Monthly Archives: June 2014

Under the Bun: Dunkin Donuts Grilled Chicken Flatbread

1400146640078Dunkin Donuts recently introduced another new lunch option, the Grilled Chicken Flatbread. Of course, it’s being promoted as a healthier selection in the regular Dunkin lineup. On the surface it appears to be at least a passable possibility. Grilled chicken, reduced fat cheddar cheese with ancho chipotle sauce. Certainly doesn’t sound terrible, does it?

Let’s go under the bun with and find out if there’s more going on with the new Dunkin Grilled Chicken Flatbread than meets the eye.

We’ll start with the nutrition facts:

Calories:                      360
Fat:                              12 g.
Saturated Fat:            3.5 g.
Cholesterol:                65 mg.
Sodium:                      1020 mg.

While the Grilled Chicken Flatbread isn’t perfect, it’s certainly not the worst fast food sandwich we’ve seen. It’s under 400 calories and it contains 12 g of fat. We could live without the cholesterol and sodium levels. But overall, the numbers aren’t terrible.

What ingredients can you expect to consume with this sandwich. Let’s take a look:

Grilled Chicken: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Natural Flavor, Salt, Yeast Extract, Sunflower Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Silicon Dioxide), Sodium Phosphates, Seasoning [Modified Corn Starch, Grill Flavor (from Partially Hydrogenated Soybean/Cottonseed Oil), Maltodextrin, Smoke Flavor, Hydrated Silicon Dioxide]; Multigrain Flatbread: Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Multigrain Blend [Water, Wheat Sourdough, Wheat Grains, Rye Grains, Oat Grains, Flax Seed, Rye Sourdough, Millet Seed, Teff Seed, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)], Yeast, Sugar, Dough Conditioner [Water, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Natural Flavor, Enzymes], Oat Fiber, Salt, Soybean Oil, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Soy (Trace); Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese: Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color); Ancho Chipotle Sauce: Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola), Vinegar, Sugar, Tomato Paste, Egg Yolk, Salt, Contains less than 2% of: Chipotle Sauce (Water, Sugar, Chipotle Peppers, Vinegar, Salt, Modified Food Starch), Molasses, Spice, Garlic, Ancho Chili Pepper, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Modified Food Starch, Xantham Gum, Lactic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Benzoate and Calcium Disodium EDTA (Preservatives), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Onion, Caramel Color, Buttermilk Solids, Citric Acid, Sour Cream Solids, Yellow 6, Yellow 5.

That’s about 90 ingredients with almost 20 controversial ingredients. Not our idea of a healthy option — even for fast food. We should also mention that among those controversial ingredients are some of our least favorite items (not that we have favorite controversial ingredients – because we don’t). We’re especially sensitive about things like partially hydrogenated oils, Sodium Benzoate, Caramel Color and Artificial Colors. They’re all in there.

Sorry, Dunkin, but you’ll have to keep trying when it comes to healthier menu items. This one isn’t really working out for us.

Surprising health benefits of fasting

"The spoon and fork with a chain and padlock on a white background"If you haven’t tried it, you’ve probably thought about it. You may even have friends who speak highly of it. And you’ve definitely read about its benefits — weight loss and renewed energy to name just a few. That big “it” we’re talking about is fasting. Three day fasts have become incredibly popular. And while it’s not an easy undertaking, people are thrilled with the results. Today, though, learned that fasting may well do more than help with some quick weight loss and energy rejuvenation.

Fasting for three days can kick-start stem cells into a rejuvenation mode that can bolster the immune system, especially for the elderly and those undergoing chemotherapy, according to new research from University of Southern California.

The research results of blood vessel cells’ ability to repair and re-grow damaged tissues and organs were discussed at a recent conference, “Ansary Stem Cell Symposium: Is Regenerative Medicine Ready for Prime Time?”.

“The results suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” said Tanya Dorff, a co-author of the research published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The study reveals those fasting for a few days can regenerate their entire immune system as it creates new white blood cells critical for battling infection.

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” states Valter Longo, corresponding author of the study and a professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

While there have been studies stating that fasting is not a good thing, in this case it can prove beneficial, say the researchers given the immune system is not healthy either due to age or chemotherapy.

“While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” states a release on the study.

The fasting, whether for two or four days, drives the human body into a “survival” mode in which it begins using up stores of sugar and fat and also breaks down old cells.

“With a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system,” Longo said.

But fasting shouldn’t be something done often and deserves further research, states the report.

Fascinating information … as well as a some reasonable explanation for the quick weight loss and energizing effects of a short fast. We’re pretty sure that most who undertake the endeavor never assumed that the immune system could be positively affected by what they probably considered a quick weight loss effort. We’ll definitely be looking for more research into these surprising benefits of fasting.

McDonalds doesn’t want kids to see Ronald McDonald eating a Big Mac

RonFood marketing to kids is a very controversial subject. There have been many different studies done that do show that all the characters and computer games and TV commercials influence kids to beg their parents for foods we’d probably rather they not eat. And there have been many “agreements” between food companies that have them pledging to change their marketing strategies when it comes to bad food and kids. Most of those pledges aren’t technically broken, as food companies find different ways to get their messages across to the youngest among us. Fast food companies make attempts at making their children’s meals healthier, but somehow or another those fries seem to sneak back into that Happy Meal. Are the food companies intentionally sidestepping responsibility? And what about that Happy Meal anyway?

When Ronald McDonald was first introduced to America in the 1960s, he wore a magic belt that dispensed an endless supply of hamburgers.

But today, according to both food advocates and McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, America’s most recognizable clown won’t go near a Big Mac.

“You don’t see Ronald McDonald in schools. You don’t see him eating food,” Thompson said Thursday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, according to multiple reports.

This, health activists say, is so McDonald’s can deflect criticism that it willfully markets the unhealthy food to children.

“They think that by not having him consume the food, it’s not encouraging kids to patronize the brand,” said Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability International, a food advocacy group that has been pushing for Ronald’s retirement for years.

In the past, said Bragg, McDonald’s has been criticized for having Ronald visit schools to teach phys ed and appear in connection with charities that work on behalf of sick children.

The company has kept Ronald at arm’s length from its food for years now, nutrition advocates say.

“At least since they joined the Better Business Bureau program in 2006, they’ve been saying they wouldn’t use Ronald McDonald to sell food,” said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that says it helped persuade McDonald’s to join an inititative run by the BBB that sets nutrition standards for advertising food to children under 12.

And Ronald’s abstemious habits may go back much further than that. Geoffrey Giuliano, who portrayed Ronald in public appearances in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is today an outspoken critic of the company, once said in an interview that he “was never allowed to eat the food” while in character because it would have been “unseemly.”

In 2007, Jim Skinner, then CEO of McDonald’s, told Reuters that “Ronald McDonald has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence.”
When asked if it was official policy to keep Ronald McDonald away from the food he was created to promote, McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said only that “when Ronald McDonald appears in public, he is focused on spreading joy and smiles.” Hary declined to comment on how long this has been the case.

Marketing experts say it doesn’t really matter whether Ronald is ever actually seen eating in public: Kids will still associate him with Big Macs and Happy Meals.

“Kids are hardwired to think that he equals McDonald’s,” said branding strategist Adam Hanft, founder of the marketing firm Hanft Projects.
“There’s a test in marketing where they put people under a full magnetic resonance imaging machine, like a brain scan essentially, and they show people images, and different parts of the brain light up,” Hanft said. “If you showed kids Ronald McDonald, all the reward centers of the brain would go crazy like July 4th. Because he equals the hamburger.”

Ronald McDonald doesn’t sell food? His sole purpose is to spread joy and smiles? doesn’t remember Toucan Sam eating Froot Loops. Snap, Crackle and Pop never ate Rice Krispies. They still sold products. Ronald McDonald isn’t an ambassador of goodwill — he’s the mascot for McDonald’s hamburgers. That’s not a smiley face embroidered on his pocket — he wears the golden arches on his jumpsuit.

Come on McDonald’s, we may be gullible, but we are smart enough to understand why the big guy exists. And even if the kids don’t realize it, when they see him they ask their moms for a hamburger.

Fruits and veggies … it’s not just five a day anymore!

Eugen WaisWe all work pretty hard to fit five servings of fruits and vegetables into our diets every day. Sometimes it feels like it’s quite a challenge. It appears as though it may become even more challenging soon. New research from the University College London suggests that we need at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day for optimal health. Holy zucchini! That’s a lot of produce.

In the study, published in March, people who ate at least seven portions of produce a day had a 42 percent lower risk of death from all causes. Specifically, they had a 31 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke and a 25 percent lower risk of death from cancer. The study authors called the results “staggering.” wants to offer some ideas that can make the concept of increasing your fruit and vegetable intake by another two servings every day.

Let’s talk about breakfast
Fruit and breakfast are definitely great partners! If you enjoy oatmeal in the morning, you’ll find it even more enjoyable when you mix in a cup of fresh berries. You’ll add flavor and texture as well as variety. If you’re having yogurt as part of your morning meal, don’t buy the fruit flavored varieties. Instead stir in a cup of chopped peaches, apples, plums or melon. This is much tastier than the pre-mixed options. You can try peanut butter on toast topped with sliced apples. Breakfast is an easy opportunity to really enjoy your first serving of the seven for the day.

Expand your plate at lunch
We know that we can happily add lettuce and tomato to a sandwich. Those additions add texture and flavor and help keep us fuller, longer. If we’ve decided on a salad, we’ve got between one and three servings of vegetables on our lunch plate. Whatever our lunch choice, let’s put it on a plate and add some fruit salad we’ve prepared at home. We’ve got lots of great seasonal choices this time of year. Fruit salad is easy to store and travels well in small containers if need be. This isn’t just a great way to add another serving of the seven to our day, it’s another way to help you feel satisfied.

Veggies make great mix-ins
We’ve all probably done this at some point for children, but it really works to increase your vegetable consumption as well. If you’re making a meatloaf, add shredded zucchini for added flavor and texture and it helps make a more moist meatloaf. Burgers on the menu? Try chopped onions and mushrooms in the mix. Try chopped spinach in meatballs or sauteed spinach in your morning eggs. Don’t forget about pasta sauce as well — peas, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, spinach — any combination of veggies make pasta sauce a much richer experience.

Swap out your snacks
If you need a little something to hold you over in the afternoon before dinner, fruit is a great sweet snack. Fruit can satisfy your hunger, without killing your calorie consumption.

Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake can be easier than you might think. A little creativity and out of the box thinking can go a long way. With the benefits described in this new study, it’s certainly worth it!

Thinking of switching to whole grains? New study shows white bread may promote obesity.

White breadFor the last several years we’ve all heard that switching to whole grain products is a healthy adjustment for our lifestyles. Of course, there are voices contradicting that information telling us that wheat is wheat and grains are grains and there’s no real difference between white bread and whole grain bread. Little by little, thought, we’ve seen an extraordinary number of whole grain products introduced into our food supply. If you’ve been incorporating whole grains into your diet, it’s no longer a difficult proposition to locate the products that fit into your lifestyle. A new study is showing that you’ve really made the right move.

Just two or more servings of white bread could put you on the road to gaining weight and puts you at a 40 percent higher risk of obesity, according to new research focused on the eating habits of university graduates.

A research team monitored the eating and weight fluctuations of 9,200 Spanish graduates over a five-year time span in which participants ate both whole grain and white breads. Those who ate both showed no increased risk while those who only ate white bread and had two or more portions daily were 40 percent more likely to become obese and overweight.

The research showed no definitive link of just eating whole grain bread and potential obesity, and that may be due to the fiber of whole grain bread, states researcher Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, a professor at the University of Navarra in Spain, and colleagues.

“Consumption of white bread [of] two portions per day or more showed a significant direct association with the risk of becoming overweight or obese,” states the researchers.

The news comes amidst a steady stream of research that reveals alarming rates of obesity across the world. The world is getting fatter, states the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published in The Lancet. Even as other parts of the world compete with the United States on obesity levels, the overall numbers show 10 countries make up more than half of the world’s obese population.

The white bread report researchers say the finding shows an association between a diet of white bread and a diet of mixed bread intake.

“Essentially it is equivalent to a high consumption of sugar,” Martinez-Gonzalez said. “The problem is similar to what we see with soft drinks, their sugars are rapidly transformed into fat an organism.”

Martinez-Gonzalez recommends switching to whole grain, especially for those trying to lose weight. A recent Cornell University also noted that a diet high in white bread could potentially lead to heart issues.

As we noted, wants to emphasize that finding all sorts of whole grain products has become an easier endeavor. It’s not just bread that’s available — bagels, cereals, and pasta can be easily found in most grocery stores today. Whole grain bread, especially, offers better texture and flavor than white bread. It’s not a difficult transition to make and the health benefits that are just beginning to come to light make it well worth it!

Yogurt has more sugar than a Twinkie???

Yogurt has more sugar than a TwinkieIt’s actually not a question. In plenty of cases, it’s very true. What could very well be your favorite healthy breakfast or snack may be much less healthy than you think it is. In fact, many of the mainstream brands contain more sugar than the classic junk food you’d probably never think about eating.

The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 36 grams of sugar per day, and women no more than 20. One Twinkie makes a big dent in that recommended daily max, packing 19 grams of the sweet stuff. Many of the top-selling yogurts have even more.

Part of this high sugar count is due to sugar that occurs naturally in yogurt, but the amount of natural sugar varies dramatically, depending on the kind. Lowfat yogurt, for example, is notorious for being high in sugar, Monica Reinagel, M.S., LDN, CNS reported. The first 17 grams of sugar per serving, in lowfat varieties, is naturally occurring lactose. In original yogurt, it’s common to see anywhere between 12 and 15 grams of natural sugar, according to Heather Bauer, R.D., CDN. That’s why Bauer recommends going Greek. Greek yogurt, she said, has as little as 6 grams in plain flavors.

What really ups the sugar, though, is what we put into that plain yogurt. Fruit, especially the syrupy kind mixed into store-bought yogurts, is a common culprit. Plus, once you start throwing in candied nuts or sweetened granola, you’ve can quickly find yourself well beyond the sugar content of an entire Twinkie. “If you’re going to add toppings, always stick to a plain flavor,” Bauer says.

But many would-be yogurt eaters will tell you they just don’t care for the bitter taste of a plain scoop. To make it more palatable, nearly all big brands, like Yoplait and Dannon, offer a large selection of fruit- and sometimes even dessert-flavored options.

Yoplait Original Strawberry Banana Low Fat Yogurt contains 26 grams of sugar. If you like Stonyfield Farms Organic Low Fat Blueberry Yogurt, you’ll be consuming 30 grams of sugar in one eight-ounce serving.

O.k., knows that yogurt isn’t a Twinkie. And we know that plenty of yogurt ingredient lists have been improving over time. We can’t possibly say the same thing about Twinkies. At the same time, we also know that added sugars in our diets are a major contributor to the obesity crisis, the sharp rise in diabetes and heart disease. So sometimes even the foods we perceive as healthy require further investigation before we consider including them in our diets. We would like to mention that not every yogurt is sweeter than a Twinkie. We just need to remain committed to reading nutrition labels for every single product we purchase.