Monthly Archives: February 2014

How does the Big King stack up against the Big Mac?

iStock_000018665961Small.jpgShort answer: they’re both pretty bad.

Back in November, Burger King reintroduced its own version of the Big Mac. The Big King originally appeared on the Burger King menu back in 1997. It was — and still is — an almost exact replica of the historic McDonald’s sandwich, which will go down in the annals of fast food history as the most successful burger in the industry.

It’s no secret that Burger King lags behind McDonald’s in popularity. In an effort to improve its position with consumers, Burger King has been aggressively marketing new products. In the past year, the chain has developed a rib sandwich to compete with the McRib and introduced a lower calorie, lower fat french fry option with Satisfries. And late last year, Burger King called back the Big King for a second stint on the menu. thought it would be appropriate to see how the two stack up where it really counts. Are there differences in the nutritional content of the burgers? Is there any way, if we were incredibly hungry and we were on the road and every restaurant, deli, and grocery store were closed, except for a McDonald’s and a Burger King that happened to be located next door to each other, we’d pick a Big King over a Big Mac, or vice versa?

After taking a look at the nutrition facts (we aren’t even looking at the ingredients), our only reasonable answer is that we’d probably keep driving. Here’s a quick look:

Big King
Calories:              510
Protein:                18 g
Fat:                      29 g
Saturated Fat:      10 g
Sodium:               780 mg

Big Mac
Calories:              550
Protein:                25 g
Fat:                     29 g
Saturated Fat:      10 g
Sodium:               970 mg

Add a medium order of fries to either the Big King or the Big Mac and you’ve just consumed close to 50 grams of fat and almost two-thirds of your daily allowance of saturated fat in one meal.

For, there is no good choice here. For fast food consumers, the jury still seems to be out. But since the Big Mac has been available nationwide to consumers since 1968, the Big King may have a long way to go.

Is there a connection between energy drink consumption and drug and alcohol use for teens?

197738_10150134064788407_1313366_n copy.jpgThere have been very disturbing reports about energy drink consumption for more than a few years now. has blogged about the concerns we should all have regarding the ingredients and the marketing of these controversial products. Hospitalizations and deaths have been linked to these beverages, and marketing efforts from several brands have targeted teens.

With the appeal of increased energy, better athletic performance and better focus, it’s easy to see why energy drinks have become incredibly popular for teenagers. Sadly, because the drinks are sold everywhere and aren’t regulated, many parents aren’t aware that they may not be as harmless as they appear. And we’re all aware that no brand has actually been implicated in any hospitalization or death. There have been lawsuits and news about the possible connection (not specific cause) of a particular energy drink with a tragic situation.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, it was shown that consuming energy drinks was strongly and positively associated with alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use in the preceding 30 days by adolescents. The observed associations between energy drinks and substance use were significantly stronger than those between regular or diet soft drinks and substance use.

The report suggests that personality traits that make a young person more likely to consume an energy drink—such as being a risk taker—may increase the chances that he or she will try addictive substances.

Researcher Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath and colleagues at the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan studied U.S. secondary school students in 2010 and 2011, looking at energy and soft-drink consumption and its associations with substance abuse. As part of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, surveys were administered to students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

Approximately 30 percent of student respondents reported consuming energy drinks or shots. The study also found that 8th graders reported a significantly higher frequency of consuming energy drinks than 10th or 12th grade students, and that the consumption frequency was significantly higher for adolescent boys than for adolescent girls. Consumption of both soda and energy drinks was highest among adolescents in families with low average parental education as well as in single-parent households.

Cautioning that this study does not establish causation between the behaviors, the researchers recommend education for parents and prevention efforts among young people. This includes information on the masking effects that the caffeine in energy drinks can have on alcohol- and other substance-related impairments, and recognition that some groups may be particularly likely to consume energy drinks and to be substance users.

Energy drinks generally contain extra-large doses of caffeine and/or other legal stimulants. An energy drink may contain between 75 milligrams to more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving—compared with the 34 milligrams in a Coke. Some energy drinks list additives such as guarana, which can contain about four times the amount of caffeine that coffee beans have; however, many consumers don’t recognize this ingredient as a source of caffeine.

Commenting on the study’s findings, Janet P. Engle, PharmD, FAPhA, head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (who was not involved in the study), advised, “Everyone wants the magic bullet for getting energized and staying awake. However, energy drinks are not the best answer. There is a lack of research and regulation associated with energy drinks, and they may cause dangerous health consequences in users.”

While there are no official recommendations for caffeine intake for adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that adolescents should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. The idea that different energy drink products contain different amounts of caffeine and that various ingredients in those energy drinks may have stimulant effects themselves, we can easily see how teens consuming these drinks are ingesting far too much of the substance. That’s scary.

So while we wait for the FDA to investigate the drinks further and consider regulations, it’s important for adults to take note of the new research regarding alcohol and drug use as it may relate to energy drink consumption. It’s a good idea to be add energy drinks — and caffeine consumption — to the list of things we need to be vigilant about regarding our teenagers.

Canola oil … heart healthy or not?

200017_10150140302023407_7125221_n.jpgOlive oil comes from olives. Peanut oil comes from peanuts. Coconut oil comes from coconuts. Did you ever stop to think where canola oil comes from? Is there any such thing as a canola plant?

The answer to that question is, “sort of.”

Let’s make this clearer. Today’s canola plant is a biologically modified cousin of the rapeseed plant, which is part of the mustard family. Rapeseed plants produce a substance called erucic acid that can be toxic in large amounts. So rapeseed oil is not actually fit for human or animal consumption. It is used, however, as a lubricant, fuel, soap and synthetic rubber base. It can also be found in insect repellents. The canola plant was developed in Canada during the 1960s and 70s in order to assure its safety for human consumption. That’s where the name comes from. It stands for Canadian Oil Low Acid.

So today there is a canola plant that exists because of the rapeseed plant, whose oil is inedible. The oil from the canola plant is not only edible, but, according to most sources, is better for consumption than many other available oils. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that, when used to replace saturated fats like butter and cheese, can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Canola oil is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids that have also been linked to heart health.

Still, there’s plenty of conflicting information out there. And because believes in consumer education, we thought it would be beneficial to report on the “other side” of canola oil.

Let’s begin with how the oil is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant. It appears that most canola oil is processed using hexane, which is a known carcinogen. The industry actually admits that trace amounts of hexane can be found in the finished product, but these amounts are insignificant. To be fair, many different vegetable oils, including soybean oil are processed the same way.

In addition to the use of hexane, the oil is removed using high temperature mechanical pressing. The presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the oil cause it to become foul-smelling during this high-heat process. It then becomes necessary to deodorize the oil. Because of the high-heat involved, both processes remove much of the omega-3s by turning them into trans fatty acids. The Canadian government lists the trans fat content of canola at just .2 percent.

And to add more conflicting information into the discussion, there are further reports that heating canola oil above 120 degrees will cause the formation of more trans fatty acids, again because of the breakdown of the remaining omega-3s. Most cooking classes teach that in order to saute protein properly, fat should be introduced into a pan heated to at least 212 degrees, depending on the fat used. So if the reports about heating canola oil over 120 degrees causing the formation of trans fats are realistic, we’re consuming more trans fat every time we cook using the oil.

These are just a few of the arguments against canola oil and its current status as a healthy fat for cooking. There are plenty of arguments out there in its favor though. Regardless of those, does think it’s important to repeat that nature didn’t create a canola plant. People did. As the FDA is considering a ban on trans fat in the food supply, we certainly think we could all use more clarity here.

Chick-fil-A announces plans to serve only antibiotic-free chicken. What about the rest of the ingredients?

iStock_000021182570Small.jpgSounds like a good move, right? Chick-fil-A wants consumers to “Eat Mor Chikin” so they’re planning on only using chickens raised without antibiotics within the next five years.

“Since our family business began 67 years ago, we have focused on our customers. It’s why we insist upon using the highest quality ingredients,” Dan Cathy, president and chief executive officer of Chick-fil-A, said in a statement. “We want to continue that heritage, and offering antibiotic-free chicken is the next step.”

Chick-fil-A’s announcement comes amid a growing awareness about the problem of antibiotic resistance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that antibiotics in livestock are contributing to the rise of dangerous bacteria. Many antibiotics that farmers give food-producing animals are also used to treat sick humans.

Chick-fil-A has made other changes to its ingredients in recent years, such as removing yellow dye from its chicken soup. The company is also testing the possibility of taking out other food additives, including artificial ingredients in the buns and high fructose corn syrup in dressings and sauces.

While certainly thinks the move to antibiotic-free chicken is a good one, we wonder why Chick-fil-A is not focusing more on the ingredients they’re using to prepare their menu items. O.k., they removed the yellow dye from their chicken soup. That’s great. But have you looked at the ingredient list in their chicken salad? They include monosodium glutamate, caramel color, TBHQ, high fructose corn syrup, calcium disodium EDTA and Polysorbate 80. From the president and CEO’s statement, perhaps we should be led to believe that they’re using only the highest quality MSG?

Antibiotic-free chicken is a welcome change for Chick-fil-A, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg here and the rest of that iceberg is huge. We don’t want to discourage any moves made in the right direction. We just need several more moves before we can honestly find that Chick-fil-A is listening to consumer concerns about product quality and healthier eating.

Foods rich in Vitamin C may reduce stroke risk

Fruits and vegetables are healthy foods.  We all know that’s true, but it’s important for us to know how and why, as well.  It not only help us to feel good about our dietary choices, it also helps us choose healthy foods more carefully, according to our own specific needs.  Especially as we age, some may be concerned about specific conditions which may be preventable.  Heart disease and stroke are high on the list of issues that people take more seriously as they mature in life.

Eating foods that contain vitamin C may reduce your risk of the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, papaya, peppers, broccoli and strawberries.  Hemorrhagic stroke is less common than ischemic stroke, but is more often deadly.

The study involved 65 people who had experienced an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, or a blood vessel rupture inside the brain. They were compared to 65 healthy people. Participants were tested for the levels of vitamin C in their blood. Forty-one percent of cases had normal levels of vitamin C, 45 percent showed depleted levels of vitamin C and 14 percent were considered deficient of the vitamin.

On average, the people who had a stroke had depleted levels of vitamin C, while those who had not had a stroke had normal levels of the vitamin.

“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,” said study author Stéphane Vannier, MD, with Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France. “More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.”

Vannier adds that vitamin C appears to have other benefits like creating collagen, a protein found in bones, skin and tissues.  Vitamin C deficiency has also been linked to heart disease.

This is the kind of study really embraces.  It’s exciting to see a connection drawn between consuming specific foods and reduced risk of health problems.  It’s great to have a clear understanding of the advantages those foods bring us so that we can make a conscious decision to adjust our dietary habits accordingly.   Everyone feels better being proactive about their health.  Adding fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C  to our diet is another way for us to take additional steps to help ourselves stay healthy throughout our lives.


Move over Samoas, there’s a new Girl Scout cookie in town and it’s gluten-free!

It’s that time of year again. Whether you have a Girl Scout in your family, or in a co-worker’s family, or you’re being visited by a Girl Scout at your front door, you may very well be ordering a box (or two or five) of your favorite Girl Scout cookies.

About this time last year, took a look at the ingredient lists for a few different Girl Scout cookie varieties. We weren’t very excited by what we discovered and shared the facts with our community. We felt as though products branded by the Girl Scouts should be more conscious than your average cookie brand of the ingredients they choose to include in their confections. You can read the ingredient lists for Samoas and Tagalongs on our site.

Back in 2011, a New York mom whose daughter was a Girl Scout, started a petition to convince the organization to offer a gluten-free cookie option. She collected more than 12,000 signatures after the companies that make the cookies told her there was not enough of a market for a gluten-free version.

Fast forward to 2014 and all that has changed as the Girl Scouts introduce the Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie.

According to the website of ABC Bakers, a maker of Girl Scout Cookies, the Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie will be making its debut in 20 test markets this year. The gluten-free snacks will be available in some parts of Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York and Wisconsin, among a handful of other states.

“ABC will conduct research during and after the sale to determine whether to go national with this cookie in the future since ABC Bakers is all about staying on the cutting edge, and bringing people what they want in today’s world,” the company’s website reads. did a little digging and discovered that the new gluten-free Girl Scout cookie also carries a better ingredient list than its relatives, Samoas and Tagalongs. The Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie contains no partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup or artificial and natural flavorings.

This is undoubtedly great news for gluten-free Girl Scout cookie fans. But it’s also great news for all Girl Scout cookie aficionados who’d rather not consume the ingredients in some of the other, more popular options. When manufacturers (and organizations) listen to the voices of their consumer base, it usually results in better, healthier options for everyone. It makes their regular purchasers happy and it helps them acquire new customers as well. We all know the old saying, “the customer is always right.” Thanks for listening, Girl Scouts! Now you might want to get to work on some of the ingredient lists in the other cookie varieties everyone wants to love.




Low-fat yogurt linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

There are so many yogurts in the refrigerator section of our grocery stores these days. You can find fruit yogurts, chocolate yogurts, coffee yogurts, yogurts that taste like apple pie, or red velvet cake … the list is endless. Sadly, we seem to have lost sight of the idea that yogurt was one of the original health foods. It didn’t become popular because of calorie content, it became popular because of health benefits. The first record of possible health benefits from yogurt was in the 1500s. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent his doctor with yogurt to Francois I, the King of France, to cure his intestinal disorder. It worked.

The majority of yogurts available today, however, don’t resemble the yogurt that was around in the 1500s. Just check the database and you’ll find yogurts with numerous controversial ingredients that you’re probably trying to avoid in your diet. There are some, though, that remind us that yogurt is supposed to be a healthy food. A new report has been released that points to the health benefits of low-fat yogurt.

Researchers found that people who ate low-fat fermented dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese slashed their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 24% compared to those who didn’t eat those foods. The 11-year study also showed that yogurt by itself could help ward off the disease. Those who ate low-fat fermented dairy products were 24 percent less likely to develop diabetes.

Eating yogurt and low-fat cheese can cut the risk of developing diabetes by around a quarter compared with consuming none, according to a study of 3,500 Britons published on Wednesday.

The evidence comes from a long-term health survey of men and women living in the eastern county of Norfolk, whose eating and drinking habits were detailed at the start of the investigation.

During the study’s 11-year span, 753 people in the group developed adult-onset, also called Type 2, diabetes. Those who ate low-fat fermented dairy products — a category that includes yogurts, fromage frais and low-fat cottage cheese — were 24 percent less likely to develop the disease compared to counterparts who ate none of these products.

When examined separately from the other low-fat dairy products, yogurt by itself was associated with a 28-percent reduced risk.

People in this category ate on average four and a half standard (4.4-ounce) pots of yogurt each week.

Only low-fat, fermented dairy products were associated with the fall in risk. Consumption of high-fat fermented products, and of milk, had no impact.

The new report is a reminder for us all that enjoying a good quality yogurt as part of our regular diet can, indeed benefit our health. Of course, we’d have to assume that would probably remove key lime pie or strawberry cheesecake yogurt from the list of available options. But most of us who are concerned about diet and nutrition probably weren’t eating those anyway!

Read more:

Important ingredient changes for Kraft singles

There have been plenty of good food news announcements lately. Manufacturers appear to be responding positively to consumer voices are making the kinds of significant changes that may very well change the existing view of brands and manufacturers alike. It’s exciting to see companies actively making the kinds of adjustments to their products that can have real effects on the health and well-being of millions of consumers.

This week, we can add another product from Kraft that the company is scheduling for a healthier make-over: Kraft singles. Cheese products are among those that instantly come to mind when you ask consumers what categories in which they are likely to find unhealthy ingredients. That’s understandable, since that’s how the products are actually referred to – “cheese product,” instead of cheese. Consumers have taken the “heads up” from the term.

But now Kraft says that it is removing artificial preservatives from its most popular Singles cheese product variety. The change will affect Kraft Singles in the full-fat American and White American varieties. According to Kraft, these varieties account for the majority of sales for the brand. Sorbic acid is being replaced by natamycin, which Kraft sys is a “natural mold inhibitor.

While Kraft hasn’t acknowledged that it’s decision is due to a growing number of Americans paying closer attention to what they eat and wanting to know that their foods contain natural ingredients, it’s a good bet that this is what’s motivating the news.

The ingredients used in Kraft Singles, prior to this change have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. But, even so, putting out a product that is free of artificial preservatives is a definite selling point for any manufacturer. Kraft, for example, plans to begin airing TV ads near the end of February touting that its Kraft Singles cheese product “begins with milk” and are now “made with no artificial preservatives.”

The ads show cartoon cows grazing in a pasture, with a milk truck driving past.

The new Kraft packages, which began appearing on supermarket shelves in recent weeks, also come stamped with a red circle noting they have no artificial preservatives or flavors. Kraft says its Singles haven’t used artificial flavors for many years, but that it just recently decided to advertise that aspect of the product.

“Consumers are looking for those less artificial cues and messages,” said Gavin Schmidt, manager of cheese research and development at Kraft. “Those messages are more meaningful to consumers than they have been in the past.”

Schmidt says the change took about five years to perfect because Kraft wanted to ensure the product’s taste and shelf life remained the same. He declined to provide details, but said it wasn’t as simple as swapping out an artificial preservative and replacing it with a natural one.

Schmidt said Kraft is testing the removal of artificial preservatives from its other Kraft Singles varieties, but that it wanted to start with the most popular lines first. The changes do not affect Kraft Singles that are 2 percent milk, fat-free or other full-fat varieties.

Even so, wants to acknowledge this move by Kraft Foods to keep their customers happy and provide a healthier, better product. We hope that other manufacturers take note and that this trend continues. While it isn’t likely to happen any decade soon, we’d love to reach the day that artificial ingredients aren’t showing up on ANY ingredient labels for ANY products in our grocery stores. Until that day, we’ll just keep spreading the good food news wherever we find it!

Celebrate Valentine’s Day and National Heart Health Month!

Tomorrow as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s all do our best to celebrate National Heart Health Month as well! February is the time we think about romance and flowers and, of course, our hearts. But it’s also National Heart Health Month, the time we should be thinking of taking the very best possible care of our hearts as well. So while you’re planning a special meal for your sweetheart tomorrow evening, please take good care to include the foods that will be kind to both your hearts!

It’s pretty easy to do and it can be quite delicious too.

To start your evening off, you might want to enjoy a glass of red wine together. Containing the flavanoids Catechins and reservatrol, red wine may help improve your levels of “good cholesterol.

You’ll also want to prepare a spinach salad, instead of traditional lettuce. Thanks to high levels of of lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber, spinach is a heart-healthy choice. It also makes for a more interesting salad on a special evening.

Seafood is certainly thought of by many as a food of love. And salmon is the food of the heart. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can effectively reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay.

Have berries for dessert! Mix it up with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. You’ll be sharing Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), anthocyanin (a flavonoid), ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber with your soulmate. It’s a great way to say “I love you.”

Oh and don’t forget the dark chocolate for an extra boost of flavanoids and some added sweetness. It’s not just a flavorful indulgence, a little dark chocolate is really good for your heart.

Make this year’s holiday of the heart a special one, not only for romance, but for your health too. While adores the flowers and the food and the music and the expressions of love, we do think that taking care of our health is not only the best gift we can give ourselves, but our sweethearts as well!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

There’s no mechanically separated chicken in McNuggets, but we still don’t want to eat them

Mechanically separated chicken has been in the news again recently. That’s the chicken that’s created by grinding up any chicken part you might be able to think of. It looks like pink slime and while many manufacturers argue that there’s really nothing wrong with it, millions of consumers have adamantly disagreed.

That disturbing pink slime has been associated relentlessly with the manufacturing of chicken nuggets, especially in fast food products. Over and over again, McDonald’s has stated that McNuggets cannot be included in that statement.

Now McDonald’s is attempting to dispel those rumors with a new video. McDonald’s Canada has taken a film crew behind the scenes to document the manufacturing of the McNugget.

The YouTube video takes viewers inside the Cargill plant in Ontario that makes McNuggets. And we do find out, in fact, that there is no mechanically separated chicken used — at least not in the traditional sense of the term.

They do start the process with actual chicken breast meat. That meat is then put through a grinder along with chicken skin and seasoning. To be perfectly honest, that still evokes a loud “ewwww” from the folks here at But in fairness, it doesn’t include any and every imaginable chicken part.

After the grinding process, the “substance” is shaped into McNuggets in four specific shapes. We’re not sure McNuggets have specific shapes here in the U.S., but apparently in Canada they are bells, balls, bow ties and boots.

They are then battered twice and par-fried for shipment.

McDonald’s has stated that the manufacturing process for McNuggets is exactly the same here in the U.S.

The average McNugget fan is eating a six-piece portion of this “treat.” That serving contains 280 calories, 17 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat and 600 mg of sodium — not exactly what we’d call a healthier option.

Technically, McDonald’s is telling the truth. McNuggets are made from white meat chicken. They are lying by omission, though, because chicken skin is never cited as an ingredient. And 17 grams of fat is a lot to find in six small nuggets. Sorry, McDonald’s, but you haven’t made McNugget fans out of anyone around here with this new information.