Category Archives: healthy snacks

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!

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!

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.

Attention vegetarians: there’s a 10 percent chance that the veggie hot dog you’re eating isn’t really a veggie hot dog

141110163713-hot-dog-file-story-topIf you’re a vegetarian, knows that you’ve got a tremendous variety of food choices available to you that “replace” a meat product. There’s vegetarian sausage, vegetarian bacon, veggie burgers, veggie pepperoni for pizza and, of course, vegetarian hot dogs. Most folks we know have a favorite brand for a variety of reasons that probably include ingredient lists. A new study is pointing to the idea that if you’re a fan of vegetarian hot dogs, you may have more to think about than what’s printed on the ingredient list of the brand to which you’re loyal.

A new study is indicating that there’s a possibility that the vegetarian hot dog you’re purchasing actually isn’t vegetarian at all.  In fact, there’s a 10 percent chance that the veggie hot dog you’re eating isn’t really a veggie hot dog – it contains meat.

Perhaps worse, the company found hygiene issues in four of its 21 vegetarian samples. It also found human DNA in 2% of its hot dog samples — and two-thirds of the vegetarian samples.

Overall, 14.4% of the hot dogs and sausages tested by Clear Foods “were problematic,” the company said.

Clear Foods is a company that “translates quantifiable molecular tests into actionable food data insights,” according to its website. In English, that means it uses genetic sequencing to figure out just what’s in your lunch.

Its results on hot dogs aren’t always comforting. Overall, the company found nutritional label inaccuracies, pork substitution and some unexpected ingredients, including chicken and lamb.

On the other hand, Clear gave high marks to a variety of manufacturers, both national and regional. Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National led among national brands, each with a score of 96 out of 100, based on Clear’s formula.

This information is particularly disturbing. Vegetarians need to be able to trust the brands they rely on to keep meat out of their products. In addition, wants to note the hygiene issues suggested by the finding of human DNA in a variety of different hot dog brands, as well as the presence of pork where no pork was supposed to be used, as well as a few other unpleasant items of note, truly create an incredible violation of trust between hot dog consumers and food manufacturers.

14.4% of the hot dogs samples in Clear Food’s study had some sort of a problem: vegetarian hot dogs containing meat; nutritional label inaccuracies; hygienic issues; ingredient substitutions and more. Read the results of the study here at for the full details and the brands included in the analysis.

Halloween candy dreams and how the adults who have them can have a healthier fright night

HalloweenTreatsAs the weather cools down and a crisp fall chill fills the air, we’re seeing more Halloween decorations around our neighborhoods and in our local stores. It’s just around the corner now and the youngest among us are busy daydreaming about huge candy hauls. While we expect it of our kids, you’d be surprised just how many adults are secretly harboring Halloween candy dreams. Fess us now … are you one of them?

Here are a few ways you can tell if you are: you’ve made sure to purchase Halloween candy you really love – just in case there are leftovers, you know they won’t go to waste; you’ve already planned on which candies are coming OUT of your child’s Halloween candy sack after they retire for the evening on October 31st and you’ve tried to negotiate candy swaps between your child’s friends and your household to make sure you get your favorite’s from their sacks too.

If you’ve done these things, odds are you enjoy indulging on Halloween, even though it’s known as a kids’ holiday.

So how can you have a healthier Halloween? Huffington Post recently had a few tips that finds valuable as we head towards one of the sweetest holidays of the year.

1. Don’t Call It a Cheat Day
Unless you’re a sociopath, when you cheat at something, what typically follows are feelings of guilt. Why would you do that to your mind? Refer to it instead as what it is: a decision. You’re simply making a decision. That decision either keeps you in line with your established goals or not. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about how to get your treats and enjoy them, too.

2. Wake Up. Work Out.
You want to stay on plan with whatever workout program you’re doing, but if you’re going to indulge in some sweets that aren’t typically on your meal plan, today’s a good day for an extra intense workout. Kick things up with a strength training session and some high-intensity intervals.

3. Eat Real Food. Cut Out the Snacks.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner should each have lean protein like eggs, fish, meat or a complete vegetarian source (1 palm-size portion for women; 2 palm size portions for men) and veggies (1 fist-size portion for women; 2 fist-size portions for men). On a day where you know you’re going to be indulging, cut out the snacks. Don’t make this an everyday thing.

4. Control Your Treat Portions
Most of us overestimate the calories we burn in a workout and underestimate the calories we’re consuming. And no matter what the expert du jour says, the simple science of weight loss is that you need to burn more calories in a day than you consume. So crushing your HIIT workout in the morning and then freebasing an entire bag of Halloween candy isn’t going to help if your goal is weight loss.

When it comes to indulgences, it’s actually the only time you need to pay attention to calories. You want to keep your treat to right around 200 calories. For context, a two-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is about 210 calories; a snack size Almond Joy bar is right around 60. Proceed accordingly.

5. Drink Plenty of Water
You should do this every day, but one of the top reasons to hit the water bottle hard on All Hallow’s Eve is that we quite often mistake thirst for hunger. That means you’re more likely to mindlessly chow down on a bowl of nearby candy. So fill up on the water (at least half your body weight in ounces throughout the day) and you’ll be less likely to eat when what you really need is hydration.

6. Toss the Extras
If you’ve got any leftover Halloween candy at the end of the night, toss it. If it’s sitting around your house, you’re going to eat it. Don’t tempt yourself. Just throw it out and don’t feel guilty about it. The world’s hunger issues aren’t going to be solved by you hanging on to and eating leftover candy. There are a ton of awesome charities out there that you can support to help put healthy food into the mouths of hungry people. Research them and get involved. And guess what won’t be lying around for you to nibble on while you research said charities? Halloween candy! Why? Because you threw it out.

And no matter how much you’re enjoying the sweet treats that Halloween will inevitably bring, wants to remind you that it’s not just about the candy. It’s about haunted houses and ghosts and goblins and ghouls and other things that go bump in the night. Halloween is a uniquely, frightfully good time that we get to make memorable once each year.

Have a healthy – and haunting – Halloween!!

What’s really happening with that Halloween candy haul?

halloween-candyIt’s an age-old argument among parents everywhere. One camp talks about the evils of Halloween candy. The other camp answers that one night a year never hurt anyone – let kids eat as much candy as they want. thinks that, in truth, most of us live somewhere in between the two extremes. We’d be crazy to think that our kids want to eat apples on Halloween night, but we’re not looking for them to get sick on candy either. It’s a more balanced approach to what’s basically an inevitable fact of life. Halloween and candy go hand in hand.

But are all Halloween candies equal in terms of sugar content and ingredients? We thought we’d offer a little help to those parents who are weeding through the candy sack trying to decide what to keep and what to toss by showcasing four very popular Halloween choices.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
The miniature version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are one of the most common candies you’ll find in that Halloween haul. They’re certainly small enough. But what’s going on in that miniature cup?

Sugar (five pieces): 23 grams

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups ingredients (16)
Milk Chocolate ( Sugar , Milk , Cocoa Butter , Chocolate ,Nonfat Milk , Milk Fat , Lactose , Soy Lecithin , PGPR [Emulsifier ] , Peanuts , Sugar , Dextrose , Salt , TBHQ [Preservative ] ) .

Almost 6 teaspoons of sugar in five small pieces and a little TBHQ thrown into the recipe.

How about those bags of Skittles that are thrown into your child’s Halloween sack? Did you ever taste a Skittle? If you did, it won’t surprise you that one 2.17 ounce bag contains 46 grams of sugar. That’s over 11 teaspoons per bag. That’s an awful lot of sugar.

Skittles ingredients (19)
Sugar , Glucose Syrup , Palm Kernel Oil , Citric Acid ,Malic Acid , Dextrin , Maltodextrin , Flavors , Modified Food Starch , Beet Powder , Fd&c Red 40 , Sodium Citrate, Carnauba Wax , Tumeric ( For Color ) , Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids , Titanium Dioxide ( For Color ) ,Beta-carotene ( For Color ) , Brilliant Blue , Beta-Apo-8-Carotenal ( For Color ) .

These probably aren’t the best candies for kids. Between the sugar content and the ingredient list, you might possibly envision a lot of bouncing off the wall behavior. You might choose to ditch these when no one’s looking.

Kit Kat Bars (snack size)
While no candy can be perfect, because, after all it is candy, Kit Kat has something important in its favor. 8 grams of sugar per each 2-stick snack size bar.

Kit Kat ingredients (15)
Sugar , Flour , Cocoa Butter , Nonfat Milk , Chocolate ,Refined Palm Kernel Oil , Lactose , Milk Fat . Contains 2%Or Less Of Soy Lecithin and PGPR as Emulsifiers , Yeast ,Sodium Bicarbonate , and Vanillin an Artificial Flavoring .

We can easily live without the Vanillin and the Artificial Flavoring. But we’re definitely in favor of a bite size candy with 8 grams of sugar.

Milky Way Bars (minis)
Right up there in popularity with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Way minis WILL most definitely be taking up room in your child’s Halloween bag. What’s going on in that miniature bite of chocolate?

Sugar content (5 snack size bars) = 25 grams

That breaks down to 5 grams per mini bar. Not bad in the world of candy.

Milky Way Minis ingredients (21)
Milk Chocolate ( Sugar , Cocoa Butter , Milk Nonfat ,Chocolate , Lactose , Milk Fat , Soy Lecithin , Flavors Artificial ) , Corn Syrup , Sugar , Palm Kernel Oil Hydrogenated , and/or , Palm Oil Hydrogenated , Milk Nonfat , Contains less than 22% of , Milk Fat , Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali , Barley Malted , Lactose ,Salt , Eggs Whites , Flavors Artificial

The ingredients stand a revamp. But the sugar content might make us leave this one alone.

We’ve all got our own philosophies for Halloween candy. But none of us needs to make our kids’ night spookier with the addition of too much sugar and food coloring.

Hope you and yours have great fun Trick or Treating this year!

Preschoolers eat healthier food at daycare than they do at home

20131028_new_day_school_7321Sometimes the folks here at just have to shake our heads and think that we can all do so much better …

A recent study conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has found that preschool age children are consuming more calories and fewer fruits, vegetables and milk outside of child care centers than what is recommended by the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Based off of guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, children who attend full-time child care are to receive one-half to two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs while attending a child care facility, leaving about a third to one-half of their total calories to be consumed away from child care.

Kristen Copeland, MD, a researcher in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics and senior author of the study, and her team were interested in what children consume outside of child-care settings. They conducted the study on approximately 340 preschool-aged children from 30 randomly selected, licensed, full-time child-care centers in Hamilton County, OH.

“We found that after children left child-care centers, they weren’t eating enough fruits or vegetables, or drinking enough milk to meet dietary guidelines, and on average consumed more calories than recommended.”

In the study, which captured a single day of dietary intake, children attending full-time child care consumed an average of 685 calories between pick up from child care and bedtime. This amount was 140 calories more than the midrange of the recommendation for this timeframe 433-650 calories. Half of the children consumed more than 900 calories after child care.

During dinner and/or snack after child care, it is recommended that children eat 1/2-3/4 cup of fruit (e.g., 1/2-3/4 of a small apple), 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetables (e.g., 6-9 baby carrots) and 6 to 8 ounces of skim or low-fat (1 percent) milk to meet dietary recommendations.

The study found that that the majority of the calories that the children consumed at home came from sweet and salty snacks (for instance, pretzels, crackers, cookies, snack bars, doughnuts, candy), sugar-sweetened beverages, and whole milk or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.

Dr. Copeland said that contrary to her team’s hypotheses, children from low-income families did not consume fewer fruits and vegetables than children from upper income families; children consumed insufficient fruits and vegetables across the board. Lower-income children were also not significantly more likely to be overweight than upper-income children. The only significant difference in diet was that children from low-income families consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages.

Excess calories consumed outside of the child-care centers were significantly associated with children being overweight. For every increase in 200 calories consumed away from the center, the child’s odds of being overweight increased by 20 percent.

Dr. Copeland says it is helpful for obesity prevention efforts to identify where children’s excess calorie consumption is occurring.

Feeding small children properly isn’t a complicated task. In fact, the recommendations are fairly simple – half cup of fruit, half cup of vegetables and a cup of milk (skim or low fat) will take care of their nutritional requirements when they get home from daycare. has to wonder whether or not there’s a “treat” mentality going on. Parents, who may be feeling guilty about sending their little ones to daycare are “treating” their kids when they get home with food. As adults we often do this ourselves. We’ve worked a long, hard day and feel that we deserve a “treat” when we get home so we break out the ice cream.

Let’s think long and hard about the nutrition decisions we make for the youngest among us … we should be doing our best to set them up for long, healthy lives.

Let’s kick off pumpkin season with Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Cheesecake Square Donuts

1415193587324Ready or not, it has arrived … pumpkin season 2015. That special time of year where you will be surrounded by pumpkin food products and beverages. Some will be more appealing than others. Some will contain more actual pumpkin than others. And some (like the following brand new donut offering from Dunkin) will be poor interpretations of the great fall vegetable.

This season, Dunkin offers us the Pumpkin Cheesecake Square Donut. One look at this carefully crafted donut and knew we were in trouble before we started. It’s a bit “brightly colored” for our taste … a big red flag regarding the content of the ingredient list. Let’s take a look at what’s going on inside this new pumpkin creation.

Nutrition Facts
Calories:                               340
Fat:                                        15 grams
Saturated Fat:                      6 grams
Sugar:                                   25 grams

The Pumpkin Cheesecake Square is a typical donut, which may strike some as surprising (since it’s a cheesecake donut). Somehow or another Dunkin managed to get great cheesecake flavor inside a donut without the excessive fat and calories related to actual cheesecake. Wonder how they did that? You’ll want to read the ingredient list.

Donut: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Palm Oil, Yeast Donut Concentrate [Soy Flour, Salt, Pregelatinized Wheat Starch, Whey (Milk), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Nonfat Milk, Gum Blend (Cellulose, Guar, Acacia, Carrageenan, Xanthan), Sodium Caseinate (Milk), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Eggs, Soybean Oil, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Annatto and Turmeric (Colors)], Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Yeast, Mono and Diglycerides; Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling: Water, Sugar, Cream Cheese [Pasteurized Cultured Milk and Cream, Salt, Stabilizers (Xanthan, Carob Bean, and/or Guar Gums)], Pumpkin Puree, Dextrose, Modified Food Starch, Contains 2% or less of the following: Glucono Delta Lactone, Palm Oil, Cultured Grade A Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, Grade A Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Fruit and Vegetable Juices for Color (made from carrot), Spices, Sorbic Acid (Preservative); Orange Icing: [White Icing: Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Contains 2% or less of: Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Corn Starch, Sodium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Salt, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Citric Acid, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Agar, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Artificial Flavor; Orange Coloring: Orange Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glycerin, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Carrageenan Gum, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid; May Contain Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5]; White Icing: Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Contains 2% or less of: Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Corn Starch, Sodium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Salt, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Citric Acid, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Agar, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Artificial Flavor; Graham Crumb Topping: Unenriched Wheat Flour, Sugar, Water, Canola Oil, Brown Sugar, Grain Additive (Wheat Bran, Wheat Germ), Honey, Cinnamon, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Tocopherol (Natural Mixed Tocopherols, Soybean Oil).

Our first instincts were absolutely correct. There’s A LOT of artificial food coloring in here. In addition the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling doesn’t resemble any cheesecake recipes we’ve ever seen.

Pumpkin season leaves us with plenty to be suspicious of – and with good reason. Products like this go to great lengths to provide a flavor experience that consumers have come to relate with pumpkin. At least we can see that Dunkin did put actual pumpkin in this one. The rest of it, though, feels like they really needed to stretch things to come up with something we might like to eat. But that’s the problem – the further they go, the less we want to eat it. This one is on the avoid list.

The reality of emotional eating … it really is all in your head

150709093313_1_900x600Many of us here at have clear memories of eating a pint of Haagen Daz after a bad breakup. We hear stories from others about cookies, cake and candy after a particularly bad day at the office or an upsetting event with a friend or family member. Of course, we all hear the platitudes about being stronger than that craving. But we all know that in certain situations we could swear that the bad food we reached for during any emotional upheaval actually made us feel better – at least until the next day.

Research by Cornell food scientists reveals how a person’s emotional state — particularly in the competitive, wide world of sports — affects the perception of taste. In particular, people in negative emotional states tend to crave sweets more than those in a positive frame of mind.

“We determined how emotions arising from the outcome of college hockey games influenced the perception of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (savory) taste, … in addition to hedonic responses ¬- or how much they liked or disliked the foods,” said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dando, who with Corinna Noel, a doctoral student in food science, published “The Effect of Emotional State on Taste Perception” in the journal Appetite, June 27.

“Emotional manipulations in the form of pleasantly or unpleasantly perceived real-life events can influence the perception of taste, driving the acceptability of foods,” said Dando. “These results imply that such modulation of taste perception could promote emotional eating in times of negative emotion.”

The study shows that emotions experienced in everyday life can alter the hedonic experience of less-palatable food, implying a link to emotional eating, according to the researchers. Dando explained, “In times of negative affect, foods of a less pleasurable nature become even more unappealing to taste, as more hedonically pleasing foods remain pleasurable.

“This is why when the team wins, we’re okay with our regular routine foods, but when they lose, we’ll be reaching for the ice cream.”

So, it really is all in our head … or at least in our taste buds. We’re not making it up or giving in to a craving or using an event as an excuse to eat. We’re physically drawn to the food when we’re in a negative frame of mind. It would be great for all of us if the flavor of carrots, for instance, was suddenly tremendously appealing after a particularly bad day at work. It doesn’t seem to work that way though. Maybe we can try a replacement strategy next time … when our brain is saying ice cream, we can try reaching for Greek yogurt instead.

Does your grocery store need a report card?

86bf5e4c9ba8cc34898721bf992b4bf5Does your grocery store do its best to encourage healthy eating for its customers? knows that there’s a lot of promotion going on in grocery stores throughout America. There’s signage promoting sales. There are displays throughout the store emphasizing a variety of different items. Vegetables and fruits that are in season often take center stage. Sale items are often on display. It’s all done in the hope that you’ll modify your shopping list to include those items they want you to purchase. There’s a possible down side to that though, with the possibility that individual stores may be putting unhealthy items on display.

Is your favorite grocery store making you fat? According to new research findings, a Grocer Retailer Scorecard may be an effective, healthy shopping tool that benefits both grocers and shoppers. “Grocers can benefit from encouraging healthy shopping practices because they can sell more perishable items like fruits and vegetables rather than tossing them in the dumpster after a few days,” says lead researcher Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of the new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, “The benefit to shoppers is obvious; healthier groceries result in healthier eating!”

Using principles of behavioral economics and psychology, Food and Brand Lab researchers identified 100 changes that grocers could employ to make it easier for shoppers to make healthier food selections used them to create a Grocery Retailer Scorecard. They then tested the scorecard in a large grocery store chain to see if it could be reliably used by shoppers to rate whether a grocery store is helping them to be healthy or heavy.

The researchers concluded that Grocer Retailer Scorecards can be a reliable way to rate how healthy a grocery store is. A person with no training can confidently use such scorecards to rate their favorite store to determine whether it makes it easier or harder for them to select and purchase healthy foods. The scorecards can also be used by the grocers themselves to make evidence based healthy changes to their stores that promote healthier purchases. will be curious about the results of the tests that have been done. While we know and understand that shopping the outside aisles is an important way to keep the majority of your purchases fresh and healthy, we also know that it’s very easy to find yourself perusing the other areas. It’s easy to understand how the store itself can influence purchases through sales, signage, and displays. Is the store making it easy for their customers to find and choose fresh, healthy foods? Are seasonal displays attractive and easy to locate? Are only processed foods in boxes and cans on sale?

How do you think your grocery store would score?

This is an interesting idea and one that we’ll follow up on after the results are published. We look to food manufacturers to improve the quality of their offerings. We educate ourselves on the foods available in our grocery store. It makes sense to involve the stores themselves in the process of grocery shopping for good health. They’re a link in the chain of healthy eating and they should participate in the process.