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    Archive for June, 2010

    Speaking/Catching Up With…: Mrs Q (The Transcript)

    FINAL2Last Wednesday, I spoke on the phone with Mrs. Q of the Fed Up With School Lunch blog, almost to the day in which she hit the halfway point of her “year of school lunches” project.

    If you are unfamiliar with her, please read my e-mail interview with her from this past January.

    The transcript of our chat follows:

    Hi, Mrs. Q.  Welcome!  So, are you relieved to have a summer free of school lunches?

    Oh, gosh.  I think ‘relieved’ doesn’t even really encompass how I feel right now.  I’m so thrilled.  I’m so ready for the Summer.

    What was your lunch today?

    I thought you’d ask that!  We [my husband and I] had soup… and some sardines, and chickpeas.  It was very random.

    But it didn’t come wrapped in plastic, so that’s a nice change.

    Right, exactly. (Laughs)

    I was thinking about all the school food that you’ve eaten so far this year and two meals stick out to me most.  One is the 62 ingredient pizza.  Then, there’s the infamous peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had the Pop-Tart-ish graham crackers standing in place of the sandwich bread.  In your years as a teacher, were you familiar with those offerings or did you first see them when you started doing the project?

    Oh, I had just seen them when I started doing the project.  I had never gone down to the cafeteria when they had peanut butter and jelly on the menu.  I just assumed, like anybody else, that it was actual bread and peanut butter and jelly.  I didn’t think that it was this mallomar cracker thingy… the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen, or eaten.

    I know that was one of the meals that made you feel pretty sick.

    Yeah, actually, when I had it in January, it did make me sick.  I think.  I mean, I could have just felt sick that day by chance, but that was part of what made me feel ill.  Then it was served again in June, and that day, I knew it was coming, so I had packed a little salad.  I just took a nibble of the sandwich.  I couldn’t face another night of feeling sick.  I didn’t want to take that risk.

    Do you know if any of your students got sick from eating that sandwich?

    Not that I could tell.

    One thing I’m interested in — that you’ve touched upon in your blog — is the environment in which these lunches are eaten, as far as the students go.  Can you give me a visual of the cafeteria in terms of what you see when you walk in, what color the walls are?  Can you tell me a little bit about the smells, the sounds…?

    Oh, yeah.  When you walk in the cafeteria, it’s very drab.  It’s sort of a pinky peach color on the walls.  There are no murals or anything.  There are a scattering of posters, but nothing memorable.  It’s VERY loud.  Incredibly loud.  The kids are screaming, and they are very excited to be at lunch.  It’s very hard to have a conversation with another adult.  You can’t hear yourself.

    The kids don’t get any recess, so it’s really hard to see them there in the cafeteria, using their only escape time to try and wind down the best that they can.  I think they really need to be exercised.  It’s sad.

    Does it have that traditional cafeteria… “unidentified aroma”?

    Yes, yes!  Well, actually, what’s so interesting is that I can sometimes… now that I’ve eaten so many lunches, I can sometimes tell what’s being served when I’m just walking by, even 500 feet away.  I can be, like, “alright, it’s tater tots today.”


    Yeah, or I can smell the meatloaf.  There is that aroma that’s hard to place.  It varies.

    Over the past few months, you’ve been awarding titanium sporks on your blog to leaders in the fight for healthy school lunches.  Jamie Oliver got one in April, Lisa Suriano of Veggiecation was the May recipient, and it seems, based on the comments I’ve read on your blog, that for this month it could be Chef Ann Cooper, who I love.  I know the June spork is the last one, but if you could personally award a fourth one in July, who would you award it to?

    I’ve already thought that if I had an extra one, I would love to give it to Ed Bruske, The Slow Cook.  He’s done some amazing reporting out of Washinton DC about the school food environment there.  His daughter goes to school, and that was his motivation for his series on school food.  He also, sort of like me, walked into this in January.  He went into his daughter’s cafeteria, because he had heard they made changes.  [Turns out] they went from exactly the same foods that I was eating [at my school] to the food they call “fresh cooked”, which is the same food, except that it comes in big boxes and they heat it up instead of serving it in the containers I eat out of.

    [Ed] spent a week in the [school’s] kitchen, reported on it, and it was very eye-opening.  He’s a really excellent writer, I really like his perspective.  He’s angry about this.  He’s mad.  I really like seeing that kind of engagement with this issue.

    Speaking of anger and voices being heard, are you still fearful of people knowing your identity?

    Oh, yeah.  I’m not as fearful as I was in January or February when I was really, really scared.  I hadn’t gotten any attention at all [up until that point], and I was just doing this for fun.  I didn’t think this was something that anyone would ever notice.  So, when people started noticing, I started getting nervous.

    Now that I’ve done it for half a year, I feel a lot less worried.  I’m still certainly taking precautions, but I feel like at this point, I have the support of so many readers and I’d really be interested to see what kind of grounds [my school’s administrators] would have to let me go.

    On the other hand, I am thinking about how this project affects me and how I move forward with my own life.  I have a platform here that I never, ever expected to create.  I’m only going to have this brief window in which I get all this attention, it’s my 15 minutes of fame, and I’m thinking how can I use that to potentially help more kids and  see if it provides a career change.  In some ways, I might have more fallback now that I’ve gathered up more steam in the project.

    It’s funny you say that, because I have a hard time imagining that suddenly, in January of 2011, you go back to your pre-blog life.

    I know!  I keep thinking that too.  I don’t know where I’m headed.  Part of me thinks that when an employee does something like this [blog], it’s not exactly the most happy employee ever, you know what I’m saying?

    I have seen postings for jobs in other schools and other districts I thought I’d be better suited for, potentially, and that I would get fulfillment from, so I’m thinking, “should I change jobs?”, “how can I leverage this potentially?”.  The other thing is,  I have a young family.  I love working with children, so I wouldn’t want to do any kind of drastic change.

    It’s very likely that within the next six months there could be some really wonderful opportunities coming your way.  I was also wondering how this project has shaped or altered your career goals.  Maybe you still want to be teaching [in the future] but be more involved in the advocacy [side of things]?

    Yeah, I’ve come up with some interesting ideas that I’m exploring, but I keep wondering “how can I take this to another level?”.  If I wanted to be a nutritionist, I’ve got a great application essay here!

    And you’ve got some really good hookups and some really good references! Back to the identity thing, here’s one thing I don’t understand.  Prior to eating these lunches… which you eat in your classroom, correct?


    Prior to this, weren’t you eating lunch with the other teachers in the teacher lounge?


    So… don’t they wonder where you’ve been for the past six months during lunchtime?

    (Laughs).  I’m very busy.  We all are.  There’s certain teachers you know never eat in the lounge, and then there are teachers who always eat in the teacher’s lounge.  For the most part, I was pretty variable.  Now, I just make excuses…. that “I have a lot to do”, which is true.

    These lunches are made to be eaten very quickly, so I am able to really down them.  I can eat that lunch so fast now and still have enough time to do a couple little things with paper around my desk, or a little organizing before I have to go back.

    So you mastered the art of downing school lunch.

    I know, isn’t that sad?  I can really, really pound it.

    Is the plan still that at the end of the calendar year you’re going to have a post on your blog revealing your name?  Have you given any thought how you are going to end this project?

    I haven’t thought about it at all.  I keep thinking to myself, “maybe I should wait a month and THEN reveal myself”, because then it won’t be such a big deal.

    Well, I think you should just go on Oprah and reveal yourself that way.

    Well, that would give me some kind of immunity.  It really would.

    Yeah, if you have Oprah’s support, you’re pretty much golden.

    I don’t think that I could get in that much trouble if I had that kind of support behind me.

    Particularly if you’re one of her favorite things…. or people.  (Laughs).  I know that originally you had planned  to work in a cafeteria as a “lunch lady” this summer, but you’ve since changed that and are now going to be volunteering.  Can you tell me — to whatever extent you can — about your summer plans?

    It’s going to be pretty low-key, I’m going to be in a cafeteria setting where I’ll be working with kids and food.  Working together, from what I understand.

    I understand you can’t go into detail.


    Do you also still have that plan of uploading some photos on your blog of examples of food marketing geared towards children?

    Yeah, I’m doing it a little bit already, with some pictures I’ve taken.  I haven’t posted any of them yet, but, yeah, different pictures I’ve taken around the environment.  I took a photo of a McDonald’s ad that I’m going to write a whole post on.  I’ve been mulling it over.  I also took a photo of food advertising form Walmart that I saw on a billboard.  I’m very anti-Walmart, so that will be a really fun post to write (laughs).

    Yeah, some therapy!  The McDonald’s ad, with the recent Happy Meal controversy, is very timely.

    Yeah.  I really dislike McDonald’s a lot.  We’ve never taken our child there.  That’s an experience we haven’t had as parents, but we were in a very big cafeteria food court over the weekend, and there was a McDonald’s there.  I got a burrito from one stand and my husband got a chicken schwarma from another stand, so totally not your normal McDonald’s fare.

    Everyone around us was eating McDonald’s.  Our kid was downing the tomatoes  from my burrito, and some of the chicken, and the lettuce.  The kid next to him was eating fries and nuggets and playing with his Shrek watch [that came in his Happy Meal].  We were having a completely different meal.  My kid had a very sensory based meal, where he was diving in with his fingers and getting really messy with the burrito and… that’s how food is supposed to be experienced.

    Food should be fun — in the way that you’re saying, sensory-based… not because it’s blue and glows in the dark.

    Yeah, I saw our little guy looking at the kid with the watch, and I could see the gears turning there, but luckily I was able to distract him back to the table (laughs).  Anything that sparkles attracts kids and they are vulnerable to that, and it bothers me.

    Before we say goodbye, I want to play a word association game with you.

    Oh boy.

    You know the drill.  I say a word or phrase, you tell me the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s good times all around.




    Chicken nuggets.



    (Defeated) Oh, God!

    That says it all!  That says it all!  Students.


    Fruit icee.


    Tater tots.


    Mrs. Q.

    Cute! (laughs)

    I would say “activist”, “awesome”.  You know I’ve been a fan since day one, and I really want to thank you not only for this interview but also for your passion, for your commitment to the cause, and for doing it in such a way that has really captured millions of people.  What you’ve done, to me, is astounding and I have a feeling that the rest of 2010 is going to be very interesting and full of positive developments for you.

    Thank you so much.  I have to also thank you because you were one of the first people to notice what I was doing, and you started that snowball at the top of that hill.

    I remember, it was January and someone on Twitter posted a link to your blog.  I saw it, and I immediately e-mailed you and asked “can I interview you!?!” because I had this… intuition that this was going to become something really, really big… and I’m glad it did.

    It’s been fun sharing the ride the past 6 motnhs.  That’s been a great part of the project, interacting with people like yourself and readers through the comments and emails, it’s been really fun.

    It has.  Thank you again, Mrs. Q.  Bye!


    Numbers Game: Cheerios and Jeerios

    oc_fc_product_photo2A cup of Frosted Cheerios contains _____ more grams of sugar than a cup of conventional Cheerios.

    a) 8
    b) 4.5
    c) 11.5
    d) 9.75

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: ORAC Scores

    AcaiOracI often see a lot of nutrition articles that reference a fruit’s ORAC score, which shows how many antioxidants it has.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years and I can’t remember you ever mentioning it.  How come?

    — Marie Boceank
    (Location Withheld)

    ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) is one of those nutrition “buzzwords” that elicits an unenthused shrug and “meh” from me.

    The assay, developed in the mid 1990s at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, does not give an indication of how many antioxidants a food has, but rather how efficiently a food can destroy free radicals (compounds that can speed up the aging process as well as development of certain diseases).

    The implication — by those not familiar with nutrition science — is that the higher a food’s ORAC score, the healthier it is.

    While there is no unhealthy food with a high ORAC score (after all, the list is dominated by berries, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables), the ORAC-obsessed viewpoint is misguided, for the following reasons:

    • A food’s ORAC score is affected by a multitude of factors: growing conditions, how it is consumed, how soon after harvesting it is consumed, how it is stored, etc.
    • ORAC is simply one way to rank foods.  Remember — a different food will always emerge as “the healthiest” depending on what parameters you are looking at.  For example, rank foods by their quercetin content, and you’ll get apples, red onions, and celery as the champs.  Make potassium the benchmark, and then you’ve got avocados, potatoes, lentils, and bananas towards the top.
    • There are many other health-promoting compounds in foods (such as phytonutrients and flavonoids) that, by virtue of not being antioxidants, are left out of the ORAC equation.  Lignans in flax and avocado, for example, have tremendous heart-health benefits.  Alas, lignan content is a moot point when it comes to ORAC.

    The USDA recommends a daily intake of 3,000 – 5,000 ORAC units per day.  As if consumers need more figures to keep track of!  The bottom line, as always, is that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains offers a plethora of healthful qualities (including the recommended amounts of daily ORAC units).

    I’ve often come across articles in mainstream health magazines that will refer to ORAC as the definitive way to choose healthy foods (in the same way that, a few years ago, the glycemic index was touted as “the way” to determine what is healthy and what isn’t).  While gimmicky and eye-catching, that kind of thinking is ultimately reductionist and inaccurate.

    The less processed your diet, the less you have to worry about seeking out ORAC scores, fiber, and other healthful components.  A whole-foods diet pretty much takes care of itself.


    “What’s Organic About Organic?”: Takeaways

    woaologoYesterday afternoon, I attended a screening for “What’s Organic About Organic?”, a neat new documentary by Shelley Rogers that illustrates the differences between organic and conventional farming, highlights the challenges that many small organic farms face, and touches on issues that fall outside the scope of organic certification.  You can watch the trailer here!

    The darkness of the screening room was no match for my trusty notebook and pen.  Here are notes, factoids, quotes and questions I jotted down as I watched:

    • One organic farmer explains that conventional apples are sprayed with chemicals that are specifically created to withstand rainstorms.  He then poses the question, “how big of a rainstorm can you produce in your kitchen sink?”
    • Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., environmental health scientist and consumer advocate, explains that most agricultural pesticides are simply diluted versions of chemicals originally created for chemical warfare.
    • Colorado organic farmer Andy Grant recounts an anecdote that truly stuck with me.  One day, as a young boy growing up on a farm, he spotted a few grasshoppers that had been sprayed with insecticides jumping close to where his dog was laying.  As a result of the insecticides’ effects on their nervous systems, the grasshoppers were jumping erratically.  This caught the attention of his dog, which ended up eating one or two.  The dog died soon thereafter.
    • Sewer sludge is commonly– and legally — used as fertilizer in conventional farming.
    • Current USDA organic guidelines do not touch upon issues of agricultural workforce.  Some farmers believe that the organic seal should also reflect humane treatment of farm workers (i.e.: providing safe working conditions, providing healthcare, etc.).
    • The best part of the documentary, in my opinion, is a 10 to 15 minute segment in which a conventional dairy farm is juxtapositioned with an organic one. In the conventional farm, the cows are milked three times a day, subsist on an unnatural wheat diet, and are often injected with a wide variety of medications and antibiotics to treat the multitude of symptoms and diseases that are a direct result of their living conditions.  At the organic farm, cows are exclusively pasture-fed.  We also learn that cows’ symptoms (i.e.: diarrhea) are treated with herbs.  As farmer Jim Gardiner explains, a lot of weeds that are considered “nuisances” in conventional farming are powerful medicines for cows.

    I definitely recommend watching this if you get a chance.  It’s not only informative, but also a wonderful “organics 101” for people who may not be fully aware of the issues that pop up with conventional farming practices.  I also appreciated the humanizing aspect of focusing on a small handful of organic farmers.

    Click here to remain informed about future screenings.


    KFC’s Double Down Is Sooo Two Months Ago!

    friendlys-grilled-cheese-burger-345Nutritionists across the country couldn’t help but groan earlier this year when KFC announced the launch of its “who needs sandwich bread when you’ve got fried chicken” Double Down sandwich.

    A few days ago, I tweeted about the latest fast-food concoction to knock the Double Down off its Nutrition Hall of Shame throne, and I thought it was also worthy of posting on the blog.  Behold Friendly’s Grilled Cheese Burger Melt!

    What appears to be the result of a middle school dare “amounts to three sandwiches morphed into one: First, there’s a Friendly’s Big Beef burger, but instead of a bun, there are two (count ’em, two!) grilled cheese sandwiches.” Slash Food reports.

    Not surprisingly, this amounts to 1,500 calories and 2,030 milligrams of sodium (84.5% of a day’s worth).

    You know something is wrong when your latest burger makes the Big Mac look like something out of an E-z Bake Oven.

    Thank you to Jon Slaughter for forwarding the Slash Food link.


    You Ask, I Answer: Flaxseed Questions


    Am I correct in assuming that chewing flax seeds does not release significant amounts of lignans [like grinding them up]?

    Can I grind a whole bunch of flax seeds in advance in a coffee grinder or do they lose their health benefits over time?

    Also, I usually buy roasted flax seeds – any pros or cons associated with them being roasted?

    — Jake Shields
    (Location Unknown)

    When it comes to flax, lignans — heart-healthy compounds also linked to decreased risks of breast and prostate cancers — are only bioavailable from ground seeds (also known as “flax meal”). It would take significant (and kind of physically impossible) chewing of each seed to unlock lignans. Nevertheless, whole flaxseeds still offer fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, so they are by no means worthless.

    Once ground up, the fatty acids in flax start to oxidize — bad news from a health standpoint. If you grind your own flax seeds, only grind as much as you need. Alternatively, store any unused ground flax in the freezer.

    It’s fine to buy pre-packaged flaxmeal, too. Simply make sure it is in a container that does not allow light to pass through, and check for an expiration date that is several months away from the date of purchase.  Some health food stores place flaxmeal in a refrigerator or freezer, which I think is a wonderful idea. Once opened, always store ground flax in the freezer.

    As for roasting flaxseeds: it brings out their nutty flavor, but does not affect lignan content in any way. And, whereas flax oil is too fragile to stand up to heat, whole seeds are much more resilient.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    NutMealFlaxSeedStudies on flaxseed intake have shown that two tablespoons of ground flax a day for three months can lower LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 9 to 18 percent.

    Added bonus?  The lignans (specific plant compounds) in ground flax are highly anti-inflammatory.  Remember, inflammation at the cellular level is believed to be one of the chief causes behind a litany of degenerative diseases.

    Flaxseed offers a particular lignan known as SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, to be exact), which helps lower the levels of oxidative stress in blood vessels.  In laymen’s terms: SDG is a powerful tool against the development of atherosclerosis.

    Recent — and very promising! — studies appear to show that SDG also helps maintain steady blood glucose levels.


    Six Months Later, Speaking With…: Mrs. Q

    nuggets1Here is my latest phone interview with “Mrs. Q” of the “Fed Up With School Lunch” blog.

    In this chat, Mrs. Q. gives me a “sight, sound, and smell” tour of her school’s cafeteria, discusses her Summer plans, shares insight into her career future, and even plays a fun game of word association!

    My first interview with Mrs. Q (back in January) provides insight into, and background info about, her blog project.



    Gummy Bears, Chocolate Cake, and Feathers: A Day In The Life Of A Cow’s Diet

    cows2Think cows’ unnatural agribusiness diets of corn, wheat, and soy are bad?  It gets worse.

    Much, much worse, according to this paper by Randy D. Shaver, PhD of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    I highly recommend you leaf through that paper.  Here are some highlights of permitted — and commonly used! — foods for cattle:

    • Blood Meal. “Blood meal is produced from clean, fresh animal blood, exclusive of all extraneous material such as hair, stomach belchings, and urine except in such traces as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing processes. Types of blood include conventional cooker dried, flash dried, and spray dried.”
    • Hydrolyzed Feather Meal. “Product resulting from the treatment under pressure of clean, undecomposed feathers from slaughtered poultry.”
    • Candy. “Candy products are available through a number of distributors and sometimes directly from smaller plants. They are often economical sources of nutrients, particularly fat. They may be high in sugar and(or) fat content. Milk chocolate and candy may contain 48% and 22% fat, respectively. They are sometimes fed in their wrappers. Candies, such as cull gummy bears, lemon drops or gum drops, are high in sugar content.”

    Apparently, then, feathers and gum drops do have something in common — they are fed to our cows.  Gross.


    You Ask, I Answer: Shirataki Noodles

    noodlesSomeone in my class was talking about this “Hungry Girl diet” and mentioned shirataki noodles.

    Have you heard of them? What do you think?

    — Danielle Ippolito
    (Location Unknown)

    I have indeed heard of them.  FYI: for my thoughts on Hungry Girl and her “diet” (it’s not a diet as much as it is a way of eating), please read this post.

    Onto your question:

    Shirataki noodles are made solely from an Asian root vegetable.  Since they are mainly composed of soluble fiber, they are very low in calories.  Some manufacturers of these noodles claim they are “calorie-free”, which makes no sense to me.  Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is not calorie-free.

    While a local Asian market may sell shirataki noodles made exclusively from that fiber, the more popular brands sold here in the United States are made from a combination of said root vegetable and tofu (mainly for texture purposes).  In fact, the ingredient list places ‘tofu’ before ‘yam flour’.

    I often see them as touted as “weight-loss food”, which is silly because there is nothing about them that inherently causes weight loss.  They are certainly low in calories, but “weight-loss food” implies that a food has some sort of magic property that results in weight loss.

    A dinner of shirataki noodles may be low-calorie, but if your lunch was a Chili’s quesadilla, don’t expect any weight-loss miracles.

    Here is why I’m not quite as enthusiastic about the “new pasta”:

    • Shirataki noodles are flavorless, and reinforce the stereotype that healthy food must be void of taste and solely consumed “because it’s good for you”
    • While low in calories, they are also low in every nutrient.  I wouldn’t refer to them as “nutritious”
    • Since they have very little flavor, many people consume them in ways that are highly caloric anyway (i.e: rich sauces, stir-frying them in oil, etc.)

    If someone enjoys these noodles, more power to them.  I would never steer someone away from eating them.  They are certainly an excellent source of soluble fiber, and offer some health benefits.

    However, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about pasta, especially whole-grain varieties.  The main problem in the United States is that pasta is eaten in huge amounts and drenched in highly-caloric sauces.

    If you are looking for wheat-free pastas, I recommend soba noodles (look for ones made solely from buckwheat flour, such as the Eden Organics brand), brown rice pastas, or quinoa pastas.

    If calories are a concern, give spiralized zucchini “noodles” a try.


    You Ask, I Answer: Food ‘Soaks Up’ Alcohol?

    beerREX_228x320Is it true that if you’ve had too much to drink, it’s a good idea to eat something rich in [carbohydrates] before going to bed so the alcohol can be soaked up and you feel better the next morning?

    — David (Last name withheld)
    San Diego, CA

    Nope.  By that point, it’s too late.

    The key is to have food in your stomach before you begin to drink.  This ensures that alcohol will take more time to enter the bloodstream.

    For optimal results, eat foods high in protein, fiber, and fat prior to a night out, as these take longer to digest.

    An almond butter sandwich or a black bean and brown rice burrito would do the trick.

    Keep in mind, though, that this is only effective for slowing down the rate of absorption of alcohol.  Every gram of alcohol you consume will ultimately be absorbed.


    Numbers Game: Two Tablespoons A Day Keep Cholesterol at Bay

    flax_seed_mealStudies on flaxseed intake have shown that two tablespoons of ground flax a day for three months can lower LDL cholesterol by anywhere from ____ to ____ percent.

    a) 9 – 18
    b) 6 – 11
    c) 13 – 24
    d) 4 – 8

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer.


    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “No Flour? No Problem!” Pancakes

    oats-280wThis recipe was created out of true laziness one morning when I craved pancakes and quickly realized I had no flour of any kind in my kitchen.

    Oh, yes, I could have walked all of three minutes to the store around the block to buy some, but… then you wouldn’t be reading this.  It was all part of the plan!

    Some quick FYIs before we get to the deets:

    1. While sturdy, these pancakes have a more delicate texture than conventional ones.

    2. Some of the ingredients (i.e.: xanthan gum, unsweetened shredded coconut) are only available at health food stores (or Whole Foods).  They are not expensive, though, and all you need is one short trip to buy them all.

    3. The inclusion of whey or hemp protein (as optional ingredients) is for individuals looking for a more substantial meal, as is the inclusion of extra nuts and seeds.  I like to have these pancakes for brunch, so I like making them in a way that keeps me satisfied for several hours.

    4. A large majority of the saturated fats in this recipe come from coconut products, which are significantly less damaging than other saturated fats.  You are welcome to use other plant oils if you would like, though coconut oil is my favorite for this recipe.

    5. For optimal flavors, these pancakes should be generously topped with blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices.

    Yields: 2 large pancakes


    2 Tablespoons ground flax
    5 Tablespoons water OR milk of choice (ie: dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    1.5 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (if aluminum-free, even better)
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum (can buy this at any health food store)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional; if including, I highly recommend unsweetened, but flavored, whey or hemp)
    1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice OR 1/4 cup seeds (i.e.: chia, hemp) (optional)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    2 teaspoons coconut oil


    In a small bowl combine the ground flax and liquid.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

    In large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, vanilla, cinnamon, protein powder, nuts/seeds, and shredded coconut.

    Add applesauce and coconut oil to ground flax mixture.  Stir briefly.

    Add contents of small bowl to large bowl.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ones.

    On stovetop, heat griddle at medium heat until surface is hot.

    Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil or vegan butter or conventional butter.  Use paper towel or spatula to spread evenly on surface.

    Pour batter onto griddle and form two pancakes.

    Cook pancakes until top surface begins to bubble.  Flip, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.


    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per pancake, made with whey protein, chopped pecans, and using water for flax mixture):

    512 calories
    7.5 grams saturated fat
    360 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    24 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Alpha-Linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin

    Good Source of: Folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc


    You Ask, I Answer: Spelt Digests As A Vegetable?

    194152What do you make of this?

    Shiloh Farms’ sprouted spelt flour has a “digests as a vegetable” claim on the package.

    — [Name Withheld]
    New  York, NY

    Hmmmm.  This is partially correct, but also slightly misleading and confusing.

    It is true that when grains are sprouted, their starch is converted into sugars, thereby mimicking a fruit or a vegetable more than a grain.

    This process makes digestibility easier for some people, but gluten is still present, so anyone with a gluten intolerance should NOT feel safe using this flour.

    I have read anecdotal reports of people with wheat allergies who consume sprouted wheat products with no issues, but I also personally know individuals with wheat allergies who react the same way to sprouted wheat as they do to non-sprouted varieties.

    One issue I have with this statement is that, while applicable to a specific audience, it appears to make the statement that starches should be avoided by everyone.  Unless someone has a wheat or gluten intolerance, there is no need to worry; our bodies are perfectly capable of digesting starch.

    The website’s claim that “starches and proteins are naturally reduced into simple sugars [through the sprouting process] that are more easily absorbed into your body to provide your need for energy” is also irrelevant — and wrong!

    It’s irrelevant because the body is able to digest and break down all sorts of components in food for energy purposes.  The fact that a food does not contain simple sugars does not mean it is “worse” than one that does, or that it will make you feel more sluggish.

    Additionally, the notion of proteins being reduced into simple sugars makes no sense.  Proteins are reduced into amino acids.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    crop05-6soybean0.2 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the United States are certified organic.

    The most ironic part?  The people consuming most of these genetically modified byproducts (mainly corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and soy protein isolate) aren’t even aware they are eating them.

    Soybean consumption is not limited to vegetarians!  Most fast-food hamburger buns contain some sort of soy byproduct, and most fast-food french fries are cooked in soybean oil (or a combination oil that includes soybeans).

    Whole, organic corn and soybeans are not the issue.  After all, it is certainly possible to buy bags of frozen organic sweet kernel corn as well as organic canned soybeans (or organic edamame).

    Processed byproducts are the true red-flag-raisers.

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