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    Archive for the ‘junk food’ Category

    In The News: Nutrition Professor Eats Twinkies, Loses Weight.

    1283457996610Earlier this month, the media feasted on the following news bit:

    “Mark Haub, 40, associate professor in Kansas State University”s Department of Human Nutrition, began a 30-day junk food marathon on Aug. 25. He is living on a diet of high-calorie, high-fat foods, such as snack cakes, powdered doughnuts and sticky buns, to show that foods commonly regarded as junk can actually help people lose weight.”

    Continue Reading »

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    In The News: Nacho Ideal Lunch

    school lunchMore news on the deplorable state of national school lunch, this time courtesy of The Chicago Tribune.

    At one North Side school cafeteria, “one line leads to fish nuggets, iceberg lettuce and canned peaches, Another [to] burgers and breaded chicken patty sandwiches, [and] the longest line to lunch workers [serving nachos].”

    This is no anomaly.

    Nachos are an almost daily entree at most Chicago public high schools and middle schools.  This means that “about 100,000 Chicago public high school students, 80 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, can choose nachos as an entree every day.”

    The school district is quick to point out they “recently switched to whole-grain fried chips for its nachos and added chicken to the ground meat.”

    Big whoop.  A deep fried chip is a deep fried chip, whether it’s made with whole grains or not.  The addition of chicken to ground meat is also rather meaningless, considering the atrocious amount of sodium added to it.

    Wait, they have an even better defense — at least the school lunch isn’t “as bad” as what they can get at a fast food chain.

    What’s next?  “Yeah, we know your child’s math teacher is pretty horrible, but at least he doesn’t beat them with a ruler if they get the answer wrong”?

    The article also touches upon the laundry list of problems with the National School Lunch Program:

    • It is heavily dependent on United States Department of Agriculture commodity foods (the main ones being meat, soy, corn and wheat)
    • Vendor reimbursements are tightly linked to food sales
    • School districts are given minimal funds to cover not only food costs, but also equipment and labor

    The most frustrating aspect of this “debate” is the argument that “kids just don’t live vegetables.”

    By this, officials mean that children don’t like steamed, unsalted carrots and peas.

    Who does?

    In the “glass is kinda sorta almost half full if you look at it from this angle” department, Congress will soon reevaluate the Child Nutrition Act, setting up the possibility of changes to the National School Lunch Program.

    Oh, who am I kidding?  That glass is almost as empty as Heidi Montag’s skull.

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    In The News: Empty Promises

    flnatcheetosThis month’s Food Product Design trade magazine shares consumer, media, and market research giant Mintel Solutions’s 2008 statistics on product development in the food industry.

    Much to my initial surprise, “during 2008, ‘natural’ was the most-frequent claim on new foods and beverages.  [In the United States,] one-third [of products sported] the claim, up 16% from 2007.”

    I scratched my head pondered over this factoid for a few minutes.  Why would food companies choose “natural” as a selling point?  Why not brag about Omega-3 fortification or whole grain inclusion?

    Then, it hit me.

    There is no legal definition for “natural.”  The Food & Drug Administration has not defined what products can — and can’t — use that term in their advertising.

    Much to food companies’ liking, consumers associate “natural” with healthy, low in calories, and nutritious.  While that is certainly true if you’re talking about pears or tomatoes, it doesn’t apply to other “100% natural” products like high fructose corn syrup, 7Up, and Cheetos white cheddar puffs.

    This phenomenon is not contained within the 50 states.  “On a global scale, ‘natural’ claims appeared on almost one in four (23%) new products.”

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    Survey Results: Make Room For Spongebob

    The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they supported the use of popular cartoon characters to advertise fruit and vegetable products like “baby carrots” and frozen spinach to children.

    Sixty-three percent of respondents supported that form of advertising, eight percent did not, and the remaining twenty-seven percent did not have a strong opinion either way.

    I strongly favor that sort of advertising.

    Many nutrition advocates do not, claiming it confuses children to see Spongebob on baby carrots as well as a box of sugary fruit snacks.

    My main concern with that argument is that it attempts to view the world through the eyes of a child who has the marketing awareness of an adult.

    Six-year-olds are not aware of nutrition. They don’t understand the difference in nutrients between a fruit snack and a real fruit. Seeing their favorite cartoon character on different products doesn’t confuse them — it simply draws their eyes and attention to them!

    In my opinion, too many nutrition advocates make the crucial mistake of forgetting that they, too, can implement the same tactics used by food companies.

    Getting children interested in eating healthier food by simply branding it with cartoon characters is certainly far from utopian, but it’s a significant step forward we need to pursue.

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    You Ask, I Answer: "50 Worst Foods" List

    What do you think about this list of 50 foods with almost zero nutritional value linked to on Serious Eats’ Twitter page?

    — Kristin (last name withheld)
    (Location withheld)

    I have many, many problems with it.

    Not only does it not present particularly new information, it is also poorly written and makes a significant number of inaccurate statements and sweeping generalizations.

    For example:

    Potato Chips are fried and packed with tons of preservatives to keep them fresh for months.

    Not quite. Many potato chips are made up of simply potatoes, oil, and salt (salt being the preservative!).

    Therefore, it is absolutely inaccurate to say they are packed with “tons” of preservatives.

    Additionally, while potato chips do not offer as much nutrition as a baked potato with its skin on, your typical serving does contain as much potassium as a medium banana.

    This list also claims that pasta has “zero nutritional value”.

    Not so! Non-whole grain pasta may not be very high in fiber, but it still contains protein as well as some B vitamins and iron (as a result of enrichment.)

    It is ridiculous to claim that a food with that sort of nutritional profile has “almost zero” nutritional value.

    Then there’s this odd inclusion:

    Fried seafood like shrimp, clams, and lobster contain high trans fat. They also contain mercury and possibly parasites.”

    Awkward phrasing aside, this is plain wrong.

    Trans fat is only an issue if those foods are fried in an oil high in trans fats. As far as mercury is concerned, it is the large predatory fish that are a concern, not bottom-of-the-sea dwellers.

    And as far as parasites are concerned — that may be an issue from a food safety perspective depending on how these foods are eaten (although who eats raw lobster??), but that has nothing to do with the nutritional quality of a food.

    How about this vague tidbit:

    Breakfast or cereal bars are low in fat but high in sugar. They offer very little in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”

    This greatly varies on the brand. Many cereal bars offer 4 or 5 grams of fiber, little added sugar, and a handful of vitamins and minerals.

    Another example that left me scratching my head:

    Oreo Cookies contain about 60% of fat and extremely high in Tran’s [sic] fat. The filling packs on an additional 160 calories per cookie.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

    First of all, a single Oreo cookie contains 53 calories. The “Double Stuf” variety adds up to 70 calories per cookie. Hence, this notion that the filling alone contains 160 calories is absolutely off-base.

    It is also inaccurate to claim that Oreos are “extremely high in trans fats.”

    Although partially hydrogenated oil is included on the ingredient list, the food label lists 0 grams per serving. This means that, at most, Oreos contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving (for all we know, it could be 0.09 grams).

    I do not consider that to be “extremely high.”

    I could go on and on. Alas, I can’t fathom why a website like Serious Eats would find that list worthy of linking to.

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    In The News: Wall Street, Farm Subsidies, and Our Health

    The Los Angeles Times published a nifty article tying in the current economic situation, the horrendous farm subsidies (“for the last 60 years or so, the government has subsidized the production of commodity crops — corn, wheat, rice and soybeans — that are ingredients in many high-calorie foods… to receive the subsidies, farmers must refrain from growing any fruits and vegetables,”) and nutrition.

    The article also highlights a study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, which tracked the prices of 372 foods and beverages sold in the Seattle area for a two year period (2004 – 2006.)

    The conclusion? “The average price increase was 7.9%… [but] foods most dense in calories had dropped by an average of 1.8%, [while] prices of the lowest-calorie foods had gone up by an average of 19.5%.”

    As discouraging as that may seem, here is my by-no-means-exhaustive list of affordable and nutritious foods you can rely on (whenever applicable, buy generic):

    Bananas
    Raisins
    Apples

    Plain yogurt (non-fat or low-fat)
    Plain quick-cooking oats
    Whole wheat bread
    Natural peanut butter
    Brown rice (cook in large batches and refrigerate)
    Ground flaxseed (a two pounds bag costs between $4 and $5 and will last you months)
    Canned beans (I suppose dry beans are the true money saver, but canned beans are inexpensive and a wonderful source of lean protein)
    Potatoes (the key is to keep the skin on and cook them with little added fat)
    Sweet potatoes
    Garlic (an inexpensive way to add flavor)
    Frozen spinach
    Frozen broccoli
    Eggs
    Canned tuna (ideally chunk light and packed in water, to preserve the Omega 3’s and slightly cut down on mercury levels)

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    Administrative Announcements: About the Author

    Since Small Bites was launched in April of 2007, I have gotten several e-mails from readers wanting to know a little more about me (besides the fact that I am on the Registered-Dietitian track and a Clinical Nutrition Master’s student New York University.)

    Alright, today is the day.

    We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly, but allow me to share a few anecdotes with you.

    Nutrition is not a subject that jumped out at me from a course booklet I flipped through one boring Sunday afternoon.

    Nor is it something I decided to study because “it sounded interesting.”

    I decided to pursue nutrition as a career because of the powerful effect it had on me.

    I do not have some incredible “I used to be 150 pounds heavier than I am now” makeover story, but my food journey surely has been interesting.

    Family dinners at the Bellatti household were always healthy (my ancestry is Mediterranean, so olive oil and fish were staples,) but my meals away from home were an entirely different story.

    Consider my middle school years.

    I would arrive to school every day with a packed lunch from home.

    At around 10:30 AM, when we had “snack time,” I would munch on whatever treat my mother had packed for me that day (a small Ziploc bag of chips, or a single serving pack of cookies).

    When lunch time came around, I would dispose of my remaining lunchbox contents (a sandwich, baby carrots, a piece of fruit) in the nearest garbage pail and instead purchase two chocolate ice cream bars.

    Oh, and a soda. And maybe even a slice of pizza, if I had enough money leftover.

    Then, I would get home and have another can of soda.

    Dinner was healthy, but late at night — while my parents were in slumber land — I would usually tiptoe into the kitchen, grab another can of soda and bag of chips, retreat to my room, and enjoy a midnight snack.

    Fiber? Sodium? Vitamins? Minerals? I didn’t have the faintest clue.

    Given that dietary recall, you may think I had to be rolled to school.

    Quite the opposite — I was skinny as a rail. And I absolutely hated it.

    I also never quite felt in tip top shape. Physical fitness was the last thing on my mind.

    Although I went pescatarian at 16 (a status I maintain to this day,) I still wasn’t eating healthy.

    Mozarella sticks, French fries, pizza, ice cream, and potato chips perfectly fit into my plan!

    Finally, at 17 years of age, I approached my parents and told them I was interested in seeing a nutritionist.

    Wow! Between her suggestions and a gym membership, within 4 months I felt like I had never felt before.

    I had energy! And some muscle tone! And previously semi-permanent pesky colds and sore throats were a thing of the past!

    That was my initiation to nutrition, and my passion for it only grew stronger with time.

    It was during my undergraduate years — as a journalism and gender & sexuality studies major at New York University — that I began discovering the joys of tofu, whole grains, vegetables, plain yogurt, tempeh, seitan, edamame, fresh fruit, and cuisines from all over the world.

    Finally, in 2005, I realized nutrition was no longer just “a hobby”; it was my future.

    I was committed to not only learning as much about it as I could, but also serving as a mouthpiece, vouching for its relevance and importance.

    I wanted to be thoroughly trained to serve as a trustworthy guide in the treacherous jungle that is nutrition.

    And, so, here we are. I thank you so much for being part of this ongoing journey.

    My main reason for sharing this is to illustrate that no matter how horrible your eating habits may be now, change and growth are by no means out of the question.

    My nutritional shifts certainly did not happen overnight. They were gradual, and I made some mistakes along the way (like shunning as many carbs as possible in the Summer of 2004!).

    The most amazing thing is that the foods that once made me drool don’t even register on my radar anymore.

    My adolescence was defined by Doritos and PopTarts. Back then, I certainly never thought my idea of a delicious breakfast would be Greek yogurt with sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, ground flaxseed, oat bran, and wheat germ!

    PS: An extra tidbit about me — I’m a big fan of The Soup on E! (that’s me with host Joel McHale in the accompanying photo. Click on it to see a MUCH larger version.)

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    In The News: Nutrition & The Presidency

    The Wall Street Journal published this rather unique article inspecting Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s physical appearance and nutrition habits.

    Apparently, Senator Obama’s lean physique (he weighs approximately 10 fewer pounds than the average American male his height) and healthy eating routine aren’t doing him many favors with some voters.

    “He’s too new … and he needs to put some meat on his bones,” says one interviewee.

    The article also cites the following quote from a Yahoo! message board: “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy” (cyberspace is just full of deep, critical thinkers!)

    In fact, the latest ad campaign from Senator McCain, comparing Obama to celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (do McCain’s people know this isn’t 2004?) partially criticizes his healthy lifestyle.

    “In a memo to reporters explaining the ad, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis wrote, “Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day” (in reference to a recent visit to Chiago where the Illinois senator made “three stops to local Chicago gyms in one day.”)

    The article also shares the following tidbit about the 2004 election:

    “Sen. Obama’s chief message strategist Robert Gibbs served as Sen. Kerry’s press secretary during the cheesesteak debacle [in which Kerry was “labeled effete” for ordering a cheesesteak with Swiss cheese, rather than CheezWhiz]. A few days later at the Iowa State Fair, famous for its deep-fried Twinkies and beer booths, Mr. Gibbs noticed Sen. Kerry buying a $4 strawberry smoothie. He made a frantic call to campaign staffers: “Somebody get a f-ing corn dog in his hand — now!””

    What I find most discouraging is the number of people that perceive healthy eating as “elitist” and “not of the people.”

    And here I thought the “real men eat steak,” “salad is for girls,” and “quiche is for chicks” contingency was slowly becoming extinct.

    If denouncing broccoli and stuffing your face with an oversized hamburger is the way to win America’s votes, then I sure am glad I never pursued a political career.

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    And The Most Unnecessary New Product Award Goes To…

    Snickers Charged.

    A “limited edition” Snickers bar sprinkled with caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine “to help get you through the day.”

    Snore.

    Okay, let’s break this down.

    A regular Snickers bar adds up to 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams (25% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

    Snickers Charged comes in at 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar.

    The lower values are simply because Charged is smaller in size than its regular counterpart. The folks at Mars Inc. have not gotten more health conscious.

    Anyhow, Charged tacks on 60 milligrams of caffeine, 250 milligrams of taurine, and 10 percent of the daily value Vitamins B6 and B12.

    Can you say underwhelming?

    That same amount of B6 can be obtained from half a cup of avocado, one can of tuna, a single ounce of sunflower seeds, one quarter of a chicken breast, a quarter cup of fortified cereal, or half a banana.

    As for B12? Ten percent of the daily value can be found in 1 egg, ¾ cup of milk, 1/6 cup of fortified soymilk, 1 ounce of cheddar chese, 1/5 cup of Cherrios, 1/12 cup of Total cereal, 3 ounces of chicken breast, an ounce of shrimp, or HALF an ounce of lean hamburger meat (remember, a serving is three ounces).

    Snickers Charged is not providing hard-to-come by nutrition.

    Besides, B vitamins in and of themselves do not provide energy.

    The amount of caffeine in this product is also nothing spectacular. A tall latte at Starbucks offers more.

    Drinking a cup of coffee with a regular Snickers basically provides the same caffeine total.

    Now let’s talk taurine.

    Although it is found in seafood, dairy, and meat, it is a non-essential amino acid. In other words, our bodies naturally produce it. There is no need to seek it out in the diet.

    One of its main roles is regulating the cellular transport of sodium and potassium ions.

    There is no scientific body of evidence linking it with central nervous system stimulation.

    Frankly, I’m more than ready for this whole “energy” functional food fad to burn out.

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    Shame On You: Oscar Mayer Lunch-a-BLEGHs

    On its Oscar Mayer Lunchables page, Kraft Foods states their mission is to create “foods that help provide the fuel and energy needed to tackle whatever it is [your children] happen to dream up that day.”

    A young smiling girl is shown front and center, and Kraft acknowledges that, quelle surprise, “children who eat their lunch do better in school”.

    I truly don’t understand how Oscar Mayer Lunchables fit into this wholesome “we have your child’s best interests at heart” theme, though.

    For example, the Ultimate Nachos (bundled with a Capri Sun drink and some cookies) contain:

    580 calories
    8 grams saturated fat (40 percent of a day’s maximum)
    1290 sodium (that’s half a day’s worth!)
    2 grams of fiber.

    The turkey and American cheese cracker stackers, also bundled with a Capri Sun, add up to:

    350 calories
    6 grams of saturated fat (30 percent of a day’s maximum)

    770 milligrams of sodium

    0 grams of fiber

    The crackers, apart from being made entirely of refined carbohydrates, contain partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.

    Then there’s the deep dish extra-cheesy pizza pack. It comes with crispy M&M’s and a Capri Sun drink (sounds so healthy, doesn’t it?) and provides:

    700 calories
    9 grams of saturated fat (45 percent of a day’s maximum)
    1,240 milligrams of sodium
    4 grams of fiber
    61 grams (15 teaspoons) of added sugar.

    That is on par with wolfing down a Big Mac and medium soda at McDonald’s.

    It’s one thing to have these products on the shelf along with cookies and potato chips, where they are surrounded by other nutritionally empty foods.

    It’s shameful, though, to sell these products and stand behind a message of nutrition, healthy eating, and child welfare.

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Carnie Wilson

    One of my favorite parts of flying is buying a pile of celebrity tabloids at the terminal’s newsstand before boarding the plane.

    This week’s OK! is full of nutrition-related stories. Among them? Carnie Wilson’s new weight loss struggle.

    To recap: at her heaviest, the former Wilson Phillips member weighed 300 pounds.

    In 2000, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and slimmed down to 146 pounds.

    Now, eight years later, Carnie weighs 208 pounds.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Most people who undergo gastric bypass are not addressing the real issue at hand.

    Controlling one’s weight isn’t solely about shrinking stomach capacity.

    Emotional eating, ingrained food patterns, and nutrition education also play a huge role in determining what, why, and how much we eat.

    This is why once gastric bypass is completed, patients tend to regain weight.

    Anyhow, in this interview, Carnie “vows” to shed the excess pounds she’s accumulated over the past few years.

    A sidebox details her new diet. The headline? “I’m not eating carbs.” Sigh.

    First of all, she IS eating carbs — as she should! — as evidenced by the fact that she consumes broccoli, asparagus, oranges, apples, and carrots.

    “Carbs” are not just donuts, Wonder bread, and cookies.

    In any case, Carnie goes on to say that if she “start[s] [her] morning with a piece of toast, [she’s] doomed for the day. It’s like, give me carbs,” she explains.

    And the problem with that would be, what, exactly?

    If she were to start her day with whole — or sprouted — grain toast, accompany her lunch with a small side dish of whole wheat pasta, and then snack on a little popcorn in the afternoon, what horrible thing will befall her?

    What’s most interesting is that Carnie appears to blame her weight gain on carbs, yet she admits that what made her gain weight in the past was “go[ing] through McDonalds drive-throughs and hav[ing] a Big Mac, Super Size fries, a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets, a pie and a shake” for one meal.

    She also points to being able to “eat a bag of M&M’s in one day“.

    So, really — and clearly — the issue was excess calories, not excess carbs.

    It always frustrates me to see people unnecessarily deny themselves nutritious and tasty food when they want to lose weight.

    Carnie, if you’re reading this, do me a favor: have some unsweetened oatmeal for breakfast, enjoy an open-faced sandwich on whole grain bread, and munch on two or three cups of air popped popcorn if your heart desires.

    Just watch your calories, get plenty of fiber, cut down on added sugars, and above all, do not fear carbohydrates.

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Carnie Wilson

    One of my favorite parts of flying is buying a pile of celebrity tabloids at the terminal’s newsstand before boarding the plane.

    This week’s OK! is full of nutrition-related stories. Among them? Carnie Wilson’s new weight loss struggle.

    To recap: at her heaviest, the former Wilson Phillips member weighed 300 pounds.

    In 2000, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and slimmed down to 146 pounds.

    Now, eight years later, Carnie weighs 208 pounds.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Most people who undergo gastric bypass are not addressing the real issue at hand.

    Controlling one’s weight isn’t solely about shrinking stomach capacity.

    Emotional eating, ingrained food patterns, and nutrition education also play a huge role in determining what, why, and how much we eat.

    This is why once gastric bypass is completed, patients tend to regain weight.

    Anyhow, in this interview, Carnie “vows” to shed the excess pounds she’s accumulated over the past few years.

    A sidebox details her new diet. The headline? “I’m not eating carbs.” Sigh.

    First of all, she IS eating carbs — as she should! — as evidenced by the fact that she consumes broccoli, asparagus, oranges, apples, and carrots.

    “Carbs” are not just donuts, Wonder bread, and cookies.

    In any case, Carnie goes on to say that if she “start[s] [her] morning with a piece of toast, [she’s] doomed for the day. It’s like, give me carbs,” she explains.

    And the problem with that would be, what, exactly?

    If she were to start her day with whole — or sprouted — grain toast, accompany her lunch with a small side dish of whole wheat pasta, and then snack on a little popcorn in the afternoon, what horrible thing will befall her?

    What’s most interesting is that Carnie appears to blame her weight gain on carbs, yet she admits that what made her gain weight in the past was “go[ing] through McDonalds drive-throughs and hav[ing] a Big Mac, Super Size fries, a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets, a pie and a shake” for one meal.

    She also points to being able to “eat a bag of M&M’s in one day“.

    So, really — and clearly — the issue was excess calories, not excess carbs.

    It always frustrates me to see people unnecessarily deny themselves nutritious and tasty food when they want to lose weight.

    Carnie, if you’re reading this, do me a favor: have some unsweetened oatmeal for breakfast, enjoy an open-faced sandwich on whole grain bread, and munch on two or three cups of air popped popcorn if your heart desires.

    Just watch your calories, get plenty of fiber, cut down on added sugars, and above all, do not fear carbohydrates.

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    Today’s Lunch: Cheerios, Greek Yogurt, and A Clif Nectar Bar

    12:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time)

    So my flight to the West Coast — for what was originally some much-needed four day R&R — is now delayed by five hours.

    Well, when life hands you a lemon airplane (apparently some cables were loose, or so the pilot said), make blog lemonade!

    A view of the Jet Blue terminal food court at John F. Kennedy airport reveals:

    Papaya King (hot dogs and fries)
    Create Your Own Salad (the only truly healthy option)
    Carmella’s Kitchen (lasagna and cheese-smothered pasta, in huge portions, of course)

    Sky Asian Bistro (greasy lo mein under a heat lamp)

    Mex and the City (cute name, greasy food)

    Boar’s Head (cold cuts, cold cuts, and more cold cuts)

    Cheeburger & Cheeburger (you guessed it, a burger joint)

    Adding to the unappetizing factor are all the horribly eighties neon signs.

    Fair enough, I could go make my own salad if I am seeking a healthier option. Except I’m not craving a salad at the moment.

    At least Cibo — a small deli, if you will — offers fruit and nut bars, fresh fruit, sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, and a particularly tasty tray of baby carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli florets.

    Not surprisingly, these nutritious vegetables are accompanied by sodium and saturated fat-laden ranch dressing.

    Alas, I did some mixing and matching and bought a small container of overpriced hummus to use as dip.

    That was my mid-morning snack when the delay was only two hours.

    Lunch time came and, considering my options, I purchased Greek yogurt, a bowl of Cheerios (yay soluble fiber!), and a Clif Nectar bar. The cost? $12.95! Way to encourage healthy eating.

    Rant over.

    UPDATE (6:46 PM, Pacific Coast Time): The second I typed that period at the end of my last sentence, the laptop I was using turned off (turns out the jack I was plugged into at the Jet Blue terminal wasn’t working).

    Anyhow, after a five hour delay, I arrived at my destination.

    Jet Blue thanked everyone for their patience by providing free roundtrip tickets to every passenger and extra snacks during the flight.

    Sodas, cookies, biscotti, Terra chips, and cheese snack mix were happily consumed by many.

    I opted for a small bag of cashews from their selection, water, and my own stash of Flavor & Fiber bars.

    Alas, the lesson here is — next time you pack for a flight, remember to bring some healthy snacks on board. The airport sure isn’t looking out for you!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Gary Taubes/Low-Carb

    What’s funny about this whole discussion is how nutrition experts are closer to Gary’s ideas than they want to admit.

    When people talk about Americans eating more processed foods, no one seems to want to make the connection that these processed foods are entirely high-carb. (go to a vending machine or fast food restaurant and find more than 1 item that is low-carb)

    So, by saying Americans should eat fewer processed foods is to argue for a lower-carb diet.

    Based upon reading this book I chose to stop eating simple carbohydrates (anything with white flour and white sugar).

    I replaced this with copious amounts of green vegetables, eggs, cheese, and meat. I quickly dropped 20 pounds without exercising or EVER feeling hunger or thinking about portion control.

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    Gary Taubes’ controversial views help certainly get discussion going, which I am absolutely thrilled about.

    Yes, there is a small area in which conventional nutrition advice and Gary Taubes’ views intermingle.

    That being said, I ultimately consider his conclusions to stem from faulty logic.

    It is indeed true that most processed (or “junk”) foods consist of nutritionally void refined carbohydrates (mainly overly processed grains and sugar).

    The bottom line, though, is that these processed foods are ultimately adding extra calories to people’s diets.

    A lot of these same processed foods (donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.) are also high in saturated fat and sodium.

    They are not pure carbohydrates. So why isn’t Mr. Taubes placing the blame on those two nutrients? Why just carbohydrates?

    Allow me to present an analogy.

    Imagine that I decide to study the health effects of strawberries.

    For ten years, I have a group of people eat two cups of strawberries every day. The control group, meanwhile, doesn’t eat any strawberries.

    A decade later, I analyze the results and see that the strawberry eaters clearly had higher rates of cancer than the non-strawberry eaters.

    Based on those statistics alone, a researcher might conclude, “strawberries increase your risk of developing certain cancers!”

    Except it’s not that simple.

    What if it wasn’t the strawberries themselves that had harmful health effects, but the fact that these strawberries had incredibly high levels of pesticides on them?

    That is how I interpret Taubes’ beliefs. I feel he is coming to a conclusion without considering all the information.

    Mind you, the issue here is not “refined carbohydrates are chock full of nutrition” vs. Gary Taubes.

    Dietitians are not saying — and have never recommended — “eat as much white flour, sugar, and processed food as you want!”

    Glance through my blog and you will see numerous recommendations for whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and other high-fiber foods.

    I distinctly say that nutrition isn’t solely about calories, but also about nutrients. I also, though, think that sugar and white flour have a place in the diet as long as they are an exception to the rule and not the bulk of anyone’s eating pattern.

    That being said, keep in mind that many of the foods I suggest people consume often (chickpeas, kidney beans, oatmeal) are not low-carb; Gary Taubes believes they make you fat!

    I also do not agree that calling for a diet “low in processed foods” is advocating a low-carb lifestyle. Legumes, fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains, and whole grains are not considered processed foods and are certainly not low in carbohydrates.

    My main concern about refined carbohydrates is that, because they are low in fiber and protein, they do not satiate as well. The result? It takes more CALORIES to make you feel full.

    Eating 400 calories of white rice, soda, and white bread for lunch will leave you feeling hungry, whereas 400 calories of steak will not have you raiding the pantry for a snack an hour later.

    Ultimately, though, it comes down to calories. The 400 “empty carb” calories do not satiate you, so you end up eating more (consuming more calories).

    There are two particular statements Gary Taubes make that raise my blood pressure, though.

    The first is including potatoes in the same category as “processed foods.”

    As I have explained before, when cooked a certain way (ie: baked, with the skin on), a potato is highly nutritious. It is not junk food.

    Second, his belief that fiber is overhyped tremendously weakens his stance for me. How anyone can ignore the health benefits of fiber is truly beyond me.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    A six-piece chicken strip basket at Dairy Queen packs in 12 grams of trans fat and 2,910 milligrams of sodium.

    (NOTE: Trans fat consumption is recommended at zero grams a day; maximum daily sodium intake is set at 2,400 milligrams)

    That’s what six chicken strips, a handful of fries, two slices of toast, and some gravy sauce add up to (in an entree many people have for lunch on any given day).

    Think you can soften the blow by getting just four chicken strips, skimping on the fries, and starting with a bowl of cream of broccoli soup?

    Think again!

    That bowl sets you back 570 calories, five grams of trans fat and an outrageous 4,770 milligrams of sodium!

    Yes, that’s four THOUSANDnot a typo of four hundred.

    Hope you get a tall glass of water with that order…

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