The industrial chemical Bisephenol A (BPA) has gotten increasingly negative attention in recent years. So much so, that congressional legislation was recently introduced to ban food packaging containing BPA. But it’s not necessary to wait for the government to take steps in order to scale back at home on products that contain BPA.
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.
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.”
A Harvard University study released last month found that kids gain weight more quickly over the summer than during the school year. With the warm weather and more opportunities to play outdoors, one might think the opposite is true. But it turns out there are several factors at play.
The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease, compiled and analyzed the results of seven studies published since 1990. The studies were conducted among children ages 5 to 17. The researchers found that black, Hispanic and overweight children and adolescents were at highest risk of gaining weight quickly over the summer. The study determined that these adolescents gained weight because they spent more time in front of TV and computer screens and were more likely to eat unhealthy snacks. These children also may have slept less, as their summer days were less structured compared with those during the school year.
What Parents Can Do
There are several basic strategies that can help keep kids from gaining weight during summer vacation. Here are five.
Have you browsed the cracker aisle lately? In addition to stocking the classic varieties, shelves are overflowing with versions made from whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. But are these options really what they’re cracked up to be?
For this taste test, we chose the plain or original flavor crackers. Each was tasted alone, without any toppings or condiments. The crackers were rated on calories, fat, fiber and sodium, along with ingredients (including preservatives and additives), flavor, texture and cost. Each brand was rated on a 5-point scale, with 5 being highest.
Kashi Original 7 Grain Snack Crackers (above)
Cost (per ounce): $0.44
Nutrition Info (per serving: 15 crackers): 120 calories; 3.5 grams total fat; 160 milligrams sodium; 3 grams fiber
The Healthy Eats Take: With plenty of crackers per serving (15!) and a respectable amount of fiber, these delicious crackers won’t leave you hungry. The snacks have a hearty crunch and a well-rounded list of whole-grain ingredients, including millet, oats, hard red wheat, brown rice, barley, buckwheat and sesame seeds.
A study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that skipping breakfast doesn’t affect weight loss in dieters. But if you think the findings offer permission to skip breakfast, think again.
Researchers examined the effect of skipping or eating breakfast on weight loss in 309 healthy overweight and obese people who ranged in age from 20 to 65. One group ate breakfast before 10 a.m., while the second group didn’t eat anything before 11 a.m. A third group consisting of 44 people who normally skipped breakfast and 52 people who normally ate breakfast were not given any instruction.
The study found that eating or skipping breakfast did not affect weight loss one way or the other. But does it truly not matter if you bypass breakfast?
As blood pressure and health care costs for chronic disease continue to rise, the Food and Drug Administration is preparing to issue new guidelines on sodium. Americans currently take in about 3,400 milligrams (or 1½ teaspoons) of salt each day, a number well above the 2,300 milligrams per day (or 1 teaspoon) recommended upper limit. By advising food companies and restaurants to reduce sodium level in foods, the FDA hopes to lower the incidence of high blood pressure, strokes and other medical problems.
Talks of salt reduction have been swirling since 2010. Although the new salt guidelines were originally slated for release in 2013, the FDA told the Associated Press this week that the agency will be ready to issue the guidelines “relatively soon.” The FDA’s limits on sodium are expected to be voluntary, yet many food companies and retailers are planning to or have already cut back on salt in their products. Food giant ConAgra says it has already made a 20 percent reduction, while Walmart plans on slashing sodium by 25 percent in many products by next year. Subway restaurants have also claimed a 30 percent salt reduction in the chain’s offerings.