The Stanford Report – Much To Do Over Nothing

So I learned of the Stanford report in the NY Times claiming organic food is no healthier than conventional, from a friend who forwarded it to me after her father (a doctor) sent it to her.  She wanted to know what I thought given my advocacy for children and families eating organic.  I didn’t get too worked up but said the study actually says pesticides were found at higher levels than conventional, and acknowledged most people if feeding children would err on the side of caution.

The fact that the nutritional value is the same is not surprising or new.  An apple is an apple.  There would be the same nutrients and vitamins.  However the difference, and I think importance, is the levels of pesticides and chemicals.  Thus an apple with pesticide is different than one without. It seems more of a food safety issue than a nutritional one.

I made a sarcastic remark to my  friend’s father  (not an organic advocate) that trusting the FDA in terms of pesticide safety levels would be like going back to days of the FDA saying smoking wasn’t bad for you and colleges passed them out in dorms (that’s when my mom smoked).  Now ironically one of the scientists in the study is being criticized for conducting studies for tobacco companies 35 years ago.  Ironic?  Coincidence?  Also I found it interesting that a day after I read the Stanford study there was a new EPA ban on an apple pesticide, azinphos-methyl (AZM), also known as Guthion.  So we are learning and hopefully moving ahead.  I wish the study had been about something more current and relevant to the pesticide and GMO issue rather than nutrition.  Today there was a good rebuttal in the LA Times about the controversy and where some stand – notable are Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan.  The fact that there’s a petition by to discredit the Stanford study seems silly and unjust.  The findings are the findings whether you agree or think they should’ve been done differently.  I like many of’s petitions, but I’m not signing this one.






New US Dietary Guidelines – Goodbye Pyramid, Hello Plate

The nineteen year old food pyramid has been toppled.  The US Dietary Guidelines have just been released and the new icon is (wait for it)……

a dinner plate.  What could be more simple and straight forward? (Really it cost $2 million to create?)

Anyone remember the last “My Pyramid”?  Easy to forget as their was so much going on with it.


The new icon makes it clear that fruits and veggies should make up half of your meal, while protein is the smallest part of the plate. The grain portion is a bit larger and still offers the advice to “make half your grains whole.” Some nutritionists say leaves too much room for less healthy refined grains such as white rice and white bread.  Anyways this seems a step in the right direction and certainly a big departure from the first guidelines from the 1950’s when food was more scarce (and governement wanted to be sure you were getting enough nutrients) to the 1980’s when the abundance of food became the problem.

The White House is spearheading the launch of the icon, aimed at boosting awareness of new federal dietary guidelines issued in January. The easier to understand icon goes along with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-obesity initiative, and will be seen everywhere from restaurants, schools, workplaces and grocery stores.

The six main points of the new guidelines include:

1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

2. Avoid supersized portions

3. Enjoy tasty meals but eat less

4. Switch to low-fat or fat free dairy products

5. Read labels and pick foods with less sodium

6. quench thrist with water instead of sweet drinks

See more details and read entire story on Healthline here.

I for one am in favor of the new icon and nutrition education and am glad the message is more current, and getting clearer from our government.  Let’s hope people pay attention to the advice.



Books Reviewed – Calling Parents and Geeks

I’ve been getting a steady stream of books and a few have stood out in terms of offering some good information, while also having recipes as well.  I wouldn’t call them cookbooks, but they are informative books about food.

Beter Food for Kids by Joanne Saab, RD and Daina Kalnins, MSC, RD (of Canada;s Hospital for Sick Children) is rich with information about nutrition for kids ages 2 to 10.  There’s everything from reading food labels, to how much vitamins and nutrients are in which foods, to food allergies and safe food handling practices.  This book also has quite a few recipes (over 200) for snacks, and mealtimes throughout the day.  The quinoa with broccoli and chocolate chip squares were well received at my house.  Note: The health standards are Canadian, not American.

Pros: Lots of quick and easy recipes and nutritional info for each.  Most information is presented clearly with helpful charts.  Great for parents with children with nutrition issues, and those who want a real guide about vitamins and nutrients.  I’m a sucker for books that advocate healthy eating habits for kids.

Cons: Dissappointed the book does not advocate for organics and takes a government line that food manufacturers are honest (“Manufacturers of food products cannot make claims about their products unless they are proven to be true” – maybe this is true in Canada, but not in the US).

Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter is a for those who want to know the how’s and why’s about food and cooking.  This is for someone who wants to go outside a recipe and create their own combinations, experiements and inventions in the kitchen.  Want to know the physiology of taste and smell?  Want to know the temperature when sugar carmelizes?  Anyone for molecular gastromomy?

Pros: Good for those with food science questions, who need more info than a cookbook.  Lots of recipes as examples to tips and experiments to test your new knowledge (and make good food).  Interesting interviews with food experts in many fields.  Good reference to have on hand, if have food question.

Cons: Not for everyone.  Small print and lots (sometimes too much) of information.  Wish the pictures were sometimes bigger or in color to stand out.  For this type of book, I prefer the simple layout and presentation of Harold McGee’s, On Food and Cooking.


Hos“pitiful” Food

From Lisa Barnes

Until recently I had only been in the hospital for two reasons – the birth of my son and the birth of my daughter. I remember the hospital food to be pretty decent. There were even two menus of food choices. One was a standard chicken, pasta, and sandwiches. The other menu was Asian with jook, noodles and stir fry. I switched up my entree choices, but once I tried the green tea ice cream, I was hooked. I had it with every meal. It was just the right of sweet and smoke and a lovely sage color.

The last night of the hospital stay in the maternity ward was called “Date Night”. There was a special menu including steak, greens and creme brulee for two. A table for two was set in the room with linens and candles. And our newborn was whisked away to the nursery. It really was a nice dinner and the hospital made a big effort to make you feel like you were on a date. I appreciated the uninterrupted meal even more once my husband and I were home with the new baby as we discovered what so many parents call the “witching hour”. This is the time you set your dinner plate on the table and your baby starts to wail (no matter what the hour).

When I found myself heading to the hospital (not maternity ward) this time I thought, “at least I’ll have my green tea ice cream”. I was wrong. Apparently the “healthy pregnant” people get the good food and the sick people get the left-overs. O.K. I wasn’t expecting local sustainable organics but I was shocked to see so many processed foods loaded with partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colorings and flavorings. My full liquid tray consisted of low fat milk (not organic), coffee (decaf, regular, who knows?), Swiss Miss egg custard (a huge list of offensive ingredients), cranberry juice “cocktail” and a bowl of very mushy and gelatinous oatmeal. (see my post for a yummy organic oatmeal option).

I’ve always advocated for children’s developing bodies and brains to get the healthiest organic foods. But shouldn’t hospitals be ground zero for providing and teaching about whole healthy foods? Whether it’s a new life or an older one we trust hospitals to make us better, not add to health problems. I know it’s expensive but so is healthcare. A $3,000 night in a hospital can’t include some thoughtfully prepared veggies, soups, and grains? A hotel couldn’t operate with such substandard food. I guess hospitals know the patients have no choice and it’s not an “amenity”. Food as a necessity means they can cut costs and take short-cuts.

I’m going to need to research. I know I’ve read about some hospitals making a better effort for nutrition and food service. If Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver are increasing nutrition awareness and culinary curriculum for children in schools, who’s doing the same for patients across the country in hospitals?
See also The Top Ten Green Hospitals (National Geographic Green Guide)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: National Geographic Green Guide |
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