This week I was handed the honor of writing my company’s monthly blog post on the Department of Health and Human Services Be Active Your Way Blog. I decided to write about health literacy month (that’s this month), and started thinking about ways to help people better understand nutrition information. Health literacy is often discussed in terms of medical diagnoses and clinical treatments, but I think it has relevance here too. I mean, if I discussed all that was wrong with the food label, I wouldn’t have any time to make my point. So I’ll just say that it is confusing to many Americans for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s actually very difficult for a lot of people to quantify calorie information. That 200 calories always looks so innocent on the food label until you realize you just wasted 10% of your calorie budget on 12 tortilla chips.
The FDA is working on updating the food label, with new features such as realistic portion sizes (unless you think eating 1/3 of a candy bar at a time is realistic) and a new “added sugar” line, so consumers could see how much sugar occurs naturally in an item and how much is added to
get you addicted to that food improve the product for consumers. But those changes don’t make calories on a label any easier to understand in real world context.
But there may be some new hope. This week a study published in the American Journal of Public Health used placement of signs in West Baltimore corner stores with messaging like “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?” or “Did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about five miles of walking?” to assess the impact of using exercise data on customer behavior. The signs worked, resulting in fewer purchases of soda or juice and more purchases of smaller portion sizes – meaning more people chose the 12 ounce can over the 20 ounce bottle. These findings corroborated other research (like here and here) demonstrating a similar effect. Brilliant! Help people understand the context of the food/beverage they are having by quantifying calories as the activity required to burn them off.
So what would happen if all food labels included a line on exercise? Well, I’d like to think this bonus information would translate to more people understanding their food label. I’d like to think that would lead to a decline in the portion and amount of sugar sweetened beverage, fast food, sweets, and junk food Americans ate. I’d like to think it would help them choose fruit, jerky, or nuts over other less healthful options. Or that more people would visit their gyms more often, as they make the informed choice to enjoy a cupcake at lunch and pay for it with an afternoon WOD or run or whatever activity they enjoy.
I also see problems with this idea. Namely:
- It would cost companies a lot of money to change their labels, and time to research the new information (and the companies would fight back viciously).
- Your body needs calories – not everything needs to be “burned off” with exercise (your body will take care of some of that by simply functioning).
- It could backfire in helping people choose healthy options – I certainly wouldn’t want someone to choose crackers over almonds for a snack because it takes less time to “walk it off” a portion.
- Implications for people with disordered eating or diagnosed eating disorders – this kind of information could compel someone struggling with their body image to feel as though they are being told “you must exercise more” whenever they eat something. And with eating disorders on the rise in young people, this is a big concern.
- These levels are just estimates – the amount of energy a person burns off doing a given activity varies by age, weight, and other factors. (The estimate used in the study were based on 15 year old boys weighing 110 lbs).
- This extra label does not provide any information about macronutrient makeup, vitamins, or other factors that make one food a healthier option than another.
So what do you think? Personally, if this was ever implemented, I’d really only like to see it on certain foods – like soda, chips, candy, etc. I think putting this information on bread, chicken breast, or frozen vegetables is over-kill. But in certain contexts I think this information could be very helpful – especially for those with minimal baseline nutrition knowledge, and kids and teens.
You can read my original post on the HHS Blog, and share your thoughts to comments!
Photo c/o Dave Whelan https://www.flickr.com/photos/djwhelan/
28 Oct 2014
Who’s ready for a little Halloween fun? This Friday, we’ll have a little Halloween Party at 7:30 PM. Food and refreshments will be BYO (although there will likely be a group ordering BBQ from SoulFire) and costumes are mandatory!
Also, Joe Mathias will be performing with the Boston Philharmonic at Symphony Hall on Sunday, November 9th at 2 PM. The guest soloist will be Natalia Gutman, who I’ve actually seen play and she’s incredible! Click here for concert details. Here is a note from Joe!
Hello all,I would like to invite you to attend a spectacular concert that I will be playing in with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. We will be playing in Symphony Hall on November 9th in the afternoon. It is one of the best youth orchestras in the world and the show will surely be a wonderful experience. I hope that you can make it, you will see me with a large clarinet in the middle of the orchestra.I have included the link to the concert here: http://www.bostonphil.org/concerts/november-0and if you would like to learn more about the orchestra here is another link: http://www.bostonphil.org/bpyo/about-bpyoThanks!Joe
Peace and bacon grease,
22 Oct 2014
I realize I (and many others in the health/wellness field) talk about fiber a lot, usually in general terms. We say things like “fiber is important for weight loss/maintenance because it helps keep you full” and “fiber helps you stay regular”.Supplements like Metamucil and benefiber and food brands like Fiber One capitalize on the health effects of fiber (although as a side note I wouldnt recommend Fiber One bars be your main source of it). But fiber can be a little more complex than that.
The Two Types of FIber
There are two types of five – soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber – this type of fiber that slows digestion and may help lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber attracts water and becomes a gel during digestion. You can find it in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, fiber supplements.
- Insoluble fiber – this type of fiber adds bulk to stool and helps move it through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber also attracts water, and is the fiber that “keeps you regular”. People who are constipated would benefit from more insoluble fiber. You can get insoluble fiber from wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grain.
How Much Do You Need?
The recommended in take is 38 grams for men under 50 and 25 grams for women under 50. Men and women over 50 need 30 and 21 grams respectively.
If you’re eating a healthful diet high in fruits and vegetables and mostly whole grains over white grains, you are likely getting enough fiber. For example, eating a banana (3 g), 2 cups of broccoli (5 g), 1 sweet potato (5 g), an apple (4 g), oatmeal with dried fruit (6 g), and an ounce of almonds (3 g) in a day, you’d exceed the recommendations for women.
21 Oct 2014
I’d like to invite everyone to Afternoon Tea at 4 PM on Sunday, November 2nd, when we’ll be taking on Linda, aka “Three Bars of Death.
“Linda” aka “Three bars of Death”
Deadlift: 1 1/2 body weight
Bench press: body weight
Clean: 3/4 body weight
Set up three bars & storm through for time!
Think you’re so good at double-unders that you don’t need to go to the jumpNrope Double Under Seminar that’s being held at the box this Friday, October 17th from 5:30-7:30 PM? Well, here’s one of the WODs (or similar) that will be featured in our next Team Throwdown on Saturday, January 31st 2015:
Isn’t This Really a Triplet?!
Buy-In: Unbroken double-unders each partner 30 Rx/5 scaled
Burpee-box jumps 20″ Rx/step-ups permitted scaled
1. Only one athlete may work at a time
2. Both athletes must complete their double-unders UNBROKEN before moving on to burpee-box-jumps
3. Score will be number of burpee-box jumps performed
As promised, unbroken double-unders are REQUIRED, even in the scaled division, so definitely sign up for the double-under seminar! You’ve got more than three months to get and perfect double-unders! Missed the registration link for the throwdown? HERE IT IS!
Peace and Taiwanese bacon grease,
08 Oct 2014
Different seasons mean different things to everyone: fall is college football, summer is beach season, and winter is marked by the Holidays (or if you’re a Floridian in Boston, by infinite cold and misery with skiing mixed in). Food used to be the same way. Have you ever noticed that Strawberries are best in the summer, that all of a sudden come September there are about 10 more varieties of apples available in the super market, and that there are tons of fun and weird looking gourds from October through February? Nowadays you can get most fruits and vegetables year round, imported from almost anywhere in the world, but once upon a time different seasons meant different fruits and vegetables, and if you wanted Strawberries in December, you had to can them. Here are a few reasons why the old way was better, why eating seasonal produce, preferably locally grown, is better for both you and the environment.
- Nutritional value - Fruits and vegetables have the most nutritional value (i.e. vitamins and minerals) when they are ripened on the stem and then picked. However, when they come from places far away, they are picked before ripeness and ripen along the way. So while they may gain color and size, they won’t gain nutritional value. This is one reason many people argue that fruits and vegetables don’t have the same nutritional content as they did 50 or 100 years ago.
- Cost - Seasonal produce is often cheaper for two reasons. For one, it grows more naturally in season and so requires less labor intensive care. Second, it often comes from a source closer to home. It’s easy to find USA produced strawberries and cherries in the summer for instance, but in February they all come from Mexico or Chile, which also adds the cost of transportation and gas to your grocery bill.
- Flavor and Taste – Fruits and vegetables taste better when they ripen on the stem versus in the back of a refrigerated truck. Buying seasonal produce means you get the most flavorful and tasty produce.
- Sustainability - This is a big buzz-word lately. But buying local, seasonal produce cuts down on the environmental impact of shipping food several thousand miles. It will also support your local farmer, keeping him in business to continue producing delicious fruit and vegetables.
What’s in Season Now? Right now it’s fall, so that means apples, squash, cherries,
broccoli, endive, cauliflower, garlic, pear, parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, butter lettuce, grapes, and turnips. Visit the Fruits and Veggies: More Matters website for a complete list of spring, summer, fall, winter, and year round vegetables and fruits.
Find a Farmer’s Market! Nearly every city and town in America now has a farmer’s market. In Boston, there’s one at Copley Square Tuesdays and Fridays, one at South Station on Thursdays, one in Allston Village on Saturdays, SOWA on Sundays in the South End, and one right at the corner of Western and North Harvard ave on Friday afternoons.
Or, you can do a Google search or visit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Marketing Service Web Page for a searchable directory of farmer’s markets. Just enter your zip code and search! Markets in Boston should be open another few weeks, usually until November 1.
07 Oct 2014
In lieu of my regularly-scheduled blog programming, I would like to direct your attention our our new events section. You can find it by navigating to: http://crossfitboston.com/events/
There, you will discover a whole bunch of fun, informative, and intoxicating events that will help you make your time at CrossFit Boston more productive and stumble-y.
Want to know how best to fuel for your CrossFit WODs? Go to http://crossfitboston.com/events/ and check out Coach Alex’s nutrition seminar.
Want to learn how to double-under with the pros? Go to: http://crossfitboston.com/events/ and check out the jump rope workshop.
Want to find out the dress code is for our Halloween party that is happening on Friday, October 31st? Go to http://crossfitboston.com/events/ and check out the details for our ultra-spooky shindig!
Want to know when we’re scheduled to move? Go to http://crossfitboston.com/events/ and see our anticipated move date!
Want to know when you’ll get a chance to see the ladies and gentlemen of CFB all fancied up? Yup: http://crossfitboston.com/events/
Want to know when our next THROWDOWN will be? You’ll probably find the answer at: http://crossfitboston.com/events/
Want to know how you can hear a billion erg flywheels all spinning at once? Hmm… Maybe here? http://crossfitboston.com/events/
Want to buy an awesome cast-iron skillet at an awesome price? RIGHT HERE.
Get the point? If you’re in the market for some extracurricular actives at CFB, your first thought should be our new events page! Finally, if you have any events that you would like us to publicize, please feel free to email me (mickeyg@crossfitboston) a quick blurb about the event and an amusing photo that I can include in the event listing, and I’ll do it to the extreme.
Peace and bacon grease,
P.S. If you participated in the throwdown and would like a panda-themed temporary tattoo, hunt me down the next time you see me in the gym.
30 Sep 2014
How much fun was Saturday morning? When we first discussed the idea of having an in-house team throwdown, my goals were twofold: (1) to make sure no one died and (2) to end on time. So far as I know, there were some minor scrapes and bruises suffered on Saturday morning but everyone is still living. And… we also finished up well before our projected 1 PM finish! There are a couple of cool videos posted here and here (video credits to Joseph D. and Tom T.).
In any case, I had a blast and have to make sure to thank all of our sponsors and judges once again. The morning could not have gone more smoothly, thanks to the organizational/judging efforts of Audrey H., Jo B., Angry B., Kari T., CJ J., Rebecca S., Jen B., John Z., and anyone else who I may have left out.
Our sponsors, Via Privé, Progenex, and Race-Pak were also gracious in supplying us with gift certificates, free samples, and fancy wooden boxes filled with goodies! Thanks to Ries, Dan, and Russ for contributing to our fun little event.
In terms of our athletes, I like to joke that this is the throwdown that split up marriages, as many of our members were competing against, rather than with, their wives/husbands! We may have had as many as fifteen first-time CrossFit competitors, which is mind-blowing! Everyone did a great job pushing themselves and their team mates to glory! We had one of our newest members, Daniela C., who had been a member for all of two days battling against Nigel C., who has been a member for at least two decades…
Here are the results, broken down by WOD:
|WOD #1||Squat Cleans||Place||Points|
|Jess T. & Neal T.||61||1||100|
|Cissy Y. & Tolly T.||61||1||100|
|Courtney S. & Crosby B.||55||3||84|
|Daniela C. & Omri.||51||4||78|
|Shannon F. & Mike G.||50||5||72|
|Ali H. & Martin B.||49||6||66|
|Amanda L. & Joseph D.||47||7||60|
|Cori B. & Ron W.||44||8||54|
|Shadi & Megan L.||43||9||48|
|Fernanda N. & Tim B.||41||10||42|
|Sarah W. & Erik B.||41||10||42|
|Carolyn B. & Juan Carlos S.||40||12||36|
|Linh N. & Bob E.||40||12||36|
|Natalie K. & Nigel C.||40||12||36|
|Judith D. & Denis T.||39||15||18|
|Candy S. & Mark P.||36||16||12|
|Cissy Y. & Tolly T.||608||1||100|
|Amanda L. & Joseph D.||590||2||90|
|Natalie K. & Nigel C.||585||3||84|
|Sarah W. & Erik B.||556||4||78|
|Judith D. & Denis T.||534||5||72|
|Fernanda N. & Tim B.||531||6||66|
|Shannon F. & Mike G.||516||7||60|
|Daniela C. & Omri.||501||8||54|
|Shadi & Megan L.||489||9||48|
|Candy S. & Mark P.||467||10||42|
|Jess T. & Neal T.||462||11||36|
|Carolyn B. & Juan Carlos S.||441||12||30|
|Cori B. & Ron W.||430||13||24|
|Linh N. & Bob E.||378||14||18|
|Ali H. & Martin B.||370||15||12|
|Courtney S. & Crosby B.||346||16||6|
|WOD #3||Total Reps|
|Jess T., Neal T., Carolyn B., Dan (RacePak)||1380|
|Shannon F., Mike G., Ali H., Martin B.||1373|
|Daniela C., Omri L., Cori B., Ron W.||1310|
|Natalie K., Nigel C., Judith D., Denis T.||1252|
|Courtney S., Crosby B., Sarah W., Erik B.||1218|
|Amanda L., Joseph D., Candy S., Mark P.||1043|
|Fernanda N., Tim B., Shadi R., Angry B.||951|
|Cissy Y., Tolly T., Linh N., Bob E.||845|
As you can see, the results were all very close, which was one of the desired outcomes! We’ll definitely do this again some time soon, and I’m eyeing January 31st, 2015 as a possible date for our festivities. Regardless of the outcomes, I hope everyone had a good time. Congratulations to everyone who competed and thanks again to every one who helped make this event happen!
By the way, RSVP for our HALLOWEEN PARTY on Friday, October 31st at 7:30 PM.
Peace and bacon grease,
27 Sep 2014
Hey guys, our in-house throwdown is upon us! Just wanted to let you know that we have some team and heat assignment updates. Here they are:
Group A1. Ali H. & Martin B.2. Amanda L. & Joseph D.3. Candy S. & Mark P.4. Carolyn B. & Terence K.5. Daniela C. & Omri.6. Jess T. & Neal T.7. Shadi R. & Megan L.8. Shannon F. & Mike G.Group B1. Cissy Y. & Tolly T.2. Cori B. & Ron W.3. Courtney S. & Crosby B.4. Fernanda N. & Tim B.5. Judith D. & Denis T.6. Linh N. & Bob E.7. Natalie K. & Nigel C.8. Sarah W. & Erik B.
1st place = 100 points2nd place = 90 points3rd place = 84 points4th place = 78 points5th place = 72 points6th place = 66 points7th place = 60 points8th place = 54 points9th place = 4810th place = 4211th place = 3612th place =3013th place = 2414th place =1815th place = 1216th place = 6
24 Sep 2014
It is only the third week of September, and yet so far I have seen the Pumpkin Spice Latte return early, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin beer… you get the idea. And don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin thinks – pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin beer is one of my favorite parts of fall (although if you guys could wait until it was actually a little cool, that would be great -I do not want to drink pumpkin beer in a sundress. End rant), and pumpkin seeds toasted with a little bit of salt and cinnamon are the best fall snack. And pumpkin is pretty good for you, as it is:
- High in key vitamins like vitamin A, C, and B complex
- Low in calories and fat but high in fiber and antioxidants
- Rich in minerals the body needs like copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous
- Seeds are a good source of heart healthy fats
- Seeds are also high in zinc (important for wound healing and immune system strength) and iron
Pumpkin Spice V. Pumpkin
The thing about pumpkin is, it’s not all that delicious raw. It usually needs some salt, sage, or other herb, or on the flip side some cinnamon, sugar, and/or pumpkin pie spice, which is made of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice to make all the delicious pumpkin-y things we love. Which is totally fine – I have no problem with pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, or roasted pumpkin because they actually CONTAIN PUMPKIN.
My philosophical beef is with the pumpkin posers – most importantly the Starbucks “pumpkin spice latte”. The PSL contains espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream, pumpkin pie spices atop that whipped cream, and pumpkin coffee syrup, which contains pure cane sugar, water, natural flavors, citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness), and caramel color. Of course I don’t know what these “natural flavors” are, other than that natural flavors are generally any product of or derived from spices, herbs, vegetables and other things found in nature. So, the only pumpkin thing about the PSL is the pumpkin pie spice on top of the whipped cream, and maybe some derivative of pumpkin or pumpkin pie spices hiding under that “natural flavors” moniker. The PSL is also 380 calories and 49 grams of sugar for a 16 ounce serving. Ouch.
As for pumpkin beer, that’s somewhat in the gray area. According to Beer Advocate, some brewers hand cut pumpkin and drop it in the mash, or use pureed pumpkin, and most brewers use the pumpkin pie spices. It seems other brewers may opt for flavorings instead of real pumpkin.
Get Your Pumpkin On The Right Way
There are lots of delicious and healthy things to make with pumpkin. I have a pumpkin soup recipe that I love making every year. There is a whole Pinterest thread dedicated to paleo/primal things one can make with pumpkin, and as a bonus, roasting the seeds after you’ve used the rest of the pumpkin makes a very tasty snack (there are too many great recipe variations to link to just one, so Google it yourself). Just remember:
- Make it with a real pumpkin
- Avoid adding too much sugar
What pumpkin-y things do you like to make?