Best (Easy to Read) Nutrition and Wellness Books

Few conversations can bring a bookworm out of his or her shell faster than a request for reading recommendations. Much to my delight, people from all walks of life are now embracing nutrition and wellness with a frenzied, passion-like curiosity. And guess what — they’re looking for something to read! While no one book can bottle up my entire education and experience into a practical, easy-to-read volume, I will happily supply recommendations for those wanting to learn more.

Not to worry — there  are no dense nutrition textbooks or food anthologies on this list. Rather, I’m sharing some of my favorite, easy to read book nutrition related books from the popular press. I also included four of my favorite food systems books, for those that want to dig deeper and approach nutrition on a public health scale.

Best Easy-to-Read Nutrition Books (according to a Dietitian)

Nutrition & Wellness 101: What to Eat and How to Eat It

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Live the Longest, by Dan Buettner // This book investigates cultures around the world that live the longest, emphasizing the importance of achievable, enjoyable lifestyles and habits, rather than extreme regimens. The diversity of traditions represented demonstrate why small choices (black beans versus bok choy) aren’t as important as overall dietary patterns (eating lots of vegetables).

Disease-Proof, by David Katz // Although not every chapter of this book is devoted specifically to diet and food choices, it is a great handbook for anyone striving to take better care of their body. Dr. Katz not only addresses goals that are relevant to living healthier, but also the skills needed to make these goals a reality. (I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan // While not an outright guidebook on what to eat, this is one of the clearest, most beautifully written explanations of the way that our food is grown and processed matters, and why farm fresh food and scratch cooking are wiser alternatives to packaged “health foods” and standard American fare.

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, by Karen Le Billon // This memoir follows the triumphs (and failures) of a North American family attempting to expand their picky palates and embrace real food (and table manners) throughout their year in France. The lessons can be applied to any life stage, even if you don’t have children. Most importantly, Le Billon reminds us not to lose sight of the big picture. After all, green vegetables cooked in butter are certainly more nutritious than opting for highly processed snack foods with no veggies at all.

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, by Brian Wansink// Dr. Wansink is a firm believer that “it’s easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind.” This book offers plenty of practical tips to make nutritious choices the easy, default choices, applying data from the author’s behavioral research lab. Picking up from Dr. Wansink’s 2006 book, Mindless Eating, this follow up is even more user friendly, complete with illustrated blueprints on how to makeover your food environment to eliminate the triggers that cause mindless eating and overeating.(I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)

Extra Credit: Exploring Our Food System

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss // By now, we know that fast food and highly packaged junk foods (chips, soda, etc) are bad news. But if you wonder why these foods continue to engulf our communities and tickle our senses, Moss’s expose on the food industry is the perfect place to start.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber // Celebrity chef Dan Barber’s tome is a refreshingly solutions-based approach to addressing the plagues of industrial food production. From aquaculture to soil health, Barber gets his hands dirty to find the best ways that chefs, farmers, and consumers can come together and get our food system (and our land) back in shape.

Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, by Mark Winne // Drawing from his personal experience in urban food activism, Mark Winne illustrates how truly sustainable food systems should address the needs of all participants, not just the wealthy minority. This book is a humble reminder that reforming our food system is not just a hobby for the well-to-do, but is directly in line with the changes needed to help end hunger and improve nutrition in America.

World Hunger: Ten Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins // Yes, this is the book that I helped research – an experience that taught me so much about our food economy and food production system. Lappé and Collins go beyond admonishing industrial agricultural monopolies and praising sustainable agriculture – they actually demonstrate that agroecology is in fact better suited to feed a growing population.

– Kelly

World Hunger: 10 Myths

Frances Moore Lappe and Kelly Toups with World Hunger 10 Myths

World hunger is not a traditional area of study for dietitians, but one thing I love about dietetics is that it has allowed me to explore food and nutrition issues from so many different perspectives. Following a passion for food and nutrition policy, I landed at the Small Planet Institute in 2013 working as a research fellow on Frances Moore Lappé’s newest book, World Hunger: Ten Myths.

For those of you not familiar with Frances Moore Lappé, she is often credited with being one of the early pioneers of the food movement. Diet for a Small Planet, her 1971 classic that has sold over 3 million copies, was among the first works that helped people make the connection between the food we eat and the health of our planet.

Today her latest book, World Hunger: Ten Myths, is finally being released! I am so grateful to have been a part of this project, even if only for a year. Anyone interested in hunger and food insecurity, food justice, food and nutrition policy, sustainable agriculture, GMOs, and more should definitely pick up a copy. You can order it on Amazon here.

World Hunger 10 Myths Cover

– Kelly

Weekend Web Roundup

It’s been awhile since my last web roundup, so today I’m sharing a few fun features that recently caught my eye. What sites have you been bookmarking lately?

Mediterranean Diet Manifesto

Mediterranean Diet Manifesto // I love this punchy infographic from registered dietitian Elena Paravantes. For those of you that have trouble picturing what a “real food” or “whole foods” diet looks like, print this graphic out and stick it to the refrigerator or pantry door. A few of my favorite snippets of advice are “Talk During Meals,” “Eat Beans at Least Twice a Week,” and “Eat Fruits and Vegetables that are in Season.”

Obesity & Food Policy Infographic

How Food Policy Can Help Curb Obesity // My concentration in grad school was Food Policy, so I love nerding out over these sorts of public health analyses. This graphic from The Lancet is a great jumping off point to brainstorm solutions for obesity prevention and public health nutrition.

Menu that Encourages Healthy Choices

Restaurant Menu Layout that Encourages Healthy Choices // Speaking of public health… In this article for The Atlantic, Cornell researcher Dr. Brian Wansink shares strategies for restaurants to use that subconsciously encourage diners to choose healthier options, by simply tweaking the menu design. If you enjoy these types of health hacks, you’ll love Wansink’s books, Slim by Design, and Mindless Eating. (I wrote a bit about Slim by Design here.)

Wright Kitchen, by photographer Brittany Wright

Food Gradients // Seattle photographer Brittany Wright became an Instagram sensation after posting captivating pictures of food neatly arranged by color. Her prints are available in limited edition runs on her website, so if you see one you like, snatch it up quickly! For a regular dose of Brittany’s shamelessly OCD food styling, be sure to follow her on Instagram (@wrightkitchen).

50 States of Food from Fooddiggity

Foodnited States of America // Ending on a lighter note, I just had to share this delightful collection of punny food art from the folks at Foodiggity. They creating each of the 50 states as visual food puns, and are posting the project on Instagram (@foodiggity) using the hashtag #foodnitedstates. Follow along with the project on Instagram (they have about 40 states so far), or read more about the project on Foodiggity and Yahoo.

– Kelly

The Best TED Talks on Food Systems, Nutrition, and Public Health

Surely a sign of progress, there are now an abundance of TED talks that explore food, nutrition, and public health. Below are my very favorites — a collection of videos that I consider informative, important, and incredibly fascinating! If you have a favorite TED talk that’s not listed here, send me a link in the comments below.

PART I: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTHY FOOD ENVIRONMENTS

How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds (Mick Cornett)

I just got back from OKC this week after visiting a college roommate, so this Midwestern town is fresh on my mind. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been to the Sooner state, you’ll definitely be inspired by this talk from current mayor Mick Cornett. Equal parts entertaining and inspiring, this story highlights how city planners and public health professionals can play an important role in fighting the obesity epidemic, and shows how important a walkable environment is in promoting health.

Teach Every Child about Food (Jamie Oliver)

Oliver has gained a well-deserved reputation as a tireless advocate for childhood obesity prevention. In this talk, Oliver explains just how important improving nutrition is to our children, and just how serious of a problem the American food environment has become. Our kids deserve better than this, and Oliver explains why.

How We Can Eat Our Landscapes (Pam Warhurst)

In this delightful and motivational story, Warhurst describes how a grassroots volunteer gardening movement is creating a supportive framework for the local food economy. Her talk celebrates the small actions of the community, and highlights the importance of edible landscapes.

PART II: WHY ORGANICS ARE IMPORTANT

From Fabels to Labels (Urvashi Rangan)

Identifying healthy products at the supermarket can be a challenge, especially when packages tout a variety of health claims and nutrition buzzwords. In this talk, Rangan explains which food claims and labels are more credible than others, and also makes an excellent case for supporting organics.

Why is Organic Food so *#@! Expensive? (Ali Partovi)

If the previous talk didn’t convince you of the importance of organic farming systems, this one surely will. Tech giant Partovi dispels a lot of myths surrounding organic food and industrial agriculture. This talk is a must for anyone that thinks that organic farming is expensive and inefficient, and that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world.

PART III: SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS AND FOOD POLICY

How I Fell in Love with a Fish (Dan Barber)

Sustainable food enthusiasts and seafood lovers alike will enjoy this engaging talk from Chef Dan Barber, which explores the sustainability of farmed fish. If you enjoyed Barber, be sure to check out his other TED talk about ethical foi gras. Or, if you’d like to learn more about sustainable seafood, be sure to check out this TED talk from chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver.

Turning the Farm Bill into a Food Bill (Ken Cook)

A new farm bill has passed since this 2011 talk first aired, but many of the points remain relevant. Cook explains how, despite the growing demand for responsibly produced food, government programs and legislation still favor industrial agriculture and the profits of a few food giants over family farms and public health.

Hungry for more? Check out the line-up from the TedxManhattan conferences (here are 2015 and 2014 to get you started) which are focused on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and are the sources of many of the videos above. The TED website also has a “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?” video playlist, a “Talks for Foodies” video playlist, and a “Plantastic!” video playlist. Additionally, Netflix offers a bundle of food related TED talks, in a collection called “Chew on This.”

– Kelly

My 4 Favorite Food Documentaries

Over ten years ago, Morgan Spurlock comically captured the dangers of eating too much fast food in his seminal 2004 documentary, Supersize Me. Since then, there has been no shortage of documentaries for those interested in learning more about nutrition and the food system. Overwhelmed by the number of food-centric films on the menu? See below for four of my favorites.

Food Inc. (available on Netflix)

Watch to Learn: Why To Pay Attention to Where Our Food Comes From

If you’re wondering why there’s such a fuss about farmers markets and organic, local food, this must-watch 2009 documentary clears things up. While those unfamiliar with the food movement may be ready to dismiss food system issues as frivolous, this film explores how the choices we make at the grocery store can affect not only our own health and well-being, but the well-being of all the people and animals throughout the food chain. (Note: If you enjoyed Food Inc., and would like to learn more about food justice and issues of farm labor inequality, then check out Food Chains, also available on Netflix.)

A Place at the Table (available on Netflix)

Watch to Learn: Why Hunger and Obesity are Two Sides of the Same Coin

While Food Inc is probably the most well-known food documentary, A Place at the Table is, in my opinion, the most important. This profound 2013 film explains how hunger and obesity are both symptoms of the same problem: poverty and food insecurity. (If you’d like to learn more about this issue, see the blog post I wrote after I first saw this film.)

Bite Size (available on Vimeo and Amazon Instant Video // $4.99 to rent)

Watch to Learn: How to Support Kids Struggling with Obesity

Although this new 2015 film doesn’t feature any of the big name narrators or interviews that similar food documentaries include, the message is actually pretty powerful. This documentary follows four obese children, each taking a different approach to get healthy (from team sports, to community groups, to a healthy boarding school). Regardless of the weight loss tactics, what really stood out was how important it is for kids to have someone (be it a parent, coach, or school counselor) advocating for them, and how much this support affects their health and success.

Fed Up (available on Amazon Instant Video // $3.99 to rent)

Watch to Learn: How the Industrial Food Industry is Contributing to Childhood Obesity

Focusing on added sugars’ contribution to childhood obesity, this 2013 documentary is somewhat of a cross between Food Inc. and Bite Size. The film explores why today’s food environment is often considered ‘obesogenic’ (full of obesity-inducing triggers and cues) and how our unhealthy, corporate-controlled food system negatively affects kids.

While the films listed above are my favorites in the genre, I have seen a number of other food documentaries (including Forks Over Knives, King Corn, The World According to Monsanto, Inside Chipotle, and Food Matters, among others). The next food film that I’m hoping to watch is Cafeteria Man, an inspiring documentary that chronicles a school lunch success story. What are your favorite food documentaries?

– Kelly

3 Myths About School Lunch

Providing children with healthy food is a smart investment in our nation’s future, so it’s astounding that there’s room for debate on this issue. As politicians and food giants attempt to roll back the substantial progress made in child nutrition over the past few years, it’s important to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the new school lunch regulations. See below for three of the biggest myths facing the school lunch program today, and to get the facts behind the myth:

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Stereotype American school lunch. image via Sweetgreen

Myth #1: Healthy Regulations are Causing Schools to Lose Money

Critics of the healthy guidelines argue that 50% of School Nutrition Association members expect to lose money this year. However, what doesn’t get reported is that a whopping 65% expected to lose money in 2010, two full years before the healthy regulations took effect. The school lunch program was already a sinking ship, and while the new regulations haven’t completely saved it, they do seem to be helping.

Additionally, Dana Woldow found that this oft-cited 50% statistic is based on shaky data, at best. According to Woldow, “Fewer than 400 district nutrition directors, representing less than 2% of the 25,074 members surveyed, or less than 1% of the total 55,000 membership of SNA, said they expect to operate their meal program in the red this school year.”

When school district food service programs lose money, it is often because of a decline in school lunch participation. However, school lunch participation among students who pay full price (and aren’t eligible for free or reduced priced meals) has been declining since 2007, long before the healthy regulations were implemented. Additionally, this decline has actually started to level off a bit after the 2012-2013 school year.

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Actual lunch served at DCPS: Herb Crusted Tilapia, Whole Wheat Roll, Local Collard Greens, Red Cabbage Cole Slaw, Fresh Banana & Milk  (image via CSPI)

Myth #2: Kids Won’t Eat the New Healthy Lunches

School lunch has been the butt of jokes long before Michelle Obama took to fixing it. And while we all know that washing down chips and candy with a soda is a terrible choice for growing children, especially in a nation plagued with diet-related chronic diseases, the media has been overly sympathetic to critics mourning these changes, as if highly addictive junk foods were actually worthy of defense.

A survey of 557 schools in a variety of school districts found that although many respondents (56%) agreed that students complained about the new lunches at first, most (70%) also agreed that students generally seem to like the new lunches now. This study also revealed a fairly balanced picture of school lunch participation. According to the researchers, “only 4.3% of respondents perceived that ‘‘a lot fewer’’ students were purchasing lunch, whereas 6.2% perceived that ‘‘a lot more’’ were purchasing lunch.”

Studies are also finding that kids aren’t throwing away as much food as critics lead us to believe. A new study evaluated hundreds of lunches in an urban low-income school district both before and after the policy changes. According to the study, students are wasting significantly less food than they were before the healthy regulations went into effect, as kids ate significantly more of their vegetables (from 46% consumption in 2012 to 64% in 2014), entrees (from 71% to 84%), as well as slightly more fruit (from 72% to 74%) and milk (from 54% to 57%). Similarly, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found a 23% increase in fruit consumption and a 16% increase in vegetable consumption after the new school nutrition guidelines were introduced in 2012. Contrary to popular belief, the study did NOT find a corresponding increase in food waste.

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Actual lunch served at Provo Schools in Utah: Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara (image via CSPI)

Myth #3: School Lunches Aren’t Nourishing

The school lunch program has been under the microscope for years now, but the truth is that the new school lunches are actually much healthier than home packed ones. In a recent study, researchers analyzed over 1,300 lunches at three schools in rural Virginia. They found that lunches brought from home had more sodium and fewer servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and milk. Nearly 90% of the lunches from home also had a sweetened beverage, snack chips and dessert in them. Additionally, while a vocal minority has rallied against the protein caps set for school lunch, packed lunches actually have significantly less protein (as well as less fiber, vitamin A, and calcium). And to top it all off, the study found that lunches from home were more expensive than the school lunch offering at the elementary school level (although not consistently for middle schoolers).

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Actual school lunch: Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl with brown rice, steamed fresh carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and Teriyaki chicken. Served with fresh local apple slices, whole grain roll, ice cold milk, an orange, and a fortune cookie. (Image via CSPI)

Want to learn more?

  • This New York Times Magazine article from October 2014 explores the politics of the school lunch program, including the role of corporate lobbying.
  • This February 2015 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists quantifies obesity’s impact on healthcare costs, evaluates the effectiveness of the school lunch program (data was collected before the new guidelines were implemented), and identifies ways to strengthen the school nutrition program.
  • This webpage from the Center for Science in the Public Interest has plenty of infographics, factsheets, policy options, and resources for people trying to promote changes that support healthy lunches.

– Kelly

Dietary Supplements: Why a Nutritional Last Resort is No Cure for a Lousy Diet

Green SmoothieThere are four little words that many a dietitian will cringe upon hearing:

“But Dr. Oz says…”

Although he has long championed healthy lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, Dr. Oz also has a TV show that is on every single day. And in each episode, he has to find something new and exciting to talk about. He’s not going to get many viewers if he just comes on and says, “yep, fruits and vegetables are still good for you.” That wouldn’t make for a very exciting television series. So in order to entice viewers, Dr. Oz often shares the latest “miracle” weight loss cures.

This is problematic for two reasons: Not only are these “miracle pills” often total garbage, but more importantly, they distract viewers from the big picture of wellness by getting them hung up on random, unpronounceable plant compounds. No amount of raspberry ketones or green coffee bean extract is going to make you healthy if you have a sedentary lifestyle and your diet mainly consists of processed junk food.

This point is hilariously captured in a clip that my brother Jack sent me from “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” (If you have 16 minutes, I highly recommend that you check it out below.) The episode investigates Dr. Oz, and also brings light to another important health issue: the deregulation of the supplement industry.

Contrary to popular belief, dietary supplements DO NOT need FDA approval before they are marketed, nor do they even have to proven safe or effective. In fact, researchers tested 44 different dietary supplements in the US and Canada, and found that a whopping one-third contained NO TRACE whatsoever of the plant advertised on the bottle.

Marion Nestle writes at length about health claims and the supplement industry in her book, Food Politics, where she also reminds readers that “taking single nutrients in moderately high doses may not be a good idea.” Why? “Because many different nutrients are involved in every aspect of human physiology, high doses of just one nutrient can create imbalances that adversely affect the absorption or metabolism of other nutrients.” Nestle often reminds readers that if you eat a balanced diet with lots of plant foods and minimal processed junk food, then you really don’t need to worry about any of this. Similarly, David Katz sums this point up brilliantly: “If you focus on real food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.”

– Kelly

P.S. Can’t get enough John Oliver? Check out this 6 minute clip on health claims on food products, or this 11 minute clip on sugar.

Antibiotic-Free Meat: Why to Care and Where to Find it

The Meat We Eat: Forum on Industrial Animal FarmingLast April, I attended a forum on industrial animal farming at Harvard Law School. Needless to say, this was not the type of conference that will make you walk away craving a hamburger. Experts spoke to the many concerns about the livestock industry, including animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions, and the quantity of food available. However, antibiotic overuse in livestock (a suspected contributor of antibiotic resistance) was perhaps the most concerning issue.

Antibiotic resistance is dangerous because it can make normally harmless bacterial infections, such as bladder infections, deadly. This is because if the antibiotic fails, the bacteria can move into the bloodstream, causing sepsis. Hospitals are also seeing an increasing number of “superbugs” (such as MRSA), which are dangerous infections that are resistant to many common antibiotics.

Scientists generally agree that antibiotic resistance is fueled by the overuse of antibiotics. For example, taking antibiotics to treat a viral infection, such as the flu, is not only ineffective, but can actually lead to the promotion of these superbugs. However, it is a lesser-known fact that an estimated 70% of antibiotics are actually used on farms, both to promote growth using less feed, and to prevent disease from spreading in the confined conditions of industrial livestock operations. (Note: Putting antibiotics in livestock feed is banned in the EU, but not in the US.)

Chickens at Olivia in Austin

At Olivia, a farm-to-table restaurant in Austin, TX, chickens are raised sustainably on site, undoubtedly without antibiotics

For this reason, many public health experts are urging the livestock industry to significantly cut antibiotic use. Until then, however, many consumers are seeking out meat raised without antibiotics. After all, antibiotic resistant bacteria can transfer from livestock to humans through food, particularly in raw or undercooked meat (see this recent Frontline episode to learn more). In response to these concerns, six of the largest US school districts (in LA, NYC, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and Orlando) announced last month that they are switching to antibiotic-free chicken, a huge step for both food system reformers and child nutrition advocates.

Where to find antibiotic-free meat:

Beans and fish are my preferred protein sources, but I like a warm rotisserie chicken as much as the next girl. Here are a few of my favorite spots to get antibiotic-free meat and poultry from:

  • WHOLE FOODS MARKET: All antibiotic use is prohibited in all meat and poultry sold at Whole Foods. To learn more about the quality standards of the meat sold at Whole Foods, including the 5-step animal welfare rating system, see here.
  •  CHIPOTLE: All antibiotic use is prohibited in all pork and chicken sold at Chipotle (except in special circumstances, in which they will inform customers).  A recent press release from Chipotle states that all meat is antibiotic free, yet the beef page on their website doesn’t describe a stance on antibiotic use in beef.
  • PANERA BREAD: In 2014, 91% of pork received no antibiotics, 100% of chicken in sandwiches and salads received no antibiotics (same for all hen eggs that supply shell and hard boiled eggs), and “nearly all” of the roasted turkey received no antibiotics. This year, Panera Bread intends to meet or exceed these standards. Again, there are no statistics on antibiotic use in beef, although impressively, 80% of beef was grass fed in 2014.

Where do you find antibiotic-free meat?

– Kelly

Evidence that Nutrition Assistance Programs Can Help Improve the Food Environment

What good are food stamps doing to nourish the hungry if participants spend it all on junk food?

This is a common critique of nutrition assistance programs, and for a good reason. That being said, many hunger advocates counter that today’s hungry often live in communities where fresh, healthy foods aren’t available, and that tightening the nutrition criteria for these assistance programs will leave participants with nowhere to turn. After all, a little bit of junk food is better than no food at all. However, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior demonstrates that when nutrition assistance programs update their offerings to reflect the latest in nutrition research, the foodscape improves to benefit everyone.

FRUIT SELECTION

Background from the study:

“Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture changed the WIC Program’s supplemental food packages, addressing nutritional concerns of the panel by offering low-fat milks and whole grains, and including cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables. Before the change, WIC offered juice, milk, cereals, eggs, beans, and other foods. However, the milk was whole milk, cereals were not whole grain products, there was no option to include whole grain bread or rice, and there were no fruits and vegetables. This set of changes, the first in a generation, went into effect in most states, including Louisiana, in October, 2009.”

So what happened after these changes were introduced?

For this study, researchers visited small stores in New Orleans right when the change was introduced, and then again a year later. In 2009, only 3.7% of stores participating in the WIC program carried whole wheat bread or brown rice, but a year later, 70.4% offered whole wheat bread and 92.6% offered brown rice!

These drastic improvements aren’t just a sign of the times, but can largely be attributed to the changes in the WIC program. That’s because at non-WIC participating small stores in New Orleans in 2010, whole wheat bread was only offered at a meager 1.5% of stores, and brown rice was only offered in 12.1% of stores. Additionally, the study found that the number of varieties of fresh fruit significantly increased (from 3 to 4) at WIC stores, but not at the non-WIC stores, and average shelf space of all vegetables increased in WIC stores by about 1.2 meters.

VEGETABLE SHELF SPACE

These improvements in healthy food selection benefit all shoppers, not just those in the WIC program. Could similar improvements be made to other nutrition assistance programs? Weigh in!

Note: Despite these hopeful findings, food choices in depressed communities are in dire shape. For more on this topic, see my blog post on the link between hunger and obesity. Also, to learn more about the WIC program, see here.

– Kelly

Voting for Nutrition: Find out Which Politicians are Supporting Healthy Food

Aligning my food choices with my priorities is one of my nearest and dearest causes, but voting with your fork can only get you so far. That’s why it’s important to elect representatives that will be champions of good food policy. To keep track of which elected officials are supporting nutrition programs, hunger alleviation, and responsible farming, it takes a score sheet. Luckily, Food Policy Action did the hard part for you.

According to Food Policy Action,

“Our mission is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production.”

Food Policy Action produces a scorecard on how each Senator and House member votes on various food issues.

Food Policy Action

 

You can search by state, zip code, or the name of the politician.

Food Policy Action

So far, the scores are all over the place. In the 2013 Food Policy Scorecard, 73 House members and 14 Senators scored a perfect 100%! That means that these 87 politicians consistently championed good food policies (including issues of nutrition, conservation, and hunger) EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Unfortunately, there are also some failures. In 2013, 28 House members and 10 Senators scored a 0%, meaning they voted against policies that support food access, healthy diets, and local food systems.

Are your elected officials champions of good food? Find out here.

– Kelly