Food Rules

January 21, 2010

Michael Pollan has done it again.  He has some wonderful  recommendations on diet and healthy eating  in his new book  Food Rules. For those of us who are tired of reading labels and trying to decide if  “low fat” is better than “lite” or if the caloric content is more important than  the nutritional value,  here  is the  answer in 64 simple rules.  He gives sensible advice that is easy to remember.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

“It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.”

“Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.”

I will no longer gaze at the labels on the sides of packages.  Most of my food will come with no packages or labels  and hopefully much of it will not have traveled long distances to arrive in my kitchen.


Virginia Bans Smoking in Bars and Restaurants

February 21, 2009

The Virginia General Assembly has finally banned smoking in bars and restaurants and the bill goes  to  Governor Kaine who will almost certainly sign it with ” the quickest drying ink he can find.”  After weeks of debate the legislation passed despite the opposition of Phillip Morris, the nation’s largest cigarette producer, headquartered in Richmond.

There are a few exceptions to the ban such as:

1. Any outdoor area of a restaurant

2. Any portion of a restaurant that has a door and is separately vented to prevent the recirculation of air

3. Any portion of a restaurant that is used exclusively for private functions and those portions  of the restaurant are separately vented and have a door

4. private clubs

One of the more important sections of the bill says “No individual who is wait staff or bus staff in a restaurant shall be required by the proprietor to work in an area of the restaurant where smoking may be permitted without the consent of such individual.

Finally, the staff can avoid the health effects of second hand smoke.  In June 2006 the U.S.Surgeon General reported that there is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke.

At last, health wins over big tobacco  in Virginia.

Diet and Nutrition in the U.S.- the Obesity Epidemic

January 19, 2009


I recently saw the movie Super Size Me and was once again reminded that the U.S population is fat and getting fatter.   What are the causes of the obesity epidemic ?  Certainly the availability of cheap calorie and fat laden fast food  contributes to the problem.  How many times a week does the average family eat out?  If children are not getting meals  at  home where do they learn to  prepare food?  Where do children learn about diet and nutrition?

My sons are excellent cooks, are not obese, and understand nutrition.  I am not the best cook (famous for my rubber chicken)  but we ate most meals at home.  My husband and I encouraged our sons  to cook meals for the family.  They learned that food comes from the grocery store and not the drive through.  They also learned that home cooked food tastes better and is more nutritious than burgers and fries.

My suggestion to help combat the obestity epidemic is to introduce children to cooking  and keep family meals at home.

Childhood Injuries

July 20, 2008

My youngest son recently reminded me how difficult it was to grow up in the home of an emergency physician. All activities were ranked on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being almost no risk of injury, such as finger painting with non toxic paint to 10 being a good chance of injury, such as riding behind a neighbor’s car on a sled. There was always the reminder that high ranking injury activities would bring them into my ED on a stretcher. I was constantly telling them that the leading cause of death in children from 1-18 was unintentional injury and that injuries were not “accidents”.

Before the birth of my first child, I had childproofed the house with plugs in all outlets and no poisons in lower cabinets. I had posted the number for poison control on the refrigerator and removed all toxic houseplants. Bike riding was helmets only and when in a boat life preservers were mandatory. As they reached adolescence we had a driving contract which prohibited driving after dark for the first year. Since I had seen my share of underage drinking in patients, they were not allowed to stay with friends whose parents were not at home.

Did they have injuries…sure. Two anterior cruciate ligament injuries from team sports, a cut tendon from a knife, a smashed thumb caught in a car door ( A Volvo, of course) and an unavoidable auto crash ( in a 1990 Volvo).

So now that they are adults, I hope they remember the 1-10 injury grading scale when they are making their own decisions. We recently went swimming at a quarry with my oldest son and he was remarking how dangerous it was to dive off the rocks. I think he remembered.

The Ultimate Healthy Diet

July 4, 2008

I have finally found what I consider the ultimate healthy diet in Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”. He states it very simply:

Eat food, Not too much, Mostly plants

I have tried multiple diets including the “Diet for a Small Planet” approach by Fances Moore Lappe to eat complementary combinations of food. I have tried the low carbohydrate diet, the low fat diet, the no red meat diet and even the grapefruit diet. I scanned labels in the grocery store to learn the nutritional content of foods and to figure out the science of eating a healthy diet.

After reading this book, I buy mostly produce which comes with no packaging and no labels to confuse me with nutritional content. I am liberated by the statement “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” It is so easy!