1 February 2014

News and Reviews

Soft drinks: making the healthy choice the cheaper choice. 
Prof. Jack Winkler and his co-authors suggest a new strategy for healthy living in The Grocer which sets out the economics (costs of production, margins and profits) that show it is possible to sell healthier versions of mass market foods and beverages at lower prices than the standard high refined sugar/starch, high calorie products.

Diet soft drinks

Using soft drinks as their example, they demonstrate the feasibility of combining product reformulation by food and beverage companies with economic incentives for consumers. The writers believe that their model is applicable in developed countries as many of the products eaten are processed foods, most could be nutritionally improved, and many healthier alternatives could be made and sold more cheaply. We would like to see low GI options included in reformulating products to help people not only manage energy intake, but manage their blood glucose levels, too. 

Bush tucker data.
#1 Tables of composition of Australian Aboriginal foods In her first job as a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller analysed the nutrient composition of Aboriginal bush foods. “We looked at the protein, carbohydrate, fat and fibre content and built a database of the Indigenous diet,” she says. She also found that many of the foods tended to be low GI and this led her to question the role of food in human evolution and the prevalence of conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Tables of composition of Australian Aboriginal foods

#2 Indigenous foods added to Nutrition Panel Calculator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has added 14 new Indigenous foods to the NPC: lemon myrtle, bush tomato, Kakadu plum, finger lime, desert lime, lemon aspen fruit juice, satinash fruit. They have also added the following herbs and spices: anise myrtle leaf, native pepper (dried leaves and berries), saltbush, river mint, sea parsley, and olida.

Cook books – a recipe for girth expansion? 
Most people believe that the food they prepare themselves is healthier than commercially prepared food. While this might be right when you consider the immeasurable love we add, it’s not necessarily the case when we take a cold hard look at the numbers. While surveys tell us we are eating out more and more, the bulk of the diet for families is still consumed from home so the way we cook is important. Way back in 2005, Prof. Brian Wansink conducted a survey that found that nutritional gatekeepers (the person responsible for acquiring and preparing meals within a household) controlled 72% of a household’s dietary intake.

If recipes in cookbooks are anything to go by, many well-intentioned gatekeepers could be feeding their families more than they thought. A 2013 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health reports that portion sizes measured in calories in classical Danish recipes have increased significantly in the past 100 years, especially for meat, starchy foods and sauces. This is in line with Wansink’s 2009 study that found average calories per serving jumped 63% in 70 years in 17 of the 18 recipes through seven editions of the ‘classic’ The Joy of Cooking since it was first published in 1936 until the 2006 update.


And there’s more. In 2012 a study in the BMJ found that TV chef recipes from five best-selling cookbooks (30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, and River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) contained significantly more energy per portion (about 100 calories more) than ready meals from Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco – notably more protein, fat, and saturated fat per portion and less fibre. If you are the nutritional gatekeeper, there’s no need to say no to deliciously tempting chef recipes in gorgeously glossy cook books, they can be a great way to bring more flavour, variety and enjoyment to family dinners. But be mindful and take our waist-saving tips.

Tip 1: Do the numbers. You may need to cut back quantities. Here is a guide to average per person servings (remembering teenage boys and big muscled blokes are not average!).

  • Meat and chicken (raw and lean) – allow about 150 grams (5 ounces) per person
  • Fish fillets (fresh) – allow 150–200 grams (5–7 ounces) per person
  • Pasta (dried pieces) – allow 60–80 grams (about 2–3 ounces) per person
  • Rice (uncooked) – allow ¼ cup per person
  • Potatoes – allow 2–3 small new potatoes or 1 medium–large potato per person  
Tip 2: Renovate their recipes. You may need to cut back the salt, cut back the fat and double the veggies.
Tip 3: Check out the nutritional analysis if there is one. We have to say thumbs up to Laura Parr (and to Jamie) for the easy-to-understand nutritional analysis in Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.

We need to practice portion caution at home as well as away and keep in mind that celebrity chefs aren't always the best role models when it comes to healthy, everyday family meals. 

Shooting the messenger
Ted Kyle at Conscienhealth writes: “Argumentum ad hominem is a logical fallacy that has no place in science, but unfortunately is all too common in health, nutrition, and obesity policymaking.” Read More

What’s new? 
If you live in Sydney, here’s a new study you may be interested in taking part in. 


Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes BakeClass
Monday 3 February, 6.00–9.00pm – a three-hour workshop where you will discover how easy (and enjoyable) it is to fill lunch boxes with Anneka Manning’s ‘better for you’ sweet and savoury snacks that you will feel good about serving and your kids (and their friends) will enjoy. You can find out more about this workshop here.