Monthly Archives: November 2013

See that frozen white slab coming out of that box???? That unappetizing icy block is the McDonald’s McRib!

Maybe we should coin a new phrase … Mc-Icky!

This year, McDonald’s has decided that it won’t be doing its usual national roll-out of the “beloved” McRib sandwich. It’s currently leaving it up to individual franchise owners to decide whether or not to include it on their menu.

We hear year after year after year how many millions of consumers are die-hard devotees of this strange and unusual “rib” sandwich. We must admit we don’t know any of these consumers personally. And we do have difficulty imagining the existence of a large army of people clamoring for this “rib that isn’t a real rib” sandwich. It is our guess that we’ll have a better read on how many devoted fans the McRib really has after the numbers of franchisees offering the sandwich at the end of 2013 is counted up. But we are guessing that the release of this photo picturing the raw, frozen McRib may have something to do with an unexpected downturn in that number.

Do you want to eat that?

We sure don’t! O.k. didn’t want to eat it before we saw that photo. That’s because we’re pretty well-versed in its contents. The ingredient list here is far from pretty:

Ingredients (78):
McRib Pork Patty (Pork, Water, Salt, Dextrose, BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Citric Acid) , McRib Bun (Flour Enriched [Wheat Flour Bleached, Barley Malted Flour, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)] , Water, Yeast, Corn Syrup High Fructose Contains 2% or less of the Following: (, Salt, Corn Meal, Wheat Gluten, Soybean(s) Oil, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated and/or, Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Propionate, Calcium Sulphate (Sulfate), Cottonseed Oil, Dextrose, Dough Conditioner(s) [Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Datem, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono-And Diglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzyme(s), Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide] , Barley Malted Flour, Soy Flour, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Wheat Flour Cultured) , McRib Sauce (Water, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Tomato(es) Paste, Vinegar Distilled, Molasses, Flavor(s) Natural Smoke, Food Starch Modified, Salt, Sugar, Beet(s) Powder, Caramel Color, Garlic Powder, Onion(s) Powder, Sodium Benzoate, Soybean(s) Oil, Spice(s), Xanthan Gum, Pepper(s) Chili) , Pickle Slices (Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Alum, Potassium Sorbate, Flavor(s) Natural, Polysorbate 80, Turmeric Extractives) , Onion(s) Slivered

But now we have this pre-cooked visual to accompany this very disturbing ingredient list.

The image of this indistinguishable frozen white slab JUST HAS to turn at least some consumers off to the concept of consuming one sandwich that contains well over 70 ingredients (a whole host of them being REALLY bad), 26 grams of fat (including 50% of your RDI of saturated fat) and 980 mg of sodium.

Let’s face it, the McRib really never had anything going for it in terms of healthy eating. After the release of this image, honestly, it has even less.

Our Thanksgiving Table: Saving the best for last – Pumpkin Pie!

We’ve all admitted that Thanksgiving dinner could never be a complete experience without dessert – and more specifically, pie. And even more specifically, pumpkin pie!

It’s a turkey day tradition … and some form of pumpkin pie (although not the one we enjoy today) could have easily been present during that first Thanksgiving feast in the early 1600s. Early American settlers of Plimoth Plantation, the first permanent European settlement in southern New England, might have made a “pumpkin-pie-like treat” by making stewed pumpkins or by filling a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then baking it in hot ashes.

A recipe for pumpkin pie appears in a 1651 cookbook from France. This recipe is the first that includes a pie crust making the dish fairly identical to the pumpkin pie we enjoy today.

We’ve almost finished our meal around the Thanksgiving table. So let’s enjoy our favorite Thanksgiving dessert. Sad thing is that when we indulge in this traditional compliment to our holiday meal, it will cost us upwards of 400 calories per slice with a hefty 14.3 grams of fat per serving.

We don’t want to feel guilty about this great dessert. We want to enjoy it, savoring each bite. And the only way we can think about doing this (especially immediately following that incredible meal we all just shared), is to find a way to lighten up this recipe WITHOUT sacrificing any of the flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 can evaporated skim milk
1/4 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin puree
1 frozen pie shell, thawed
For the topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream

1. Position oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. Combine all ingredients except pumpkin in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and continue stirring until smooth.
3. Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350° F (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Serve with pie (1 Tbsp per slice).

This recipe produces a very flavorful pumpkin pie! It also brings the calories down to 210 per slice with 6 grams of fat! That’s a pretty significant savings of fat and calories!!

We’ve really enjoyed having you all gather together around our Thanksgiving table at If you’ve been following along with us, you’ll know that the traditional dinner we’ve profiled came in at 1766 calories and 83 grams of fat for Roast Turkey, Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing, Candied Yams, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie. We’ve outlined some lighter recipes for that same Thanksgiving meal. It now comes in at 876 calories and 23.4 grams of fat. That’s over 50% less calories and over 71% less fat than the traditional recipes we’re all used it. is excited to sit down to our healthier feast this Thanksgiving. We hope you give some of these lighter ideas a try. You’ll not only feel good about the nutritional value of your holiday meal – your family will feel good about the wonderful flavors and aromas rising from your kitchen this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving from!

Americans still consume ingredients banned in other countries

Maybe we’re just late to the ingredient ban party. Maybe we’re never going to get there. We’re really not sure. What we do know, however, is that Americans are still eating food products that contain a variety of ingredients that many other countries have deemed unsafe for consumption. is already aware that the designation of a food additive as Generally Recognized as Safe is a pretty questionable process. And it’s obvious that there are countries where the safety designation of certain ingredients was much more stringent than our own. Let’s review a few of the ingredients that the U.S. FDA still includes on the GRAS list – even though they are banned in other countries.

Food Coloring:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 are both banned in Norway, Finland and France
Studies in the 1980s linked these food dyes to cancer in animal studies. They are also linked to the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Yellow #5 is banned in Norway and Austria. Yellow #6 is banned in Norway and Finland. Six of the studies on yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell’s genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA. Both colors have been linked to cancer in animal studies and are implicated in the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Brominated Vegetable Oil:
Banned in over 100 different countries, including the European Union, Japan and India, Brominated Vegetable Oil is still approved as additive in the United States with specific restrictions that limit its concentrations in products. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in various products, and contains bromine, a chemical whose fumes can be corrosive and toxic.

The governments of the UK and many countries in the EU have determined that they do not think it’s safe for their populations to consume an ingredient that’s also popular in the manufacture of foamed plastics – things like yoga mats and sneaker soles. So Azodicarbonamide is not permitted in the baked products sold in these countries.

Azodicarbonamide is proven to exacerbate (and even cause) asthma symptoms. It is referred to as an “asthma-causing allergen”. While the use of this dough conditioner has certainly declined in the production of U.S. baked products – it’s still out there.

rBGH and rBST:
Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of bovine growth hormone, can be found in nonorganic dairy products unless noted on the packaging. These hormones are banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the EU because of dangers to both human and bovine health. While there are American producers who don’t use these hormones, neither are outlawed here in the U.S.

There are other ingredients in addition to these, of course, which have been designated unacceptable in other countries. tends to think that we’ve got a problem when we’re recognizing more additives as safe all the time that other countries have discovered problems with. It does appear possible that we aren’t being selective enough when it comes to the ingredients in our food supply and that the FDA could be doing a better job of keeping our foods safe for consumption. And while we’re all thinking that no doctor has ever deemed a person’s cause of death to be consumption of azodicarbonamide or the reason for a person’s cancer to be consumption of artificial food coloring, there’s absolutely mounting evidence that specific ingredient do carry specific health concerns and we’re better off leaving them out of our diets.

Happy Fast Food Thanksgiving from Popeye’s

One of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st century thus far is “busy”. It’s extremely fashionable to be “busy” and it appears that the busier you are, the trendier you are, hence the term “just too busy”.

And out of this trend the continual need for all things convenient is sustained. We’re “too busy to iron clothes” so wrinkle-releaser was invented. We’re too busy to vacuum, so now we have robotic vacuums in various shapes and sizes that run around our floors on their own picking up dust. We’ve been too busy to mash our own potatoes for quite awhile now and we’ve been provided with an array of different boxed, dried instant products to choose from that supply us with a not-quite-reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

And today, discovered that it appears that we’re too busy to prepare our holiday meals as well! According to Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits, we can leave the preparation of our Thanksgiving Turkey to them! It seems that we’ve been able to do that for about 13 years now (if not longer).

The idea of ordering a holiday meal for delivery is nothing new. As a society, we’ve been avoiding actual cooking for years. But would you actually order your Thanksgiving turkey from Popeye’s?

If you read the reviews from various internet sources, the answer is apparently a resounding YES! from hundreds of consumers. The Cajun-style fried holiday turkey from Popeye’s is rumored to be a very tasty bird. People look forward to ordering it every year for their holiday meal. ?????

Thanksgiving dinner from a fast food chain. Well … not exactly.

O.k. the bird is being offered for order from Popeye’s. Between 9 and 11 pounds, pre-cooked (flash-fried in the description) and $39.99 at specific locations. We did a little web hunting and discovered that the turkey appears to be coming from You can Google Popeye’s fried turkey and you’ll find more than a few links that put the two together. If you order the turkey from CajunGrocer, you’ll pay about $12 more for it than if you order it directly from your participating Popeye’s.

Details on the turkey are difficult to discover. The Popeye’s website is pretty understated about this promotion. The only thing you’ll find is a participating store locator. When you input your zip code you’ll get a list of locations with a Cajun Turkey icon next to the address. There is no nutritional information or ingredient list for the product itself.
So we headed on over the ( Here we got just a little more information. It states that prior to cooking the turkey is injected with a Creole butter marinade (no ingredients are included). We’ve also read that the turkey is rubbed with a spice blend. But that’s about all the information we can find here. Clicking the Nutrition Information tab simply brings us to a list with no accompanying data. And right next to the entry “Ingredients”, we find “cajun fried turkey.”

Honestly, finds this a bit suspect. We generally like transparency when it comes to our food and can’t help but wonder why we’re not getting it here. Nutritional information for the Popeye’s Cajun Fried Turkey should be available on both the Popeye’s website and the website.

And honestly, we can’t wrap our heads around the concept of Thanksgiving dinner from Popeye’s. No offense intended. This turkey gets rave reviews. And it technically isn’t from a fast food place. But even so … it’s just not working for us. And if Popeye’s wants us to attempt to get with their Thanksgiving program, they can send us the ingredient list soon. Maybe then we’ll give it a try!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Roast Turkey … the holiday centerpiece

We’re getting closer to the big day and as we do, our thoughts turn repeatedly to the centerpiece of our table — the roast turkey!

There really isn’t much that compares to the aroma of a golden brown turkey roasting away in the oven on Thanksgiving morning. And then there are the leftovers! The possibilities are endless … turkey sandwiches with gravy, turkey pot pies, turkey and stuffing casseroles are just a few of our favorites.

Gather round our table where the turkey is the Thanksgiving day main event. But sadly, the centerpiece of our meal can inflict a heavy dose of fat and calories on the holiday dinner. The typical roast turkey prepared in the traditional manner supplies about 400 calories per serving with 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat and 994 mg of sodium.

Did the pilgrims actually include a turkey in their original Thanksgiving feast? The jury’s out on this one. It appears that in Massachusetts in 1621 there were plenty of wild turkeys keeping the colonists company. So it would certainly seem natural that a bird would be part of that original dinner thanking God for the harvest and for the colonists’ survival in the new world (which was not an easy feat). The pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving for three days – so we’d have to assume that more than one wild turkey was included. That was quite a feast!

While we love the roast turkey, we also love the rest of the meal and want to enjoy it in its entirety without worrying about compromising our healthy lifestyle in order to do so. That can become difficult when most of the side dishes we love so much are very high in calories and fat, as well as sodium. So what can we do about keeping our turkey at reasonable fat and calorie levels, without sacrificing any of that marvelous flavor? We’d also like to make sure that we keep our favorite, old-fashioned aromas wafting through our homes in the morning hours of Thanksgiving day.

This healthier recipe will ensure both the flavor and fragrance of a winning roast turkey. The apples and onions help to keep the bird from drying out, so that you’ll achieve that moist texture that’s so important.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 1 10- to 12-pound turkey
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 1/2 pounds small onions, peeled and halved lengthwise, divided
• 1 tart green apple, quartered
• 3 cups water, plus more as needed

• Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 475°F.
• Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity.
• Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan; pat dry with paper towels.
• Combine oil, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place herb sprigs, half of the onions and apple in the cavity. Add 3 cups water to the pan.
• Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. Cover the breast with foil, cutting as necessary to fit. Add remaining onions to the pan around the turkey. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting a thermometer registers 165°F, 1 to 1 3/4 hours more. If the pan dries out, add more water.
• Transfer the turkey to a serving platter (reserve pan juices and onions for gravy) and tent with foil.

This will make for a great turkey day experience for everyone. Flavorful and moist for less than half the calories and fat of a traditional recipe. The apples really add to the flavor and aroma of the bird. We love adding this healthy option to the Thanksgiving table and can’t wait to sit down to this year’s better-for-us feast!

Good news from Noosa Yoghurt

Have you ever read the ingredient list for a typical mainstream yogurt brand? You’ll typically find a list that looks a lot like this example for strawberry yogurt:

Milk Nonfat Grade A Cultured, Sugar, Strawberries, Water, Contains 1% or less of the following: (Corn Starch Modified, Pectin, Flavors Natural, Fruit Juice, Vegetables Juice, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, Lactic Acid, L Bulgaricus, S Thermophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis)

Most of the yogurt available today in our grocery stores is promoted as a “diet” food option. Generally, you’ll find that most brands are low in calories and fat, while high in sugar and protein. Unfortunately, they also almost all contain controversial ingredients. And just about every fruit-flavored variety contains “natural flavors” (which are a long list of ingredients that manufacturers don’t need to disclose which can contain controversial items. Click here for details: In the example above, while the yogurt contains actual strawberries, natural flavors are added to boost that flavor for consumers, making the product more flavorful and, therefore, more desirable. has always had a problem with this idea. Yogurt really wasn’t a diet product back in the old days. It’s nutritionally rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. It has nutritional benefits beyond those of milk. Lactose-intolerant individuals can sometimes tolerate yogurt better than other dairy products, because the lactose in the milk is converted to glucose and galactose, and partially fermented to lactic acid, by the bacterial culture. While its origins are unknown, it is actually ancient. The oldest writings mentioning yogurt are attributed to Pliny the Elder, who remarked that certain “barbarous nations” knew how “to thicken the milk into a substance with an agreeable acidity.” That would have been sometime before 79 A.D.

We’re pretty sure the yogurt that Pliny the Elder was talking about didn’t contain natural flavors – or carrageenan, in the example given above (or high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, or artificial food dyes – to name a few other ingredients you can find in different yogurt brands.)

So where do we find a fruity yogurt that’s made more like it used to be when Pliny the Elder talked about it back in the days of the Roman Empire?

We’re glad you asked, because we’ve got good news from Noosa. This is a relatively new yogurt (or yoghurt – according to Noosa) that was developed in and named after the Noosa area of Australia. It is termed Australian-style Greek Yoghurt and there’s good reason for us all to be on the lookout for these products.

We’ve got nine Noosa fruit flavored yoghurt varieties in our database. Exactly one of them contains one controversial ingredient (that would be the lemon flavor). That means you can choose from eight other varieties that contain absolutely nothing controversial at all. Try finding a fruit flavored yogurt that can say the same thing (it’s really difficult to do). So we wanted to spotlight Noosa Yoghurt and give them a big thumbs up!

Here’s the “not so” skinny on the products.  The strawberry rhubarb flavor (which would compare to our mainstream brand example above) has a completely clean ingredient list. It’s not low fat or low calorie (so you’ll have to plan your daily diet to accommodate the product). The eight ounce container of strawberry rhubarb yoghurt contains 300 calories. It also contains 13 grams of protein and 29 grams of sugar.

Now before we condemn that sugar content, please consider that the mainstream brand example we used contains 18 grams of sugar. While that’s considerably less, it’s still rather high on the general sugar scale – but the point is, so are many yogurts on our shelves. And frankly, it’s at 300 calories, it really does fit in with a “diet” plan. This would work well as an under 400 calorie breakfast option.

Every single review of this product points decidedly in the absolutely delicious direction. Words like “thick”, “creamy”, “tastes like pie”, “really satisfying”, “you won’t feel hungry afterward” help you get the picture of a nutritionally rich, very flavorful yogurt option that’s actually a real product.

We’re excited.

So, Noosa, we love this! Have to confess, though, that we’d love it a little bit more if you also carried a line that was lower in fat and sugar. really hopes you’re working on that! But in the meantime, kudos to you for providing us with fruity yogurt options with real ingredients.

November is American Diabetes Month … Are you aware????

American Diabetes Month is going on right now, throughout November. This national effort by the American Diabetes Association is aimed at raising the general awareness of diabetes, the issues surrounding the disease and the effects it has on the millions who suffer.

Even through 26 million people currently have diabetes in the United States and even though most people believe they have an understanding of the condition, there’s so much to learn here for all of us.

For instance, did you know that 79 million Americans have a condition known as prediabetes. This is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose level is elevated, but it isn’t high enough to be considered diabetes. Of those estimated 79 million people, only 11 percent actually know they have it. And all 79 million of them are 45% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who aren’t prediabetic.

Diabetes costs the United States about $245 Billion every year – that’s Billion … with a B. That’s pretty expensive for a condition that is, in many cases, preventable and is also, in many cases, controllable.

What can all of us do every day to decrease our own risk of type 2 diabetes? Basic lifestyle and dietary choices are key to helping us avoid diabetes.

We can and should:

• Eat fruits and vegetables every day.
• Choose fish, lean meats, and poultry without skin.
• Include whole grains with every meal.
• Be moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week.
• Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.
• Speak to your doctor about your diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history or are overweight.

Let’s go further than these important points, though. encourages you to become even more self-aware. Click here: and take this Diabetes Risk Test to guide you in your conversations with your doctors.

The American Diabetes Association ( has a wealth of really valuable information that will keep you educated, aware and informed on the myriad of issues surrounding diabetes. During American Diabetes Month, we should all make it a priority to stay on top of the things we need to know to keep ourselves and our families healthy, safe and happy.

Holiday lattes from Dunkin Donuts offer seasonal sugar overload for all

We can admit it. The country’s hooked. Thanks to the major coffee and fast food chains, most of America is madly in love with flavored coffee. But those coffees are fickle lovers. At the same time as we’re overcome by the taste they offer – caramel, hazelnut, French vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin, mocha and more – we’re not happy with how they betray us with calories, bad ingredients and plenty of sugar.

It’s holiday season at Dunkin Donuts and recently the holiday lattes were introduced. And people are talking. So today we thought we’d take a closer look at each unique, delectable, get-it-while-you-can-because-it-will-soon-be-gone flavor.

The newest is Red Velvet Holiday Latte. It’s always interesting to us that Red Velvet Cake, back just a decade ago, was a lesser-known, more Southern treat. People in other parts of the country might have heard of it, but probably hadn’t indulged, unless visiting the South, where it’s more common. Today, it’s everywhere. And now it’s even a coffee flavor. Seems like a winner from Dunkin Donuts’ perspective. Take the most popular cake flavor and put it into coffee. But let’s take a look at the facts:

Medium Red Velvet Latte with Milk
Calories: 340
Fat: 9 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Sugar: 51 grams — ALMOST 13 TEASPOONS
Ingredients: Milk; Brewed Espresso Coffee; Red Velvet Flavored Swirl Syrup: Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Skim Milk, Sugar), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Red 40, Blue 1, Salt.

Then there’s the White Chocolate Latte.  Different flavor.  Slightly different ingredient list. Same sugar content:

Medium White Chocolate Latte with Milk
Calories: 340
Fat: 9 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Sugar: 51 grams — ALMOST 13 TEASPOONS
Ingredients: Milk; Brewed Espresso Coffee; White Chocolate Flavored Swirl Syrup [Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Pasteurized Skim Milk, Sugar), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt].

And the Peppermint Mocha Latte.  This one is a little different — there’s actually more sugar in here:

Medium Peppermint Mocha Latte with Milk
Calories: 360
Fat: 10 grams
Saturated Fat: 6 grams
Sugar: 51 grams — ALMOST 14 TEASPOONS
INGREDIENTS: Milk; Brewed Espresso Coffee; Peppermint Mocha Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Cocoa processed with alkali, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Salt; Mocha Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Salt.

Happy Sugar Rush, everyone! What a way to start your day – or perk up your afternoon. Let’s add some Natural Flavors, Artificial Flavors and Artificial Food Coloring into the recipe and have ourselves a real holiday treat!

We know, we know, America loves its flavored coffee. thinks we all might be able to find better things to love around the holidays. It really wouldn’t be that hard. And yes, we know … ’tis the season and we’re all looking to indulge a little. Sorry Dunkin, we just think there are better ways to satisfy our holiday cravings. Maybe we’ll try a few of our favorite homemade cookies. We’re positive that just a few won’t have as much sugar!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Cranberry Sauce

Here’s a traditional Thanksgiving favorite that many people get excited about because they’ve heard so many good things about the main attraction in the dish: Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberries pack big health benefits into a small, tart package. They are high in vitamin C, have antioxidant effects and antibacterial properties. Cranberries contain cancer-fighting flavanoids, they can decrease dental plaque and promote eye health, among many other advantages.  So of course, most folks are cranberry fans — especially at Thanksgiving, when we all know that most of our favorite side dishes aren’t exactly nutritionally valuable.

We’ve got some bad news folks. All the sugar you’re adding to your home made cranberry sauce (or what the manufacturer has added to the brand you’re buying) is pretty much neutralizing the health benefits of the cranberry itself.

So let’s gather round the Thanksgiving table again and take a look at traditional cranberry sauce versus a fruity, low sugar recipe that you can REALLY feel good about.

Cranberries are common to North America and the first English settlers to the new world called them “craneberries,” due their flowers that resemble the head of a crane. Native Americans already knew about the berry’s health-promoting properties and often mixed it with pemmican, a dried meat mix, to preserve it for eating during the long New England winters. Cranberry sauce gained in popularity after General Ulysses S. Grant ordered it served to his troops during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War, and in 1912 it became available commercially under the name “Ocean Spray.”

So let’s use Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce as our comparison product (since the product shares part of the history of the dish). The serving size for the product is ¼ cup. It contains cranberries, high fructose corn syrup and water. Each of those ¼ cup servings contains 22 grams of sugar (or 5.5 teaspoons), as well as 110 calories.

We really prefer to prepare our own cranberry sauce here at We’re all in agreement that it tastes so much better home made. And we also know that the nutrient-packed cranberry adds more to our health when we cook it up in our own kitchens than when we pick it up off the grocery shelf. Here’s a tasty cranberry sauce recipe that almost halves the sugar per serving:

3 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup pineapple juice
½ cup good quality organic unsweetened applesauce
½ cup water
Zest of one orange
3 tablespoons honey

1. In a saucepan on your stove top, combine the first 4 ingredients and bring to a boil
2. Stir continually over medium heat until the cranberries begin to pop
3. Reduce heat to medium low
4. Add zest and honey
5. Cook another 15 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken
6. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight before serving

It’s such a simple recipe. Kids really love helping with this one because the cranberries pop in front of their eyes! This cranberry sauce cuts down on the sugar and is much more flavorful than canned varieties.

Join us at our Thanksgiving table next week when we’ll look at a few more traditional dishes and how we can make them fit more comfortably into a healthy holiday!

Campbell’s Soup and the American Heart Association Accused of Misleading Consumers

Heart Check Certification is given to a variety of products by the American Heart Association as a consumer guide to “heart-healthy” foods. Products have to qualify to receive the certification, so the general assumption among consumers seeing that Heart Check certification is that the product bearing the symbol is better for you than one that doesn’t.

The AHA and Campbell’s soup are being sued for misleading consumers, stating that their “Healthy Request” line of soup products are not as healthy as the Heart Check symbol is leading people to believe. In order for these products to carry the Heart Check certification, Campbell’s had to pay a fee to the AHA and meet specific nutritional criteria. The products must contain 480 milligrams of sodium or less per serving (as well as other cut off levels for saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and other nutrient criteria deemed by the AHA).

Campbell’s “Healthy Request” soups meet these criteria. Those filing the lawsuit however, claim that the AHA’s sodium cut-off is not consistent with its recommendations to limit daily sodium intake.

A single serving of Campbell’s “Healthy Request” condensed chicken noodle soup for example has 410 milligrams of sodium. That’s obviously within the AHA criteria, so what’s the problem?

The serving size.

There are actually 2.5 servings of the soup in each can. One can contains over 1,000 mg. of sodium which is over two-thirds of the 1500 milligrams the AHA recommends for daily sodium intake.

The class action lawsuit is acknowledging the fact that the typical consumer isn’t going to eat a half can of soup for lunch. They’re more likely to consume the entire can. Campbell’s and the AHA can argue that the serving size doesn’t contain the maximum of 480 mg of sodium, but consumers are ingesting much more than that whenever they eat the entire product. And that’s what makes the certification misleading. The lawsuit seeks to change the soup-can labeling and compensate those who bought the soup under false pretenses.
“This is not a food-police kind of lawsuit,” Levitt said. “The issue here is about whether a major, major food company in the United States, as well as a leading heart health organization, can lie to the American public.”

In a videotaped response, the chief science officer for the American Heart Association said the organization will fight the lawsuit. “The claim in the lawsuit is inaccurate and false and it’s not even plausible,” said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson. “Our ‘Heart Check’ mark helps consumers make smarter choices about the foods they eat. It is not deceptive or misleading.”

The AHA’s Science Officer also said the “Heart Check” criteria and AHA’s general nutritional guidance are both available to the public. In a written statement, the organization emphasizes it recommends an average of 1500 mg of sodium or less per day. And not all foods must be low sodium to fit in a heart healthy diet. weighs in on this subject from a very definite viewpoint. We certainly think that it’s possible that many manufacturers are aware that their products are not being consumed according to the serving sizes listed on the packaging. That’s how some nutrition labels can read 0 in the Trans Fat column, even though they contain partially hydrogenated oils. And how some soups can qualify as “lower sodium” or “heart healthy” when they really aren’t. Half a cup of soup for lunch can make for one hungry human by three o’clock in the afternoon. And we’re really doubtful someone is saving the rest of the can for the next day.

We’re not sure what will happen with this class action suit. The AHA clearly states its requirements and recommendations (and these products are within those guidelines.) Campbell’s clearly states on its label that one serving (which contains 410 mg. of sodium) is half a cup. Both AHA requirements and Campbell’s labeling may, in fact, be misleading – but they aren’t lying. They’re using some tried and true sales techniques that get consumers to think something about a product that isn’t exactly a lie – and isn’t exactly the truth either. You very well could consume only 410 mg. of sodium – but you may easily consume more.

Should that kind of labeling be legal? Is it misleading? Does it deserve Heart Check Certification? thinks that there are better questions to ask like “What do certifications like Heart Check actually mean for consumers and should we trust our health to symbols that may or may not mean what we perceive?”