Eat slowly to eat well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast food: bad to the bone

fast food boyFast food and don’t mix. We aren’t fans and we never have been. We don’t expect to be fans in the future – barring some serious changes to the industry and the recipes and the ingredients used in the menus of fast food chains. There’s just so much wrong there. Calorie and fat content. Excessive sodium. Ingredients that are known to be unhealthy. We know that fast food is linked to conditions like diabetes and obesity. And unfortunately we know that all over America, we’re feeding it to our children. So if all of the previous research associating fast food with health problems for our kids didn’t sway you from saying no to fast food when your child asks for it, perhaps this will.  Fast food is bad to the bone — the bones of children.

Living in a neighborhood where there is greater access to fast food outlets may affect bone development in early childhood, according to the first study to investigate links between neighborhood food environment and bone mass in the first 6 years of life.

Reporting their findings in the journal Osteoporosis International, researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK also conclude:

“If confirmed in future studies, action to reduce access to fast-food outlets could have benefits for childhood development and long-term bone health.”

The team also found that having more healthy specialty stores in the neighborhood is linked to higher bone mass in young children.

For their study, the researchers used data on 1,107 children that was collected in the Southampton Women’s Survey, a research project that aims to learn about the dietary and lifestyle factors that influence the health of women and their children.

They compared the bone mineral density and bone mineral content of children at birth, and then at age 4 or 6, to the number of supermarkets, healthy specialty stores and fast food outlets in their neighborhood.

The analysis showed that a higher number of fast food outlets in the neighborhood was tied to lower bone mineral density and bone mineral content in newborns. However, this link was not significant at age 4 and 6.

In contrast, the researchers note that having more healthy specialty stores in the neighborhood – such as greengrocers selling fresh fruit and vegetables – was tied to higher bone mineral density at age 4 and 6.

Coauthor Cyrus Cooper, professor of rheumatology and director of the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at Southampton, where the study took place, says:

“These findings suggest that the exposure of mothers and children to more healthy food environments might optimize childhood bone development through its influence on the quality of the maternal diet and dietary choices during childhood.”

He explains if the findings are confirmed with more extensive research, then they would suggest that improving the food environment could benefit children’s bone development.

Initiatives to improve the food environment have already begun in some parts of the UK, where local planning regulations do not allow fast food outlets within 400 meters of schools.

October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day, whose message this year is “serve up bone strength,” to emphasize the role that a healthy diet plays in bone health.

Research shows that a balanced diet containing adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, protein, calcium and vitamin D helps develop healthy bones throughout life.

According to a 2014 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, attaining substantial bone mass in early life is thought to be the “most important modifiable determinant of lifelong skeletal health.”

Growing up is hard enough without health problems. Kids should be able to enjoy childhoods that are free from the problems associated with fast food – and the list of those problems is growing every day. Let’s be the responsible adults kids need us to be and say no to fast food for them, until they can make this intelligent decision for themselves.

The story behind product recalls and restaurant closings: food poisoning is more common than you think has always made it a point to call attention to food recalls and restaurant closings on our website. We think it’s important to keep as many people informed of foodborne illnesses as possible because they do affect so many people. New food recalls happen every single day of the year and most of them aren’t publicized, so you may not know that a product that’s sitting in your pantry has been recalled to do foodborne pathogens or cross contamination from allergens. You need to know exactly what’s in your food – and sometimes that includes things that aren’t very pleasant and can, in fact, cause immediate and serious harm.

The latest scare comes from Oregon and Washington state, where Chipotle closed 43 restaurants after more than 35 people fell ill with E. coli. Other outbreaks in recent years involved cantaloupes, peanuts and cookie dough.Here’s the story behind product recalls and restaurant closings:  food poisoning is more common than you think.  Some 3,000 Americans die every year from food poisoning, and 128,000 are hospitalized.

It’s not as if Congress has done nothing. In 2011 it passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the biggest change in industry monitoring since the 1930s. The law had broad support from both parties as well as consumer groups and Big Agriculture.

The act makes a number of improvements to the food-safety system. The Food and Drug Administration is empowered to order recalls of contaminated food products — previously, it could only request them — and put in place tougher rules on processing fruits and vegetables. Companies are required to create written safety plans and keep records of safety issues, which the agency has the right to see. The FDA will also do more frequent inspections — once every three years instead of every decade for high-risk facilities — and has greater authority over imported food, which is required to meet many of the same safety standards as domestic food.

The law falls short in some places: Most important, it does too little to address a lax program of domestic self-regulation, especially when it comes to outside safety inspectors, whose independence has been questioned. The agency has proposed a set of rules for improving matters, including a set of model accreditation standards for safety auditors, but they would simply be guidelines.

Yet any discussion of benefits and drawbacks would be premature, since few of the law’s core provisions have taken effect. The FDA only last month finalized its preventive-control rules, and Congress has doled out less than half the $580 million that the Congressional Budget Office says has been needed to implement the law. It is unlikely to open its wallet wider. The process has become bogged down by industry objections to compliance costs and a proposed $225 million in other fees.

Congress, agricultural producers and food retailers need to find a compromise out of the fiscal logjam. One potentially helpful suggestion came from President Barack Obama earlier this year, when he proposed placing all food-safety responsibilities in one agency inside the Department of Health and Human Services, combining the efforts of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which oversees meat and poultry) and a handful of other government offices. This could well increase efficiency and cut down on regulatory overlap, meaning lower costs to industry. will continue to provide news to our community concerning food recalls and restaurant closings. It’s important that we all stay aware so that we can avoid serious illness. And food poisoning IS serious illness – even though we don’t tend to think of it that way. With over 100,000 hospitalizations every year and numerous fatalities, food poisoning isn’t something about which any of us can afford to live in the dark. While we have plenty of systems in place to help us avoid these situations in the first place, none of those has yet been perfect. In the end, it’s still up to us to find out as much as we can about problems as they arise in order to keep ourselves healthy and well.

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!

Over 40 Chipotle locations in the Seattle and Portland area close due to E. coli outbreak

chipotleIf you’re located in the Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon area and you’re out and about this election day, you may want to make a note to avoid Chipotle for a meal on the go. You may also find that avoiding Chipotle today has been made a little easier for you, as Chipotle locations in the Seattle and Portland area close due to E. Coli outbreaks.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is temporarily closing more than 40 restaurants in and around Seattle and Portland, Ore., as health officials investigate an E. coli outbreak that has gotten at least 22 people sick.

“Since Oct. 14, three people in Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon, both in suburban Portland, have fallen ill, said Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority spokesman. And 19 cases in Clark County, which contains Vancouver, Wash., just north of Portland; Cowlitz County, north of Vancouver; King County, where Seattle is the largest city; and Skagit County about 50 miles north of King County, also have been reported.

“About a third of the victims have been hospitalized, he said. No one has died from the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, the most common in food-borne outbreaks.

” ‘Many people affected with Shiga toxin E. coli may not seek health care, so the number of people made ill by this outbreak is likely more than identified,’ Modie said in a statement. ‘Health officials want people who have eaten at a Chipotle between Oct. 14 and 23 and become ill with vomiting and bloody diarrhea to see their health-care provider and mention this outbreak.’ ”

In a statement provided to Reuters, Chipotle said it had received notice from health officials that some of the people who got sick ate at six of the chain’s restaurants. “Out of an abundance of caution,” the company said, it temporarily closed all its restaurants in the area — 43 locations in two states.

Reuters reports this is the third food-contamination outbreak to be linked to the restaurant chain since August. The wire service adds:

“Those earlier cases involved salmonella and the highly infectious virus norovirus.”

“The 1,700-outlet chain has grown quickly since it opened in 1993 with a single location, distinguishing itself from typical fast-food restaurants by touting its use of healthy and high-quality fresh ingredients in its menu of burritos, tacos and salads.”

NBC News reports that the investigation into the E. coli outbreak is still in the early stages, and that it’s likely they will find that the E. coli “came from a fresh food product delivered to Chipotle restaurants and other places.”

NBC News adds:
“The investigation started with talking to everyone diagnosed with E. coli and finding out what they ate and where. Test samples from those individuals will go to state labs in Washington and Oregon.

“Then samples of food from the restaurants will be tested at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory to see if bacteria from the food matches the human cases.”

Chipotle’s prudent decision to temporarily close 43 locations in two states certainly illustrates for a tremendous commitment to the health and safety of the consumers who are loyal to the brand. We’ll keep you posted on developments as we’re updated.

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

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

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

And we waited for our food budget to collapse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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