All Posts By Sara Reistad-Long

This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, August 2, 2014

roasted kale
In this week’s news: Nouveau fast-food franchises flaunt their healthy sides; coconut water claims get a reality check; rumors of kale’s demise turn out to be greatly exaggerated — and more.

Want That Salad Super-Sized?
Watch out Chipotle, a bevy of smaller fast food chains with a healthy bent may soon be nipping at your heels. Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, SweetGreen and Native Foods are all among this new crop of health-conscious regional restaurant franchises luring customers with words like “grass-fed,” “seasonal,’ “sustainable” and “organic.” All are reportedly flourishing, so much so that they’ve already garnered a nickname: “farm-to-counter” eateries. The vegan chain Veggie Grill, for example, hit No. 7 on Restaurant Business magazine’s yearly list of the fastest-growing small chains, while Tender Greens (which took in over $40 million in revenue from only 12 stores) came close behind, at No. 10. Also among those to watch may be LYFE (acronym for Love Your Food Every Day) Kitchen, founded by two former McDonald’s bigwigs. Each restaurant grows herbs, uses china instead of plastic and holds its entrees to a 600 calorie maximum.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, July 26, 2014

milk bottle
In this week’s news: School cafeteria workers have reason to high-five; scientists make milk — minus the cow; and umami is just the beginning of an avalanche of new tastes.

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.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, July 19, 2014

cherries
In this week’s news: The organic set has a told-you-so moment; the calories-in-calories-out theory loses cachet; and the veggie burger seizes the gourmet spotlight.

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).

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, July 11, 2014

mixed fruit
In this week’s news: Rappers delight in healthy eating; Alice Waters predicts a farmers markets bonanza; and scientists do the important work of building a healthier hot dog.

That’s Doug E. Fresh — As In, Fresh Salad
Recently, the Future Leaders Institute charter school in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood hosted a rap performance by Adrian Harris, a member of the pioneering hip-hop group the Cold Crush Brothers. For those familiar with the group’s work, it might be surprising to hear that the artist is focusing his lyrics these days on fruits, vegetables and how to stay healthy. It wasn’t an isolated event. Along with hip-hop artists like Doug E. Fresh, Chuck D and DMC , Harris is part of a movement developed by Hip Hop Public Health that has musicians working with doctors and nutritionists. With songs, videos and games, the artists and health care professionals encourage audience members to become “hip hop public health ambassadors” to their families. Interesting bonus: Some genre purists have heralded the initiative as a chance for hip-hop to return to its roots as a medium for talking about issues of local and social concern.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, July 4, 2014

gummy bears

In this week’s news: Imagining the coffee-pod version of Soylent; sizing up gummy bears as body-builder food; and creating a non-profit supermarket in a low-income suburb.

Make Mine a Decaf — with Extra Vitamin D
Nestle researchers have announced they are developing tools to analyze an individual’s levels of essential nutrients such that they can offer custom-blended drinks tailored to a person’s specific dietary needs. The end goal, they say, is to create a Nespresso-like machine to brew it all up just like your morning joe. Comparisons to Soylent, the Silicon Valley–born meal substitute promising to forevermore eliminate your need to chew, have already been made. That said, don’t hold your breath for the coffeemaker version. The kinds of workups Nestle is talking about currently cost around $2,000 per person.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, June 27, 2014

french fries
In this week’s news: Restaurant chains phase out salt on the sly; the buzz on edible insects keeps growing; and doctors confess to being clueless about nutrition.

Sodium Levels? Nothing to See Here. 
Until recently, a meal of chicken, stuffing, cornbread and mashed potatoes at Boston Market would have contained about 2,590 mg of salt — or 290 mg more than U.S. guidelines recommend for an entire day. Today, that same dinner tallies up at 2,000. Facing increasing pressure to make products healthier, the restaurant chain has quietly cut down on salt content in many of its dishes. The food giant is far from the only one: Hamburger Helper, Oreo cookies and McDonald’s french fries are just some of the items that have been “stealth health”-ified. You read right. Consumers may know that healthier food options are a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always excited to partake. Case in point: When McDonald’s started cooking without harmful trans fats, it was flooded with complaints of the fries tasting different — and not in a good way. As a result of such episodes, many brands are trying to make changes on the sly. Nevertheless, even though General Mills went the quiet route, slowly reducing sodium in Hamburger Helper by 50 percent over a six-year period, the product’s sales have been in steady decline since the salt reduction began.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, June 20, 2014

breads

In this week’s news: Having an off-again-on-again relationship with bread; debating the meaning of “natural” food; and naming as many Dr. Oz diet catchphrases as possible (it’s a “miracle!”).

Hold the Gluten — or Make it Artisanal
Only about one percent of the population has celiac disease, about six percent are gluten-intolerant and, according to recent research, those who have gluten sensitivity may have another problem altogether. Nevertheless, more than a quarter of Americans say they’re cutting down on or eliminating gluten. In light of this, you might be surprised to learn that whole-grain bread is starting to get a lot of ink. Food world luminaries such as Michael Pollan are increasingly speaking up about the benefits of artisanal bread products and, this summer alone, carb lovers can look forward to meetings like the “Kneading Conference” (from the Maine Grain Institute) and “Grain Gathering” (brought to you by the Bread Lab in Washington State). Yet don’t judge a book by its cover (or a grain by its husk?). The bread/no-gluten trend might not be as discordant as it appears. Most of the flour in commercially sold foods is white — made from grains that have been refined to remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran. What’s left is something called endosperm, a tissue that happens to house the plant’s gluten supply. Eat white flour, and you’re essentially mainlining gluten. Whole wheat, on the other hand, is rich in not just nutrients, but also a number of proteins that seem to temper the gut irritation people complain they feel when they eat gluten. This means that, at least for non-celiacs, whole-wheat bread may offer a way to have your bread and eat it too.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, June 13, 2014

salmon
In this week’s news: Seafood guidance for kids and expectant mothers; the next iteration of futuristic faux food; and a reminder from Mark Bittman to just eat the real thing.

Pass the Salmon
This Tuesday, federal officials announced that they’re for the first time ever recommending a minimum of two weekly servings of low-mercury seafood (think salmon, shrimp, cod and light canned tuna) to children and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Back in 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency had set an upper limit to these foods. And though this proposal, too, suggests an upper limit of three servings, the shift is noteworthy. According to a recent FDA analysis, one in five pregnant women in the United States currently eats little or no fish, and the new recommendation is said to reflect concern that these individuals are missing out. Indeed, a number of studies show that children born to women who eat fish have better cognitive development and higher IQs than those born to women who eat little to no fish. Still, the recommendation isn’t without controversy: Some environmental groups expressed concern that this will ultimately increase mercury consumption. One particular worry is packaged fish, especially tuna, from which Americans get approximately a third of their methyl mercury exposure. Interestingly, other groups fear that the measures don’t go far enough. Bottom line: Know where your fish is sourced, and also remember that while plenty of research suggests taking Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, there remains a wide variety of nutrients in fish worth tapping.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, June 6, 2014

peach
In this week’s news: Taking the long view of the diets du jour; growing up on raw foods; and having a complicated relationship with diet soda.

Will Gluten-Free Go the Way of Fat-Free?
Gluten-free. Paleo. Vegan. According to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times this week, someday we’ll likely look back on the current crop of diet trends with the same regret-slash-sheepishness we now view our fat-free binge of the 1980s and ’90s. (“Think of all the money and meals you wasted on fat-free ice cream and bone-dry chicken breasts that didn’t do you a lick of good,” writer David Sax admonishes us.) As the story points out, Jimmy Kimmel’s hit skit on gluten last month — featuring hilariously cringe-worthy responses from dieters who seem to shun gluten strictly for the cool quotient — perfectly capture our collective dietary cluelessness. But there are some winners out there: Fad diets appear to be big cash cows for food manufacturers, especially when they market products capitalizing on the nutrition words of the moment.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, May 30, 2014

forks

In this week’s news: Michelle Obama hits a spork in the road to school lunch reform; researchers give a quick lesson on food costs and weight gain; and a former restaurant critic says it’s time to give up on the miracle diet pills already.

First (Lunch) Lady
Segments of the food industry and Republican legislators have criticized the 2010 federal dietary school lunch standards (called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), citing lack of flexibility and questioning their cost and effectiveness. The School Nutrition Association, a group representing cafeteria administrators, say enrollment has gone down after the standards — which limit sodium, fat and calories, and require that fruits, vegetables and whole grains replace unhealthy menu choices. Adding bite to that bark is a new measure that would allow poorer school districts to opt out of the program. This week, Michelle Obama has been speaking out strongly against this move, penning a New York Times Op Ed that cites some tough numbers: One in three children is overweight of obese, one in three children is expected to develop diabetes, and currently $190 billion a year is spent treating obesity-related conditions. These lunch regulations can help, says Sam Kass, White House chef and the director of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, who cites academic studies showing that all children were eating healthier after the standards were established.

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