Sushi, Eggs and Oatmeal: Critical Thinking, Common Sense, and Nutrition

I’ve been around the block a few times, nutritionally speaking. I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease (wrong) and Crohn’s disease (right, we think), I’ve spent countless hours at the allergist’s office, I’ve been told to follow diet after diet. Yet through all of that, none of my HMOs have ever allowed me to visit a nutritionist*– until now. My HMO is offering six free visits as a promotion, so I made an appointment.

I selected a nutritionist who works from the same office as my (totally fabulous and lifesaving!) gastroenterologist. I was so excited– finally, answers! Marion Nestle’s advice on what to eat is great, but with a Crohn’s diagnosis, I really felt like I needed more targeted advice. Not only that, but I’ve had some issues lately with my eating patterns. I’ll starve all day and then stuff myself at night, or eat a healthy lunch only to binge on junk food in the evening. I’ll cast around for something healthy to eat that won’t worsen a flare-up, only to come up empty-handed and drink an Ensure instead. I gain weight when I think I should be losing, and lose when I think I should be gaining.

In other words, I’ve got a weird, complex and emotionally fraught relationship with food, just like a whole lot of other people in this sexist, diet-obsessed society, and I thought maybe seeing a nutritionist would help.

The verdict? Helpful, but not in the ways I expected. Read the rest of this entry »


This would be a Good Thing.

Via Karina’s Kitchen:

Martha Stewart Living employees have an annual Big Idea competition, in which employees propose their ideas for Martha’s next big venture, and the public gets to vote on which one becomes reality.

One is proposing a magazine for people with food allergies!

Profile_4Alexis, Deputy Home Editor
Special publication catering to those with food allergies and sensitivities that would include recipes
Big Idea:
To publish a special magazine that offers delicious allergy-friendly recipes, making life for people with food allergies and sensitivities easier and more delicious. Millions of people, including myself, can’t eat nuts, dairy, wheat or gluten, and I’d like to empower people to make great recipes even if they can’t use all the standard ingredients.

Alexis, you rock. Vote for Alexis’s idea here!

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Mad as Hell, and Sick of Being Poisoned

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria

From the “I Could Have Told You That” file, by way of the Associated Press:

Food Poisoning Can Be Long-Term Problem


WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s a dirty little secret of food poisoning: E. coli and certain other foodborne illnesses can sometimes trigger serious health problems months or years after patients survived that initial bout.

Scientists only now are unraveling a legacy that has largely gone unnoticed.

What they’ve spotted so far is troubling. In interviews with The Associated Press, they described high blood pressure, kidney damage, even full kidney failure striking 10 to 20 years later in people who survived severe E. coli infection as children, arthritis after a bout of salmonella or shigella, and a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who just had mild symptoms of campylobacter.

“Folks often assume once you’re over the acute illness, that’s it, you’re back to normal and that’s the end of it,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The long-term consequences are “an important but relatively poorly documented, poorly studied area of foodborne illness.”

Read the full story

I’m glad to see research being done on this topic. My own bout with salmonella (thanks, Chicago airport hotel food) happened in 2004, and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve since been made aware of evidence that suggests that food poisoning and other intestinal trauma can trigger the onset of Crohn’s disease. It took years of pain and illness to find out what was wrong with me. I was told I needed to learn to handle stress better; that I was crazy; that nothing was wrong with me; that I was a malingering employee; and that I was too fat. I was diagnosed and mis-diagnosed with celiac disease, food allergies, and finally Crohn’s. I’m finally getting treatment and learning how to eat in ways that won’t make me ill, and how to handle the pain and disruption that happens when I do have a flare-up. The fact is that the necessary research simply isn’t being done, and people are suffering and dying as a result. Read the rest of this entry »

Marion Nestle on Food Allergies

Today on Eating Liberally, nutritionist Marion Nestle takes on food allergies. She’s rightly cautious about the science, but notes that rather than dismissing the very real increase in food allergies, the lack of solid research means that we need more research. It should be obvious, but the funding hasn’t been granted. Check it out.

More on Nestle’s work here and here.  Or, of course, you can read her blog, which has interesting tidbits several times a day.

NYT: Food Allergies Stir a Mother to Action

Great article in today’s New York Times about Robyn O’Brien, a mother on a mission.

Working largely from a laptop on her dining room table, she has looked deep into the perplexing world of childhood food allergies and seen a conspiracy that threatens the health of America’s children. And, she profoundly believes, it is up to her and parents everywhere to stop it.

Her theory — that the food supply is being manipulated with additives, genetic modification, hormones and herbicides, causing increases in allergies, autism and other disorders in children — is not supported by leading researchers or the largest allergy advocacy groups.

That only feeds Ms. O’Brien’s conviction that the influence of what she sees as the profit-hungry food industry runs deep. In just a few dizzying steps, she can take you from a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese to Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds to Donald H. Rumsfeld, who once ran the company that created the sweetener aspartame.

Through creative use of e-mail, relentless inquiry and a persona carefully crafted around the protective mother archetype, Ms. O’Brien has emerged as a populist hero among parents who troll the Internet for any hint about why their children have food allergies.

I’ve been convinced for a few years now that the rampant adulteration of the food supply is behind the rapid increase in food allergies (and gastrointestinal disorders) in industrialized countries, and in countries where the food supply is industrializing. Ms. O’Brien, you are onto something– don’t let go.

(Note: the reader responses are also worth checking out.  There’s also a debate about this issue happening on Serious Eats.)

Giwa: Satisfying Korean Food for Winter Days


When we lived in New York City, I went to school and worked at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School and University Center, more commonly known as CUNY Grad. One of the nice things about working there, which offset the constant annoyance of tourists (the Grad Center is on the opposite corner of The Empire State Building), was that the area is filled with really good Korean restaurants. They vary in price from cheap to very expensive. Our favorite was Mandoo Bar, which served up wonderful dumplings and noodles. I hadn’t really had great Korean since we moved to Philly– until Giwa opened up down the street from where I work.

Read the rest of this entry »

About Real Potatoes: A Memo to the U.S. Potato Board

 Big Food is watching.

The Real Potato has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few months, but in the food blog world it’s still a tiny player (we just got our ten thousandth hit!).  Which is why I’m surprised by the amount of attention we’ve received from the food industry.

When I posted about diacetyl poisoning and microwave popcorn, a rival popcorn company jumped up to let you readers know that their product doesn’t contain diacetyl (at least, not anymore). The ongoing debate about foie gras has attracted some attention from representatives of the industry, both on the site and in my email inbox. And when I asked readers to submit recipes that have personal meaning to them, I got instead a response from the U.S. Potato Board. (I’ve deleted it, in an attempt to discourage further spamming.) “Alona” submitted a tasty-looking recipe and a plug for the Potato Board’s new blog,

Let’s talk about the U.S. Potato Board, then, shall we? After all, why would I delete something from the U.S. Potato Board? I like potatoes, they like potatoes, what’s the problem? Read the rest of this entry »