broccoli with dinner could easily take care of your daily requirement. I get five servings per day by having a large salad of some sort with lunch (I vary them so I don’t get bored) and preparing meals that contain vegetables for dinner, or putting vegetables on the side. Fruit is easy: I have ½ banana, berries, or ¼ cup dried fruit on my cereal, and fruit in the afternoon for a snack. I know this is helping me prevent chronic disease, and I know without a doubt that it is a crucial factor in my weight control. If you don’t like vegetables, try taking 1 bite of the vegetable you don’t like on a day you’re in a good mood. Do this on 7 different occasions, and you will likely find that you no longer dislike the vegetable.

So, Americans must take responsibility for the fate of their own health and improve their own habits. For the next decade, the CDC plans to help out by striving to make the healthy choice the easy choice by promoting farmer’s markets, gardening, and by bringing more fruits and vegetables into schools and the workplace. They may also provide tax incentives for retailers to offer fresh fruits and vegetables.

For the full article, go to

Your thoughts?