Thursday, March 31, 2011

If You Can't Beat them, just Market the product Differently

I was over at Marion Nestle's great blog on food politics, and found this discussion of a new full-page Coca-Cola ad fascinating. 

I'm guessing that the message about drinking high-sugar beverages must be seeking into the general populace because Coke is now essentially telling people that it's OK to drink a nutritionally devoid, sugar laden, chemical-filled beverage so long as you do it in moderation, and, oh yeah, exercise. 

I tried to find the actual full-page Coke ad somewhere on line and couldn't but, according to Nestle, this is what it says:

Our nation is facing an obesity problem and we plan on being part of the solution. By promoting balanced diets and active lifestyles, we can make a positive difference.

For some people, a 12-fl.-oz. beverage may be too much. Everyone’s needs are different. So we’ve created a variety of package sizes….

While keeping track of calories is important, so is burning them off. In our partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we’ve helped more than one million kids learn the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition….

Hm-m-m-m. Methinks the corporation protests too much.   I love that they are using marketing to reposition themselves as being--well--not as crappy as they really are, and, by the way, you could just exercise to work off those extra nutritionally-useless calories you just consumed.

OK, there are 155 calories in a can of Coke classic. That means that if you are a 135 pound, 5'5", 50 year old woman you would have to either walk for more than an hour, jog for approximately 1/2 an hour, or work out at the gym for about 45 minutes.

I don't know what your day is like, but for me, trying to find an the extra exercise time to work off that Coke just isn't there.

As a former diet soda addict (clean over 20 years now), I can attest that there is absolutely no reason to drink any kind of soda at any time.   I not only don't ever drink soda ever, I never have it in my house anymore, even for guests, and have never provided soda to my children.   Both my son and daughter have tried soda (offered to them by others when I wasn't around), and both will now turn it down when offered to them.

Getting off of soda helped get rid of a lot of the "bloat" (water retention) that I used to have, and I found I wasn't as fatigued as before.  Furthermore, I stopped being plagued by constant head-aches. 

By not serving (or offering) my children soda, they actually PREFER drinking water.   I kid you not.  Offer my kids a soda, and they'll ask for a bottle of water.   Both also love real fruit juices (100% juice or nothing).  

I wish my parents had been as strict with me.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Exercising in our Genes?

Turns out there may be a genetic reason why some of us love to exercise while others loathe it. 

I'm in the love it catagory.  I always loved a good strenous work-out-whether it was skiing, hiking, running--you name it.  That's why I love Ashtanga yoga.  I've taken plenty of friends with me to an Ashtanga class and their reaction was "too hard, I never want to do this again."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nutritional Propaganda--Eating Breakfast

I've always been leery of "nutritional propaganda."  You know, campaigns trying to convince you that you should be eating (or not eating) this or that.  

One bit of traditional advice that I've always held suspect was the idea that too lose weight, you had to eat a humongous breakfast.  

Now, I'm one of those people who has to eat breakfast.  Don't ask me why, but I can't get through my morning without having something, even if it's a little fruit to get me going. 

But, if I've had a lot to eat the day before, I always thought it insane that you're supposed to then eat some huge breakfast the next day.  Let's face it, if I went out for a special meal with my husband the night before, I'm just not all that hungry.

It always seemed strange to me that we were somehow biologically programmed to eat breakfast every morning when our ancient ancestors basically ate when they got food, and that often meant days with no food much less three distinct meals.

And, if you're the type that just isn't all that hungry in the morning, then why should you stuff your face when you're not in the mood?

So, I've always held the "eat breakfast" and "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" mantras with some speculation, generally attributing them to propaganda promulgated by all those food manufacturers selling breakfast cereal. 

It just didn't make sense.  If you eat when you're not hungry, how on earth does that induce you to eat less throughout the day?

Well, as it turns out, my skepticism was justified.  New research shows that eating breakfast does not lead to a cut in the overall intake of daily calories.  The study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner irregardless of what they ate for breakfast.   If someone ate 400 calories for breakfast, then they generally ate 400 calories more then the person who didn't eat breakfast.

I think that to control weight, it's more important to listen to your body then watch the clock.  If you're hungry, eat, if not, don't even if the clock says its time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Cleansing Is Hell-But worth it.

Last week, I posted that I was starting a spring cleanse using the Nature's Secret product The Ultimate Cleanse. It's a product I've used before with some success. Yesterday, however, one of my commentators wrote to me:
I got the Detox package you posted a few days ago, and since Tuesday night I have been taking it. After I got the package I started reading the Amazon review and was not very comfortable to take it, but since I had opened the package I did. On Amazon some people had posted about side effects, but I have to say, I am not experiencing any side bad effects. I am experiencing side effects as explained there, but nothing uncomfortable.

My curiosity was peeked, so I went to Amazon to read the reviews. I have to admit that some of them were pretty negative, but since I've cleansed before, not unexpected. Most of the "bad" side effects they detailed, were pretty typical of what happens during a cleanse.

The problem, I guess, was that people bought into the idea of "cleansing" without fully understanding what it means to cleanse. I started using the Ultimate Cleanse on the advice of my knowledgeable, local health food store dude. You know the type, an older, former hippy-type, with long, flowing gray hair.

The first time that I did the Ultimate Cleanse cleanse, I had already done several hard-core cleanses, including a couple of juice fasts and a raw food vegan fast. So, I was already pretty "clean," and didn't really have any extreme reactions.

I'm going to be honest here--cleansing when you start doing it can be pretty uncomfortable. It's no walk in the park. It's not uncommon to feel like absolute shit the first couple of times you cleanse during the actual cleansing period. Afterwards you feel great, but the first few times I did cleanses, I had serious head-aches, ran fevers and my skin broke out--all pretty typical experiences.

You feel awful, because as you "cleanse" toxins stored in your fat are re-released into your system. The cleanse helps you to rid your body of these toxins, but before they clear out you full just awful. We all react to cleanses in our own ways. My sister when she cleanses has to set days aside to do nothing but sleep.

I'm at a point now that when I cleanse, most of the worst stuff is behind me. I feel a little sluggish, get a couple of minor break-outs, and maybe want to take a nap now and again, but it's basically all stuff I can deal with.

I know many plenty who are willing to "suffer to be beautiful." As someone who's gone through her own share of bikini waxes, I can attest to suffering for beauty myself. So, it always mystifies me why these same people find it intolerable to do a little "suffering" to be clean of toxins? In the end, it makes you beautiful as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We've Got More Junk in Our Collective Trunk

According to the Federal Transportation Administration we need bigger seats on buses because we've got too much junk in our trunks. We've gotten so much fatter that the FTA is recommending that seats be designed to accommodate an average passenger weight 175 pounds versus the previous 150 pounds. I guess the good news is that bigger seats on buses will mean fewer seats on buses, forcing more people to stand (and thus burn more calories). God knows we can use it.

All Natural? Really?

You know that the words "all Natural" on a package has reached a new low of meaningless when Frito-lay starts putting them on a package of Barbeque-flavored potato chips. I thought that this WSJ piece on how Frito-Lay and Kraft are reformulating their junk food to make them less junky and slap the label "all Natural" on them was quite illuminating. But while removing some of the junkier ingredients in junk food is, of course, a positive step, in the end you have to remember that these "all Natural" products are just a better class of crap. The article writer seems have agreed with me:

Making snacks with natural ingredients doesn't necessarily make them healthy, nutritionists and industry critics caution, even if they are potentially less bad. That includes potato chips, which contain a lot of fat and salt. The revamped Frito-Lay's chips' fat and sugar content hasn't changed much.

"Foods that are less loaded with sugar, fat and salt, that's what's important. Everything else is marketing," says David Kessler a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and snack-industry critic.
I think Marion Nestle said it well here:
But isn’t a “healthy” processed snack food an oxymoron? They can tweak and tweak the contents, but these products will still be heavily processed. Too much evidence now concludes that marketing a product as “healthy” or “natural” makes people think it has no calories. And as I keep saying, just because a processed food is a little bit less bad than it used to be, doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice.

Stay Away from those Non-Stick Pans

I've written before about the dangers of those chemical laden "miracle" non-stick pans, but now there's even more evidence that Teflon plans should be avoided.

Turns out that the main ingredient used in these pans, PFC's, can bring on early menopause.

But then, if a pan has to come with a warning not to have a bird in the room when you heat it up, shouldn't that tell you something?

Me, I'll continue to stick with my seasoned cast iron pans.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Response to a Reader

I had a response to this post that I thought I should respond to. The commenter wrote:

At the risk of drawing a lot of ire - why does it need to be the government that does something? We don't need government control in every aspect of our lives - and once we invite it in, it's too hard to get rid of if it doesn't work. Parents need to take back control of teaching their children how to make good choices - and they need to band together on a local level to have their schools remove or limit the soda machines, etc. Start forcing the local school boards to take action by being a vocal parent.

This isn't an unusual response. I've gotten this "the government shouldn't get involved" mantra before. What I found curious about it was that while the commentator first says "government stay out, let parents be in charge," she then ADVOCATES GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT in the form of removing soda machines, etc. from schools.

It always mystifies me when people are completely unaware of what government involvement means. I'm always baffled by the people who scream whenever there's a pot-hole in the road, but then go to rallies saying they've against taxes.


This is reality, our current rates of low taxation are COMPLETELY UNSUSTAINABLE. There is absolutely NO WAY to continue them without dramatic cuts to just about every single public service we hold dear.

The point of yesterday's post advocating that Congress do something about child-hood obesity, was that the majority of people now want government action. Government would not be "controlling" our lives, but controlling the manufacturers making profits off of making our kids fat. And, that's the rub, by "controlling" these manufacturers, it's likely that they'll make less money.

That did not use to be a problem when it came to our government protecting us. Now it is. Now, when corporations stand to make less profits, we the public lose.

But still, I get this "we don't want the government controlling us" argument.
Ok, here's reality--Government taking intervention has saved countless lives in this country.

Do you think the government shouldn't have gotten involved after the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire? Wasn't government intervention there, in the form of work-place safety regulations better? Or do you really believe that government shouldn't have stepped in and regulated manufacturers and let people continue to die?

I mean, if you read about Triangle you hear echos of today. Here's what one writer had to say about it:

Aided by Frances Perkins, a young social worker who was in Washington Square looking on in horror as the seamstresses jumped to their deaths, Smith and Wagner visited hundreds of factories and sweatshops. Over time, they authored and enacted legislation that required certain workplaces to have sprinklers, open doors, fireproof stairwells and functioning fire escapes; limited women’s workweeks to 54 hours and banned children under 18 from certain hazardous jobs. (Years later, Wagner, by then a U.S. senator, authored — with help from Perkins, who had become labor secretary — the legislation establishing Social Security; he also wrote the bill legalizing collective bargaining.)

Businesses reacted as if the revolution had arrived. The changes to the fire code, said a spokesman for the Associated Industries of New York, would lead to “the wiping out of industry in this state.” The regulations, wrote George Olvany, special counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York City, would force expenditures on precautions that were “absolutely needless and useless.”

“The best government is the least possible government,” said Laurence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board. “To my mind, this [the post-Triangle regulations] is all wrong.”

Such complaints, of course, are with us still. We hear them from mine operators after fatal explosions, from bankers after they’ve crashed the economy, from energy moguls after their rig explodes or their plant starts leaking radiation. We hear them from politicians who take their money. We hear them from Republican members of Congress and from some Democrats, too. A century after Triangle, greed encased in libertarianism remains a fixture of — and danger to — American life.

How about food safety rules? Do you have any idea how many Americans died from unsanitary food prior to those rules being put in place?

Huge corporations and billionaires have spent billions of dollars to convince the public that any kind government regulation of business is "bad." If government was really so "bad" then, why would these people have to spend so much to buy our thoughts and politicians? Wouldn't we just all gravitate to that view?

The truth is, that governments have always existed for one reason--to protect their citizens. If the king didn't effectively do it he eventually got thrown out, and as events in the Middle East show, even violent dictators have to eventually pay the price for not safeguarding their citizenship.

Right now our government isn't doing a very good job of protecting us because the people its supposed to have protected us against, bought it and managed to buy enough of the media to convince the very people who are getting screwed by the lack of government control, that lack of government control is what they want.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

OK Congress--Do Something

According to a recent poll, the majority of Americans think that the government should do something about child-hood obesity.

Of course, although significant majorities see the need for government intervention, and the number will likely rise, the likelihood of the government actually doing something is slim.

That's because food manufacturers have big bucks to put in politicians pockets, and food manufacturers want to keep kids fat and obese because that's how they make money.

If the government was going to do something, it would be measures, like taxing soda, that reduce consumption. That would hurt profits.

So, while I take heart that the "we have the right to eat desert" message of the Palin faction of this country is pretty much only resonating with a small group of ignorant idiots, the reality is nothing will change.

Rather sad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diet Vieux, Nouveau Nom

There's a new fad diet on the horizon, and this one is connected to royalty. The Dukan diet has been popular in Europe for a while now, but its promoters are now bringing it to the US.

The Dukan diet sounds a lot like Atkins and South Beach, in that it involves eating copious amounts of protein but very little carbs. Just the name is new.

Something tells me in the next few months I'll be having to arrange my lunch dates with girlfriends around their "Dukaning." In other words, they'll be no sharing of Paella because someone can't eat the rice.

I've been through this before, I had countless friends on both Atkins and South Beach.

And, you know what? Those friends all regained whatever weight they lost while on those diets.

So here we go again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Losing Weight Starts in the Kitchen

I was happy to see this little piece on Jezebel. I'm always thrilled to hear or read about someone taking the time and the initiative to learn to cook.

What disturbed me, however, is that quite a few of the comments to this story were from people declaring that they didn't know how to cook and never wanted to learn.

I was particularly shocked by the number of people writing that they purposedly refuse to learn to cook, because if they do, people will expect them too.

I want my family to expect me to cook for them, and eventually I want them to cook for themselves.

The only way to control what goes into your body and the bodies of your family is to prepare your own food.

Whether you get processed convenience foods, take-out, or go to restaurants, you are ceding a measure of control over your own body to someone else, and that is never a good thing.

Of course I cook for my children. Do you have any idea what goes into kid's convenience foods? Read the label, and you'll be scrambling up eggs for the kids regularly as well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Six Rules for Weight Loss

1. Losing Weight for good is a life commitment, not a temporary change. To put it plainly, you got fat because of your current eating habits, so if you go back to them, you'll get fat again. The only way to take weight off and keep it off is to make permanent changes to your diet.

2. Losing Weight starts in the kitchen. Take control of your food and you take control of your weight. Take-out food, restaurant food and convenience foods will make you fat. That is a fact. Portions are too large, and the food contains too much fat, sodium and calories. If you want to lose weight for good, you have to learn your way around a kitchen, and you have to learn to prepare food for yourself.

3. Don't believe advertisements or health or weight control claims on packaging. The goal of advertisements and claims on product packaging is to sell stuff, not make you healthier or thinner. Chances are that if the box says it will help you get thinner, it's more likely that the product will actually make you fatter.

4. Eat better eat less. Eat higher quality foods, such as organic, and eat less of it. Scale down your portion sizes and focus on higher quality foods made from fresh fruits and vegetables. If you eat meat, fish and dairy, go organic. Yes you'll pay more, but you should be eating less anyway. If you go to a restaurant, your goal should not be to get the most food for your money, but the best food for your money.

5. You can't do it alone. If you have a family, you have to bring the whole family along to better eating. You can't sit at the dinner table for the rest of your life eating a salad while the rest of your family gorges on cheeseburgers. The whole family needs to be cutting back on junk foods, meat, dairy and overly processed foods. It's not easy, but if you take it slow and introduce healthy foods slowly while at the same time eliminating unhealthy food, it can be done. Better yet, don't introduce unhealthy foods to begin with, and make things like soda a special treat.

6. You have to move more. Getting to the gym is great, but you have to learn how to incorporate more movement into your daily life. When we were an agricultural society, it wasn't unusual for people to burn through 7,000 calories a day--so they could eat all the bacon and dairy they could get our hands on (which was still less then what we eat today). In today's world, many of us only burn through 2,000 or fewer calories a day. Learning to incorporate more movement into our everyday lives is probably one of the best things you can do for weight control. For example, take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator, take the extra trip up the stairs instead of letting things pile up on the bottom for one big trip up, walk to your mailbox instead of waiting to drive by it, learn to walk around and pace while you're on the phone instead of sitting.

Spring Cleaning

I don't know what it is about Spring, but I always find myself wanting to clean house. I start opening up drawers, cabinets and closets and find myself disgusted with the mess and clutter.

I swear if I had the time, I'd spend an entire week doing nothing but just cleaning out the house and hauling stuff over to Good Will.

In recent years, the beginning of Spring also has me wanting to start a good cleanse. After the holidays, the cold weather, and all the heavier food, I just want to clean myself out and lighten up as well.

A few weeks ago when my husband was out of town, I did a rather intense three day cleanse. I drank a special brewed tea twice a day, and only ate fruits and vegetables. I felt great afterwards, but was real happy to eat a nice piece of whole grain bread and have a little fish.

For the last three years I've started Spring by going on a light month-long cleanse. Nothing is really banished from my diet, instead I go easier on eating any red meat and dairy (and try to avoid it as much as possible), reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption (again trying to avoid it if possible), and upping my consumption of raw fruits and vegetables.

I also use a great product to support my month-long cleanse. The Ultimate Cleanse by Nature's Secret is a herbal blend which helps to detox the system. You can read more about this product here.

By using this product, I can cleanse easily without any major disruptions in my lifestyle. As a working Mom, this is, of course, a major advantage. Sure, I'd love to get away to some exotic spa to do a full scale cleanse for two weeks, but I don't have the time, babysitting (or money), for that. Just doing any kind of intense cleanse at home is tough when you have a husband and kids. It's kind of hard sticking to a juice fast for a week, when you're grilling up grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids.

Now, cleansing isn't really about losing weight. It's about getting healthy. But the reality is, healthy translates into getting to one's optimal weight and keeping it there.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sugar vs. HFCS

In the end, if consumed excessively, both are just as bad for you:

Quotable quote:

Since sugar and corn syrup are equally efficient as fructose delivery vehicles, the obvious conclusion is simply that we're consuming too many sweets. As for the HFCS-vs.-sugar smackdown, you might as well debate whether whiskey is healthier than rum. "In high-enough quantities, they're both poison," says Lustig.

It's an interesting argument and I agree that overall sugar reduction should be the goal, I still feel that because "refined" sugar is still less processed then high fructose corn syrup, if you have to have sweet (and as someone with a sweet-tooth I've got to have sweet now and again) you're better off with refined sugar over HFCS (although maple syrup or honey are better).

Thursday, March 17, 2011


When I decided to lose weight a few years back, I started doing some research into just what I had to do to lose weight and live a healthier life.

One of the first things I learned was that I really needed to dramatically reduce my consumption of both meat and dairy.

Of course, when you're the mother of two kids with a husband, it's pretty much impossible to just stop eating meat and dairy.

I had to go about it in a much more stealthy manner.

The first thing I did was just reduce the amount of meat I used in dishes with meat. If I normally made pasta with a pound of sausage, first I reduced it to 3/4rds of a pound, then half a pound. I made up the difference with more vegetables. If a recipe called for 1/2 pound of meat and 1/2 cup of diced carrots, I'd make it with 1/4 pound of meat and 1 1/2 cups of diced carrots.

Next, I began working more vegetarian and vegan meals into the rotation. That wasn't as easy as it sounds. Now I was raised in an Italian family, and we generally had several meatless meals a week.

My husband, however, was raised that if there wasn't meat, it wasn't a meal (and I'm talking breakfast, lunch and dinner). His doctor, however, sided with me on the need to reduce meat, and after a lot of marital discourse, he accepts the meatless meals.

Of course, finding new and interesting recipes for vegetarian and vegan meals is always a goal of mine. One good source for inspiration is: . It has both vegetarian and vegan recipes and breaks it down so you can search by ingredients.

Another good site is Chef Chloe: These are strictly vegan recipes, and some are quite good.
I've made Chef Chloe's Harvest Stuffed Portobello caps several times for dinner (, and adapted her Black Bean slider recipe to make black bean burgers ( (I generally bag the mango salsa because it adds another step and add more flavoring to the burgers themselves).

Because my son is allergic to milk, I've also used Chef Chloe's cupcake recipes. The results are always fabulous, and no one misses the milk or butter.

One thing I learned is not to use "substitute" meat. My goal is to eat healthy and lose weight--not save animals--so I'm not going to switch out real meat, for processed meat-like substitutes. Instead, when I go meatless, I look for recipes that utilize beans and mushrooms. Both give the "meaty" hit, without the meat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quote for the Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

I don't have a lot of time today to blog, but I've always found this quote inspirational in so many ways.

In the dieting, weight-loss, weight-maintenance spectrum of things, I think it means we shouldn't be so goal oriented.

Don't focus on the end point but the journey itself.

End points are just that--the end.

But, if you truly want to lose weight and keep it off, then there is never an end to the journey.

Losing weight and keeping it off means making lifetime changes to your diet and movement habits.

So, don't worry about getting to the top of the stairs when you take that first step. Just know that when and if you do get there, the journey will be worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Forget the Treadmill and Get a Dog

I've been kind of preachy on the idea that you shouldn't focus so much on
"exercising" as you should on just plain old "moving."

Let's face it. Exercise is work. You have to make time for it in your otherwise busy day. Not only that, but "exercise" also means a change of clothes, driving to the gym, etc.

Not that I'm against exercise, it's just that I think we get more long term benefits from just learning to incorporate more movement into our days, then going to a gym for a huge, sweat producing work-out that you don't always have time to do.

So, when I read this article about the benefits of just owning a dog, I think it shows me to be right:

Essentially, a study showed that people who owned dogs, who walked them, were generally in good health. Among dog owners who went for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Of course, people who just open their back doors to let the dog out, didn't get the same benefits from dog ownership as the walkers did.

What's more, dogs are more likely to get you moving longer and faster then humans. Here's what the article had to say:

A study last year from the University of Missouri showed that for getting exercise, dogs are better walking companions than humans. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted-living home, some people selected a friend or spouse as a walking companion, while others took a bus daily to a local animal shelter, where they were assigned a dog to walk.

To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a much greater improvement in fitness. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just 4 percent among the human walkers.

Dr. Johnson, the study’s lead author, said that human walkers often complained about the heat and talked each other out of exercise, but that people who were paired with dogs didn’t make those excuses.

“They help themselves by helping the dog,” said Dr. Johnson, co-author of the new book “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound,” to be published in May by Purdue University Press. “If we’re committed to a dog, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Well Duh!!!

Information we already knew--kids prefer cereals that have cartoons on the package. Read the study here:

Is it just me, or wasn't it already blatantly obvious that when you use a funny cartoon characters and then load the product up with sugar, that kids are likely to eat it?

I mean, they've been using these cartoons for close to 50 years now. I would think that by this point, if cartoons didn't work to sell junk food, then manufacturers would have abandoned them long ago.

But this study did do something a little different. It invented a cereal box and fictional cereals called "Healthy Bits" and "Sugar Bits." The researchers then tested kids’ responses to the cereal and variations with and without cartoons of the penguins Mumble and Gloria from the movie Happy Feet .

The study, published in the March issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, found that Healthy Bits beat out similar Sugar Bits—with or without the happy little penguins (when Sugar Bits didn't have the penguins.)

So the good news is that it looks like messages about healthy eating habits are reaching kids, who, at least in a clinical setting, want something labeled "healthy" over something labeled "sugar" (but then again, just being labeled "healthy" doesn't actually mean something is "healthy.")

But here's the kicker, while "Healthy Bits" with Penguins outranked "Sugar Bits" without Penguins, once the researchers added penguins to the packaging, Sugar Bits rated as high as Healthy Bits.

So, I guess the message here is that if we want to see kids eat healthy, remove cartoon characters from unhealthy foods, and put cartoon characters on healthy foods.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Movie Popcorn's Dark Secret

My daughter wants me to take her to the movies this weekend, so I thought I'd write a little something about movie popcorn. I've actually written about movie popcorn before, but thought it was worth repeating.

We all think of popcorn as a nice, low cal snack. Popcorn actually is a nice, light, low cal snack when we air-pop it at home.

But, in yet another case of let the buyer beware, movie theatre popcorn is a totally different animal. As you can read here:, movie theatre popcorn is just a cornucopia of calories.

Here's the drill:

Regal says that its medium popcorn has 720 calories and that its large has 960. But CSPI's lab tests found that those numbers were understated. Regal’s medium and large sizes each had 1,200 calories and, thanks to being popped in coconut oil, 60 grams of saturated fat. (The large size looks bigger, thanks to its titanic tub, but it costs a dollar more and comes with a free refill.) A "small" at Regal has 670 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat. That’s about as many calories as a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza—except the popcorn has three times the saturated fat. Even shared with another person, that size provides nearly an entire day’s worth of the kind of fat that clogs arteries and promotes heart disease. And every tablespoon of "buttery" oil topping adds another 130 calories. Asking for topping is like asking for oil on French fries or potato chips, according to CSPI.

AMC, the second largest theater chain, also pops in coconut oil but has smaller serving sizes. Its large popcorn has 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat. That's like eating a pound of baby back ribs topped with a scoop of Häagen-Dazs ice cream—except that the popcorn has an additional day’s worth of saturated fat. A medium has 590 calories and 33 grams of saturated fat; and a small has 370 calories and a day’s worth—20 grams—of saturated fat. (Like Regal, AMC reports calorie counts lower than those returned in CSPI's lab tests.)

With calorie and fat counts like that I say "enjoy the movie, but skip the popcorn."

It also gets me riled up for another rant. Could someone please explain to me why movie theaters just can't sell plain old air-popped popcorn??? Why is it that they have to sell this calorie laden junk?

I actually would like to get a tub of popcorn to munch on in the movies, but knowing that a tub medium tub of popcorn contains 1,200 calories (without the greasy, "butter") and puts me on the road to a coronary stops me.

Mocking them Isn't the Way to Do It.

I'm all for encouraging kids to eat healthy, but I think to mock overweight kids to "shame" them for being fat is just disgusting.

Believe it or not, this is exactly what some propose. Read about it here:

Here's what they have to say:

This idea--that we've gone soft in more ways than one--has come up again and again in Slate's effort to crowdsource a remedy for overweight children. "Schools should actively stigmatize being fat," writes one member of the Hive; "few things are more terrifying to a kid than being an outcast." Another declares, "We need to stop telling children to 'love themselves the way they are.'"
This is ludicrous. The reality is that these kids just don't know better, and they're bombarded by a media telling them to eat junk food in large quantities.

If anyone is at fault, it's the parents.

Yes, I wrote that. I place the fault in the rise of child-hood obesity squarely at the feet of parents (although allowing the government to take custody is just plain wrong). I realize that parents are often as ignorant as children when it comes to nutrition, but they are parents and should educate themselves.

If you see your entire family getting fatter and fatter, then its your responsibility to learn what you need to do to change that course.

I also put fault on the government for not regulating food quality and allowing kids to be bombarded by advertisements for crap food. We banned cigarette advertisements, so why can't we ban advertisements for sugary drinks, cereals and snacks?

The government is also at fault for subsidizing junk food over healthy food, but that's a whole other rant.

But, to stigmatize kids for the faults of their parents and the government? Sorry, that I don't agree with.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let there Be Light--NOT and Girl Scout Cookies

I have been in heaven lately. For the past couple of weeks I have actually been able to get up in the morning in the light. Being able to wake up when the sun is up makes such a HUGE difference. It changes my whole attitude and energy level for the day.

So you can imagine my dismay to discover that this weekend we have to move the clocks forward. That means that not only do I have to start getting up an hour earlier (bummer), but it's going to start to be pitch dark again when I do so (MAJOR bummer).

Yeah, I know, I get the "but it's sunnier later in the day" yada, yada, yada crap all the time. But, I'm sorry, I'd rather be able to wake up with the sun up, then get an extra hour of sunlight after work.

That's just me.

Now, on to a new rant. It's Girl Scout cookie time, and I have a daughter who's a Girl Scout, and not only is she a Girl Scout, but I'm actually one of the "cookie Moms."

This means I'm obligated to not only sell cookies, but am on the hook to buy multiple boxes for my family (although the local food pantry gets a sizable donation).

Now, I usually disapprove of having cookies in the house, primarily because if there's one thing that I have ABSOLUTELY NO WILLPOWER over, it's cookies.

I love cookies, and having boxes of Tag-A-Longs, Samoas and Dulce de Leches in the house is just not a good thing.

Thank God, that I don't like Thin Mints. Yes, I realize that's sacrilege, but the combination of chocolate and mint does nothing for me. Peanut butter and chocolate, on the other hand, that's an entirely different story.

As you can imagine, I generally order mostly Thin Mints.

To balance out the cookies I'm eating this week, I've gone vegetarian. In fact, I'm trying to eat mostly raw/vegan to balance out the extra calories from the cookies.

Thank God Girl Scout Cookies only around for just a few weeks every year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An Ode to Vegetable Soups

In case you missed it, Mark Bittman does vegetable soups every which way in last Sunday's NYT's magazine. Check it out here:

I'm making a vegan "raid the refrigerator and pantry" soup tonight. It's not one of Bittman's recipes, but just a concoction of vegetables I needed to use up from the fridge, along with leftover Chinese food rice and a can of beans.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seriously, what is the Matter with this country?

Seriously what is the matter with this country? I just watched a video which literally made me sick to my stomach. Here it is:

This is a real ad for a real restaurant in Arizona. The ad mocks every single health risk of eating the Heart Attack Grill's lard soaked foods, by having a 575 pound, morbidly obese, young man scarf down it's gross fare while bragging about the weight he gained doing so.

But this spokeperson's story is not a joke. That young man is now DEAD at age 29. So, this chain essentially mocked a man who was EATING HIMSELF TO DEATH. Read about it here:

Here's what the Arizona Republic had to say about the restaurant:

Heart Attack Grill is an unabashedly unhealthy restaurant - the menu consists of huge burgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in lard - and having such a big man as a spokesman was part of its tongue in cheek "glorification of obesity."

Get that? The restaurant "glorified" obesity and the eating habits it takes to get that way.

Well, it spokesperson is now dead, most likely from the food he helped to push.

That's just sick.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Don't Supersize Me--What Your Money Gets You In Calories

I'm not a big fan of either fast food or junk food, but I realize that many people either just plain old like a good McDonald's burger or candy bar now and again, or else really have no other choices on days when they're particularly pressed for time.

So as pointed it in this article, if you're going to indulge, then save yourself a few pennies and DON'T supersize:

Now, most people supersize for what they think is a good reason, you get a hell of a lot of food for very little extra money. Here's what the article had to say about supersizing:

Sure, it feels like you’re getting a bargain because you’re getting proportionately more food for proportionately less money. But a “value meal” is only a value for two sets of people: the corporations that make the food and the corporations that make liposuction machines and heart stents. Because food is so inexpensive for manufacturers to produce on a large scale, your average fast-food emporium makes a hefty profit whenever you supersize your meal—even though you’re getting an average of 73 percent more calories for only 17 percent more money. But you’re not actually buying more nutrients; you’re just buying more calories. And that’s not something you want more of.

I know this mentality. I've seen it. My old Nanny, a young girl in her 20's weighs close to 250 pounds. She comes from a rather poor back-ground, but often "supersizes" food because she believes she's getting a better bargain food-wise. Her whole family does the same thing. The result is that they are all quite heavy (actually obese), and both parents have diabetes. My old Nanny even has problems with menstruation because she's so heavy.

My husband also has a friend who's a super-sizer. He weighs in at over 300 pounds, and justifies the purchases for the same reason-he doesn't have a lot of money, and it's cheap food.

But, it's not cheap. It's costing them their health.

To get some perspective, here's what the article had to say about the true costs of "supersizing:"

Here’s exactly how expensive it really is when you go for the “bargain”:

• 7-Eleven. Gulp to Double Gulp Coca-Cola Classic: 37 cents extra buys 450 more calories
• Cinnabon. Minibon to Classic Cinnabon: 48 more cents buys 370 more calories
• Movie theater. Small to medium unbuttered popcorn: 71 additional cents buys you 500 more calories
• Convenience store. Regular to “The Big One” Snickers: 33 more cents packs on 230 more calories
• McDonald’s. Quarter Pounder with Cheese to Medium Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal: An additional $1.41 gets you 660 more calories
• Subway. The 6- to 12-inch Tuna Sub: $1.53 more buys 420 more calories
• Wendy’s. Classic Double with Cheese to Classic Double with Cheese Old Fashioned Combo Meal: $1.57 extra buys you 600 more calories
• Baskin Robbins. Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Kids’ Scoop, to Double Scoop: For another $1.62, you’ve added 390 calories

The bottom line: For 8 bucks, you’ve bought yourself 3,620 calories. If you eat each of these foods once a week but go with the smaller size—again, your favorite foods, but more reasonable sizes—you’d save about $417 a year. That's enough to put you on a plane to the Bahamas, where you can show off your new body. After all, you’d also save 188,240 calories a year, or 54 pounds of belly fat! I can think of no better investment.

I don't know about that plane to the Bahamas (and besides, even if you could get round-trip airfare for $417 where are you going to sleep?), but it does point out that not only do you, in the end, save money, but the calories saved will pay off in the longer term as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's Living in Your Digestive System

Since I did the cleanse this week, I thought this article was relevant:

Did you know that things such as food allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, and arthritis could be caused by organisms living in your intestinal tract?

Here's a little of what the Dr. had to say:

What's Living in Your Digestive System

One of the most toxic environments to which people are exposed is within their own gastrointestinal tract. From the mouth to the anus, every inch is colonized by bacteria. The alimentary canal is basically an external surface internalized within the human body. It remains in contact with the external environment.

The gastrointestinal tract is a complex and dangerous frontier.

All the nutrients required for life must pass through, while the bad guys are kept out. Given the large area, there is much that can go wrong, leading to a huge range of ailments. In keeping with its immense surface area and intense exposure to foreign antigens, the intestinal tract is the largest organ of immune surveillance and response in the human body.

For anyone unfamiliar with cleansing, one of the primary purposes of doing so is to clean out the intestinal tract.

Prior to starting to cleanse, I suffered from constant yeast infections, and had several system wide infections (which believe me are nasty).

When I first learned about cleansing I was told that it would help with the yeast.

During my first serious cleanse, when I went in for my first colonic, the technician showed me on the monitor all the excess yeast flowing out of my intestinal tract (for those of you who don't know a colonic is essentially a giant enema that cleans out your entire intestinal tract).

Since then, yeast infections have become a rarity.

So, I can attest to the fact that a "dirty" intestinal tract can cause unexpected health issues in other areas of your body.

A good cleanse not only helps in your weight loss/maintenance efforts, but is also good for your health.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Our Drugged Up Food

Now this is sickening. According to the FDA, 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States go into animal agricultural.

Read about it here:

That's right, 80% of all antibiotics used aren't for when Johnny has strep, but go into the farm animals which eventually wind up on your plate.

This, as you can imagine, is not good. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the scientific consensus is that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock animals is a serious threat to public health. Here's what the article had to say about it:

Most of the drugs used in animal agriculture and in human medicine are functionally identical. That’s one reason why the overuse of antibiotics in animals is such a concern: When organisms become resistant on the farm to drugs used on livestock, they are becoming resistant to the exact same drugs used in humans.

What's truly amazing is that the majority of these drugs aren't used because chickens, cows and pigs are sick, but to promote faster growth. In other words, it's all about making more money faster.

Of course, since we have a corporate-controlled food system, and a corporate-controlled government, nothing will be done about this.

The only thing you can do to reduce the threat to yourself and your family is to eat less meat and when you do eat it try to make sure it's hormone and anti-biotic free.

Winter Fruit and Veggie Cleanse

As some of you may already know, I'm a big fan of cleansing. Every now and again, I like to change my dietary habits completely to rid my body of any accumulated toxins.

I also think that a good cleanse now and again helps to "reset" my dietary habits. We all know that no matter how "good" we are with our diets, every now and again we tend to "slip."

My two biggest weaknesses are caffeine and sugar.

I love coffee, and could drink five cups a day, just because I love the taste, and in the Winter, I just love hunkering down over my work with a steaming cup of Joe.

I also love sweets--mostly cakes,cookies, and chocolate, but any really good dessert is my downfall. Luckily "junk" sugar generally has no appeal for me (other than Reeses Peanut Butter cups), but if someone puts a home-made dessert in front of me, I'm generally going in.

So every so often, when I can find the time, I like to dive into a cleanse, particularly if I feel I need lose a few pounds.

Cleanses are also said to aide in weight loss. The theory is that toxins are stored in fat, and your body is reluctant to let go of the fat while the toxins are stored there. So if you cleanse and rid your body of the toxins stored in the fat, you'll lose the fat more easily.

I have idea if this is in any way scientifically proven, but all I know is that anytime I do a cleanse, I lose weight during the cleanse, and then, provided I stick to a sensible diet and exercise routine afterward, I continue to lose weight.

I lost the bulk of the weight I needed to lose several years ago during and following a three week raw vegan cleanse--close to 25 pounds.

My husband is away on a business trip this week, so I took the opportunity to embark on a 4 day cleanse. It's Winter so raw/vegan isn't going to work for me (although it may work for other people, I just need warm foods this time of year).

I like to try different cleanses, so when I saw this one here:, I thought it sounded like a sensible one for a cold New England Winter. Essentially you eat or drink nothing but fresh fruit in the mornings, and fresh vegetables in the afternoons and evenings. (Note, this cleanse was apparently first published in the Yoga Journal which can read about it here:

The hardest part about this cleanse was finding the ingredients for the cleansing tea you drink twice daily, which I eventually found on-line. I ordered them a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of my husband's trip and brewed up a big batch of the tea on Sunday. I also went to the grocery store and stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies.

I'm on day three of the cleanse, and feel absolutely content. The first day I found myself craving bread, sugar and caffeine, but once I hit day two I was quite content with the vegan produce diet.

Right now I'm drinking a Banana/Mango smoothie I made myself for breakfast. I combined a banana, a mango, a cup of apple cider and a cup of water in the blender. Lunch will probably be broccoli that I'll steam with garlic, lemon and olive oil, and dinner will be a baked sweet potato and a salad.

Thus far I've lost about 1 1/2 pounds (although a lot of that is no doubt excess waste from my colon).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Glorified Junk Food

I've written before that junk food is junk food, even if wrapped up in a pretty package and labeled "healthy," "organic" or "natural."

Yesterday, I wrote about McDonalds' oatmeal offering being about as healthy, and lo-cal as a cheeseburger.

Today's revelation is about Jamba Juice.

Yes, I said Jamba Juice, the smoothie dispenser that likes to position itself as the healthy alternative to fast food.

If you think that getting a smoothie from Jamba Juice as a snack is a good idea, well you should read this:

Here's what you should know:

Then there's the fact that a typical medium-sized Jamba Juice smoothie—the Mango-a-go-go Classic—contains 400 calories. Most smoothies from other chains, including Tropical Smoothie and Smoothie King, have similarly high calorie counts. (At all three venues, most drinks range from about 250 to 600 calories.)

For a fast-food meal, 400 calories isn't too bad. "You certainly get some nutrients from it, although you're getting a lot of sugars too," says Alison Field, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School whose research focuses on the epidemiology of weight gain. "If the question is: 'Are smoothies a better option than a Big Mac?' then the answer is definitely yes." (Big Macs contain 540 calories, gobs of saturated fat, and minimal nutritional value.)

The problem, Field says, is that most people aren't drinking smoothies as alternatives to meals. Instead, they're drinking them as snacks, or even with meals, as beverages. Gerry Chiaro is a marketing lecturer at Northwestern University and has worked as a marketing consultant for Tropical Smoothie, McDonalds, and Gatorade. He says getting consumers to regard smoothies as meals would be a tough sell. "Whether Jamba Juice intends to place [its smoothies] as a meal replacement or not, the consumer will perceive them as an on-the-go snack," Chiaro says.

Even more disturbing some of Jamba Juice's smoothies are made with a "dairy base" (what the hell is that) and artificial sweeteners.

Once again, the message is "let the buyer beware." Know before you go.

Nutritional information for Jamba Juice's concoctions are on it's website which you can check out here: (and you want to take note that quite of few of the offerings come close to 600 calories).