Posts tagged: food

Decoding the Organic Label

By Katie, 2:25 pm

Whether it’s for ethical, environmental, or health reasons, many people today are looking to go organic. Which should be pretty simple, right? Well, not exactly.

With lots of different labels that mean lots of different things, it’s not always clear exactly what you’re getting. I’ve certainly suffered my fair share of confusion! Here’s a quick guide to what the “organic” labels and seals really tell you.

(Sources: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, National Organic Program)

USDA Organic Definition: ”An ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

What the Labels Mean

1. “100% Organic” + USDA Seal = products can contain only certified-organic ingredients

2. “Organic” + USDA Seal = 95% of the ingredients must be certified organic. The remaining 5% must be nonorganic ingredients approved by the National Organic Standards Board or ingredients that are not commercially available in organic form

3. “Made with Organic Ingredients” = Must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients. Cannot display the USDA organic seal.

What the Seal Does/Does Not Tell You

The USDA Organic Seal…

  • indicates strict requirements about farming practices
  • greatly reduces your exposure to synthetic chemicals
  • helps protect the environment
  • protects the health of farmers and farm workers (by reducing their exposure to chemicals)
  • means that animals are raised more humanely than on industrial farms

BUT the USDA Organic Seal does not…

  • guarantee that food was grown without any pesticides (some naturally-based pesticides are allowed)
  • guarantee that you’re exposed to no chemical residues
  • guarantee land conservation/preservation
  • guarantee social justice (farmers could still be treated unjustly in terms of wages and other working conditions)
  • guarantee that animals were raised humanely (conditions may be better than on industrial farms, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect)

Do you buy organic? Why or why not? Are there certain foods you always buy organic, and others you don’t?

Good Food/Bad Food = Good Girl/Bad Girl?

By Katie, 6:23 pm

During the years I spent wasted dieting, I had a tendency to label all foods as either “good” or “bad.” Carrots = good. Cookies = bad.

It wasn’t until I vowed to ditch the diet mentality that I stopped seeing certain foods as off-limits and instead embraced the philosophy of “everything in moderation.” (If you’re interested, I recently outlined four steps for ditching the diet mentality in my guest post on Bran Appetit’s blog.)

What I realize now is that I was actually doing a whole lot more than labeling certain foods as “good” and others as “bad.” I was also labeling myself. When I only ate “good” foods, then I too was “good.” When I indulged in “bad” foods, I judged myself as “bad” or “weak” or a “failure.”

I must not be the only one who’s done this because apparently the advertising companies are capitalizing on the idea!

I saw this ad for a convenience store on a blog called Sociological Images, and I just had to share it with you. It caught my attention because it implies that “good girls” eat salads and fruit cups while “bad girls” eat cookies and hot dogs.

It’s the same implication found in phrases like “guilty pleasure” and “sinfully delicious” (as if eating chocolate is a sin).

There’s no doubt that some foods are better for us than others, in terms of the nutrients they provide and the way they make our bodies feel. However, I now believe that I am in no way a lesser person if I eat a slice of cake or drink a soda, just like I am no better than anyone else because my diet is rich in fruits and vegetables.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t believe that my character or my worth depends on my food choices.

Perhaps when we stop labeling food as either “good” or “bad,” we will also be able to stop labeling ourselves.

Have you ever gone on a diet that labeled some foods as “good” and others as “bad”? Did you find yourself feeling proud when you stuck to the “good” foods but guilty when you ate the “bad” ones?

Turn Off the Television! Eating Without Distractions

By Katie, 12:25 pm

When you sit down to eat, do you just eat?

Or, when you eat, do you simultaneously check your email, check your voicemail, and catch up with your DVR?

The notion of intuitive eating has taught me a lot about how to eat. One way is by eating mindfully, focusing entirely on the food and the eating process, instead of on everything but.

That means when I eat, I try really hard to do nothing else at the same time. No TV. No Internet. No book or magazine. Just me and my plate. ;-)

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Before I learned about eating intuitively, this was a common occurrence for me: sitting in front of the television, engrossed in Grey’s Anatomy or What Not To Wear, I’d reach into my bag of chips and realize the contents were totally gone. And I’d wonder, “What just happened? Where are the chips???” In my stomach, of course! :roll:

I’d barely even taste the chips. One minute the bag was full, the next minute it was empty. And I didn’t even get to enjoy them! :-(

Unfortunately I think a lot of people eat this way. And when you think about it, it’s not entirely our faults. Our society teaches us – encourages us, even – to eat this way. We are a society driven by productivity; we are a people praised for getting more done. Multi-tasking is the name of the game.

But when it comes to food, the equation often looks a little something like this:

Multi-Tasking + Eating = Overeating + Under-Enjoying.

So I encourage you to try eating without distractions, if you don’t already. You might feel a little silly at first; I certainly did! My first attempts occurred while I was working at a 9-5 desk job. It seemed odd, both to me and to my co-workers, that I didn’t just eat at my desk, simultaneously browsing the Internet (or just continuing to work, as my boss probably would have preferred!).

But I pressed on. I found a comfortable area away from my desk and just ate. At first I didn’t know what to think about, because I felt like I had to be thinking about something else. But eventually I learned how to think about the present moment, which was essentially the food: the texture, the taste, what I liked, what I didn’t.

Turns out eating this way can be pretty darn enjoyable! :-D I found it relaxing and rejuvenating. During my lunch break, time actually seemed to slow down (and when does that ever happen, right???). And instead of mindlessly overeating, I learned to eat until I was comfortably full but not stuffed.  I’d get up from my meal feeling satisfied, rather than thinking, “hey, where’d my food go???”

Of course I don’t eat like this all the time. Sometimes it’s fun to eat dinner while watching a football game, and sometimes my schedule forces me to eat while cranking out a paper. But those cases are the exception, not the norm. These days I make a point of eating my meals with as few distractions as possible.

What about you? Do you try to eat without distractions, or are you a multi-tasker all the way?

Serving Size Distortion?

By Katie, 2:29 pm

Half a cup of ice cream. Three-quarters of a cup of cereal. One ounce of chips. Half of a muffin. What do these serving sizes really mean? Where do they come from?

When I first started becoming more aware of my eating habits, I admit I was shocked by some of the serving sizes on nutrition labels. Or perhaps I should say I was shocked at how many servings I was actually eating. For some foods (notably cold cereal, because I can literally inhale it!) I found I was eating double – or even triple – the recommended serving size. WHOA! 8-O

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So I was quite interested to read in The New York Times yesterday that the FDA is considering re-evaluating the standard serving sizes for many common packaged foods, like ice cream, cereal, and chips.

Why? Because, according to the article, “official serving sizes for many packaged foods are just too small.” They don’t reflect how Americans really eat (I challenge you to find the person who actually stops after a half a cup of Rocky Road! ;-) ), which means that the calories, fat, and other nutritional counts can be misleading. Basically, unless we’re pretty label-savvy, we can easily end up eating way more than we realize.

Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, says, “If you put on a meaningful portion size, it would scare a lot of people.” No doubt that’s true!

So the advantage of the FDA re-evaluating serving sizes is that they will be more realistic and representative of how we really eat. There will be less confusion, fewer misleading labels, and hopefully a more informed public – one that is equipped with the information needed to make wise dietary choices.

But there’s a potential drawback as well. The disadvantage is that upping the serving sizes could send the wrong message – “eat more food.” As the article states, “some consumers might think the government was telling them it was fine to eat more.” For example, if the standard serving size for ice cream went from 1/2 cup to 1 full cup, then people might not even try to limit themselves to a smaller portion. I mean, maybe half a cup of Rocky Road really is enough!

And isn’t it possible that many people will just continue to super-size their treats, doubling the new, larger serving sizes? Isn’t it possible that instead of making us healthier, this could only make the problem worse?

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In a way, it’s a chicken-or-the-egg kind of thing. Should the serving sizes conform to how we really eat, or should we conform our eating to the recommended serving sizes?

Or perhaps the solution is simply for all of us, as food consumers, to become a little more skeptical about food labels, or at least more aware. Just because a small bag of pretzels says “100 calories!!!” on the front doesn’t mean that accounts for the entire package; there could easily be two servings inside. And in the end, I’m the one who decides how large a portion to put into my body; I’m the only one who can truly judge how many cups of cereal or ice cream is really appropriate for me.

Have you ever been shocked by the serving size on a nutrition label? Does knowing the serving size on a package influence how much of that food you eat?

Healthy Eating During the Puppy…I Mean…Super Bowl!

By Katie, 3:00 pm

Unfortunately neither of my two favorite teams are competing in the big game this year (shout out to all you Ravens and Eagles fans! :-D ). But I’ll still be watching the Super Bowl and munching on chips and salsa like the majority of my fellow Americans. Of course, we all know how easy it is for that munching to get out of control. Here are five quick tips for keeping it (somewhat) healthy and reasonable while you’re cheering on the quarterback and booing the referee. ;-)

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1. Eat from a Plate, Not from a Bag.

Actually putting your food onto a small plate, bowl, or napkin does wonders for helping with portion control. When the Tostitos go straight from the bag to your mouth in one fast movement, you lose all sense of how many you’ve actually eaten. Seeing them on a plate gives you a visual image of what you’re putting into your body, which will help you determine when you’ve had enough.

2. Dominate the Veggie Tray.

Or any other healthy option available. When you fill up on wholesome foods first, it leaves less room for the heavier, nutritionally-void items. While these are certainly not off-limits, they should complement – rather than dominate – your meal.

Not expecting any healthy options at the party you’ll be attending? Offer to bring one! Eating Well has lots of great suggestions for healthy Super Bowl recipes and menus.

3. Don’t Go Starving!

While it may seem like a good idea to avoid food earlier in the day in order to “save room” for the evening splurges, if you go into the game starving you’ll be less able to make wise, controlled choices. Enjoy a small snack before the party, one that satisfies you without filling you up.

4. Separate Food and TV

If possible, keep the food in the kitchen or another area away from the big screen. Putting food directly within reach increases the likelihood that you’ll keep, well, reaching for it, even after your body tells you it’s had enough. But if you actually have to get up from the couch to get the food, you’re more likely to be intentional about doing so.

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up!

Super Bowl parties are FUN, partly because of the guys in tights and partly because of the yummy eats! You don’t have to deny yourself the treats you crave. And if you do go a little overboard? Don’t sweat it! Overindulging every now and then is a part of living a balanced lifestyle. Just get right back to your healthy eating schedule on Monday. :-)

Oh, what’s that you say? Football isn’t really your thing? Perhaps instead you’ll be watching the PUPPY BOWL!

(Source)

That’s Carson, an 11-week-old German Shepherd Mix on the starting line-up.

And don’t worry if you’re a cat lover, there’s also a Kitty Half-Time Show! :roll:

I leave you with a video from a previous Puppy Bowl match-up. Enjoy the game! (Whichever one you’ll be watching! ;-) )

Honoring Hunger and Fullness

By Katie, 8:32 pm

The first time I went on a diet I was in 7th grade.

I remember it quite clearly. I decided to try to lose weight because at my annual physical exam, my doctor – yes, that’s right, my pediatrician started the whole mess – told me I should. It should be noted that I was not technically overweight when the doctor told me this; rather, my weight had simply gone up more sharply during the previous year than it had in years past. The doctor told me this happened because I was eating too much and exercising too little. Looking back, I’m guessing it was actually a natural consequence of going through that little thing called puberty.

My mom, wonderful woman that she is, tried to stand up for me. She reminded the doctor that I was active in sports, and that she didn’t think that cutting my energy intake sounded like such a great idea. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter what my mom said at that point. Starting that very moment, I thought I was fat.

And so the cycles of dieting began. Restricting here, overeating there, over-exercising here, never exercising there, pounds coming off and on and off and on. The constant ups and downs were enough to make me sea sick!

There are a lot of problems with the situation I’m describing, many of which I hope to explore on this blog. Today I want to focus on just one: hunger and fullness.

All of those years of dieting robbed me of my ability to know when I was hungry and when I was full – and my desire to honor those physical signals. That’s because dieting is really the exact opposite of listening to our bodies. When we diet, we follow strict rules about what to eat and what not to eat, and about when to eat and when not to eat. Those rules usually don’t involve eating when our bodies ask for food and stopping when they are satisfied.

When I decided to stop dieting for good – and began labelling “diet” as the four-letter word I think it is – I turned instead to the concepts of intuitive eating and mindful eating. These concepts stress that the ideal way to eat is to listen to our bodies, giving them the types of food they crave in the portions with which they are comfortable. It’s also about really paying attention to our food and the process of eating. I learned so much from the wonderful book Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. If you’re interested in these concepts further, I highly recommend reading this book.

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So I began the process of getting back in touch with my hunger and fullness cues.

For those of you who haven’t struggled with yo-yo dieting, you might think it’s crazy of me to say that at one point I was unable to tell when I was truly hungry. But those of you who have struggled probably know exactly what I mean. When you spend years purposefully denying yourself food when you’re hungry (because it’s not time to eat yet, or it’s after 6 pm and your “diet” says you can’t eat at night, or you’re skipping meals to make up for “overindulging” the day before), you pretty much lose touch with your body’s most natural signals.

So I started really paying attention to my body, and re-learning how to listen to it. And I made every effort to feed my body not according to the clock or any other external cues; I fed my body when it told me it needed more fuel. Now, having been practicing intuitive eating for quite some time, I find my hunger cues are clear and unmistakable.

The other piece of this puzzle is fullness. Dieting also messes up our ability to stop eating when our bodies have had enough. For years I was either forcing myself to stop eating long before my body was satisfied, or I was licking my plate long after my stomach had said it had had enough. For the longest time I actually found eating in restaurants extremely unpleasant because I would always finish my meal, regardless of its size, and would then spend the rest of the day feeling sick and uncomfortable.

Again, eating intuitively is about turning inward instead of outward, stressing that we should stop eating not when the food is gone or when our diets tell us we’ve had our portion. Honoring our fullness means that sometimes we’ll push our plates away with food still on them, and other times we’ll go back for seconds, all depending on what feels best for our bodies at that particular moment.

If all of this sounds pretty easy…well…it’s not. At least not for those of us who have wrestled with our weight for so long. Why? Because honoring hunger and fullness is all about TRUST. It’s about trusting our bodies to tell us what they need, how much they need, and when they need it. It’s about accepting that diets don’t work. And it’s about believing that when we truly listen to our internal cues and messages, our bodies will naturally stabilize at a weight that is healthy and maintainable for our individual selves.

So how did I go about getting back in touch with my hunger and fullness? Simply by paying attention. A lot of attention.

More specifically, I utilized a very handy little Hunger-Satiety Scale. There are lots of versions of this scale; I used the one from the McKinley Health Center. Basically, the scale is a way of rating your hunger, with #1 being famished/starving, #5 being neither hungry nor full, and #10 being painfully full. I aimed to avoid the extremes, beginning a meal or snack when my body was around a #3 or #4, and stopping when I hit a #6 or #7.

I did this quite literally. I kept a copy of the scale next to my place at the table, and before each time I ate I would look at it and give my hunger a number. Mid-way through eating I would stop, put down my utensils, and check in with my body to see how far along I was. At the end of the meal I would again rate my hunger/fullness level. When eating meals with Dave (my incredibly understanding husband who has never dieted in his life and hence often has no idea where I’m coming from), using the scale became kind of fun, like a little guessing game. “Where are you now, honey? 5, 6, perhaps a 7?”

I’m at the point now where I don’t need to use the hunger-fullness scale quite so literally; I’m in touch with my body enough that I can “check-in” with myself without referring to actual numbers all of the time. And yet, just as a reminder of where I’ve been and where I am now, I still keep the scale next to my place at the table. Proof:

I should also share that the process has really changed the way that I eat, or, more accurately, reverted it back to the way I ate before the dieting craze began. You see, as a child I was always naturally a grazer – I had trouble finishing meals because I got full quickly, but compensated by eating small snacks throughout the day. When I began dieting I lost touch with my natural grazer because I thought that snacking in between meals would make me gain weight.

Now, however, I find that I naturally want to eat the same way I did as a child. I find that I get full much more quickly than others around me, and yet I get hungry again much more quickly than they do. So I naturally gravitate toward eating smaller meals and snacks continually throughout the day. Others may find that when they begin eating intuitively, their bodies crave three larger, more standard meals per day; that just works for them. That’s the beauty of intuitive eating and honoring our hunger and fullness; we don’t have to eat by a script, but rather in whatever way feels best to each of us as individuals.

Now I’m not saying that we should only ever eat when we’re hungry. There are certainly times when it’s completely appropriate to eat for reasons other than physical hunger. Perhaps because you’re celebrating someone’s birthday. Or you’re about to exercise intensely and know your body needs the fuel. Or because a piece of food simply looks delicious. I think eating for these reasons is perfectly acceptable. But for those of us who have spent years dieting, restricting, and overeating, those reasons shouldn’t be the norm. On an everyday basis, eating according to hunger and fullness is much healthier for us.

I’m not a perfect intuitive eater by any means. I sometimes eat before I’m truly hungry, or when I’m way too hungry to eat in a controlled manner. And sometimes I eat beyond the point of comfortable satiety. Yet I get better at honoring my hunger and fullness every day because I make listening to my body a priority in a way that was simply impossible when I was dieting.

Ok, I think I have made this post long enough! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! ;-) I guess I’m just pretty passionate about this particular subject.

Do you eat according to your body’s hunger and fullness signals? Do you find that it comes naturally, or is it a challenge?

Drive-Thru Diet Ads: More on Food and Advertising

By Katie, 9:07 am

The post I wrote a few days ago on Food and Advertising generated some really insightful comments! I knew I wanted to continue the conversation with a follow-up post when I saw this article in the New York Times: Forget Jenni Craig. Hit the Drive-Thru.

The article examines the growing trend of fast food chains using dieting or weight loss-based marketing campaigns to sell their products. It all started with Jared, Subway’s famous spokesperson who lost a significant amount of weight dining on the chain’s Fresh Fit subs and sandwiches. Today the attention is on Taco Bell, which has released a “Drive-Thru Diet” marketing campaign to advertise its lighter Fresco menu. And lots of other fast food chains – including Dunkin’ Donuts, Quiznos, Starbucks, and McDonald’s – have begun offering lighter menu options with fewer calories.

So what do we make of these so-called “fast food diets”? Is this just harmless, clever marketing on the part of the fast food chains? Or is there a bigger problem with these restaurants associating their products with healthy living, or touting them as an effective weight loss tool?

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I personally keep waivering back and forth. On the one hand, if I truly want people to be healthier (which I do), then there’s a lot of good going on when a fast food chain starts jumping on the healthy living band wagon. On the other hand, the idea of using the phrases “fast food” and “healthy” so closely in the same sentence is a bit…unsettling.

I’m going to try to break it down into some pros and cons. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything, so please add more!

Pros

1. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes we need a fast, cheap meal – health concerns be darned! It’s only being realistic to say that even the healthiest among us are going to partake in some fast food fare every now and then. So maybe we’re a bit too hard on the whole industry.

2. When fast food chains use dieting and weight loss as a form of advertising, it means that there are at least some better/lighter/healthier (not sure which word is appropriate here!) options on their menus. So when the health-conscious do eat fast food – be it for price, convenience, or taste – we have some more choices that fit within our goals and values.

3. A lot of people in our society eat fast food regularly…some even eat it a lot. While I’d love to see those people change their habits and lifestyles more drastically, I’d also just like for them to be able to live somewhat healthier lives. If adding a Fresco menu allows that to happen (at least slightly), great!

4. Fast food is not evil in and of itself. Like most things, enjoying a little bit every now and then is no big deal. As mature adults, we are able to make our own decisions about what and where to eat, and for some people that might include fast food.

Cons

1. It seems a bit misleading to me when fast food chains claim that their food is HEALTHY, when the reality is probably more like, there are some options that aren’t THAT BAD. This isn’t necessarily the case across the board, especially at a place like Subway where you can customize your meal. But…really? Fast food…healthy? We know that, in general, that’s just not true.

2. As with all advertising campaigns, there’s a lot of fine print that the average consumer overlooks. For example, the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet ads make it seem like the spokeswoman lost weight just by eating their food; the fine print, however, says that she actually lost weight by changing her diet overall and committing to an exercise routine. Is it ok to mislead as long as you put the truth in teeny tiny print?

3. What are the costs to people who actually do lose weight by eating fast food? Surely they must be missing some vitamins and nutrients due to a lack of dietary variety. No one should eat any one thing – be it subs, sandwiches, burritos, whatever – every single day (which is what some of these “diets” recommend).

4. These fast food advertising campaigns are contributing to our society’s overall problem of equating “healthy” with “low calorie.” Almost all of the fast food chains mentioned here focus on calories – either exclusively or primarily. Quiznos has 500 calorie-and-under subs. Starbucks has panini sandwiches with 400 calories or fewer. The New York Times article points out, however, that calories are only part of the equation. Many of these meals are so high in sodium that they can hardly be considered healthy.

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My overall feeling is that I am glad that fast food chains are attempting to offer some lighter options on their menus. At the same time, touting fast food as a weight loss tool or legitimate component of healthy living seems a bit too misleading for me.

What do you think about “drive-thru diets” and other fast food campaigns that make diet, weight loss, and health claims? Is this just harmless, clever advertising? Do you eat fast food, and if so, do you try to choose one of the “healthier” options? Have you ever used fast food as a tool for weight loss?

Food and Advertising

By Katie, 11:55 am

On any given day, we are all wearing multiple hats. We’re daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers. We’re spouses, partners, and friends. We’re students and employees. We’re artists, writers, and musicians.

We also all play another role, yet its one that most of us rarely think about: the role of consumer.

As consumers, we are constantly subjected to companies’ attempts – sometimes obvious, sometimes not – to grab our attention, to convince us their product is worthy of our hard-earned cash. We are bombarded with advertisements, commercials, flyers, endorsements, and circulars promoting everything from clothing to housing to prescription medications. And, of course, the food industry is no exception.

In fact, the food industry is one of the top advertisers in the United States.

In thinking about the topic of food and advertising, I’ve been asking myself two questions. First, are we really that susceptible to it in the first place? And second, should it be regulated?

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How powerful are advertisements, really?

I don’t think there’s one single answer to this question; it varies from person to person. For example, my mom can see a commercial on television for Dairy Queen, and it will haunt her for days until she finally gives in and buys an Oreo Blizzard. I, on the other hand, like to consider myself immune to the clever tricks of advertisers. (Although this may be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I hate the idea of being mentally manipulated by a corporation so much that seeing a commercial often makes me go out of my way to not purchase the product. Go figure. :roll: .)

But my attention was recently drawn to a study conducted at Baylor College of Medicine (reported on by The New York Times Magazine‘s Clive Thompson in 2003). The study examined the brains of participants as they taste-tested Coke and Pepsi. Interestingly, when participants tasted the two sodas without knowing which was which, they preferred Pepsi. However, when they were aware of the brands, they preferred Coke.

Using MRI brain scans, researchers discovered that during the two taste tests, different areas of the brain became more excited. In the blind test, the area of the brain that processes feelings of reward lit up. During the test with the brands exposed, the area of the brain associated with memory lit up. What does this all mean? Basically, our food preferences go far beyond our taste buds; they are also influenced by our past impressions and experiences, which includes all of the advertising our brains take in each and every day.

Should food advertising be regulated?

If it’s true that we are susceptible to the messages of advertisers – even if we think we aren’t – then does it make sense for such messages to be regulated, particularly when they are promoting food and beverages that do more harm than good for our bodies? It’s a question that’s open for debate.

At this point, several European countries say yes, while in general the United States says no. For example, Ireland bans all television commercials for fast food and requires that candy wrappers contain a “warning” (much like the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes) that the candy should be eaten in moderation (source).

And what about advertising geared toward children? According to the same article referenced above, Sweden, Norway, Austria, and Luxembourg ban television advertising to children completely, and Belgium, France, and Portugal ban school-based marketing. In the United States, the food industry spends over $10 billion per year on advertising geared toward kids (source). And of course most of these advertisements aren’t promoting fruits and vegetables; they’re promoting sugary cereals and candies.

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But does that make it wrong? And is it only an issue in regards to unhealthy food, or should we somehow be protected from advertising messages of all kinds? Then who is to say which messages are acceptable and which are not?

I find these questions really interesting, particularly because I believe there are no easy, definite answers. I’d love to hear what you think!

Are you susceptible to the messages of food advertisements? Do you think food marketing should be more regulated? Why or why not?

Superfoods!

By Katie, 12:51 pm

It’s no secret that healthy eating can be difficult. If it were easy, then we’d all eat flawless diets, have no nutrient deficiencies, and have no need for nutritionists, dieticians, or even healthy-eating bloggers. But that’s simply not the case.

I think one reason healthy eating can be so challenging is that we usually focus on the negative, on what foods we shouldn’t eat. The task becomes less daunting, however, when we embrace a more positive perspective, one that emphasizes the wholesome, nutrient-rich foods we should be eating regularly. In other words, we should stop worrying about what foods to avoid and start focusing on the ones we should enjoy.

The January 2010 issue of Health magazine includes an article about the ten healthiest “superfoods” for women. These are foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients; they fight disease, increase energy, and can help keep us lean. The article focuses on women because some of the health concerns addressed are more prevalent in females – things like breast cancer, bone loss, and iron-deficiency. But I think the list is relevant to all of us, regardless of sex.

So instead of focusing on what not to eat, let’s try focusing on what we should be filling up on, starting with these ten superfoods! :-)

1. Wild Alaskan salmon

Wild salmon offers a good dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower “bad” cholesterol while increasing “good” cholesterol. Omega-3s are also good for our brains; they can fight depression and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Wild Blueberries

The article calls wild blueberries “nature’s ultimate anti-aging food.” That’s because they’re rich in antioxidants, can help lower blood pressure, and can even prevent memory loss.

3. Oats

Oats are chock full of fiber, meaning they make us feel full, which helps us maintain a healthy weight. They can also help lower cholesterol. Try steel-cut oats to get the most fiber.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli has vitamins and nutrients galore! Vitamin C, Vitamin A, fiber, folate, calcium, iron, potassium…whew! If you’re not a huge fan of the green stuff, try finding fun ways to prepare it (perhaps topped with some reduced fat cheese) or mix it into other dishes like pastas.

5. Walnuts

Of all the many healthy, nutrient-rich nuts out there, walnuts are king. They’re filled with protein, fiber, tons of vitamins and minerals, and omega-3s. The Health magazine article claims that “eating just a handful of walnuts a day can help you lower cholesterol, boost brain power, sleep better, cope with stress, prevent heart disease, fight cancer, and more.” Eat up!

6. Avocados


Yes, I know, avocados have a lot of fat. But it’s the good kind of fat, the kind that your heart needs to stay healthy. Avocados are also full of potassium, magnesium, folate, protein, and Vitamins E and K.

7. Red Beans


Red beans are full of antioxidants, protein, folate, minerals, and fiber. They also have what’s called “resistant starch,” which can help our bodies burn fat, feel full, and control blood sugars.

8. Greek yogurt


Greek yogurt – which is yogurt that has been strained or filtered to remove the whey – has a wonderfully thick, creamy texture. It’s also loaded with calcium, and has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. It’s delicious sweetened with fruit, honey, or agave nectar, and the plain varieties make a great substitute for sour cream and mayo.

9. Olive Oil


Substitute olive oil for other kinds of fats, such as butter. The fat in olive oil is again the heart-healthy kind. Use it for cooking, or drizzle the very-flavorful extra virgin variety on bread, pastas, and salads.

10. Dark Chocolate


Again with the antioxidants! Dark chocolate is also loaded with magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus (which helps build strong bones), and it can help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. And, really, it’s CHOCOLATE! :-D

Which of these foods do you already eat regularly, and which could your diet use more of? Which are your favorites? Do you find it easier to focus on foods you should be eating, rather than on foods you shouldn’t be?

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