Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Latke, I love you but we need to talk

Grammy made latkes encrusted with oils galore,
dolloped in full-fat sour cream she did adore.
Sugar, salt, fat, fat, salt, butter, fat, salt,
High insulin? Cholesterol? That's ain't her fault.
"You MUST try my latkes, I made them FOR YOU!
If you DON'T try my latkes, you're not a real Jew!"
Well, can we switch some ingredients, better oil, an egg white?
So we don't have 387429482392 calories in every bite?
Here's a recipe I found; and may it replace,
Grammy's glorious old-school latkes without sacrificing taste

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mitochondria: Yours to Build

FindArticles - Manipulating mitochondria: playing in the fountain of youth
Nutrition Action Healthletter, Dec, 2008, by David Schardt

We knew exercise helps generate more mitochondria, the cell's "power plant" for energy. Now, a recent study shows that even just "15 to 20 minutes a day, three to four times a week" will help increase the number of mitochondria in cells.

And does eating grapes, apples and onions generate more mitochondria, too? In rat studies, quercetin (the main compound in those foods) was said to increase mitochondria in the muscle and brain. This may be an important breakthrough with respect to diabetes and obesity management, being that increases in mitochondria will boost insulin sensitivity.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dr. Marc Hyman

I just learned about Dr. Marc Hyman ( and think he has a nice handle on living a healthy lifestyle:

Visit the Widget Gallery

Friday, December 05, 2008

McDonald's pushes packaging with health bits

McDonald's has updated its packaging for its sandwiches, fries and soft drinks. The new design highlights nutrition information and locally grown ingredients. Not sure how a Chicken McNugget becomes local, anywhere...

Check it out in BusinessWeek (12/3).

Monday, December 01, 2008


While wrapping gifts today (AT WORK) for one hour, I realized how little my brain was being used and I cringe at the fact that it could have been exercised in a much more constructive manner. Although it was only for one hour, why would someone want to waste my brain's time? After that mindless feat, I opened up a book (any book within my cubicle's reach) and read instantly.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Here working my second week at the Ryan Center and it dawned on me that the ear-massacring sound of crying is now background noise and I no longer hear it!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Functional Foods Functional?

What are they?
Foods that are fortified (increasing nutritive value with vitamins) with the intentions of promising a proposed health benefit.

Where can I find them?
Any grocery store carries functional foods. Some examples are Kellogg’s Special K brand, which includes fiber and soy protein in the cereal to produce “satiety.” PepsiCo launched “Diet Pepsi Max,” which was proposed to “provide a kick of energy” with its extra ginseng and caffeine.

Are they beneficial to my health?
Sometimes the claims are true; sometimes they aren’t. Tropicana fortified their Orange Juice with calcium and vitamin D: this is helpful for those who need the extra calcium. For the weight loss claims that have been made, there isn’t sufficient evidence for every statement. For example, functional weight-management products fall under three broad claims. One, products that suppress appetite; two, products that boost metabolism; three, products that inhibit macronutrients (such as fat, carbohydrate or protein). Since appetite suppression is complex, there needs to be more research done on products that have these claims.

Can they harm me?
Sometimes they can. Inhibiting a macronutrient from your diet is not healthy and can lead to malnutrition. In addition, “boosting your metabolism” can elevate your heart-rate, which doesn’t need to be stressed during non-active times. Stressing the heart on a daily basis with excess caffeine can lead to high blood pressure and potential heart trouble.

Take-Home Message:
Don’t believe it just because the claim was made. Many companies are quick to boast about the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (a substance of plant origin that has nutritive value, e.g., iso-flavonoids in green tea) found in a certain product. These companies rely upon YOU, the consumer to assume that these compounds in any quantity are good for health. In addition, these companies assume that vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are protective for health even when extracted from the food or plant, itself. This is not always the case, since food compounds work in a synergistic way.

Fortified foods may have a place in your diet if you are deficient in a specific mineral, such as calcium, and are unable to obtain the vitamin or mineral through real foods. Try to detect if and when you are buying a product just for the claim being made. For example, more “vitamin A” doesn’t necessarily lead to greater health. Don’t let the word, itself, connote a sense of health. Watch out for false claims and be aware of appropriate quantities in the products you buy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vacation Constipation

Check out my new site for help with traveling, being constipated, and trying to have a good ol' time while on your vacation without the crap getting stuck in your intestines :

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Nebulous World of Starbucks

Having Starbucks initiate me as a coffee-drinker is like calling Tasti-Delite, Gelato. It's like eating a Big mac and and saying you've had a good steak...

So I went in. I've been in Starbucks before--as many do when there are a total of 171 in Manhattan. But with careful steps, I walked to the end of the 16-person line and waited my chance to recite my 15-word drink. What DID I want, I thought, as I squinted at the backboard. Well, good thing there are now calories on the menu. I definitely wouldn't have thought the Venti Pumpkin Spice Creme coffee would have a whopping 340. Well, anyway, the line went offensively fast. How does anyone repeat in their head what he'll have to recite once up there?

"Next custama!" said a tall, gangly male employee.

"That'd be me."

"And what will you have?"

I blanked. God, I'd been reciting it for the past two minutes, how could I have blanked??? I looked up again at the board and muttered outloud, "UhhhhHhhhhhh....."

"YES??? Miss? What would you like?"

"OH man, I don't know! Like, a small coffee with some skim milk?" He looked at me and didn't talk for five seconds. EEK, I sunk down into my collared shirt.

"Miss, we have many coffees, in many sizes. And 'small' ain't one of them."

"Ohh-- yes, you do have many coffees... sizes, too---"

"Miss, step aside until you figger out what you want. Next custama!"

AHH! How could he have been so hard on me!?!? I'm new! I waited for the line to thin. This morning coffee thing was becoming a nightmare. I stepped back up to bat.

"Hi -- so, maybe you can help. I'm new to this whole coffee thing. What should I ask for if I just want a cup -- none of that extra caloric stuff-- just some skim milk, or soy. Maybe steamed, too? In a somewhat small size-- or medium? Do you have a medium cup?"

Hopeless, I thought. They need translation next to the caloric break-down.

"It seems that you would like a Tall, Grande or Venti Caffe Misto with soy or skim milk, if I am hearing you correctly."

"Oh, okay. That's it? That sounds okay."

The steamer sound went off, and I exhaled. I made it through a Starbucks coffee line.

After burning my tongue, the roof of my palate and leaving foam on my upper lip, I realized that there were just some places where Marissa Beck does not belong. I scurried out of Starbucks. I'll stick to their salted almonds :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The New Member of the Coffee-Club

For the record, I had never tried coffee in my life until a couple of months ago. Coffee was to me like Christmas lights are to a happy Jewish kid: it's there, others do it, but it's just not what you do. Years of coffee-brunch and post-dinner cappuccino refusals had me boasting (a little too quickly) about this non-coffee-drinking-phenomenon of mine, as if coffee were heroin and only I had the long-standing willpower to refrain. Of course I did not believe this. But I marveled at the expressions and comments people made-- the "wow," "really?" and "HOW??" -- as I passed on my share. It just never interested me.I went down to Costa Rica with my family this past January, 08. It was more like a "weekend at Bernies" than a vacation, and perhaps I was slightly off among the various set-backs of losing my passport, getting searched for five apples that I hoarded into the country from NYC, losing power from a rare storm for the majority of our stay, going on a three hour hike through a torrential downpour where my poor mother’s bum knee couldn't handle the slippery rocky and almost killed herself, and staying at an all-inclusive where the plumbing happened not to work, whereby the grounds smelled of feces and the toilets were left rotting for the bugs to fester on; water was scarce and there was no place to wash hands or alternative procedures available. But what was available was: a hot cup of coffee.

Someone had a gas-burning stove and I guess when the going gets tough, you get a pot of the brew. A Costa Rican man offered me a cup. I remember me taking it, feeling half-disrespectful if I didn’t and half-searching for the Spanish words that I couldn’t for the life of me think of. Like a baby putting anything in his hands up to his mouth, I slowly couldn’t help but sip. My eyes widened a little. I looked around me. Was my family watching?? “I don’t drink coffee!” I claimed, thwarting a preempted comment that I thought one of them would make. I kept sipping. It wasn’t all THAT bad. I used to cringe at the scent of it. Well, it really wasn’t all that bad, I kept repeating. I brought the paper cup to my mouth once more. I quivered. In an Oz-like voice, my mouth said to me, “You have presented a new sensation to me. This is a potent flavor. Do you like this.” I do. I DO! Oh no… do I? What will this do to my non-coffee-drinking reputation?!?!

I admit that I often linked coffee-drinking with my own twisted view that only lethargic, stimulant-seeking addicts depended on every morning… I did not want to become one of THOSE! I willed myself not to. I wonder if THEY even exist.

Well.. I haven't "needed a cup of coffee" in the morning and I hope not to ever get to that point, as needing anything food-related (just to get by) isn't something that appeals to me.

On the other hand, I wanted to officially welcome myself as a new member of the coffee-drinking-club. And so what better way to do this, I thought, than to enter into Starbucks... See my next post for the full story.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Japan Layover -- Tokyo and Narita village.

THE BEST SUSHI I EVER HAD IN MY LIFE -- pictures above, in Tokyo, at a place called "Stand-up Sushi." I was in heaven and more heaven.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Marissa Heard It Around NYC

We have a Socrates in the Making!

Four-year-old kid on a scooter: "Why are you walking backwards, Daddy?"

Dad: "So that I can see where you're going..."

Kid: "But I think YOU need to see where you're going!"

Monday, May 05, 2008


Awhile back, I wrote a post on the NYC caloric labeling regulation. For those that haven't been keeping up, today was the day that calories are officially being posted on the menus and menu boards in New York City restaurant chains of 15 or more. Chain restaurants are about 10% of the total number of establishments; however, one-third of caloric intake comes from this amount. This is why the posting initiative was so important as a measure to provide people with the information needed to make informed decisions at the time of purchase.

Today the city health inspectors may began issuing violations if calories were not posted. The fines will be given on July 18th-- a hefty sum of $200-$2,000 depending upon how unprepared the chain is! The New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) still wants to overturn the ruling, probably because they can hardly bear seeing profits spiral once people begin to realize that they're eating 510 calories worth of quarter pounder...

I mentioned in my last post that one may never know how many calories she's inhaling -- even at a "healthy" soup and salad NY-safe-haven, such as Hale & Hearty. What I DID NOT know was that Hale & Hearty turned out to be one of the many companies against this new regulation! Also in major opposition are players like the Center for Consumer Freedom, which has been the P.R. for the tobacco, alcohol and restaurant industries. Those industries are all major stakeholders in this issue since these powerful groups run ads that seek to dismiss obesity as a problem. The National Restaurant Association, the International Franchise Association, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza, Auntie Anne’s, Darden Restaurants, and Carvel Ice Cream are all in opposition, as well.

Luckily, the powerful stakeholders that support the regulation are leading health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, CSPI, the Citizen’s Committee for Children, the New York Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance, the NYS District of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale University, the Institute for Human Nutrition at Columbia University, the Public Health Association of New York City, and the New York City Nutrition Education Network (NYCNEN) are also supporters.

Due to the escalating prevalence of obesity in both children and adults and the fact that New Yorkers get a third of their calories outside of the home, the caloric posting is assumed to have a major health impact. Not only will it now supply evidence for the effectiveness of how posted information can make a difference in food choices, but it will also show the rationale that there IS a need for more intensive nutrition education.

Keep an eye on the progress of other states (or petition!) here:

Friday, April 25, 2008

GLWD Final Words

April 4th
On this day, I had the opportunity to ride on the van doing delivery through the lower, mid and upper west side. I had the pleasure of riding with Fred—our route was packed with traffic, but nonetheless, Fred was able to efficiently navigate through the streets and organized the deliveries so that we were never jetting up and downtown. We began at 8:30/9 and ended at 2:30. There were three testing times.
At 8:45: HOT MEAL: 115F; FROZEN MEAL: 22F
11AM: HOT MEAL: 130F (Due to the heat of the van, the heating device ranges from 173-180F and can heat up the meals as the van remains running. As soon as the van is turned off, Fred said he notices that the temperature of the vessel will drop).
2:15PM: HOT MEAL: 140F

A MAJOR problem that I saw was that the soups at the very bottom of the insulated tub had to be tossed. Fred says that the bottom line of soups always have their tops crushed. You lose about 10 soups per 40 soup tub, and so 10 people are not getting soup. All in all, it was a very good run. I enjoyed getting to know Fred—it seems like he really cares for this organization and has been enjoying his position. He only started one month ago but has the intentions of staying with the organization since the people are so nice. He mentioned that he thought it was odd that a Brooklyn boy like himself (who “…knows the borough like the back of his hand”) was placed in Manhattan and a “Bronx-guy” was placed in Bklyn. He also thought that if a driver had longer hours and wanted to cut them, while another driver wanted to extend his/hers, then perhaps hours can be dispersed more equally so that one person does not have a 10 hr shift while another only gets six.

Additionally, it seems that drivers are wary of getting a ticket. It seems that it would be VERY EASY to get a ticket since those streets are always very crowded, and since there is always lots of running out of the van, leaving it running, and double-parked. But there is really no other option, unless the vans have a GLWD emblem on the side, whereby Policemen may be more lenient. Fred never received a ticket but he seemed nervous about it throughout our journey together.

April 13th, 2008
GLWD ORIENTATION: What was interesting to me was that I had the orientation later on versus earlier in my practicum—and I must say that it was nice to go through it, knowing so much already about GLWD. The video was very motivational and inspiring. It was also nice to get the history without reading about it on the website. It seems that even the other volunteers are all very willing to help and have very selfless mindsets. This is essential for this organization to survive, so I see why the volunteers are lauded so.

April 21st, 2008
I did delivery at the Aurora Food Delivery Building on this day. Although I did not get a test meal; I noticed that the soups were close to exploding, and I had to clean the bottom of a couple in order to place them neatly inside of the bags. Also, the desserts for this particular day included famous amos oatmeal raisin cookies, which seemed atypical, being that the point of GLWD is to nourish people not to kill them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Short History of Medicine

"Doctor, I have a tummy ache."

2000 B.C.—"Here, eat this root."
1000 B.C.—"That root is heathen, say this prayer."
1850 A.D.—"That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."
1940 A.D.—"That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."
1985 A.D.—"That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."
2000 A.D.—"That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NPO Day 4

3/27, 9:30-1PM at Hope Lodge

The building was immaculate. It was new, state-of-the-art, comfortable and spacious. This is the way anyone would want to live.

Cancer patients did not float through the halls, at least not on the floor that I was on. We saw one family, whose kids were playing with their dear Grandma. I remembered mine and felt a short sting inside of my chest. She died of cancer, too.

But I went there not to weep or peep around. Another Registered Dietitian and I gave a presentation on food safety to the staff. There weren't too many people, but we provided lots of resources, books and power-point slides for the staff to keep on handy for their guests.

The key point we brought up was that since cancer patients have a high risk for contracting an illness, food safety is essential. Proper handwashing (20-30 seconds or singing happy birthday to oneself, twice), cleaning of fruits and veggies, and reheating meats/cooking foods in the microwave all the way were major points for the staff to bring up with their guests.

Reference: Food Safety for People with Cancer (USDA)

NPO Day 3

3/24, 10:30-1PM
What I did today was life-altering and AWESOME. Lisa had me going to a delivery site on W 86th St called, St. Paul and St. Andrew's Church. There, the food was dropped off in tubs and picked up by a GLWD volunteer (he's been volunteering for 10 years!) in order to deliver the food to the UWS contingency. This population resided mostly in public housing.

My job was not only to take notes and deliver the meals with the volunteer (named Kevin), but also do a "food test," which entailed me referring to HACCP guidelines, sticking a thermometer in the hot meals, and recording temperatures. I tested the food twice, once in the beginning of the delivery and once at the end in order to discern varations in temperature throughout the delivery process. The first test was in the stairwell and the temperatures were the following: Entree (vegetables, pasta and chicken): 103F and Soup: 119F. The dessert and bagels were room temperature. According to Kevin, "The meals are usually pretty hot." The meals are put into two bags: one smaller brown bag and one larger brown bag with handles so it is easy to carry. Kevin says it take one hour more or less to deliver to five people. Yesterday, he had seven people to deliver to. We began at 11:30 and we ended at 12:48. I tested the test meal again at 12:55 and the temperatures read as the following: Entree: 80FSoup: 97F. According to food safety guidelines, these temperatures are too low.

From start to finish, this was an eye-opening experience for me and I am very grateful for it. The public housing apartments were dicey: elevators and bells seldom worked, the smells were potent and made me feel sad that people had to live in this manner. Not every apartment was like this -- but the majority of the public housing buildings were. An 80-year-old lived right next to an apt that was BLASTING music so loudly that I was even offended. And it wasn't jazz or classical... if you get what I mean.

I had never seen anything like it before, only passed by them. It was certainly an experience I will not forget.

Kevin is a great delivery man. He has been doing this for the past 10 years and I could tell that he really cares about this organization, and the people he delivers to. He says he typically waits as long as it takes until someone opens the outside door when the outside bell isn't working. We luckily had someone come within 10 minutes to one building, whose bell has been broken for as long as Kevin can remember.

In thinking about the surveys I did the week prior, I realized that even PHONE connections doesn't take down the wall between understanding where these people live and come from. That I went INTO public housing didn't even't expose me to the magnitude of poverty these individuals experience. In the back (or I should say front) of my mind, I knew that once I left each building, I'd still have my own to come home to...


3/20, 11AM-2:30PM
I went back to the home-base and got the chance to learn all about a new delivery site called, Hope Lodge, down on W 32nd st. The lodge is for cancer patients to stay at if they do not live in the city but seek NYC medical attension. GLWD decided to send meals over to the lodge for the patients, since many of them cannot cook on their own. I will have the opportunity to see how the planning works right from the beginning. (Thurs the 27th I go to the Lodge to witness a Food Safety presentation and provide feedback for everyone).

I have been enjoying how much my skills and education are valued, respected and utilized.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My NPO Experience

March 19th (11AM-3:30PM)
I stroll down to GLWD, a not-for-prof devoted toward delivering meals to people whose lives have been dramatically altered by disease. The home-base, on 166 Ave of the America's @ Spring Street, is where all of the good stuff happens.

Although I did my research prior to entering the big, grand building (which looks much like an over- sized old post-office), I had no idea what to expect. As embarrassing as this may sound, I actually thought that even though this was a food DELIVERY service, I was prepared to meet people with serious illnesses. For all of my health background, the thought of me sitting on a GLWD toilet seat full of virus and bacteria crossed my mind and I had to remind myself that I couldn't contract a disease through sitting my tush on the bowl.

These thoughts were dispelled instantly (thank GLWD) when I had the pleasure of meeting Esther, a sweet woman working in the Nutritional Services department as an RD, graduated from TC, where she evaluates clients' diets and answers any nutrition questions they have. Since the place sends out close to 3000 meals per day, there are a ton of questions coming in and the phone rings constantly.

Esther took me to the actual kitchen where I wore a food hair net for the first time. The kitchen was clean and it looked much like some of the camp kitchens I've worked in over the summer (well, maybe not worked in... but at least, utilized).

Esther also took me to the volunteer and admin offices so that I could see all aspects of the organization. It's HUGE! And everyone there is so warm--full of love, as the organization would imply.

During the course of my first day thee, I met Lisa Zullig, the head of the Nutrition Services dept, who can be contacted here. She had me calling clients to evaluate how they liked their meals, what time their delivery came, if they wanted any substitutions (such as yogurt for bagel)...etc. This was a great experience for me for a few reasons:

1. It directly had me in contact with the exact people who reap the benefits of the GLWD service, whereby I was fully able to analyze the quality of the GLWD program, in addition to the clients' preferences.

2. It put the human-touch-aspect of the job in check for me. Dealing with people is so important versus reading or writing about them.

3. 200 surveys later, I developed a great "phone-voice," and could probably take over for the lady on your voicemail :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

The New Pick-me-up's

What's The Big Idea with exercise or sleep when you can GET SOME ENERGY like this!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Energy Boost ... or SCAM

We know vitamins and minerals do not give us energy... And yet these "certified athletic trainers" believe in a product called, Effex, which they used at an athletic convention. Effex has supposedly been shown to improve energy instantly (anecdotally).

The ingredients of this product, according to the spokesperson, are the following:

"Only good stuff. Nothing but vitamins and minerals."

Check out the "ingredients," and see if you agree. Last I heard, caffeine is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, so they are marketing this product very unethically.

What's most interesting is that they do not list the amounts of vitamins and minerals in their product, only the form. Another point to note is even though caffeine has been shown to boost performance; too much is not a good thing. The latter study specifically mentions the word "moderation" to reap a benefit. Most likely, Effex-users could become abusers if they respond well to the spray, meaning, moderation might not occur.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Calories on NYC menus (if it's a chain of more than 15)

Have you heard? Soon we will have Calorie regulation on menus in NYC, beginning March 31st.

I think this is a fantastic idea. Although, " doesn't take a Ph.D. in nutrition, let alone a high school diploma, to tell the difference between a 12-piece bucket of chicken and a salad," says J. Justin Wilson, that's not what we're measuring. A calorie is a calorie whether it's coming from a kale leaf or a chicken wing. And those calories can sky-rocket when people don't know what a serving size is. Ultimately, providing caloric information on the menu will inform and influence people to choose healthier options.

Those who frequent the chain, Hale and Hearty understand how easy it is to pack together a hefty caloric salad. There is no end to how much a customer can put into her dish, even if she thinks she is choosing healthy options. For example, piling on walnuts, goat cheese, grilled chicken and avocado (not to mention the use of liberal amounts of dressing) can add 400 extra calories or more (and that's without the soup and bread). Before you know it, you have yourself a 700 plus calorie lunch. And you wonder why you can't concentrate at work after your break? Would you choose differently if given a basic gist of how many calories you'd be consuming?

Unfortunately, the regulation is not being applied to more restaurants. This is too bad since one of the MAJOR PROBLEMS with dining out is portion and calorie control! An 800 calorie label doesn't come along-side the four serving plate of food. But if it did?

The regulation states that food needs to come "in close proximity" to the items listed on the menu. It will be interesting to see just how close the absolute calorie counts are in relation to the items. We'll have to see if owners choose to lower their 500 calorie burger to 489, just as $4.89 appears to be cheaper than $5. If so, consumers will have yet another obstacle to face in the jungle of NYC dining.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A little familial promo here...

Today, I had my third wisdom tooth pulled, a swift and painless performance, by none other than my Dr Beck! I feel inclined to give a shout-out. If you feel the holidays have butchered your pearly whites, see my dad, a dentist in Brooklyn (or better known as "the brooklyn denstist") at 1730 Ocean Avenue.

Nutrition Website

My personal blog here at Blogger is still going to remain intact; however, please visit my new website,, which will host more nutrition topics (because obviously you just can't get enough!)