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Archive for 2012

Q&A Roundup #6

Time for another rundown of questions I have received over the past two weeks via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.

If you have a nutrition question you would like considered for the next Q&A roundup, send it my way!

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5 Important Food Lessons From This Past Week

Over the past few days, several important food-related stories captured top headlines.

Rather than dedicate a lengthy blog post to each, here is the Small Bites’ Cliff’s Notes version.

What’s the deal? What are the important takeaways? Here’s your cheat sheet:

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Giveaway: Good Eats & Good Karma

There are two reasons why I love Small Bites giveaways.

First, I take great pleasure in the enjoyment of food — good food — and like to share my favorite finds with others (whether they have similar preferences or end up trying a new item based on a suggestion of mine).

I’m even happier to showcase small, independent companies that make delicious food that is also healthful and respectful of the environment.

And so we come to the newest Small Bites giveaway: Kookie Karma.

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1100 Miles, 3 Observations

Last weekend, I drove from Seattle, Washington to Las Vegas, Nevada over a three-day period (with stops in Meridian, Idaho and Ely, Nevada).

Though both the departure and arrival points are well-known cities with diverse food landscapes (Las Vegas has a growing health-oriented community, and every restaurant at Wynn Hotel & Resort has either a separate vegan menu or a significant number of vegan appetizers and entrees, all created by the resort’s talented vegan chef), almost every locale between them was a different story.

Below, three important observations (not necessarily new, but certainly reaffirmed) I made as I moved from lush mountaintops to arid desert.

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Q&A Roundup #5

To make up for the recent lack of posts (in my defense, I was in the midst of an inter-state move and road trip), here is a supersized Q&A roundup. Thank you for your queries, and keep on submitting them!

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A Fair & Delicious Giveaway

Chocolate is one of the most misunderstood foods. Although many chocolate-based products are full of sugars, unhealthful fats, and artificial ingredients, “the real thing” is a different story (see my Ultimate Chocolate Shopping Guide for more information, including the environmental and child labor concerns surrounding cocoa production).

As a nutrition professional who champions the health benefits of high quality cocoa, I am thrilled to announce the latest giveaway: Theo Chocolates.

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Q&A Roundup #4

Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

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Fail! US News & World Report on Dairy-Free Calcium-Rich Foods

I was hopeful when I initially came across the headline for a recent article in US News & World Report — “5 Non-Dairy Foods With Calcium”.

“Finally,” I thought, “a well-read magazine informing its readers that calcium is not a synonym for dairy.”

Then I started reading the story. And groaned. Repeatedly.

Much like their ridiculous “healthiest diets” article from last year (see my critique here), factual errors, misleading statements, and unhelpful information abound in this piece.

Below, the five worst tidbits that perpetuate incorrect information:

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Beyond Pink Slime

As you have probably heard by now, the food scandal “du jour” has to do with “pink slime”, also known as mechanically-separated meat (or, when made by Beef Products Inc., “Boneless Beef Lean Trimmings”).

This ammonia-treated scrap meat — the same one some fast food giants recently phased out  — has been widely used since the early 1990s, is reportedly present in 70 percent of all ground beef products, and is a staple in school cafeterias (seven million pounds (!) are expected to be served in school lunches across the country over the next few months).

The story essentially writes itself. When fast food companies, infamous for cutting corners at any cost, turn their noses up at a questionably safe ingredient that ends up on the lunch trays of schoolchildren, headlines are to be expected — and rightfully so.

The meat industry has responded via a new website: the awkwardly-titled Pink Slime Is A Myth (I have yet to comprehend how something real and tangible can be labeled a myth).

While I do not dismiss the recent grassroots efforts that have gained significant strength via a petition to get pink slime out of school cafeterias, I worry that the focus on it detracts from bigger and more important food system issues, and provides the meat industry with a convenient distraction and an easily fixable problem that can effortlessly be spun into a public-relations success.

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The Fallacy of “Better” Peanut Butter

Much has been written about unnecessary additives (i.e.: modified cornstarch, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup) in many commercial peanut butters.

People are often surprised to learn that only 60 percent of reduced-fat Jif peanut butter is peanuts; the other forty percent includes corn syrup solids, soy protein, and hydrogenated oils. “Natural” Jif, meanwhile, is 90 percent peanuts; the remaining ten percent composed of palm oil, sugar, and molasses.

The best thing you can do from a health standpoint is eat real peanut butter; that is to say, 100% ground-up peanuts (varieties that only contain peanuts and salt are fine too; some quick math reveals they contain roughly 99.5% peanuts and 0.5% salt).

Over the past few weeks, I have been asked via e-mail and Twitter about niche peanut butter brands that claim to be “better” and “healthier” versions. Despite their self-described hoopla of nutritional superiority, they manage to remove one of peanut butter’s most healthful components.

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The 4 Biggest Nutritional Hoaxes

I believe the four foods and beverages below have enjoyed an unwarranted nutritional halo for too long.

While not equivalent to soda and trans fat-laden fast food, they are nevertheless not the nutrition all-stars we have been made to believe. The time for an objective analysis has come.

In no particular order:

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Q&A Roundup #3

Here are some more questions I have received from Small Bites readers over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

If you would like to submit a question for these round-ups, you can do so via e-mail, Twitter, or the Small Bites’ Facebook page wall.

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Come and Get Your Sea Vegetables

I have often said that sea vegetables are criminally underrated. Like their terrestrial brethren, they offer significant nutrition, but sea vegetables also provide the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (where else do you think fish get their omega 3s from?).

A few months ago, I came across SeaSnax, a roasted seaweed snack cooked in olive oil (most varieties contain sesame oil; while not a terrible oil, it lacks the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats of olive oil).

Available in plain, onion, chipotle, and wasabi flavors, this is a delicious, crunchy, GMO-free snack (or a great addition to soups and salads) with a simple ingredient list.

Since I love to share my must-have staples, here is your chance to win a case. One winner will get a choice of a dozen Grab & Go’s (any flavor) or 4 packs of full sheet singles (any flavor).

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Mars, Inc.’s Deceptive & Self-Congratulatory “Downsizing”

Candy bar manufacturer Mars, Inc. made news this week following an announcement that by the end of 2013, none of its candy bars would surpass the 250-calorie mark (a regular-sized Snickers bar currently clocks in at 280).

The general response by many in the health and nutrition community was a positive one. Certainly, taking away a 540-calorie king-size Snickers as an option is a good thing (after all, why buy the “regular” size if, for just a few more cents, you could have one almost twice as large, right?).

I, however, see this as nothing more than tried-and-true Big Food spin.

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Big Dairy’s Latest Smear Tactic

There was a time, not too long ago, when one’s milk options were relegated to different varieties of cow’s milk (i.e.: full-fat, reduced-fat, skim, lactose-free).

Times have changed. Soy was the first plant milk to “go mainstream” in the mid 1990s, and now multiple varieties are on supermarket shelves, including almond, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and sunflower seed.

Much like an only child who is the center of attention until a sibling comes along, Big Dairy has started to lash out. “Alternative milks” are no longer relegated to the vegan world; vegetarians and omnivores also purchase and consume plant-based milks. Bad news for Big Dairy (AKA The California Milk Processor Board).

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