Fish Oil: Good For Furry Friends Too!

Mollie2endless summer

My rescued Golden enjoying the summer shade a few years ago

As a practicing dietitian/nutritionist, I recommend fish oil to my patients all the time.  While my credentials and experience let me call myself an “expert” in human nutrition, I would never make the same claim for animal nutrition.  Animals are not humans, and while some aspects of human nutrition can and do cross-over to recommendations for our pets, I do not pretend to have the expertise in animal nutrition to know which principles of human nutrition would apply equally to our beloved furry friends.  Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids, which in humans, are documented as having the following general health benefits:

  • Lowers blood triglycerides, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Fights inflammation, a cause of pain and disease
  • Seems therapeutic for certain skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and just plain old dry skin

I have a very dear Golden Retriever that was rescued from a shelter at the age of one.  She is now a senior canine.  A recent trip to the vet along with a xray of her back showed osteoarthritis and disc degeneration.  The standard Rimadyl was started (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory) along with Dasuquin for joint support. While my options for therapy seemed limited, a vet tech at the office made a comment to me about fish oil.  He said human fish oil supplements were good for dogs, and the dosage would be the same as for humans.

Sounding like a benign and economical option, I did some reasearch.  Digging a bit into the literature, it seems fish oil supplementation for dogs is a very common practice.  As a practicing dietitian, I frequently run into incorrect supplement dosage recommendations made for people, and often those dosage recommendations are made by physicians.  For supplements to be therapeutic for humans, dosing does matter.  Too much of a supplement may foster a toxic situation or promote interference of other important nutrients essential to health.  Too little, and there may be no clinical impact.  So a bit of digging lent me insight into the dosing for dogs.  To figure out how much fish oil to give your dog, take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply by 20.  So, if your dog weighs 75 pounds, the dosage of fish oil would be 1500 mg.

No special doggie fish oil is necessary.  Human fish oil supplements are fine.  Many pills are on the larger side, so you may pierce the pill and put on food.  Or, if your dog is like my dog, she will eat anything in a piece of bread.  Nature Made brand Fish Oil “pearls” are on the smaller side and 500 mg per pill.  This smaller size and dosage pill makes dosing and administration of fish oil easy!

I am hoping with this process to cut Mollie’s dander and ease her joint pain while also decreasing or eliminating her prescription medication.  For your beloved pet, please check with your vet before self-prescribing the fish oil because there may be health issues that need to be discussed first.

To Supplement or Not: 5 Facts To Factor

supplements from a bottleNews coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, Obamacare, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of this current list of media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements!  If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring  statements from the so-called experts being interviewed.  Some “experts” note most of our nutrients should come from food, come from “natural” whole foods put into pill form, or just be avoided altogether.  The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the primarily black and white general statements made by these so-called experts. Sadly, despite this topic of supplements airing over many news stations for the last few days, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis in order to really assess the need and benefits from supplements. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

  • Supplements are meant to fill in for dietary shortfallsIf you eat a healthy diet (include dairy or source of calcium, fish, plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains), there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills!  If you are lactose intolerant, hate dairy products, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or you are vegan, then you may benefit from a supplement.  Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may or may not need to be doing regarding supplements.
  • Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency of a nutrient!  Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements?  You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement.  Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient.  Once a deficiency of any nutrient is determined, it is easy enough to replete the diet through both food and supplements (or sunshine in the case of vitamin D).
  • Be aware of upper limits of safety!  More is definitely not better for you in most cases.  In fact, many people who take multiple supplements forget that they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a given nutrient because it is in several of their supplement formulas.  Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to take the nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess.  Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!
  • Food is your best source of nutrients.  Nature has an uncanny way of packaging foods and one food is loaded with many nutrients that actually work together to maximize your nutritional status.  With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements.  An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.
  • Did you know there is no regulation of supplements?  If a supplement has been implicated in causing harm, it will be pulled from the shelves, but until then it is buyer beware!  With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-know brands that have a reputation to protect.  Using lesser known brands may result in less quality control.  Over the decades, some supplements have been known to be tainted with arsenic and lead.  Choosing a name brand product can potentially protect you!

Not all supplements are good or bad for that matter.  Not all people need supplements, and many people do!  Consulting with a professional who is educated on this topic and takes the time to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations will be time well spent in improving both your health and nutritional status!

Satisfries, new BK skinny fries

I am starting my semester this week teaching nutrition classes.  In this morning’s class, I was commenting on advertising driving our food choices and I then recalled the BK commercial I heard yesterday.  It touted a new fry, which is called Satisfries (most clever name), and I also commented to my class that I probably had not actually set foot in a BK for about 20 years!  I asked if anyone had tried the new fries, and no one had yet!  I thought, I will! 055

So, this afternoon between classes, I went to Burger King.  At my local BK, the product had only been out since yesterday.  The nutrition information was not available on the preprinted nutrition sheets, and limited info seems to be available online.

The sign advertising the Satisfries noted the calories of the Satisfries vs. standard fries as roughly150 calories vs. 226 calories respectively.  I am unclear on the size BK is citing these values for because even a small regular fry on the nutrition info provided by BK assigns 340 calories to a small fry.  Is there a serving size at BK less than a “small”?

The fat content is noted as being 40% less than the standard fry along with the 30% difference in overall calories.  What I do not know is any of the other nutrition information since that seems to be unavailable to the consumer at the moment.

I seldom eat French fries.  If someone offers me a fry, I will eat it, however, so I do know what a fry tastes like!  With that stated, my take on these fries was that they tasted fine.  No, not greasy like regular fries and they were salty (which is why I wish I knew the sodium content).  The photo shows that indeed there is a touch of grease on these fries, and while I could get very little concrete information from the person filling in as manager at my BK, the corporate website notes a coating on the fry which inhibits some of the fat absorption, hence the lower fat and calorie content.  I did detect a slight off flavor, but could not tell you if I would have detected the same off taste in their regular fries since I do not usually order fries at a fast food restaurant.  We all have different taste buds, so what I detect might be undetectable by the next person.

Will this help fight obesity? Probably not, but I am happy to see an attempt to make a classic fast food option more agreeable to those slightly more health conscious people who may be forced to hit a fast food chain due to travel or unforeseen circumstances.  It is nice to have a choice, so I give BK credit for that.  I hope to see more specific nutrition information in the near future.

To recap, the fries (small) cost me $2.19 and yield 150 calories and claim to have 40% less fat.  Sodium and saturated fat information seems unavailable to date so I will look forward to more nutrition information becoming available if this product survives the test drive phase of marketing.

7 Tips to Tackle Healthier Eating by TONIGHT!

We are all busy!  My new clients all seem to feel like there is no time to “cook”, they eat on theMan Eating Pizza run, and the end result is a poor diet that will eventually impact health and weight. Through my three decades of counseling clients, I have seen the American diet deteriorate to new lows.  If you would like to improve your diet by this evening and your health down the road, try these seven easy tactics to shape up your diet by TONIGHT!

  • Eat breakfast.  By starting the day with healthy fuel, you are more likely to get all your required nutrients for the day.  If trying to lose weight, you will use these calories efficiently, and not store as fat.  You can keep it super simple-a serving of fruit, slice of toast, along with juice or milk. 
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your day every day and ALL day.  Most Americans eat far less than the recommended 5 servings a day.  By adding fruits and veggies to your diet, you are adding compounds to your diet that decrease inflammation.  Decreasing inflammation can decrease your risk of disease. Start to tackle this by making sure you eat a serving of fruit and vegetables with every meal and snack and voila, mission accomplished!
  • Drastically decrease animal protein consumption.  Why? Animal protein is not just protein; it is also a significant amount of saturated fat.  By eating less animal protein, you will decrease your intake of fat, particularly saturated fat which is artery clogging and increases inflammation.
  • Avoid the fast food-restaurant trap.Dining out constantly is a sure-fire way to ruin your diet unless you constantly order salads with low fat dressing and fruit platters.  Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart made or assembled at home.
  • Don’t be afraid of some convenience foods in the grocery store. I can almost guarantee that if you eat some brands of frozen dinner such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, you will for the most part be better off than going to the local fast food chain or diner.  Why?  The meals are portion controlled; you know what you are eating because you can see a Nutrition Fact Label.  We have been brainwashed to think that these meals have too many chemicals, etc.  There are many nutritional advantages to these items as a back up to a chaotic schedule that necessitates relying on dining out to get your meals consumed.  And, it is cheaper.
  • Meals can be large snacks that do not require cooking!  Throughout the years, clients have hesitantly told me that they would eat cereal for dinner because they are too tired to cook.  I think those same clients expect me to say “how awful”, when I actually tell them this is not a problem.  A bowl of cereal along with skim milk or milk alternative and a nice serving of fruit is actually a nice low-calorie and low-fat meal providing protein and carbohydrates in reasonable quantities.  You can also just serve yourself a smoothie made with frozen fruit and throw in some yogurt or cottage cheese to bump up the protein content.
  • Track your food.  Better yet, track your diet with a good app like MyFitnessPal.  It will allow you instant analysis of what you are eating, and more importantly, makes you face the music.  ALL my clients that have been tracking their food with this app are eating better and losing weight if that was the objective.  This app is free.

Do you have other easy and practical tips to keep your diet healthy?

Restaurant Dining: A Hit to Your Health and Wallet

Couple DiningMy spouse and I are health conscious because I am a dietitian and not a hypocrite, and his life depends upon it.  We regularly visit an area of southwest Michigan, and recently had breakfast at a local diner with great TripAdvisor reviews.  Unfortunately, we did not agree with the great reviews on TripAdvisor.  The menu was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing because the focus may end up being on quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes.  The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute egg whites for whole eggs, but that is probably where the positive aspects of the meal ended.

Now the bad news:  the nice multi-grain bread was already buttered on the bottom of the toast (so did not realize it until it was eaten), the portions were huge (I know many people want large portions for the money being doled out), and I saw no fruit options on the menu.  Other bad news: the bill was $30.00 for what we could have made at home for probably a dollar at most, and made it a lot healthier in a short amount of time.  This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

When my clients dine out on a regular basis, this is what I tell them to expect:

More Fat.  If you make the same food at home, you can control the fat in the dish with very simple recipe tweaking.  Restaurants don’t typically care about the fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture in food and of course, they want you to return for another meal! You can bank on eating more calories than you anticipated due to the higher fat content, and you can also assume that it will be more difficult to meet your weight loss goals.

More Calories.  And, let’s not forget the simple concept that larger portions, when eaten, yield more calories.  Unless you can exercise a lot of self-discipline while dining out, you will most likely eat your whole meal.  If you can consistently ask for healthy substitutions such as fruit for fries, you are on the right track.  Also, you need to get in the habit of bringing at least half of your meal home. And who doesn’t want that yummy appetizer, dessert, or cocktail while dining out?  It is probably safe to say that if you are eating at home vs. dining out, you probably are not having an appetizer, cocktail, and dessert with your main meal!

More Sodium.  If you are fortunate to find a nice restaurant meal low in fat and overall calories, the sodium is probably lurking.  I have yet to see a healthy restaurant meal that is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium.  If you think the sodium content does not matter because your blood pressure is fine, you need to think again.   High sodium intakes cause other health problems such as bone loss and are correlated with increased cancer risk.  And, if you hop on the scale the next day, you can credit that weight gain of several pounds to fluid retention from all that salt you ate.

More Money.  As my husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, he proudly pointed out to me that the entire pot of chili probably cost less than a few dollars.  Had a bowl of chili been purchased at a full service restaurant, it would have been at least $6.00 dollars.  He also used only half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans, and veggies creating a lower sodium, but healthier higher fiber dish.

So, while eating out is social and recreational for many, having the mentality that it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet, can keep you healthier, slim you down, and fatten your wallet.  In fact, it is a win-win way to eat.

Checking out online menus and nutrition information is key to healthier dining options.

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out?

 

Another Shot at Weight Loss: Is B12 the Magic Bullet or Bunk?

Last evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins.  As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss.  One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss.  Several  students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.  I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots.  The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections.  This a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00!  This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks.  I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss.  If someone is tired from the anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia.  But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.  There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate.  We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies.  B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue.  For vegans,  it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements.  However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss?  Did you see any benefit?  Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!  Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?

 

 

 

 

Confused About Healthy Eating? 5 Easy Tips to Start!

We are a society on ”nutrition” overload. Messages reach us each time we turn on the ten o’ clock news or boot up the computer. Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, do this, don’t do that-and consumers feel messages conflict and constantly spin a one-eighty every other week. No wonder the public is unsure about what to eat or who to take advice from! With that in mind, here are 5 tips I feel can help most people improve their overall health status:

  • Decrease your animal protein consumption. This will decrease your saturated fat intake, keep your calories in line, AND decrease your carbon footprint on our dear planet earth.
  • Eat more plant-based foods. The upside of this, is simply, more anti-oxidants, more fiber, fewer calories, and less of a carbon footprint on planet earth.
  • Try to focus on unprocessed foods as much as possible. The less processed the food, the more nutrient dense the food. When the food is molded, distorted, manipulated, or redesigned, the nutrition composition is most likely altered, and not usually for the better!
  • Don’t be afraid of bread! Whole grain breads are a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and fiber.
  • Cast a wide net on the variety of foods you eat. No single food is a magic health bullet. Eating a variety of foods keeps your taste buds happy and also increases the likelihood that you are getting more and varied nutrients into your diet.

While some people should not follow these suggestions due to specific medical concerns, for most people this is a good start to up shifting to a better quality of diet. If you need to omit food groups or implement special diet therapy, consider consulting with a Registered/Licensed Dietitian to design a food plan that works for your health goals. Bon Appetit!

 

Ice Cream: 6 Tips to Slimming Down Summer’s Special Treat

Ice cream is a special summer treat for family outings.  For many of us, summer is the time we went to the local ice cream shop for a special treat on a hot summer day.  We did this as kids, and now with your own kids, you may be repeating family traditions.  Tradition is wonderful, but if your waistline has expanded, it may be time to go for a slimmed down version of this treat.   In fact, if not careful, you can easily end up with an ice cream calorie equivalent of a whole day’s worth of calories!

Here are six tips to carry on with your ice cream tradition without increasing your waistline:

  • Avoid premium ice creams altogether:  A single 6 oz. scoop of premium ice cream can cost you 500 calories.  Oberweis chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate marshmallow, chocolate almond, butter pecan, butter brickle, chocolate caramel crunch, cookie dough, and strawberry cheesecake flavors can all claim that calorie content!
  • Eat like a little kid:  Calories and fat will always follow portion sizes, so you can either have a bite of someone else’s treat, or get yourself a kids scoop.  A kids scoop is roughly 2.5-3 oz., so you can assume the calories are slashed 50% from the adult version, translating to much more calorie and fat control. 
  • Exercise caution with low-fat ice cream options:  Don’t assume because the ice cream is low-fat that it is fine to have a double scoop!  The Oberweis single scoop low-fat flavors range in calories from vanilla at 250 calories to chocolate marshmallow at 300 calories.  Do the math and you can see how you might still get into a calorie bind by having a double scoop.
  • Avoid the final touches:  Dipping your DQ vanilla cone in chocolate will add anywhere from 100-200 calories to your treat, depending on the size of cone you opt for.  Adding  the candy pieces, whipped cream, and nuts will also give you some additional “energy” to the tune of at least 100 calories.
  • Go for cold alternatives:  Most ice cream franchises have healthier lower fat and calorie options for consumers.  Better options include sorbet, low-fat frozen yogurt, and sherbet.  Single scoop servings of these frosty alternatives may also be significantly lower in calories.  A 4 oz. serving of sorbet can run your calorie tab 80-150 calories.  Many frozen yogurt flavors are 150 calories or less per 4 oz. serving.  While sherbet is virtually fat-free, the calories can start adding up as a 4-6 oz. single scoop of orange sherbet can run as high as 260 calories.  If slashing fat is the objective, sherbet is a good way to go, but the calorie tab may run higher than anticipated.
  • Go to the supermarket instead:  There are so many frozen treats at your supermarket to take advantage of if you are trying to stay slim this summer.  Spend a few minutes looking at the nutrition fact labels and pick a product that suit your palate and nutritional goal.  There are many ice cream-like products hitting the mainstream and specialty grocery stores all the time that are both tasty and fit into anyone’s eating lifestyle.

What do you opt for at the ice cream store?  Can you share the nutrition information of your favorite frozen treat?

 

A Dietitian’s Commentary: Are You a Nutrition “Purist” or “Realist”?

It seems as though these days everyone has an opinion about the field of nutrition.  There is a an old saying that “some people think they are experts on eating, because they eat.”  So, that could mean that potentially the whole human race could perceive themselves as nutritional experts!  Of course, some of those people are experts with years of college level education under their belts, but some are simply uninformed, uneducated, or misdirected, but very interested in the field of nutrition.   What I know for sure is that more people in more and varied fields are now providing nutritional advice to the American consumer.  And, more nutritional advice is rapidly and readily available these days at the touch of our fingers as well as from “doc google.”  So, this blog is about how those of you that give nutritional advice handle the words you choose while guiding those you are attempting to help with nutrition.  It is also meant as food for thought for the consumer who is seeking nutritional guidance.

It seems as though some of those disseminating nutritional advice are best described as purists.  A purist could be described as a person “who insists on great precision and correctness” in a particular discipline, nutrition in this case.  It seems that, more and more, those that are guiding consumers are often leaning to what I call this purist mentality.  This purist mentality is along the lines of “the diet must be perfect, no junk, no sugar, no fat, and so on.”  I must add at this point that I would love my clients to eat only at home, only what they know to be good for them, only whole unprocessed foods, and only in the correct portion sizes.  With that stated, my experience tells me the purist mentality does not necessarily fit all people.

A realist could be described as “a person who accepts the world as it literally is and then deals with it-realistically.”  This appears to be the case, in particular, for those practitioners who have counseled for a long time and been “around the block a few times,”  as I like to describe myself with regard to my life-professional experience.  I tell my clients that I can design what I feel to be the  “perfect” eating plan, but if they cannot follow it long enough to help their health, then what good is it?  I would call myself a realist.  I would be happy to have my clients switch to a flavored green tea rather than a high fat Starbucks Frappuccino or big serving of soda!  That’s right, the flavored green tea might not have the same nutritional edge as plain green tea, but it’s a start in the right direction!  That’s what I want from my clients-to move in a better dietary direction.  One size does not fit all, especially when telling people how to eat.  And, the concept of tailoring a diet to an individual can also mean that like a pair of slacks or suit, the “diet” can be tailored with time as the person’s nutritional requirements and acceptance of dietary change evolve.

How do you choose to counsel your clients?  And consumers, what nutritional guidance has worked for you?

 

Is Your Dietary Supplement Downright Dangerous? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself!

While many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein supplements and powders thinking they are helping with overall health and vitality, the reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous!  In fact, according to last week’s Chicago Tribune headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws that have the potential to harm our health.  From quality control issues to formulary issues, the product you are ingesting may not be what you are thinking it is.  There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient, or even contamination with lead, arsenic, or rodent feces. 

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry.  That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. In fact, quality control issues are largely left to the company producing the supplement.  Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement.  In fact, the FDA is also relying on manufacturers themselves as well as consumers to report those adverse effects.

So, without hiring a lab to test your own supplements, here are some proactive steps to take to protect yourself:

  • Buy name brand supplements.  Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake.  Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.
  • Look for the USP label.  This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label and it will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body.  The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement.
  • Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement.  Note the percent daily value of the nutrients.  If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful.  We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety.
  • Consider using the Internet to investigate your supplement before taking it.  Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee.  The analyses and data are extensive and informative.
  •  Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.  A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients.  Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  Afterall, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

 Click video information on this topic!

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?