25, November 2014 8:51 AM

Sustainability is an issue that lends itself to a broad range of provocative headlines: If Food’s in Plastic, What’s in the Food?...Tuna’s Last Stand…and many more.  Many individuals and organizations have strong and differing opinions about what constitutes sustainable diets. So, it’s hard for consumers to know what foods to include or what foods to avoid in a sustainable and healthy eating pattern. I feel that Dr. Adam Drewnowski, a researcher in this field, said it best: “Truly sustainable diets provide optimal and affordable nutrition to consumers while doing minimal damage to natural resources.  We are still learning what the various trade-offs are.” 

Common Misperceptions About Sustainability
Until research better defines those trade-offs are, there are some common misperceptions that we can confidently correct:

  • Sustainable diets are plant-based only; animal products must be eliminated. Eliminating or avoiding entire food groups is not the solution to preserving a healthy planet or a healthy you.  Moderation is the key. Researchers have demonstrated that sustainability and health can co-exist without the elimination of any of the five food groups. Right-sized portion sizes should be the focus.
  • Decrease intake of processed foods. Minimally-processed foods can have greatly extended shelf lives, enhanced nutrition and improved availability, thus reducing waste and improving overall sustainability. 
  • Sustainable diets include only those foods with low carbon footprints. Looking at the figures for carbon footprint in isolation is misleading. The “cost” of producing the food (carbon footprint) must be balanced with the “dividends” of their nutrient content. Include a wide variety of food group foods each day, including nutrient-rich foods like dairy, meat, fish and eggs.

Waste Not, Want Not
We as consumers can probably make the biggest contribution to sustainable food practices by reducing food waste. Almost one-third of the food available at the consumer and retail levels in the U.S. today is wasted!  Making slight changes to your food purchasing and storage practices can help you be “part of the solution.” Consider the following:

  • Fresh foods are not best if they spoil before you can eat them. Purchase just the amount you and your family can eat before the food spoils. Remember that frozen and canned foods can be nutritious and sustainable additions to your meals
  • Minimize food waste by planning meals in advance and using a shopping list.
  • Whenever possible, buy foods in season, from local sources, with minimal packaging.
  • Compost and recycle food waste.
  • When possible, use reusable food storage containers rather than plastic storage bags.
  • Store leftovers immediately and label with dates. Rotate foods stored in your freezer or pantry so that you use oldest items first…but while they are still safe and good-tasting.
  • Develop creative ways to use leftovers – soups, casseroles, stir frys.

You can support a healthy planet while nurturing a healthy family.  Small changes can make a big difference!

The latest Health Connections Newsletter explores sustainability and nutrition in more detail if you’d like to learn more on this topic. 


Mary Anne Burkman, M.P.H., R.D.N., Senior Director, Program Services

Tags: food group foods Healthy eating healthy eating patterns Mary Anne Burkman nutrition trends
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating categoryNutrition Education

20, November 2014 10:24 AM


Find the answer to the question should I take probiotics in the book gut instincts

My San Jose Dietitian’s book club meet in November to discuss our latest read, Gut Insight by Jo Ann Hattner, MPH, RD and Susan Anderes, MLIS. Our group was very fortunate because book author Jo Ann Hattner was able to attend the meeting. We spent less time reviewing the book and more time learning valuable information from this extremely knowledgeable author!

Before discussing the book, Jo Ann told us the story that lead her to write the book. In an interview with a newspaper she was asked, “What is the healthiest food?” As dietitians, we know that no single food is the secret to health, that healthy dietary patterns are far more important. But since she was pressed to answer the question, she answered yogurt, a food enjoyed around the world that contains many nutrients and live, active cultures known to promote health. Interestingly, this article prompted a book agent from New York to contact her suggesting she write a book. The book agent rejected her book proposal, which didn't deter her. She teamed up with Stanford University medical librarian Susan Anderes and wrote Gut Insight, a book based on scientific evidence and designed for consumers who want to improve their health.

The book is written in everyday language and describes in simple terms the health benefits of probiotics (i.e. non-harmful microorganisms that remain viable during food processing, that survive digestion and bring about a response in the gut that is associated with health benefits) and prebiotics (i.e. non-digestible carbohydrates that come from plant-based foods and benefit gut health in many ways).  

As a nutritionist working at Stanford Medical Center and in her private practice, Jo Ann found that adding foods with probiotics to the daily diets of patients suffering from digestive ills had remarkable results in restoring balance and reducing uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas. In short, in her experience, she found that there are health benefits of probiotics and that probiotics are good for digestion. 

What else did we learn?

  • To attain the health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, you need to eat them every day.

  • By your second birthday, the gut microflora (bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the gut) are set for life. Some researchers refer to this as the “microbiotia fingerprint.” This means the importance of breast feeding and healthy infant/early childhood feeding practices is extremely important for future health.

  • How people respond to the introduction of probiotics is unique and individualized. Consumers benefit from reading food labels, contacting food manufacturers and adjusting consumption of foods with probiotics to get the best results. 

  • Food safety matters. Eating foods with probiotics - or without - before the expiration date will yield the best results. 

  • Jo Ann recommends a "foods first" approach as opposed to relying on supplements.

Overall we agreed with the author on the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, yet recognize consumer frustration in finding probiotic-rich foods with the right quantity and balance of live, active cultures. We also agreed with the "foods first" message since probiotic supplements are quite expensive and users may not take them long term. One caution, the book was published in 2009 and there has been significant research in the area of the gut microbiome since then, however, this book provides an excellent foundation on the topic. 

On a personal level, I was moved by a story in the book about a tactic to avoid colds through the winter. The book recommends beginning the day with a breakfast that includes yogurt with live active cultures (bifidobacteria) and a whole grain cereal.1 Since our meeting was held in November and I really don’t want to get a cold this winter, I've had yogurt, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast every day since our meeting! So far, so good.

This is a great book to read and learn more about the gut health benefits of probiotics and decide for yourself "Should I consume probiotics?" 

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


1. Reid R. So which bacteria did you eat today? 2005, Danone Vitapole DVD video.

Tags: Dietitians Book Review healthy dietary patterns Healthy eating Maureen Bligh Probiotics
Categories: categoryNutrition categoryNutrition Education

19, November 2014 8:00 AM

First-Ever Community Healthy All-Star

We know that there are many unsung heroes working within communities to promote healthy lifestyles. We wanted to highlight them and share their stories to inspire others, so we created the Community Health All-Star awards. A Community Health All-Star is an individual or organization that is making a difference in their community by creating a great impact through nutrition education.

Our first-ever Community Healthy All-Star has been awarded to Ms. Suzy Sayre, Director of Food Services for the El Monte Union High School District.

Suzy Sayre Creates Healthier Students Using Smarter Lunchroom Strategies

Ms. Sayre leads a department of 80 employees while she creates menus, oversees commodities and free and reduced lunch applications and ensures that all health regulations are followed. She manages to do it all with a smile and an emphasis on teamwork. 

Ms. Sayre was recognized with the Community Healthy All-Star award because she has made significant strides throughout her district in making healthy options easy, available and appealing- all the core ideas behind the Smarter Lunchroom Movement. The partnerships she has created will continue to help increase awareness, improve participation and create healthier schools. 

Her success drives her to do more in each school. She is the first one to extol the team efforts behind her work and never takes full credit for her accomplishments. She is working to provide the high school students within her district the very best in school nutrition and has been a leader in applying smarter lunchroom strategies. 

Q + A With Suzy Sayre on Smarter Lunchroom Strategies

You'll find great examples of smarter lunchroom strategies and learn about the successes that Ms. Sayre ushered in for her district in her interview with our Community Nutrition Adviser, Candice Sainz.

Tags: community health high school nutrition education school meals smarter lunchrooms
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

17, November 2014 9:19 AM


Did you know that in California, one in three hospital admissions is related to diabetes? Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels run too high. Increasing diabetes prevalence is a major factor driving up health care costs in the United States. In the last thirty years the number of people with diabetes has tripled, from 5.6 million to 20.9 million.1

But if you know anyone with diabetes, it is much more than about the financial costs and more about quality of life. When I worked as the outpatient nutritionist at UC Davis Medical Center, I saw patients in the endocrine (both pediatric and adult), OBGYN high risk, gastric bypass and dialysis clinics. The vast majority of my patients had diabetes and I could see first hand the seriousness of the complications and the toll the disease takes on the entire family.

One third of adults have "prediabetes," which means they have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet in the range to be diagnosed with diabetes. The good news: prediabetes does not necessarily lead to diabetes. It is like a warning sign that it's time to make some changes to your lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle habits can prevent the disease and even return blood sugar levels to normal. Modest weight loss and regular physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes by up to 58%.2

So what are the practical steps to prevent or forestall this disease? Here are 4 action steps you can take to prevent diabetes:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss (5 - 7% of body weight) makes a difference.
  2. Make healthier food choices from all five food groups.
  3. Don't skip meals. Eating proper portion sizes and consistent meals will keep your energy constant throughout the day.
  4. Get active. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. 

Diabetes prevention month helps to remind us all to live a healthier lifestyle to prevent disease and maintain a good quality of life. What can you do today to get started?

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist



1. Meng et. al. Diabetes Tied to a Third of California Hospital Stays, Driving Health Care Costs Higher. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. May 2014. 

2. Centers for Disease Control, Accessed 11/13/14

Tags: balanced meals diabetes food group foods Healthy eating healthy eating patterns Maureen Bligh
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

11, November 2014 1:23 PM

At Dairy Council of California, we are often asked whether milk is good for you. There certainly are a lot of milk myths and misinformation swirling about, and it leads to people wondering whether they should continue to drink milk or switch to almond milk if regular milk is bad for you.

Our registered dietitian nutritionists on staff review the facts and decades of scientific research on milk on the health benefits of milk and have concluded that milk is in fact good for you and is an essential part of a healthy diet. That is why they agree with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and recommend that you include milk and dairy products in your diet and aim to meet the three recommended servings each day.

Milk is Good for Your Bones

Milk and dairy products provide the highest concentration of absorbable calcium, plus it includes vitamin D and potassium and when taken together, those nutrients provide a convenient package for building strong bones. In addition the protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and zinc found in milk work together to build strong bones. Other sources of these bone-building nutrients come from consuming a well-balanced diet composed of a variety of foods, including all five foods groups.1,2.

While you can certainly count on other calcium rich food sources like leafy greens, beans or canned salmon with bones, the problem with those foods is that it takes an awful lot of them to add up to the calcium in one 8-ounce glass of milk. Not only is it unrealistic for most people to eat such high quantities of these other calcium-rich foods, it can take additional calories to meet your calcium requirements.

Infographic: Is Milk Good for You


Milk is a Good Source of Protein

Although calcium might be top of mind when you think about the health benefits of milk, the protein in milk plays an important role as well. Not only is protein key to an optimal overall diet, but calcium without adequate protein is ineffective at building strong bones. 3 

dairy milk in crate - is milk good for you or bad for you

Milk and dairy foods are a good source of protein – an 8-ounce glass of milk provides 8 grams of protein, a little more than the amount of protein in 1 ounce of cooked meat. For those looking to improve their diet with high quality protein sources, adding cheese or yogurt to a snack or meal is an easy fix.

Milk is Good for Your Heart

A host of studies have found that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, with reduced saturated and total fat—can substantially lower blood pressure. This eating plan, called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or a High Blood Pressure Diet, was originally published in 1997. Eating low-fat milk and dairy as part of this eating pattern has been found to not only reduce blood pressure, but also lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.4

Decide for Yourself: Is Milk Good or Bad For You? 

Everyone should make food choices based on their individuals needs, preferences and values, but before you decide to ditch the dairy, be sure to understand the health benefits of milk you might be losing and the facts around whether milk is good or bad for you. 

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2 Matkovic, V. et al. Nutrition influences skeletal development from childhood to adulthood: a study of hip, spine, and forearm in adolescent females. J Nutr 134: 701s-705s, 2004. and Whiting, S.J. and F.A. Tylavsky. Nutritional influences on bone growth in children. J Nutr 134(3S): 689S-705S, 2004.

3 Bonjour JP. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6 Suppl):526S-36S.

4 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,, Accessed 11/7/2014

Tags: bone health dairy health benefits of milk Healthy eating LeAnne Ruzzamenti
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 29