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About Nutrition Notes

Michelle Albee Matto Nutrition Notes Blog offers insight, news and analysis on nutrition, as well as food labeling. The blog is written by Michelle Albee Matto, who worked in IDFA's regulatory department for eight years, most recently as assistant director for nutrition and labeling.

Michelle now works exclusively for IDFA as a nutrition and labeling consultant. Contact her at

Michelle is a registered dietician and holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education.

Nutrition Notes

  • Is Obesity a Disease?

    July 18, 2013
    Last month, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially declared obesity a disease. While this action doesn’t immediately change any governmental or private programs, it could be a significant step toward a widespread change in interpretation of obesity in public health. Previously, there was no consistent AMA classification of obesity, with AMA policies describing obesity as a “disorder,” “chronic condition,” “major health concern” or “public health problem.” The designation of obesity as a disease was actually against the recommendations of the AMA’s Council on Scientific Affairs, which had issued a report stating that there is a lack of evidence about a direct relationship between obesity and mortality or morbidity, as well as flaws in the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement commonly used to define obesity. The report from the Council on Scientific Affairs presented both pros and cons for defining obesity as a disease, with the final recommendation that obesity continue to be considered a “major public health program” instead of a disease. Arguments for calling obesity a disease included the possibility of increased funding for obesity prevention programs and better reimbursement for treatments. The report’s arguments against a disease definition included reducing patient motivation to eat healthier and be more active and an increased reliance on drug treatments for obesity. The report also expressed concern that funds could be used for research into treatments, rather than public health prevention efforts. And of course, with any major announcement in public health, especially one related to obesity, there is some debate about whether this ... Read More
  • 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Another Step

    July 17, 2013
    We’ve taken another step toward 2015! The first meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was held on June 14-15 in Bethesda, Md. While we’d learned about the Advisory Committee members, this was the first chance to see the group working together and learn about the priority areas that they are considering for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Committee members were divided into three work groups, which will be writing nutrition questions to help focus the committee’s deliberations over the next several months. Just the focus areas of each work group give some insight into the possible content of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report and the eventual content of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Work group number one is considering the area of the food environment, sustainability of the food supply and food systems, including agriculture and food production. Work group number two will be focusing on dietary patterns, looking at people’s behaviors, like choosing plant-based diets, viewing television viewing and eating or not eating breakfast, and their impact on health. Work group three will be looking at topics that are more traditionally addressed through the Dietary Guidelines: the impact of foods and nutrients on health. While we don’t know exactly what the committee will discuss over the next couple of years, the topics of the three work groups do give us an idea of the areas they will be considering: sustainability, nutrients of concern, food groups to encourage and the healthiest types of eating patterns. The next meeting of ... Read More
  • Competitive Foods Rule to Allow Many Dairy Products

    June 28, 2013
    Less than three months after receiving hundreds of thousands of public comments on the proposed nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages in schools, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an interim final rule to finalize those nutrition standards. And these standards keep dairy in a strong position as competitive products in schools. Milk and dairy products are specifically allowed as competitive foods, which are foods and beverages sold at schools during the school day but not as part of the reimbursable school breakfast or lunch. This list could include yogurt parfaits, ice cream sandwiches or milk sold individually. The rule set nutritional limits set for saturated fat, trans fat, total sugars and calories, but these limits will still allow for a wide range of dairy products to be available to school children. A brief summary chart is available here. Several dairy products, both standardized and non-standardized, will be able to be available in schools when the nutrition rules go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, including:
    • Low-fat or fat-free unflavored milk;
    • Fat-free flavored milk;
    • Reduced-fat cheese snacks, including part skim mozzarella cheese;
    • Low-fat ice cream novelties;
    • Frozen dairy desserts;
    • Frozen fruit juice bars;
    • Low-fat yogurt; and
    • Cultured dairy snacks.
    The interim final rule also clarified that non-nutritive sweeteners are allowed by the USDA rule, although schools could set stricter standards. USDA will accept comments on the interim rule through October 28, 2013. View the USDA infographic here. Read More
  • Say Hello to Summer!

    June 24, 2013
    We’re past Memorial Day and schools are letting out—we’ve definitely moved into summer! Summer seems to have a different feel—people want to spend time outside, take adventures with their friends and family and be generally more relaxed. For people headed out to one of the National Parks this summer, the National Parks Service has announced nutrition standards for food and beverage concessions at the parks. These standards require that, where milk and milk products are offered, low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products must be available. In addition, for entrees offered, at least two options available must be low in fat, low in sodium, light in calories and contain whole grains. In addition to these nutrition standards, the Parks Service also set requirements related to sustainable foods, including fair trade coffee, locally sourced items and hormone usage. But summer isn’t fun and games for all kids. For some, the end of school means the return of hunger. A recent report highlighted the number of children in the United States who are suffering from hunger in the summer, when they don’t have school lunch and breakfast to help provide healthy meals. “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation,” the report from the Food Research and Action Center (where I used to work), shows the number of kids who are missing out on meals through the Summer Nutrition Programs. For every seven low-income children who eat school lunch during the regular school year, only one is able to eat summer meals. This leaves six of these ... Read More
  • Healthy Playgrounds. Happy Kids.

    June 12, 2013
    Schools are letting kids out for the summer, and they’re all looking for something to do and somewhere to play. The summer of 2013 is going to be extra special for thousands of children who know when they return to elementary school next fall, they’ll have new ways to play and be active. As a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, we’ve helped get the word out to schools and families about Together Counts,™ a far-reaching anti-obesity initiative bolstered by our support and yours. We’re thrilled that our efforts will directly affect 7,000 students through this year’s grant program, aimed at communities who need it most, with more than $175,000 in playground equipment, sports gear and cash. We salute the top winners for each program below and invite you celebrate the winners from all 14 schools. Your local school might just be in the winner’s circle! Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes Two grand-prize winning schools will receive $30,000 in cash and prizes plus a new playground.
    • Central Intermediate School, Central Louisiana: Winning entry cast by Music Teacher Johanna Benton
    • Seaford Manor Elementary School, Seaford New York: Winning entry cast by Parent/Volunteer Laurie Scimeca
    • More winners
    Find Your Balance Challenge William E. Russell Elementary in Dorchester Mass will receive $30,000 in cash and prizes and more.
    • Winning application submitted by P.E. Teacher Elizabeth Reynolds Lupo
    • More winners
    Healthier U.S. Schools Incentives Valasco Elementary school in Freeport Texas will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
    • Winning entry cast by Library Media ...
    Read More
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