#FNCE Recap: Poster Presentations on Whole Grains, Antioxidant Availability, and Improving Diet Quality

I stopped by the poster session at the 2012 Food Nutrition Conference and Expo to review some recent studies that were funded by Con Agra. I became interested when I heard that instead of focusing on “the bad” foods to take out, the studies had a focus on what could be “added in” to help improve eating habits and nutrient rich food intake.

Here is a summary of the three abstracts presented.

A Daily Popcorn Snack Increases Whole Grain Intake Without Changing Consumption of Other Food Groups

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, N. LvI PhD2, J. Lowndes. MAZ* T. Angelopoulos, PhD3, V. Nguyen, NIS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;

1NutritionI ConAgra Foods, ino. Omaha, NEI 2Rippe Lifestyle Inst., Celebration, FL, 3Health Professions, Univ. of Central Florida. OrlandoI
• Results of this  study showed that popcorn – a 100% whole grain snack, can help people to increase their consumption of whole grains.
• Researchers looked at the diets of people who ate a daily snack of 100 calories of popcorn for three months without being asked to change anything else about their diets. There were 117 people, split up into a control and test group. Ages were 42-62 year olds.
• At the end of the three month period, those who ate popcorn as a snack increased their consumption of whole grains while also decreasing their consumption of refined grains.

My thoughts: Interesting outcomes, especially since we can encourage people to “add in” whole grains with examples of whole grain foods and they could naturally drop refined grains, which are more processed and not as quality nutrition. In addition, I think popcorn is a delicious, filling snack.

Antioxidant Availability of Commonly Consumed Vegetables in the U.S. Food Supply

Author Block: M. Andon, PhD, K. Reirners,  B. Meokna, MS, RD;
Nutrition, ConAgra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE.

People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables tend to have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. This health benefit may be related in part to fruits’ and vegetables’ contribution of antioxidants to the diet.
• Researchers recently looked at the most common non-starchy vegetables in Americans’ diets to determine the vegetable that provides the highest level of antioxidants based on total consumption and antioxidant capacity — using the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) assay.
• They found that canned tomato products provide the greatest amount of antioxidants to Americans’ diets over any other commonly consumed vegetable. contribution to total vegetable intake. Canned tomato products (sauce, paste, and
tomatoes) accounted for 39% of the total per capita ORAC availability, onions 14%, green bell pepper 9%, iceberg lettuce 8%, raw tomatoes 7%, broccoli (raw and frozen) 7%, carrots 5%, celery 4%, cabbage 4%, and green beans (raw, canned, and frozen) 3%. Tomato paste had the greatest and canned green beans the lowest ORAC concentration.
• Canned tomatoes are also a convenient and economical way to increase vegetable intake.

My thoughts: Here is a case where canned may be better nutritionally than fresh — although I love me some fresh summertime heirlooms :)   I think there are lots of ways to get quick, nutritious meals on the table using canned tomatoes. Use canned diced tomatoes with any other non starchy vegetables, mix with quinoa or steamed brown rice and herbs.

Try tomato paste in a slow cooker sloppy joes or chili – here’s a recipe I created that has 5 different vegetables in it.

Frozen Single Serve Meals at Lunch Result in Improved Diet Quality

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, Z. Yu, PhD2, S. Sinnett, MS2, S. Weston, MS2, V. Nguyen, MS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;
‘Nutrition Con/Ägra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE, 2Flippe Lifestyìe Inst., Celebration, FL.

A recent study found that overweight or obese people who ate a portion-controlled frozen Healthy Choice meal in place of their typical restaurant or cafeteria lunch, without changing anything else about their normal diet or exercise routine, lost weight and improved their diet quality at the end of 30 days.
• Replacing lunch with a Healthy Choice meal led to decreases in total fat (fat intake for the day decreased by 30%, 84% at lunch), saturated fat (also down 30%), trans fat (down 44%) and sodium (down by about 900 mg/day) in the participants’ overall diets.
• While overall calories consumed per day decreased (by about 400-500 calories a day), the study participants’ intake of the food groups dairy, fruit and vegetables did not change.
• The researchers concluded that eating frozen, portion-controlled meals for lunch is a convenient and effective way to decrease daily calorie intake and improve diet quality.

My thoughts: I think these results were interesting. For people usually eating out, if they replace with a portion controlled meal and don’t make any other dietary changes, their nutrition – saturated fat, sodium, and calories decrease. I have learned through my nutrition counseling practice that many people don’t like to cook, have difficulty planning all their meals, or they feel too busy to think about food and eat as healthy as I’m recommending. They often resort to cafeteria and fast food and usually clean their plate. I’m a big proponent of meeting people where they are and helping them change. I spend time working with them on the root behavioral changes — we will work together on “quick and healthy” meals that involve little cooking, we will plan healthy meals and snacks. What I like about the portion controlled frozen meal option is that it makes it a bit less overwhelming for some people, especially if they already eat them. The portion control is good too for my clients who struggle with moderation. The fast food meal may be harder to put down at “comfortable full”.

Did you see any of the posters at FNCE? What are your thoughts on these papers?

Disclosure: I was compensated by Con Agra to review the poster abstracts for studies they funded and include a summary report in my blog.

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