Category Archives: Healthy Habits

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It’s time to rethink the snacks we put in our children’s travel bags

Summer traveling for families doesn’t just mean making new memories made up of fun activities and amazing adventures. For many, it also means carefree eating (read: disregarding nutritious foods and mindless munching unhealthy snacks). More often than not, parents pack their children’s bags with treats that may be filling, but are poor in nutrition and even pose risks to their health.

FoodFacts.com recently stated in a recent blog post that 43% of products marketed for children contain artificial food coloring, based on the new study published on Clinical Pediatrics. Many consumers are unaware that artificial food additives used to enhance color and flavor, and prolong shelf life are made from by-products of petroleum. You read that right – petroleum, that liquid mixture mined from the earth and refined to produce gasoline. So, before you head off to your family getaway this summer, you may want to rethink those bags of candies and chips you are packing for your children.

While we only discussed the known facts about Red Dye #40, it’s also worth noting other food colorants that are in our foods: Blue Dye #1, Blue Dye #2, Citrus Red Dye #2, Green Dye #3, Red Dye #3, Yellow Dye #5 and Yellow Dye #6. According to various studies, artificial food dyes can cause serious health problems including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Hyperactivity and other behavioral problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Damage in chromosomes
  • Organ damage
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia

When it comes to packing food for children, it wouldn’t hurt to grab ideas from well-known chefs. Take these turkey rolls that restaurateur and celebrity chef, Richard Blais, packs for his daughter, for instance. They’re tasty and healthy, and your kids can take them anywhere.

Barring any restrictions (such as quarantine regulations in specific borders, transportation rules and so on), here are healthy snacks you should be putting in your children’s travel pack:

  • Fresh or dried fruits
  • Sliced vegetables
  • “Good” candies
  • Raw nuts and trail mix
  • Homemade snacks like the aforementioned turkey rolls, healthy muffins and granola with dried fruits concoctions

Download the All My Food Facts app to find out if your favorite travel snack is good for you! Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

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Recipe: Spinach salad with apples, cranberries, avocados and pecans in balsamic vinaigrette

Eating salad daily is one of the simplest ways you can do to jumpstart your efforts to implement healthy eating habits and dramatically improve your health. It is a convenient way to work in a heaping serving of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Salads start off healthy, what with the natural ingredients that make the base. However, many salads wind up being unhealthy because of the toppings and dressings that people embellish them with either at home or at restaurants.

FoodFacts.com shares this salad recipe that’s guaranteed high in nutrition and low in calories.

Time: 30 minutes

Serving: 4

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine spinach, apples, cranberries and avocados.
  2. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and toss.
  3. Chop pecan halves into smaller bites and sprinkle on salad.
  4. Serve immediately.

 

Love salads? Find out how your favorite dressing fares in our health score with the all my foodfacts app. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

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Foods you should eat to stay healthy this summer

Summer is officially here, and it is time to sit back and relax! Whether you’re off to epic outdoor adventures or just staying put for low-key backyard or poolside barbecues, there’s no doubt that the tranquility of the season makes eating, all the more, one of life’s simple pleasures.

Thankfully, summertime brings an abundance of fruits and vegetables available for us. So, while you’re gallivanting and gormandizing, FoodFacts.com lists foods that can help you stay in tip-top shape during the summer months.

Corn

Make corn your official side dish for those grilling sessions with family and friends! Corn contains two specific antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help form macular pigment that filter out the sun’s ultraviolet rays. To put it simply, corn is a natural sunblock that can help protect your skin from damages caused by the sun.

Tomatoes

Tomato is rich in lycopene that help protect your skin from sunburn, making it another great produce that you can add to your line of defense against the blazing summer sun. Bear in mind that tomato increases its lycopene content when processed and/or cooked.

Berries

Berries make for a delicious and healthy snack whether you’re eating them off of a bowl at home or off of a container when you’re on the road. Munching on berries can significantly improve your diet as they are rich in antioxidants and fiber. These fibrous fruits can help you combat constipation, which is a common problem when traveling.

Green tea

Green tea is one of the most highly recommended foods for detoxing and hydrating. It should be a staple regardless of where you are. In her article, A Top Chef’s Tips for Keeping It Healthy While Traveling, celebrity chef Marisa Churchill recommends bringing your own supply so you’ll always have some on hand and consuming 20 ounces of green tea per day.

Water

Water still remains the best way to stay cool and hydrated during the scorching summer months. Drink 16-32 ounces, plus additional amounts when you’re being active to replenish the loss from perspiration. Be sure to always have water with you when you are traveling. You may also want to consider bringing a portable water filter so you can have access to clean, drinking water wherever you go.

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Safety tips for handling fresh produce

Eating fresh produce is integral in achieving a balanced, healthy diet. However, over 80% of the United States’ population do not meet the recommended daily consumption for both fruits and vegetables. This National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, our goal is definitely to get people to eat more fresh produce, but we should also send caution about food poisoning from the consumption of these foods.

Food becomes contaminated through a variety of ways. For fruits and vegetables, they may come in contact with harmful bacteria in the soil or water from which they are grown, or during storage and preparation after they are harvested. Eating contaminated produce may lead to foodborne illnesses; and they are especially more common in the warm summer months when foodborne bacteria multiply faster, and fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw.

FoodFacts.com shares some safety tips in handling fresh produce to avoid foodborne illnesses (also called “food poisoning”).

Choose Right

Whether it’s from a grocery store, farmers’ markets or roadside stands, be sure to inspect produce properly and avoid the ones that are damaged or have bruises. Whole, uncut produce is always preferable, but for pre-prepared fruits and vegetables like sliced cantaloupe or bagged lettuce, grab only those that are chilled in the refrigerator or on ice.

Note: Segregate fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry and/or seafood in your cart, and place them in separate shopping bags.

Store Properly

Proper storage is important in maintaining the quality of fruits and vegetables. Perishable goods, especially pre-cut, peeled or packaged, must be refrigerated at a temperature of 40°F or below. Some produce, such as apples, potatoes, onions and garlic, are better stored at room temperature.

Preparation Tips

When dealing with produce, be sure to begin with clean hands. Wash hands with soap and warm water. Cut and discard any damaged or bruised areas before preparing and/or eating fruits and vegetables.

Washing

  • Do NOT use soap or detergent.
  • No matter where you got the produce – homegrown or from any merchant – it’s highly recommended that you wash them thoroughly with running water to rid them of as much chemicals as possible.
  • Even if you plan to take the peel off of fruits and vegetables, washing the outer layer is still necessary to remove dirt and bacteria. For firm produce such as watermelon and zucchini, use a produce brush.
  • Dry washed produce with a clean paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may still be present.

Putting together

  • Always keep raw meat, poultry and seafood (as well as cutting board, knives, utensils and dishes used to prepare them) separate from produce that will be eaten uncooked.
  • If possible, use different cutting boards and other kitchen tools for meat, poultry and seafood, and for fresh produce.
  • Or, wash cutting boards and other kitchen tools with soap and hot water between preparing raw goods and produce.

 

If you or a family member have contacted foodborne illnesses, call your healthcare provider immediately. For serious cases, take afflicted to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

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It’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month! It’s no surprise that FoodFacts.com would take every opportunity to encourage our readers to increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. If we haven’t said it enough, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential in making your body work, feel and look its best. They provide the nutrients for vital health and aid in lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.

The dietary guidelines for the amount of fruits and vegetables intake basically depend on one’s gender, age, and activity level. Based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, two cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables are recommended, whether fresh, frozen or canned.

There are many easy ways you can get yourself eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Below are some of them:

Grow them yourselves

Vegetable and fruit gardens in people’s backyards are always a pleasant sight. Making use of space this way is a great way to utilize and maximize it. For those who don’t have the room and time for an edible garden, there are small and low-maintenance herbs that you can grow indoors, such as basil and parsley.

Buy locally grown

If homegrown is not an option, locally grown is the next best thing. The shorter the distance the fruits and vegetables have traveled, the fresher they are. Roadside stands and farmers’ markets are the best places for those! Be sure to find out if your farmers’ markets are selling goods that they have grown or made themselves or are carrying other farms’ goods. National, state and city laws require farmers’ markets to disclose if they are “producers only” or “carrying” products from others.

Buy in-season produce

Nature has its way of telling us what the best foods to eat are and when to eat them. Fruits and vegetables offer the most nutritional value and flavor when they are in season; plus, they cost less when supplies are aplenty.

Learn fast and easy ways to prepare them

While eating raw produce have many health benefits, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are better consumed cooked. For instance, cooked tomatoes contain increased lycopene, a phytochemical rich in antioxidant properties, than raw tomatoes.

Be sure to always wash produce before eating. It’s also a great idea to prepare ahead – wash, cut and store them safely for future use.

Go for the healthy snacks

When you’re craving snacks, you want something convenient and ready-to-eat. This is where the pre-prepared fruits and vegetables come to play. Go for the cut-up fruits and veggies when you have the urge to reach for some bag of chips!

Try something new

Keep things interesting by trying something new, not just for the enticing colors and flavors, but for the body’s nourishment. No fruit or vegetable contains all of the nutrients that your body needs. So, shake things up and keep a variety – the options are limitless!

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Clean-eating without going over your budget

There’s a question that lingers in the minds of people who want to make better food choices: How can I eat clean and not hurt my budget? At local grocery stores, a family-sized bag of chips is cheaper than a container of mixed greens; and fast food chains are perpetually coming up with value-meal promotions, which sell ready-to-eat food and convenience in their pitches.

The sad truth is, for many people, buying healthy foods means living above their means. It doesn’t take a genius to see why a parent would purchase a full meal that comes with plenty of sides and drinks for $20 for his or her family, instead of opting to spend more on ingredients as well as more time in the kitchen preparing healthy meals. Unfortunately, food choices among many households in the United States are dictated by income; and those resorting to unhealthy choices are more susceptible to developing serious health conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

FoodFacts.com shares these money-saving tips that will, not only help you eat cleaner, but only allow you to have enough to live a quality life.

Apply supply-and-demand principle

When putting an effort in adding more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, be sure to consider the ones that are in-season. Merchants drop the prices of seasonal produce due to their abundance. Also, the flavor and nutrition of these fruits and vegetables are at their peak during their natural harvest season. This summer, the produce to buy are strawberries, cherries, peaches and plum!

Up-size your supplies

In addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables, you save on staples such as grains, nuts and spices when you buy them in large sizes and/or in bulk. Large sizes minimize packaging costs for the supplier, therefore there is less manufacturing expenditure passed on to the consumers. Bulk-buying does make you spend more upfront, but it saves you more money and time in the long run.

Freeze fruits and vegetables

Bought too much of the in-season produce? Put them in the freezer. Frozen fruits and vegetables will make great ingredients for your next fruity smoothie or cleansing vegetable juice!

Skip the all-organic diet

While the growing awareness on the health benefits of organic food is undeniable, not many people can afford it. Sure, the gap between the prices of organic and non-organic foods is not as high as generally perceived, but it’s still the amount of money that many individuals and families can’t afford to shell out. The good news is, there are certain produce that minimally absorb chemicals when they are conventionally grown such as corn, cabbage, avocados, onions and pineapples.

Buy store brands

Don’t veer away from store brands! Whole Foods 365, Wegmans and Trader Joe’s, for instance, have products that offer the same nutritional value as the brands they carry on their shelves at cheaper prices.

Make your own sauces and dressings

Forgo store-bought sauces and dressings. These not only cost more as compared to homemade concoctions, but they are full of added sugar, sodium and whatnot. Take some olive oil and spices and you’ve got yourself your own sauce and dressing, minus the preservatives.

Get creative with leftovers

Don’t throw food away! Cut back on food waste by freezing leftovers, and eating them at a later time. You can also search up recipes that use the same or similar ingredients to repurpose them into new dishes.

The all my food facts app can help you identify ingredients that will aid in your clean-eating efforts. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

Happy National Drink Wine Day! Raise your glass and toast the health benefits!

Wine CorksFoodFacts.com is pretty convinced that most people understand that there are major health benefits that can be obtained from drinking wine. What we’re less convinced of is that those same people know what those health benefits actually are. We thought that in honor of National Drink Wine Day a review might be in order.

The Benefit: Promotes Longevity
The Evidence: Wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Source: a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.

The Benefit: Reduces Heart-Attack Risk
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers suffering from high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than nondrinkers. Source: a 16-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 11,711 men, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2007.

The Benefit: Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
The Evidence: Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Wines from Sardinia and southwest France have more procyanidins than other wines. Source: a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.

The Benefit: Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers have 30 percent less risk than nondrinkers of developing type 2 diabetes. Source: research on 369,862 individuals studied over an average of 12 years each, at Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005.

The Benefit: Lowers Risk of Stroke
The Evidence: The possibility of suffering a blood clot-related stroke drops by about 50 percent in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Source: a Columbia University study of 3,176 individuals over an eight-year period, published in Stroke, 2006.

The Benefit: Cuts Risk of Cataracts
The Evidence: Moderate drinkers are 32 percent less likely to get cataracts than nondrinkers; those who consume wine are 43 percent less likely to develop cataracts than those drinking mainly beer. Source: a study of 1,379 individuals in Iceland, published in Nature, 2003.

The Benefit: Cuts Risk of Colon Cancer
The Evidence: Moderate consumption of wine (especially red) cuts the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent. Source: a Stony Brook University study of 2,291 individuals over a four-year period, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005.

The Benefit: Slows Brain Decline
The Evidence: Brain function declines at a markedly faster rate in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers. Source: a Columbia University study of 1,416 people, published in Neuroepidemiology, 2006.

There’s no denying it … drinking wine can do a lot for your health and well-being. Raise your glass and toast the health benefits!

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/8-health-benefits-of-drinking-wine

10 aphrodisiac ingredients for your Valentine’s Day menu.

There are holidays that we immediately relate with food. Thanksgiving turkey. Easter eggs. And then there’s Valentine’s Day. FoodFacts.com isn’t surprised that we relate Valentine’s Day with many different foods … chocolate, champagne, caviar – the list goes on. Not surprisingly those foods are considered aphrodisiacs … foods that put you in the mood. We thought in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’d share the details on 10 aphrodisiac ingredients for your Valentine’s Day menu.

Oysters: Oysters are high on the list of aphrodisiacs because they are rich in zinc. The notion that oysters are an aphrodisiac dates back to the 18th-century, when Giacomo Casanova would consume dozens of oysters to spike his arousal. There’s also science to back it up: American and Italian researchers found that oysters have rare amino acids (D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate) that triggers a spike in hormones.

Avocado: The pear shaped fruit was considered to be an aphrodisiac by the Aztecs, as the fruit hangs from trees in pairs, similar to testicles. There could be some science behind this notion, as the fruit has high levels of vitamin E which helps keep your energy level high.

Chili Peppers: If you have a penchant for spicy food, then know that chili peppers are an aphrodisiac since they mimic the feelings of arousal by stimulating endorphins (the feel good chemicals in your brain), speeding up your heart rate, and making you sweat.

Honey: Honey contains boron, a chemical element that regulates hormone levels and boosts your energy naturally.

Coffee: A study published in the journal Pharmocology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found that the caffeine found in coffee stimulates your heart rate and makes your blood flow.

Arugula: While arugula doesn’t sound like a likely aphrodisiac, its abilities have reportedly been noted since the first century A.D. The leafy vegetable has minerals and antioxidants that block contaminants that would harm your libido.

Olive Oil: Filled with antioxidants, the oil has many other health benefits including heart health, good blood flow and a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Pine nuts: Though these little nuts are expensive, it may be worth the high price for their aphrodisiac abilities.

Chocolate: Dark chocolate has been shown to cause a spike in dopamine, which induces feelings of pleasure.

Bananas: The fruit contains bromelain, an enzyme which Dr. Oz says triggers testosterone production, and the fruit’s potassium and vitamin B elevate energy levels.

The holiday of love deserves the food (or foods) of love. So when you plan your Valentine’s Day menu, make sure you include a few aphrodisiac ingredients. You’ll make your meal more authentic to the holiday … and make your special someone feel even more special!

http://www.latintimes.com/valentines-day-ideas-eat-these-10-aphrodisiac-foods-sex-your-date-369203

Is diet food healthy food? If you believe diet food brands, it is!

diet food collageIf you’ve been part of the FoodFacts.com community for a few years or more, you’re familiar with our stance on branded diet foods. We’re not fans. We truly believe that dieting done right requires adapting a healthy lifestyle – one which embraces fresh, healthy foods, exercise and the avoidance of ingredients that are distinctly unhealthy. If you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredient labels of any of the diet branded foods, you know they don’t fit that bill. It’s become obvious that many consumers agree with our approach as the sales of those foods are in decline. So, like any skilled and savvy manufacturer those diet brands have set out to reinvent themselves. Is diet food healthy food? If you believe diet food brands, it is!

For years, Americans cycled through one brand-name diet after another, each promising a sure method to lose weight. Along the way, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine made fortunes off their low-calorie, low-fat diet programs and products.

But it seems those days are over, according to industry analysts and nutritionists. “Dieting is not a fashionable word these days,” says Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University. “[Consumers] equate the word diet with deprivation, and they know deprivation doesn’t work.”

According to Mintel, a market research firm, few people are purchasing diet products anymore. A survey of 2,000 people released by the firm in October found that 94 percent of respondents no longer saw themselves as dieters. They were also disillusioned with the industry: 77 percent of the consumers surveyed said that diet products are not as healthy as they claim to be, and 61 percent said most diets are not actually healthy.

“Consumers are not dieting in the traditional sense anymore – being on programs or buying foods specific to programs,” says Marissa Gilbert, an analyst from Mintel who worked on the report. “And there’s greater societal acceptance of different body sizes.”

That’s really hurt the dieting industry, Gilbert says. From summer 2014 to summer 2015, Lean Cuisine’s frozen meal sales dropped from around $700 million to about $600 million, or about 15 percent. Weight Watchers, Medifast and Jenny Craig have also seen revenues wither over the past few years. Sales of diet pills have dropped 20 percent in the last year, according to the Mintel report.

Roberts says it’s likely because many people who wanted to lose weight tried these diets and programs but weren’t successful. “They’ve tried Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and books and things of their own design,” she says. “It didn’t work.”

As Jean Fain, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and author, has noted, programs like Weight Watchers typically are just “a short-term fix and conditional support for long-standing eating issues” and can even exacerbate them.

With each subsequent failure, people become more skeptical about the products. Some give up on losing weight altogether, Roberts adds.

But many people do still want to lose weight, and increasingly they’re hoping good nutrition and “healthy eating” will get them there, says R.J. Hottovy, a senior equity analyst with market research firm Morningstar. “Consumers are looking for a more holistic, more health and wellness approach,” he says. “The shift in food trends is toward fresher and more natural ingredients.”

The problem is there’s a lot of disagreement over what a healthy, well-balanced meal looks like. Half of the people in Mintel’s survey said they didn’t know what to think about nutrition and wellness information.
As we’ve reported, even the federal government isn’t sure what “natural” means. And increasingly consumers have to contend with terms like gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO in the grocery store. These and other restrictive notions of eating have been quick to catch on, but often don’t have consistent scientific evidence backing them up as healthful or effective for weight loss.

Roberts, who also founded a weight loss start-up called iDiet but says she doesn’t currently make money from it, observes that food companies are taking advantage of the chaos. “Companies are bombarding [consumers] with gluten-free, sugar-free, cholesterol-free, and it’s got us to a very bad place because people don’t know what to think anymore,” she says. “I think what [consumers] want to do is lose weight by eating sensibly. That’s the holy grail of weight loss, and the companies say, ‘We’ll lock into that.’ ”

And while Weight Watchers’ point system emphasizes “natural” fare and home-cooked meals, it’s still manufacturing processed, high-sodium, low-fiber products.

According to Julie Lehman, marketing director for Lean Cuisine, the company, which is owned by Nestle, has put new labels on products that were already cholesterol-free or gluten-free without changing their formulations. “Lean Cuisine is an emblem of the diet culture that we’ve all grown up with. We know that and we want to walk away from that and focus on eating well and eating healthy,” she says. The brand has added “No Preservatives” and “Gluten-Free” and “Non-GMO” labels and a new line of frozen meals, certified organic by the nonprofit Oregon Tilth. “Consumers are demanding some of these things, and we want to offer it to them,” Lehman says.

Roberts is unconvinced. She doesn’t see the products getting any healthier. “They can relabel them, but the meals are not any different. If you open a box of Lean Cuisine or something like that, you’ll see about a quarter cup of veggies in there. Is that an outstandingly healthy meal? By my standards, it’s not.”

People will still be hungry and still feel deprived, and may ultimately not meet weight loss goals, she says. “They’ll give healthy eating a bad name just as they gave dieting a bad name.”

Healthy food is real food. You can easily determine how healthy your diet is by determining the contents of your grocery shopping. Are you purchasing meals with ingredient, or ingredients for meals? If you’re doing the latter, you’re on the right track!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/20/462691546/as-diet-foods-tank-confusing-health-labels-replace-them

Where exactly is the government showing us we should drink more water?

nutrition infographicTo accompany the government’s latest set of guidelines, they’ve updated an infographic tip sheet. FoodFacts.com loves infographics as they are quick and easy visual reads that can’t be mistaken or assigned incorrect interpretations by those for which they are intended. One of the government’s biggest messages this year is to drink water instead of sugary drinks. It’s a simple, but important message that Americans need to be reminded of over and over and over again. Unfortunately we don’t know that this infographic does its job as well as it could. Take a close look. Where exactly is the government showing us we should drink more water?

Tucked inside the U.S. government’s latest update to its official eating advice is this recommendation: “Drink water instead of sugary drinks” — aka soda.

The bluntness of this statement is remarkable, in part, because the Dietary Guidelines released Thursday are, in other ways, anything but direct. For instance, as we’ve reported, instead of explicitly telling Americans to cut their intake of red and processed meats, as an advisory panel of nutrition experts had recommended, the final guidelines hint at meat reduction in subtle terms. That change in messaging may have been linked to pressure from the meat industry.

By contrast, the government’s language on choosing water over sugary drinks is as clear as a glass of H2O. It is not, however, all that easy to find. We spotted it inside this MyPlate, My Wins tip sheet, part of a new campaign the U.S. Department of Agriculture also launched Thursday.

MyPlate, if you recall, is the icon of a dinner plate divided into portions of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins that replaced the food pyramid in 2011. Unlike the Dietary Guidelines, which are written for nutrition professionals, policymakers and the food industry, MyPlate is for the general public. It’s an image that ends up in nutrition education materials in doctor’s offices, textbooks, school cafeterias and lots of other places.

Last year, as we reported, a coalition of nutrition scientists and public health advocates called on the government to add water to the ubiquitous MyPlate icon. Numerous studies have linked sugary drinks like soda to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Adding some sort of water symbol to the MyPlate icon would really bring home the message that water, not soda, should be the beverage of choice, advocates argued.
That didn’t happen, and, in fact, the USDA says it has no plans to alter the MyPlate icon, which the agency says will remain the visual centerpiece of its healthy eating messaging.

Instead, we got the infographic above — what the USDA says is the first of several new tip sheets to be released.

As you can see, the message to drink water, not sugary drinks, shows up there — in the very bottom, right-hand corner. While the language is clear, the visuals around it are hardly compelling.

“Ideally, [the water symbol] would be part of the main MyPlate image. That’s the thing that’s going to get the most publicity,” says Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in The Public Interest, who was among those who signed the letter calling for stronger language on water in the Dietary Guidelines.

It’s also worth noting that, while 100 percent fruit juices also pack a sugary wallop, the MyPlate, MyWins tip sheet lists them as an acceptable form of getting your daily fruit intake. (The actual guidelines add more nuance, advising that people get at least half their recommended fruit intake from whole fruits.) For the record, William Dermody of the American Beverage Association tells us that “moderation of beverages is something we’re in line with as well.”

Overall, the new tip sheet’s messaging is confusing, says New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, a noted critic of the influence industry exerts on government food policy. “It’s ugly and it’s hard to read,” she tells us.

In general, she wishes the government’s visual messaging on what Americans should and shouldn’t eat was much more explicit. Nestle points to guidelines from Brazil and Sweden (see below), which — as Julia Belluz has pointed out over at Vox — are breathtakingly easy to understand. Their virtue? Instead of talking about nutrients, they focus on what people really put in their mouths. “They’re about real food,” Nestle says.

With just a few simple changes this tip sheet can accomplish a whole lot more of the government’s goals … and a whole lot more for the population. Drink water. Eat real food. We’re getting there.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/08/462289710/uncle-sam-just-told-us-to-drink-water-not-soda-you-mightve-missed-it