by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, July 26, 2014
by Toby Amidor in Food News, July 23, 2014
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.
by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, July 19, 2014
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.
by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, July 11, 2014
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).
by Toby Amidor in Food News, Food Safety, July 10, 2014
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.
by Andrea Strong in Grocery Shopping, Trends, July 9, 2014
Researchers claim they have a solution for those suffering from peanut allergies. But is a hypoallergenic peanut all it’s cracked up to be?
by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, July 4, 2014
Halva, the Middle Eastern sesame candy, is a dessert favorite. Dense and rich, it tastes like peanut buttery fudge and is often layered with ribbons of chocolate. What could be better? Just one problem: It’s traditionally loaded with sugar. Israeli native Shahar Shamir was a huge halva fan too, but as a former dancer keen on keeping healthy, he was hesitant to dig in.
A home cook since the age of eight (his mother taught him everything he knows), Shamir decided to fiddle with a recipe of his own, grinding sesame seeds with honey and roasted nuts, and making something that more closely resembled a nut butter than a candy. His rendition also dispensed with the usual hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. He served his new-fangled halva spreads to friends at dinner parties. They went wild.
by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, June 27, 2014
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.
by Sally Wadyka in Trends, June 23, 2014
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.
by Sara Reistad-Long in Food News, June 20, 2014
It’s the new smoothie dilemma: Straw or spoon? Just when you thought the world of liquid meals was complete, along comes something new. The latest trend in purified food: Smoothie bowls. That’s right, these are smoothies, but you eat them out of a bowl. Before you write off this craze as just as change of scenery for your smoothie, there are, apparently, a few key distinctions between an old-style smoothie you drink and the newer, smoothie-in-a-bowl versions.
Besides the obvious difference in how you consume it, smoothie bowls provide the opportunity to get even more creative with liquefied creations. Because smoothie bowls don’t have to be slurped through a straw, cooks have the option to make the concoction as thick as they want — blending in ingredients like seeds, frozen bananas, nut butters or even avocado for added heft and texture.
“Smoothie bowls are essentially more nutrient-dense smoothies, thick enough to eat with a spoon and often topped with fruits, nuts, seeds, muesli or granola,” explains McKel Hill, MS, RD, and creator of the plant-based, whole foods blog Nutrition Stripped. “Think of smoothie bowls as the new cereal — like cereal 2.0.”
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.