Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life of a Dietetic Intern: Supermarket Savvy

wait, I get to try foods, write and create a social media plan? Of COURSE that’s what I’d love to do during my dietetic internship! One of the things I love about the University of Houston dietetic internship is the wide range of internship sites available, that show all the different aspects of the nutrition field. My 4th rotation was with the wonderful RD Linda McDonald, owner of Supermarket Savvy-a monthly newsletter for health care professionals that aims to provide them with news and facts on food items to assist them in helping their clients make healthy choices in the grocery store. With 10 newsletters a year that go out to over 600 medical professionals, she spends a lot of time researching and writing about food products, trends and health topics. The first step was to brainstorm a newsletter topic that would a. interest me and b. hadn’t been done before. A was easy-B not so much. Just two months ago vegan and vegetarian foods were featured, but gluten free hadn’t been touched for several years, so I decided to highlight gluten free vegan and vegetarian foods, nutrients of note, and trends.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac disease, for which the treatment is complete elimination of gluten from diet. An additional six percent of the U.S. population, or 18 million people, may be classified with gluten sensitivity, according to the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland. Currently in the United States this is a $1.3 billion industry that is expected to grow to $1.68 billion by 2015.

One of the questions I get a lot about BOTH gluten free and vegan diets is whether they are effective in weight loss. There is no scientific evidence that restricting gluten is an effective weight loss tool. Processed gluten-free items are most often no healthier or lower in calories than those with wheat. In fact most have higher fat and lower fiber, folate and iron content. Similar things can be said about processed vegan or vegetarian items. The best approach for overall health is to choose those foods that are naturally gluten-free and vegetarian, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

In my quest of foods to highlight in the article I spent a lot of time in the grocery store, pouring over food labels. I have to admit-I was quite disappointed by what I saw. Yes, the availability and selection of gluten-free items has DRASTICALLY improved in the last several years. But the quality-and nutritional profile of many items are severely lacking. It was difficult to find products that met the FDA and American Heart Association’s guidelines for a healthy food-one that is high in fiber, low in sodium and low in saturated fats. Moral of the story-no matter what your dietary restriction, it’s usually best to stick to the edges of the supermarket, and buy fresh, whole food in their natural state.

The one product that I did praise and am a huge fan of is the Food Should Taste Good chips.

If you haven’t tried these yet, run (don’t walk) to your nearest grocery store (they’re nationwide, in almost all outlets). These chips are created without trans fats, cholesterol, artificial ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). All are whole grain (15 g), certified gluten free, Kosher, low in sodium (80 mg), and a good source of dietary fiber (3 g). But the best part is the delicious, unique flavors they come in- Sweet Potato, Lime, Olive, and Jalapeño aren’t flavors you expect to find in the chip aisle, but each chip has an intriguing and unique flavor. Grab a bag, just try not to eat it in one sitting (oops).

I learned a lot from Linda about running your own business, which I hope to be able to use within the next couple of years. She was a great mentor and I will definitely be subscribing to the newsletter in the years to come! Next: Back to Clinical. 5 more weeks of hospital work. And 9 more weeks in Houston. Not that I’m counting…..

What’s the newest food you’ve tried and liked?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THE SWEET POTATO CHIPS!!! They are my absolute favorite. The only problem is I can (and have) eaten the entire bag in one sitting.

- Tim