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Niagara County chronic disease workshops set

The Niagara County Department of Health will offer three chronic disease self-management workshops in the coming weeks in Pendleton. Registered nurse Penny Tracey will lead the free six-week program open to county residents:

• 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Pendleton United Methodist Church, 6864 Campbell Blvd. (Pendleton Lunch Program.)

• 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Town Hall, 6570 Campbell Blvd. (Pendleton Seniors.)

• 1 p.m. May 12 at Town Hall (Wendleville Seniors).

Those with ongoing health issues, and those who care for someone with those kinds of issues, are encouraged to attend. For more information on these and similar workshops across Niagara County, call 438-3030 or 278-1900, or email nchd.nursing@niagaracounty.com.

Talk of pot, cancer research and lost Super Bowls as Buffalo meets Denver at health conference

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

The Affordable Care Act, the challenges of aging, and legalized marijuana have been among the topics of interest this week in downtown Denver, where more than 350 health journalists have gathered for the annual Association of Health Care Journalists conference.

Obesity, the veracity of medical studies and the availability of healthy foods across all corners of the country also have been among subjects of the four-day conference, which runs through Sunday.

Stephen T. Watson, one of my colleagues at The News, and I each received fellowships to attend the conference, which is devoted to experts sharing the latest thinking and resources available to health journalists as they try to cut through the complexities for readers to give them information they can use in making the best health care choices possible.

Steve covers the business of health care and I focus on the personal and community sides. There has been plenty here to chew on during a gathering that has contained much more light than heat – even when it comes to pot.

Among the more illuminating information I’ve heard:

  • Lewis W. Sullivan, Health and Human Services commissioner during the President George H.W. Bush administration, told reporters during the conference kickoff Thursday night that the individual mandate and creation of medical health teams to provide more comprehensive patient care were contained in a plan he and Bush almost laid out for Congress in 1991. He called efforts to eliminate all of what some call Obamacare, rather than work to improve it, boils down to “pure politics.”
  • Dr. Carl Morrison, executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, was among panelists this morning at a talk entitled, “Getting Personal: The medical and ethical challenges of using genetic information.” Morrison and other panelists talked about the early work cancer and other researchers are doing to single out gene variances that can lead to disease in efforts to more efficiently target treatment. The work is difficult, lacks the specificity many scientists would like to see and remains costly, Morrison said, and health insurers and government health payers still haven’t come aboard to help cover the cost of this diagnostic tool. As a result, “This is still a rich man’s game,” the Buffalo cancer specialist said.
  • Craft brewer-turned-Denver mayor-turned-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also spoke during the conference kickoff. He addressed gun control in the state in the wake of the 2012 theater shootings in Aurora; maintained the Affordable Care Act is taking root in the state with help from Republicans; and told reporters and editors he hasn’t inhaled since marijuana possession and use was legalized in the state in January. The Democratic mayor – who opposed the referendum that legalized the drug, and which passed last November with 55-percent voter approval – said Colorado now looks to accept the new reality on the ground, which you’ll hear more about in the coming weeks in this blog and The Buffalo News. “We have no idea what the unintended consequences will be,” said Hickenlooper, who urged other states to let Colorado get some of the details right before rushing into similar legalization efforts. More scientific testing regarding the benefits of marijuana, its best uses, and how the drug impacts teens and young adults are among the issues still up in the air, he said.
  • Thursday night, Steve and I also ended up at the same small table during cocktail hour with Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post. We talked about the paper’s pot coverage (see part of its online effort here) and how it has breathed more life into the business and real estate sector. We also commiserated about stinging Super Bowl losses. We told him we felt his pain of the Broncos’ Super Bowl blowout to the Seattle Seahawks several weeks ago by a score of 43-8. He also expressed his condolences over the loss this past week of Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.

In the coming weeks, Steve and I will look to localize much of the health information we’re learning in Denver – and we’ll try not to think very hard on those lost Super Bowls.

Email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

Top Buffalo chef shares a favorite maple recipe on Maple Weekend

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Edward Forster whips up maple beef tartare during a recent visit to Craving Restaurant on Hertel Avenue. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

When Andrew Galarneau, food editor with The Buffalo News, wrote a column in early January about culinary events to whet WNY appetites this year, he ended it by writing, “Lots of diners want to see chef-in-waiting Edward Forster open a place where he can sell food on the regular.”

Forster, 31, who helped Buffalo chef Mike Andrezejewski open a restaurant in the redeveloped Hotel @ Lafayette in 2012, continues to look for a dining spot of his own. Meanwhile, his fine dining project, The Workshop Buffalo, continues to pop up in various locations across the city. He vows to undertake at least two “pop up” meals in April.

Tickets for the events often are gobbled up within an hour or two after he makes his plans known on social media (theworkshopbuffalo.com and The Workshop Buffalo Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites), and he usually doesn’t let those diners know until an hour before an event where they will be eating. They have to wait till they get there to savor the multi-course meal.

Here’s some of what Forster told me when we spoke last week about maple syrup – for today's "What are you eating?" feature in WNY Refresh and in honor of Maple Weekend this weekend – as well as what he likes to cook and eat. He also gave me a recipe for maple beef tartare, which you’ll find below.

“Maple is pretty much a staple in the pantry,” he told me. “It shouldn’t be viewed at all as something that’s difficult to work with. It’s not just pigeon-holed to Sunday morning breakfast.”

Forster grew up in Buffalo and left here at age 18 to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He graduated in 2003 and went on to work in fine dining restaurants in New York, London, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Chicago. He worked with international culinary superstars Georges Perrier and Graham Elliot before heading back to Western New York about three years ago, first to Rochester, then to the Elmwood Village.

“Mike (Andrezejewski) and I had stayed friends pretty much since I was in culinary school,” Forster said, “so I came to Buffalo to help him open his Hotel Lafayette project.” He stayed there for about 18 months – a time in which Galarneau gave the restaurant his only 10 plate rating – and has been back twice to eat since he left and Andrezejewski repurposed the menu. “It was lovely both times,” Forster said.

Talk about “The Workshop.”

The idea is something that’s been successful in other markets, other cities. I was sitting at Silo City last summer with a friend of mine and we were kind of taken aback by the view. I was looking for a way to kick off the concept, start evolving the idea. A friend and I shook hands that baseball Sunday morning and said, ‘Two and a half weeks from now we’re going to throw a dinner in a location that has no electricity, no running water and, obviously, no cooking equipment.’

We did eight courses of food for that event for 65 people. There was a soup based off a Mexican elotes idea. A corn soup. There was a poached shrimp on top of a rock to sort of evoke the idea that you are indeed standing near a body of water. There was some pickled beef tongue featuring malts because those are grain-based. Everything was based off grains to honor the grain mill. There was a chicken and corn tostada. There was black barley rubbed beef strip loin on top of an eight-grain salad with poached eggs and raisins and pickled onions and the like. There were assorted candies with puffed rice. There was a puffed rice spiced crispy. And we had a molten rabbit and lentil croquette that was breaded in lentils. It was a lot of things featuring a lot of local farms, and every course was meant to feature a different grain.

There’s still actually grain in the mills, which is pretty unique.

How hard is it to work with maple syrup?

From my perspective, it’s very easy. We’ve got some great local producers. I’ve gotten some great results. You can use maple in place of sugar in a pickling solution. You talk about it as an emulsifier in a marshmallow. I do love it on pancakes but I find it more on my savory kitchen side than my sweet.

What foods does it pair well with?

I like it with vegetables and have been using a lot more with vegetables lately. I like bacon-larded Brussels sprouts with a touch of maple. Butternut squash is a very easy go-to. I also like it with foie gras, which is a fattened duck liver.

Can you talk about a four-course maple meal?

You could use it to make a light appetizer, add it to a soup, to a chicken entree and back to a dessert featuring a maple Panna Catta with pecans and a bourbon glaze. This is just theoretical.

Your favorite time of year to cook with local foods?

I enjoy spring. It’s a fun time when everything is growing. There’s rebirth. It’s the time of year you can see little shoots growing out of the ground and kind of pluck them and eat them raw. So spring is the sign of a new day, so it’s easily the most exciting time.

Your favorite local foods?

I’ve been using (organic farmer) Dan Oles’ carrots since November, mostly his vegetables. I love  Rich Tilyou's pork or chicken at least twice a week. Also the chickens from Green Heron Growers. Robbie Gianadda’s Flat 12 Mushrooms aren’t really available to the public yet but when they are, they’re pretty spectacular, so look for those.

What are the staples of your diet?

I eat a lot of Greek yogurt. I will make something in the beginning of the week that will hold me over for at least five days. I’ll take a couple of chickens from Rich Tilyou or someone and stew them down and braise them down with chickpeas, tomato and fennel and a bit more vegetables to that and make it a hearty stew. You can add rice or put it on top of polenta.

The food you can’t resist, even though you know it’s not good for you?

I can’t say no to foie gras. I realize it’s very high in saturated fat. I have it once every two weeks or so.

The recipe

If you’re looking to wow at your next dinner party, here’s the recipe for maple beef tartare that Forster shares with us.

I’m not pretending for a moment that it’s the healthiest of foods, but it has proteins to blunt some of the fats, and many dietitians tell me that it’s alright to have a cheat treat on the weekend.

The components

St. Agur gelato

3 lbs St. Agur triple cream blue cheese

2 qt heavy cream

2 qt whole milk

1 cup sugar

1½ cup NYS maple syrup

30 egg yolks

2 T salt

1 t freshly milled pepper

Purée cheese with 1 qt milk, salt and pepper.

Bring cheese, half of the sugar, milk, and cream to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Put yolks and rest of sugar and syrup mix into a large bowl. Temper the hot dairy over the yolks, continuously whisking. The dairy should be incorporated in three different additions. Turn into ice cream in an ice cream maker, preferably a Paco Jet. Follow manufacturers instructions.

Maple pickled shallot

10 large shallots

2 cups red wine vinegar

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup water

1 T salt

Peel the shallots and thinly slice on a mandoline into rings 1/8-inch thick. Bring other ingredients to a boil and pour over sliced shallot. Cover and reserve.

Egg yolk purée

8 eggs (from Dan Oles or Painted Meadows)

1 T Dijon mustard

1 T lemon juice

1 t salt

Heat 2 gallons water in an immersion circulator at a constant temperature of 63 degrees centigrade. Add eggs and allow to cook one hour. Chill eggs in an ice bath. Separate the yolks from the whites of the egg, discarding the whites. Purée the yolks with the remaining ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.

For beef tartare

2 lbs wagyu flap, or beef strip steak

Remove all sinew and large fatty deposits and discard. Dice beef into ¼-inch cubes, keeping chilled in an ice cooled bowl. To serve season with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and milled pepper.

Garnish with leaves of rocket arugula and crispy potato chips.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

Polish researcher reflects on work at Roswell, his first year in Buffalo

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Roswell Park Cancer Institute researcher Maciej L. Goniewicz, who grew up near Krakow, Poland, got more than he bargained for during his first Buffalo winter. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Maciej L. Goniewicz, a Polish-born research scientist who studies on the effects of e-cigarettes, lived near Krakow before he moved to London and San Francisco for research positions.

He arrived in Buffalo a year ago this month to take a job as a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

“I’m more calm and relaxed here,” he told me last week, “and it’s easier to get to work – when it’s not snowing.”

Goniewicz – whose full name is pronounced Ma CHEY, Gon YA Vich – is featured in today’s “In the Field” story in WNY Refresh.

That piece focuses mostly on his professional life, but I also asked him how he’s adapted to life in arguably the most Polish-friendly community this side of the Atlantic. 

“I’m so busy at work, but I really enjoy it,” he said. “This is a great place. I feel like I found my place.

“Coming from outside here was challenging. It was a hard decision to move to Buffalo but I don’t regret it at all.”

Goniewicz lives in Allentown and walks to work; he hopes to get a driver’s license soon.

“I like to travel,” he said, “so the first year, especially before winter, I spent time getting familiar with the area. I’ve met new friends. I love traveling. I travel around Buffalo, but also a lot outside, partly for work, meetings. Also, for pleasure, to take a break from the crazy life” of a researcher.

He’s been to New York City, Washington, D.C. and Miami.

“Here in Buffalo,” he said, “I try to enjoy the city. I go to the theaters, I go to museums. I like the architecture. I’m trying to discover all the wineries. I’m a big fan of wines. I walk downtown, to the marina. I use buses, and the subway, too. I have a few friends and they take me shopping.

What are some of the foods he’s discovered and enjoys?

“Of course, from the very beginning, the chicken wings. I love chicken wings. I’m a big fan of Asian foods. I like the Elmwood Village, and every weekend, I try to go there and discover something new.” Taste of Siam, at 810 Elmwood Ave., is among his favorite stops. “The food is good here in Buffalo,” he said. “It’s great.”

Shortly after his arrival, he also attended Dyngus Day festivities on the East Side.

“It was so cold,” he said. “There was a snow storm when the parade started, so I was there for just a few minutes. But I liked it. It felt like home, my old home.”

His mother, Maria, a psychologist who works in family court in Poland, plans to visit Buffalo this summer. She wants to see New York, Washington, “and of course, Niagara Falls,” Goniewicz said. “All my friends who visit here want to see Niagara Falls. It’s huge, it’s amazing. It’s beautiful” – especially from the deck of the Maid of the Mist. “It’s much better. You can really feel the power and the size of the falls,” he said.

Here’s why studying electronic cigarettes over the next decade, and beyond, will be important, Goniewicz added: “We know that tobacco cigarettes cause cancer because this product was very popular a long time ago. So many people used this product. After 20, 30 years, we only discovered it was very dangerous. The big question with e-cigarettes is what will be the dangers after many years of using these products?”

Here are a few more things he told me about his work:

Anything in your personal history that made you interested in smoking research?

My parents never smoked, dad only occaisonally. My dad (Jerzy; it would be “George,” in English) is a doctor, an internist. But at college, I was really interested in chemistry. I was looking to study something that was between the medicine and the chemistry. That’s why I decided to study pharmacy. I was always interested in doing more the research than to going to the drugstore and dispensing the drugs.

Because e-cigarettes are still so new, they're not yet regulated and it’s hard to make any determination on their dangers or helpfulness? (See a related story on one danger here.)

That’s true. Users are asking us. Regulatory agencies are asking. I think we’re getting closer and closer. There’s so many unanswered questions. But when I started doing research on electronic cigarettes in 2010, we knew absolutely nothing about them. Now, I think we know what’s the effect. We now are looking at advertising campaigns and perception of the products.

People are using these products, so it’s getting more easy to study. We can advertise for people to help us with the research and right now we have no problems with getting people.

How costly can it become and where do the research dollars come from?

It is very expensive. Depending on the aim and what we want to look for, we need a laboratory, we need sensitive equipment if we want to test the products. We need special machines that smoke the product in the lab. When we are doing research on human volunteers, we need to find the volunteers. We need to advertise. We are paying for the time they spend here. Then we collect the samples, so we need to staff to do that. Then we need a lab and equipment to analyze. For some studies we need only 100 people but for some studies we need thousands of people.

What is your recommendation to smokers?

The first is quit. Quit everything. Don’t smoke. Don’t use any smokeless tobacco products. Don’t use any e-cigarettes. There are some safe products: gums, patches. They have been tested in many clinical trials and they work, at least for some people. They’re maybe not as effective as we’d like them to be. They have some limitations. Some smokers quit with these products. We have some prescription drugs that can help smokers quit. There are some precautions. Not everyone can use these drugs, but they are effective.

But for some who have really struggled and who are not going to do anything, are e-cigarettes worth at least a start?

If you tried quitting and you failed, try electronic cigarettes. As long as it helps you stay away from tobacco cigarettes, it’s a good idea. There’s nothing worse than tobacco cigarettes. We cannot guarantee that this product is safe, but research studies show that it’s safer than tobacco cigarettes.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

Meditation specialist joins Complete Wellness center

J.pilc
Dr. James Pilc left his OB/GYN practice to focus on meditation after it helped him battle cancer. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)


Dr. James Pilc, a personal meditative guide and author, has joined the Complete Wellness Arts and Science Center.

I wrote an “In the Field” piece on the former OB/GYN, who quit his practice after being diagnosed with bone cancer and using meditation and other means to address his condition. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Pilc to our space where his Meditation Classes and Meditative Self-Healing Sessions will continue to help those in need of physical, emotional, spiritual and energetic healing,” Pam Priest, Owner of the Complete Wellness Arts and Science Center, said in a news release. “We offer an exceptional and comprehensive variety of healing practices and educational classes and Dr. Pilc’s method of healing will enhance the breadth and depth of what we have to offer.”

The center is at 1515 Kensington Ave. and Pilc will start leading classes in April. They range in price from $25 to $99 per class, depending on whether they’re group or individual sessions and how many you schedule. For more information, go to Pilc’s website or www.jamespilcmd.com and www.completewellnesswny.com

Healthy kid snack experts share child-care strategies

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Antoinette Davis shows off a Fun Fruit Kabob and Veggie Tree. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

 

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Veteran child-care provider Antoinette Davis understands what it can be like when it comes to busy parents scrambling to get to work and feed their kids at the same time.

Often, it isn't pretty.

“Huggie blue juice, cookies, potato chips. Snickers for breakfast. I’ve seen it all,” said Davis, one of three creative sources behind today’s cover story in WNY Refresh.

“Providers have to stop that at the door,” she said. “They have to tell parents, ‘You can bring a bag of apples, or oranges, or some bananas.'”

Davis has immersed children in her care in making and eating nutritious foods for more than a quarter century, with help from the Child and Adult Food Care Program, a division of the Child Care Resource Network, which steps in for thousands of children across Erie County who receive two partially subsidized meals and a snack each day – provided the food is healthy.

She got so good at it, the network asked Davis to start running the food care program about seven months ago.

Federal, state and local funds feed the program across the nation as well as regionally, said Kimberly Backey, interim executive director of the Child Care Resource Network in Erie County, which also helps license child-care centers and home-care providers, and help parents looking to connect with trained and licensed care providers.

“We all know the cost can sometimes be overwhelming to eat healthy,” Backey said, “so the food program is designed to help offset some of the cost of providing healthy and nutritious meals.”

The program is based on First Lady Michelle Obama’s “My Plate” model, in which half a mealtime plate should be filled with fruits and veggies.

“That is a must,” Backey said.

The program is available to any child-care provider or center – there are no income eligibility guidelines for inclusion.

“We do have a tiering rate that was implemented in the late 1990s,” Backey said.

In the city and several other low-income pockets of Erie County, reimbursement can go up to $105 per child per month; it is about half that in better-off communities. “Wherever the government sees low income or poverty, they get the higher rate, which is Tier 1,” Backey said.

There is paperwork involved because tax dollars pay for much of the cost. The child care network has specialists who provide technical assistance and oversight.

“We might process 2,800 claim records in a given month,” Backey said. “We have great specialists...

“This program is a benefit to parents, it’s a benefit to child-care providers,” Backey added. “When parents are dropping people off at the day-care center, or a day-care provider, they are assured that their children are receiving healthy meals.”

Lawmakers, community foundations and others who support the program see it as a way to save more money in health-related costs over time.

Kids eating the wrong foods has contributed to an obesity epidemic across the country, one in which health professionals during the last 20 years have witnessed a growing number of overweight children with adult diseases that include hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

And the unhealthy nutrition problem runs even deeper, Backey said.

“It leads to depression, self-esteem issues,” she said. “Kids become less engaged in physical activities. They develop eating disorders. They have behavior and learning problems. It can stem from the wrong diet.”

The child gets 90 percent of his or her daily nutritional needs as part of the Child and Adult Food Care Program – and parents don’t need to worry about bringing food to a day-care setting.

“It’s a federal program, so all of us across the country follow the same nutritional guidelines,” Backey said.

Those guidelines call for healthy foods that include 1 percent or skim milk; whole grains; no more than one glass of juice per day; good proteins, with limits on processed meats to two times or less per week; and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The program also encourages that children drink plenty of water, and steer clear of sugary cereals, baked goods and fried foods.

“We want to get the children to start off right at a young age,” Backey said. “We train our providers to make those meals so they can train the parents to carry on.”

The Child Care Resource Network in Erie County grew out of a community conference 30 years ago this month designed to find ways to better the lives of children in Western New York.

Parents and others can learn more about the network – and how to find a licensed day-care provider in their community – by visiting wnychildren.org.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

Good for the Neighborhood Program visits the Falls on Thursday

The Independent Health Foundation will host a “Good for the Neighborhood” event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building (Niagara Fall Housing Authority), at 3001 Ninth St., Niagara Falls.

With a theme of “Eat Right,” the free event is designed to help participants develop healthy eating habits, and will include a farmers’ market, a healthy cooking demonstration and several health screenings.

Participants also will have the opportunity to meet with a pharmacist, so they are encouraged to bring a list of their medications and ask any questions they may have.

For more information, click here or call 635-4959.

– Scott Scanlon

Families can get healthier together Wednesday at Casey Wellness Night

Students, parents and grandparents can come together on Wednesday to learn more about making healthy choices, and take several steps to make them, at Casey Wellness Night.

More than 60 exhibits and demonstrations will promote nutrition, fitness, sports and other wellness opportunities for families from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Casey Middle School, 105 Casey Road, East Amherst.

UNYTS will conduct a blood drive from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and Hearts for the Homeless will collect old or gently used shoes, sneakers and boots.

Jason Mollica will give a talk at 6:30 p.m. entitled “Current Social Networking Trends … What Every Current Parent and Student Needs To Know.”

The public is invited to this free event.

– Scott Scanlon

Grants available for farmers’ markets

(AP) – New York State wants to make farmers’ markets more accessible to low-income consumers.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says the state will make $130,000 in grants available this year to support at least 13 traditional farmers’ markets and youth market grant projects.

Individual grants up to $10,000 will go to applicants with the best ideas on how to improve access to farmers’ markets participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps.

The money comes from the “FreshConnect” farmers’ market program, which promotes the sale of locally grown food.

Catholic Health dietitian looks to lead by example

C.possinger
Candi Possinger, left, a registered dietitian who heads the Catholic Medical Partners nutrition program, pictured here with fellow dietitian Kendra Hennessey, says the old "Food Pyramid" way of eating has been replaced by "The Plate," which recommends a protein, whole grain and plenty of fruits and vegetables. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

What’s the best way to lose weight and keep it off?

“Number one is to make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals. As hard as people make it sound, it’s really not,” Candi Possinger, a registered dietitian with Catholic Medical Partners, told me during an interview earlier this week for today’s “In the Field” feature in WNY Refresh.

Possinger leads an 11-member staff that has made a dent in obesity since the doctor group launched a nutrition education program about three years ago – but there is still lots of work to do.

The Buffalo-Niagara region falls higher than the national average when it comes to obesity and diabetes rates, and routinely sits at or near the top when it comes to the rate of cardiovascular disease, Possinger said.

When it comes to advice she and the staff dispenses, “We have to hold ourselves to the suggestions we’re making as well,” the staff leader said. “I can say I’ve lost 20 pounds in the last nine months.”

Her personal weight loss journey isn’t always easy.

“I’m a sweet eater, no doubt about it,” she told me. “My name’s Candi. I love sweets, cakes and cookies, things like that. I try not to bring them into my house.

“I do tell people, ‘Life is life,’ and moderation is what we tend preach, so if I go out to dinner I’ll have dessert every once in a while so I’m not bringing it home with me. If it’s in the house, I know I’m going to eat it, so knowing myself, I try not to set myself up with those issues.”

Nationally, she said, “We’ve switched from the food pyramid to the plate. If you can make that plate a little bit of healthy protein, a little bit of whole-grain carbohydrates and half your plate as vegetables, you have a nice, balanced plate.

“We have to make sure our plate is healthy and our plate is not huge, and that we eat every four to five hours at a maximum, to keep that metabolism going, and make sure we get some sort of activity every single day. That’s the answer.

“All of us, we as dietitians, sit at our desks as well. I wear my Fitbit every single day and make sure at the end of the day I have X number of steps, I’ve burned X number of calories.”

Here’s what else Possinger had to tell me about her eating habits, and obesity in the region.

What are the staples of your diet?

I’m very proud when I leave the grocery store because I rarely have items that need to go in my pantry. I emphasize buying most of my foods in the perimeter of the store, so I buy a lot of fruits and vegetables. I work a lot of hours, my husband works long hours, so sometimes I’m buying frozen vegetables, but they’re just as healthy. Every meal, I try to have at least a fruit or vegetable. Breakfast time, it’s usually fruit; lunch and dinner I always have vegetables. I emphasize protein. I always make sure at every single meal I have some kind of protein, because that is going to make me feel full for that four to five hours. Whether it’s nuts or chicken, turkey, whatever the case might be. I am a milk drinker. I eat Greek yogurt every day. I try to make my plate have a little bit of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein, and the vegetable. I try to have people think of their carbohyrdate or their startch as a side dish, not, ‘We’re having pasta tonight, what are we going to put with our pasta?’ ... If you look at the food trends, carbohydrates and startch is definitely what people tend to overconsume.

I always pack snacks. Mondays, I work 12 hours, so I always need to make sure I have things ready to go. The snacks have a little protein, as well. I’ve fallen in love with some of these great protein granola bars. They’re great go-tos. Nuts. Greek yogurt is another common snack. Sometimes, whole grain crackers and cheese.

How does obestity among Catholic Medical Partners patients break down geographically by age, race, sex and income? Do any of those things matter?

We definitely see a higher rate of obesity in lower-income populations. Age, unfortuately, doesn’t seem to matter. We’re starting as young as 2-year-olds and we’re seeing it in our 90-year-olds. Where we used to be able to say obesity is much more prevalent in adults and Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent in adults, we’re seeing it so much earlier on in adolescents and children.

One thing to highlight, research has spoken that if somene is obese as a child, the liklihood of them being obese as an adult is astronomical.

Race, we definitely see African-American, Hispanics and Natives with higher levels of obesity. As disparate as it was in the past, it’s not enough to really talk about now. It’s a problem that’s across the spectrum. Even gender-wise, it’s very much 50-50.

Programs like yours are still a relatively new phenomenon. You were in the first dietetics class at UB 14 years ago. So this is something more and more people in the medical field seem to recognize as an issue?

Absolutely. The partnership between doctors and dietitians, especially over the last 3½ years as I’ve been able to witness it, has been unbelieveable. You wouldn’t have seen it 10 years ago. Now you see it everywhere. You go to the grocery store, you see it. You go to the doctor’s office, you see it. You see it in the school system. There’s so many things that are fusing nutrition and health into our population. I think we’re finally seeing the payback on it.

Who shares the credit for the 40 percent drop in obesity rates for children aged 2 to 5 over the last decade?

A lot of people. The credit first and foremost has to go to the parents and the family. Whoever’s giving them the information, they’ve taken and run with it. They’ve instilled new habits and information in that household. Where that information has come from, I want to give credit to dietitians. I think we have to give credit to pediatricians. I think we have to give credit to grocery stores for their health promotion. We have to give credit to community action. There’s some meetings and committees that I’ve sat with in Erie County where we’ve said, ‘How can we look at community centers, How can we make our communities more walkable?’ There’s so many things going on behind the scenes that people don’t even realize that have an impact.

Who shares the blame for the troubling rates in all these other age groups?

Everyone always attacks the food industry. I don’t want to attack them, but I want to say they’ve listened to supply and demand. We’ve asked for more convenient items because we don’t have a lot of time in our lives. We’ve asked for bigger portion sizes because we’ve started to get used to it. We’ve asked for longer storage time in our households because we don’t want to throw anything out, so that means let’s add more sugar and salt to items.

I think we definitely need to have some work in that area. I think the proposed new food labeling will help (See a related story next Saturday in WNY Refresh). If we can get the food industry behind this and have healthier options that are different and fun, that can continue the trend.

Where does personal responsibility come in here?

Without a doubt, there is personal responsibility. Patients come in with a lot of excuses. ‘I can’t make changes because of this.’ ‘I didn’t eat well because of that.’ ‘My husband doesn’t eat healthy so I don’t eat healthy.’ It comes to a point where you have to take personal responsibility and say, ‘You know what, my health is most important to me. I want to be healthier for myself, I want to eat healthier myself because I want to live longer.’

We spend a lot of time with motivational interviewing, getting people to understand the ‘why’ behind the food. People need to understand the why behind their food choices. ... It takes them a session or two before they come to the realization, ‘You know what, I’m an emotional eater.’ They need to have that self-awareness because that’s when the personal responsibility can come into play.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh | refresh@buffnews.com

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