Bourdain: Reason 9999 I love New York City

I can’t wait until I meet Anthony Bourdain, its going to be a hoot and we are just going to hit it off. Until then, I’ll post about Tony’s journey from the kitchen to social issues. One of my favorite shows ever is “Parts Unknown.” I was fairly easily able to find a transcript of one of the most interesting episodes that highlights life in Mexico and struggles faced there. I know this article doesn’t specifically address health. However, there is something to be learned about the ease in which he is able to jump from something that can be considered more trivial, or less serious, like street food, to deeply rooted societal social issues. Here is a Washington Post article he wrote on his episode on Iran and I really enjoyed his Beirut article. He is the master storyteller, and if he could ever incorporate or tackle health issues, it would be amazing.

The one thing that is definitely health related is the food he showcases. As I’ve learned in class, often immigrants from across the globe come with protective factors, or otherwise known as behaviors that promote health. Often the ways foods are prepared and ingredients used are all local, but more importantly, they are super healthy. Once different groups come here, they lose these traditions, and sometimes end up eating really unhealthy fast food, simply because that is what is around, cheap and available. Bourdain does show there are other ways to healthy eating, that help to decrease obesity and show alternatives to the unhealthy food preparation techniques commonly used here in the US.

Make breakfast a priority

I have been volunteering at a nearby charter school and love it. Its so interesting to learn about their wildy diverse and challenging circuluum and to get a break from school work to make others do school work. However, I still haven’t learned much about their school meals or nutrition. I asked some students during my last visit  what they had for lunch and they reported options were pizza and some sort of veggie tofu option, so it looks like the school is on the right track.  Alas, the tofu w/ veg option was accompanied with a look of disgust.

I saw this interesting article on providing school breakfast to children. The most important take away I think is that no breakfast is always the worst option and promotes obesity. This seems to be proven again and again in study after study.

Everyone should always make room for breakfast. Here is a quick review of why breakfast is crucial and some tips on making it a part of your routine from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Veggies shaken not stirred

Since I had three people ask me about my smoothie last Tuesday I figured I would post about it. I get the best smoothies from Nussbaum and Wu and they are super delish. I ask for kale, spinach, a whole banana, 4 pieces of mango, plain yogurt and blueberries. If I’m ever stressed or feel like snacking, I always pop in to get a smoothie. Its funny because when you are stressed your body craves unhealthy snacks, but what you actually need at that moment is something hyper healthful. I’ve read countless articles about nutrition, but here are a few of my favorite topics. Here are two great articles linking nutrition to mental health Huffington Post and Washington Post. Nutrition is probably the most important thing you can monitor every day and that can dictate much of your health status.

 

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Weightymatters matters

I wanted to do an individual post about the Weigthymatters blog. Here Professor and MD, Yoni Freedhoff, covers behavior change,  policies and the commercial food industry.

Simply by checking out his site I was able to find other well maintained blogs.

  • Science Based Medicine serves a more of a watch dog on health and medical related news and events.
  • Fooducate also has an excellent blog that is updated daily. It even goes a step further to provide a diet tracking tool, an internal rating system for various foods and healthy eating suggestions.

Parents can sneak in good eating habits

Another thing that surprised me about NYC was the number of young children and infants floating around the UWS. With the busy and hectic lives of NYC parents, I think that teaching strong eating behaviors is necessary. Living in a city that runs on convenience and has unhealthy food options everywhere,  children need to learn how to make the right choices. This is a great NPR article on creating consistency in a young child’s diet.

A second quick and easy read can be found on Wiki. This article highlights steps parents can take with children who are a bit older.

Time and Weightymatters get it right

Readers should always be skeptical of health studies. It seems like every time I open any news outlet there there is a new finding. Like high fat is good for you, coffee is bad for you.  One of my professors has said when reading about data findings, always see who is publishing or funding the study and what the motivation may be behind the findings. In this post I wanted to highlight two studies that are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Time does an excellent job of reporting on and discussing a recent study on Diet Coke. Not only do they say the number of people and the ages, they also include excellent background information. They include multiple studies to reinforce the first study. Additionally, they give tips on how to cut back on soda, and help provide context. They lists the severe consequences to weight gain that it is beyond just cosmetic reasons. Also, it includes biologically what happens to to body after ingesting soda and the complicated relationship you can have with these “fake”healthy options.

I think the worst part is that this is particularly harmful to those over 60, who are not only likely to be dealing with age related alignments, a decreasing metabolism, leaving them even more vulnerable. Particularly that people may be trying to make better decisions with low calorie options, but in the long run setting themselves up for failure.

In contrast, here is another beverage study about Welch’s grapefruit juice in a blog post by Weighty Matters. The sample size is 25, of 19 are mothers who work. This sample size is not only too small but they are most likely using a demographic that they are attempting to market. My professor says for market research a study should be at least 100, at the minimum. Here are some guidelines I found on Health study sample sizes. Additionally the Calorie Control Council has an incredibly deceiving name. It sounds like its a health or diet task force, but no, it is a lobby for low calorie drinks.

The author does an excellent critique of the study which of 25 participants who begin to drink grape juice for 12 months. From this limited sample, they made a huge leap stating that he took verbatim from a press release, “New research by the University of Leeds in the UK suggests that drinking Concord grape juice daily can benefit certain aspects of memory and everyday tasks in people with stressful lifestyles – specifically working mothers.”

The company closes out by including Welch’s history and that it has been around for 150 years. Not only is this a plug, but its trying to establish credibility from the fact its been around for a while. None of this is relevant to the presented information. The upside is if companies do present information like this, its easier to spot illegitimate studies.

There is nothing wrong with drinking Diet Coke or Welch’s but the discussion needs to be re-framed, and these drinks should be considered a treat, or used for special occasions. People should not be lead to believe if they began to drink diet coke, or grape juice that they are it is in some way, “ beneficial” as this article states the company claims. I do believe there should be room for these products on the counter, however, there should be better marketing guidelines on how products are marketed, especially when produced in tandem with health studies.

 

Isle Health

Here is an excellent podcast that highly resonates with me as I love the idea of using traditional marketing techniques for good. Here research on shopping behavior is used to influence buyers’ decisions while shopping. Examples include where to place products, use of descriptive words over generic, pairing frozen meals with frozen veggies, effective use of lighting, and signage techniques. This article has always stuck with me as it is one of the main reasons behind foregoing a masters degree in public health. If you can’t beat them, join them. From previous coursework, it seemed like marketing always had the latest and greatest information. It seemed the best route to making the most difference.

 

My favorite part of this article is that this is simply a common sense approach. Both customer and grocer benefit. 
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I wanted to highlight this because this is something I see constantly in New York City. As both big chains (above) and small groceries (below) are doing this, whether it is intentional or not. I can’t think of a better use of space or better place than NYC to use this technique.  Just another reason why city living can be surprisingly healthful.

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#marketing#produce#lightscameraaction#NYC

What is a food desert?

 

I, myself, was not familiar with this term until I read an article a few years back.  Very often eating healthfully is framed in a way that requires extreme discipline and self control, putting the onus on the individual. It is framed, simply, to just eat less to lower the amount of calories you are getting. However, there are structural and environmental obstacles to eating and choosing healthy, like access to healthy foods. Food deserts can be described as areas that don’t have enough easily accessible, healthy food options. To get a sense of how common this term is I polled 4 friends at dinner last night to see if they were familiar with this term. As I suspected, only one had heard of this term before.  As I dug a little deeper I found some interesting stuff.

The USDA website has a resources that allows you to find food deserts. There is a map that allows you to enter geographical information to find areas classified as food deserts, based on low access to food and low income.  As I entered a nearby NYC zipcode, I had no idea I would be so close to a zone as 125 and Broadway are extremely busy hubs of activity.  There is was at 126 and Morningside,  a food desert. Just to give some context, this is only a few blocks from Columbia. This goes to show something could be happening right next to you and you don’t even realize it.