Tag Archives: Eating Healthy

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Advertising to Children: Harmless Fundraising or Obesity Threat?

Remove; Image from MorgueFileWe’ve all seen them, whether it was when we ourselves were kids or just last week:  Advertisements featuring happy, healthy kids running into the kitchen for a meal or snack.   It sounds harmless enough until you factor in that many of these ads are pushing items like sugary cereal, drinks with copious amount of food dyes and other items with way more than the daily recommended amount of fat, calories, etc.   While that may be bad enough, it gets worse when you realize that many (if not most) of the commercials for sweetened or fatty food and drink are geared towards school-aged children.  The Federal Trade Commission stated that, “The food industry spent more than $1.6 billion in 2006 alone to market messages to kids promoting foods that often are high in calories and low in nutrition.”  Taking into consideration that one in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, what can be done to make sure that future generations have a fighting chance against food advertisers?

In recent years, there has been at least a glimmer of hope on this front in the form of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign.   Although her terms are voluntary, she has put out a plea to food manufacturers to reexamine how they market to kids up to age 17.  Mrs. Obama gave this message to manufacturers saying, “It’s going to be so critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy. And if there is anyone here who can sell food to our kids, it’s you. You know what gets their attention…You know what gets them to drive their parents crazy in the grocery store.”  According to Obama Foodorama, Mrs. Obama’s Principle can be broken down into two areas.

1)      Food advertising and marketing aimed at children up to age 17 should encourage them to choose foods that “make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans.”

2)      Saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children should be “limited to minimize the negative impact on children’s health and weight.”

In order to really make a difference, the Federal Trade Commission is shooting for all of the food industry to join in with the saturated fat, trans fat and sugar guidelines by 2016 and the sodium guidelines by 2021.  A forum will take place to discuss the Principles on Tuesday, May 24 with public comments being considered.

But while Mrs. Obama’s Principles are a huge step forward in admitting that there is a problem and making an attempt to fix it, it’s crucial to know that at the same time children are now being faced with advertisements in a place that is unavoidable: schools.   Because kids must attend school, advertisers have begun targeting the education system as a way to gain a captive audience while kicking a little money back for learning costs.

While some school advertising could be inconspicuous and never even seen by students (According to Time Magazine, a Massachussets school has been approached about placing advertising on the roof for planes to see while passing over), most are right within the eyesight and impressionable minds of students.  One of the biggest proponents of this, according to the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, is a program seen in many schools each morning called Channel One.   The Center says that Channel One currently reaches 8 million middle and high school students each day, showing two minutes of advertising during a single news broadcast.  And while many would think of encouraging kids to watch the news every day as educational, it may actually be costing more than it is worth.  According to a 1998 study on the Analysis of Commercialism in Education, it was found that $26,333 is spent by the average secondary school on just the commercials shown during a year’s worth of Channel One programming.

Advertising in schools isn’t all just on the TV though.  In school districts like the one in St. Francis, Minnesota, 10-15% of the lockers are covered in ads.  In many townships, extra money has been awarded for struggling programs like art and music by putting ads on the sides of school buses (sometimes up to $1,000 per bus).   There have even been lessons to teach students about wildlife and architecture promoted by companies such as Exxon and McDonald’s.

In these cases, it seems there are only a few choices.  Instead of waiting for Mrs. Obama’s Principles to become a reality, there is  always the opportunity for communities to rally together to ensure local schools are not promoting products, especially those for foods that could lead to increased obesity and related health issues.   It’s also imperative to explore all options of raising money when a district is presented with the option of combining advertising and education.  Finally, it’s important to educate children about eating healthy and making decisions based on that instead of a commercial or signage.

Are unhealthy foods used in your or your child’s school?  What are your thoughts on advertising to children both in and out of school?  Please share your comments with us below.

Celebrate National Soup Month

Soup; Image from MorgueFileJanuary isn’t just the beginning of the New Year it’s also the start of National Soup Month.  Is there really a better month than January to take an opportunity to learn about this warm, soothing and all around delicious epicurean staple?  Absolutely not!  So read on to find out just where soup came from, how to eat it correctly and what to do to keep it healthy and tasty.  And as if that weren’t enough soup to fill your appetite, we’ll also throw in three great recipes to try for yourself.

While today we often make soup out of leftover odds and ends (think of a turkey soup using Thanksgiving leftovers), this method used to actually be a necessity.   In the past, boiling foods made it possible for food to go further.  Items like bones and other normally inedible items were boiled to make a broth to take advantage of their nutritional elements.  Further along in history, according to cheftalk.com, soup began consisting of meat and vegetables and the original broth served more as an element to keep the solid food warm.  Although, this seems more in line with what we now know as soup, keep in mind that around this time people often didn’t have utensils, which meant they were still either drinking from the bowls, using their hands to pick out food or (if they were well-to-do) spearing solids with knives.

The table manners of yore are a far cry from how even the most etiquette deficient of us now tend to eat our soup.  However, have you ever been in one of those situations, eating soup in public, and thought…am I doing this right?  Never fear!  There are actually rules on how to enjoy your soup.   The Virginia Tech, Division of Student Affairs, suggests that you should “dip your spoon away” from you to fill your soup spoon.  They also remind to not place used utensils on the table and “sip quietly.”  To practice the etiqutte make sure you also get the right utensils.  Check out these Walco – Windso Flatware soup spoons from Central Restaurant Products.

Now that you know where it came from and how to eat it properly, you probably want to get right into making and eating your own soup, right?  Well, not so fast.  Before you jump right in, it’s important to know some tricks of the soup trade to make it as nutritious and delicious as possible.  First and foremost, it’s best to make your own.  Dr. Robert Vogel, chief medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center, told Tesh.com that “many of them (canned soups) contain trans fats, more than half a day’s worth of sodium and even MSG.”

Soup; Image from MorgueFileTo prevent your own soup from being too high in sodium, an about.com article suggests putting a whole, peeled potato into your soup, simmering for 15 minutes and removing the potato.  Another good tip when making your own soup is to pack it with fiber, like beans or whole grain pasta and lean meats like chicken and turkey.  These elements will allow you to stay fuller longer, just as the liquid content in soup does.  And as if all these tips weren’t enough to make you want to eat soup every day,  an article by Becky Hand, Licensed and registered dietician on sparkpeople.com says that  studies show “people who eat broth or vegetable-based soups as the first course of a meal consume fewer total calories during their meal.

Now that you’re armed with all this new and useful soup knowledge, get out there and make some of your own.  You now know that it’s wholesome, but with the following recipes, it’s also pretty easy.  So get in that kitchen and make a warm pot of flavorful soup!

Italian Sausage Soup recipe from Go.com

Skinny Tortilla Soup recipe from Tasteofhome.com

Chicken & Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto recipe from Eatingwell.com

Don’t forget to check out other handy soup gadgets like hand mixers (great for soup purees) or a sassy new soup bowl (to make things a little more colorful) from Central Restaurant Products.

5 Healthy Alternatives to Your Holiday Cookie Recipes

Cookies; Image from MorgueFileWith the holiday season in full swing, sweets are virtually unavoidable.  While most people don’t go looking for the healthy stuff this time of year (or heaven’s forbid turn down a cookie), it is nice to know that if you’re about to start baking there are some nutritious alternatives to the old favorites and classic standbys.  There’s no need to skimp on flavor this holiday, but if you try these five recipes, your waistline will thank you come January.

Vegan Holiday Sugar Cookies provide a great base for decoration and (as seen in the blog post included with the recipe) are a big hit with both kids and adults.   These delicious treats will not only give you a chance to experiment with the wide world of vegan without going too far outside your comfort zone, but also give you a chance to try out some new alternative ingredients such as egg replacements and vegan cream cheese that could be incorporated into other recipes.

Healthy Brownie Cookies let you have a little fun with chocolate (because who doesn’t crave it?) without all that added guilt.  Everyone likes a good brownie and with these you’ll get a chance to stay on your diet because they are low-fat and incorporate fiber with added bran.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies are always a crowd favorite, but this recipe adds in a little something extra…tofu.  While this may seem totally unorthodox to the chocolate chip cookie purists, tofu is a great way to keep your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol.  As if that wasn’t enough reason to add tofu, the yummy chocolaty goodness of these cookies actually prevents you from even knowing it’s in there, which means all the benefits with the same great taste.

 Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies give you a way to control your portions without missing out.  These goodies can often be high in fat due to the large amounts of butter.  However, this take on the classic swaps out some of that badness that makes the cookies so moist for a fruity alternative.  By just mixing up some hot water, pureed apples and a small amount of butter the cookies maintain their texture and add in a little more of a daily food group.

If you’re really feeling the health kick this season, you may even want to try Nikki’s Healthy Cookie Recipe.  This one may be just a bit out of your normal comfort zone, but promises to be rich, hearty and “macaroon-eque.”  An extra bonus to the cookie is that it contains no butter, sugar or eggs and can also be made as a gluten-free option for those with allergies.

Eating Healthy While Eating Out

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Eating at a restaurant can really be tricky if you are trying to watch your weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle but it is entirely possible to visit a restaurant and not feel guilty (or disgusted) about what you just ate.

The best way to approach going to a restaurant when being conscious about food is to plan. If you have a choice in where to go, make things easier from the get go and choose a healthy restaurant. Health.com listed their picks for America’s healthiest restaurants with some of those being Uno Chicago GrillP.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Ruby Tuesday, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden.

But you can’t go to Olive Garden and eat the heaviest item on the menu just because it’s described as a healthy restaurant. Do your homework. Most restaurants have a website and post nutritional information. And for restaurants who don’t, it can easily be found somewhere on the internet.

Healthy Dining Finder, Diet Facts, Calorie King and Nutritional Information Services are a few of many websites aimed to help you find nutritional information. If all else fails, just type in the restaurant you want followed by the words “nutritional information” in a Google search.

When you are planning (or when you are squirming in your seat at the restaurant glaring at the menu), avoid anything with the words fried, basted, creamy, batter-dipped, scalloped or breaded.

But you want to know what you do want.  An article by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) gives an excellent list of tips for searching through a menu.

The words baked, grilled, dry-sautéed, broiled, poached and steamed are key descriptors for what you want in an entree.

If you have pasta on the brain, while it probably isn’t the healthiest option, chose whole grains and a tomato-based sauce over a cream-based one. Also, cream-based soups are another item you have to avoid and NRA recommends a broth based soup instead.

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When ordering a salad, you can order the healthiest looking salad on the menu then ruin everything with the dressing and toppings.

Avoid Iceberg lettuce and excessive amounts of croutons, bacon and cheese. Keep your choices for dressing to oils, vinegars and low-fat (but be cautious with low-fat dressings because just because it says its low-fat doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest. This is where doing your homework ahead of time can be very helpful). But what you can overload on for your salad is veggies!

NRA also gives suggestions for fish and meat. Choose fish with the key descriptor words above and choose leaner meats such as skinless chicken breasts, turkey burgers, pork loin and beef sirloin.

When at the restaurant, keep in mind your waiter or waitress is there to serve you so don’t be afraid to customize your order or to ask questions.  They can help you whether it’s having them point out better options or asking if they have a list of healthier menu items. When customizing your order, if you do not see an option with those key descriptors, then customize your order.

Instead of having a heavier side dish, go for the steamed vegetables (or something healthier). Sometimes there’s an additional cost to swap a side, but depending on where you go it usually isn’t that much.  If it means that much to you to keep on track, the additional $1.49 charge could really be worth it.

For a few other things, eat something small or drink a full glass of water before you leave or before your order arrives. This will make you less hungry and can help with over-eating.

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Also, don’t feel like you have to eat everything on your plate. Many places serve double the portion size you should be eating. Sounds easier said than done to opt for taking half home and this is where having something small or drinking a glass of water before could really help so you aren’t starving. Eating slowly will also help you feel full and makes it easier for your body to digest the food.

Now you’re ready to face eating out worry free. Here are a few additional websites to help you: