McDonald’s answers some questions about the McRib

HT_mcrib_beauty_jtm_141104_16x9_992Possibly the most iconic of any of the McDonald’s menu items, the McRib might just have more fans than the Big Mac. Part of its appeal comes from its limited time availability releases. Since fast food lovers can’t always have a McRib, its allure is heightened. For FoodFacts.com the McRib is not an alluring sandwich. It’s nutrition facts and ingredient list tell us to stay far away from it.

McDonald’s recently launched a new campaign called “Our Food, Your Questions” in an effort to offer consumers more transparency into exactly what’s in their menu items.

The latest dish it tackles is the popular McRib, which only makes limited-time appearances, causing fervor among its devotees. Here’s a step-by-step look at how the beloved barbecue sandwich is made.

Step 1: It begins with boneless pork shoulder.
“We have a boneless pork picnic, which is the main ingredient in the McDonald’s McRib patty,” Kevin Nanke says. “This is what we purchase and bring in to the facility to make the McRib.”

Nanke is the vice president of Lopez Foods in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which is McDonald’s USA pork supplier. All the bones and gristle from the pork shoulder are removed to prepare for grinding.

Step 2: The meat is ground and flavoring and preservatives are added.
During grinding, water, salt, dextrose and preservatives are added to the meat.
The dextrose is a type of sugar used to add sweetness, and the preservatives (BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid) help maintain the flavor, according to McDonald’s.

Step 3: The McRib shape is formed.
In the factory, the ground meat is pressed into the iconic McRib shape, meant to resemble meat and bones — except this is all meat, and the bone shape is pork as well.

Step 4: Water is sprayed on to prepare for freezing.
A fine mist of water is added to the formed McRib to prevent dehydration during freezing.

Step 5: The McRib is frozen.
The factory flash-freezes the McRib to prepare for shipment.

Step 6: The McRib is cooked.
When the McRib is at the restaurant and ready to be prepared, it’s cooked in a Panini press-type machine.

Step 7: The McRib patty is done when both sides are seared to a golden brown.
Food safety, quality and regulatory technicians at Lopez Foods regularly make test batches for quality assurance.

Step 8: After it’s seared, the cooked McRib marinates in barbecue sauce.
The barbecue sauce has a lot of ingredients. According to McDonald’s, here they are and why:

For flavor and texture: Tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, chili pepper, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, natural smoke flavor (plant source), salt, sugar and spices

For flavor and as a preservative: Distilled vinegar

For thickness, body and sheen: Water, xantham gum, soybean oil, modified food starch

For color: Caramel color, beet powder

As a preservative: Sodium benzoate

Step 9: The sandwich is assembled.
First, the hoagie-style roll is toasted and layered with onions and pickles before the McRib is placed on.

McDonald’s has been criticized for using azodicarbonamide in their rolls because the same ingredient is used in non-food products, such as yoga mats. Here’s the official explanation:
“The ingredient you refer to is azodicarbonamide (ADA) and it’s sometimes used by bakers to help keep the texture of their bread consistent from batch to batch, which is why it is used in the McRib hoagie-style roll.”

“There are multiple uses for azodicarbonamide, including in some non-food products, such as yoga mats. As a result, some people have suggested our food contains rubber or plastic, or that the ingredient is unsafe. It’s simply not the case. Think of salt: the salt you use in your food at home is a variation of the salt you may use to de-ice your sidewalk. The same is true of ADA — it can be used in different ways.”

The rest of the ingredients in the roll are:

Main ingredients: Enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water

For caramelization when toasting: High fructose corn syrup

For volume and texture: Yeast, wheat gluten, enzymes, sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono and diglycerides, calcium peroxide

For tenderness: Soybean oil

For flavor: Salt, barley and malt syrup, corn meal

For leavening: Calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate

As a preservative: Calcium proponiate

As for the other ingredients, the onions are just onions, and the pickles have multiple ingredients, all below:

Main ingredients: Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar

For flavor: Salt, natural flavors (plant source), polysorbate 80 (emulsifier: helps ensure that the spice blend disperses within the brine), extracts of turmeric (for color and flavor)

To maintain crisp texture: Calcium chloride, alum

As a preservative: Potassium sorbate

So McDonald’s is being upfront about the ingredients used in the McRib. And while we think it’s impressive that they’re coming forward with them, we’re honestly offended at their attempt to gloss over the use of azodicarbonamide, as well as how they’re attempting to explain away other controversial ingredients like polysorbate 80, natural flavors, caramel color and high fructose corn syrup. Intelligent consumers aren’t going to accept the idea that McDonald’s needs to use polysorbate 80 to ensure that the spice blend (or natural flavors) disperses within the pickle brine.

Instead of providing transparency, it may appear to some that McDonald’s is actually attempting to make light of the controversial ingredients consistently included in their menu items. Maybe if they tell us they are necessary, we’ll ignore them.

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/mcrib-made/story?id=26683944

Should sodas carry warning cigarette-style warning labels?

sugary-soda-del1014-lgnSugary sodas have been in the news constantly over the last few years. FoodFacts.com has seen New York City consider and dismiss a ban against larger sized sugary beverages. We’ve watched Berkeley, California institute a nominal soda tax and San Francisco consider and dismiss the same. We’re even watching the federal government mull over a national soda tax.

While thus far these initiatives haven’t gone anywhere, the news surrounding soda is serving to educate consumers about exactly how unhealthy the chemical concoctions really are.

Americans are waking up to the dangers of drinking sugary sodas in excess. Now that science is increasingly showing a link between high sugar consumption and chronic disease like diabetes and obesity, some lawmakers think it’s time to warn people about the detrimental health effects of drinking soda much like cigarette labeling did in the 1960′s.
In New York, Brooklyn lawmaker Karim Camara is proposing a state law requiring sugary sodas to carry a warning label: “SAFETY WARNING: DRINKING BEVERAGES WITH ADDED SUGAR CONTRIBUTES TO OBESITY, DIABETES AND TOOTH DECAY.”

“I firmly believe that this will lead to a reduction in people drinking soda and in children drinking soda,” Camara told CBS News.

Camara calls his labeling initiative “public education” and likens it to seeing calorie counts posted on the pastry case at Starbucks. He says when he sees that a donut has 400 calories he chooses the healthier option because he’s informed.

While cigarette warning labels played a role in informing the public about the dangers of smoking and reducing the popularity of cigarette smoking in America, warning labels alone may not be enough.

According to the CDC, higher costs for tobacco products through increased excise taxes, along with mass-media campaigns targeted toward youth to counter tobacco marketing, also contribute to reducing smoking and preventing teens from starting a tobacco habit.

In recent years, American legislators have been trying a variety of tactics to make sugary drinks less attra many have failed. In 2010, then New York Gov. David Paterson sought a penny-an-ounce “fat tax” on soda and other sugary drinks. After a multi-million-dollar campaign by the beverage industry claiming the tax would cost jobs, the state legislature turned down what would have amounted to a 12-cent tax on a can of Coke. But, in an ironic twist, they agreed to add another $1.60 in taxes to the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

A few years later, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried a different approach by banning the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, delis and other outlets. The ban was thrown out by the courts without ever taking effect.

Now, the soda tax idea may be getting a second wind. Voters in Berkeley, California, recently passed the nation’s first soda tax, a penny an ounce, in order to curb the consumption of sugary drinks. However, across the bay in San Francisco, voters rejected a proposed 2-cents an ounce soda tax.

Passing this type of legislation takes time, effort, and money. Is it really worth it?

Camara, the author of the warning-label bill, thinks so. “The people that are disproportionately affected by diabetes are poor or people of color, and I believe increasing awareness will help parents stop giving soda to their children,” he says.

“Government action to address the dangers of sugary drinks is crucial as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes continue to wreak havoc on the health of our communities. We commend Assembly Member Camara for taking this important step,” the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

Warning labels on sodas. We’re not sure how well that will work. Honestly, we’re not so sure how well it worked with cigarettes. It’s more likely that the higher taxes imposed on every pack that hit smokers in their wallets had a larger effect. Sugary soda taxes might be the way to go.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-drinking-soda-the-new-smoking/

Hungry high schoolers are up in arms about new school nutrition requirements

B1DJ8eSIQAE-vLpThe new school nutrition requirements have been rolled out in schools across the country. While the requirements have met with a positive response from most, it is beginning to appear that not all school lunches are created equally under the new standards.

The school lunch program First Lady Michelle Obama championed, the one she claimed would provide “more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and less fat and sodium and set sensible calorie limits” is instead leaving some students hungry. And they aren’t being quiet about it.

There are students and parents who are fed up and have posted pics of the skimpy meals being dished out at schools on Twitter.

Now one school in Wisconsin is taking it a step further. D.C. Everest High School senior Meghan Hellrood organized “pack-a-bag” day, where students brought in their own lunches to boycott the cafeteria’s lunches, which she says consist of “small portions of very processed foods.”

Meghan told Fox News that students “are sometimes given a box of raisins as the fruit portion.” She contends that the choices aren’t any healthier overall, and that:

“[Athletes] are not performing as well as they could, and people’s test scores are going down because they’re hungry throughout the day.”

Students at the school “came together to make bagged lunches for kids who can’t afford to bring their own lunch every day, and they have received donations from the community.”

Bringing a lunch from home is one way to get around the inadequate school lunches, as long as the government or unions stays out of lunch bags. There have been incidents in North Carolina and Illinois where students’ packed lunches have been confiscated by school officials who claim they don’t meet nutritional guidelines.

A quick internet search and a thorough read of comments on various reports will tell you right away that not all school districts are serving the new lunches the same way. There do seem to be some “interpretations” of the new standards that don’t look like filling lunches for growing teenagers. Students in other school districts are very satisfied with the meals being served in cafeterias. The problems that are being reported don’t seem to be about the fruit and vegetable requirements. They are, instead, about the size of the portions which in some areas have been reduced pretty drastically. In addition, reports from some athletes who participate in heavy workouts and training who need more calories are explaining that they aren’t being permitted extra food to meet their caloric needs. High schoolers and parents are speaking up and trying to effect some needed changes in those districts that are in question.

FoodFacts.com is absoutely in favor of getting healthier, more nutritious foods onto our kids lunch trays. We’re not quite sure why there seems to be portion size differences between school districts. But we do think, that like with so many other things, a one-size-fits-all definition may not be the way to go here. It’s been pointed out that for many children here in the U.S., school lunch may, in fact, be their only meal of the day. Athletes have a different calorie profile than non-athletes. And honestly, for any growing teenager, some of the meals pictured aren’t going to keep them satisfied throughout the day. So if that more nutritious lunch isn’t going to help them feel full, they are going to look to add calories in other ways, most likely by eating junk food the first chance they get outside of school. And that’s not great either. The USDA would be well served by taking an individual look at the districts that are complaining and perhaps providing some education regarding compliance with the new standards in ways that will keep more high schoolers more satisfied so that they have the fuel they need to learn and stay as active as possible throughout their days.

http://www.ijreview.com/2014/11/202894-school-lunch-boycott/

Healthy, overweight or obese? Surprisingly we can’t tell by looking

chris-christie-townhall_mediumWith all of the news surrounding obesity and the focus we all seem to put on weight, you would probably assume that you (and everyone else) is able to determine whether or not someone is a healthy weight simply by their visual image. Especially when it comes to obesity, this doesn’t seem like a difficult determination.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool say most of us — even healthcare professionals — are unable to visually identify whether a person is a healthy weight, overweight or obese.

The researchers asked participants to look at photographs of male models and categorize whether they were a healthy weight, overweight or obese according to World Health Organization (WHO) Body Mass Index (BMI) guidelines.

The majority flunked. They underestimated weight, often believing that overweight men were a healthy weight.

In a related study of healthcare professionals, the researchers also found that general practitioners and trainee GPs were unable to visually identify if a person was overweight or obese.

The researchers also examined whether increased exposure to overweight and obese people affected a person’s ability to estimate the weight of a person. Their findings suggested that exposure to heavier body weights may influence what people see as a normal and healthy weight and causes people to underestimate a person’s weight.

“We wanted to find out if people can identify a healthy, overweight or obese person just by looking at them,” said Dr. Eric Robinson, who conducted the research. Primarily we found that people were often very inaccurate and this included trainee doctors and qualified doctors too. Moreover, we found that participants systematically underestimated when a person was overweight or obese.”

“Our study of GPs also found a tendency to underestimate weight which has important implications as it means that overweight and obese patients could end up not being offered weight management support or advice,” he said.

Recent studies have found that parents underestimate their overweight or obese child’s weight and this could also act as a barrier to intervention.

FoodFacts.com wonders if the tendency to underestimate obesity by sight has something to do with people not having a clear understanding of their own weight. Of course there are weight ranges easily available that categorize healthy weights by gender, age and height. Those weight ranges do vary by source, however and may serve to confuse some. Those ranges also can’t take body type into account. While we understand that people shouldn’t be overly focused on weight for a number of good reasons, we do think that we should all have a reasonable understanding of where we stand on the healthy weight scale. Our doctors should also undoubtedly be able to guide us to what a healthy weight should be for each of us. If we can’t “see weight,” we do need that guidance. While we might be thinking it’s just “a few extra pounds,” the reality may, in fact, be quite a bit different. We owe it to ourselves to find out.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/whos-fat-most-of-us-cant-recognize-obesity-111214.html

More mold found in Capri Sun juice pouches … and more excuses

capri-sun-345A while back FoodFacts.com posted about a problem with Capri Sun juice pouches when a mother noticed a strange substance sitting at the bottom of the drink. Turned out it was mold. The company informed consumers that the mold formed because the juice doesn’t contain artificial preservatives. They also switched out the bottoms of the juice pouches, making them clear so moms everywhere could see inside the pouch, thus helping to alleviate the problem.

Well, the problem is back.

A mom found a giant piece of mold in her daughter’s Capri Sun juice pouch and now video of the disgusting discovery is going viral online. You can check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=951537624859757

Hawaii resident Marty Sunderland said she and her family were taking a trip to the beach and picked up a pack of Capri Sun. But once her daughter opened one, she found some pieces of a slimy brown solid and a disgusting taste.

So Sunderland decided to open the Capri Sun pouch on camera, revealing a giant piece of brown, slimy mold.

Though the find was disgusting, it’s actually not a new problem for Capri Sun. Kraft Foods has been dealing with reports of mold found in Capri Sun pouches for some years now and even instituted a clear bottom on the juice pouches to put customers at ease.
“The reality is, mold spores are literally everywhere,” said Caroline Krajewski, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods, earlier this year. “Most foods, especially those without artificial preservatives, eventually spoil and get moldy.”

Kraft even addressed the Capri Sun mold issue in its company’s FAQ:

“Why does mold grow in preservative-free juice drinks?”
“Although it’s very rare, it is possible for food mold to grow inside containers of preservative-free juice drinks that are exposed to air. What usually forms is a common food mold, similar to what might grow on fruit or bread. In the past, experts have told us there are no significant or long-term health effects associated with consuming this type of mold.”

“The photo I saw looks like a worm. How could you say it’s mold?”
“In some cases when people think they have found a “worm” inside a Capri Sun pouch it was actually mold. The mold takes the form of a straw, which can then be mistaken as a worm since it is long and thin. While this is not a common occurrence, it can potentially happen because the product is free of artificial preservatives.”

Capri Sun juice pouches are sold in packs in the grocery store. Moms don’t have the opportunity to pick up an individual pouch and check the bottom pane for signs of mold. That’s the first issue we can see. There are more though.

Kraft does seem to be using the mold problem to emphasize the idea that Capri Sun doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives. And while that’s nice, it also may lead consumers to believe that the product is natural. And it really isn’t. Even the 100% juice pouches contain more than 100% juice. There’s natural flavoring in every one of them. And while that technically allows them to call the product natural, we know it really isn’t. The Roarin Waters options contain natural flavors and high fructose corn syrup, as do the original Capri Sun flavors.

And lastly, we do have a problem with some of the statements on the FAQ page. Let’s start with the idea that Kraft is telling their customers that it’s safe to consume the mold. We don’t know anyone who would willingly consume mold, and we bet they don’t either. On that same FAQ page, they’re inferring that some of the pouches allow air in which is why there’s mold growth so moms should “gently squeeze the pouch to check for leaks.” If they find a leak, they should dispose of the pouch. After they’ve purchased it. Kind of convenient for Kraft. They sell the pouches in packs. You can’t check anything before you purchase it. So if there’s a leak or you look through the clear panel on the bottom and see mold, you’re throwing away the money you’ve spent on the product. No where on the FAQ page does it offer consumers a refund for wasted product. Honestly, it just seems like a better idea of purchase a different product.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1588975/mom-finds-mold-in-daughters-capri-sun-juice-pouch-posts-disgusting-video-of-her-discovery/#gPemurk6IFuOMsHT.99

Steak and eggs that really isn’t steak and eggs … brought to you by Dunkin

1413388228838Sometimes what we here at FoodFacts.com consider somewhat odd and unappetizing can be thought of by others as fabulous and completely spot on. That might be true for the new Angus Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich from Dunkin Donuts.

It’s obvious that the innovators at Dunkin believe there are millions of consumers dying to find a way to enjoy steak and eggs on their way to work as they’re driving or at their desk at the office or while they’re walking to their classes in the morning. We don’t really see it the same way. We think, honestly, that when people think about enjoying steak and eggs, they’re usually picturing sitting down at a diner, or out at a favorite restaurant for brunch, or in their own kitchen at their own table. It’s that kind of meal. It’s served on a plate with a knife and a fork and there’s no bagel involved, unless it’s buttered and sitting beside the main meal. In addition, the eggs don’t come in “patty” form and the steak is actually, well, steak.

Those are just a few of our problems looking at this new breakfast sandwich. Let’s take a closer look, though, and find out the real story.

When you take a look at the image, this sandwich doesn’t scream “steak and eggs” at you. It actually looks more like a cheeseburger and an egg patty on a bagel. Because that’s what it is. An “Angus steak beef patty” that’s been marinated. Topped with cheese. On top of an egg patty.

And it’s really not the way you want to start your morning. Here are the nutrition facts:

Calories:                    570
Fat:                            19 grams
Saturated Fat:          10 grams
Sodium:                    1300 mg

We wouldn’t like these nutrition facts for a burger at lunchtime, let alone for the first meal of the day. The ingredient list certainly doesn’t have any redeeming qualities either:

Plain Bagel: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sugar, Malt Extract, Degermed Yellow Corn Meal, Yeast, Salt, Natural Ferment Flavor (Cultured Wheat and Wheat Malt Flours, Vinegar, Salt), Molasses, Dough Conditioner (Malted Barley Flour, Enzymes, Dextrose), Soy (Trace); Beef Steak Patty: Angus Beef, Marinade {Water, Beef Flavor [Water, Natural Flavor (contains milk), Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten, High Oleic Sunflower Oil), Glycerine, Artificial Flavor, Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, Monosodium Glutamate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Ethyl Alcohol, Wheat), Salt, Triglycerides, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative)], Salt with BHA, TBHQ, Citric Acid, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Black Pepper}; Fried Egg: Egg Whites, Water, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Sauteed Flavor (Soybean Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Natural Flavor), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Coarse Ground Black Pepper; American Cheese: Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes, Water, Dry Cream, Milkfat, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Annatto and Oleoresin Paprika Color (if colored), Soy Lecithin (non-sticking agent).

Wow … Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, and multiple other sources of hidden MSG. BHA, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavors, Natural Flavors — this one sandwich covers a really large portion of the FoodFacts.com controversial ingredient list all by itself.

First of all Dunkin, this is not steak and eggs. Second of all, there is nothing good here.

Do your body a favor. If you’re craving steak and eggs — don’t think of Dunkin Donuts.
Make it yourself on a Sunday morning. Go to a diner. Go out for brunch. Just don’t eat it at Dunkin. Ever.

http://www.dunkindonuts.com/content/dunkindonuts/en/menu/food/sandwiches/breakfastsandwiches/angus_steak_and_egg_sandwich.html

Spreadable Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are in your grocery store right now

222This is big news for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fans. It’s been nicknamed “the Nutella killer.” It’s actually all over the internet. And it’s getting great reviews. Folks are saying that Reese’s new Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread actually tastes like you’re eating a peanut butter cup. Candy in a jar.

Obviously that makes FoodFacts.com think “Hmmmmm … we have to wonder what’s going on in there.”

So just in case you’re one of those folks that’s always dreamed about spreading a peanut butter cup between two slices of bread, or on an apple slice or a banana, we wanted to find out what you can expect inside that jar that’s made all your peanut butter cup dreams come true.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size:             2 tablespoons
Calories:                    190 calories
Fat:                            12 grams
Sugar:                       19 grams

Not the healthiest spread in the world. But we do need to point out that the facts for the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread are almost an exact replica of those for Nutella. The sugar content is fairly high here, and it’s definitely not something you want to mindlessly dip apple slices into for that very reason. There are almost 5 teaspoons of sugar in every serving and you’ll probably go through a few servings on one sliced apple.

We’ve got the ingredient list too — and these are very similar to the ingredients found in the candy:

Sugar, Peanuts, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower and Palm Oil), Dextrose, 20% or less of: Cocoa Processed with Alkalai, Cocoa, Salt, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil ( Palm and Canola Oil), Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor, TBHQ, Citric Acid

We’re not thrilled. First, we can talk about the idea that the first ingredient is sugar. As we already stated, there’s a lot of it in here. There’s a lot of oil here as well — and while it isn’t partially hydrogenated oil, we’re not fond of the need for it in a product that features peanuts (that contain their own oils). We’d also like to point out the presence of TBHQ (which the actual candy also contains) and “natural vanilla flavor.” Remember that as long as the word flavor follows natural and vanilla, it’s not really natural or vanilla.

So, even though the reviews point out how tasty the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread is and how they feel like they’re eating candy out of a jar, we can’t quite get on the bandwagon for this one. The main reason for that is that people really are eating candy out of a jar, sugar and controversial ingredients included. Honestly, it was bad enough as candy.

http://www.hersheys.com/reeses/spreads/flavors

Brown-bagging it isn’t always as healthy as the school cafeteria

Healthy school lunch with bookWe’ll admit it. We’re a little surprised by this information coming out of the Washington Post. While we understand that the nutritional quality of school lunches has received a major upgrade, FoodFacts.com has just assumed that lunches prepared at home and packed in backpacks would still possess greater nutritional value than cafeteria food. It appears this isn’t always the case.

The Post compared 1,300 school cafeteria and brown bag lunches at three Virginia schools. They found that the packed lunches contained more calories, carbs, fat and sugar — as well as less protein, fiber and calcium when compared with the National School Lunch Program meals.

The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act require schools to increase fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low-fat milk; reduce sodium and saturated fat in the foods they serve; and meet nutrition needs for schoolchildren. Parent-packed meals do not have to meet any guidelines. About 90 percent of schools reported that they met these standards for the most recent school year, up from just 14 percent four years ago.

About 40 percent of children bring a packed lunch to school. However, the Post found that lunches from home contained more desserts, unhealthy snack items like chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fewer healthy items like fruits and veggies.

The report is in line with a recent study of schools in Massachusetts, which found that only 27 percent of the packed lunches met at least three of the five federal standards.

Parents can improve the quality of their lunches by including fresh fruit and vegetables in each meal, substituting a sugary drink for water or milk, and get rid of desserts in favor of a fruit. They should also involve their children in making decisions on what to eat, and help encourage them to eat healthier foods by giving them a choice between healthy options.

We get that parents today are busier than ever. The world is on overdrive for most of us as we shoulder more responsibilities than ever before. While that snack-sized bag of chips or Goldfish crackers may be easier to throw in a lunchbox than sliced apples or pears, there are things we just shouldn’t be willing to forego for our kids. There are easy ways to sneak in some additional nutrition with lunch. A wrap instead of a sandwich can house some vegetables. Yogurt and fruit can easily take the place of chips and cookies. Healthy eating habits are what we want instilled in our children from the youngest of ages. It will make a difference in the choices they make for themselves later on and it’s certainly worth the extra effort.

Let’s catch up with school lunches and make sure our kids are eating right — not only when they’re at home — but in the middle of their busy school days as well!

http://dailydigestnews.com/2014/11/packed-lunches-are-often-more-unhealthy-than-school-lunches-report-finds/

New research shows smoking habits can be curbed with Omega-3s

omega 3Whether you’re trying to kick the habit or trying to help a loved one or a friend, there’s great new research out that links a simple supplement to curbing smoking habits.

Taking omega-3 supplements reduces craving for nicotine and even reduces the number of cigarettes that people smoke a day, according to a new study conducted at the University of Haifa. “The substances and medications used currently to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with. The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” said Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa’s school of criminology department and of the psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar-Ilan, who conducted this study.

Chronic exposure to smoke-derived toxicants is the primary cause of progressive pulmonary and immune dysfunctions, as well as carcinogenesis Cigarette smoking is connected not only to cardiovascular dysfunction, immune system dysfunction and cancer, it also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain, especially that of omega-3. A deficiency in omega-3 damages the cellular structure of nerve cells and interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction. These areas are essential in reward and decision-making, and are very important in the process of the development, maintenance and relapseof the addiction and to the inability to stop smoking. In simpler terms, omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker’s body to deal with its craving for another cigarette. “Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress. Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke. It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking. Despite all this, the connection between all these factors had not been studied until now,” Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar said.

The current study adhered to a strict methodology (double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled) and included forty-eight smokers aged eighteen to forty-five who smoked at least ten cigarettes a day during the previous year, and an average of fourteen cigarettes a day. They were diagnosed as having a moderate dependency on nicotine. In total, the average age of the participants was twenty-nine and the average age they began smoking was under eighteen (in other words, they had been smoking for an average of eleven years). The participants were divided into two groups: One group received omega-3 capsules — “Omega-3 950″ produced by Solgar who donated the capsules for the study; the second group received a placebo. The participants were asked to take five capsules a day for thirty days and in total reported taking more than ninety-four percent of the capsules. At no stage in the study were the participants asked to stop smoking.

The levels of nicotine craving and consumption were checked using a series of scales regarding various aspects related to smoking urges, such as lack of control over tobacco use, anticipation of relief and satisfaction from smoking, and to the number of cigarettes smoked each day. These levels were measured at the beginning of the study, after thirty days (of treatment) and after sixty days (i.e., thirty days after stopping to take the capsules). Each time the study participants were tested they abstained from smoking for two hours and were then exposed to smoking-related cues images in order to stimulate their craving for nicotine.

The findings show that while no difference was found between the groups at the beginning of the study, after thirty days the smokers who had taken omega-3 reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an eleven-percent decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. After another thirty days of not taking anything, cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than their initial level. In other words, the craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping to take the supplement. In the meantime, the group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked a day during the sixty days.

According to Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar, the finding that people who were not interested in stopping to smoke showed such a significant change reinforces the assumption that taking omega-3 can help smokers to regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking. Further research will indicate whether the supplement is also effective in stopping to smoke.

FoodFacts.com knows that most in our community are exceptionally health conscious and aware. But we all know people who have had a problem quitting smoking. It’s not an easy challenge and many of those we love can’t seem to overcome their addiction. This is great information to pass on. Omega-3 supplements are relatively inexpensive and easy to incorporate into one’s lifestyle. You don’t need a prescription. You aren’t putting more nicotene into your system and you won’t be inhaling controversial ingredients. Omega-3 supplements to reduce smoking frequency — let’s make sure this one gets around!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141106101903.htm

Brains may need fat to delay aging

illustration-of-human-brainWe know that fat is exceptionally important to the development of young brains. Babies and young children need fat for proper growth. As we age, though, fat can have less positive effects on our bodies. And understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats helps us to become more aware of the importance of conscious eating. We read important information today regarding a possible link between a high-fat diet and brain aging that emphasizes the importance of healthy fats in our diets.

Brain aging can be delayed in mice if they are placed on a high-fat diet, according to a study conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the National Institute of Health.

It is normal for defects to appear in the nervous system as people age. Among these, the brain loses some of its intellectual capacity, and the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease increases.

Although human cells have a system for repairing damage to DNA, this repair function breaks down as we age.

This damage to DNA has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Cockayne syndrome – a premature aging disorder that results in death by the age of 10-12.

The new study uses a mouse model of Cockayne syndrome to investigate these defects to the DNA repair system.

Lead author Prof. Vilhelm Bohr – from the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health – describes the team’s findings:

“The study is good news for children with Cockayne syndrome, because we do not currently have an effective treatment. Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone [the] aging processes.”

“A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain. The findings, therefore, potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge,” he adds.

The researchers explain that sugar and “ketones” are sources of energy that our brains require a constant supply of. When blood sugar is low, ketones are produced by the body breaking down fat.

The researchers found that the mice with Cockayne syndrome benefited from having an extra supply of similar brain fuel, provided here in the form of medium-chain fatty acids from coconut oil.

Although the researchers did not provide Medical News Today with data on the extent of the improvement in the mice with Cockayne syndrome, Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, from the National Institute of Health, further explains the results.

“In cells from children with Cockayne syndrome,” he says, “we have previously demonstrated that aging is a result of the cell repair mechanism being constantly active.”

“It eats into the resources and causes the cell to age very quickly,” Scheibye-Knudsen adds. “We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage.”

FoodFacts.com is reminded that not all fats need to be avoided. Our bodies need the good ones. And according to this important information, our brains can especially benefit.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285067.php