‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Police Pint-Sized Pie Holes

When it comes to kids and food, there are often two extremes: The militant, health freak parents... Or the exact opposite. The media publicised recent research showing pint-sized pie holes were pigging out on plentiful portions of pizza-pies. Should we let kids be kids: have their pizza and eat it too, or is there perhaps a more palatable plan?

The way children eat and view food is strongly tied to the attitudes and behaviours of their parents (more on that here, here, and here). If daddy sits down to dinner and says "green beans, yuck..." and then turns to little Tommy and says "eat your vegetables", what message does little Tommy get? (Daddy's a hypocrite.)

Convenience, laziness (often going hand in hand) and lack of moderation are recurring cornerstones of western living. Pizza just happens to be the food of the day.

Certain 'unnatural', 'unhealthy', 'processed' foods, like pizza, trigger the human brain into addictive eating. New research shows some foods are more addicting than others. Foods high in fat and simple sugars (eg: pizza, cake, chocolate and soda) were more addictive than less processed foods (eg: a steak or apple). The vilification of food is a dangerous thing... But can you have your cake (or pizza) and eat it too?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends my favourite 'm' word regarding what children eat. Guessed it yet? Moderation! They recommend:
  • Looking at the whole diet to determine its adequacy and healthfulness
  • Foods and food constituents (sugar, fat, etc) shouldn't be 'banned'
  • Parents step up and take responsibility (see the parents & school checklist here)
Say no to saying no to junk food, sometimes
Discipline is difficult. Discipline comes in many forms. Discipline and its execution takes strength and resilience. Discipline around food and eating are "teachable moments" delivered on a silver platter with a cherry on top.

Eating healthy isn't about rules, banning foods, vilifying ingredients or bad-mouthing cake and pizza. Remember that article where I told you to "eat those rules"? I meant it. Eating mindfully, enjoying all foods in moderation and not overthinking it are solid foundations for healthy pie holes (pint-sized and full grown.)

What to write home about:
  • Unhealthy foods are not the devil
  • Moderation rather than restriction
  • Parental pro-activeness includes teaching children about healthy foods and portion sizes
  • Parental pro-activeness also includes stepping up, leading by example and making healthy food available and desirable  
  • Think mindful eating vs mindlessly mowing through a tray of chocolate muffins
So can you have your cake and eat it too? I say, yes you can! Sometimes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Coffee: For Better or For Worse?

Whether you're Barack Obama or the guy donning the Micky Mouse costume at Disney World, a cup of Joe seems to unite us all (unless you're my husband, who can't stand the stuff). The health benefits of coffee have long been studied, touted and contended... So here's an article to make sense of this beloved bean and black beverage.

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It is a complex beast containing over 1,000 biologically active compounds including polyphenols, diterpenes, trigonelline and, everybody's favourite: Caffeine.

This potent central nervous system stimulant, caffeine, is consumed predominantly in the diet from coffee (85% in fact). Tea contributes 10%, soda about 5%, and 1% from "other" sources like chocolate...Mmmm, chocolate.

For better or for worse, here's the simplified scientific lowdown on how society's "lifeblood", AKA coffee, impacts our health:
  • Skin cancer:
    • One study found caffeinated coffee (4 or more cups/day) decreased the risk of melanoma
    • Working theory is that some component of coffee is DNA-protective and anti-inflammatory 
    • Another study found no link between coffee and melanoma, but saw caffeinated coffee and total coffee consumption associated with lower basal cell carcinoma risk
  • Endometrial cancer (lining of the uterus):
    • A study showed coffee intake (and several foods) were inversely associated with this kind of cancer, though the mechanism is not yet known
    • A 2011 study showed 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee lowered the risk of endometrial cancer by 25% compared to low coffee drinkers
    • For decaf coffee, 2 cups/day decreased endometrial cancer risk compared to <1 cup/day
  • Breast cancer:
    • One study showed high intake of caffeinated coffee may decrease breast cancer in post-menopausal women (association not seen with decaf)
    • Another found caffeinated beverages in general have this effect
  • Other cancers:
    • Pancreatic cancer risk didn't appear affected by tea or coffee (regular or decaf)
    • Total coffee, caffeinated, decaf and tea consumption were not associated with overall gastric cancer risk, BUT an association was found between caffeinated/total coffee consumption and risk of gastric cardia cancer (cancer in the upper stomach)
  • Diabetes:
    • One study found people who drank 4-7 cups coffee/day had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to <2 cups/day
    • Decaf coffee had a stronger effect on diabetes risk
    • More research needed regarding the specific effects of coffee on insulin sensitivity
    • Another study found as consumption of  both decaf and regular coffee increased, diabetes risk decreased
  • Blood pressure/Heart disease:
    • Coffee and caffeine acutely elevate blood pressure (a strong risk factor for heart disease)
    • A meta-analysis showed 4 cups of coffee, compared to 0 cups, decreased risk of heart failure by 11%, but the risk began to increase when more than 4 cups were consumed
    • Moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups) was associated with a lower prevalence of atherosclerosis (narrow or "clogged" arteries)
Pheeeew! It's no wonder we're confused as to whether the evil bean is truly evil.
What we can infer from these fistful of findings is that morning mud does, without a doubt, have health benefits. No one's putting these into government guidelines yet because there is still much to learn.

For instance, depending on your DNA and your body's inner chemistry, some people process coffee and caffeine differently to others. 'Nutrigenomics' explores how people process foods (or rather, compounds in foods) differently based on their DNA.

What we do know:
  • Coffee has health benefits
  • Moderate amounts of coffee seem to provide the greatest health benefits
  • Many people like drinking coffee 
What we don't know:
  • What exact dose of coffee/caffeine is optimal for health
  • What compounds within coffee effect certain diseases
  • The impact genes have on caffeine/compounds found in coffee and how that impacts health and disease
If you can live with stinky coffee breath, go ahead...Make your body's day, flick that coffee bean.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Overeating: Unsustainable

Pie Hole devotees have probably picked up on my partiality towards environmental sustainability. It's true, lights ineptly left on, fridge doors absentmindedly open and taps uselessly bleeding water make me inwardly retch. Call me a tree-hugging, environmental millennial... Heck, I'm proud.

Previous articles feature tips, tricks and typical ways to thwart overeating. Usually that's from a weight loss or weight management perspective. Today, let's put the environment before our pie holes.

Overeating is not sustainable. Plain and simple. We have too many people on this planet and we're pigging out to the point of disease, death and environmental demise.

Now, there are plenty of people pushing for diets devoid of animal products for this exact reason. But humans evolved eating a variety of foods, including delicious animal products (1, 2, 3). Choosing to eat Bessie the Cow, Henny Penny or Henny Penny's unfertilised eggs is exactly that... a choice. There are many ways to help the environment. Screaming "meat is murder" is one way, but luckily for the carnivores among us, the other way is not the highway.

Wastefulness is a staple in many western homes. We could improve the environment by treating food with respect, rather than an ever-renewable commodity. Food is a privilege, and it's not till you go somewhere where food is scarce does one truly appreciate this. (1, 2, 3)

The point is, over 60% of the American population is overweight or obese. Translation: 60% of Americans are in a perpetual state of overeating. And yes, that Ultra Mega Supersized Big Double Gulp or that Gatorade in one of your car's 12 cup holders counts as food.

Animal products tend to be the foods our culture over-consumes, and sadly they are produced at a high cost to the environment.

The good news is, if you're like me and enjoy a diet that includes the nutritional variety and tastiness of animal products, you don't have to give them up. To state the findings of numerous studies simply: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

  • Listen to your body: Eat when hungry, stop when full
  • Plant foods are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals
  • Plant foods are filling, they improve your health, help you poop, and protect you from chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Add extra veggies to meals to displace some of the meat (it'll save you money)
  • Avoid processed foods (yes, your favourite protein powders and bars are processed foods)
  • Treat food with respect, rather than a disposable commodity (there are starving children... in the USA!)

Further reading: