Rethinking Soda at the Movies

soda at the MoviesSince I choose to do those things that amuse me most, I find myself in lots of crazy places. A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Brooklyn Independent Television’s show, Intersect, talking about Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink limit with host Brian Vines and fellow guest Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. At minute 23:05, I talk Brian Vine out of thinking big portions of soda at the movies are a bargain. Here is our conversation:

BV:   I was just at the movies two weeks ago and split a, what had to be a 60-ounce something, between the two of us. The thing was gone, and this was the debate we had afterwards, that if the mayor would have had his thing, we would’ve had to buy two drinks – and I believe in my health, but I more than that, I am cheaper than I am healthy – so we would have had to buy two different drinks to get the same thing, but we wouldn’t even be allowed to buy the thing if this law passed. So it hits you in the pocketbook because cheap food is usually bad food…
MH:   That’s not food. DON’T CALL THAT FOOD!
BV:   What is it then? It’s empty calorie things….
MH:   It’s empty calorie stuff. You cannot compare….
BV:   Cheap drinks. It’s enjoyment. It’s cheaper though….
MH: Well, for instance, I’m a fun gal, but one thing about me is I do not order anything at the movies. I have unhooked the idea that sitting in a movie means eating. Talk about cheap! I’m not going to that concession stand. I’m not buying any of that stuff!
BV: It’s relative. (laugh)
MH: So let’s get it all straightened out, okay, and that’s what the dialogue is about. It’s testing those ideas people have: “I need my soda!”  Well, why do you need your soda?
BV: Thank you for unhooking me, because it’s not cheap. Soda isn’t cheap at the movies.

Your thoughts: Will Brian Vine quit drinking soda at the movies?

A Bad Week for Fake Nutrition

Ask Me About Girl Scout CookiesThe food industry is on to “nutrition” as a buzz word, and it’s already out of control. “Functional Foods,” foods with a function to deliver nutrients they don’t normally contain, were on my radar twice this week: first, in the form of a new Girl Scout cookie, MANGO CRÈMES WITH NUTRIFUSION™, that DietsInReview.com asked me to see, and second, in VITAMIN WATER that is nutritious – or not –  as Stephen Colbert explains.

 MANGO CRÈMES WITH NUTRIFUSION™

The Girl Scout bakery invented a new cookie, sans the trans fat and preservatives, pumped up with (only) 15% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) for vitamin B1 and 5% for vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6  – no mind to the hundreds and hundreds of other nutrients we need – and called it “a delicious new way to get your vitamins!”  Not so fast. Those cookies have as much sugar and saturated fat as other cookies, and as an aside, they are mango-less, but since they are made with the dehydrated juice of cranberries, pomegranates, oranges, grapes, and strawberries, I can’t complain. Just don’t say cookies are health food. Say, “Hey, we’d like you to try a new cookie and support the Girl Scouts.” That will suffice.

VITAMIN WATER

The Coca-Cola company is defending its Vitamin Water product against deceptive claims. Colbert connects the fake nutrition dots. How bad can it get?

Your thoughts: Are you confused by fake nutrition claims?

We Need to Talk About Pizza

Pizza sliceFist bump

Today, I’m on a mission to simplify the challenge of reducing sodium intake in America. I am inspired by the Heart Association’s (AHA) sodium awareness campaign, the Sodium Swap Challenge, launched this week. AHA wants us to know about the “Salty Six” – bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meat, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches – common foods that are loaded with sodium – and then they ask us to cut back at the rate of two foods per week to change our acquired taste for salt in 21 days.

Kudos to AHA for a noble effort. Excess salt is associated with high blood pressure, a modifiable risk factor for stroke. And because sodium holds onto excess fluid, it can make us puffy and bloated. (Stop right there!) On average, Americans eat 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day; however, the dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 mg and only 1,500 mg if you are 51 or older, have a cardiovascular condition, or are African-American.

First I Look at the Pizza

Back to simplification. Bread sales are down, as are canned soup sales, but the pizza market is growing. Cheese consumption has quadrupled since the 1950s. That’s because it’s on the pizza. The average American eats 10 pizza pies – 23 pounds of pizza – a year; 94 percent of us eat pizza (at least) once a month; 41 percent eat pizza (at least) once a week. Kids ages 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other foods.

Pizza is the go-to food for busy people. People who wouldn’t dream of dinner at McDonald’s think nothing of ordering a pizza or two. Do they know that a Big Mac with medium fries has 1310 milligrams of sodium, while the same weight of pepperoni pizza has 3249 milligrams?!! One pizza meal has enough sodium (and saturated fat) for two days.

Pizza is an amalgam of bread, cured meat (36% of pizzas are pepperoni), cheese, and tomato sauce, four top sodium foods from the Centers for Disease Control’s Top Sources of Sodium in the Diet, a better list.  To simplify sodium reduction, pizza-eating families and singles should look to pizza.

I’m glad we talked.

Your thoughts: Do you know anyone who eats too much pizza?

My Thoughts on Sarah Palin’s Diet Book

Mary Hartley as Sarah Palin

Yesterday, ABC News asked me for a quote about Sarah Palin’s new diet book. (The quote was not used.) I guess Palin’s book will be out soon, even though last October, People magazine couldn’t say if Palin had a contract or when the book would be published.

According to several news outlets, Palin said her book advocates “a balanced approach to weight loss” focusing on “self-discipline as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods.”  Of me, the ABC writer asked, “Is it OK to indulge once in a while?” and “Is this a good approach to weight loss?” To the first question, I answered, “Yes; only a control freak would not indulge once in awhile.” To the second question, I said, “Dunno.”

I do say this: Never take nutrition or medical advice from a celebrity.

Sarah Palin is no authority on diet and fitness, but she does have a loyal following and enough gawkers to sell a book. And then there’s the diet-crazed crowd. Get that book on the shelves by January 1st.

Sarah has lost some weight since she was a household name in 2008. She espouses a low-carb-, lean-protein-style diet, and so I presume that will be her focus. She drinks a “skinny white-chocolate mocha” for breakfast, and so I guess that is her indulgence. For decades, Sarah has been a distance runner, which accounts, in part, for her trim physique.

Without reviewing what Sarah actually eats, I cannot say whether her diet is wholesome and balanced. There are countless routes to a balanced diet. For instance, an Inuit does not eat like a Bantu, yet both native diets are correct.

I’m glad Sarah is happy with her own eating style, and as long as she meets her daily requirements for protein, carbohydrate, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds with nutrient-like activity that are known and still unknown, it doesn’t really matter whether she focuses on low-carb or low-fat. That’s because total calories matter most when it comes to weight control.

The Palin family’s food choices don’t have to be yours. Every individual needs to find his own style in terms of personal preferences, resources and “life-style.” (Not my favorite term)  For me, moose stew doesn’t work, and I doubt if Sarah has tried my Portuguese Kale Soup.

Your thoughts: Would you read Sarah Palin’s diet book?

The Goddess Served Vegetables

Well, kiss this cook and worship at my altar because I serve vegetables every chance I get.

Professor Brian Wansink of “Mindless Eating” fame, head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand lab, published a new study in the online journal Public Health Nutrition showing that smart preparation and presentation of a vegetable entrée boosts a diner’s perception of the person who prepared it.

Wansink asked 500 American mothers ranging in age from 18 to 65 years, with two or more children under age 18, to cook and serve meals with and without vegetables. The diners were then asked to evaluate cook who made the meals by choosing from a list of 12 attributes, such as “selfish” or “loving”.

Results showed that many more positive descriptors were used for the cooks who served vegetables. Vegetable servers were labeled “thoughtful”, “attentive” and “capable”, while non-servers were “neglectful”, “selfish” and “boring”. Overall, the inclusion of a vegetable created a better perception of the cook and of the meal as well.

Presently in the United States, vegetables are served as part the evening meal only 23 percent of the time. That’s a lost opportunity for sure. If you want to be a hero in your own kitchen, just add veggies to your meals. There’s no need to mention the nutritional benefits they give.

Check out this tasty and pretty way to eat cauliflower given to me by reader Lillie Zuck:
Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt Recipe

Your thoughts: Are you admired for your vegetables recipes? Share your favorites.

Thanksgiving Stuffing and You

I hope you haven’t begun to feast because I have a few words for you. Kara Quillard of GalTime asked Yours Truly for sage Thanksgiving advice.  Kara really knows how to turn a phrase: throw a turkey touchdown, stretch your muscles…not your pants. That gal’s time is steeped in pop culture! And so, to use Kara’s words, “when you find yourself inches away from a glorious Thanksgiving feast and your eyes grow bigger than your stomach, remember these tips to” Avoid Stuffing Yourself at Thanksgiving. Happy Day!

Your thoughts: What are your Thanksgiving anti-stuffing tips?

Eat Only the Junk Food That You Make

Hey, Twinkies, don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Boxes of Twinkies are selling for $100 on eBay since Hostess shut down last week. Why people ever ate Twinkies is a mystery to me.

Look at the ingredient list:
Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40. (Yuck!) 

But the chemicals in Twinkies are not my gripe. (After all, the FDA says they’re safe.) I take umbrage at the ease with which Twinkies move from thought-form to down the hatch. Those 300 calories in two Twinkies should not come so easily. It’s best to earn your Twinkies by making them a hassle.

How to Travail in Twinkies

Go to the store to buy the canoe pan and creme injector, and another store to purchase the ingredients. Measure, sift, heat milk, melt butter, and separate eggs. Beat the bajesus out of the whites and then the yolks, fold, and scrape the batter into the molds. Beat the butter, sugar and Marshmallow Fluff and pour it into the injector. Pipe it into the little holes you make through the middle of each cake. (Good luck with that.) And while you’re at it, be sure the cake doesn’t collapse and absorb the filling. Now clean the kitchen, and consider how you’ve burned the 300 calories you are about to eat. Plus, your Twinkies are chemical-free.

Your thoughts: Isn’t my policy great?

Here’s a Twinkies Recipe. Knock yourself out.

Adult Gummie Vitamins Save the Day

Have you noticed the explosion of gummy vitamins?  Every brand seems to make them now. I am most familiar with Nature Made, a company dedicated to demanding safety and quality standards. They introduced me to their new lines of supplements – Adult Gummies, Full Strength Minis, and VitaMelts – but today I am recommending the adult gummies because they saved the day – twice.

Case One
My 92 year old aunt needs vitamins. Her weight matches her age. This is Aunt Jean, not Aunt Pauline, who was helped a bit when Sugar-free Peeps Saved the Day. Aunt Jean cannot eat much because she has achalasia, a condition that affects the ability of her esophagus to move food toward the stomach, and so she has difficulty swallowing solids. She has had surgery and medications, but this is the best she can do. She clearly doesn’t eat enough, but I’m just the friendly visitor, not the Boost® police. Plus, she is picky, picky, picky. Her longevity is definitely not related to eating a balanced diet.
Aunt:      “Should I take these vitamins? Do they smell bad? They’re big”.
Me:         “You smell the minerals and, yes, those vitamins are too big. I recommend a multivitamin-mineral supplement that smells and tastes like candy. You can chew it.”
Aunt:      “I want that those.”
Me:         (Note to self: Picky eaters always like candy. Also, Nature Made describes their gummies as, “…mouth-watering, real fruit flavors like peach, mango and orange that taste like real fruit, not candy.”  I guess they had to say that.)

Case Two
My 29 year old daughter, Liza, has perfect health and a wonderful diet. (See A Whole Lotta Grain Goin’ On.) But – Liza is a preschool teacher surrounded by kids with colds. Back at school, week-one, she already has a cold. (Don’t give it to me!)  Perhaps a multivitamin-mineral supplement would help, if not for the nutrients, then for the affirmative action of taking it. Caveat: Liza does not swallow vitamin pills.
Me:         “Here, take this bottle of Nature Made Adult Gummies. I got it as a gift.”
Liza:       (90 days later and cold-free) I finished that bottle of vitamins. Do you have more?
Me:         “I don’t, but you can buy them in any drug store. Here is a coupon for $2 off.”

Conclusion:   Adult Gummies saved the day – twice.  As for me, I take Nature Made Full Strength Mini Multi for Her 50+. I have no problem swallowing little pills.

Your thoughts: Do you take a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement?

Don’t Forget About Walnuts!

I can’t seems to get enough of one of my favorite winter foods: Walnut Stuffed Figs. It’s a Portuguese favorite my mother used to make when I was a little girl.
Here’s the recipe:
Take a dried, but not too dry, fig (Kadota or Calimyrna, I guess.) Cut the fig in half and press as many walnuts as you can into each half. Put the fig sandwich together and mash it down with the heel of your hand. Roll it sugar (this part is unnecessary unless you have a sweet tooth like me but, rest assured, no more than ¼ teaspoon of sugar sticks to each fig) and eat. How simple is that?

I’ve been eating two Walnut Stuffed Figs with a Greek yogurt for breakfast, or lunch, or whatchamacallit. (I’m not the structured type.)  At 110 calories each, they’re quite filling and mad nutritious, full of calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, and pantothenic acid, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3), anti-oxidants, and nutrition pigments. (You can skip your supplement for the day.)  Walnut stuffed figs may be wrapped in bacon or topped with Gorgonzola cheese, which is not for everyday, but here are the recipes:

Remember Walnuts!

Full disclosure: the California Walnut Commission has wined and dined me a few times this year. Those guys know how to host a classy event!  It’s hard to believe that walnuts need a promo because who could have a problem with walnuts? But I guess people forget about them and they don’t know how nutritious walnuts are. That’s too bad because walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that protect against heart disease and diabetes, and they maintain sperm quality, with fewer chromosomal abnormalities, in older men. (I mention this because I know a lot of late 20- and early 30-somethings who are delaying childbearing and, so, guys, take it from me, keep eating walnuts.) Dr. Wendie Robbins, from the UCLA School of Public Health, presented her walnuts-fertility research in Philadelphia at a FNCE dinner hosted by California Walnuts held at Supper, the wonderful ‘New American’ restaurant. Nom nom nom, walnuts with every course.

You must visit the California Walnuts Commission’s recipe page for inspiration. I recommend these two recipes only because I’ve made them and they are seasonal:

Random walnut fact: Do you know the name of the “classic walnut,” the principal variety marketed inshell? It’s the Hartley Walnut, the only variety that can stand vertically!

Your thoughts: How do you eat walnuts? Got a walnut recipe to share?

Whoa! That’s a Lot of Brands

The dietitian’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo last week overwhelmed me. Between them, FitBloggin, the Editor’s Cooking & Entertaining Showcase, and other food events in Manhattan, I am up to my neck in swag, branded promotional gifts. I have seen around 500 vendors in 17 days. Did I say I am overwhelmed?  Some products are fantastic (hello, Tupperware~) and others are unexpectedly cool (more about them later) but, overall, none was necessary. But someone, somewhere, has some job.

All in all, the food industry is about developing niche products out of something we already have. Take salt, for instance, simple and necessary. A biblical food. At one end, I met Real Salt, very nice people selling salt harvested from an ancient sea bed unrefined with 60 trace minerals. At the other end is Soda-Lo, also very nice people, who use nanotechnology to recrystalize salt into microscopic hollow crystals that are meant to reduce the salt in processed foods. Both brands (and others) claim to deliver an intense salty taste immediately and so, we need less to register a salty taste. Both companies seem to be telling the truth, as is my man, Alton Brown, who explains the taste of salt.

None of this matters to a body that can utilize salt in any form, from any source, and excrete the excess (when we are in good health.)  As for the teeny bit of 60 trace minerals? I get them in my wholesome food and vitamin-mineral supplement. And the nano-salt? I don’t eat much processed food and I guess nanos are okay….

I have to say that too many brands in too few days messed up my chi, but I am breathing in to restore peace. In the end, the experience left me seriously craving cabbage.

This is My Pledge to you: I will never write about a product unless I truly love it and I actually use it. And if I am paid to write to endorse anything, I will disclose it, and you may never know how I really feel. Full disclosure: No one paid me to mention cabbage.

Your thoughts:  What do you think about having so many brands on the market?