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Feb 27, 2008 04:36 AM

What kind of health official would rec. S&L on oatmeal?

This morning I read an article in the Seattle Times about the importance of not skipping breakfast
( ahead and you won't have to skip breakfast) and although everybody knows it's good to eat breakfast, the woman giving the facts (a legitimate nutritionist) just seems to be a woman with nothing but dieting on her mind and a face for facts that have been disputed for ages now. She pushes artificial sweetner on your oatmeal, saying "people shouldn't dismiss millions of dollars of research just because of a few urban myths." What???!! What about the research that claims artificial sweetner can in fact lead you down a slippery slope of always wanting more, make it harder to lose the weight, and in the NYT, that heart patients who drank diet soda had lower rates of recovery?
At the beginning of the interview, she cuts her omelet in half at the restaurant, and slips it into a take away container before eating. This is a woman with issues, and I am shocked that the journalist didn't provide some balance.

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  1. I agree about the artificial sweetener, but adjusting a restaurant portion size to something more appropriate (the average restaurant omelette is easily twice as much as the average woman should eat for a "regular" breakfast) before you start eating is actually a very good practice -- much more effective than trying to control how much you consume once you've dug in. I've seen it recommended in many places -- just wish I had the nerve to do it myself.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      My wife's answer to portion control for breakfasts is to plop half of whatever she orders (omelet, pancakes, etc) onto my plate.

      For people who are concerned about the portion size of any meal, not just breakfast, getting a takeout container at the beginning of the meal is a good way to control how much you eat at one sitting.
      I was always more than happy to provide customers with the container they needed with their order. I would even hot hold it or refrigerate it for them on request.

      1. re: hannaone

        I've been eating 1/2 portions in restaurants for about six weeks now. I do exactly what the nutritionist does. Before I start my meal I ask for a container and put one half of the meal in it. I have always tended to cook my husband and myself portions that are way to big at home, so I've been doing it at home too. It's the easiest diet in the world and it works. I still get to cook and eat what I want, and I've lost ten pounds.

        Hannaone, I laughed when I read your post. I did the same thing to my husband for a while. At home and in restaurants I just slid the excess onto his plate. When he started complaning about his slacks being tight, I realized my diet wasn't working very well for him...

      2. re: Ruth Lafler

        I completely agree with you. I never make it through more than half of my meal at a restaurant--I think I was just imagining the scene of meeting someone for the first time, and watching them sweep half of an omelette that has just been served, into their bag. An important visual for effect, but if I were the journalist, it would have left me preoccupied with her mental state and not feeling comfortable enough to have the omelette on her plate until the end of the meal--I feel for her. I had this overwhelming sense after reading the article that the nutritionist had missed the forest for the trees--by her behavior of eliminating the egg from view, suggesting that food has some kind of massive power over a person, as if it were the feature in a bad B movie horror.

        1. re: fayehess

          Unfortunately for a lot of people, food definitely can have a massive power over them. One of my friends is a compulsive eater and has problems controlling her portions. She used to eat entire cakes in one sitting. She would try to stop but couldn't until every last bite was gone.

          1. re: fayehess

            There's a lot of evidence that looking at food does have a lot to do with how much we eat. My favorite study was one with a jar of candy at a person's desk at work. If it was in a drawer, out of sight, people ate one or two pieces a day. They ate more if it was on the desk in an opaque jar, and even more (several times more) if it was on the desk in a glass jar.

            Plus, if you're a nutritionist having breakfast with a journalist, you're probably more than usually careful to model the kind of behavior you're recommending to your patients. Putting no more food in front of you than you want to eat is a standard strategy for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.

            1. re: fayehess

              Sorry fayehess. If you or anyone else are preoccupied with someone's mental state because they chose to put a portion of their meal to the side before they eat, then I think that it's you who has the problem.

              I've learned to put my food to the side before I start the meal because the food appears fresher and more appealing to me the next day when I reheat it if I haven't eaten around it and moved it all over my plate. I would most likely have put half of the omelette to the side too before I put a condiment (perhaps ketchup) on the half I was going to eat. That way when I reheat the saved portion I can add fresh ketchup or a different condiment to it. It's really rather smart if you think about it.

              I remember the first time I saw someone do this. It was in an Italian restaurant near our home. Instead of worrying about her mental state I thought "bravo for her, that's a great idea."

              If I chose to take my food off the plate before I start eating, please, don't worry about me. I'm OK.

          2. Okay?? What's wrong with sweetening your oatmeal with a little brown sugar and some raisins? The amount of calories is negligeable if you are smart about your food choices and portions sizes on all meals through out the day. Avioding sweeteners is best in my opinion. Not just for health but, taste too

            Asking for the to-go container is pretty smart when you sit down for a meal at a restaurant. Canada isn't as bad as the States for extremely large portions sizes but, I still find myself pulling a Mrs hannaone and giving extra food to my husband a lot of times :)

            1. I'd like to nominate the title of the thread for most information contained yet I still had no idea what the topic was until I read the post.

              Both suggestions are good ones in many contexts. Yes, artificial sweeteners aren't the best idea...but for someone who is eating a lot of sugar or is downing, say, pop tarts for breakfast every day, the move to oatmeal with some Equal or Sweet and Low would be a great one. Not as good as oatmeal with no sweetener perhaps, but far more plausible. Likewise, addressing the portion size issue before starting to eat is the right way to go because if you "tell yourself" that you're only going to eat half of it, then just another bite or two, then "oh, it's not worth taking home but I don't want to waste it."

              This woman may still have issues....but I wouldn't throw the ideas out with the bath water here.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ccbweb

                I initially read the title as "recommend Savings and Loan on oatmeal". I didn't even get it when I got to "artificial sweetener" in the OP's message. I wonder if it's the near "en-masse" switch to Splenda that made me forget about Sweet-n-Low!

                1. re: ccbweb

                  "I'd like to nominate the title of the thread for most information contained yet I still had no idea what the topic was until I read the post."

                  lol! i second the nomination. i, too, had no idea what the cryptic title meant. of course, curiosity seems to have gotten the better of all of us, seeing as we clicked anyway...

                  anyone who's familiar with my other CH posts knows i don't condone the use of artificial sweeteners, and that i also have a major problem with the bloated portion sizes in this country. i've been telling clients for years to put half their order into a takeout container at the beginning of restaurant meals.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Exactly. I was looking for the "health official" who turned out to be a journalist (I think).

                2. Here is the link to the article:

                  I should wait until I have had my coffee to write anything--I think I just get so frustrated with this nations preoccupation with dieting--and I worry that it is fueled by huge food companies that make diet sodas, artificial sweeteners, and "diet" foods, whose largest interest is financial. It is a mission of mine as a cooking teacher and chef to convince people that if they buy beautiful ingredients--whole fruits, vegetables and grains, ones that are in their original form, cheeses that could win competitions, olive oil that is pressed with a lifetime of dedication to perfection, meat that comes from animals that breathe fresh air and are fed food they would naturally eat--food will no longer be an enemy and they will love to eat in a whole different way. They will no longer feel constantly deprived from empty artificial and tasteless substitutions.
                  Eating really good food, they will find they eat in a way that they love the food, are passionate about the food, about preparing the food and even shopping for the food. It is a very similar difference I say, to kissing someone who you are with every cell of your body in love with, you are consumed by the smell of them, swept by the sight of the them, wanting nothing more than never to leave that moment of embracing them, and watching poorly made slightly pornographic videos.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: fayehess

                    I'm going to have to start drinking coffee again first thing in the morning.

                    1. re: fayehess

                      Wow. Although I agree with your overall points, you completely mischaracterized the article by taking phrases out of context. The full context of what you quoted was:

                      "Oatmeal is like a pizza but at breakfast — you can choose the toppings you like," she said. Nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit or canned fruit — chunky applesauce or yogurt. Some might even like a little dab of peanut butter and strawberry fruit spread. She says that you can put out several toppings to create an "oatmeal bar" and let people choose their favorites.... Some avoid oatmeal because of their negative perception of sweeteners. You can use some fruit to sweeten it, or a little bit of sugar. But I am not opposed to sugar substitutes. Scientific data show that there is no risk.The negative rumors boil down to urban myths. Why put millions into research and not make use of it? I'd like to get rid of attacks on food that could be helpful."

                      In other words, she recommends the same things we did but doesn't condemn people who choose to use artificial sweeteners and doesn't like to demonize them. Seems like a pretty reasonable point of view to me.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Yes. She didn't "recommend" artificial sweeteners and certainly didn't "push" them -- she just said she wasn't opposed to them.

                        Having consulted with a lot of nutritionists and registered dietitians over the years, I think this one seems relatively reasonable. Most of the food plans that dietitians come up with are either a) incredibly boring or b) rather more junky than anything I would come up with on my own. But that's largely because they're responding to the typical appalling American diet and trying to nudge it in a healthier direction.

                        1. re: jlafler

                          i didn't read the article first, so i confess i'm guilty of drawing conclusions based on faye's OP. but although my opinion of the article's writer may have changed in light of the new, more complete information, my position on the issues hasn't. i have many years of nutritional science & food science education under my belt, and i've never been convinced that using artificial sweeteners is a good idea unless you're dealing with a serious health condition like diabetes or morbid obesity - and even then the idea doesn't sit well with me. if you need to make your oatmeal so sweet that it requires more than a teaspoon or two of sugar to eat it, choose another food.

                          i'm a licensed nutritionist with a graduate degree in the field and i opted not to get my RD certification for many reasons. this isn't the place to launch into why, but i have encountered many RDs who make recommendations that vindicate my decision on a regular basis. as some of you know from my other posts, i'm a recovering anorexic. well, one day last week i was talking to a dietitian at my gym about certain foods, and we got into a discussion about refined sugar. when i mentioned that i avoid it, she actually suggested that i use Splenda as a sweetener. two issues here. first, i didn't ask for the advice, and she didn't get far enough with me in the conversation to learn that i do use raw sugar, agave nectar, and stevia...with all those choices, i don't need another option, and i wasn't looking for one. but more importantly, what the heck is she doing recommending a "diet" product to someone who is recovering from anorexia??? yes, she knows my history.

                          i was floored. and appalled. i'm so sick of everyone in our society defaulting to shortcuts, conveniences, diet products, processed foods, and chemically enhanced or engineered crap. the majority of people in this country don't even know what real food tastes like anymore.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            That reminds me of a little conversation from several years ago. I was at a farmer's market and was pleased to find some no-added-sugar fruit butters. I mentioned to the vendor that I was diabetic, and he said "Oh, well I guess you could add Sweet and Low to these."

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              And I don't want to demonize anyone for using artificial sweeteners(going back to reply by ruth) for goodness sakes--I for one used to drink six cans of diet soda daily (and was grossly underweight)--I just wish that a nutritionist would take the opportunity of being interviewed as a chance to say, (unless you have serious health issues) try the idea of forgetting about processed "diet" foods and eating whole foods instead. Just an idea. And Ruth is absolutely right that she made all those other suggestions to top oatmeal before the art. stuff, but to say and I quote loosely "why throw away millions of dollars of research" and dismiss artificial sweeteners?" I am just not convinced that the millions of dollars of research wasn't financed by an industry very much invested in us continuing to support them.

                            2. re: jlafler

                              I hope that I never pass judgement on what anyone chooses to eat. But I am totally guilty of having the philosophy of why nudge when you can suggest moving mountains?

                              1. re: fayehess

                                It's partly a matter of who you're talking to. Suggesting moving mountains is fine when someone who is already motivated to make a change. But the patients that many dietitians see are in an immediate crisis (e.g. gestational diabetes) and are making dietary changes not because they want to, but because they have to. Plus, the people who eat the very worst diets do so partly because they have little to no access to fresh food of any kind, let alone artisanal olive oils.

                                1. re: jlafler

                                  You are right. I am not referring to people who don't have the means to or access to fresh foods. I am talking about a whole lot of people in between who have close to terrible diets with plenty of money, and access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Even in Italy, where I teach, I believe because of advertising, it happens that you have people (speaking of olive oil) buying low grade olive oil (and again, I am not referring to people who are struggling financially) because they see it in a magazine, or because it is a euro cheaper, instead of from the farmer down the road.
                                  I have cooked for people with enough money to fund a small country, who have lost the value of whole foods, and I teach people who pay plenty of money to take my cooking course, who are often learning for the first time how to saute a vegetable in a little olive oil with garlic. (microwaves they know) (Just for the record I never, but never say, my way is the only way, or the best way, just that it is the best way for me, and one that I get such pleasure from that it has become a mission of mine to encourage everyone to cook beautiful food (at least a once in a while.) Also, just for the record, and I know I am on a roll here, so forgive me, but the amount of money that people spend on soda and snacks and take out and packaged prepared food is immense, and if they had the knowledge, could do way better for their wallet and quality of food with a few basic cooking skills, and fresh food. If (and I am really on a soap box here) a whole town no longer bought doritos and started to insist on darn good apples and lettuce, I do believe that the grocery store would find them and find them quick. Faye Delicious

                                  1. re: fayehess

                                    fayehess, I was a little put off by your original post, but after reading this latest one, I think I love you.

                                    1. re: fayehess

                                      I think we're largely in agreement here, at least in our individual approaches to food and our ideas about ways to eat that make people happier and healthier.

                                      But, though you say you never say your way is the only way, it did seem to me that your original post slammed this woman for not advocating what you advocate -- even though a lot of what she said was pretty much in concert with a whole foods approach (oatmeal, eggs, fruit, nuts, yogurt). I hope it doesn't come off as an attack, and as I said, I think we are largely in agreement. I guess it's just that I don't understand why this particular article set you off the way it did.

                                      I wrote a paragraph about food supply in poor urban neighborhoods, but decided it was way off topic and probably stuff you already know. :)

                                  2. re: fayehess

                                    Because it's better to suggest small, realistic changes than to offer only major changes that people will probably find too hard to follow through on? That kind of "all or nothing" mindset is why most diets and dietary changes fail.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I have no illusions that most people are not anywhere near interested in a pristine whole foods diet. When I like to encourage big changes, I mean I like to say for instance, "how would it feel if from this point forward, whenever you ate, you ate foods that were the best quality food you could get (afford, find)."
                                      Faye Delicious