The Spork Set Surprises
Sure, most kids roll their eyes when they hear the phrase “healthy lunch.” (Certain grown-ups, too.) But a funny thing happened on the way to upgrading the nation’s cafeteria meals. Although elementary school students complained when they first tried lunches that met new government standards in 2012, by the end of the school year most actually liked them, according to a just-out survey from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The data, which polled administrators at over 500 primary schools, found that 70 percent agreed strongly that kids liked their new meals (richer in whole grains and produce, and containing less fat). The picture gets even brighter, too. Another study, recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that children’s intake of fruits and vegetables had gone up since the guidelines were implemented. That said, participation in school lunch programs has dropped 3.7 percent since 2010, a slip that some officials worry has to do with these new standards.
One sure way to avoid the highly processed add-ins found in many protein bars is to turn out a batch using your own ingredients and a boost of protein powder. A word on that front: You’ll want a protein powder low in added and artificial sweeteners. Whey, which is dairy-based, is one good option, but there are multiple types of powders on the market (some decent, some less than — so it’s wise to take a close look at ingredients).
Banana Chocolate-Chip Protein Bars
Makes 12 bars
The yogurt section in the dairy aisle has been expanding rapidly, with more spins on the creamy delight than you can shake a spoon at. The next time you’re adding yogurt to your shopping cart, here are some things to keep in mind as you scan the label.
All yogurts contain sugar. Yogurt is made from milk, which contains lactose, a natural sugar found in milk. It’s the added sugar — what the yogurt manufacturer brings to the mix — that buyers need to watch out for. Fruit-flavored yogurt and honey-flavored yogurt have more sugar than plain because of added sugars. If you read the ingredient list, you will see words like fructose and evaporated cane sugar, both of which are simply different names for sugar. A good rule of thumb: If a yogurt contains more than 20 grams of sugar per serving, it’s more of a dessert than a healthful snack.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration released details of the proposed nutrition label makeover. Many experts have been weighing in on the new look, trying to determine if the changes will help consumers make better-informed decisions or simply add to widespread confusion about nutrition. Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine published two commentaries from health experts.
Added Sugars, Packaging Buzzwords
The first perspective was written by David A. Kessler, MD, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, author of The End of Overeating and a former FDA commissioner. Kessler believes that the FDA’s proposed changes could help nudge food buyers toward healthier decisions but argues that the new label does not go far enough.
In an effort to reduce sugar and sweeteners in general, I recently decided to divert my craving for granola by making toasted muesli. (It’s true that granola can be made by baking the oats in just oil, but I find the mix looks a little lackluster without the shine of maple syrup.) Since plain old muesli was not going to suffice, I decided on toasting it. Getting a rich golden color on the oats is the key to yielding a granola-like result without oil, sugar, maple syrup or honey.
The toasted oats and seeds taste delicious with large shards of fragrant coconut and buttery macadamias. Adding fresh sliced figs and berries adds juice and a subtle sweet flavor to the mix. The muesli stores well (up to three weeks) and will see you through many mornings.
Regulars in the celebrity-magazine rotation, including Jennifer Lopez, have credited their recent weight-loss success to the 22 Days vegan diet. It’s the same eating plan Beyoncé and Jay-Z popularized by posting food photos on Instagram. But is cutting out all animal products a healthy way to lose weight?
Why 22 Days?
The creator of this particular vegan diet, Marco Borges, is an exercise physiologist who believes veganism is the perfect way to achieve optimum wellness. His theory is that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, and so he developed the 22 Days Challenge in order to achieve his so-called “major breakthrough.”
Tomatoes? Check. Corn and cucumber? Double check. The next time you overdo it at the farmers market, you know what to do: Let’s get some salad up in here!
Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (above, from Food Network Magazine)
Basil and garlic elicit their savory side, but these little tomatoes, tossed in buttermilk-sour cream dressing, also know how to sweet-talk.
Whole-Paycheck Prices? (Maybe) Just Worth It.
Here’s a reason to feel good about that massively bank-breaking expensive pint of organic fruit you just bought: A new comprehensive review of previous studies found that organic produce and grains had slightly higher levels of antioxidants (17 percent more) and lower levels of pesticides than their conventionally-farmed counterparts. Previous reviews had played down the differences (pesticide levels in conventional produce, for example, are often still well below what’s considered harmful), and hadn’t used quite as broad a sample base (one possible reason for the difference).
If zucchini is a seasonal staple in your kitchen, be on the lookout at farmers markets for tiger zucchini, a less common variety. Named for its pale green stripes, tiger zucchini is a European hybrid that is best when harvested young (on the smaller side). The flavor is sweet and nutty with a tender crunch.
One medium specimen of the summer squash has only 30 calories and 2 grams of each fiber and protein. And it’s not so shabby in the vitamin and mineral department: Each tiger zucchini contains 56 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, 4 percent iron and 15 to 20 percent of B vitamins folate, B6 and riboflavin.
Thanks to their good flavor, tiger zucchini can be used in any recipe that calls for conventional zucchini, including these: