By: Megan Beyer,  USJ Dietetic Intern, ’17

We have all seen how much criticism that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) gets, but do we really know why it is getting all this attention? We are told that we need to stay away from it and it is bad for our health.  It is confusing to look at a package and recognize if a product has high fructose corn syrup in it. I think at this point it is important for consumers to be able to get these questions answered without bias of companies dominating the food industry!


In order to crack this case, we need to go back to the basics of what exactly is high fructose corn syrup to make a better a more educated decision.  High fructose corn syrup is corn syrup that undergoes enzymatic processing where it is converting glucose into fructose and then mixed with pure corn syrup to reach the desired sweetness. Okay, so simply put it is a liquid sweetener that is similar to sugar.  Traditionally high fructose is modified to exist as HFCS 42% which is composed of 58% glucose and 42% fructose.  HFCS 42% is found in processed foods, cereals and baked goods and then HFCS 55% is composed of 45% glucose and 55% fructose is used soft drink beverages. There was a huge increase in adding high fructose corn syrup to carbonated beverages in the 1960’s and 1970’s due to the way in which it is stable in acidic foods and beverages. And unfortunately, high fructose corn syrup has become one of the most successful food ingredients in modern history. What is the common trend here, most processed food contains high fructose corn syrup and most of us don’t know it is in there. And on top of people being unaware that HFCS is in our products, it is causing detrimental effects on the health of our nation.

The next thing that that makes me think, is if HFCS is simply a type of liquid sugar that is used to sweeten our food, why is it so harmful to our bodies.  When normal glucose, or table sugar is digested in our bodies it has two options to be converted and used as energy if needed or it can be converted to be stored as fat.  When we compare glucose to fructose and evaluate the digestion, absorption, and metabolism in the body we see a lot of differences.  When fructose is digested in the liver the chemical composition does not stimulate certain hormones that control hunger and blood sugar levels in the body.  Although some of us may understand the science behind, is it most important to recognize that HFCS is stored because it bypasses the steps that glucose goes through.


Although there is a lot of contradicting information on studies done and what doctors have found, the bottom line is simply that HFCS is bad because of the effect it is having on the obesity epidemic of the United States and for that matter, around the world. As we know, added sugar to processed food is added calories, and no matter if we recognize it or not, a few hundred calories extra a day from having a soda, can result in a 3-pound weight gain in a month. Also for most individuals they are not going to drink only one soda a day, but instead have two or three where we see caloric over-consumption which is what we see lead to weight gain.

There are ways in which we are able to avoid HFCS, but that would include reading the label of a product.  If you are really trying to cut back on the amount of HFCS in your food depending on your diet would be reducing the amount of processed food you eat.  If this is not an option for your life style, it would be a great start to read the ingredient label. When reading the label most of the time it will not say “high fructose corn syrup” since food companies are trying to trick the customer and therefore put ingredients such as maize syrup, tapioca syrup, glucose/ fructose syrup, glucose syrup, dahlia syrup, fructose… but when it all boils down these are all the same as high fructose corn syrup, so stay away! Since we are not always able to avoid it, the best thing to do as a consumer is to moderate it.  If you are not eating a ton of highly processed foods and every one in a while have these foods, it is okay in moderation, but be sure to read the label so you know exactly what you are putting inside of your body.

After doing extensive research on the topic of HFCS I have learned there are a lot of misconceptions about it and why it could kill you and why you can never eat it and so on.  Always make sure that you are receiving information from a reputable scientific source to ensure the information is correct. Through further understanding I think we can all agree that at one point or another the foods we eat are going to have HFCS in them, and the best thing to do is simply reduce and monitor how much you are consuming!



It is less than one week until Valentine’s Day and many of you are preparing for a day of sweet gestures, cupid-shaped cards and chocolate.

February often elicits thoughts of romantic evenings, flowers and candy conversation hearts…but not often heart health.

It is important to know that not only is February the “month of love”, but also American Heart Month. What could be more romantic than focusing on improving your health?

According to the CDC, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Around 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, which is 1 in every 4 deaths (CDC, 2015).” Although those statistics are staggering, there are actions you can take today to decrease your chances of developing heart disease. Heart disease is preventable.

 What are the risk factors for heart disease?

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Stress

What heart healthy habits will assist in lowering the chances of developing heart disease?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are currently at a healthy body weight, keep up the great work! If not, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight may produce improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.
  • Decrease intake of saturated fats, refined sugars and sodium. Limit intake of sugary beverages, fast foods, full fat dairy products, sweets, treats and processed foods. Hint: when you go to the grocery store, stick to the perimeter. Instead of buying out at lunch or dinner, pack your meals for work and trips.
  • Increase physical activity. Current recommendations state that moderate aerobic activity for 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes, 5 days a week, has heart health benefits.
  • Increase intake of plant-based foods. Including more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains means more heart healthy fiber (the cholesterol lowering kind) and health protective vitamins and minerals as well as less saturated fat and refined sugar.
  • Quit smoking. There are many resources available to assist you in smoking cessation. Reach out today to start your journey towards better health.
  • Take time to breathe. Stress is known as the “silent killer”. Find ways to take mini breaks and practice self-care each and every day. That may include: taking a walk, reading a book, meditation, deep breathing, exercise and speaking with a close friend.


Healthy Valentine’s Day Recipes:

Want More Information? Visit:

By Amy Woodman, USJ Dietetic Intern, ’17


Image Source

Health care in America is always a hotly debated topic, especially during an election season. Does our health care system serve patients as it should? Should we change how our health care system works? If so, how? Is our healthcare system adequate? One could identify wonderful advances within our healthcare system as well as egregious failures.

We often look to other countries as a comparison for how healthcare could be more effectively delivered. But there is one place right here in America that offers efficient, personalized healthcare that takes a holistic approach and treats the patient as a whole being, not just an agglomeration of its constituent parts. That place is your local veterinary hospital. That’s right, your local vet is way ahead of the game in several areas.

Veterinarians sometimes consult with physicians when they need advice within a given specialty for a patient, but very seldom do physicians look to veterinarians for advice on their patients. And that’s a real shame, because there is a lot we can learn from our veterinary counterparts.

For example, while everyone is touting the implementation of the electronic health record (EHR) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, few realize that dogs, cats, and even hamsters have had EHRs for well over a decade now. (Yes, that’s right, somewhere out there is a little hamster that had an EHR long before any of us humans!) Veterinary hospitals made the switch to paperless practice long ago, and did so without any legislation forcing them into it. They made the change because it served their patients better.

Another area where veterinarians excel is keeping accurate weight records. As a dietitian, how often have you had to calculate your patient’s needs based on a stated weight from a patient who can’t remember the last time they weighed themselves? Wouldn’t you love to have a button on your screen that would bring up every weight on record with the corresponding date? Well, our dogs and cats have that very thing. Next time you go to the vet check your receipt, it’s probably printed out right there at the bottom.

In my previous life as a veterinary technician, I remember obtaining accurate patient weights was non-negotiable. It was often just as difficult for us as I imagine it must be for nurses, but it was part of the culture – everyone gets weighed. An accurate weight was imperative, if it wasn’t recorded in the patient record, it wouldn’t be long before the veterinarian would request an updated weight. If the patient reeked of skunk, I had to pick it up and put it on the scale. If the patient was in pain, I had to gently put it on the scale. If the patient was a terrified cat who was trying to climb the walls, I had to figure out how to get it on the scale. If it was covered in parasites, trying to bite me, scratch me, attack me, or whatever else, I had to get it on the scale.


Image source

So I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of all the incredibly busy nurses out there and I do understand there are hundreds of reasons why weighing patients is difficult. I also understand that when dealing with a patient who is in pain or surrounded by an anxious family, obtaining an accurate body weight may seem like a low priority, but it really shouldn’t. An accurate weight isn’t just important for us dietitians. An accurate weight is necessary for a host of reasons:  prescribing pharmaceuticals, calculating intravenous fluids, tracking progress of the fluid overloaded patient, just to name a few. Yet it continues to go unmeasured in the clinical setting. Somehow, though, we must make an effort to let other health care professionals know how important accurate weights are to the patient’s care and find a way to facilitate getting accurate weights in the EHR.

By: Sarah Rondinone,  USJ Dietetic Intern, 17′

Photo by Sarah Rondinone

I often run into some difficulty trying to find interesting snacks for my 4 year old that she will enjoy and won’t be allergic to. In addition to peanuts, my daughter is allergic to eggs, wheat, and dairy, so trying to come up with fun ideas can be challenging. One of my favorite snacks is peanut butter on bananas (which is not a good idea for a child with a peanut allergy) so I’d like to share an allergy friendly version that she enjoys. I like to use WOWBUTTER®, a soy based peanut butter alternative that is thick, creamy, and very closely mimics the consistency of real peanut butter. You could also use SunButter®, which is a sunflower seed based alternative and a helpful substitute if there is a soy allergy, but the oil from the sunflower seeds requires some mixing of the product before use.sarah-blog-finished-bites-1

Photos by Sarah Rondinone

One of the great tricks to this snack is you can make it simple or more involved by adding things like mini chocolate chips or raisins to the top. The Enjoy Life® brand of dairy free chocolate chips are very tasty and close to the real thing so they are the brand that I personally use but others are out there! Another way I like to make the banana bites is by sandwiching the WOWBUTTER® in-between two rounds of sliced banana pieces and then put them in the freezer to make a nice frozen treat!

I like to use ripe bananas and cut them into little rounds to make it easier to assemble and pick up to eat. I then add a small dollop of the WOWBUTTER® to the center and top it off with some dairy free “Mini Chips” by Enjoy Life®. Both products I used for the snack are pictured below, and of course, any bananas or alternative products that work for you are also great. Enjoy!



By: Emily Martinez-Maria, USJ Dietetic Intern 17’

I had the chance to attend FNCE 2016 with my dietetic internship class this past
October! On top of being a great place to get free samples of everything imaginable and more, I actually learned a lot. There was one talk in particular that stood up to me: “Diet, Supplements and Cancer Therapy: What should we tell our patients?” by Dr. Abrams and Mary Marian, DrN. During the talk they described some of the recent nutrition therapies currently used to treat cancer patients. Dr. Abrams mentioned a diet I was not very familiar with, the alkaline diet.
I found out this diet has been in the media for a few years and has been followed by
celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and recently, Kelly Ripa. So, what do these celebs do or have done to follow this diet?1

The Basics…
In the pH scale from 0 to 14, anything that falls below 7 is considered an acid and
anything above 7 is considered a base. The alkaline diet increases the intake of basic or alkaline-forming foods and reduces the intake of highly acidic-forming foods, or the foods commonly seen in the regular diet that some or most Americans follow! The alkaline diet eating patterns decrease the amount of acid the body has to process, making it less stressful for a few organ systems.2
When following this diet, foods are categorized as positive or negative potential
renal acid loads (PRALs), or in simple words, foods that have an effect on the kidneys and the acid levels in the urine. Alkaline-forming foods have negative PRALs scores and acid forming foods have positive PRALs scores. Surprisingly enough, the food’s ability to alkalize in the body does not depend on the actual pH of food, therefore even though citrus fruits are seen as acidic foods they actually have an alkalizing effect in the body. 3 If a person’s health needs some improvement, the diet recommends 80% of the foods to be alkaline-forming foods or having negative PRALs scores, and 20% or less to be acid-forming foods or having positive PRALs scores for diet balance and digestion. To maintain health, the diet recommends 60% alkaline-forming foods and 40% acid-forming foods.

The Diet…
Some Alkaline friendly foods 3






Some Acid forming foods 3


The Research…
There has been some research done to observe possible relationships between
following an alkaline diet and health benefits. Some results suggest that the body creates a basic environment when following an alkaline diet and that this type of environment may improve the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy treatments but not others when treating cancer. However there is no evidence that supports the benefit of an alkaline diet and cancer prevention.2 Other research suggest there is also no evidence that supports the association between the alkaline diet and bone health, even though an alkaline diet reduces the amount of calcium lost through the urine.4 Therefore there is no current strong evidence supporting the alkaline diet when treating certain diseases.



Even though there is not a lot of research connecting the diet to benefits when preventing or treating some diseases, the diet follows good guidelines such as eating mostly plant-based foods, including a lot of fruits and veggies, limiting the amount of
low biological value protein, avoiding processed, high-fat, and low fiber foods. These recommendations can also be seen in some of the nutritional guidelines published for the general public and disease prevention.5,6 As a dietetic intern I have to say that moderation is key to ©DrCynthia.com find the right balance in your diet and I personally wouldn’t recommend following any extreme diet if you are an overall healthy individual. Instead of minimizing or avoiding the consumption of protein from animal sources, I would recommend increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and other plant-based foods to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies.

Now let’s see, how BASIC do you really are?!
Where did I get my facts?
1. Duerson, Meena Hart. “I Tried the Alkaline Diet and Here’s What Happened.”
TODAY.com. Today, 12 Aug. 2016. Web.
2. Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH
Diet Benefits Health?” Journal of Environmental and Public Health (2012): 1-8. Web.
3. “The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet.” AcidAlkalineDiet.net. The Acid Alkaline Association.
4. Hanley, David A, and Susan J Whiting. “Does A High Dietary Acid Content Cause Bone
Loss, and Can Bone Loss Be Prevented With an Alkaline Diet?” Journal Of Clinical
Densitometry: The Official Journal of The International Society For Clinical
Densitometry 16.4 (2013): 420-425. Medline. Web.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed.
6. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and
Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. (2012). Web.

Why You Should Buy Chia Seeds and How to Incorporate Them into Your Diet by Haley Lemieux, USJ, Dietetic Intern


I’m sure we all remember the days of Chia Pets. Everyone wanted the little clay statue modeled after a cartoon or famous person that would eventually sprout green “hair.” It was a major hit and every kid and even adults had to have one. At the time most people didn’t know the many health benefits that those tiny little seeds provide! Within the last few years chia seeds have risen to the top of the market in the health industry. Who would have thought that they would make a come back? This time it’s not just to grow a plant.


As we have probably all heard, chia seeds have a lot to offer. Let’s check out just a few of the many benefits in this super food:

First, chia seeds contain fiber.  A 1 tablespoon (15 grams) serving contains 4 grams of fiber. People often lack the proper amount of fiber in their diet, so adding chia seeds is a great way to get in some extra fiber! 1 tablespoon is a very manageable portion size to get all these added health benefits!

Next, one serving also contains 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. These little seeds are very macro-nutrient dense for just 80 calories! The average consumer may think 5 grams of fat for a little serving of seeds? Who wants to waste some of their daily fat intake on that small portion?! Don’t fear, it’s healthy fat! Chia seeds are loaded with omega 6’s (fatty acids the body can produce) and omega 3’s (essential fatty acids that must come from your diet!) Omega 3’s have many benefits such as reducing inflammation, reducing triglyceride levels and even have shown some positive effects against depression and anxiety.

Chia seeds also contain many vitamins and minerals. They provide calcium, copper, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. They also have vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E and vitamin D. Chia seeds also include other minerals such as iron, magnesium, iodine, sulfur, niacin and thiamine. They are also rich in antioxidants.


Pick a bag up in your local grocery store today!

There versatility makes it super easy to incorporate into your daily diet! Here’s eight different ways to start adding them to your diet:

  1. Oatmeal- Mix them right into your daily bowl of oatmeal for some extra fiber and protein. They add a lot of volume too! Simply stir them into your oats while cooking. They will absorb up some of the water and a little bit of a gelatinous texture will develop. You can also soak them in water to aid in digestion.
  2. Smoothies- Blend them into your smoothie or throw a pinch on top after you pour it into a glass! That’s one of the great things about chia seeds- they can be mixed into foods without even noticing they are there very easily, so if you aren’t necessarily a fan of having tiny seeds in your food, you can easily blend them in without even knowing they are there!
  3. Salads- Toss some chia seeds into your salad without taking away from the other flavors and adding some extra texture and crunch! You can also try making your own dressing and throwing some in that as well!
  4. Yogurt- Mix in some chia seeds and top with fresh fruit and a drizzle of peanut butter for a macronutrient balanced snack or meal! Add some granola and you’ve got a delicious parfait.
  5. Pudding- Chia seed pudding is another recently popular item. You can buy individual containers at the grocery store or make your own. There are tons of recipes out there- get creative with your flavors and combinations!
  6. Granola and Bars- A lot of granolas and bars contain chia seeds, or if you want to get creative you can make your own. Be sure to watch the amount of sugar in store bought products, and always read the labels to know what is in the products you’re buying.
  7. Muffins and Breads- Chia seeds can easily be added into the batter of any baked good! Banana bread with chia seeds- delicious!
  8. Jam- Making homemade jam is extremely easy, so what’s one more simple step to add in a bunch of nutrients?


Try out some of these easy and fun ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet today


The holiday season is approaching. You are thinking to yourself, how can I continue to have a healthy mind and body while indulging in all the festive food? Many times are eyes can be larger than our stomachs.



Eat light snacks while preparing for your party or holiday lunch/dinner so that when mealtime arrives, you do not over-indulge. Have fruits, vegetables and nuts available to you and guests to munch on prior to the meal.



If you plan to make leftovers for guests to take home, separate those foods once you finish making each item. Put the leftovers in to-go containers. This tactic may prevent you from continuing to go back for seconds and thirds and leave you with no leftovers.

When all the food is presented at once, take a look around. Only take what you love and include fruits and vegetables on your plate to keep a balanced meal.


You can modify any recipe to be lower in fat, sugar and calories. For example, if you usually love to include a baked yam dish, add roasted Brussel sprouts, cranberries, shredded almonds and any of your other favorite vegetables to the dish.

  • Exchange half the butter with an oil such as canola or olive.
  • Use low-fat or fat free milk and cheese when cooking or baking
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your dishes.
  • Include whole grains, use whole grain bread crumbs to make stuffing!
  • Remove the skin from the turkey.



Remember, holidays are for family, friends and conversation. The food is an added delicious piece. Try to enjoy your environment and people you are with. When you are engaged in good conversation, your focus will shift more toward your company and the food will be secondary.


Probably not on the day of the holiday, but include physical activity during the holiday season. An average American eats about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving which is 1 ½ pounds gained in one meal.1 Your goal should be to maintain your current weight through the holiday season! Walk, job, exercise classes, DVDs, youtube or on-demand workouts etc.


Eat slower to give your body time to signal to you when you are satiated.

Reduce or avoid sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages to lower your intake of empty calories.


Marshall M. Calculate the Holiday Season’s Extra Calories | Huffington … Calculate the Holiday Season’s Extra Calories. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-marshall/calculate-the-holiday-sea_b_6142204.html. Published November 13, 2014. Accessed October 9, 2016.

Blog written by Jessica Mirkin, USJ, Dietetic Intern