Monthly Archives: March 2014

More kids are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch

lunches.jpgThere’s news coming in about the effect of the new nutritional guidelines for U.S. schools and it does appear to be encouraging. New standards went into effect in 2012 that required students to include at least one fruit or vegetable on their lunch trays.

A new study that’s been released from the Harvard School of Public Health  clearly shows that there are students who are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch. Of course, they’re still tossing plenty of produce into the trash, researchers are taking the results as an encouraging sign.

While the study is limited to 1,030 students at low-income elementary and middle schools in the Boston area, it is the first to track student trays from the lunch line to the trash can since the new standards became effective.

In addition to requiring the addition of a fruit or vegetable with lunch, the standards have made vegetable servings bigger and have provided a greater variety of vegetables from which students can choose. They also limit calories and sodium and call for more whole grains than in the past. Some anecdotal reports suggest students nationwide are throwing away more food as a result.

“But the new standards are actually improving diets,” at least at the schools studied, says lead researcher Juliana Cohen.

Research teams visited each school twice before the changes, in fall 2011, and twice after the changes, in fall 2012. They noted tray contents in the lunch line and then collected the numbered trays and weighed the leftovers after lunch. Among key findings:

• All students took entrees, which included foods such as pizza, burgers and sandwich wraps. They ate 88% of those foods in 2012, vs. 72% in 2011.
• 68% took vegetables in both years. They ate 41% in 2012, vs. 25% in 2011.
• 76% took fruit in 2012, up from 53% in 2011. They ate 55% in 2012, down slightly from 58% in 2011 – but because more students chose fruit, overall consumption rose, researchers say.

Kids threw away huge amounts of fruits and vegetables, but the study shows that was happening before the change, Cohen says.

The findings come as school food service directors, represented by the School Nutrition Association, are in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to eliminate mandatory servings of fruits and vegetables and slow down other changes. They cite a report just out from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showing a 3.7% decline in students taking school lunches.

“Our members have always encouraged students to take fruits and vegetables, but it’s counterproductive to force it,” especially for older students, says Leah Schmidt, president of the association and director of nutrition services at the Hickman Mills School District in Kansas City, Mo. “There are students who will not eat a fruit or vegetable, and as they get older, they feel they have that right.”

She says the new study is “a very small sample… but I’m glad some schools are experiencing that” increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Kids are picky,” and change is hard, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that fought for tougher standards. Schools can reduce waste and get more kids on board without weakening the standards, she says.

“Many schools are working really hard not only to improve the nutritional quality of their offerings but to improve the kid appeal,” she says.

Those of us with children might think back to our pediatrician’s advice when it came to feeding our toddlers. It was simply to offer a variety of healthy food choices for them to try. Improving the nutritional quality of the food choices in our schools and offering a wider variety of fruits and vegetables actually echoes the advice given to parents for their little ones.

When schools followed the new rules and offered foods with better nutritional value, our kids made better choices at lunch because the choices given were better. In addition, when required to choose a fruit or a vegetable while being given a wider array of selections, more kids actually ate the fruit or vegetable. does think this is largely about the choices given. Yes, we know that there’s still plenty of produce that finds its way to the trash can, but we certainly don’t think we should be taking steps to reverse or slow down any of these changes. We know most children aren’t ecstatic about fruits and vegetables. Whatever we can do to help them eat more of them during lunch should be done. And we should all feel encouraged that there are some indications that lunch habits seem to be improving.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from Dunkin!

dd.jpgAs we’re all planning out our Saint Patrick’s Day meals, shamrock green clothes and some enjoyable Erin-Go-Bragh festivities for this coming Monday, Dunkin Donuts has been busy providing us with the appropriate coffee drinks and donuts to help keep our energy up for the big day!

True to their spirit for holiday product introductions, Dunkin Donuts has introduced Irish Creme coffees to their varieties just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day, along with Mint Oreo Creme and Mint Oreo donuts. Here’s’s look at these new Dunkin holiday menu additions.

Let’s start with the coffee. You can choose between an Irish Creme Swirl hot coffee, Irish Creme Swirl Iced Coffee, Irish Creme Swirl Latte and Irish Creme Swirl Iced Latte.

Both the hot coffee and the iced coffee contain 110 calories for the small size. That’s before you add your choice of cream, skim milk or whole milk — which changes the nutrition profile. Since we can only choose cream on the website, we’ll tell you that ups the calorie count to 170 and adds 6 grams of fat to the brew.

The lattes with skim milk come in at 180 calories with no fat. If you choose whole milk, you’ll they jump to 230 calories with 6 grams of fat.

You can also choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a Mocha Irish Creme Swirl in any of the varieties listed above with the same nutritional profiles.

Unfortunately any Irish Creme Swirl has an ingredient list about which isn’t particularly thrilled.  They all contain: Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Skim Milk, Sugar), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), and Salt.

Now what about those donuts?

Mint Oreo Creme: 400 calories, 22 grams of fat, 28 grams of sugar
Mint Oreo: 310 calories, 16 grams of fat, 17 grams of sugar

In either donut, you’ll be consuming ingredients that include: Artificial Flavors, Sodium Caseinate, Polysorbate 60, Partially Hydrogenated Oils, Yellow 5 and Blue 1.

While the donuts look very festive (and quite green), we can’t say that we find them at all appealing after a look at both the nutrition facts and the ingredient lists.

We do appreciate Dunkin Donuts efforts to get into the spirit of every holiday that comes along. And we do understand that achieving that exceptionally green color for the donut icing might be difficult without a little help and that the flavor of Irish coffee isn’t easily mimicked. All things considered, though, we still think we’ll avoid indulging.

How tough would it be to eat just 6 teaspoons of sugar every day?

sugar.jpgIt sounds like a simple enough challenge, doesn’t it?  You might be thinking that you don’t add sugar to your foods or that you don’t use much sugar in your coffee.  But wants you to think really carefully about that question, because it certainly isn’t as simple as it might appear.

In a new guideline on sugar consumption, the World Health Organization reiterates its 2002 recommendation that no more than 10% of daily calories come in the form of sugar. But this time around, the WHO adds that people would get additional benefits if they can keep their sugar consumption below 5% of daily calories.

That’s likely to be a tall order. For an adult with a normal body mass index, 5% of daily calories works out to about 25 grams of sugar, or six teaspoons, the WHO says.

In an announcement on its website, the WHO says it is offering new guidance on sugar consumption in response to research documenting its deleterious effects: “There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in both reduced intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories and an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).”
Worries about cavities and other dental problems played a role too, WHO says: “Dental diseases are the most prevalent NCDs globally and … continue to cause pain, anxiety, functional limitation and social handicap through tooth loss, for large numbers of people worldwide.”

A study published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that a whopping 71.4% of American adults get more than 10% of their calories from sugar. Even worse, the study linked higher levels of sugar consumption with an increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Added sugars go by many names when they are listed on nutrition labels of processed foods. Some of their aliases include high fructose corn syrup, anhydrous dextrose, maltose, evaporated cane juice and fruit juice concentrates.

So let’s take a look at three meals on a busy day for a U.S. consumer who is not eating food prepared at home and is somewhat careful about the foods he or she is choosing. Perhaps there was a bowl of Quaker Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal for breakfast before running to work, then lunch at Panera Bread with a co-worker for the Low-Fat Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto and a soft roll, then two slices of a Kashi Margherita Pizza for a quick dinner before the gym. We won’t even count snacks and beverages. At the end of the day, those three meals cost that consumer 7 and a half teaspoons of sugar. Add a few snacks and drinks into the mix and we’re more than one and a half teaspoons over the World Health Organization recommendation.

The scenario we just detailed is for someone making “better” choices. We can only imagine the teaspoon count for someone who isn’t. It’s eye-opening to realize that a small chocolate shake at McDonald’s contains 15 teaspoons of sugar … or that drinking two cans of regular coke adds 19 teaspoons of sugar to your daily intake.

It’s time for everyone in America to start taking added sugar seriously and counting up those grams on a daily basis. How much sugar are you really eating every day?,0,4431783.story#ixzz2vcANtHIZ

A look under the bun: Wendy’s Mediterranean-Inspired Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger

iStock_000018279261Small.jpgWe try to keep up with the newest fast food introductions. There always seems to be something happening somewhere in the fast food world with the major chains trying to come up with the newest trend for burger-loving consumers everywhere. (Except maybe not in the community.)

Wendy’s has been busy during the first months of the year bringing us their new “Mediterranean-inspired” Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger. According to their press release, this is no ordinary burger.

“The Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger smells and tastes like it was crafted under the Italian sun. It features Mediterranean-inspired ingredients, like tangy, creamy rosemary garlic aioli and sweet, mildly tart, roasted chopped tomatoes. The tomatoes and spring mix made from nine different greens give a burst of cool freshness against melty, naturally aged Asiago cheese and a hot quarter-pound patty of fresh, never-frozen North American beef. Applewood Smoked bacon gives the cheeseburger extra crunch, and toasted authentic ciabatta bread makes the perfect bun for these complex, rich flavors.”

Almost makes you think you can anticipate a culinary experience from a five-star restaurant, doesn’t it?

Wendy’s is hoping consumers “Gotta Ciabatta,” as it places increasing emphasis on the breads and buns featured on their menu. Artisan breads are considered a top restaurant trend for 2014 and Wendy’s is hoping to capitalize on the concept.

What’s really going on with the Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger? Here’s a quick look under the bun (or in this case, under the ciabatta):

Calories:                                 670
Fat:                                          39 g
Saturated Fat:                           13 g
Trans Fat:                                1.5 g
Cholesterol:                             110 mg
Sodium:                                1260 mg

Wow. We don’t think we’ve ever actually made this statement, but it’s possible that a Big Mac is actually a healthier choice than the Wendy’s Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger. That’s a mouthful! This burger provides about 65% of your daily recommended intake of saturated fat for the entire day. And we didn’t even include a side of fries with that.

The Wendy’s Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger has too much of everything we don’t need too much of when it comes to nutrition facts. So thanks for the flowery description that attempts to compare this burger to a tremendous culinary experience. As far as we’re concerned no one’s “Gotta Ciabatta” like this!

Finally, some good news in the midst of the obesity crisis

198561_10150136837518407_7743506_n.jpgThere are real efforts being made in the fight against obesity, but it’s still a global crisis affecting millions. While has devoted many blog posts to research findings and changes to government nutrition standards for our schools, the data has remained fairly negative. Today though, we can report on some significant data that may indicate a turning of the tides here in the U.S.

New federal data published Tuesday show a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 during the past decade, providing an encouraging sign in the fight against one of the country’s leading public health problems, officials said.
The finding comes from a government study considered a gold standard to measure public-health trends. Researchers found that just over 8 percent of children 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004. Although the drop was significant, federal health officials noted that obesity rates for the broader population remain unchanged, and for women older than 60, obesity rates rose about 21 percent during that period.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes on the heels of data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers participating in federal nutrition programs declined broadly from 2008 to 2011 after rising for decades.

Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the most recent study, said that the data offer good news in at least one age group.

“We see hope in young kids,” she said.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey tracks obesity data by measuring height and weight. The data are released every two years.

CDC officials said that last year’s data represented the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children. Nineteen states and U.S. territories had a lower percentage of obese children ages 2 to 4.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. Federal researchers have also seen encouraging signs from communities across the country with obesity-prevention programs, including Anchorage, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Wash., he said.

“This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic,” Frieden said.

Researchers say that they don’t know the precise reasons behind the drop in obesity rates for children 2 to 5. But they noted that many child-care centers have started to improve nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. Ogden said that CDC data also show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years.

Another possible factor might be improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which helps fight obesity.

In a statement, first lady Michelle Obama praised the progress in lowering obesity rates among young children and said that participation in her Let’s Move! program was encouraging healthier habits.

A child is considered obese if his or her body mass index, calculated using weight and height, is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex, according to CDC growth charts.

The new information is certainly encouraging and the findings of declining consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages for young children is very good news! We’re hopeful that in future reports, we’ll be able to observe significant decreases in obesity for other age groups. Proposed changes to nutrition labels and the possible ban on trans fat in our food supply may prove to have positive effects for the entire population.

Good news about the obesity crisis … it’s a nice change!

A more detailed look at proposed nutrition label changes

nutrition.jpgBack in January, the FDA announced that it would be considering changes to the current nutrition labels that have been making a mandatory appearance on food products here in the U.S. for the last 20 years. We were excited by the idea and have been waiting to see what those changes would entail.

There’s news to report and we think you’ll be happy with the information that’s becoming available regarding the proposed changes.

First, here are some interesting facts on the background of our current nutrition labeling system. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that most food labels listed any nutrition information. At the time, labels with calorie or sodium counts were mainly used on products the FDA considered to have “special dietary uses,” for people with high blood pressure who were watching sodium, for instance. Most people were making meals at home then, so there wasn’t a huge demand for this information. That changed as more people started eating processed foods.

Noticing the trend, the White House pulled together a conference of nutritionists and food manufacturers in 1969. Nutrition labeling was voluntary at first. It wasn’t until 1990 that the FDA required nutrition labels for most prepared and packaged foods. We take it for granted, twenty-plus years later, that whatever packaged food we pick up in the grocery store will carry that familiar, easy-to-identify label that gives us necessary facts about that particular food item.

Plenty has changed in the last 20 years and the FDA is proposing several modifications to those labels to bring them current with today’s nutritional concerns. If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.

The FDA is also proposing changes to serving size requirements in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20-ounce soda, you’re probably not going to stop drinking at the 8-ounce mark. The new rules would require that entire soda bottle to be one serving size — making calorie counting simpler.

“You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” first lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

The proposed labels would remove the “calories from fat” line you currently see on labels, focusing instead on total calories found in each serving. Nutritionists have come to understand that the type of fat you’re eating matters more than the calories from fat. As such, the breakdown of total fat vs. saturated and trans fat would remain.

The proposed labels would also note how much added sugar is in a product. Right now, it’s hard to know what is naturally occurring sugar and what has been added by the manufacturer.

“Now when Americans pull a product from the supermarket shelf, they will have a clear idea of how much sugar that product really contains,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said.

The FDA also plans to update the daily values for certain nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. For instance, the daily limit for sodium was 2,400 milligrams. If the new rules take effect, the daily value will be 2,300 milligrams, administration officials said.

Food and beverage companies would also be required to declare the amount of Vitamin D and potassium in a product, as well as calcium and iron. Research shows Americans tend not to consume enough Vitamin D for good bone health. And potassium is essential in keeping your blood pressure in check.

Administration officials said about 17% of current serving size requirements will be changing, and the FDA is adding 25 categories for products that weren’t commonly around 20 years ago (think pot stickers, sesame oil and sun-dried tomatoes).

Most of the required serving sizes will be going up; no one eats just half a cup of ice cream, for instance. Others, like yogurt, will be going down.

“This will help people better understand how many calories they actually consume, especially if they plan to eat all the food in a container or package,” Brown said.

While the American Heart Association and advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest commended the FDA’s changes, they noted that there was more to do.

Both organizations said the FDA’s sodium recommendation was still too high. Brown said the association will continue to recommend sodium intake be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day.

CSPI said it will also request that the FDA include a daily value of 25 grams for added sugars. “Thus, the Nutrition Facts label for a 16.9-ounce bottle of soda would indicate that its 58 grams of added sugars represents 230 percent of the DV,” the group said in an e-mail.

With this announcement, the FDA has opened a 90-day comment period, during which experts and members of the public can provide input on the proposed rules. The FDA will then issue a final rule. Officials said they hope to complete the process this year. Manufacturing companies will then have two years to implement the changes. is very excited by the changes outlined by the FDA for so many reasons. The changes in serving sizes are especially important because the currently, they don’t really reflect how most people consume foods. When people take a can of soup to the office for lunch they’re likely consuming the whole can — not half of it. The label that details two servings isn’t a realistic portrayal of consumption and can easily be misinterpreted. Do most people double the facts on the label to figure out what they’re eating? Do you count 15 potato chips out of a bag or a bowl to make sure that what the nutrition label details is what you’re actually eating? There are multiple examples of this scenario you can find looking at the nutrition labels detailed for products in the database. The truth is that right now, it’s far too easy to be fooled into thinking you’re consuming less of the things you’re supposed to be paying attention to than you in fact are.

These improvements to nutrition labels are welcome and long overdue. The fat, sugar and salt content of foods is a big issue for consumers and every change that can help us genuinely determine what we’re really eating is a welcome change for our health.

Ben & Jerry’s new Core flavors … the “taste” test

iStock_000016067678Small.jpgIt’s been all over the news for the last week or so. Ben & Jerry’s has added four new Core flavors to their ice cream varieties. Each has a core inside the tub, adding a new dimension to the flavor. And those flavors promise to be pretty tasty, with a little something for every ice cream lover’s discerning palette. Reading the reviews and taste tests tells us that, for the most part, each of them has been found pretty appealing for a variety of reasons.

Of course we thought it would be appropriate for to put them through our own “taste” test … one of the nutritional variety. So let’s get to work and tell you what you can expect from each of the new Ben & Jerry’s sensations. Serving size for each is a half cup.

Hazed & Confused
This new flavor features hazelnut and and chocolate ice creams with fudge chips surrounding a hazelnut fudge core. Sounds pretty decadent, and it is:

Calories:                                 280
Fat:                                         16 g
Saturated Fat:                          10 g (or 50% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                             55 mg
Sugars:                                   25 g

Of note: There are no controversial ingredients in this flavor. That’s a nice plus.

That’s My Jam
This one is features raspberry and chocolate ice creams with fudge chips hiding a core of raspberry jam. We should mention that some reviews say the jam core provides a “different” consistency to the ice cream that a few people found a little odd. But it certainly accomplishes the goal of adding a new dimension to the flavor. Here are the facts:

Calories:                                 260
Fat:                                       13 g
Saturated fat:                           9 g (or 45% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                           55 mg
Sugar:                                   29 g

This flavor does contain carrageenan and natural flavors.

Peanut Butter Fudge
Showcases chocolate and peanut butter ice creams with mini peanut butter cups and a peanut butter fudge core. This was one of the best-rated of the four in all of the available reviews.

Calories:                                300
Fat:                                       19 g
Saturated fat:                         10 g (or 50% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                           50 mg
Sugar:                                    24 g

No controversial ingredients are included in the Peanut Butter Fudge flavor.

Salted Caramel Core
Another big winner among reviewers, Salted Caramel Core mixes blonde brownies into sweet cream ice cream surrounding a salted caramel center. Definitely sounds like an indulgence.

Calories:                                270
Fat:                                      14 g
Saturated fat:                          8 g (or 40% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                          75 mg
Sugar:                                  28 g

Salted Caramel Core does contain carrageenan.

While the nutrition facts aren’t by any means spectacular, we should mention that they’re fairly comparable to any other ice cream flavor with “add-ins,” like M&Ms, Peanut Butter Cups, Heath Bars and the like. They aren’t shocking, but that still doesn’t make them great choices. And in fairness to Ben & Jerry’s, even the flavors that do contain some controversial items have better ingredient lists than similar products from other brands. Final words: Ben & Jerry’s new Core products definitely offer a new dimension in ice cream flavors. Whether or not you choose to indulge should probably have something to do with the facts we’ve just detailed. And if you do make the decision to proceed, we’d like to recommend that you definitely DON’T eat the whole pint, no matter how much you love it!