By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN


Pop quiz. . the average American gains how much weight during the holidays?

a) 1-2lbs

b) 3-5lbs

c) 5-8lbs

d) None

(scroll down for answer)







a) 1-2lbs. Most studies estimate that adults gain 1-2lbs, on average, between Thanksgiving and New Years. Not THAT bad, right? Well, if these couple pounds don’t come off every year, we’re looking at a 10-20lb weight gain each decade.

Instead of waiting until January to start your resolution of weight loss, why not go into the holidays with a goal of weight maintenance? If you maintain your weight through New Years, you’re at least 1-2lbs ahead of the curve. Here are some ways to avoid unnecessary weight gain this time of year.


1) Plan Ahead

o Before the party, think about…Situations that may trigger you to eat? How will you limit your exposure to food? Are there gatherings/parties you do not mind skipping?

2) Eat Before the Party

o Never arrive hungry to a gathering

o Saving up calories always backfires, it also gives you “permission” to overeat

o Keep choices healthy throughout the day

3) Control your Food Environment

o Your proximity to food can impact how much you eat

o Sit next to someone you feel eats healthfully and slowly

4) Bring Your Own Dish or Dessert

o Bring 1-2 healthy dishes you know you can eat

5) Practice Portion Control

o Use an appetizer plate or fill your plate only ½ or ¾ full

o Choose mostly protein, vegetables and 1 “fun” dish (eat this last)

6) Eat Mindfully

o Make your meal last at least 20 minutes and savor your food

o Put your fork down between bites. Make sure you’re sitting.

7) Stay Busy

o Volunteer to help clean up as soon as you are done

o Get started on another activity – gifts, games, dancing!

8) Splurge Strategically

o Splurge wisely at the end of your meal. You’re most likely no longer hungry, this is just to “get a taste”

o Tiny-size your sweet treat. Each bite is about 100 calories!

9) Practice saying “No, thank you”.

10) Stay positive and keep things in perspective.

o Even the most disciplined eaters deviate from their eating plan on occasion, don’t beat yourself up

o Get back on track right away (at the next meal)

Remember – weight maintenance during the holidays should be considered a success!


Sources & Resources

By Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

The average American does not meet many of the recommendations outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Regarding fruit and vegetables, recent research shows that while overall intake has increased since 1970, daily totals still fall short [1]. As a result of this under-consumption, roughly 40% of the US population does not consume enough potassium, fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D or E, and folate [2].

Convenient and inexpensive canned fruit and vegetables (as well as canned beans, lentils and seafood) can help us come closer, and hopefully meet, these goals.

In a study looking at the eating habits of more than 40,000 American adults and children, those whose diets contained canned varieties of fruit and vegetables (in comparison to those whose diets did not) had greater overall intake of fruit, vegetables and key nutrients [3]. And for the roughly 11.5 million Americans who live in low-income areas more than one mile from a supermarket [4], canned products offer a long shelf-life and good nutrition for a low cost.

What makes canned fruit and vegetables so good?

Canned shortly after picking produce at the peak of ripeness ensures best fresh flavor and texture, and maximum nutritional retention. The process of canning actually helps enhance the nutrient profile of certain foods, such as canned tomatoes, which contain significantly higher amounts of the heart-healthy phytochemical lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

But canned goods are ‘processed’ – aren’t we told to avoid processed foods?

The practice of ‘processing’ foods ranges from minimal to heavy processing. Canned green beans, for example, are processed to lock in freshness and nutrient quality. Even the versions with one or two additional ingredient ‘additives’ are considered “basic processed.” To compare, fresh green beans at farm stand or supermarket are “unprocessed,” and those that have only been washed and packaged in a bag or container for convenience are “minimally processed.”

In general, canned versions of fruit and vegetables are on the low end of the ‘processing’ continuum, and should absolutely be thought of as a convenient, inexpensive and nutritious part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Should I be concerned about the additives in some canned fruit and vegetables, or the can itself?

Among the common one or two additional ingredients mentioned above is salt – in canned vegetables at least – and some contain upwards of 300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving. The Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation is no more than 2,300 mg sodium per day, or no more than 1,500 mg for those with hypertension or heart disease. (May be lower for individuals on other sodium-restricted diets, such as those with kidney disease.) Always look for cans labeled “Reduced/Low Sodium” or “No Salt/Sodium Added,” and rinse in a colander under cool water before using.

Sugar is another addition, particularly to fruits, and can be as much as 6 grams per 1/2-cup serving! Look for cans of fruit labeled “No Sugar Added” or “Packed in Water.” If you can only find “Packed in Lite Syrup” or “Packed in Heavy Syrup,” do as you would with the vegetables and rinse the fruit in a colander under cool water before using.

Citric acid or calcium chloride are two other additives you may come across in canned fruit and vegetables. Both are considered safe to consume and are used in very small amounts with the purpose of preserving color and texture, respectively.

If you’re concerned about BPA (bisphenol A), there are now quite a few brands of BPA-free canned goods. Alternatively, fruit and vegetables in cardboard containers as opposed to cans are naturally BPA-free. (Read more about BPA in this Food & Nutrition Magazine article.)

· Fuel with Canned Foods, Canned Food Alliance
· Canned Food: What to Watch For, University of Minnesota Extension
· Attached infographic: Shop the Canned Food Aisle

1. Bentley J. (3 July 2017) Retrieved from: USDA Economic Research Service. Accessed 5 November 2017.
2. USDA. (2015) Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Advisory Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. Retrieved from: Accessed 5 November 2017.
3. Freedman MR, Fulgoni V. Canned Vegetable and Fruit Consumption Is Associated with Changes in Nutrient Intake and Higher Diet Quality in Children and Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010. Jour of Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Jun;116(6):940-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.10.013. Epub 2015 Nov 24.
4. USDA Economic Research Service. (2009) Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences. Report to Congress. Retrieved from: Accessed 4 November 2017.


Q & A: All About Plant Based Diets

by Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

1)    What’s the difference between vegan, vegetarian and plant based?
Vegan diets – eliminate all animal products from the diet including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy. Strict vegans also avoid honey as well as avoid leather and other animal byproducts.
Vegetarian diets – include eggs and dairy but avoid meat, poultry and seafood.
Whole Foods Plant Based – Similar to vegan but more emphasis on whole foods rather than processed. For example, French fries and soy-rizo are technically vegan, but because they are highly processed, they would not be encouraged on a plant-based diet. This term definitely emphasizes the health aspects of food rather than sheer avoidance of animal products.

2)    Why would someone eat this way? Vegan and vegetarian diets historically were for animal rights or environmental concerns. Recently, there’s been a push for plant-based diets as an effective health tool for the prevention of chronic disease.

3)    It seems too restrictive! Plant based diets, by definition, cut out a lot of major foods that we eat here in the U.S. Rather than focusing on what a plant based diet doesn’t include, think about all the foods it does include – all fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes! When compared to the MyPlate recommendations, a plant-based diet actually isn’t that different.

4)    Will I get enough protein? If eating adequate calories, it’s almost impossible to be protein deficient on a plant-based diet. Just like on a regular diet, try to include a source of protein at each meal (i.e. soy milk at breakfast, lentils at lunch and tofu at dinner). Remember that there are small amounts of protein in all vegetables and whole grains, so protein doesn’t only have to come from the Legumes group.

5)    How about calcium? Iron? B12?
Most vegans do not reach the DRI for calcium. Luckily, almost all plant-based milks are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D. Some plant based foods like kale and collard greens actually have very high bioavailability of calcium.  Aim to have 3 servings of high calcium foods a day (fortified plant based milk, tofu, fortified OJ, kale, soy beans).
Believe it or not, vegetarians actually consume as much iron, or slightly more than, omnivores. In western cultures, vegetarians and non-vegetarians have similar hemoglobin values and other measures of iron status. When consuming large amounts of non-heme iron, the body adapts and absorbs more of it, which helps overall iron status. There is less research on iron status of vegans vs. vegetarians, so this might be something to keep an eye on for those who are strict vegans. Include sources of non-heme iron and be sure to ask your doctor to test iron levels annually rather than jumping straight to a supplement.
A lot of vegan foods are fortified with B12 (cereals, milks), but it’s recommended for strict vegans to take a B12 supplement. The DRI is 2.4mcg/day for adults, and as usual, look for the USP label for high quality vitamins. I usually recommend a high dose of B12 once or twice a week (i.e. 1000mcg twice a week).

6)    My loved one needs help meal planning. I don’t eat this way and am at a loss! Have no fear – refer to the following resources. Better yet, challenge yourself to a 100% plant-based week of eating! There’s no better way to learn about a diet than to follow it yourself. Here are some great recipe pages to get started.,,

1)    AND Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets
2)    Top 50 Vegan Blogs
3)    Protecting Bone Health Among Vegans
4)    Counseling Vegan Clients

By Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

People who frequently cook at home – for themselves or for their families – consume fewer calories. Not only is planning meals and cooking at home healthier, it also costs less, creates less stress around mealtimes. Furthermore, time together in the kitchen and around the table is for building relationships, reconnecting at the end (or beginning or middle) of a day, and to help teach kids about food and nutrition.

Research has shown that 11-14 homemade meals per week can cut diabetes risk by as much as 13%, in comparison to six or fewer homemade meals per week [1]. Another positive observation from a different study is that home cooks tended to consume fewer calories on average, even when dining out [2].

Meal planning is an important part of eating more home-prepared meals. But for these and many additional good things that can be said about meal planning and eating more homemade meals, I’m regularly confronted with: “Where do I begin?” or “How can I do it when I juggle so many other things?” or even “Why bother?”

So, in light of the upcoming National Family Meals Month in September, we will look at the basic elements of meal planning and how to make it a success.

Why plan meals?

  • To provide wholesome, balanced meals for yourself/your family.
    – Planning and shopping ahead allows you to offer fresh, nutritious ingredients made using preparation methods you feel good about.
  • To decrease stress and save time.
    – Having a set plan eliminates last-minute scramble through the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards on the heels of a long day, or at the start of one, which relieves tension and gives you more time to enjoy other things you and your family love. (And also minimizes that mindless munching we often succumb to during that hunt!)
  • To keep the food budget in check.
    – Without a plan you’re more likely to purchase unnecessary ingredients that attract your attention in the store, or unnecessary ingredients that ultimately go to waste.
    – A study from the Natural Resource Defense Council found that each month Americans trash roughly 33 pounds of food, averaging about $40.
    – Wandering time is also when marketers earn their salaries: According to the Food Marketing Institute, you spend $2 for every minute you are in the grocery store.
    – A commitment to meals made at home — even if only 1-2x/week to start — spares the cash (and calories) that come with regular dining out or ordering in. Shopping “seasonally” further decreases costs, as fresh local produce is often less expensive when in season and abundant.
  • To promote stronger family ties and long-lasting healthy habits.
    – By involving the whole family in meal planning, shopping, prep, and/or cooking, you not only take advantage of extra help but inherently get to spend more time together.
    – These activities also provide opportunities to be a good role model to impressionable little eaters, instilling positive habits and attitudes that will last a lifetime!

How to begin?
Adopting meal planning as a regular healthy habit for you and your family comes down to a few basic steps. Like any new routine or habit, it’s best to start small. My recommendation is to plan only one week at a time.

  1. Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you do and do not need.
  2. Write/type up a realistic plan of the week’s meals and/or snacks, adding clipped, printed out or links to the recipes you’ll use for ease – snag ideas from these free online menu-creating tools on Cooking Light + Eating Well.
  3. Use your plan to create a grocery list so you have everything you need to prepare the week’s recipes – then stash the list in a place you’ll remember it — in a wallet, purse, car, reusable shopping tote, tacked on the fridge, in Google Keep (free for both Android + Apple) or etc.
  4. Stick to your list to save headaches, time and money at the store!
  5. Most important: BE FLEXIBLE, because life happens – pick up the meal plan on the next day if a wrench is thrown in your original plans.

Meal planning is a routine that becomes easier with practice, and will absolutely eliminate some of the stress from shopping, cooking and at mealtimes – whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. This one simple weekly habit is a delicious investment in your health and the health of your family.

Bonus Tips:

Plan once to eat twice. Purposely repeat ingredients throughout the week, and make extras for supper to include in the next day’s meals or snacks!
Farmers’ markets are plentiful this time of year, and a great activity for the whole family.
Don’t go into full blinders mode when shopping – keep an eye out for non-perishable staple items on sale that you could stock up on (if you have room at home), as well as for less expensive seasonal fruit and veg. There are overlooked gems on those “bargain produce” tables!
And finally, please don’t worry about aiming for perfection – no one but Martha Stewart is Martha Stewart. Besides, she has a whole staff on hire!



Family Food Pinterest boards for recipe ideas
Pinch Your Pennies: Ten Tips for Eating Right without Breaking the Bank, Family Food Blog
Save More at the Grocery Store, Eat Right
Family Dinners in a Flash, Eat Right
Cook Once, Eat Safely Throughout the Week, Eat Right
The Most Important Meal of the Day: The Family Dinner, Forbes
The Family Dinner Project – a national endeavor providing resources and an online community to promote family bonding at the table
75+ ideas for quick pantry meals, the kitchn


Zong, G; Eisenberg, DM; Hu, FB; Sun, Q. Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies. PLOS Medicine. 2016 Jul 5.
Wolfson, JA; Bleich, SN. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jun;18(8):1397-406. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014001943. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

By Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN


Sleep deprivation extends far beyond lack of energy. From depressed mood and decreased cognitive ability, inadequate pillow time can also limit the immune system’s ability to fight off colds and infections, impair judgment and memory, and put a damper on sex drive.
A recent study found that weekday sleep debt may be linked to worse metabolic health, including lower HDL cholesterol levels, impaired glucose metabolism, elevated levels of C-reactive protein or CRP (a marker for inflammation), and impaired thyroid function [1]. This research, and many others [2], also show that fewer hours of sleep is associated with overeating, poor food choices, and weight gain.

Several of the reasons why less sleep can equate to weight gain are:

* less energy and therefore less physical activity;
* increased levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) plus decreased levels of the hormone that signals satiety/fullness (leptin) [3];
* increased levels of endocannabinoids – hormones that promote eating for pleasure, or so-called ‘hedonic eating’ – that triggers a preference for high-fat and sugary foods [4];
* increased levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) that shifts the body into energy conservation mode, which can contribute to weight gain over time (additionally, researchers find that stress may cause people to eat more than usual and choose junk food instead of healthier options [5]);
* consuming more calories overall in a day, even if foods consumed are healthy [1], simply due to the fact that amount of awake time is extended, meaning more time to eat.

Of course every person is different, and the “correct” duration of sleep is unique to each of us, a recent UK study of more than 1,600 adults found that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours nightly are more likely to have an overweight or obese BMI when compared to individuals who get 7 or more hours of sleep. In general, a good recommendation is to aim for a solid 7 to 9 hours every night. (A full nine hours is the sweet spot for me!)

Tips to Get Your ZZZs + Improve Sleep Quality

Power up during the day. Physical activity during the day, promotes better, more restful sleep at night.

* According to a national health survey from the CDC, 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (the minimum weekly recommendation for all adults from the Dietary Guidelines of Americans 2015-2020) led to a 65% improvement in sleep quality of responders [6].
* However, working out right before bed increases adrenaline and brain activity, and can make it difficult to get to sleep. If you typically don’t unwind well before hitting the sack, give yourself a buffer of 2 to 3 hours between your workout and bed time.
Power down at night.
After a full day – particularly stressful or just run-on-the-mill routine – taking time to unplug and relax so you not only fall asleep more easily, but also prevent a “too active” brain from waking you up in the middle of the night.

* Research shows that exposure to bright screens (e.g., televisions, phones, computers, tablets) increases brain activity, and also delays the body’s natural trigger to release the sleep-friendly hormone melatonin when in a dark environment. About 1 hour before bed time, switch off or put away your screen devices and if you can, dim the lights a bit.
* Create a relaxed environment with peaceful background noise.
* Other techniques to help you relax and calm down for a quicker trip to dreamland is guided meditation (either at night or during the day), and the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
* One kind-of-exception to the rule is employing an app to track your sleep habits.

Maximize melatonin. Certain foods are natural sources of melatonin, and certain nutrients help our bodies promote its utilization, for yet more (delicious) ways to help improve sleep quality.

* Melatonin is found in tart cherries (and their juice), oranges, pineapple, oatmeal and walnuts.
* Additionally, magnesium and vitamin B6 help the body produce and release melatonin – look to almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), spinach, lentils and dark chocolate for magnesium; chickpeas, bananas, fish and fortified cereal for a boost of vitamin B6.

Avoid stimulants and disruptive foods. There are also foods that interfere with the body’s ability to fall and stay asleep. While every person responds differently, a few culprits commonly to blame for sleep disruption:

* Caffeine is a natural stimulant, and some individuals are very susceptible to its effects; others not as much. I, for one, have trouble falling asleep if even a small amount passes my lips after noon – see what works for you.
* Research suggests that while alcohol may increase drowsiness, it also suppresses entry into the rapid eye movement (REM) – a sleep pattern crucial for a restful night’s sleep.
* Eating a full meal close to bedtime, particularly one containing high-fat and high-protein foods that require more from your body to digest, may contribute to restlessness for some. Some experts recommend a “front-loading” of calories in a day, putting a curfew on the kitchen 2, 3 or even 4 hours before going to bed. (Bonus: This focus on earlier eating not only benefits weight loss efforts, but may also be linked to decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension [7].)

The main takeaway from all of this is that sleep is integral to the human body, and getting enough quality shut-eye may help improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being. More than an increased risk of impaired judgment and feelings of sluggishness, people often make poor food choices when sleep deprived, which can lead to weight gain and obesity; not to mention an increased risk of a variety of mild to serious health issues.
Implement or focus more on some of the tips above, and set yourself up for 7 to 9 hours of snoozeland success. Pleasant dreaming!


1. Potter GDM, Cade JE, Hardie LJ. Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and favorable metabolic profiles in UK adults: Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. PLoS ONE. 2017; 12(7): e0182195.
2. Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity. 2008; 16:643–653. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.118.
3. Quan S. “Too little sleep and too much weight: a dangerous duo.” Harvard Health Publications. Updated 29 October 2015. ‪‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
4. Sample I. “Lack of sleep alters brain chemicals to bring on cannabis-style ‘munchies’.” The Guardian: Neuroscience. 29 February 2016. ‪‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
5. Liu Y, Song Y, Koopmann J, Wang M, Chang CH, Shi J. Eating Your Feelings? Testing a Model of Employees’ Work-Related Stressors, Sleep Quality, and Unhealthy Eating. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2017; DOI: 10.1037/apl0000209.
6. Oregon State University. “Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep.” Science Daily. 23 November 2011. ‪‬. Accessed 10 August 2017.
7. Jakubowicz D, Barnea M, Wainstein J, Froy O. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity. 2013; 21: ‪2504–2512‬. doi:10.1002/oby.20460.

By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN


According to some recent studies, yes!

In a study on meal timing and weight loss, participants who reported eating their main meal earlier in the day (before 3:00pm) actually lost more weight than those who reported eating their main meal later in the day (after 3:00pm). Energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups. But the late-eaters did report having smaller breakfasts or skipped breakfast more often than the early-eaters.

Another study found similar results – participants were randomized into two groups, each received 1400 calories a day, but one group received a 700 calorie breakfast and 200 calorie dinner, while the other group received the opposite. Both groups received a lunch that was 500 calories. The 700-calorie breakfast group showed greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction as well as greater reductions in triglycerides and blood sugar levels. Interestingly, the larger breakfast group also reported higher satiety with the meal plan than the small breakfast group.

Why, despite controlling for calorie intake, did the early-eaters experience better outcomes than the late-eaters? This may have to do with circadian rhythms, a topic that’s getting a lot of attention recently. Circadian rhythms are “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in the environment.” Because of circadian rhythms, many of our metabolic processes operate at different rates over the course of a 24-hour period. For example:

Insulin sensitivity is highest in the morning and midday and decreases throughout the afternoon and evening

Triglycerides are often highest at night

Thermogenesis is lowest at night and highest in the morning

These metabolic shifts help explain why eating later in the day makes it harder to lose weight, and why shift workers or nighttime eaters suffer higher rates of obesity and related health issues. This could also help explain why breakfast eaters overall have healthier weights than breakfast skippers.

The Take-Away: If you are trying to lose weight despite following a low calorie diet, switch up the timing. Try to front load calories and eat larger breakfasts and lunches, but smaller dinners.

by Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

As of now, the research tells us that yes, the consumption of soy foods is associated with health benefits, including but not limited to:

·       reduced risk of breast cancer

·       risk of recurrence of breast cancer

·       decreased LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides

·       reduced blood pressure

·       decreased risk of heart disease

According to the United Soybean Board, 81% of consumers view soy as healthy, which means about 19%, or 1 in 5 people view soy as unhealthy or neutral.

What’s in soy?

Soy is a higher-fat legume that contains about 27% carbohydrate, 33% protein and 40% fat. It is a complete protein and is easily digested.

Doesn’t soy contain phytoestrogens?

Soy contains both phytoestrogens and anti-phytoestrogens. What this means, is that soy contains a chemical structure that looks a lot like human estrogen. This fact has led people to fear that the consumption of soy can affect estrogen levels in humans, thus making them at higher risk for estrogen sensitive diseases like breast cancer. We now know that this is not true. These compounds sometimes act like estrogen in the body, but other times they exhibit effects that are opposite to estrogen.

From the American Institute for Cancer research Website:

Because soy contains estrogen-like compounds, there was fear that soy may raise risk of hormone-related cancers. Evidence shows this is not true.

A good comparison is the sterols in animal vs. plant foods. Cholesterol in animal foods is very chemically similar to phytosterols in plant foods, but as we all know, they exhibit very different effects in the body. Just because a molecule is similar, does not mean it will produce the same results in the body.

How much soy do I need to reap the health benefits?

Dr. Messina, recommends 2-4 servings per day or about 25g or soy protein a day, while the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a moderate amount of soy per day, which is 1-2 servings. 1 serving = 1 cup soy milk, ½ cup edamame, or 1/3 cup tofu.

How about soy and thyroid health?

Soy can interfere with absorption of thyroid medication (as does calcium, iron, dairy, etc.), so the recommendation is to separate levothyroxine from soy by about 4 hours. Whether soy itself can interfere with thyroid function, or even contribute to hypothyroidism, is a hotly debated topic. Dr. Messina’s research purports that soy is not currently contraindicated in the hypothyroid patient, nor should it impact the thyroid health of healthy individuals. I would love to see any articles for or against soy and thyroid health!

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) website is a good resource to provide you with the latest research.

Practical ways to increase soy in diet:

·       Try unsweetened soy milk instead of cow’s milk or almond milk

·       Snack on edamame or add a handful to salads

·       Try tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs



1)    To Soy or Not to Soy: Effects of Soybeans on Breast Cancer, Menopause and Heart Disease

2)    Top Five Soy Myths


by Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

June is Dairy Month. All cow’s milk, like human milk, inherently contains growth hormones. Among the most publicized is bovine growth hormone (BGH), or bovine somatotropin (BST) – a hormone that cows naturally produce. The synthetic form, rBGH or rBST, is given to cows to extend the lactation period by increasing levels of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), ultimately increasing milk production with less feed, less animal waste and less methane production.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about these hormones, as well as the use of antibiotics. While more research is warranted, here’s where we are thus far regarding some of the more common concerns:

  1. Does drinking milk that contains these hormones increase a person’s individual level of hormones? Testing has found no significant difference between the levels of growth hormone between milk of rBGH-treated cows and non-rBGH-treated cows. Additionally, the human stomach naturally breaks down protein hormones, rendering them inactive. Furthermore, bovine growth hormones are just that – bovine, meaning they are not recognized by human protein receptors.
  2. Can consumption of milk from rBGH-treated cows that may have increased levels of IGF-1 increase risk of certain cancers in humans, particularly prostate and breast? While early studies suggested such, the most recent research does not confirm these initial associations, or demonstrates much weaker associations. What we know now seems to suggest that there is no cause and effect chain linking these two hormones to increased risk of cancer or other disease in drinking milk with rBGH. The exact relationship requires further study.

Still, milk from rBGH-treated cows was found to have slightly higher IGF-1 concentrations than untreated milk. Though the human digestive system would likely break down and deactivate any IGF-1 in our milk, it is yet unclear as to whether or not, and if yes, to what extent, the hormone may be absorbed. Researchers compared blood draws of adults who drank milk (3 glasses/day) vs. those who drink little to no milk, finding that the former had about 10% higher levels of IGF-1. However, this exact same finding was also reported in adults who drank only soy milk (no cow’s milk), suggesting the IGF-1 increase may actually be the result of a different nutrient or entirely other factor unrelated to rBGH.

  1. Treating cows with rBGH can result in mastitis, which can lead to antibiotic use that promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While antibiotics are used to treat mastitis and other infections in cows, the farmers have a financial incentive to avoid antibiotic use unless absolutely necessary. Among other reasons, sick cows are generally separated from the herd for special care, increasing labor- and housing-related cost burdens. An even greater deterrent is the FDA requirement that during and for 96 hours following antibiotic treatment, a treated cow’s milk must be discarded, i.e., wasted without profit. Furthermore, incoming milk tanker trucks are mandatorily tested at dairy processing plants upon arrival. If a tanker’s load – often comprised of milk from more than one farm – is found to contain any level of antibiotics, the offending milk can be traced back to the specific farm. That farm is then on the hook for the disposal and shipping costs of both its own wasted milk plus that from any other farms, and repeat violations jeopardize their ability to sell milk at all. Thus, treatment without antibiotics is highly preferred.

Despite best efforts, it is possible that milk containing antibiotics can make it into our refrigerators, but as yet the extent to which these are, or are not, transmitted to humans is unclear. In terms of cancer and other diseases, evidence thus far suggests that there is no increased risk associated with drinking pasteurized milk from cows treated with antibiotics.

Bottom Line

Stay tuned. More research is warranted, and underway. As of this time the American Cancer Society has “no formal position regarding rBGH,” and goes on to state that “it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

For those who are truly concerned, there is also no significant human health risk in drinking milk without hormones or antibiotics. The only downfalls are higher price, and the possibility of purchasing milk that has become tainted (taste sour or spoiled) as the result of untreated infection.

Routinely used antibiotics for cows are ampicillin and erythromycin. And for anyone who is extremely sensitive or allergic to ampicillin, erythromycin, or similar antibiotics, avoidance of treated milk is likely wise to avoid any potential problems.

What are your thoughts on dairy milk hormones and antibiotics? 



  1. Food & Nutrition Magazine, In the Matter of Milk
  2. Ingles Supermarkets, What is rBGH?


  1. American Cancer Society, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
  2. Today’s Dietitian, Organic Milk and Meat—Are They Healthier than Their Conventional Counterparts?
  3. US Food and Drug Administration, Report on the Food and Drug Administration’s review of thesafety of recombinant bovine somatotropin

by Elizabeth May, RDN, LDN

Carrageenan has been in our food supply for decades now and is one of the most hotly debated food additives, but why?

What is it?

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed, mostly imported from Indonesia. The red seaweed is dried and processed into a fine powder where either an acid (“degraded” carrageenan, not used for food) or an alkaline substance (“food grade” carrageenan).


What does it do?

Carrageenan acts as a thickener, emulsifier, and preservative. When carrageenan is removed from a product, manufacturers normally replace it with a mixture of gums such as guar gum and xanthan gum.


Where can I find it? According to the Cornucopia Institute, carrageenan is found in:

Chocolate milk

Ice cream

Sour cream

Cottage cheese

“Squeezable” yogurt


Almond milk

Hemp milk

Coconut milk

Soy desserts

Soy pudding

Sliced turkey

Prepared chicken

Nutritional drinks

Canned soup


Microwaveable dinners

Frozen pizza


What’s all the hype surrounding carrageenan?

Carrageenan is considering safe by the FDA , WHO, and European Commission. However, many organizations and individuals including Food Babe, Cornucopia Institute, National Organic Standard Board (appeals to USDA), and many other professionals, point to studies that have linked this food additive to inflammation, digestive disease risk, and cancer. In 1970, 5,000 tons of red seaweed were harvested for carrageenan production. Today, more than 200,000 tons are harvested for the global use of carrageenan. Some blame this increase in carrageenan use to the subsequent rise of digestive issues and IBD in children.


What does the research say?

Research regarding carrageenan is mixed.

According to Jessica Levings, MA, RDN, writing for the Food and Nutrition Magazine, “Recent research findings published in the journal Food and Toxicology and funded by the industry-backed International Food Additives Council indicate that carrageenan does not cross the intestinal epithelium — a barrier that keeps out the bad stuff and lets in good stuff — and does not cause intestinal inflammation. The findings may seem biased to some, since the study was funded by the food industry — this alone, however shouldn’t indicate bias. The food industry has a vested interest in only using ingredients that are safe for its consumers”.

However, just this year, a review from the Frontiers in Pediatrics, concludes that “animal studies consistently report that carrageenan and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) induce histopathological features that are typical of IBD while altering the microbiome, disrupting the intestinal epithelial barrier, inhibiting proteins that provide protection against microorganisms, and stimulating the elaboration of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Similar trials directly assessing the influence of carrageenan and CMC in humans are of course unethical to conduct, but recent studies of human epithelial cells and the human microbiome support the findings from animal studies. ” The review did state that carrageenan and CMC are unlikely to be the only environmental trigger to IBD.



There is no known safety level of carrageenan so it is best to consume in moderation, if at all. More research is needed. We recommend to read ingredient lists and buy whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish, as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on carrageenan? Do you think it should continue to be a GRAS food additive?


Research Studies:

Image by Susan Albers

Have you been mindful lately?

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is the concept of becoming more in tune with our bodies and being more present in the moment with our food. When was the last time you truly enjoyed your meal? Truly tasted, savored and respected all of the flavors that were present. Do you know where your food came from? How it was prepared? These are all questions you might want to ask yourself when trying to be more mindful with your eating.

Recognize your hunger signals. Try to distinguish the difference between being satisfied, instead of stuffed or full. As an experiment, rate your hunger level on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being completely full and not hungry and 5 being absolutely famished. What level were you when you began the meal? What level were you after?

Enjoy the experience. Grab a small square of chocolate. Turn off all distractions (computers, devices, phone, etc). Place the chocolate in your mouth and let it melt for 15 seconds without chewing it. What sensations are you experiencing? How does it smell? Taste? Think of as many descriptions as you can and write them down.

Apply some of these tactics to your next meal. Try eating lunch away from your desk and without any distractions. Leave your phone behind and savor each bite. Be present in the moment. Recognize when you are satisfied and stop eating.


Further reading:

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food by Susan Albers

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D