Category: Nutrition

Public Health Selling Souls to the Devil

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Today, approximately 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children in the United States are overweight or obese (Odgen, 2012; Flegal, 2012). It is estimated that the country spends upwards of $190 billion per year treating obesity-related health conditions (Cawley, 2012). This trend is associated with the increase in marketing expenditures ($3.2 billion for carbonated beverages in 2006) and consequently the rise in consumption (US FTC, 2008). Americans are exposed to hundreds of ads each year; however, beverage companies adamantly deny their products and/or marketing tactics are correlated with the current obesity epidemic (HSPH, 2012).

Unfortunately, a study conducted by Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegal out of Boston University found that public health organizations may be enabling beverage companies to continue these detrimental business strategies. Aaron and Siegal discovered that 96 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola and Pepsi and ironically included diabetes organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Siegel and Aaron note that beverage companies “primary interest[s] [are] of improving profit, at the expense of public health.” It is demonstrated in the numbers. Between 2011 and 2014, the Coca-Cola Company spent more than $6 million annually, on average, on lobbying, while PepsiCo spent more than $3 million a year against 28 bills that established a soda tax or implemented advertising restrictions. Whereas the American Beverage Association spent a little more than $1 million a year (Aaron & Siegal, 2016). This hardly seems like a fair fight.

Siegel equates beverage companies to alcohol and tobacco companies and points out that “corporate philanthropy” is merely a “marketing tool that can be used to silence health organizations that might otherwise lobby and support public health measures against these industries.” The study recommends that health organizations reject sponsorship offers from soda companies and find alternative sources of funding (Aaron & Siegal, 2016; Chedekel, 2016).


Aaron, D.G. & Siegal, M.B (2016). Sponsorship of national health organizations by two major soda companies. Am J Prev Med.

Cawley, J. & Meyerhoefer, C. (2012). The medical care costs of obesity: an instrumental variables approach. J Health Econ. 31(1):219- 230.

Chedekel, L. (2016). How health groups unwittingly help coca-cola and pepsico. Futurity.

Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., & Ogden, C,L. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. JAMA. 307(5):491-497.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) (2012). Fact Sheet: Sugary drinks and obesity fact sheet. The Nutrition Source.

Ogden, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal, K.M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. JAMA. 307(5):483-490. US FTC, 2008

Black Bean Burgers

Satisfy your cravings for a burger with this health alternative.

Black Bean Burgers
Serves 4
Time: 20 minutes


15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
⅓ cup instant oats


Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside. In a mixing bowl, mash black beans with a fork until mostly pureed but still some half beans and bean parts are left. Stir in condiments and spices until well combined. Then mix in oats. Divide into 4 equal portions and shape into thin patties. Bake for 7 minutes, carefully flip over and bake for another 7 minutes, or until crusty on the outside. Slap into a bun with extra condiments and eat!

Original recipe can be found at

The ‘battle’ of fast-food vs. fast-casual

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Taco Bell vs. Chipotle. Subway vs. Panera. Grabbing food on the fly is inevitable. But how do you decide where to go or what to eat? What might make you choose fast-food (think McDonald’s) or fast-casual (think Five Guys)? People often perceive that fast-casual restaurants are healthier than fast-food, but are they? [Note: the true answer to that question depends on how you define ‘healthier’.]

Today we’ll look at a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focused on the caloric content of lunch and dinner entrees at fast-food and fast-casual restaurants to see if there was in fact a difference.

To some people’s surprise, and perhaps disappointment, fast-casual entrees used in this sample were found to contain more calories than the fast-food entrees.

So what?

Calories are not the end-all-be-all to healthy, but they are an important part of the energy balance equation. And with a growing number of people dining out more often, it’s important to recognize that our choices over time add up.

Be wary of those health food halos. Buzzwords, claims, or pictures can make a food appear healthier than it really is.


Instead – ask questions or look up information. Thanks to legislation in 2010, chain restaurants are required to make their nutrition information available.

If your go-to meal isn’t as healthy or low-calorie as you thought, here are some suggestions of healthier alternatives from 10 of the most popular chains.



Schoffman DE, Davidson CR, Hales SB, Crimarco AE, Dahl AA, Turner-McGrievy GM. The fast-casual conundrum: fast-casual restaurant eentrees are higher in calories than fast food. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct; 116(101):1606-12.

Easy Quinoa Pizza Bowl

This recipe is very easy to customize with your favorite pizza toppings. Don’t be afraid to pack on the veggies and enjoy!

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 15 mins.
Cook Time: 20 mins.
Total Time: 35 mins.


1 cup (dry) quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 (14-ounce) jars pizza sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese
2-3 cups of your favorite pizza toppings (I used pepperonis, diced green peppers, diced button mushrooms, and thinly-sliced red onions, but see other ideas below*)
optional toppings: grated Parmesan cheese, crushed red peppers


Preheat oven to 425°F.
Cook quinoa in the chicken or vegetable stock according to package instructions. (Or you can use this tutorial for how to cook quinoa.)
When the quinoa has finished cooking, fluff the quinoa with a fork. Then stir about 1/2 cup pizza sauce into the quinoa until evenly combined. Set aside.
Lightly spray 6 large (10-ounce) oven-safe ramekins with cooking spray. Place the ramekins on a large baking tray.
Spread about 2 Tablespoons of pizza sauce evenly over the bottom of each ramekin.
Layer each with about 1/4 cup of quinoa, and spread with a spoon to flatten.
Layer each evenly with pinch of shredded Mozzarella.
Layer each with a single layer of pizza toppings.
Repeat by layering each with another layer of sauce, quinoa, Mozzarella, pizza toppings, followed by a final layer of Mozzarella. The ramekins should be full but not overflowing.
Transfer the baking sheet full of ramekins to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are heated through. At this point, you can either remove the pizza bowls from the oven. Or if you’d like to get the cheese extra golden on top, you can turn the oven to “broil”. Then — keeping a close eye on the cheese so that it does not burn — broil the pizza bowls until the cheese is golden on top.
Remove and sprinkle each pizza bowl with a pinch of Parmesan cheese and crushed red peppers, if desired. Serve immediately.
*Feel free to swap in your favorite pizza toppings here. As goes with traditional pizza, just be sure that they are chopped or cooked (if needed, such as for sausage, etc.) if needed before adding them to the pizza bowls.

Original Recipe can be found at

Connecting Local Foods to Schools

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Interest in local foods has risen so much in recent years that there are skits on Portlandia and critics speculate whether it’s time to table farm-to-table.

In spite of the pop culture hold on local food, there are sustainable and real economic, environmental, mental, physical, and social benefits to eating local:

  • Contributes to local economy
  • Safer food supply
  • Enhanced flavor
  • More nutrients
  • Increased community connection

Recently efforts have expanded to connect schools with local farmers to provide kids access to nutritious, high quality foods and hands-on learning opportunities. In return, farmers can gain access to a substantial financial opportunity and there is an increased sense of community.


October is National Farm to School Month. Core elements of farm to school include: education, procurement, and/or school gardens. Efforts begin in early childhood education settings and continue all the way through college. This year’s theme, One Small Step, highlights easy ways people can get informed, get involved, or take action support farm to school in their communities.

Check out some of the top Farm to School success stories from 2015.


How can you take one small step for farm to school?



Grace Communications Foundation. Local Food Systems.

National Farm to School Network.

Utah State University Extension Sustainability. The Local Food Movement.

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Salad

Use some of those spices from your spice rack and try out this healthy salad recipe. Don’t be afraid to make more than a meal because the leftovers of this salad are even better the next day for lunch.

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Salad

By: Danya Weiner (

Ingredients for 8 servings

 For the cauliflower:

2 medium sized cauliflowers, broken into florets

¾ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cilantro

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

For the lentils:

4 cups water

2 cups black lentils

 For the salad:

½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the cauliflower: preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the cauliflower and then spread evenly onto the baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is softened but still a bit crunchy.
  3. Prepare the lentils: In a large pot, bring the water to a boil, and then add the lentils. Cook for 20 minutes, until they are al-dente. Strain and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Prepare the salad: Place the cauliflower and lentils in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the cilantro, and red onion and mix to combine. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasoning accordingly.
  5. Top with crumbled feta cheese and serve.

Original recipe found at

Faces of Hunger

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Although our nation is considered a Land of Plenty, the alarming truth is that a large number of people experience food insecurity. A newly released report indicates that in 2015, 42.2 million households (not people) were, at times, food insecure.


What does food insecure mean? About a decade ago, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced new terminology to capture the range of food insecurity people face. Essentially food insecure means at any given time, households are unable to get adequate food for one or more people in the home. Inadequate food may mean reduced quality, variety, desirability, or reduced food intake and disrupted patterns of eating. The term hunger, is often used to describe a consequence of food insecurity.

Other consequences of food insecurity affect both individuals and society. Food insecurity can impact an individual’s mental and physical health, learning, and productivity. At the societal level it can influence family and social dynamics as well as economic development (Hamelin et al., 1999).

National Geographic has a wonderful feature on The New Face of Hunger. The personal stories, pictures, and facts tackle our preconceived ideas about what hunger looks like and what people experience. I highly recommend you give it a read.


If you are looking for help with food insecurity, start with these links:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): learn and apply
  • Find your local food bank
  • Find local food pantries

If you have help to offer:

  • Map the Meal Gap to find out what food insecurity looks like in your area.
  • Get involved with local food banks or food pantries (see links above)



Cohen JH and Zagorsky JL. If America is the land of plenty, why do millions go hungry?

Newsweek, March 13, 2016.

Feeding America

Hamelin AM, Habicht JP, Beaudry M. (1999) Food insecurity: Consequences for the household and broader social implications. J Nutr, 129(2): 525S-528S.

McMillan, T. The New Face of Hunger. National Geographic Magazine.

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Security in the U.S.

Feature image: Quotes on Fighting Hunger.

Healthier Pumpkin Spice


By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

It’s officially Fall! Soon everything you see on menus and in stores will be pumpkin spice. I always get tempted when see a large display of pumpkin spice foods in Trader Joes or smell someone else’s Pumpkin Spice Latte in Starbucks, but whenever I break down and get something for myself I almost immediately regret it because almost all pumpkin spice foods and drinks are too sweet. Also, many of the pumpkin spice foods starting to show up on shelves don’t even contain real pumpkin, which are good for you!

Here are some healthy recipes to celebrate the start of Fall, but with less sugar, more creativity, and more pumpkin!

Pumpkin Pie Protein Smoothie – Nutritionist in the Kitch

Pumpkin & Sage Savory Muffins – Love Food Eat

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili – SkinnyTaste

Pumpkin Pancakes – Cookie & Kate

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds – The Kitchn

Miso Pumpkin Soup – The Kitchn

Brussel Sprouts and Egg Bake or Scramble

This easy recipe can be a fast breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Make it your own by adding your favorite spices, substituting other veggies in for the brussels sprouts, or incorporating a little meat, such as turkey sausage or bacon bits. Also, this recipe can be done in a frying pan too, as a scramble.

Time: less than 30 minutes

Servings: 2

8 Ingredients

2 cups Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 eggs
Shredded cheese (optional)
Bread, for serving (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, toss sprouts with olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in a baking dish and roast for about 15 minutes, until browned. Turn off oven.
  • Remove dish from oven and crack eggs over roasted brussel sprouts. Place back in still-warm oven.
  • Let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, or until eggs are cooked.
  • Top with cheese and enjoy with bread, if desired.

Original recipe found on Check out other delicious, healthy recipes at

Veggie-Americana Sushi Rolls

This is a very simple and easily personalized lunch recipe. The author, Kathy Patalsky, refers to these wrap-ups as “Veggie-Americana Sushi Rolls.” Try out different combinations of humus and veggies to avoid getting bored.

Adapted from: 

Serves: 1


  • 1 whole wheat wrap
  • 2-3 Tbsp Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Spread
  • handful of shredded carrots (or your favorite crunchy veggie, such as broccoli, bell peppers, or zucchini)
  • handful of baby spinach (or any leafy green)
  • splash of lemon juice/olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper
  • edamame soy beans (or a few black beans)
  • avocado slices (optional)


  1. Spread the hummus on wrap.
  2. Add the ingredients in a thinly spread layer – distribute evenly.
  3. Roll up your wrap – tightly. Slice into 1-inch-thick rounds.
  4. Eat or pack for later.