Blog Posts for: Meghan O'Connell, MPH
01/25/2010 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Food Rules in Review
I really enjoyed Michael Pollan’s latest book, “Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.” In it, he answers three basic questions, in three short chapters: Chapter 1 - What should I eat? Eat Food; Chapter 2 - What kind of food should I eat? Mostly Plants; and Chapter 3 - How should I eat? Not too much.
08/25/2009 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
More to Love Leaves Much to Be Desired
In a recent Rudd Center blog entry, Chelsea Heuer discussed the latest reality TV craze and asked: “Is it about time that overweight people have presence on T.V.? Or do these (reality) shows perpetuate weight-based stereotypes and add to the weight prejudice that is already plentiful in the media?” After watching a recent episode of Fox TV’s latest dating competition More to Love, I think I have my answer.
06/04/2009 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Big Baby, Big Lesson
"That's a big baby!"
"He's never missed a meal!"
"What are you feeding him?"
"What a buriser!"
10/24/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
The heritability of "neophobia"
People love to point the finger at parents whose kids abhor vegetables, eschew whole grain goodness in favor of white flour, love chemical laden concoctions, and go out of their way to get their hands on salty, fatty snacks. Are parents unfairly blamed for the inadequacy of their kid’s diets? I think so for many reasons; a recent article in The New York Times highlights one of them.
08/04/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
The "Big Challenge" Outcome
The recent finale of ABC’s “Shaq’s Big Challenge” was uplifting and positive. The children all achieved significant weight loss over the 9 month period of filming. By the end of the show the children were thrilled with their accomplishments, very grateful to Shaq and his team, and committed to following the dietary, physical activity and behavior change advice they received.
06/22/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
100% pure, but not necessarily healthy
100% fruit juice is generally accepted as a healthy drink for children, and is marketed as such. After all, it is made from pure fruit. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that small portions of 100% juice (4-6 ounces for children aged 1-6) are acceptable. While there are certainly some benefits to drinking fruit juice (they contain vitamins and sometimes include fortifiers, such as calcium), I suspect that daily juice consumption is doing kids more harm than good.
03/23/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Preschoolers and Snack Time
Environmental factors that promote overeating among adults are pretty well documented; for example, we know that adults eat more than they need to when portion sizes are large and when eating in a group or at a social event. Less is known about what triggers overeating in young children, but two recent studies suggest that children as young as two may be influenced by the same environmental cues as adults. In one study, children ages 2-9 ate about 30% more when served a large portion of macaroni and cheese, compared to an age-appropriate portion. Preschool aged children did not self-regulate intake any better than older children. This study also showed that serving large portions increased the bite size and speed at which the children ate.
03/08/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Feeding Small Kids
The last time I took my daughter to the pediatrician I picked up an informational flyer routinely given out to parents of toddlers and found a few tips related to feeding. One “pointer” lends credence to my suspicion that children growing up today have far more freedom to pick and choose what they eat than I ever did as a child. The advice from the doctor to “avoid becoming a short-order cook” would probably never have been given to my mother, or grandmother. It certainly did not occur to me to ask my parents for an alternative at the dinner table, yet it seems the norm today. A friend of mine jokes that her son’s favorite meal is “something else.” How did this happen? Do parents really need to make multiple meals every night? Should they be expected to? Are we teaching children that there are two categories of food--adult foods and kid foods?
02/05/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Clothes Shopping in Spain
Shopping for clothes might get a bit easier in Spain, as fashion retailers standardize clothing sizes for women; what one shop considers a European size 38 will be a 38 in other shops, and so on. Changes are being made so clothing labels will better reflect real body sizes and mannequins will look like real women rather than “dolls of alien dimensions” (see the full article, “Spain resizes clothes for women”). The health ministry expects that the change will ease the pressure on women and girls to reach an unrealistic “ideal” size, presumably similar to America’s size zero.
01/02/2007 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Thin is only skin deep
How fat is distributed in one’s body can influence his or her cardiovascular disease risk. In general, overweight people who carry their excess weight around the middle (“apple-shaped”) have greater chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke and hypertension than those who carry their weight around the hips and butt (“pear-shaped”).
11/28/2006 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Make up your mind at Maccas
Last night I was reading an article about over-nutrition in pregnancy published in an Australian newspaper when the advertising on the page stole my attention. The food industry has cleverly embedded damage control ads within online articles discussing obesity and its health consequences. Presumably these messages aim to persuade readers that industry has been unfairly blamed for contributing to the epidemic. While admittance of culpability by an industry giant would be a shocker, some rebuttal messages are shockingly pathetic. This Australian news story was juxtaposed with a McDonald's ad asking "Are you open minded? Make up your mind here." A click on the link landed me in McDonald's land Aussie-style, where a cheerful teenager tells me how she needed to make this website to help her mates understand that what "they think they know" about Maccas (Australian slang for McDonalds), just isn't so.
10/23/2006 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
12 Meals...in 2 Hours!
The only thing about healthy eating that doesn't take much effort is actually placing food into the mouth, chewing and swallowing. One of the biggest barriers to healthful eating is the amount of time it takes: time to plan meals, time to buy food, time to prepare and cook, time to wash dishes, etc. Though I am deeply devoted to the cause, at times, all the effort of home cooking hardly seems worth it, when the meal itself can take as little as 10 minutes to actually consume.
10/11/2006 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
The school lunch revolution
Many schools across the country debuted nutritionally savvy cafeterias this fall, much to the chagrin of some students. A recent New York Times article highlighted various strategies schools are employing to improve the quality of foods offerings. Some of the most interesting commentary from school personnel pertains to fear of backlash from students. Besides business concerns (fear of losing customers), school personnel have to contend with student complaints and lamentations about the loss of beloved junk food.
10/02/2006 | Meghan O'Connell, MPH
Gym class and inactivity
No one can deny that exercise is important for growing children, for their physical health and mental well-being, and simply because it is, or should be, tons of fun. Certainly getting sedentary kids more active could help combat the growing childhood obesity problem. That said, as the importance of PE is better recognized in schools, attention must be paid to quality, not just hours in attendance. According to an article in the New York Times, increasing time spent in gym class does little or nothing to actually increase physical activity and exertion.