Now that the holiday gluttony is behind us, ‘tis the season for countless weight loss products to come slithering into the spotlight. Lose weight without exercising or changing your diet? Don’t be fooled!
The “Experts” Weigh In?
More now than ever, prominent celebrities (including members of the medical community) are endorsing weight loss supplements – there’s an immediate reason to be skeptical! What’s most important to remember is that these popular figures are usually being compensated in some way to give such products their seal of approval.
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The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) just released the “winners” of its annual Xtreme Eating Award, which tracks the calorie, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content of meals served at chain restaurants across the US. Amongst such expected “dis-honorees” as double-bacon cheeseburgers (that’s the 1,770-calorie Bacon Cheddar Double at Johnny Rocket’s) and heavy, sugar-laden chocolate cake (the Chocolate Zuccotto Cake at Maggiano’s Little Italy, which has over 1,800 calories) were some unexpectedly healthy-sounding foods. Who would have thought that a large Peanut Power Plus Grape smoothie from Smoothie King would weigh in at 1,460 calories – three-quarters of the generally recommended 2,000 daily calories? The smoothie also contains 22 teaspoons of added sugar — enough for three and a half days! Could you have guessed that The Cheesecake Factory’s seemingly nutritious Bistro Shrimp Pasta – with its shrimp and fresh arugula, tomato, and mushrooms – would in fact have the highest calorie count (3,120 calories!) of any entrée on the menu? The 89 grams of saturated fat in the pasta is four and a half times the recommended daily maximum of 20 grams.
With options like this out there, it would be easy to inadvertently sabotage your New Year’s resolutions by picking such virtuous-sounding dishes. Make sure you check the calorie count, as well at the fat, sodium, and added sugar content, of food that you consume while out; also, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on portion size. Or even better, make restaurant-style meals at home so you control the ingredients and thus the fat, calories and portion size.
Check out the full list of CSPI’s annual “winners.”
The government is finally moving forward with the biggest overhaul of food safety rules since the Great Depression—it’s about time! With major recalls in the past few years of melon and peanut butter, the safety of the U.S. food supply has been under major scrutiny. Food safety advocates are thrilled, but will these government plans really keep our food supply safe?
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama and hailed to be the first major overhaul in the safety of our food system in 70 years. The entire system shifts the focus to prevention rather than reaction when a problem occurs. There are 2 new rules proposed by the FDA that would govern about 80% of the U.S. food supply, excluding meat and poultry.
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This topic just won’t seem to go away. Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic or does healthy conventionally grown food trump pesticide-free? It’s really not a black and white issue. To get to the bottom of things, you have to look closely at different types of food.
An organic food is grown without the use of any chemicals, herbicides and pesticides. Such toxins are potentially detrimental to the nervous system and may also play a role in the development of cancer, hormone dysfunction and damage to tissues like the skin, lungs and eyes. It’s well understood that one serving of conventionally produced food won’t cause harm. The big question is whether or not long-term consumption is problematic.
Way back when, foods were simply organic or they weren’t. As more organic products have become available, the issue became more complex. To keep up with the variations, the USDA has designated specific nomenclature for organic foods. For example, a food labeled “100 percent organic” contains all organic ingredients; the “organic” designation means that all agricultural ingredients must be organic. Foods with 70 percent organic ingredients can only state that they’re “made with organic ingredients.” For the complete breakdown of organic labeling definitions, visit the USDA Organic Certification web page.
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Each year new diets, super foods and other food trends are splashed over the media and discussed by the water coolers. Sometimes these trends continue for a few years, others are out the door as quickly as they came in. Look for these hot trends in 2013.
#1: Cruciferous Greens
Members of the cabbage family such as kale, chard, turnip greens and mustard greens will start making regular appearances at restaurants. How about kale chips with your sandwich or burger?
#2: Cupcake-Dispensing ATMs
This ATM look-a-like dispenses freshly baked cupcakes 24/7. Other companies like Jamba Juice (JamboGo) and Seattle’s Best Coffee brands also have vending machines to buy their goodies.
#3: Crackdown on Food Claims
In 2012, many folks were surprised to learn that chocolate hazelnut spread wasn’t as healthy as the ads and product label promoted. A producer of Greek yogurt was also sued for using milk protein concentrate — an ingredient that isn’t acceptable by the FDA to be used in Greek yogurt – in lieu of straining techniques used to make Greek yogurt. Consumers don’t want to be misled by food manufacturers and are raising their voices.
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Sugary goodness, but no calories in sight. Is the newest no-calorie sweetener made from the ancient Monk fruit too good to be true? Find out.
What is Monk Fruit?
This ancient Chinese fruit is also known as luo han guo. According to my go-to Chinese medicine expert (a close friend), traditionally this fruit is used for building immunity and fighting sugar cravings.
The Monk fruit is similar in size and shape to a lemon; its color is somewhere between Kelly and lime green, with pale green streaks. The inner pulp is used to create a super-sweet product that (in small portions) contains very little calories.
Manufactures of monk fruit sweeteners report that it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar, which allows it to be used in small quantities.
A few years back, the FDA gave some products derived from monk fruit the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation, which has allowed food companies to process and incorporate it into powders and extracts. This means you can find it on ingredient lists as well as standalone packets and canisters. This sweetener is relatively new on the scene; if you haven’t seen it in your local grocery store, you will soon.
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The second annual Food Day is this Wednesday. Thousands of events are taking place around the country to help celebrate healthy, affordable and sustainable food. Here are some fun ways folks are celebrating and ideas on how you can celebrate Food Day in your neck of the woods.
About Food Day
Food Day takes place on October 24th each year. Food movement leaders, organizations, nutrition professionals, labor leaders, environmentalists, farmers, chefs, authors, cookbook writers, parents, kids and teachers have come together to unite their belief in a better food system. Food Day aims to fulfill six goals, which you can read about in a post I wrote about Food Day last year.
Events celebrating Food Day have been organized nationwide, but you can also create a local event at your school or library or at home with family and friends.
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Ordering food online is as easy as a click of a button. Plus you avoid the long lines and there’s no human interaction. But a recent study found that ordering your meals online isn’t so good for your waistline.
A 2012 study by Ryan McDevitt, an assistant professor at the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business, examined the patterns of people who ordered food by phone or at the counter from a franchised pizza establishment compared with those who ordered online. They looked at over 160,000 orders made by over 56,000 unique customers over 4 years. The most notable differences between those who ordered online compared to those who ordered over the phone or in person included:
- Customers ordering online spent $0.61 more (4%), on average, though they ordered fewer items. The increase in cost was due to increased toppings.
- The items ordered online were 15% more complex and had 6.1% more calories.
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By now you’ve probably heard about the recent findings of FDA and Consumer Reports investigations. Testing discovered alarmingly high amount of arsenic in rice and rice products. Tainted foods included infant cereals and formula, breakfast cereals, brown rice and even rice milk.
What is Arsenic?
This naturally existing element can be found in the air, soil and water supply in varying amounts. Consumption over time has been linked to certain types of cancer and deficits in neurological development.
It’s difficult to assess just how much arsenic is too much. Furthermore, it’s not well understood just how long the body holds on it – so it’s unclear how much can accumulate in the system over time.
The Environmental Protection Agency deems small amount of arsenic safe for consumption but recent reports have found the amounts found in rice to be beyond this “safe” dose.
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We keep saying that healthy eating can and be budget friendly. Late last month, the folks that brought you the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) unveiled their newest consumer-friendly tool – the Good Food on a Tight Budget Guide, so there’s more help than ever for consumers who are trying to eat right but not spend more.
This guide sets out to identify the most nutritious, economical and pollutant-free foods available. Looking at ingredient quality, price, nutrients, pesticide load and other factors helped to create a list of top 100 go-to foods.
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