February 25, 2010

It's no joke about school lunches

When I was in school, we joked about school lunches: mystery meat, creamed corn, fish sticks with no fish, and of course the grease.

At the time I didn't understand the politics of food in the schools. How the government mandates nearly all the choices and portions. The politics are less clear on who is influencing those decisions...not health professionals but rather big farm businesses who want to sell to the schools.

Oregon students are trying to change this.

From Slow Food USA:: "Over the last few months, more than 17,000 kids, parents and ordinary citizens have sent letters to Congress asking legislators to invest in healthier food when they reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act this spring. 3,000 of those letters were hand-written (or hand-drawn, with crayons) and then mailed to legislators’ offices by post, with help from Slow Food leaders across the country.

Anna Green, one of the leaders of Slow Food High Desert in Central Oregon, worked with teachers and school administrators at La Pine Middle School to help eighty students write letters to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Anna scanned a few of the best letters and sent them to us in a PDF – click here to read them. As a teaser, here are a few of the best quotes:

“We want real grated cheese made in Oregon.”

“I think us kids diserve [sic] better food in school.”

“We shouldn’t have any more greasy food.”

February 23, 2010

Don't blame fat kids

Let's not continue to blame the victims of obesity. The real enemy is junk food companies.

RALPH NADER: Fight against obesity should target food companies, not children's eating habits:
"Obesity continues to bet on the children’s tongues as wards of the irresistible junk food companies. After all, his ranks keep swelling and the Fat Pride movement is picking up steam."

February 22, 2010

Studies show calorie postings affect consumer choices, not bottom line

Ohio State UniversityImage via Wikipedia

I have been saying this for a while. Posting nutrition information is good for consumers and business.

From QSRweb.com: Studies show calorie postings affect consumer choices, not bottom line: A recent Ohio State University study provides more evidence that consumers do pay attention to calorie counts of meals when they are provided conveniently.

The study collected data about choices consumers made among 12 entrees offered at a university dining center that operates much like a QSR. Researchers found that when nutrition information was provided at the point-of-purchase, sales of high-calorie entrees dramatically decreased, while sales of lower-calorie items substantially increased. After the nutrition information was removed, sales of the higher-calorie items gradually increased again.

Of significance to operators, sales did not decline during the study, said Gail Kaye, one of the study's authors. The revenue per entree sold remained consistent before, during and after the nutrition information was offered. This finding could help reduce qualms of restaurants hesitant to offer calorie information to consumers for fear that sales would decrease.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 21, 2010

California see a sweet deal

Based on :Image:Flag of California.svg. Create...Image via Wikipedia

I like the idea, but don't count on the money going towards obesity prevention. Remember the billions of dollars the states promised to spend on stopping smoking. Most of it went up in smoke within the general budgets.

California lawmaker introduces soda tax bill:
A California lawmaker introduced legislation on Thursday that would tax sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks and use the proceeds to bankroll programs to fight childhood obesity.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, would slap a 1-cent levy on every teaspoon of added sugar and other caloric sweeteners in commercial beverages sold.

Initial projections from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy estimated the excise tax on beverage distributors could raise $1.5 billion a year, with funds going directly to cities and schools to pay for childhood obesity prevention programs throughout the state.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 20, 2010

Weekend wrapup

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...Image via Wikipedia

Why must companies grow their profits every 90 days? Has Wall Street fundamentally ruined America?

I worked for a consulting firm. It employed 10,000 high-paid professionals, and had revenues of $1B. But that wasn't good enough. The company -- or should I say, the CEO -- wanted higher revenues (and bigger bonuses). In five years, it announced revenues would be $5B. Within three years it was toast, and all those good-paying jobs were gone.

When I ran my branch I was extremely proud to have 75 professionals working hard in American companies. Not good enough. The company wanted 100 professionals working, so they shut down the branch.

When it comes to food, businesses must find more and more ways to pitch their wares, and that includes the unhealthy choices.

Food Politics.com writes:

For reasons that make no sense to me at all, corporations are not allowed to simply make a profit. Their profits must constantly increase. They must report growth in profits to Wall Street every 90 days.

For food companies, this is not so easy. We already have twice as many calories available in the food supply as needed by our population - nearly 4,000 calories per capita per day. How to deal with this? Find new buyers.

General Mills says its “recipe for profitable growth” will target three specific groups: Hispanics, aging baby boomers (those aged 55 and over), and millennials (baby boomers’ kids aged 16-33).
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 19, 2010

Before visiting Taco Bell, visit this video

Before eating out for Mexican food, please watch this video. Just like Italian food, the more authentic the food, the healthier it will be for you.

When I lived in California (and when I visit Texas), the independent Mexican restaurants are better for you, tastier, and you are supporting local merchants.

And of course, the fish tacos are becoming more and more prevalent and I recommend those. As you know rice and beans are a naturally complementary food, and are best nutritionally for you together. But skip the cheese on the beans (you don't need that); just add a little salsa if you need more flavor. Unfortunately, the chain fast-food restaurant, can only add fat (in the form of cheese) to make the food tasty. Drive pass the Taco Bell tonight, and head straight to the little Mexican casa near you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 18, 2010

Now serving a new food size

Dippin' Dots Flavored Ice CreamImage via Wikipedia

Finally the FDA is moving out of the 1990s, and relooking at nutrition labeling.

Have you ever looked at the back of ice cream or cereals, and been satisfied that it's only 160 calories? However the part of the label everyone misses is the serving size. Or should I say size. When's the last time you ate a serving size of 6 potato chips?

Most serving sizes were designed for the way Americans ate 30 or even 50 years ago. For Capt'n Crunch cereal, the serving size is 3/4 cup or 27 grams (when's the last time you weighed your food in grams??) And when's the last time your kid measured out 3/4 of a cup in his bowl? It's more likely 2 to 3 times -- maybe 4 or 5 times -- that much that any kid eats. So the serving sizes are not helpful and plain misleading.

Let's make sure the FDA gets it right this time. Call your Congressman now.

NY Times: Consider the humble chip: most potato or corn chip bags today show a one-ounce serving size, containing a tolerable 150 calories, or thereabouts. But only the most disciplined snacker will stop at an ounce. For some brands, like Tostitos Hint of Lime, that can be just six chips.

So to get ready for front-of-package nutrition labeling, the F.D.A. is now looking at bringing serving sizes for foods like chips, cookies, breakfast cereals and ice cream into line with how Americans really eat. Combined with more prominent labeling, the result could be a greater sense of public caution about unhealthy foods.

“If you put on a meaningful portion size, it would scare a lot of people,” said Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina. “They would see, ‘I’m going to get 300 calories from that, or 500 calories.’ ”
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 16, 2010

Should sugar drinks be taxed? And hamburgers?

Correlation between smoking and lung cancer in...Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times takes a thoughtful look at the soda industry and obesity. The questions are should Coke and Pepsi drinks be taxed to 1) reduce obesity and 2) raise public money to fund anti-obesity programs?

I believe those taxes don't go far enough. Let's remove all government subsidies for beef and tax hamburgers as well.

What I find interesting is how the similar this battle is and the tobacco wars fought for 50 years. Remember the tobacco industry said there was no "direct" correlation between tobacco use and cancer. Then they said you can't change behavior with taxes. Then they said government shouldn't be in the business of dictating American behavior. All of these arguments were designed for just one thing: saving Philip Morris's profits.

Dr. Frieden, who promoted a soda tax when he was a health commissioner, sees further parallels between soda and tobacco: “There are aspects of the food industry that are reminiscent of tobacco — the sowing of doubt where there’s no reasonable doubt, funding of front groups, use of so-called experts, claims that new products which are safer for consumers are available, and the claim that they are not marketing to children.”
...In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change. The industry says there are critical differences: in moderate quantities soda isn’t harmful, nor is it addictive.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 15, 2010

16 Ways To Change Your Child’s Diet

Obesity Epidemic?Image by Paull Young via Flickr

Sometimes we just don't know what to do.

With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, there's very little a parent can do, except start in your own home.

Here's 16 tips to change your child's diet (and your own).

16 Ways To Change Your Child’s Diet From Habit To Healthy | Health Reform
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 14, 2010

Companies can't count calories

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24:  A 'Drive Thru, Ope...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Everyday I read that Americans want government out of their lives.

But what happens when there is no accounting, no rules, and no laws.

Here's a very small, almost minuscule problem that happens when there is self-regulation, only business oversight, and buyer-beware companies: they cheat.

How would you feel if everytime -- that's everytime -- you went to fill up with gas, Citgo or Mobil gave you just 72% of a gallon for a gallon you paid for? What if Shell gave you just 50% of a gallon? How would you act if the butcher charged you full price on just 75% of a pound.

I believe Americans would be outraged. But that's happening everyday in fast-food restaurants throughout the U.S.

According to new study from the American Dietetic Association, some restaurant foods contained up to 200% of stated values and, in addition, free side dishes sometimes are an average of 245% of stated values for the entrees they accompanied. And restaurants are not alone. Supermarket packaged foods under report calories.

According to the FDA, packaged foods are allowed a 20% margin of error. Therefore, a 300 calorie sandwich may contain anywhere from 270 to 330 calories. (Amazingly, there was very little over-estimating of calories.)

These findings suggest that stated energy contents of reduced-energy meals obtained from restaurants and supermarkets are not consistently accurate, and in this study averaged more than measured values, especially when free side dishes were taken into account. If widespread, this phenomenon could hamper efforts to self-monitor energy intake to control weight, and could also reduce the potential benefit of recent policy initiatives to disseminate information on food energy content at the point of purchase.

FoodNavigator.com reports: "Restaurant meals tested were even less accurate. Of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant meals analyzed, calorie content averaged 18 percent more than stated. There is no FDA-regulated limit for the amount by which a restaurant meal may exceed stated calorie content, the researchers wrote."

Where's the outrage? Or are we all so cynical we know companies cheat.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 13, 2010

McItaly burger gives Italians heartburn

The nation of food has just sold out for the dollar menu.

"Fast food chain McDonald's has teamed up with the Italian government to cook up a hamburger with a national twist, but the unusual initiative is giving some food lovers cultural indigestion."
Leaders of the slow food movement call the McItaly burger a "monstrous act of national betrayal".

I went to McDonald's near the Spanish Steps just to see the differences from the US fast food joints. It seemed there were more choices for healthier foods even a few years ago. But a hamburger is still a hamburger: Fatty, salty, wasteful of land, grain and water.

Government officials offered this mixed message, hoping the McItaly burger will convince European youngsters "to forget about junk food and choose a healthier and better quality food."

Read more here...Italy critics trash McDonald's nationalist food bid.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 12, 2010

A brief history of food

Are we heading in the right direction as we RightSize America? Chainleader.com gives us a brief history of restaurants trying to do the right thing.

Calorie Counting: A Brief History

Restaurant chains have been tabulating calories and fat grams since at least the mid-'80s, with varying results. Here are some brief highlights.

2010 Applebee's launches promotion featuring five dishes with 550 or fewer calories in attempt to boost incremental traffic.

2009 The Cheesecake Factory rolls out three salads as part of its Small Plates menu. KFC advertises a 395-calorie grilled-chicken meal for $3.95. Taco Bell promotes The Drive-Thru Diet featuring seven items with fewer than 350 calories.

2007 T.G.I. Friday's introduces Right Portion, Right Price menu featuring two dishes that "contain 500 calories or less and 10 grams or less of fat per serving."

2004 Red Lobster debuts its Lighthouse Menu of items that contain fewer than 500 calories, 15 grams of fat and 750 milligrams of sodium.

2003 Applebee's International and Weight Watchers International enter into exclusive agreement that puts a Weight Watchers branded section on the chain's menu.

1997 Subway launches its Seven under Six promotion featuring sandwiches with fewer than 6 grams of fat. Jared Fogle, a college student at the time, loses 240 pounds while eating the sandwiches.

1995 Taco Bell rolls out Border Light menu, claiming the Light Bean Burrito, Light Burrito Supreme and Light Seven-Layer Burrito have "up to 20 percent fewer calories."

1992 The Olive Garden introduces its long-running Garden Fare menu. To be included, less than 30 percent of a dish's calories must come from fat.

1991 Burger King reformulates its flame-broiled chicken sandwich to meet a company goal of serving it under 300 calories. "It tastes the same," a BK spokesman claims.

1990 McDonald's debuts the McLean Deluxe, weighing in at just 310 calories with condiments.

1985 Wendy's rolls out a low-calorie menu including a scooped-out tomato half with tuna. The fast-food chain rolls menu back due to poor sales a year later.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 11, 2010

Jamie Oliver’s Ideas to Reduce Obesity

Jamie Oliver -- the winner of the TEDprize -- has 4 simple ideas for reducing obesity, and they are not the typical ideas.

• Every child in the U.S. should learn to cook 10 meals before leaving high school.

• Supermarkets should appoint “food ambassadors” to explain to customers how they can prepare local, fresh and seasonal foods.

• Food companies should make education a central part of their business.

• Food labeling should be improved to accurately warn people about unhealthy food.

"I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity." -- Jamie Oliver

What do you think? and read more...Jamie Oliver’s Ideas to Reduce Obesity
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

First victory for Obama

It's not a new health plan, but it will help to make Americans healthier.

From the Wall Street Journal: Pepsi, Coke Support Calorie-Labeling Effort

The beverage industry unveiled new labeling plans that will move the calorie content to the front of their beverage containers by the end of 2012, as part of a wider initiative pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. were among those to issue statements supporting the initiative, which will cover vending machines and fountain-drink equipment.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 10, 2010

Buy all your 2010 veggies today

Today I just bought nearly all my vegetables, potatoes, fruits and herbs for 2010. Or at least I sent my check in.

You see I belong to a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture farm, here in Connecticut. It's the best food choice I ever made. The farm I joined is also organic, so I get the best possible tasting food.

For the past three years, I have eaten more healthy and lost more weight than in any other time of my life.

What is buying a share of a CSA farm?

Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests.

My take on CSA means I get to eat the freshest and healthiest produce. Every week I'm "forced" to go and pick up several baskets of yummy -- sometimes unknown -- fruits and veggies.

My favorites are: raspberries, swiss chard, fresh sharp garlic (much juicier and flavorful than anything you can find in a store), sweet peppers, eggplant, brussel sprouts (yes, fresh they are delicious), spinach, five kinds of potatoes (including Yukon gold), cantaloupes, plum tomatoes, golden beets, broccoli raab, butternut squash, leeks, kale, red torpedo onions, arugula (I especially like arugula pesto), sweet corn (don't even need to cook it), green beans, zucchini (no flowers, I have to grow those myself), snap peas, scallions, fennel, cabbage, cucumbers, garlic scapes (those weird snaky things, the flower stalks from garlic), and, of course, strawberries. I also like the tomatoes, kohlrabi, bok choy, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and all the herbs, especially cilantro, basil, chives, thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley.

And even now we have a few things from last year. A bag of potatoes (the dirt was left on, so they kept all fall and winter), frozen tomatoes, dried cayenne peppers, and one squash.

If you want to make sure you eat healthy, then get on a waiting list today for a CSA in your area.

Find a CSA farm.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

February 9, 2010

Free Grand Slam breakfast (and lunch) at Denny's

Remember is you have the free Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's today, that's your breakfast and lunch. It's got half the calories a grown man needs in a day.

Don't get fooled again.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Here's one issue all Americans agree

Despite the giant schism in Washington D.C., there is one issue we all agree. No one can debate the science, or the giant cost to the nation. That issue is child obesity.

We all now know that those extra pounds cause a host of debilitating diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Plus throw in poor self-esteem, and depression. And the costs are jaw dropping.
Obesity costs the country $147 billion a year. Every 7 years that's $1 trillion (with a "T").

OK, we know the effects. What's the solution?

It's incredible simple and frustratingly complex. On point for the nation is a leader with the power to change things.

Today, the self-described "mom in chief" -- Michelle Obama -- is launching Let's Move, a campaign to help other parents deal with a national health crisis she describes in epic terms.

The goal: to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.

Obama says she will use all the power of her White House pulpit to promote a multifaceted campaign that will include more healthful food in schools, more accurate food labeling, better grocery stores in communities that don't have them, public service announcements and efforts to get children to be more active. Some of her plans, such as tax incentives for businesses, will need congressional approval.

"The first lady having a huge microphone and a spotlight is really helpful," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says. "It's a big health crisis. We need to involve not only the kids but the families."

"Childhood obesity is a no-downside issue," says Boston University journalism professor Elizabeth Mehren, who has written extensively about political spouses. "It's something that mothers can connect to, so it fits in with her 'first mom' agenda."

At the same time, "it's a back-door connector to that very pressing issue for her husband: health care."
Check out the entire article. It has a lot of great information

What can you do? Just one thing. Start with your family and start tonight. Skip McDonald's or KFC today. Start slow. Pick up a pre-cooked chicken and pre-chopped veggies. Let's start there, and we'll wean ourselves off the fast foods, to the slow and better foods.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]