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

06, November 2014 3:32 PM

If you're concerned about following a healthy eating plan with foods from all five food groups, then starting the day with a healthy breakfast should be one of your first priorities. The key to a healthy breakfast is balance. Choose a food from the Grains, Breads + Cereals Group, then add either a Vegetable or a Fruit and top it all off with something from either the Milk + Milk Products Group or the Meat, Beans + Nuts Group. The combinations are nearly endless! (Click here for healthy breakfast recipes, videos and tips.)

healthy breakfast recipe with food group foods

Who Needs Breakfast?

healthy breakfast recipes with food group foods for a healthy eating patter Scientific research continues to show that eating breakfast is one simple habit that provides numerous health benefits. A balanced breakfast ensures long-lasting energy and promotes a healthy eating pattern for the whole day. People who consume a morning meal tend to eat fewer calories and less saturated fat and cholesterol, plus they have better overall nutritional status.1

Breakfast consumption used to be at nearly 100 percent for adults and children and now there is a dramatic decline in eating before school. That's just one reason why eating breakfast is a major component of all Dairy Council of California nutrition lesson plans. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast ensures that young children are fueled for learning. Help your little ones get motivated for their morning meal by playing our online game, Power Up Your Breakfast.

The importance of breakfast doesn't diminish as you get older. Teens are more likely to start skipping breakfast for a variety of reasons- ranging from later bed times to concerns about weight management. However,  studies have found that teens and adolescents who eat breakfast have a lower body mass index than breakfast skippers.2,3 Another study with teenagers found that a protein-rich breakfast helped reduce cravings for sweets and late night snacking.4

If you're concerned about your teen's eating patterns, suggest they check out the online tool TeenBEAT to get them to think about their physical activity. Starting one new behavior often makes it easier to start another behavior such as getting back on the breakfast-eating track. Try these easy breakfast ideas for busy school mornings.

Is Milk Healthy for Breakfast?

Yes! In the 3 out of 5 breakfast model, you can choose from Milk + Milk Products or Meats, Beans + Nuts. Both are healthy options and good choices. Packed with protein, vitamin D, calcium, potassium and other important nutrients, milk is an essential part of a healthy diet. Starting the day with milk in your breakfast is a simple way to reach your daily recommended three servings of Milk + Milk Products. Milk is healthy for breakfast, and convenient too. Add milk to whole grain cereal or oatmeal, then top with fruit and you have a quick and satisfying 3 out of 5 breakfast that will fill you up with fiber and power you with protein right through lunch.

For more on the importance of breakfast for the whole family, visit the Breakfast Page on


1. Hill J, Wing R. “The Weight Control Registry,” The Permanente Journal, 2003 Vol 7(3)

2. Pediatrics. 2008 Mar;121(3):e638-45. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-1035.

3. Deshmukh-Taskar et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. J of Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):869-878.

4. Laura C Ortinau, Heather A Hoertel, Steve M Douglas, Heather J Leidy. Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition Journal, 2014; 13 (1): 97 DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-13-97





Tags: breakfast Healthy eating healthy eating plan milk protein recipes
Categories: categoryBreakfast categoryHealthy Eating

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