How Food Affects Your Mood: What You Need to Know

Many of us resolved on January 1 to make some changes to our eating in an effort to improve our physical health.  But are we familiar with what effect those changes may have on our moods?

The latest episode of Total Health Radio explores this — how what we eat can affect our brain chemistry and therefore our emotions.  Learn tips for increasing dopamine and serotonin and how to stave off crashing after too many refined carbohydrates.  It’s a great listen — check it out.

salad bar

Healthy Picks for Happy Meetings

We’ve all been to meetings with food that runs counter to our best efforts. You know the drill – you wake up, maybe go for a run or hit the gym, eat a healthy breakfast and get ready for your day. You head to a great meeting, full of interesting conversation and great colleagues, only to sit down and be immediately faced with the sugared-up carb du jour and not a lean protein in site. Follow this up a few hours later with heavy lunch, and you’re ready for a nap by 2 p.m.

All smiles at the DIY Salad Bar

All smiles at the DIY Salad Bar

Kaiser Permanante has long offered guidance to employees with our “Healthy Picks” Guidelines – nutrition information and guidance to help employees select healthy meals for meetings and events. On May 1, 2014, the guidance became a policy, meaning that it’s the law of the land. Led by several executives, including Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health, & wellness, Kaiser Permanente has made it company policy to have healthy meals provided at company events. The transition is not always easy, but it is catching on as people see that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring.

The Center for Total Health committed to these guidelines more than a year ago. Working with an exclusive caterer, we have succeeded in removing sugary beverages and most desserts from the Center, while bringing in more lean protein and tasty fruits and veggies. One of the most popular innovations we’ve seen is our DIY salad bar, which lets guests build their own salad. It gets rave reviews every time.

If you’re interested in bringing healthier food to your meetings and events, please check out our guidelines. For more healthy meeting suggestions, check out the full guide from our HealthWorks team.


More on Community Access to Healthy Foods with Elevation DC

On Tuesday, June 24, an panel came together for a discussion about food in our neighborhoods – where it comes from, what barriers keep healthy foods from some communities, and solutions that are working. Kaiser Permanente and Elevation DC hosted the discussion right here at the Center for Total Health.

Food writer Mary Beth Albright moderated a lively conversation among Laine Cidlowski, an urban sustainability planner for the D.C. Office of Planning; JuJu Harris, culinary educator with the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture; and Ted Eytan, MD, physician director at the Center for Total Health. Panelists shared different perspectives about D.C.’s food system and considered the economics of good health.

This discussion was a prime opportunity to consider the consequences as well as the opportunities related to food in neighborhoods. According to Cidlowski, communities of high poverty that are more than a 10-minute walk or one bus transfer away from a full-service grocery store are considered food deserts. D.C. liquor stores and fast food restaurants dominate some of the most vulnerable communities where grocery stores have gone out of business or have never existed. This condition leaves residents wanting – and to a large extent, vulnerable to chronic illness and low quality of life.

Organizations such as Arcadia farms, with its mobile market, are filling the gap by bringing fresh produce to people where they live and teaching residents about food selection and meal preparation. Harris, Arcadia’s culinary educator and SNAP outreach coordinator, hosts cooking demonstrations at the markets to help engage customers about what to do with the produce once they get home. She shared that even a 10-minute walk can sometimes be too much for people living in poverty.

Community gardens, gardening plots and urban farms are also part of the solution, however Cidlowski shared that with so much demand, there are now wait lists – some as long as three years – to use some green spaces. But with revitalization efforts in the city, much consideration is being given to food access in the District.

Eytan offered the physician perspective. He highlighted the connection between food and health and why this issue is integral to Kaiser Permanente’s total health mission. “We want to provide health care, not just sick care,” said Eytan, who encourages patients to make time for physical activity and healthy meal preparation, but acknowledges that healthy choices are difficult to make in many neighborhoods.

Enjoy more food for thought—read Elevation DC’s full story.

USDA Supports Better Health for Kids with New “Smart Snacks in Schools” Guidelines

PrintThe USDA announced this week the latest addition to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: The “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards.  Highlights of these new standards. according to the website, include:

    • More of the foods we should encourage.
    • Less of the foods we should avoid.
    • Targeted beverage standards allowing variation by age group.
    • Flexibility for important traditions.
    • Ample time for implementation.

The infographic here illustrates the difference in school snacks before and after introduction of the standards.

More on this news can be found on the Thriving Schools blog or via the USDA’s official press release.

Bringing Healthier, More Nutritious Options to Food Banks

Our friends at the Kaiser Permanente News Center have a nice write-up today about the initiative called Healthy Options, Healthy Meals™ that focuses on meeting the nutritional needs of people who rely on emergency food assistance programs — such as food banks — for their meals.

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, in partnership with the Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley, and Kaiser Permanente, has helped numerous food banks throughout the United States improve the quality and nutrition of their food by optimizing procurement and supply policies and practices. A few of the successes the program has experienced, along with other learnings, are highlighted in the video below.

More on the work of the Healthy Options, Healthy Meals initiative can be found here.

A National Conversation: Improving Access to Healthy Foods

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, as many of the country’s leading health experts gathered at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, DC to pour over the latest findings and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for addressing the obesity epidemic, another group of experts assembled nearby at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health to discuss how they were already making progress on obesity prevention. The group—representing community development financial institutions, farmers market promotion programs, community planners, and food project coordinators—shared their insights and strategies for empowering communities through improved access to healthy, affordable food under the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

HFFI is a national effort to attract investment in under-served communities to support the development of fresh food retail services for communities who want and need access to healthier food. Loan and grant funding is provided through a variety of federal agencies, including the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support development and expansion of healthy food retail. Such funding investments have been shown to jump start community economic development, provide much needed jobs, and create opportunities for improved access to healthy food through corner store conversions, the institution of farmers markets, and new or expanded supermarkets and other food retailers. Since its launch in 2011, $77 million has been allocated for the HFFI.

The HFFI gathering was sponsored by PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund, three organizations working to advance social, economical, and health equity for people living in under-served communities. Notably, The Food Trust and The Reinvestment Fund had achieved previous success when they partnered with the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition nearly 10 years ago to create the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. The Pennsylvania initiative became a nationwide model for healthy food financing and has since spurred similar state-based efforts across the country. California’s FreshWorks Fund, of which Kaiser Permanente is a sponsor and funder, is one of the more recent incarnations of such public-private partnerships.

At the HFFI gathering in Washington, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of community health, Loel Solomon, PhD, energized those in the crowd with his encouraging stories of how local food markets bring communities together. His talk was followed by Pennsylvania Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz, who recounted the steps to success in her state and the need to continue to advocate for these kinds of initiatives across the country. Both speeches are provided below. Following the gathering, many of the attendees split off in taxis and shuttles to meet with their Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill in order to further tell their story about how they are involved in bringing healthy food access to their communities.

A Chat with Fooducate’s Hemi Weingarten at Health 2.0 Spring Fling

The Center for Total Health Blog was in Boston this week for Health 2.0’s Spring Fling event, and we sought out up-and-coming innovators in the health space to hear what they are working on and what we can expect in the near future.  Over the next week, we’ll be posting interviews from the event, and today, we kick that off with our conversation with Hemi Weingarten, CEO of Fooducate.

Back in February when the blog was reporting from HIMSS, we asked Matthew Holt—founder of The Health Care Blog’s co-founder of Health 2.0—to tell us about one of his latest favorite apps, and he gave us an informal demo of Fooducate.  Weingarten goes a bit deeper, sharing the inspiration for the application, what’s on the horizon for Fooducate (apps for folks with food allergies and diabetes), and a short demonstration of some of its features.

Fooducate is available on iOS and Android devices, and it was selected as Apple’s Best App of 2011 in the Health & Fitness category.  They have their own blog with helpful advice on navigating the world of nutrition labels and making healthy choices.  Check it out here.   You can also follow them on Twitter— @Fooducate.

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