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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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    The Handy Dandy Cooking Oil Comparison Chart

    A few weeks ago, Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog asked me if I wanted to help build a cooking oil comparison chart that would help people make sense of the wide array of choices. The topic of cooking oils is one I am very passionate about, so I gladly jumped at the chance.

    The chart — a real visual treat! — can be downloaded here, but I encourage you to read this blog post first, as it explains the science behind the results (and contains some very important FYIs).

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    Q &A Roundup #2

    Another compilation of thoughtful questions courtesy of Small Bites readers. Enjoy!

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    Rise of the Healthwashed Vending Machines

    I’ve seen a glimpse of the future — and it frightens me. Behold “H.U.M.A.N healthy vending”machines. You know, H.U.M.A.N as in “Helping Unite Man And Nutrition”?

    The company, which has received praise from the likes of Forbes, bills itself as “a healthy vending company whose mission is to eradicate childhood obesity through education and healthy eating”.

    Their commitment? “To increase access to healthy and fresh vending snacks, foods, and drinks”. They also donate ten percent of their proceeds to unnamed charities that “fight obesity and malnutrition”.

    Progressive and paradigm-shifting? Far from it. This is tried-and-true healthwashing with a sprinkle of social conscience-washing.

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    Big Dairy’s Idea of Fun and Games

    Big Dairy – more specifically, the Milk Processors Education Program – has a hefty advertising budget. Roughly $70 million a year, to be quasi-exact.

    Most people are familiar with their “Got Milk?” campaign, but largely unaware of “Get The Glass”, their ‘advergaming’/'edutainment” online interactive adventure (which, from the looks of it, was certainly not produced on a shoestring budget).

    I came across the game this past weekend, but “Get The Glass” has been around since 2007. At the time, Steve James, Director of the California Milk Processing Board, explained:

    “We want people to imagine what it would be like if milk really was this scarce and how that would change the way we think about it.”

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    Giveaway: Make Your Own Whole Food Bars

    Time for another giveaway. This time around, you have a say in the final product, since the prize is your very own case of You Bars (a company I blogged about three years ago, and am happy to see do very well).

    The You Bar customizations and options are fantastic. Not only are the vast majority of ingredients organic, they are also commonly not found in commercial whole food bars. Want some maca powder in your bar? You got it. How about a sunflower seed butter base? Cacao nibs? Hemp seeds? Apricots? Perhaps some organic rice protein? No matter what your dietary needs or preferences, you will be able to create something.

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    3 Little-Known, But Crucial, Vitamin D Facts

    Vitamin D is a nutrient (well, technically a hormone) that has had a substantial amount of research devoted to it over recent years. As someone who enjoys keeping up with the latest findings, I am often dismayed at the outdated — and often inaccurate– information shared with the public.

    Below, three crucial, but little-known, vitamin D facts everyone must know for the sake of their health.

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    Kellogg’s Misleads And, Yes, Farmwashes

    Time to check in with one of Big Food’s latest campaigns. In this instance, we turn our attention to Kellogg’s, which has rolled out quite the online defense of their various cereal lines.

    How do you make sugary, genetically modified, minimally nutritious products appear wholesome and a “great start to the day”? Behold:

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    On Paula Deen and Diabetes

    UPDATE (1/17): Paula Deen has announced she has been living with Type 2 diabetes for 3 years. Oh, and she’s endorsing Novo Nordisk.

    UPDATE 2 (1/17): Dear members of the media: dietary fat has nothing to do with diabetes. Please stop trying to connect it with butter, lard, and deep-frying.

    Rumors have circulated since last Spring, but according to multiple reports, Paula Deen is apparently days away from announcing that she has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (and living with it for a while?).

    Allegedly, the decision to publicize her condition is financially motivated, as several sources report that she has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the makers of a diabetes medication (Novartis, according to reports not Novartis, which has denied bringing Ms. Deen on as a spokesperson).

    I know — and in other news, water is wet (take a look at Ms. Deen’s “ultimate fantasy deep fried cheesecake” and Krispy Kreme burger). The ‘big news’ to me isn’t Ms. Deen’s medical condition, but rather that her “coming out party” will essentially be a drug company’s latest press release. It’s a worrisome message.

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    Q & A Roundup

    I thought it would be fun and informative to feature some of the more interesting questions I have received via email and social media over the past few weeks. Here they are — with my answers, of course — for your perusal.

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    3 Easy & Tasty Sea Vegetable Recipes

    As regular Small Bites readers know, I am a vocal fan of sea vegetables. They are highly anti-inflammatory, a good source of omega 3 fatty acids not found in other plant-based foods, and offer a nice array of vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds.

    Alas, since sea vegetables are not a part of traditional North American cuisine, most of us did not grow up eating them, or perhaps even knowing what they looked and tasted like.

    Except for some offerings at Japanese restaurants (maki rolls with nori, seaweed salads, and miso soup with a few bits of seaweed), our exposure to all this great underwater produce is rather limited.

    Before I provide the 3 recipes,some helpful information:

    • You can purchase sea vegetables at health food stores, Asian markets, Whole Foods, or through websites like Maine Coast or Eden Foods.
    • Keep in mind that you are buying dried sea vegetables, most of which you will then rehydrate at home. Sea vegetables expand quite a bit after being soaked (as much as five times their dried size), and these recipes don’t call for large amounts anyhow. You are getting a lot more food for your money than you may originally think.
    • In terms of flavors, arame and wakame are milder, hijiki is somewhere in the middle, while dulse, nori, kelp, and kombu have stronger flavors.

    And now, let’s talk food!

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    You Say ‘Water’, I Say ‘Snake Oil’

    The beverage industry has always been home to potions that try to provide “added value” (and calories, artificial ingredients, sugars, dyes, and cost) to the very thing most people need to drink more of — water.

    If you thought few things could top the ridiculousness of Coca-Cola and Nestlé’s “calorie-burning” canned drink Enviga (which, thankfully, landed on shelves with a resounding thud in 2007), check out these four “aqua-ceuticals”.

    Warning: this post may cause forceful eye-rolling.

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    Speaking With…: Judy Converse

    Judy Converse, MPH, RD, LD has been a registered dietitian for over 20 years. She has a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Hawaii, a bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition from the University of Vermont, has undergone biomedical treatment trainings since 1999, and is well versed in Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) treatment protocols.

    Prior to setting up her practice, she worked as a research technician, nutrition educator, grant writer, and outpatient dietitian. She has authored three books as well as the first web-interface accredited learning module for health care providers on nutrition and autism (see her CV for more details).

    Judy wrote a guest post a few months back on the medicinal effects of proper nutrition on ADHD and dyslexia. This time around, I wanted to get her perspective on how traditional medical models deal with autism, and why such treatments are ineffective. Our interview follows:

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    Why The Media Needs a Vegan 101 Course… Stat!

    With vegan eating increasingly becoming more mainstream, I thought it was time to compile a list of recent articles to see how the media frames and discusses the issue. Despite some improvements, there is certainly room for more.

    Below, what the media continues to get wrong — and how it can avoid making the same mistakes.

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