Meating A New Standard

Every five years, a committee composed of highly qualified academics and researchers gather to review the latest research regarding health and nutrition. Together, they release the US Dietary Guidelines, which basically tell Americans what to eat to live the healthiest lifestyle. This time around, they made a pretty radical suggestion.

Professor Hestenburg, head of La Salle’s Nutrition Department, broke down the report for the class, but focused mainly on the most significant change- limiting red meat. The USDA committee decided upon this mainly because of the environmental affects of the meat industry, which marks the first time in the committee’s history that individual health benefits were not the deciding factor.

Source: Environmental Working Group

Source: Environmental Working Group

The most eye-opening research that ignited this change came out two US studies. Professor Gidon Eshel, of Bard College’s Environmental Policy department, found that the red meat industry requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water than pork or chicken, resulting in five times more emissions. According to Eshel, cattle make far less efficient use of the grains and grass they consume. Growing and maintaining feed crops for cattle produces more emissions than the farming of crops for human consumption.

The other revealing study was published by Eric Davidson of the The Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Davidson found that the nitrous oxide, which is released by fertilizers and animal manure, is the most potent greenhouse gas. The major culprits in this contamination of the air are factory farming and the meat industry. Davidson projects catastrophic climate changes by 2050 if humans continue to consume red meat at the current rate and the industry continues to pollute the air.

The good news is, as Hestenburg pointed out in her presentation, is that there is a huge push in popular culture to limit beef. Health and nutrition are infiltrating society through fad diets like juicing, veganism, and paleo. The international campaign for Meatless Mondays is appearing across schools and workplaces around the globe. Modern restaurants are capitalizing on the “farm to table” craze (check out Philadelphia’s most popular F2T restaurant here) as well as offering more and more vegetarian options on their menus to appeal to a larger client base. Hip City Veg anyone? With the recently released Dietary Guidelines, even more changes are predicted, so keep a look out and think about your environmental footprint next time you’re considering chompin’ on that Big Mac.

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Easter Food Drive Helps Hundreds

I had the chance to meet up with some of La Salle’s LGU students as they distributed fresh produce to different charitable organizations and churches around the area.

Click the image below to be taken to a little slideshow I made from some still photographs.

IMG_9082I have to say that my first concern was getting quality video footage, so some of the stills aren’t all that aesthetically appealing or speak to the work the amazing work the students did. The video footage, on the other hand, really captures it all… stay tuned for that!

Expert Chimes in on Obesity

Obesity isn’t necessarily a sign of weak self control. In most cases, blame is placed on the individual. Yes, eating habits play a large role in weight, but there is more in the equation.

On March 31, Dr. Goldbacher of La Salle’s Psychology Department spoke of the long list of risk factors when it comes to an individual’s weight.

“For obesity,” said Goldbacher. “Genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger. There is a biological predisposition to weight difficulties, but it’s possible not to have that as well.”

Data from 2010.

Obesity data from 2010.

Environment, as Goldbacher noted, encompasses a plethora of factors, which makes conquering obesity in the United States so daunting. Just look at the stats! Issues arise when communities have limited access to healthy food options and fresh produce. If the most convenient thing is to order fast food, weight issues are bound to occur. Why spend five dollars on four apples if you can buy two triple cheeseburgers at McDonalds for the same price? Fast food restaurants are sneaky, trust me Not to mention, apples are far less visually appealing than other items on grocery store shelves. Unhealthy foods are packaged in brightly colored boxes with cute cartoons in order to stand out and entice consumers, especially children. Packaging is HUGE when it comes to brand loyalty (check out this study).

Issues arise in schools, too. Because of the push for students to spend more time in the classroom learning to perform better on standardized tests, recesses are being cut alongside physical education classes, single handedly removing another avenue for children to learn the benefits and joys of exercise. It’s unbelievable how helpful reinstating these programs can be in shaping children and their health. Basically, the way society is currently set up, it’s a wonder everyone isn’t breaking the scales.

Goldbacher also brought up the concept of mindless eating, which can be filed under behavioral factors that contribute to obesity. There are very few occasions in which people sit down to eat and focus solely on eating. Their mind is elsewhere or they’re engaging in other activities (talking, studying, watching tv) while consuming. This lack of attention leads to unexpected overeating, and it’s especially troubling because most of the time the food that’s being snacked on is unhealthy.

I wonder if this is more prominent in the US because we’re always on the go. When I eat lunch, I simultaneously work on homework. When I’m hungry and have free time, I typically watch TV while snacking. And in my professional experience, there are large numbers of employees that eat lunch at their desk in order to stay on top of their workload. It’s efficient, but is it healthy?

Just like Exploring Nutrition is out to educate the community about healthy eating and to provide neighborhoods with fresh produce and better options, Goldbacher and members of the Psychology Department are joining the fight against obesity. Their clinic (La Salle Community Center for Counseling and Psychological Services) offers low cost services to community members in order to help individuals overcome their weight-related difficulties through a multitude of treatment options and education.

If you are struggling with weight-related issues and are interested in visiting the clinic, check out this website or call (215) 951-1006. A healthier you is possible!