Are You Being Food Duped?

16 Oct

This past week I went grocery shopping with a client and I was in awe of his good questions and misdirection about what’s “good and healthy”. It got me thinking, if he thinks this way…many others must as well. The grocery store is realities Wheres Whaldo of whats healthy and what’s not.

So here goes to debunking a few very common misguided beliefs about certain foods and theory’s.

1- Granola is NOT, I repeat, NOT a “healthy” food despite the healthy halo its received.  The US government labels granola as a “grain- based desert”. Lets break it down. Most people serve up about 1 cup of granola at breakfast (average 25 grams of sugar). Worthy opponents:  a piece of chocolate cake, with frosting (26 grams) or one cup of ice-cream  (24 grams). Need a better visual?  6-7 sugar packets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an unsweetened version of granola but that’s how it was created in the 1800’s by Dr. James Jackson. No way he’s happy about his granola sabotage.

2- So called natural sugars are better for you than good old brown sugar or table sugar. Not so much. Agave, cane sugars, malts, syrups, honey, and whichever nectar of the month in vogue, …all sugar. The take home for all sugars is how much your eating of it.

3- Strictly talking sodium…kosher salt, sea salt, or regular old Morton’s table salt are all about the same in sodium content.  All play a role in blood pressure and due to the highly processed foods this country eats (sense the tone), all salts should be limited or better yet, eliminate processed foods. What’s the  difference? Table salt is highly processed to eliminate trace elements. Kosher salt is minimally refined & made by compacting smaller granular flakes into larger more irregular shapes. Sea salt comes directly from evaporated sea water or underground resources.


4- The detox diet or cleanse to “remove toxins form the body. I don’t know where the confusion came from but our bodies do this on their own…naturally. These so called cleanses can be very harmful to the very precise electrolyte balance in our body. If your interested in making your body super efficient at removing toxins…drink a lot of water and aim for clear or lemonade color pee, increase the fiber in your diet to poop like a champ, work up a good sweat by regular exercise, and of course, limit alcohol, don’t smoke, and avoid processed foods. Done and done.

5- Greek yogurt. Yes,  plain greek yogurt is very low in sugar…somewhere around 4-6 grams of sugar per individual serving (and has more protein then regular yogurt). But the flavored ones…any of them bump up to 15-17 grams sugar. (Pssst- it’s not “real” fresh fruit- it’s fruit packed with syrup). We’re back to rivaling a desert. Mom’s find these to be great kid snacks, but really its ice-cream with pro-biotics added to make you think your eating healthy. We can do better. Try the plain, Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit with chopped nuts and cinnamon.

The moral of the story, don’t believe everything you hear, or read. Marketers work hard  to dup you, do your research and read labels.



Whats In Your Brew?

4 Aug

Ignorance is or was bliss… but not anymore. A few beers in and I highly doubt your wondering how many calories your consuming but your about to get a reality check.

Some of the biggest beer brands, Coors, Budweiser, and Heineken (representing about 80% of the beer consumed) are soon to give full disclosure in a new nutritional label.  Calories, carbs, alcohol content, ingredients, appropriate portion size, and alcohol content will adorn the bottle forcing you to take a glance (or give you the stink eye).  This is all set to be in full swing by 2020. (So, a few more years of denial).

Consumers interested in living a healthy lifestyle have been putting pressure on the beer industry for years. Why should food be labeled and not alcohol? I see the point. Liquid calories matter. Obviously people care otherwise there wouldn’t be light, ultralight, extra light, premier light, ultra low carb beers…I could go on…the marketing buzz words are endless always catering to the diet j’jour.


Many beers also contain artificial flavors, additional sugars, and preservatives and although it may not stop a beer drinker, many would prefer to know whats in their brew. And no different than the food industry, this may spark breweries to use better quality ingredients. Let’s face it, this move was inevitable. We were buying time.

Counting calories isn’t the only factor in living a heathy lifestyle but knowing calorie content does help us make better choices (or at least aware, you know, that whole knowledge is power thing). A 12 ounce light beer has roughly 120 calories, regular beer about 150 – 180 calories. (I’ve seen a chocolate stout over 300 calories). So, that means four beers watching a ball game sitting on your couch can close in on about 600 calories. Sitting at a sports bar drinking pints brings you closer to 1000 calories. (Thats a double whopper sandwich…fyi).


Side note: 1 serving size equals a 4 ounce glass of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounce spirit.

By all means am I not saying not to drink. Heavens no! I have 3 kids under age 7…happy hour at our house. Recommended is one drink for women and two for men. Double check that serving size of wine you just poured yourself.  (Here’s a good tip- invest in smaller more appropriate size wine glasses and beer mugs…perception is reality).

You know that I know that you know that this is a good thing. Knowledge is bliss in this scenario.

National Junk Food Day? What?

24 Jul

So, I had absolutely no idea, but this past Thursday was Nation Junk Food Day. The originator of this day must have been high! That is the only logical explanation.

68.8% of adults and 33.6% of teenagers (age 12-19) are considered overweight or obese. I highly doubt this is due to too much snacking on rice cakes and carrots. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t everyday in America seem like National Junk Food Day?

Could it be the new Oreo or Chips Ahoy thins? Love that companies care so much to come out with a crisp version of the cookies to make us believe your eating less. Or how about a big gulp of 7-Elevens red velvet cake slurpee special (16 packets of sugar is case you were wondering).

Pop- tarts are thoughtful to get us involved with their “who can come up with the weirdest flavor” campaign. Thanks for thinking of us while we’re checking our am blood sugar numbers.

As if all that isn’t bad enough, marketers are honing in on Americans obsession with fiber. Since we don’t rely on “natures call” anymore we turn to the holy grail of fiber which should come in the form of bran or whole fruits. But thank heavens fiber one bars are now s’more’s flavor. Oh its junk food alright, with a little pseudo fiber, topped with some artificial colors and flavorings and a hefty dose of sugar, but whatever….s’mores!


Here’s a tip…put down the junk food and save the s’more’s for the annual campfire.

Lucky for us October 24 is Food Day. A day focused on inspiring Americans to eat real food and change food policies. Consider making your own personal resolve on this day to avoid packaged and processed foods and turn to real food. Give yourself the 100 day challenge…I promise your body will thank you.


The Cold Truth About Cereal

18 Jul

Despite the decline in millennials consuming cereal, apparently 40 % surveyed said they don’t want to clean the bowl and spoon, (seriously…talk about lazy, and we wonder why American kids are overweight), I believe cereal can be a healthy breakfast option. Let me be clear, not the cereal that turns your milk into a sweet and gooey random color looking soup.

The catch is knowing what to look for and what to avoid. Manufacturers are very sneaky and master manipulators.

An optimal cereal looks like this:

  • Roughly 200 calories per serving.
  • 2 or more grams of protein per serving.
  • At least 3, but shoot for 5 grams, or more, of fiber per serving.
  • Less than 3 grams or fat and no trans fat.
  • 8 grams or less of sugar per serving (some cereals have dried fruits and dried fruits are high in sugar. If the cereal has more than 8 grams or sugar but meets the other parameters, it’s probably still an acceptable choice as long as you stick with the stated serving size).

Heres the low down:

1- Shelf space is crucial. Eye level cereal is most likely reserved for the heavily marketed not so healthy cereal. Look up or down for the healthier options.

2- Read labels and not marketing claims. For example, a “contains no cholesterol” claim should be ignored. Of course it has no cholesterol, only animal products contain cholesterol.

3- Cereals touting they contain yogurt and therefore calcium…steer clear. The yogurt is nothing more than added sugar and palm kernel oil (aka saturated fats). The calcium is added, meaning synthetic, made in a factory. I prefer calcium from a glass of non-fat organic milk.

4- Serving size- Stick to it. Sometimes manufactures claim their cereal is superior when in-fact the serving size is super small resulting in multiple serving sizes.

5- Sugar is often written in “tricky” ways (as my daughter says). Honey, cane sugar, natural sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, rice syrup are all…sugar!

6- Hydrogenated oils. If you see the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list…put it down, walk away, and don’t look back.

7- Fiber. Look for natural fibers. Not these: Inulin, maltodextrin, oat fiber, soy fiber, modified wheat starch, sugarcane fiber, and polydextrose may not have beneficial properties like real fiber does. Look for the word whole as the first ingredient. For example, whole oats, whole fiber, and  whole grain are all good fiber sources.

8- Real fruit. If there is real fruit in the cereal, it will be stated on the ingredient list.

The first six ingredients in this cereal are sugar!

The first six ingredients in this cereal are sugar!

No need to pigeon hole cereal for breakfast only. Cereal is also great as a snack, dry or with milk, mixed into yogurt, and added to a homemade trail mix.

Cereal is a quicks and easy fix for the non- breakfast eaters out there. Surly, 1 bowl and 1 spoon isn’t gonna rob you of valuable time.



Natural vs Natural?

6 Oct

The peaceful farm scene on the bag of crackers labeled “natural” looks as if the crackers were plucked from the cracker tree, at least thats what manufactures want you to believe, and millions of Americans are believing just that, natural must mean healthier.

It’s assumed by most consumers, that natural means no hormones, antibiotics, additives, food coloring, or synthetic substances. But given that the U.S. has no standards or a proper definition (other countries not only have a definition, but enforce it as well) for the word when referring to food, the word “natural” assures, well…nothing.

Natural is now a vague marketing tool alluring consumers into believing one product is superior over another. Maybe a particular product is, but with no regulations, who’s to know. So much so, that a very large portion of consumers (way over 50%) will actually purchase a “naturally” labeled product over its counterpart.

It’s difficult to come up with a proper enforceable definition when so much of our soy and corn is genetically modified (and in everything) and highly processed foods are almost the norm vs the exception.

But don’t get too comfortable because companies are pretty hip to avoid any scepticism. Terms like “simply” and “pure” are in line to replace the term “natural.” Always keeping us guessing (or maybe dazed) and confused.

And definitely don’t assume “natural” means “healthful.” Those two don’t go hand in hand. Chips are still chips and contain excess fats and cookies are still cookies with too much sugar (and who knows what else).

'Uh... did you say you are on a lead diet?' 'Dude... it's all natural!'

The take home: First, cook more and second, cook with more wholesome ingredients and avoid processed foods. Therefore you can avoid being the next Sherlock Holmes when it comes to deciphering food labels.

The best foods are the ones that make no claims.


The Snack Epidemic

31 Aug

School is starting and that means…an endless supply of snacks. If your kids are anything like mine, they become piranhas after school, scouring the fridge and pantry for the perfect after-school snack.

The overwhelming abundance of “healthy and/or organic” snacks on the market makes it almost impossible to determine what’s best. Of course, we’ve all been swept away by the organic world (I’m on board) but that doesn’t always equate to healthy. Sugar is still sugar, even if it is organic.  Most advertisers will promote whole grains or bean flours but the quantity is generally too insignificant to be count. Sugar is often disguised with confusing synonyms with the hopes of hoodwinking the average consumer: cane sugar, molasses, malt syrup, evaporated cane syrup, and rice syrup are a few of the more popular terms and all are sugar. And by the way, in case you were ever curious, fruit or veggie “concentrate” means no real fruits or veggies were added.

5 snacks rules I work off of:

  1. Real food. This is  non-negotiable in my book. Think whole grain along with protein and carbohydrates. A little fiber never hurt anyone, plus the added fiber will help fill your kids up. Whole grain cereal and milk is popular in our house. Hummus with whole grain pretzel crisps, carrots and cucumbers is another winner. String cheese and whole grain crackers also gets an A+. Hard boiled egg, seasonal fruit, beans and rice (I’m a Miami girl), and nut butters on whole grain English muffin are also excellent options.
  2. Get on a schedule. I find a proper after school snack at a designated time prevents over-eating.
  3. Snacks and treats are worlds apart. Try not to confuse the two. Kids and adults need to learn the difference. Ice cream, cookies, granola bars, protein bars (aka glorified candy bars), goldfish graham crackers, and chips are “treats”. “Snacks” are what’s mentioned in rule #1.
  4. Availability. If its ready (peeled, chopped, cut, diced, washed, portioned) they will eat it.
  5. Let them go hungry. It’s ok for kids to be a little hungry. It teaches them about appetite, satiation, and what it feels like to build up an appetite. Actually, thats a lesson many of us adults can learn as well.


Ever notice that your kids are never hungry at mealtime? Or why you have to beg them to eat? Its most likely because the minute your kids mention hunger, a snack is readily available, as if you were a human vending machine. Here’s what a typical day should look like: three square meals, 1 to 2 healthy proportioned snacks during the day. Done!


Ingredients on the Blacklist

12 May

Rule: If you’re wondering whether to purchase a certain product in the grocery store, read the list of ingredients. If you can’t purchase everyone of those ingredients to re-create that same item- don’t purchase. I’m an ingredient reader and although my list could take up about three blogs, I’d like to share 5 ingredients that you should absolutely avoid.

Sodium Benzoate: A preservative used to prevent food from molding. In a lot of foods- salad dressings, sodas, juices, cake mixes, to name a few. When mixed with vitamin C, sodium benzoate turns into benzene, a known carcinogen and DNA damager. Studies are also showing it may cause hyperactivity in children. Used very often in the U.S., but banned as an ingredient in Europe.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole ): Used frequently in processed foods that have a long shelf life to prevent food from spoiling. Although the FDA has it in the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) category, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. So, whats it doing to humans? Check labels, if your consuming processed foods (number one- limit or cease that) your most likely taking in BHA.

Potassium Benzoate: A close cousin to sodium benzoate, it can form benzene, a carcinogen when combined with vitamin C, the ascorbic acid in juice and soda. Potassium benzoate shows up in places least expected like apple cider, low fat salad dressings, and jams. SO, once again, read labels.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Chinese food put MSG on the map but it doesn’t stop there. MSG is regarded as safe in small quantities (but us Americans don’t know the meaning of small) but it does cause adverse reactions like increased appetite (something else Americans don’t need), sweating, rapid heartbeat, swelling, abdominal pain, and numbness. Enough said.

Hydrogenated oils: Hydrogenated oils have been linked to diabetes, coronary disease and obesity. Hydrogenated oils turns into trans fats. Trans fats increase the “LDL” bad cholesterol while decreasing the “HDL” the good cholesterol. That combination increases your risk for heart disease. The real problem is that if a food has less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, it’s not required to be on the label. And if you consume multiple serving sizes, the amount of trans fat you take in can rack up.

Simply put, avoid these harmful ingredients from ever being in your pantry — cook more and avoid processed foods.