23, February 2018 4:10 PM

The Plant ParadoxThe Silicon Valley Dietetic Book Club met in January to discuss Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox. The premise of this book is that certain foods that typically considered to be nutritious and health enhancing are actually bad; including wheat, beans, peanuts, peas, legumes, lentils and tomatoes, just to name a few. This is all due to the lectins found in these foods. 

What are lectins? Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to other molecules, notably carbohydrate molecules. According to The Plant Paradox, the binding of lectins to cells is a major cause of illness 

The book goes as far as to say people are “at war with plants,” and the paradox is that people need to eat some plants since they contain a host of essential nutrients. The book teaches the reader exactly which plant foods to eat, which to avoid and how to prepare certain foods to reduce the impact of lectins. 

What Works

On the positive side, the book contains many testimonials of people who feel better after following this diet. One can't argue with people feeling better. It is possible that understanding of human nutrition is still not adequate to explain why some foods are health-enhancing in one individual yet inflammatory to another. It is also true that the diet advocated in The Plant Paradox is low calorie—causing weight loss, low in sugar and does not include highly processed foods. These are all dietary changes that can help people to feel better right away.

Dr. Gundry’s book also recommends using certain spices to reduce inflammation. Book club members shared first-hand experience with spices including curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, and a reduction of symptoms of inflammation. However, individuals should still consult with a health professional before adding supplements to their regimen.

Where We Differ

As dietitians, recommendations to reduce vegetable intake naturally rub us the wrong way. The overwhelming consensus of nutrition studies finds that a plant-based eating pattern, which can include some animal foods, is health-enhancing. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three different eating patterns and all recommend eating a wide variety of plants. 

Population studies show people who consume a plant-based diet (five or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables) plus two or three servings of whole grains have better health. The citations used in this book often referenced very small animal studies and these outcomes cannot be generalized to human populations. 

Gundry’s recommendations include a very expensive supplement program and the author conveniently sells these needed supplements—creating a financial conflict of interest. Buyer beware. As a general philosophy, we recommend getting nutrients from foods rather than supplements. 

The protein recommendation in the book (0.37 grams/kilogram/day) is much lower than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 0.80 grams/kilogram/day. Newer scientific studies actually recommend increasing the RDA for protein for some sub-groups in the population such as the elderly. 

Finally, this diet is complicated. It omits many foods that are nutritious and well tolerated by the vast majority of people. One thing we have learned as nutrition educators is that complicated eating regimens are not sustainable over time. We suspect most people would abandon this eating plan after the first few weeks.

Seeking another opinion? Check out this video from

Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN

Tags: consensus science Dietary Guideliunes for Americans Healthy eating healthy eating patterns Kristal Shelden Maureen Bligh plant-based protein registered dietitian book club

14, February 2018 11:00 AM

Food insecurity is a growing problem that impacts the health of families throughout the United States. Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.1 It affects one in eight individuals (13.4 percent) in the United States2, and one in five children (20.7 percent) in California.3 Feeding America logo

Lack of adequate and nutritious food can negatively impact growth and development, mental health and academic achievement for children.4 Food insecurity is an important, but often overlooked, factor that affects long-term health and has been identified as a key factor for chronic disease. As registered dietitian nutritionists, physicians and other health care providers, you can play a significant role in addressing food insecurity, thereby improving the health outcomes of patients and families.

Food Research & Action Center logoToolkits are available to help you identify individuals who are food insecure, address the issue in a sensitive manner and connect patients and families to local and national resources. The toolkits provided by Feeding America/Humana and the Food Research and Action Center are available to all health care providers.

In addition to improving access to healthy food, health care professionals can be instrumental in guiding parents and students to make healthy food choices. Dairy Council of California provides free educator guides, nutrition education booklets and My Wellness Prescription pads to use in your clinic or other settings. My Wellness Prescription Pad for health professionals

Providers can help educate families about accessing the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school, along with the summer meals programs that help keep kids healthy when school is out. 

As health care professionals, you are uniquely positioned to address food insecurity and help improve the health of adults and children in the United States. For copies of the My Wellness Prescription pads and associated guide, please contact [email protected].

Alyson Foote, RDN
Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN
Project Managers, Dairy Council of CA


  1. Definitions of food security. U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service website. Updated October 4, 2017. Accessed February 9, 2018. 
  2. Food security in the United States. Feeding America website. Accessed February 9, 2018.
  3. Map the Meal Gap 2017: Child Food Insecurity in California by County in 2015. Feeding America. Accessed February 9, 2018.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement. Promoting food security for all children. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5):e1431-1438. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-3301. Accessed February 9, 2018.

Tags: Alyson Foote food access food insecurity healthy eating for kids Kristal Shelden nutrition education booklets School Breakfast school lunch summer meals

14, December 2017 11:20 AM

Dairy Council of CA staff were as busy as game show hosts making sure collaboration took center stage during the 2017 California School Nutrition Association Conference in Sacramento. In addition to sponsoring the SLM of CA Collaborative reception and awards, team members were on several panels, exhibited and even hosted Nutrition Activity Club (NAC) attendees. Here are some of the highlights:
Using the premise of a popular game show, Candice Sainz from Dairy Council of CA partnered with Heather Reed and Crystal Young of California Department of Education, Gail Gousha from Escondido Union School District, Barbara Lee from Livermore Valley Joint Unified, Robert Lewis from El Monte City School District and April Mackill of Plumas Lake Unified on a session designed to drive home the message that Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of CA strategies use low and no cost solutions to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Playing to a packed house, these passionate professionals shared examples and tips, demonstrating that with Smarter Lunchrooms Movement principles and practices, the "Price is Right" when promoting school meals. As a valuable parting gift, session attendees went home with a hand out of SLM of CA materials, resources, tools and sources they could contact/order to bring SLM to their cafeterias. 

Phoebe Copp of Dairy Council of CA co-presented “The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement: Engaging Students in Your Cafeteria” with April Mackill and Barbara Lee to share best practices for implementing Smarter Lunchrooms movement concepts. Read more about their experiences as recipients of the California Department of Education Team Nutrition SLM of CA Grants in case studies for Cobblestone Elementary and Marilyn Avenue.   

Facilitated by Copp, a Technical Advising Professional, both districts presented ways they center their Smarter Lunchrooms implementation on student engagement. Their approaches use both “old school” person to person nutrition outreach and “new school” approaches like electronic menu boards and videos. Participants learned real life strategies to make positive changes to the cafeteria environment that promote healthy food choices. 

Shannan Young, RDN, SNS, Director of Food Systems and Access presented Dairy Council of CA's Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2017 and how they impact the school foodservice environment. Additionally, Young presented on the growing impact that Millennials are having in the school nutrition environment, both as the fastest growing segment of parents of school aged children, and as new professionals in school foodservice. 

Finally, in an effort to foster and inspire the next generation of school nutrition professionals, Dairy Council of CA also hosted conference attendance and a special gathering for California NAC members. Over two dozen upper elementary and middle school students were able to visit the exhibit floor of the California School Nutrition Association conference and sample different school menu items, new products and more. A fun graffiti board activity allowed the NAC students a chance to chronicle their favorite items, in the hopes of seeing them on a school lunch or breakfast menu soon. 



Sara Floor
Project Manager II
Communications and Food Access

Tags: Candice Sainz nutrition education nutrition trends Phoebe Copp school foodservice Shannan Young smarter lunchrooms movement of CA

08, December 2017 8:35 AM

Holiday giftsDuring this hectic holiday season, parents, pediatricians and even PTA staff can give the gift of good nutrition and health. Adding a healthy touch to a holiday shopping list can be easy, affordable and fun! Here are options to make this holiday season a healthy and happy one on any budget.

The Gift of Get Up and Go

Being physically active can be as important as making healthy eating choices. Electronic fitness and sleep trackers are very popular this holiday season. Effective in tracking physical activity and encouraging movement, these tools often come with a hefty price tag, but there are ways to bypass this cost. 

Simple pedometers can be purchased for just a few dollars and are sometimes offered as giveaways at health fairs. Most smartphones feature built-in wellness apps that also track steps. Make a pedometer or smartphone go the extra mile with USDA’s free online activity and nutrition tool, SuperTracker.

The Gift of Good Eats

From frozen steaks and fancy food towers to make-at-home meal delivery services, there’s no end to food options during the holiday season. Instead of a high-priced service, try free online meal planning tools and grocery list generators to make healthier food choices this season. 

The free Healthy Eating Planner starts by comparing a baseline of food choices to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and then provides a step-by-step plan to make healthier choices. Couple this with a free meal planning service like or EatingWell magazine’s 7-day meal plans. Worried these menus may be missing important nutrients? Use the Calcium Calculator and wash down dinner with a glass of milk for good measure. 

The Gift of Gab

In an age when everyone seems tied to portable electronic devices, mealtime is a great time to unplug and reconnect with family and friends. Encourage mealtime discussions with conversation cards. Shop online for card sets ranging from $5 to $25 or start with free ideas available from The Family Dinner Project. Time spent at the table over a healthy, balanced meal will feed children’s bodies, minds and hearts. What better gift is there to give? 

The Gift That Gives Back 

Packed with nine essential nutrients, milk and dairy foods provide many health benefits, as confirmed by scientific research. However, milk is one of the most often requested but least donated food bank items. Help feed a childhood this holiday season and donate to the Great American Milk Drive. Online donations stay in the local community, where nearby food banks receive vouchers that clients redeem for a gallon of milk at the store. Visit to learn more and donate today.   

Off to a Good Start

One simple way to set a healthy tone his holiday season is with breakfast. Starting each and every day with a healthy breakfast is a simple strategy to improve overall nutrition and health. Children who eat breakfast regularly tend to have better overall nutrition and healthy body weight, fewer school absences, reduced tardiness and higher scores on achievement tests. 

Need some inspiration or guidance on making a healthy breakfast? Check out the Build a Balanced Breakfast video or play the Power Up Your Breakfast game. Even simple steps like adding fruit to cereal and milk or choosing whole-grain toast with peanut butter and orange slices can get the morning and the holiday season off to a healthy start.  

Lisa Larsen
Community Nutrition Adviser Supervisor

Tags: breakfast calcium calculator dietary guidelines family meals Great American Milk Drive Healthy eating healthy eating planner holiday eating Lisa Larsen milk physical activity Power Up Your Breakfast SuperTracker

21, November 2017 9:45 AM

Past and present members of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California (SLM of CA) Collaborative gathered in conjunction with the California School Nutrition Association conference in November to celebrate nutrition education and healthier eating patterns in California schools. 

Dairy Council of California sponsored an SLM of CA reception hosted by collaborative partners University of California CalFresh, California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division and California Department of Public Health. The reception was attended by school foodservice professionals from around California, as well as student nutrition activity committees.

A poster session allowed school foodservice professionals to share experiences learned from schools that have benefited from CDE Team Nutrition grants and SLM of CA interventions, while distinguished speakers recognized the collaborative and schools for their impactful efforts. 

Glen Price, Chief Deputy for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at CDE, recognized the collaborative for working to ensure, as he shared via Twitter, that “all children, all schools, and all communities have access to healthy foods.” 

Presenter and distinguished guests. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; Lisa Melhouse, CDE; Caroline Kurtz, California Department of Public Health; and Glen Price, CDE.Price was so impressed by the improvements achieved through implementation of the SLM of CA strategies that he and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson plan to add cafeteria visits as they tour California schools. 

(Presenter and distinguished guests. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; Lisa Melhouse, CDE; Caroline Kurtz, California Department of Public Health; and Glen Price, CDE.)

Caroline Kurtz, PhD, Branch Chief of the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch at the California Department of Public Health, shared how the branch has been a contributing partner to the SLM of CA Collaborative and plans to continue the partnership with resources for materials development and professional training statewide. 

An as an example of a partnership in action, Kurtz also addressed continued support for obesity prevention efforts at the local level that will build upon the work being done in schools— extending the learning to parents to help them accept and value healthy changes at school. 

Lisa Melhouse, RDN, SNS, Nutrition Education Program Administrator at CDE’s Nutrition Services Division, is charged with oversight and development of nutrition education and training projects for nutrition professionals working in federal child nutrition programs. Melhouse played a critical role in bringing the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grants to 48 school in California. 

Melhouse shared that, on average, schools awarded the grants implemented 20 additional smarter lunchroom practices. Schools added murals, signage and student art to eating spaces. Meal participation increased, less fresh fruit and milk ended up in the trash, and schools across the state engaged students themselves in revitalizing the cafeteria and promoting nutrition education— truly a combined effort to make a difference in the lives of students by helping them make healthier choices. 

Banning Unified School District Student Nutrition Advisory Council members presented on their activities and were honored for their campuswide student empowerment and engagement efforts. Students conducted research and menu testing to improve meal selection and reduce food waste. 

(Above, Banning Unified School District Student Nutrition Advisory Council members present on their projects and, below, are awarded a certificate of recognition by Tammy Anderson-Wise, Dairy Council of CA CEO.)

Many of the Student Nutrition Advisory Council activities addressed no-cost or low-cost strategies like improving the cafeteria environment, creating attractive food labels and positioning plain milk. The students are finding value in peer-to-peer education and are already planning future strategies and actions to improve nutrition education and food access in a Riverside County food desert where affordable, healthy food options are limited. 

Barbara Lee, Director of Campus Catering at Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, was honored for her efforts in adopting innovative, technology-based nutrition education via a smart screen TV in the cafeteria setting. Piloted as part of the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grant, the digital TV offered dual benefits by promoting meal options and providing nutrition education. 

“Through this project,” said Lee, “I’ve learned nutrition messages that are brief, focused and repetitive can be an effective and powerful way to provide nutrition information to students.” Learn more about Lee's pilot and results here.

(Presenters and awardees. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; April Mackill, Plumas Lake Elementary School District; Barbara Lee, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District; and Crystal Young, CDE.)    

The final awardee of the night was April Mackill, Food Service Manager for Plumas Lake Elementary School District. Honored for her efforts in student empowerment and partnership development to support the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grant, Mackill recruited fifth-grade nutrition ambassadors to share daily nutrition messages, highlight locally sourced menu items and even hold taste tests for current and new entrees. A partnership with Principal Marcie Nichols to promote “Wonderful White Milk” resulted in increased selection of plain (versus flavored) milk and a significant decrease in the overall amount of milk being thrown away. Learn more about Mackill's efforts here.

Finally, this reception was an opportunity to recognize SLM of CA technical advising professionals for their services. These individuals, located across the state, work hand–in-hand with school nutrition professionals like Lee and Mackill to initiate the simple, four-step assessment and implementation process that makes the healthy choice the easy choice in the school cafeteria to improve the health of students. 

(SLM of CA technical advising professionals. L to R, Candice Sainz, Dairy Council of CA; Alyson Foote, Dairy Council of CA; Karina Macias, UC CalFresh; Evelyn Morales, UC CalFresh; Krystal Shelden, Dairy Council of CA; and Phoebe Copp, Dairy Council of CA.)


Shannan Young, RDN, SNS
Program Director, Food Systems and Access

Tags: balanced eating patterns behavioral economics California CDE CDPH child nutrition CSNA Healthy eating healthy eating for kids milk school foodservice school meals school nutrition Shannan Young smarter lunchrooms smarter lunchrooms movement of CA team nutrition technical advising professionals

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