Category Archives: Healthy Habits

Redefining healthy eating: it’s personal

healthy eatingWe’ve all been there.  One of your best friends just lost 10 pounds in one month on that new diet everyone’s been talking about.  So you  go on the same diet.  30 days later and you’ve lost … absolutely nothing.  You know you didn’t cheat, you followed the diet to the letter.  You know you were eating healthy food.  And you SHOULD HAVE lost weight.  Shouldn’t you have?  Maybe we should be redefining healthy eating.

If you’ve ever tried out the latest diet fad only to find yourself gaining weight and feeling awful and wondered what you were doing wrong, scientists now have an explanation for you.

Israeli researchers, writing in the journal Cell this week, have found that different people’s bodies respond to eating the same meal very differently — which means that a diet that may work wonders for your best friend may not have the same impact on you.

Lead authors Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science focused on one key component used in creating balanced diet plans like Atkins, Zone or South Beach. Known as the glycemic index or GI for short, it was developed decades ago as a measure of how certain foods impact blood sugar level and has been assumed to be a fixed number.

But it’s not. It turns out that it varies widely depending on the individual.

The researchers recruited 800 healthy and pre-diabetic volunteers ages 18 to 70 and collected data through health questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests, glucose monitoring and stool samples. They also had the participants input lifestyle and food intake information into a mobile app that ended up collecting information on a total of 46,898 meals they had.

Each person was asked to eat a standardized breakfast that included things like bread each morning.

They found that age and body mass index, as expected, appeared to impact blood glucose level after meals, but so did something else. Different individuals showed vastly different responses to the same food, even though their own responses remained the same day to day.

“There are profound differences between individuals — in some cases, individuals have opposite responses to one another,” Segal explained.

The researchers said the findings show that tailoring meal plans to individuals’ biology may be the future of dieting and the study yielded many surprises for individuals. One example involves a middle-aged woman who tried and failed with many diets. Tests showed that her blood sugar levels spiked after eating tomatoes — which the researchers said appeared to be a poor choice for her since high blood sugar has been associated with heart problems, obesity and diabetes — but since she didn’t know this, she was eating them as part of her healthy diet plans several times a week.
Elinav said the work “really enlightened us on how inaccurate we all were about one of the most basic concepts of our existence, which is how we eat and how we integrate nutrition into our daily life.”

To drill down even deeper into the question of why such vast differences exist, the researchers designed another experiment that involved personalized dietary interventions on 26 new volunteers. The goal was to reduce post-meal blood sugar levels. The clinicians designed two sets of specialized meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner and up to two intermediate meals — for each person that were theorized to be a “good” diet or a “bad” diet. Every participant followed the diets for a full week. The good diets worked, and not only did they see their blood sugar levels going down, they found alterations in their gut microbiota. One interesting finding was that even though the diets were very personalized, several of the changes in the microbiota were similar for participants.

This appears to imply, the researcher said, that we’re “really conceptually wrong” in our thinking about the obesity and diabetes epidemic.

We think “we know how to treat these conditions, and it’s just that people are not listening and are eating out of control,” Segal said, “but maybe people are actually compliant and in many cases we were giving them the wrong advice.”

By using the information from the study, the researchers were able to come up with the holy grail of dieting: an algorithm that takes hundreds of factors about a person and turns them into a tailor-made meal plan. The results were pretty surprising to both the doctors and participants. “It wasn’t just salad every day,” Segal told The Atlantic. “Some people got alcohol, chocolate, and ice-cream, in moderation.”

Lua Wilkinson, a doctoral candidate in nutritional sciences at Cornell, said the study is interesting because it shows “the way people control their blood sugar involves more than just carb intake or glycemic index. However, she cautioned, “it said nothing about health effects or weight loss.” encourages everyone to explore their personal healthy eating style.  Experiment with the healthy food that will help you lose weight – or maintain the healthy weight you’ve worked so hard to attain.  Learn what foods work for you and stay committed to your healthy eating profile!




Turkeys in a Pen

What that label really means: Thanksgiving Edition

If you’re hosting the annual Thanksgiving feast this year, you’ve been doing a lot of shopping. You’ve probably grabbed some sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cans of pumpkin and maybe some green beans.

But when you approach a refrigerated section of the store piled high with turkeys, you’re suddenly inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on. Pretty soon, your head is spinning, so you grab the nearest one. As you head to the checkout line, you wonder if you’ve just made an ethical choice or been duped.

This scenario has become part of the Thanksgiving experience for many shoppers. If you’re like me, you may have told yourself that, someday, you’ll learn what all those labels actually mean. Well, today is that day. Because this is your guide to the utterly confusing world of turkey labels — a glossary for the wannabe informed Thanksgiving shopper.

What you might think it means: The turkey was slaughtered this morning (or maybe yesterday) and was rushed to my local grocery store, where consumers like me will taste the difference!

What it actually means: “Fresh” has nothing to do with the time between slaughter and sale. Instead, it means that the turkey has not been cooled to below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it was never frozen. Above 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat can remain pliant — you can press it in with your thumb.


What you might think it means: This bird was killed at a younger age than most turkeys and is therefore more tender and delicious. Maybe it also suffered less.
What it actually means: The bird was likely killed at the same age as most other turkeys. According to Daisy Freund, an animal welfare certification expert at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, most commercial turkeys are slaughtered at 16 to 18 weeks, compared to the roughly 10 years turkeys live in the wild. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not define “young” for turkeys, but it requires that turkeys that lived more than a year be labeled as “yearling” or “mature.”


What you might think it means: The turkeys have been raised in a “natural” environment, wandering around in the woods or on a farm, scavenging food and gobble-gobbling their cares away.
What it actually means: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it means no artificial ingredients have been added to the turkey meat, and the meat is only minimally processed. But Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability for Consumer Reports, says the term isn’t helpful at all. “It has nothing to do with whether the turkeys got antibiotics every day, were living in filthy conditions or were confined indoors,” she says. Her organization is campaigning against the use of the term, which they feel misleads consumers. The Food and Drug Administration also has admitted it’s a challenge to define the term and just asked the public for help.

On that note, let’s pause for a minute to answer a basic question — how exactly are most turkeys in the U.S. raised?

“The vast majority of turkeys are living in crowded houses — football field-sized sheds that are entirely enclosed — by the tens of thousands,” says the ASPCA’s Freund. 

She says the 30-pound birds typically have their beaks cut to prevent them from injuring or killing one another, and are allotted an average of two square feet of space. “It’s like living your entire life in Times Square on New Year’s Eve,” she says.

Meanwhile, Freund says, manure often piles up beneath the birds, and ammonia hangs thick in the air. Many turkeys are routinely given antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. Plus, modern turkeys have been selectively bred to mature quickly and have extremely large breasts (for more white meat). Many have trouble standing and are incapable of having sex — their large chests get in the way, Freund says.

To be clear, turkey producers must still meet basic safety standards and the meat should be safe. But terms like “natural” may be misleading consumers about how the birds are actually raised.


What you might think it means: These turkeys roam freely on a farm, pecking at the lush grass and getting more exercise than I do.
What it actually means: In some cases (on some small farms), it does mean what you’re picturing. But Rangan says in the vast majority of cases, “free-range” turkeys are raised in the standard, crowded houses. The only difference, she says, is that these birds must have “access to the outdoors.”
But the word “access” is broadly used. “If the animal never even went outdoors, but you sort of opened and closed the door every day, that would suffice to label the bird as ‘free-range,’ ” she says.


What you might think it means: This turkey had a better life than most, because at least it wasn’t stuffed into a tiny cage.
What it actually means: This turkey’s life was probably the same as most, because turkeys are not raised in cages. The conventional practice — which accounts for well over 95 percent of all commercial turkeys, according to ASPCA — is to raise them in open houses. So, calling a turkey cage-free is sort of like calling a cantaloupe cage-free.

What you might think it means: This turkey is a higher grade of meat, and is more delicious and healthy.
What it actually means: Basically, nothing. The USDA grades beef cuts with words like “prime,” “choice” and “select,” but premium is not one of their designations and these graded terms are not used for poultry anyway.
 A company can label any kind of turkey as “premium.”

No Hormones Added
What you might think it means: This bird is healthier than most because it wasn’t pumped full of the hormones that turn some turkeys into the Incredible Hulk.
What it actually means: Once again, this term is misleading. By USDA law, turkeys (and other poultry) are not allowed to be given growth hormones.

Humane/Non-Certified Humane

What you might think it means: Finally, a bird that has been raised according to an ethical set of principles. It was probably treated fairly and lived a decent life. Maybe it even got to kiss its loved ones goodbye.

What it actually means: If there is no certifying agency, which there isn’t for this term, the label is probably meaningless, says Rangan from Consumer Reports. That’s because the USDA allows companies to come up with their own definition of “humane” and it gives its seal of approval if the company meets its own standards. In these cases, “it probably just means they met the conventional baseline,” says Rangan.

That’s most of the virtually meaningless terms. Let’s move on to some labels that have at least some significance.


What you might think it means: The turkey was raised according to a stricter set of hygiene standards. It was probably kept cleaner and healthier.
What it actually means: The turkey was probably raised in the same crowded house conditions as most turkeys. The only difference is that it was slaughtered according to a set of kosher principles.


What you might think it means: This turkey enjoyed a lush supply of greens and grains, replicating its natural diet.
What it actually means: The bird probably ate what most turkeys eat: corn. But these birds have not had their diets supplemented with animal byproducts, which does happen in some settings. The irony, though, is that turkeys are not natural vegetarians. In the wild, they eat a variety of bugs and worms, along with grass and other plants.

Raised Without Antibiotics/No Antibiotics Administered
What you might think it means: These birds were never given any antibiotics of any kind.
What it actually means: These birds were given drugs only if they were sick, but not for growth promotion, feed efficiency or to prevent disease. That means their producers are contributing less to the risk of antibiotic resistance and to “superbugs”— a serious health concern. However, Rangan suggests that consumers look for the USDA label with this term, to verify that the companies have been inspected. And she points out that the label does not mean the birds were raised in more sanitary conditions — only that they were not given routine antibiotics.

What you might think it means: These turkeys were raised on a steady diet of organic vegetables, green smoothies and Bikram yoga.

What it actually means: To meet the requirements for the USDA’s Certified Organic program, animals must have some access to the outdoors (though there’s debate about whether or not most organic turkeys actually go outdoors), be fed only organic feed (non-GMO and grown without chemical pesticides) and must not be given antibiotic drugs on a routine basis. Rangan says organic conditions are “significantly different” from conventional conditions. And yet, she says, organic lags behind the conditions enjoyed by humanely raised birds.

Which brings us to the final section.

There are three main organizations that have publicly available standards for “humane” treatment. Birds bearing these labels typically are granted real access to the outdoors, eat a diverse diet and have the opportunity to behave as they would in the wild. You can read more about the specific criteria by clicking on each name.

Animal Welfare Approved

Turkeys with this label come from farms that have been audited at least once a year, and have met criteria for animal welfare, environmental protection and community well-being. According to its website, “Provisions are made to ensure [the animals'] social interaction, comfort, and physical and psychological well-being.”

Certified Humane

This is also a label with clearly defined parameters for animal and environmental care. Its website says, “The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.”

Global Animal Partnership, or GAP

This is a rating system with six different levels, ranging from less crowding (level one) to animals without clipped beaks spending their entire life on the same farm, with enhanced access to the outdoors
 (level five-plus).

To summarize, here’s a cheat sheet:

Labels that mean very little: Fresh, Young, Natural, Premium, Cage-Free, Free-Range, No Hormones Added, Humane (not certified or USDA certified)

Labels that mean something specific: Kosher, Raised Without Antibiotics/No Antibiotics Administered, Vegetarian-Fed/Grain-Fed, Organic

Labels that mean the birds were raised humanely: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, GAP

And there you have it. This information has certainly enlightened all of us at and put us to work on a whole new shopping mission for Thanksgiving 2015! We love to understand exactly what a label is telling us … what’s hype and what’s highly important. As soon as consumers understand labels, they know how to find what they’re looking for and that means they know exactly what’s in their food.

Kind of like our website and our app. Funny how that works.

Happy Thanksgiving!

New food delivery options expand dining choices beyond fast food and traditional take out

door dashDon’t feel like cooking? Traditionally, unless you live in a large urban area, your options have been fairly limited. You can usually get delivery from a local diner (but not always), some fast casual chains might deliver or you can always visit any one of your local assortment of fast food locations. Ever-evolving technology is changing all of that for us. New food delivery options expand dining choices for everyone. is thrilled with the new wave of delivery services made possible by apps and e-commerce. While it’s certainly true that many of them are working with fast food, these services are opening up new and better ways for consumers to opt for better quality, fresher, healthier foods without cooking.

Years ago, Amazon hooked shoppers on cheap books delivered in days. Now, the e-commerce giant is blowing up the online marketplace again by reaching into the fast growing world of food delivery.

Amazon’s one-hour delivery arm, Prime Now, announced plans this week to provide Los Angeles-area residents with doorstep delivery of meals from local. The news comes as app-based food delivery services are growing at a rapid clip as consumers demand hassle-free, doorstep deliveries on everything from groceries to tacos to alcohol.

“These are people who don’t leave the house very much,” said Roland Foss, whose Mission Market convenience store in Fullerton delivers via ordering systems by DoorDash, Eat24 and GrubHub.

Many food companies, from Irvine-based Taco Bell to Foss’ mom-and-pop shop, are using third-party applications, which help increase sales with very little to lose in terms of capital investment.

The three services allow Foss to sell everything from microwavable meals to vaping products to customers who might never walk through his tiny storefronts in Fullerton and Anaheim.

“We are platform agnostic, and I don’t mind being on as many platforms as possible,” Foss said. “I’m just expanding the footprint of my potential customers and earnings.”

Since summer, Foss has been working with GrubHub and Yelp-owned Eat24 to provide mobile ordering to customers in the greater Fullerton area. Typical orders include sandwiches, cookies, chips and frozen foods. But there’s a catch: Those two services leave delivery up to the business.

In many cases, Foss is making the deliveries himself – which is not ideal, or efficient, he said. Sometimes it’s challenging to find homes in gated communities. One time, he couldn’t get into a secured apartment complex, so he left the person’s delivery outside the gate and sent the customer a message.

This month, Foss partnered with DoorDash, an Uber-like food delivery service that is spreading quickly across the country. The company provides an app-based ordering system, as well as the delivery drivers, called Dashers.

Even though the Bay area-based courier service takes a larger cut of overall sales, Foss said it’s worth it. The service takes care of delivery.

Here’s a look at the major food delivery players in Southern California:

Founded two years ago in a Stanford dorm room, DoorDash offers delivery of everything from tacos to toothbrushes. To date its primary partnerships have been with nationally known restaurants and food retailers such as Taco Bell, KFC and 7-Eleven.
Its network of independent contract “dashers” deliver meals in more than 250 cities across the U.S. DoorDash is available in all parts of Orange County except La Palma, Los Alamitos and Cypress.

Depending on the city, dashers can fetch everything from a bucket of fried chicken from KFC to an Iced Americano from Portola Coffee Lab for a delivery fee of $5.99. Fees vary and don’t include tipping, which is optional.

Delivery options depend on the city. Restaurants available for delivery also change depending on location. DoorDash provides an estimated time of delivery, which can take longer than an hour during peak days and hours.

Founded in 2011 in San Francisco, Postmates offers on-demand delivery of personal services, such as dry cleaning, as well as groceries and electronics and restaurant meals.

But its bread and butter, so far, is food delivery, which accounts for 80 percent of its business, said Sean Plaice, Postmates’ co-founder and chief technical officer.

“Food is to us like books were to Amazon,” said the former Orange County resident.

As a 4-year-old player in an emerging market, Postmates has set the bar for same-day delivery, he said.

The company’s fleet of couriers are in 40 metropolitan markets in the country, compared with 19 for DoorDash. Its couriers are available in most every city in Orange County. For as little as $4.99 (plus a 9 percent service fee), customers can use Postmates around the clock.

Citizen couriers or drivers, like Uber, roam the streets and “accept” requests based on the best match – typically someone who is closest to the location from which the order originates. Unlike DoorDash, orders can be customized. For example, you can order school supplies or bandages from retailers not necessarily showing up on the Postmates app.

“You can get anything delivered from anywhere,” said Plaice. “I’m proud to say we’re pioneers in this.”

In February, GrubHub expanded its foothold in the online food ordering sector by buying two restaurant delivery companies: Aliso Viejo-based Restaurants on the Run and Boston-based DiningIn.

The company curates online orders for more than 35,000 restaurant partners around the country. Since completing the acquisitions, GrubHub has created a delivery network to reach more than 30 markets, the company said.

Restaurants on the Run has a built-in delivery system for chains such as El Torito, BJ’s Restaurants and California Pizza Kitchen.

The company, founded in 1993, specializes in large corporate food deliveries. Individuals can make small orders, but some restaurants require a $20 minimum order on top of delivery fees.

To compete with delivery services that offer lower fees, GrubHub said it plans to “reduce fees over time.”

Amazon Prime Now
Amazon’s Prime Now and its one- or two-hour delivery service serves customers in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including the Orange County cities of Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Orange.

The service offers tens of thousands of items, including household goods, groceries and electronics.

The delivery service, which operates in 13 metro areas across the U.S., can only be accessed through its mobile app. Members can check delivery options by entering their ZIP code.

Needless to say, still thinks preparing your food at home in your own kitchen is the ideal way to go. But we know it’s not always possible and we do think that these innovative new food delivery options open the opportunity to consumers to eat substantially better when they’re not cooking at home than ever before. These services aren’t just contracting with your local pizzeria and convenience store. They’re working with restaurants that aren’t the usual take out places. Find out the services in your area and open a new door in your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle all the time!

Eat slowly to eat well.

eat strawberriesWe’ve all got the same goal in mind – healthy eating. Dietary habits can vary – some are vegetarian, others vegan, some adapt a Mediterranean-style diet, some opt for Paleo. No matter how different our dietary choices may be, we’re all looking for optimum health. At the same time, we’re also looking for an optimum eating experience. Decades ago, healthy eating meant sacrificing flavor for health. Today, we’re looking to enjoy the flavors of the fresh, whole foods we consume. We expect to eat well as well as eat healthy. New information suggests that one of the most important aspects of that experience is pretty simple. Eat slowly to eat well.

When it comes to enjoying the flavors in food, our tongues really aren’t that useful. They can detect just a few basic tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami, and maybe fat.

But real complexity comes from a food or drink’s aroma, and the main way we sense all the compounds isn’t from sniffing. Our bodies actually blast scents from the back of our mouths up into our nasal cavity where we can take in the difference between merlot and Chianti, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Of course, you can smell foods by holding them up to your face and huffing. But that’s not quite the same as taking in all the flavors of a food. “When we have food or drink in our mouths, [the flavor] has to be going from the back of the mouth up and into the noise – going backwards,” says Dr. Gordon Shepherd, a neuroscientist at Yale University.

To figure out how that works, Shepherd and a team of Yale engineers and neuroscientists built a model of the inside of a person’s mouth, throat and nasal cavities. Then they used the model to analyze how air flows through it. They found that molecules from food we smell, or food volatiles, pile up at the back of our mouths and throats as we breathe.

When we’re breathing in through the nose, as one might do while chewing, air whips down the nasal cavity and into the lungs, creating a kind of air curtain separating the throat and the mouth. “That air curtain prevents all food volatiles from entering the lungs,” says Rui Ni, a mechanical engineer at Penn State University and lead author on the study. When we exhale, air sweeps into the back of the mouth and throat where that heap of volatile compounds is and carries them up into the nose.

This all happens naturally, Ni says. “But you can only do this effectively when you breathe smoothly,” he says. If you’re stuffing food with abandon down your throat or gasping for breath or heaving, you start to disrupt that normal pattern of airflow. Food volatiles won’t store properly at the back of your mouth, and they could get sucked into your lungs and pass into the bloodstream.

The other problem, notes Laleh Golshahi, a mechanical engineer at Virginia Commonwealth University who was not involved with the study, is if you inhale too slowly while eating, that air curtain doesn’t form effectively. Food volatiles don’t get bounced out of the trachea and then could also be drawn into the lungs.
“[Breathing] not too fast and not too slow is the key,” she tells The Salt in an email. “Though the faster you exhale, you have a better chance to sweep food volatiles from the back of your throat toward the nasal cavity to smell.”

Ni agrees. And so the big takeaway from this study for us eaters is this: To get the best sensory experience from your food, eat slowly and breathe evenly as you do it.

The scientists behind the PNAS study only scanned the throat, nasal and oral cavities of one patient, Golshahi notes. So there could be variability among us that might make the situation different for each person. But best practices for anyone probably include relaxed eating and even breathing.

Savoring your food slowly seems to be the way to go for other reasons, too. One study found that when dieters ate slowly, it became easier to control their food intake. And kids who are forced to hurry down a meal in a few minutes ate less and threw out more food. knows that following this advice can sometimes be easier said than done. We’re all way too busy. Slowing down seems to be a thing of the past with few of us having the luxury of doing so. Fitting our quest for the healthiest possible diet into what’s already a packed schedule can seem daunting, leaving us in a “grab-and-go” situation more times than not. We’d like to commit to slowing things down a bit. Let’s leave ourselves time to savor our meals whenever we can. It’s more enjoyable. It’s better for us. And it’s an important choice to make for our healthy lifestyles.

Happy Veteran’s Day – find out where veterans eat for free today loves the idea that we’re seeing public acknowledgement of our veterans today on the day we commemorate their valuable service to our country. The parades are great – we all enjoy them. But we really like the idea of a tangible “thank you” and are happy to see several restaurants participating in free meals for veterans today. Find out where veterans eat for free today.  Here’s a working list … so if you know a veteran, please share!

Note: Offers good at participating location. Uniform or military ID may be required as proof of service. Some of the offers listed below originally found at

Applebee’s – Restaurant offering veterans and active military a free meal from open to close on Nov. 11.

Bar Louie – Free meal up to $12 November 10th and 11th with proof of military ID or service.
Brann’s Steakhouse – Free 6 oz sirloin and two sides

Bob Evans – Veterans and active military personnel get the choice of a free breakfast menu item on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Bonefish Grill – Veterans and active military get free Bang Bang Shrimp on Nov. 11. Find more information here

California Pizza Kitchen – Veterans and active military personnel can choose a free entrée from a list of pizzas, salads and pastas. Find more information here

Carrabba’s — All veterans and active duty service members get a free appetizer November 9 through 15.

Cheeseburger in Paradise – Free burger with fries on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Chili’s – Veterans and active military personnel get free meal from a selection of items. More information here

Cracker Barrel – Veterans receive free Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake on Nov. 11; 10% of sales from the cake will go to the USA Transition 360 Alliance. Find more information here

Dairy Queen – Select Dairy Queen locations will offer free $5 lunches on Veterans Day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; offer includes the following locations: Noblesville DQ Grill & Chill at 5625 Pebble Village Ln, Carmel DQ Grill & Chill at 9802 N Michigan Rd, Meridian St DQ Grill & Chill at 9040 N Meridian St, Indy DQ Grill & Chill at 2425 National Ave, and Greencastle DQ Grill & Chill in Greencastle

Denny’s – Veterans and active military get Free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Dunkin’ Donuts – Free medium hot or iced coffee on Nov. 11. Find more information here

FATZ Café — Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken meal on November 11.

Fazoli’s – Veterans and active military get free Build Your Own Pasta on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Golden Corral – Free thank you dinner on Military Appreciation Night (Nov. 11 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Find more information here

Hooters – Veterans and active military get a free menu item of their choice of a pre-selected menu on Nov. 11. Find more information here

IHOP – Free Red, White & Blue pancakes for veterans and active military from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Krispy Kreme — Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans on November 11 at participating locations.

Krystal — Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Chicken or Sausage Biscuit from 6 AM to 11:00 AM on November 11.

Little Caesars – Veterans and active military personnel receive a free $5 Hot-N-Ready lunch combo, which includes a small deep dish pizza and a 20-ounce drink. Find more information here

Logan’s Roadhouse — In addition to the 10% military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert on November 11.

Long John Silver’s – Offering a free 2-piece fish basket to our veterans this week at participating locations. Find more information here

O’Charley’s – Veterans and active duty service members get a free $9.99 meal on November 9, as well as free pie on November 11.

Olive Garden – Veterans and active military eat free from selection of entrées. Family members dining with them also get 10% off their meals. Find more information here

On the Border — Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo menu” on November 11.

Outback Steakhouse – Veterans and active military personnel receive free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage on Nov. 11; deployed personnel can get a rain check for the offer. Find more information here

Ponderosa – Veterans and active military receive free buffet on Nov. 11 from 4 p.m. to close. Find more information here

Red Lobster – Veterans and active military receive their choice of free appetizer or dessert; offer good from Nov. 9 through Nov. 12. Find more information here

Red Robin – Veterans and active military personnel get free Red’s Tavern Double burger with bottomless steak fries on Nov. 11. Find more information here

Ruby Tuesday — Veterans, active duty and reserve service members get a free appetizer on November 11.

Starbucks — Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee on November 11 at participating locations.

Sticky Fingers — Veterans, active, inactive or retired servicemen and servicewomen get a free entrée up to a $12.99 value on November 11. In addition to the free meal, veterans who dine-in get a coupon valued at $10 to be used on their next visit.

Texas Roadhouse – Veterans and active military get free meal from pre-selected menu plus choice of drink. Find more information here

TGI Fridays — Veterans and active duty military get a free lunch from a select menu on November 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tim Horton’s (West Michigan) – Free Donut on Nov. 11

Uccello’s Ristorante – Free express lunch buffet. Veterans should show proof of military service, like a Military ID card or Driver’s License with veterans designation.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill – Veterans and active military get a free entrée or individual pizza with an entrée or pizza purchase of equal or greater value on November 11.

White Castle – Veterans and active military get free breakfast slider with choice of small coffee or small drink. Find more information here

Thank a veteran today! Let’s all remember the sacrifices our service men and women make for our freedom every day!

Tremendous changes in consumer eating habits are all around us. Can food manufacturers keep up? has been advocating for changes in our eating habits since our inception. We’ve been alerting consumers to what’s really in their food for well over a decade and have built a strong and durable reputation as a consistent voice for healthy, clean eating. We’re pretty proud of that. But what we’re even more proud of is the emerging voice of consumers everywhere. It’s the voice that has clearly told food manufacturers what will and will not be accepted by today’s more educated, nutritionally aware food purchasers. Tremendous changes in consumer eating habits are all around us. Can food manufacturers keep up?

General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft declared it was dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey’s will begin to move away from ingredients such as the emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to “simple and easy-to-understand ingredients” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar.”

Those announcements reflect a new reality: Consumers are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Big food manufacturers are reacting by cleaning up their ingredient labels, acquiring healthier brands and coming out with a prodigious array of new products. Last year, General Mills purchased the organic pasta maker Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million — a price that was over four times the company’s revenues, likening it to valuations more often seen in Silicon Valley. The company also introduced more than 200 new products, ranging from Cheerios Protein to Betty Crocker gluten-free cookie mix, to capitalize on the latest consumer fads.

Food companies are moving in the right direction, but it won’t be enough to save them. If they are to survive changes in eating habits, they need a fundamental shift in their approach.

The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape. Chains like Sweetgreen, a salad purveyor, are grabbing market share from traditional fast food companies. Brands such as Amy’s Kitchen, with its organic products, and Kind bars are taking some of the space on shelves once consumed by Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine and Mars.

For the large established food companies, this is having disastrous consequences. Per capita soda sales are down 25 percent since 1998, mostly replaced by water. Orange juice, a drink once seen as an important part of a healthy breakfast, has seen per capita consumption drop 45 percent in the same period. It is now more correctly considered a serious carrier of free sugar, stripped of its natural fibers. Sales of packaged cereals, also heavily sugar-laden, are down over 25 percent since 2000, with yogurt and granola taking their place. Frozen dinner sales are down nearly 12 percent from 2007 to 2013. Sales per outlet at McDonald’s have been on a downward spiral for nearly three years, with no end in sight.

To survive, the food industry will need more than its current bag of tricks. There is a consumer shift at play that calls into question the reason packaged foods exist. There was a time when consumers used to walk through every aisle of the grocery store, but today much of their time is being spent in the perimeter of the store with its vast collection of fresh products — raw produce, meats, bakery items and fresh prepared foods. Sales of fresh prepared foods have grown nearly 30 percent since 2009, while sales of center-of-store packaged goods have started to fall. Sales of raw fruits and vegetables are also growing — among children and young adults, per capita consumption of vegetables is up 10 percent over the past five years.

The outlook for the center of the store is so glum that industry insiders have begun to refer to that space as the morgue. For consumers today, packaged goods conjure up the image of foods stripped of their nutrition and loaded with sugar. Also, decades of deceptive marketing, corporate-sponsored research and government lobbying have left large food companies with brands that are fast becoming liabilities. According to one recent survey, 42 percent of millennial consumers, ages 20 to 37, don’t trust large food companies, compared with 18 percent of non-millennial consumers who feel that way.

For legacy food companies to have any hope of survival, they will have to make bold changes in their core product offerings. Companies will have to drastically cut sugar; process less; go local and organic; use more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods; and develop fresh offerings. General Mills needs to do more than just drop the artificial ingredients from Trix. It needs to drop the sugar substantially, move to 100 percent whole grains, and increase ingredient diversity by expanding to other grains besides corn.

Instead of throwing good money after bad for its lagging frozen products, Nestlé, which is investing in a new $50 million frozen research and development facility, should introduce a range of healthy, fresh prepared meals for deli counters across the country.

McDonalds needs to do more than use antibiotic-free chicken. The back of the house for its 36,000 restaurants currently looks like a mini-factory serving fried frozen patties and french fries. It needs to look more like a kitchen serving freshly prepared meals with locally sourced vegetables and grains — and it still needs to taste great and be affordable.

The website has been on the pulse of these changes for years. Our site – and other websites, bloggers and organizations and associations – has been on the forefront of a transformation. We provide the information consumers need to become educated food purchasers – people who clearly know and understand what is and isn’t acceptable to them in their food. And now our new app, can help those consumers gather their information anywhere and everywhere:

Will the food manufacturers keep up? It’s anyone’s guess. But with the help of the app, consumers everywhere can make sure they’re avoiding the products that contain the ingredients they’ve said no to, thus holding those manufacturers accountable for everything they’re putting in their products. As we’ve continually seen, that is really making a difference with manufacturers after manufacturer making important changes based on consumer voices.

Happy National Eating Healthy Day! Happy National Candy Day! (and no this isn’t an early April Fool’s joke)

CANDY V HEALTHY_1446643106335_429389_ver1.0Ah, the irony of the calendar. Today is November 4th … a day marked by two very different, very contradictory holidays. It’s National Eating Healthy Day (sponsored by the American Heart Association). It’s also National Candy Day ( couldn’t find out who sponsors this one.) And, no this is not an early April Fool’s joke! We find it odd that we’re celebrating National Candy Day just four short days after Halloween which is the day on which this holiday should really fall. After all, we’ve probably all had our fill of the sweet stuff by now. And we could all use a day to consciously observe healthy eating habits so soon after a day of observing sugar consumption nationwide.

So let’s start with National Eating Healthy Day.

National Eating Healthy Day is designed to offer people across the country – at home, work or in their community – an opportunity to make a healthy change in their lives. Officials also say they provide necessary resources to make the changes as easy as possible.

Step 1: Register for National Eating Healthy Day by visiting

Step 2: Get healthy with activities and tips for National Eating Healthy Day (all included in the free AHA toolkit)

Step 3: Share their “punny” memes on your social media channels using #NEHD and share your successes on the AHA’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

According to the American Heart Association, more than two-thirds of American adults and one in three children and teens are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as other chronic illnesses and conditions.

We couldn’t find a website for National Candy Day. There’s probably a reason for that. Promoting excessive sugar consumption isn’t a popular practice. The entire candy industry just experienced its annual sales boom. Our children are probably still in somewhat of a sugar haze. And we’ve already put away our costumes until next year. thinks this particular holiday was poorly timed and needs to be rethought.

But just in case you really feel the need to observe National Candy Day, we thought we’d give you a few tips that will help you to observe National Eating Healthy Day at the very same time.

1. Enjoy a piece of nature’s candy. Grab a piece of your favorite fruit in honor of both your sweet tooth and your healthy eating habits.

2. If you really must have candy today, choose a small piece of dark chocolate and enjoy the health benefits that are associated with this sweet treat. Dark chocolate is good for your heart, your blood pressure and your cholesterol. When enjoyed in moderation, this candy is actually a healthy choice!

In any case, Happy National Eating Healthy Day! Happy National Candy Day! is going to have to find someone to talk to about this year’s coincidental contradiction!

Tips for fitting organic into your monthly food budget hears the lament often, “I’d love to eat organic, but it’s just too expensive.” While we certainly sympathize, we’re not the kind to sit back and forego all the benefits of organic foods without at least making a real effort to fit the current prices of organic into our budgets. We’ve looked around and we’ve come across an article from Huffington Post sharing some good tips for fitting organic into your monthly food budget that really make sense!

Many people who want to eat organic food think they can’t afford it. They know that organic food costs more than standard grocery store fare, so they assume that an organic diet is out of their price range. That’s what I used to think, but a recent experiment showed me that my family can eat a lot of organic food without spending more money.

Several months ago, we switched to a whole food, primarily organic, diet. Although our normal diet is fairly healthy, we had read about the anti-inflammatory benefits of a “clean” diet and wanted to see if it would reduce the arthritis pain in my husband’s hands. (It did.) We tried it out for a month, eating organic dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, high-quality meat and chicken (about half organic), organic grains, free-range eggs, nuts, coconut oil and olive oil. We eliminated white sugar and white flour and almost all wheat products. We ate no processed food, and we rarely ate out.

And we waited for our food budget to collapse.

But it didn’t happen. Our average monthly food bill (groceries + eating out) for that month was slightly lower than the previous month. Not much lower (less than 1%), but lower nonetheless. So we actually spent less but ate better. Here are 7 things we did that reduced the cost of eating organic and whole food:

• Get organized. Unless you have money to burn, you can’t wing it on a whole food diet – you need a plan. The first step is to make a menu and grocery list every week. Although I normally plan dinners, I found that I needed to plan breakfasts and lunches too, because we couldn’t fall back on a bagel or frozen meal in a pinch. Next, organize your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Get rid of foods you don’t want to eat. Take stock of the organic and whole foods you already have on hand and put them where you can find them quickly and easily. Then, keep those areas organized; take 10 minutes every weekend to keep your refrigerator, freezer and pantry under control.

• Use everything and don’t waste anything. I hate to waste food, but I sometimes lose track of what’s in the refrigerator and end up throwing things away. But I can’t afford to throw away organic food, and you probably can’t either. So keep track of what you have and don’t let anything go to waste. Put the date on leftovers so they don’t get too old to eat. If something needs to be eaten, incorporate it into your meal plan. If you can’t, freeze it. I could have kicked myself when I had to throw away delicious soup made from an organic chicken, simply because I didn’t use it or freeze it in time.

• Keep things simple. Don’t complicate your life with elaborate meals or stress your budget with prepared organic foods. Instead, stick with simple foods prepared well. Grilled chicken breasts, baked sweet potatoes and a tossed salad, for example, or London broil with roasted new potatoes and vegetables, make simple, delicious meals that save money, time and stress.

• Take advantage of low prices, sales and discounts. Discount stores carry some organic items, and stores like Costco and Aldi are increasing the number of organic foods they sell. I bought staples, including organic tomato sauce, flour, butter and milk, at Wal-mart. Farmer’s markets offer a wide array of fresh produce, often at very reasonable prices. Even the high-end grocery stores, which many people assume they can’t afford, run sales and offer discounts. So sign up for their text or email deals and install their apps on your phone. I rarely went to Earthfare without one of their “$10 off $70 purchase” discounts, and I stocked up on items there as they went on sale.

• Make some foods you would normally buy. We figured out early in this experiment that we needed to have more healthy snacks on hand. But most snack foods are pricey and contain ingredients we were trying to avoid. So we started making toasted walnuts, energy bars and granola every weekend. They satisfied our snack cravings and could fill in as an emergency breakfast if needed. I also made homemade salad dressings every week, and we started experimenting with making yogurt (because organic Greek yogurt is really expensive!).

• Cook extra whenever possible. Many meals can be doubled easily, with almost no extra work or mess. Cooking extra food saves time, but it also saves money. When you can turn leftover dinner into lunches to take to work, it reduces the likelihood that you’ll have to run out and grab something from a restaurant. And when you make a double batch of dinner and freeze half, you have a healthy and inexpensive “fast food” dinner on hand for a particularly hectic night, when you might otherwise pick up a fast food meal or go out to dinner.

• Cut way back on eating out. Making this change does two things. First, it helps you stick to your real food eating plan, because it’s difficult to eat clean in a restaurant. Second, it keeps food costs down because, let’s face it, eating out gets expensive.

A diet based on organic and whole foods isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t have to break the bank either. With a bit of planning, organization and effort, you can eat well and feed your family well without blowing your food budget.

These are great ideas. We especially like the advice of keeping meals simple. No prepared foods are necessary. No extra ingredients that might cost you more. Just excellent food that doesn’t take hours to prepare with costs that are kept under control. Leftovers are great things. In the first place, you won’t need to purchase lunch – and the lunch you’ll be taking from home will be healthier than anything you’d be buying that afternoon.

We all deserve the healthiest foods available. With a little planning and some experimenting you can incorporate organic food into your monthly budget and enjoy the advantages it will afford your health and well being.

Not all calories are created equally … sugar calories are much worse than other calories

sugar caloriesJust in time for Halloween, wants parents and caregivers in our community to take note of some important research information regarding children and the consumption of added sugar. Fascinating information … just not very pro Halloween candy consumption. It might make you think twice about your stance that sugary sweet haul that’s about to enter your home. Sugar calories are much worse than other calories when it comes to our children.

Children are manifesting increased rates of adult diseases like hypertension or high triglycerides. And they are getting diseases that used to be unheard of in children, like Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. So why is this happening?

Everyone assumes this is the result of the obesity epidemic – too many calories in, too few out. Children and adults are getting fat, so they’re getting sick. And it is generally assumed that no one specific food causes it, because “a calorie is a calorie”.

The role that sugar plays in contributing to chronic disease has been studied for years and a research group at the University of California, San Francisco has just published research in the journal Obesity that challenges this assumption. If calories come from sugar, they just aren’t the same.

It’s clear that the cause of rising rates of health conditions like Type 2 diabetes isn’t as simple as people just eating too many calories.

Obesity is increasing globally at 1% per year, while diabetes is increasing globally at 4% per year. If diabetes were just a subset of obesity, how can you explain its more rapid increase?
And certain countries are obese without being diabetic (such as Iceland, Mongolia and Micronesia), while other countries are diabetic without being obese (India, Pakistan and China, for instance). Twelve percent of people in China have diabetes, but the obesity rate is much lower. The US is the fattest nation on Earth and our diabetes prevalence is 9.3%.
While 80% of the obese population in the US is metabolically ill (meaning they have conditions like diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems and heart disease), 20% is not. Conversely, 40% of the normal weight population has metabolic syndrome.

If normal weight people have these conditions, how then are they related to obesity? Indeed, we now know that obesity is a marker rather than a cause for these diseases.

Epidemiological studies have found a correlation between added sugar consumption and health conditions like cardiovascular disease. So could cutting excess sugar out of our diets reverse metabolic syndrome?

The group at UCSF studied 43 Latino and African-American children with obesity and metabolic syndrome over a 10-day period. They started by assessing their metabolic status – insulin and glucose levels, as well as blood fats and other markers for disease, like lactate and free fatty acids – on their home diet.

For the next nine days, each child ate an individual tailored diet. Their meals provided the same number of calories and protein and fat content as their usual home diet. They were given the same percentage of carbohydrate, but starch was substituted for sugar. The big difference: this special diet had no added sugar. This means their diet had no sugar from sugarcane or high fructose corn syrup. The kids consumed foods such as fruits and other whole foods that naturally contain some sugar. These foods also have fiber, which reduces the rate of sugar absorption, so they don’t affect the body the same way that added sugar does.

Chicken teriyaki was taken out of the meal plans. Turkey hot dogs were put in. Sweetened yogurt came out. Baked potato chips were put in. Donuts came out. Bagels were put in. They were given unhealthy processed food, just with no added sugar. Each child was given a scale to take home, and if their weight was declining, they were made to eat more. Then they were studied again.

The children had eaten the same number of calories and had not lost any weight, and yet every aspect of their metabolic health improved. With added sugar cut out of their diet for 10 days, blood pressure, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance all improved. And remember, they kids weren’t given just leafy greens and tofu – they were fed processed foods, just ones without sugar.
Further studies are needed to see if this will also work in adults, and if the benefits are short-term or long-term.

While people can identify sugar as unhealthy and understand that there’s much too much added sugar in our diets, they are often unclear as to why. The prevailing concept that “calories are calories” is being proven false over time. This information clearly points out that added sugar is having negative effects on the health of children by illustrating how removing that sugar from unhealthier diets has positive effects for the kids involved. That’s pretty powerful.

The diet that was never meant to be … how gluten-free got out of control

gluten-intoleranceThe gluten-free craze was never supposed to be a craze at all. Just ask Dr. Alessio Fasano, a physician-researcher at Mass. General – the doctor that put gluten awareness on the map in the United States.  He also understands how gluten-free got out of control.

When Fasano came to the United States from his native Italy in the early 1990s, the prevailing view in medicine was that celiac was a problem primarily for European kids and basically didn’t exist here. His decade-long study proved otherwise, and brought relief to a small group of long-overlooked, long-suffering Americans. But when he began giving talks on his findings, celiac patients told him, essentially, “Enough with the science. What we really want from you are recipes for gluten-free bread that doesn’t take like cardboard.” Hardly anyone outside this select group even knew what gluten was.

“Fast forward to 2015,” Fasano told me. “We did such a good job that the monster went all out of control.”

Gluten-free is now a $23 billion a year market in this country. Food manufacturers have rushed to fill supermarket shelves with every imaginable product labeled “gluten-free” – many that never contained gluten to begin with. “The gluten-free diet,” Fasano said, “is the most popular diet that you can imagine.”

How did it happen? A pivotal moment came in 2008 when Oprah Winfrey announced that she was going on a cleanse and would cut gluten from her diet. Traditional bakers around the country probably gulped, or at least they should have. By the time other celebrities hopped on the bandwagon, gluten-free was well on its way to becoming a dietary juggernaut.

In stepped diet book peddlers and even a few outright hucksters. There’s a guy in North Carolina serving a nine- to 11-year prison sentence for fraud, after he was caught buying regular bread from Costco and other stores, repackaging it as gluten-free, and selling it for a huge markup.

Helping to propel this explosion has been the wide spectrum of gluten-avoiding people. About 0.3 percent of the US population has a wheat allergy – for them, eating even trace amounts of wheat can cause anaphylactic shock. About 1 percent of the population has celiac disease. Another 5 percent to 6 percent, according to Fasano’s estimates, have genuine gluten sensitivity. For this group, avoiding gluten is essential because the protein composite will often cause painful gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and diarrhea, although those symptoms tend to be milder than what people with celiac disease suffer. More important, these symptoms produce no long-term damage. For celiacs, eating gluten slowly destroys the villi lining their small intestines and over time can hasten death – so for them, avoiding gluten is very serious business.

But Fasano says the vast majority of the contemporary gluten-free universe involves people who, in the Oprah tradition, avoid the stuff purely for lifestyle reasons, and not out of medical necessity.

Most celiacs say they have no problem with other people avoiding gluten because of dietary preference. After all, the vast expansion of the gluten-free ranks is the reason people with celiac disease have so many more choices these days at the supermarket and on restaurant menus. But what has so many of them furious is the explosion of people pretending to have a medical condition around gluten when, in fact, they just want special attention.

For celiacs, accommodations in restaurants and elsewhere have made it possible for them to venture out into the world like everyone else, without being paralyzed by fear that they will risk doing serious harm to themselves. Yet as the face of gluten-free increasingly morphs into a self-involved poser, celiacs worry that people will stop taking their disease seriously, and their hard-won accommodations will become casualties. While faddists can move on to another fad diet, celiacs must avoid gluten for life.

As Dr. Sheila Crowe, a physician-researcher at the University of California San Diego, told me, “For people with celiac disease, gluten is basically poison to their body.”

One of her patients told her recently about an experience dining out. When the patient told the server she needed to eat gluten-free, the server roll his eyes and said, “Oh, you’re one of those.”

The tension in restaurants may only increase in the short term, as portable meters come on to the market that will allow diners to test their meals, tableside, for the presence of gluten.

Crowe says that although the only current treatment for celiac disease is avoiding gluten, eventually effective medications will come. But when those meds come, she says, they are likely to be expensive. And insurers are going to balk at paying for them for patients who don’t actually need them. “We are going to need documentation,” she said.

Celiac is diagnosed through a combination of blood test and intestinal biopsies. Currently, there is no test for gluten sensitivity/intolerance, but that too will come.

For Mass. General’s Fasano, the biggest frustration with the market-fueled distortion of his research is that so many people are now diagnosing themselves with gluten intolerance without ever going to their doctor to be sure.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease. When people who suffer it eat gluten, the body goes to war, but mistakenly turns on itself, starting with the small intestine. The first step doctors use to diagnose it is to look for biomarkers in the blood, evidence that the body has girded for battle. But Fasano stresses that people who stop eating gluten without going for a medical consult will deprive the doctor of the key diagnostic tool if they ever do want a real diagnosis. Since those people stopped eating gluten, there will be no biomarkers.

In my original piece, Fasano tried to point out the folly of these self-diagnosers with a comparison to another disease. “You don’t say, ‘I’m drinking a lot and peeing a lot, so I must have diabetes,’ and then start injecting yourself with insulin.”

For celiacs, gluten-free is a therapeutic intervention. Fasano has a simple message for anyone who tells a waiter they’ve got a medical condition involving gluten, when in reality they’re just trying to cut carbs: “Shame on you.” has certainly witnessed the proliferation of gluten-free everything in our grocery stores. The availability of products catering to the gluten-free diet has skyrocketed. For those with celiac’s or gluten sensitivity the mass appeal of the gluten-free diet has opened the doors to quality food products that fit their dietary restrictions. While we know there are those who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon as part of a health fad, we’re still happy that the strength of that consumer force has created healthy and plentiful choices for those with actual health conditions.