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Taco Bell Breakfast A.M. Crunch Wrap BaconWe’ve been hearing about it for months and now it’s finally here. Taco Bell breakfast is being served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day of the week. As expected, the morning offerings all present a new twist on Mexican flavors. The new breakfast items bring Taco Bell in direct competition with McDonald’s and Burger King, both of whom own mornings in the fast food world.

So, will Taco Bell breakfasts present a serious alternative to the already established fast food leaders? isn’t really sure about that. The only thing we can be sure of right now is what you’ll actually be eating if you choose to sit down at Taco Bell for your morning meal.

We chose the A.M. Crunch Wrap with Bacon to focus on because it appears to be a Mexican interpretation of a traditional fast food breakfast sandwich. Just replace the biscuit, or the English muffin, or the bagel with a tortilla and add some creamy jalapeno sauce. While we’re pretty certain you won’t find the A.M. Crunch Wrap in Mexico, these are the American fast food wars. Let’s find out what the A.M. Crunch Wrap brings to the table.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories:      660
Fat:              41 g
Sodium:    1280 mg

Might as well have a burger for breakfast, don’t you think? A McDonald’s Egg McMuffin weighs in at 330 fewer calories, 29 fewer grams of fat and 460 fewer mg of sodium.

Let’s see what the ingredient list tells us:

Eggs (Eggs Whole, Flavors Butter [Soybeans Oil, Soybeans Oil Hydrogenated, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Flavoring Artificial and Natural, Beta Carotene, TBHQ, Citric Acid,Polydimethylsiloxane] , Contains 1% or less of the following: [Salt, Citric Acid, Peppers,Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum] ) , Hashbrowns (Potatoes, Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Cottonseed Oil,Palm Oil, Soybeans Oil, Sunflower Oil, Potatoes Dehydrated, Salt, Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Dextrose, Oil [Canola Oil High Oleic Low Linolenic, TBHQ,Polydimethylsiloxane] , Bacon Topping [Bacon Topping, Cured with Water] , Creamy Jalapeno Sauce [Soybeans Oil, Water, Vinegar, Peppers Jalapenos, Buttermilk, Sour Cream Powder,Eggs Yolks, Dextrose, Spices, Peppers Chili, Salt, Glucono Delta Lactone, Onions Dehydrated,Flavors Natural, Paprika, Sugar, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Garlic Powder, Cocoa Powder,Calcium Disodium EDTA] , Tortillas [Wheat Enriched Bleached Flour, Water, Vegetables Shortening]

Plenty of controversial ingredients in that list, not to mention hidden MSG. Generally not our idea of an ideal morning meal.

If we want a Mexican-inspired breakfast, we’d prefer cracking some eggs, adding some jalapeno peppers with the appropriate herbs and scrambling them up in a pan in our kitchen. We’re pretty positive the flavors will be far better and we absolutely KNOW the ingredients will be too.–Bacon-1-crunchwrap/92161

Posted in fast food, Fast Food Breakfast Sandwich, taco bell, Taco Bell A.M. Crunch Wrap, Taco Bell Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Easter Peeps, Healthier Easter Basket IdeasWe know you secretly love them even now as an adult. They’re probably one of the first things that come to mind when you hear the word Easter. And they undoubtedly bring to mind images of the Easter baskets of your childhood.

Of course, we’re talking about Peeps. Yellow Peeps. Blue Peeps. Green Peeps. Purple Peeps. Peeps shaped like ducks. Peeps shaped like bunnies. They were possibly the sweetest Easter treat of all.

Alas, if only Peeps were actually as good for us as the memories they evoke. To be honest, they’re pretty bad. Here’s the ingredient list:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Gelatin, Contains less than 0.50.5% of Potassium Sorbate, Flavor(s) Artificial, Yellow 5, Carnauba Wax

O.k. Peeps are marshmallows, so we expect for them to contain a lot of sugar. Until you get past the fourth ingredient, Peeps are just a treat. Then we get to the artificial flavors and color. And the Carnauba wax — which we more commonly associate with polishing our cars, not food.

Can you still give your kids the pleasure of Easter Peeps without the bad ingredients? Can you still enjoy sneaking a Peep during the Easter season? thinks you can. Just make marshmallows!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup water
3 tbsns gelatin
2 cups organic white sugar
Coconut oil
Natural food coloring (such as India Tree)

Here’s what you’ll do:

Place 1/2 cup of the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it.. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Put the sugar and the other 1/2 cup of water in a small pot and bring to a boil while stirring.

Once the mixture is a rolling boil (or 242F with a candy thermometer), pour the hot sugar water mixture over the gelatin/water mixture and beat with an electric mixer for about 10 minutes until the combined mixture turns into marshmallow with peaks. Add food coloring in the amount required amount to achieve desired color while whipping the marshmallow mixture.

Pour the mixture into a 9X13 glass dish that has been coated with some coconut oil. Let it sit out for several hours until firm (about 12 hours).

Remove marshmallow from dish in one large piece and cut out desired peeps shapes small cookie cutters.

While we can’t exactly call them healthy, let’s remember they are a seasonal treat. A little holiday indulgence made with ingredients you know and trust is a far better alternative to the store bought tradition that includes some rather unsavory ingredients. Homemade Peeps in your Easter baskets help make sure you’ll know what’s really in your kids Easter treats.  You can even sneak a treat for yourself and feel a lot better about it!

Posted in Healthy Easter Basket Ideas, Healthy Habits, Healthy Holiday Habits, Healthy Holiday Recipes, Peeps | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dunkin Donuts Ice Cream Flavored Iced CoffeeAccording to Dunkin Donuts, we’ll all be screaming for ice cream flavored iced coffee. What do you think? Does it sound like it’s worth screaming for?

Butter Pecan Swirl, Cookie Dough Swirl, and Jamoca Almond Fudge Swirl have joined the Dunkin Donuts iced coffee lineup. The new flavors are based on popular Baskin Robbins ice cream varieties. We’re pretty sure that everyone in our community knows our feelings about most of the Baskin Robbins ice cream flavors. So naturally, we wanted to do a little investigating about the new coffee flavors that take their names from those ice creams.

Let’s take a look …

Butter Pecan Swirl with skim milk
Calories:             180
Fat:                       0 g
Sugar:                  36 g

The nutrition facts are based on the addition of skim milk to a small sized Butter Pecan Swirl iced coffee. The small size contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a bit much for us.

Skim Milk; Brewed Espresso Coffee; Butter Pecan Flavored Swirl Syrup: Skim Milk, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Brown Sugar (Sugar, Molasses), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Salt, Disodium Phosphate, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative); Caramel Flavored Swirl Syrup: Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Brown Sugar, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavor, Salt.

Hmmmm ….

Cookie Dough Swirl
Calories:         170
Fat:                   6 g
Sugar:              24 g

The small size Cookie Dough Swirl contains a little less sugar, weighing in at 6 teaspoons.

Brewed 100% Arabica Coffee; Cookie Dough Flavored Swirl Syrup: Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Skim Milk, Sugar), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Brown Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative); Light Cream: Milk, Cream, Disodium Phosphate (Stabilizer), Sodium Citrate (Stabilizer).
A little less bad …

Jamoca Almond Fudge Swirl
Calories:         170
Fat:                   6 g
Sugar:              23 g

The small size Jamoca Almond Fudge Swirl is the “best” option for added sugars with a little less than 6 teaspoons.

Brewed 100% Arabica Coffee; Jamoca® Almond Fudge Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt; Light Cream: Milk, Cream, Disodium Phosphate (Stabilizer), Sodium Citrate (Stabilizer).

Are you screaming for ice cream flavored iced coffee yet? We’re not. While the flavors sound like fun, they’re just not worth the added sugars and bad ingredients. We think we prefer quieter coffee.

Posted in Dunkin Donuts, Dunkin Donuts Butter Pecan Swirl Iced Coffee, Dunkin Donuts Cookie Dough Swirl Iced Coffee, Dunkin Donuts Jamoca Almond Fudge Swirl Iced Coffee | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cost of Childhood ObesityWhile there has been some good news recently regarding the obesity crisis, there’s still a long way to go. With about one in every three children and teens in the U.S. either overweight or obese, there are many health concerns related to childhood obesity. This life-altering condition is a burden for the millions of children affected by it, both emotionally and physically.

Now, we’re learning more details about the financial burden as well.

For the first time, the costs of the condition, called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, have been quantified by researchers. The findings are shocking: The epidemic has an estimated $19,000 price tag per child.

The cost analysis was led by researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who measured direct medical costs, such as doctors’ visits and medication. Additional costs, such as lost productivity due to obesity, were not included.

The figure becomes more frightening when the number of obese children in the U.S. is taken into account: Lifetime medical costs for 10-year-olds alone reach $14 billion.
With this new research, the incentive to reduce childhood obesity comes with economic benefits in addition to health, said Eric Andrew Finkelstein, the lead author of the study.
“These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset,” he said.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers last year touting a surprising 43 percent drop in obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds in the last decade, they don’t take into account the bigger picture. Obesity rates still go up as children age. The condition is also associated with premature death later in life and remains a global epidemic. tries to keep our community up to date with news and research regarding the obesity crisis. As we said, there’s still so much work to do. As our children’s caregivers, it’s up to us to begin healthy habits for them right from the start. Fresh, real foods and plenty of activity should help to set them up for a healthier life that doesn’t include the emotional, physical and financial problems connected with obesity.

Posted in Childhood Nutrition, Childhood Obesity, children, obesity, Obesity Crisis, Obesity in America | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Read Your Labels Day
Thanks Citizens for Health! The second annual National Read Your Labels Day is upon us. wants to help spread the word helping to encourage Americans to get the 4-1-1 on what’s in their foods and beverages!

On this day, Citizens for Health wants everyone to open their kitchen cabinets and read the labels of the food products they’ve purchased. They’re especially interested in folks taking note of the ten additives they’d like us all to avoid. Here’s their list:

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
2. Aspartame
3. Hydrolyzed Protein
4. Autolyzed Yeast
5. Monosodium Glutame
6. Potassium Bromate
7. Brominated Vegetable Oil
8. BHA and BHT
9. Trans Fats
10. Artificial Colors

If we highlighted those in orange, we’d be reading a few ingredient lists we can think of on the website. We’d probably add a few more items to the list, but it’s a great place to begin. If consumers became aware of these ingredients, we’d find progress in the fight against obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Jim Turner, who chairs Citizens for Health said, “We sponsored the first ‘Read Your Labels Day’ this last April to help Americans to be aware of how many chemicals are used in processed foods and beverages. The response was tremendous. We had stories on TV stations around the country, and the news was covered by major grocery publications. Even some of the biggest supermarkets, including Whole Food Markets, hosted ‘Read Your Labels Day’ events in their stores. We’re expecting an even bigger success in 2014.”

While many shoppers scan the nutrition labels on packages looking for such things as saturated fats or sodium content, an independent study published in 2011 by the food and beverage research group Mintel reported that less than half of consumers surveyed read the ingredients labels on the foods they purchased in supermarkets.

“The majority of us don’t check the list of ingredients on food package labels,” added Turner. “The big food manufacturers are counting on this. If we don’t read or understand the ingredients in their products, they can put pretty much whatever they want to into our food.”

Intelligent consumers cause changes to occur. There have been small victories in the recent past. Subway is removing azodicarbonamide from their breads. Kraft is removing artificial colors from some of their Macaroni and Cheese products. Gatorade removed brominated vegetable oil from some of their sports drinks. Consumer voices count.

But in order for us to have a voice, we need to know the ingredients being used in the foods we consume and understand why we shouldn’t be consuming them. That starts with reading the ingredient lists on every single product we purchase. Reading about those ingredients on helps put in perspective the idea that certain ingredients really aren’t fit for consumption. Chemicals belong in labs, not human bodies.

This Friday, open your cabinets. Read some labels. Decide which ingredients are best left alone. Oh, then don’t forget to make some noise and let food manufacturers know that you’re not satisfied with the ingredients they are choosing to include in your food. Happy National Ready Your Labels Day everyone!

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McDonald's Bacon Clubhouse BurgerHave you heard about the new McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Burger? If you Google the new burger, you’ll see that the big news here is that this is the only burger besides the Big Mac that features the “special sauce” that graces its big brother burger. It appears that people are excited about the use of the Big Mac “special sauce” on a sandwich that isn’t the Big Mac.

The Bacon Clubhouse Burger is attempting to appeal to a more sophisticated audience, though. It also features an artisan roll, smoked applewood bacon, carmelized grilled onions, leaf lettuce and Angus seasoning.

Just what does that cosmopolitan burger description really get us, though? Time to go under the bun with as we investigate what’s really in this new McDonald’s creation.

Let’s start with the nutrition facts:

Calories:                 720
Fat:                          40 g
Saturated Fat:           15 g
Sodium:                1470 mg
Sugar:                      14 g

Let’s just say that, believe it or not, the Big Mac is actually a better nutritional choice than the Bacon Clubhouse Burger. Obviously that’s not saying much. This burger contains 180 additional calories, 11 extra grams of fat, 5 more grams of saturated fat, 430 mg of additional sodium and 5 more grams of sugar than the Big Mac. Not exactly a healthy meal — and we didn’t even add fries to it yet!

What about the ingredients? We’re sure you can guess, but here they are:

QUARTER POUND 100% BEEF PATTY  Ingredients: 100% Pure USDA Inspected Beef; No Fillers, No Extenders. Prepared With Grill Seasoning (Salt, Black Pepper). *Based On The Weight Before Cooking 4 Oz. (113.4g) ARTISAN ROLL Ingredients: Wheat Flour or Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour or Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Malted Barley Flour, Water, Sugar, Yeast, Palm Oil, Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Salt, Contains 2% or less: Natural Flavors (Plant Source), Corn Flour, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Vegetable Proteins (Pea, Potato, Rice), Sunflower Oil, Turmeric, Paprika, Corn Starch, Wheat Starch, Acetic Acid. TOMATO SLICE THICK CUT APPLEWOOD SMOKED BACON Ingredients: Pork Bellies Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Natural Smoke Flavor (Plant Source), Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite. CARAMELIZED GRILLED ONIONS Ingredients: Slivered Onions Prepared in Onion Reduction Sauce (Palm, Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Sugar, Caramelized Sugar, Onion Powder, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors [Plant Source], Spice). BIG MAC SAUCE Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Pickle Relish (Diced Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate [Preservative], Spice Extractives, Polysorbate 80), Distilled Vinegar, Water, Egg Yolks, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Onion Powder, Mustard Seed, Salt, Spices, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Mustard Bran, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Vegetable Protein (Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy and Wheat), Caramel Color, Extractives of Paprika, Soy Lecithin, Turmeric (Color), Calcium Disodium EDTA (Protect Flavor). PASTEURIZED PROCESS WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE Ingredients: Milk, Water, Cheese Culture, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), May Contain One or More of: Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Pyrophosphate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Enzymes, Acetic Acid, Soy Lecithin (Added for Slice Separation). LEAF LETTUCE ANGUS SEASONING Ingredients: Salt, Sugar, Onion Powder, Natural (Animal and Plant Sources) and Artificial Flavors, Spice, Maltodextrin, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Dried Beef Broth, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Worcestershire Sauce Powder (Distilled Vinegar, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Salt, Caramel Color, Garlic Powder, Sugar, Spices, Tamarind, Natural Flavor [Fruit Source]), Spice Extractives, Beef Fat, Caramel Color, Annatto and Turmeric (Color).

We counted. That’s about 17 ingredients we don’t want to eat all in one burger. Please make sure you read the ingredients in the Big Mac sauce carefully. This is the sauce consumers are making such a big fuss over. They’re happy it’s making an appearance on another burger. We’re not.

The McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Burger isn’t deserving of the buzz surrounding its introduction. It’s just another fast food monstrosity with too many calories, too much fat, too much sodium and too many bad ingredients.

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iStock_000017868525Small.jpgMost of the country is patiently waiting for the sunshine to poke through the clouds and bring the warmer weather we’ve been waiting for. It was a harsh, harsh winter for most and the little we’ve seen of spring has been wet and a bit gloomy so far.

We suppose that might be a reason we’re seeing all sorts of springtime promotions announced. There are more this year than we’ve seen in the past. Dunkin Donuts is getting in on the action, helping to bring us a little more of the springtime with the introduction of the Peeps Donut. has to admit that we were confused by the concept of a Peeps Donut when we first heard about it. Peeps, as just about everyone in the U.S. and Canada knows, are marshmallow candies that are a traditional part of the spring holidays. They are familiarly shaped like chicks and bunnies and are brightly colored in holiday colors like pink, yellow and green. Their popularity has resulted in Christmas Peeps, Halloween Peeps and Summer Peeps all specifically colored to match the season of their release.

Of course, we’re not Peeps fans. All those artificial colors don’t leave us feeling great about the products. But that wasn’t why we were confused. Is the Peeps Donut marshmallow flavored? Could they really have put a Peep on top of a donut? And if they did, why?

We did a little investigating. From what we’re reading, the donut part of the Peeps Donut is not marshmallow flavored. Perhaps it’s supposed to be, but no one actually thinks it is. Yes, Dunkin put a Peep on top of the donut. We really don’t know why. Doesn’t seem like a likely flavor combination to us. And to go a bit further, the Peeps Donuts are iced with the colors of the season — complete with the same artificial colors we don’t care for in the actual Peeps.

So here are the facts:

Calories:                 310
Fat:                        15 g
Saturated Fat:         7 mg
Sugar:                    21 g

The ingredient list is where it really gets interesting:

Donut: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Palm Oil, Yeast Donut Concentrate [Soy Flour, Pregelatinized Wheat Starch, Salt, Whey (Milk), Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Nonfat Milk, Gum Blend (Cellulose, Guar, Acacia, Carrageenan, Xanthan), Sodium Caseinate (Milk), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Eggs, Soybean Oil, Annatto (Color), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Turmeric (Color)], Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Yeast, Mono and Diglycerides; Strawberry Flavored 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), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Red 40; Green Icing: [White Icing: Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Contains 2% or less: Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Corn Starch, Artificial Flavor, Salt, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Sodium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Citric Acid, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Agar, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier); Green Coloring: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glycerin, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Carrageenan Gum, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid; May Contain FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Blue 2, FD&C Red 3, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 6, FD&C Yellow 5]. Topping May Include: Yellow Peep: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Gelatin, Contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: Yellow 5, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Carnauba Wax. Pink Peep: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Gelatin, Contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Red 3, Carnauba Wax.

The donut itself contains something Dunkin refers to as a “gum blend.” Not sure what that’s about. No matter which color icing and Peep you choose, you’ll be treated to high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan, and a plethora of artificial food coloring, among other ingredients we don’t particularly like. Not to mention the fact that Peeps contain carnauba wax, with which we’d rather polish our cars than actually eat.

All things considered, we’ll find a different way to celebrate spring.

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iStock_000013818677Small.jpgEvery chocolate lover carries just a little guilt over indulging in their favorite sweet. As more and more research is released revealing the health benefits of moderate chocolate consumption, that guilt dissipates a bit. But the newest research may prove to be the most surprising of all, unexpectedly linking chocolate to the possible prevention of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In a mouse study, led by Andrew P. Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers discovered that a certain antioxidant in cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate – prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.

This is not the only study to suggest that consuming chocolate can prevent such health conditions.

Earlier this year, a study claiming that chocolate, as well as wine and berries, protects against type 2 diabetes, while other research found that teens who eat lots of chocolate tend to be slimmer.

Such studies claim that the reason chocolate may have these health benefits is because of the flavanols it contains. These are types of antioxidants.

But the researchers of this most recent study say that not all flavanols are the same. In fact, cocoa has several different types.

In their study, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, the investigators set out to determine exactly which flavanol may be responsible for preventing weight gain and lowering blood glucose levels.

For the research, the investigators assigned mice to one of six different diets for 12 weeks.

These consisted of high- and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with either monomeric, oligomeric or polymeric procyandins (PCs) – types of flavanols. Mice were given 25 milligrams of these flavanols each day for every kilogram of their body weight (25 mg/kg).

The research team found that a high-fat diet supplemented with oligomeric PCs was the most effective for maintaining weight of the mice and improving glucose tolerance – a factor that could help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:

“Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.  Additional studies of prolonged feeding of flavanol fractions in vivo are needed to further identify the fractions with the highest bioactivities and, therefore, the greatest potential for translation to human clinical applications at reasonable doses.”

The investigators point out that the doses of flavanols used in this study are significantly lower than doses used in past research and are more feasible when translated into flavanol levels for human consumption.

“Therefore, our data suggest that moderate doses of cocoa flavanols or cocoa powder have the potential to be more effective in human clinical trials than previously thought,” they add.

While understands that this study is by no means suggesting we all stock up on our favorite candy bars, it is exciting news for chocolate lovers everywhere. It’s also fascinating to understand that chocolate — which has for so long been thought of as an unnecessary source of calories — may actually help prevent the diseases with which it has been associated. Hearing good news about a food we love is always a welcome thing … especially when that food is such a sweet indulgence!

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Easter basket.jpgAs we finally say goodbye to winter, we’re getting ready to welcome springtime holiday traditions. We’re planning our brunches, dinners and egg hunts. And all the while our favorite and famous Bunny is figuring out how to adorn the Easter baskets millions of kids can’t wait to tear into.

We know that in the last few decades, toys have taken the place of at least some of the candy in those baskets. We also know that many parents are cringing over the anticipation of all that Easter candy. While it isn’t exactly Halloween, it’s still pretty much all about the candy for so many. Hence, the proliferation of creme eggs, peanut butter eggs, Peeps, assorted pastel jelly beans, and hollow chocolate bunnies in our stores this time of year.

If you’re looking for a healthier addition to your Easter baskets, wants to offer a little help and inspiration, without removing the candy from the equation. Everyone loves Easter treats, but when you look at the ingredient lists for many of them, there’s plenty you’ll find to be concerned about. So if you have some extra time and are feeling a bit creative, we’ve got some ideas for you.

Let’s make some peanut butter eggs for our baskets this year. They look great. They’re quite tasty. And the ingredient list is straight-forward and clean.

Here’s what you’ll need:

- Quarter cup of organic peanut butter
- Quarter cup of sugar
- 2 tbsp. good quality cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 tsp. maple syrup

Here’s what you’ll do:

Mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar in a bowl until it has a crumbled texture. Make sure your peanut butter is at room temperature so that it mixes easily. Shape the dough into flat ovals or rounded egg shapes. You should be able to form 9 eggs from the recipe. After you’ve formed the shapes, freeze them for about an hour.

Melt the coconut oil and mix it in a dish with the cocoa powder. Add the maple syrup and combine. Dip one frozen egg at a time in the chocolate to coat. Return the chocolate coated eggs to the freezer immediately to harden. You’ll want to store them in the freezer before serving (or decorating Easter baskets), so that they retain their shape and don’t melt.

They’re easy to make and a much healthier treat than the popular version, which typically contain partially hydrogenated oil and TBHQ in their ingredient list. In addition, that popular version weighs in at 180 calories with 16 grams of sugar for one egg.

This homemade version contains about 55 calories per egg with almost 4 grams of sugar. One store bought peanut butter egg contains 4 teaspoons of sugar. One peanut butter egg from this recipe contains just about 1 teaspoon. That’s a substantial difference we can all be happy about.

We all love a sweet treat now and again. With a little effort and some real ingredients, we can all enjoy a little indulgence in a much healthier way! Stay tuned for more healthy Easter basket options from as we approach the holiday.

Posted in Healthier Holiday Recipes, Healthy Diet, Healthy Easter Basket Ideas, healthy eating, Healthy Habits, Healthy Holiday Habits | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

beer & wine.jpgWhat do you think of when you think of happy hour? If your thoughts turn to a crowded, noisy bar where you can’t really share conversation with friends and you need to figure out how to balance your drink and appetizer plate, you’re the exact consumer Starbucks is trying to reach.

If you live in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Portland or Seattle, you can now enjoy beer, wine and a special evening menu at selected Starbucks locations after 4 p.m. That evening menu includes appetizers and desserts.

According Starbucks’ website, “Starbucks Evenings” is an effort to substitute a loud bar for a more intimate happy hour meet-up.

“We’ve always been your neighborhood spot where you can take a moment to unwind, grab a well-deserved treat, and meet up with friends,” the site reads. “But sometimes, you just want a glass of wine and a delicious bite to eat without going to a bar or making a restaurant reservation.”

And while “Starbucks Evenings” includes new items for purchase, the barista setup will remain intact. The chain’s regular coffee and tea menus will also still be available to order.

While “Starbucks Evenings” are only occurring in the selected markets mentioned, is assuming that they may very well be expanding the concept to include other areas. So let’s take a peek at the menu. We don’t have nutritional information just yet (and we’ll be sure to update when we do), so for now, we’ll just give you the overview:

Brie Blue Cheese Plate
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Skewers
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Balsamic Glaze
Truffle Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken and Roasted Tomato Flatbread
Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread
Chocolate Fondue
Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brownie

While those items sound pretty tantalizing for happy hour fare, we’re reserving our opinions until Starbucks decides to clue us in on what’s really in the small plates we might enjoy with a glass of wine or beer.

How would you feel about substituting the bar around the block from your office with your local Starbucks for happy hour? Their bet is that you’d enjoy an intimate atmosphere more than the crowds gathering at your typical pub. We would like to mention, though (just for the sake of a little realism), that crowds and Starbucks have always gone hand in hand. It’s difficult to think of a Starbucks location that we’re familiar with that lacks crowds on your average morning. Kind of thinking the same thing will end up occurring during “Starbucks Evenings.” That sort of negates the whole premise. Time will tell, though. We’ll keep you posted!

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