Who banned my soda pop?

Who banned my soda pop?

Some governments say citizens can’t be trusted to make the right nutritional choices. So how far should they go in trying legislate better health?

In the article Who banned my soda pop?  written by Ivor Tossell and published in May 22 2010 in the Globe and mail, the City of Toronto has decided that – on its own property, at least – choice is something its citizens are better off without. Hoping to prod its children into better eating habits, the city is planning to banish pop and energy drinks from vending machines in its community centres and arenas.

As I commented in the Letters to the editor published in May 25 in the Globe and mail, this article pleads for individual freedom of choice rather than for a healthy environment.

While I agree that healthy food and drinks should be at least as available as junk food and sweetened beverages, and not the inverse and even preferably more, it is not the case now with the invasion of fast food chains at every street corner. It is unbalanced and unfair.

Here, as a rule, there is no real choice for the individual at arenas. It is junk food or nothing. The movement we are now seeing with the new Toronto rules of eliminating fast food and sweetened beverages from city services and arenas should be applauded because it is a measure to give back to the population a better and healthier food environment in areas where we can decide on the kinds of food offered.

Not the food industry. Not for economical reasons. Health must always come first when it comes to offering public services.

If there is any criticism to be made on Toronto’s new rules, it is the fact that this policy is not being implemented progressively over time which would permit people to accept the new rules and adjust their food choices to them.

A progressive approach of environmental food changes and the appropriate education proved very successful with teenagers in a high school in Quebec City. This program which I initiated 6 years ago now served as a role model for other schools to follow in accordance with Quebec government policy regarding food in schools.

The economical approach is an alternative to the environmental approach in order to promote the decrease of sweetened beverages consumption and to promote instead the consumption of healthier drinks like milk and water. Is I mentionned in an interview in the French magazine « Protégez-vous« , in the May edition, the taxation of sweetened beverages and junk food could have a real impact on health and consumption only if there is an equivalent investment in making a better and cheaper availability of healthy food and drinks in our environment.

Eating Breakfast while Travelling

Eating Breakfast while Travelling

When traveling, there are many options when it comes to time to consider having breakfast. The one provided at your hotel is not necessarily the best choice. But sometimes it is, like the one I have this week in Stockholm during the International Conference on Obesity (ICO 2010).

Eating breakfast every day has been demonstrated to be a good strategy and determinant for weight control management 1. It helps to feel full because breakfast can easily be an equilibrate meal composed usually by nutritious foods like whole grain cereals, dairy products, eggs and fruits. Those who skip breakfast easily over compensate the rest of the day by eating much more, leading to weight gain and eventually to obesity.

When we travel, there are many options for eating breakfast. You can buy foods at the grocery stores, eat in a coffe shop in town or you can take the breakfast served at the hotel, which is included or not with your room price. It is usually a simple continental breakfast (muffin, american style coffee, and sweetened juice), but sometimes it could be a buffet style.

During my trip to Amsterdam last week,  (readers will remember I then blogued about Healthy Fast Food), I chose to buy at the grocery stores healthy foods that I put in the mini fridge available at my hotel. The reason was simple; the extra charge by the hotel for breakfast was outrages.  This week, I had the opportunity to have access to a buffet breakfast included in my room’s price.

I was quite impress with the variety of foods available at the breakfast buffet at the Rica Talk Hotel restaurant. Wow! I was particularly pleased with the cereals stand. There was 7 different kinds of cereals including muesli, granola, and other whole grain cereals. There was also many bols containing seeds like sunflower seeds, flax seeds (good source of omega-3 fatty acids, click here for more info), almonds and nuts; including also dry fruits like apricots, bananas, pineapple and prunes. (see image at the top)

What about yogourt? No less than 5 different flavours including vanilla and 1 unflavored-unsweetened nature kind offered.

It was a very good opportunity to try mixing different kinds of cereals with seeds, nuts and yogourt for a very nutritious meal.

This is without talking to you about the fruit salad, mushrooms (delicious), cooked tomatoes with onions, the salad bar;  and also different kinds of whole grains bread, and fortunately all the kind of coffee you wish (expresso, makiato, latte).

As a protein source, there was many kind of cheese, eggs (scrambled or boiled) and even fish (Swedish speciality). It would be however preferable to go easy with the sausages, the bacon and other processed meats…

In these circumstances, I recommend that :
-You  give up the orange juice and rather choose the fresh fruit salad.
-You should try other kind of cereals than the Corn Flakes, also offer!
-If you have heard about flax seeds, it is the occasion to try it with your cereals.
-And who said that white bread taste good?? I do not believe you! Or it is because you have not eaten quality 100% whole wheat bread and other grains like the ones offer for breakfast at this buffet.

The danger with such a nice breakfast buffet, it is to be tempted to taste everything, which could lead you to overeating. It is ok if you intend to have a light lunch the next meal. Otherwise it could be part of a challenging food environment.

Deshmukh-Taskar PR, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Keast DR, Radcliffe JD, Cho S.

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jun;110(6):869-78.

Healthy Fast Food while Travelling

Healthy Fast Food while Travelling

There are special occasions during which energy balance is difficult to manage and consequently makes you gain weight and put you at risk to become overweight or even obese.

You can think to stressful time like a divorce or the death of a close relative.  For other people, the Christmas period is difficult because there are so many occasions to celebrate with an abundant quantity of foods that are considered like special treats this time period of the year allows. 
These situations are associated with a psychological trait called disinhibition. It consists at becoming vulnerable to the temptations provided by the food environment and stress situations.  The person is susceptible to eat foods considerably because it is difficult in these situations to be on control of our emotions and food intake, especially when food is abundant, readily available and appealing.
In my case, I have a problem with food intake control during summer holidays, especially when I travel. This is the time of the year when I give up on structured schedule, discipline and hard work. It’s time to take care of myself  and having good time. And food is really a pleasure I enjoy when traveling. I put my weight management control off,  and let me easily yield to temptations. Most time of the year, I succeed to manage my weight. But not during vacations. I can easily put 3 to 5 pounds of body weight during that short period.
This year, I just can not afford it, because I have already put extra pounds recently.  It would then be unacceptable to put more weight on my body. I just have no what so ever room for manoeuvre this time.
Then how can I manage that? 
I can go to restaurant and order only one plate instead of the “table d’hôte”. You may also have a light lunch by buying a sandwich along with a fresh fruit that you could eat in a park. After a couple of days, you may be missing some foods that are usually part of your diet but not by eating at restaurant all the time. It is the case for vegetables. Plates in restaurant serve often a small portion of veggies. One trick is to rely on a big salad once in a while.
During my trip to Amsterdam this year, I managed to be very active physically by renting a bike, a subject that I blogged previously.   
I also found a convenient fast food restaurant where I could get three portions of vegetables with some meat for only few Euros. It is called “Wok for a walk”. A cup of nice and fresh veggies are cooked stir fried in a wok with one egg and a portion of unprocessed meat (chicken, beef or pork). It is then served on a plate coming with a real fork. You can then enjoy it seated inside or on a terrace outside. You may also want to take it out with you. In this case I chose the item in the menu that would have a double portion of veggies which replace one portion of rice or noodles. Ask the chef to ease up with the sauce that is quite high in salt.
I was also please last year during a trip to Last Vegas when I stopped to Panda Express, coming with a similar wok fast food dishes. For a better healthy choice, go with the complete Wok Smart Meal. 
The alternate choice is called Maoz Vegetarian, a chain of falafel fast food restaurants which opened first in Amsterdam in 1991, serving purely vegetarian fare.  As long as you do not add the French Fries to your menu! 

Any comments about your own experiences when travelling?