On the Clock With Vernon Cail

Meet Vernon Cail, a research assistant with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center. He’s working on two studies, one involving childhood obesity and another examining food purchasing patterns in the Chicago area.

“We wanted to see what type of home environmental factors influence obesity,” he says, “so to do that we have to travel to the house to observe it, analyze it and assess the conditions.”

Cail visits homes throughout the Chicago area to meet with study participants, and while the traffic is trying at times, the interactions with participants make it all worthwhile.

“I really enjoy the relationships that I build with the families,” he says. “I enjoy spending time with people who share interests of mine: that’s to get healthy, to get kids healthy, hopefully get their household healthy.”

Eat Well: Broiled Tilapia With Pineapple Relish

This is the first in a series of healthy recipes from Jennifer Ventrelle, MS, RD, CPT, director of lifestyle programs for the Rush University Prevention Center.

Tilapia is a low-fat, low-carb and low-sodium quality protein source. It is also an excellent source of potassium, B-vitamins such as B12 and niacin, and the antioxidant selenium. And the pineapple relish in this recipe is a great way to bring refreshing variety to an otherwise boring fish filet. The tilapia can be replaced with another type of lean protein such as chicken or pork tenderloin if you are not fond of fish.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 (4-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 ¼ cups pineapple tidbits canned in natural juice
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 lime wedges

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Food Guide An Improvement, But Needs Tweaking

By Kelly Roehl

Nutrition recommendations are forever changing, leaving consumers confused about what it really means to “eat healthy.”

The U.S. government began issuing food guides in the early 1900s and they have varied in appearance, from a wheel to a pyramid. In 2005, the well-known food guide pyramid, composed of stacked boxes, was replaced by the colorful MyPyramid, composed of vertical lines, varying in size and shape. This revised pyramid was complicated, and many consumers found it difficult to translate the message of moderation, variety and proportion into their hectic lifestyles. To add to the confusion, many health and nutrition groups have created their own healthy eating guides to promote a healthier America.

Enter ChooseMyPlate, the most recent food guide from the USDA. This new, simplified icon colorfully illustrates the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) using a familiar mealtime cue — a place setting. The website (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov) expands on the obvious visual message to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables with bold statements, such as “Enjoy your food, but eat less,” “Avoid oversized portions” and “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.” It offers many nutrition and exercise tips and a never-ending array of links to help incorporate more produce, whole grains and lean protein into the diet, as well as interactive tools that provide specialized food plans, aide in meal planning, calorie tracking and weight loss. Continue reading

It’s Healthy to Show a Little Love for Chocolate

By Gretchen Witowich

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, chocolate is sure to abound, and the dilemma ensues. But fear not, chocolate lovers. Chocolate has lots to offer, and with a few simple strategies, you can have your chocolate and eat it, too.

First, a review: Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean. Since beans rank high on the list of “superfoods,” it should come as no surprise that chocolate in its most basic form (unsweetened) has an outstanding antioxidant content. In fact, dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity is at the top of the list, above blueberries and second only to plums.

To top that, just half a square of unsweetened chocolate can also provide more than 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for magnesium and iron, and over 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for copper.

Of course, these nutrients are substantially reduced in milk chocolate. One would need to eat over three times the recommended serving to get the same mineral content, and of course substantially more added sugar and fat. Also, don’t be fooled by white chocolate, it isn’t actually chocolate at all. White “chocolate” only contains the vegetable fat derived from the cocoa bean, and thus it has no nutritional value. Continue reading