Beyonce Promotes Vegan Diet. Tricked by Her Trainer.

BeyonceNothing against Beyonce. Look at her. Talented, beautiful, rich, the new Black feminist, works the Power Couple, not excessively vulgar like Miley Cyrus. I just don’t like it when well-meaning celebs put the public in harms way.

Today, I wrote an article for Diets In Review, “Beyonce’s New Vegan Diet Can be Delivered to Your Door. But is it Worth It?” Beyonce is promoting veganism because her trainer has her ear. See the article to understand.

Vegans don’t eat any meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or milk products. (Beyonce tacked on gluten, soy, and GMO restrictions too.) Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian? (add eggs and dairy) You bet! Pescetarian? (add fish) Flexitarian? (add a little meat) Bring ’em on! (I was actually an Ovo-Lacto Vegetariam since before Beyonce was born. See What the Hippies Knew.) But vegans? That’s just dangerous. Please be careful.

Bottom Line: Just eat more vegetables, legumes and whole grains and cut the processed foods. And don’t take nutrition advice from celebrities and personal trainers.

Your thoughts? Have you considered going vegan? Did you do it?

My Grandmother, the Chicken Killer

Ninja Chicken
“Eat only the animals you kill.”
Yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant with my 94-year old aunt, Jean, she told me that her mother, my grandmother, was an exceptionally skilled chicken killer.
(From living in Brooklyn, I know that backyard chickens are all the rage.)

Mary:  Really, did my grandmother raise chickens?
Jean:  No, she killed chickens as a favor to the neighbors.
Mary:  Where did she get the live chickens to kill?
Jean: The man sold live chickens off the truck. Chickens in cages were loaded onto a flatbed truck then driven into the neighborhoods.
Mary: Why didn’t my grandmother buy chicken at the store?
Jean: That was expensive, and she knew these chickens were fresh.
(Mary: FRESH? I guess. She had to kill the damn thing! Nowadays, people won’t even touch a raw chicken, let along MURDER it.)
Mary:  So, what was this skill? How did she actually kill a chicken?
Jean: She would feel around the neck and SNAP it in the right place. It was so fast. She pulled the head away from the body.

Backyard chicken lovers, let’s take this relationship to the next level!
How to kill a chicken*

“The recommended neck dislocation method is to grasp the bird’s legs in one hand (usually the left), holding the legs at about waist level, and the head in the other hand going diagonally across your body down to below your right hip. The beak should protrude between your first two fingers and, gripping tightly, you use the heel of your palm against its upper neck to provide the necessary pivot. In the one movement, you’re supposed to wrench downward (that is, up with the legs, down with the head) and twist the head sharply up and back. There should be an audible click of dislocation; however, a very strong may pull the head right off, which would be rather upsetting. If you practice beforehand (perhaps on an already deceased chicken), you will certainly know what force to use as well as if you possess  the strength to do it.”

But wait (sorry) there’s more. The bird gets decapitated and eviscerated with the skill of a surgeon. Then the chicken gets dunked in scalding water followed by an ice bath to make feather plucking easier. Finally, the chicken is cooked very quickly before rigor mortis sets in.

Just think, that was only eighty years ago and, still, many, if not most, people around the world kill the meat they eat. At least they know it’s fresh.

Your thoughts? Would you eat meat if you had to kill it first?

My Favorite Christmas Gift (Orange You Glad?)

Citrus Fruit Gift BoxMy favorite gift is one that disappears. Eat it, drink it, burn it, rub it on the skin, throw it away like a withered bouquet.  Just make it go.

Tops on my list is a box of seasonal fruit, straight from the farm. Aromatic and soooo delicious; it’s peak season for citrus fruits: red grapefruit, clementines, Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons. Super foods, as they say. I really mean it.

That’s what told Joan Wickham on a sweaty scorcher of a day last summer. Joan is the manager of advertising and public relations.for the Sunkist Growers. We met at The Capital Grille on E 42nd Street during her visit from Los Angeles. Sunkist a citrus growers’ cooperative of 6,000 members from California and Arizona. They are the largest fresh produce shipper in the United States.

Citrus Gifts

Joan presented me with a mesh bag of variegated pink Eureka lemons. (Sunkist calls their Pink Variegated Lemonsvariety “Zebra”.) It has green and off-white stripes on the outside and a pink flesh inside. Sporadically, pink lemons are available winter through mid-summer. They are a perfect garnish for cocktails. Look for them where Melissa’s Farm Fresh Produce is sold – and in fine bars. The variegated pink is a mutant variety first discovered on an ordinary Eureka lemon tree in a Burbank home garden around 1930.

As for my favorite Fresh Citrus Gift Box, California citrus can be ordered from farms such as Shields Date Garden and Pearson Ranch and, of course, on Amazon. To guide your choice, Sunkist makes a varietal chart of all the California citrus fruits available by month.

Lékué Citrus MisterAnd here is citrus gift, that doesn’t disappear, but gets a pass for being so darn practical and cute. It is the Lékué Citrus Mister I saw demonstrated at several cooking events this year. Just pop the mister right into the fruit to spritz salads, seafood, cocktails, your hair, the room, and more. The gadget is so much fun to pass around the table.

My citrus gift to you is this recipe for Grapefruit Avocado Salad, my favorite winter salad. It was first served to me at the Zuck’s dinner table and now, I make it all the time. Add pomegranate seeds to dress it up for Christmas and spritz the avocado to stay green.

Your thoughts: What’s your favorite holiday gift?

Double-Double Gratitude, Happy Thanksgivukkah!

A Turkey-shaped Challah

A Turkey-shaped Challah

This year, I think I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jewish home because I don’t want to miss out on Thanksgivukkah. That’s the pop culture portmanteau neologism for the first day of Hanukkah that falls on Thanksgiving this year. (Such a phrase! Oy, the fun!)

This is the first and only Thanksgivukkah in our lifetimes. The next one is 70,000 years from now. Since both holidays are about giving thanks, it’s double-double gratitude happy happy joy joy, 2X the love.

The Thanksgivukkah Meal

A Thanksgivukkah menu combines the best foods from both holidays: Manizchewitz-brined turkey….challah stuffing….pumpkin pie with caraway and seeds in the crust. The Internet is a cornucopia of creative and healthy Thanksgivukkah recipes. My favorites are from Christine Byrne for BuzzFeed who has nine original recipes that combine the best foods from both holidays for us. I am considering these recipes:

Your thoughts, Will you be celebrating Thanksgivukkah? What’s for dinner? 

Blackberries Are Here!

Here up north, the Farmer’s Markets are filled with blackberries this week. I sing their praises because, for thousands of years, humans have used blackberries for medicine and food.

Stills: Say, can I have some of your purple berries?
Crosby: Yes, I’ve been eating them for six or seven weeks now, haven’t got sick once.
Stills: Probably keep us both alive.

A Blackberry Tale*

During the Civil War more deaths were caused by disease than by wounds, and of disease deaths, about half were caused by intestinal disorders, mainly diarrhea, dysentery and  typhoid fever. In fact, 995 of 1,000 Union soldiers contracted dysentery. The cure for dysentery was blackberry tea because blackberries are a powerful astringent that limits bodily secretions, and more than one cease fire was called for the purpose of picking blackberries. Confederate and Union soldiers stopped to pick blackberries together, often from the same bush at the same time, only to start fighting again when the dysentery was cured.

Blackberry Nutrition

Of all the berries, blackberries are the most nutritious. They contain the most ellagic acid, a phenolic compound with anti-carcinogen, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. They are loaded with gallic acid, rutin, and anthocyanins (blue pigments) as well, all powerful antioxidants that help to protect human cells against oxidative damage. Besides fighting cancer cells, they control circulatory disorders, enhance night vision, and have too many additional therapeutic roles to mention. Blackberries are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, manganese, copper, and omega-3 fatty acid-like molecules. And all of that for only 60 calories per cup, a true high “nutrient density” food.

Here are some ways to enjoy blackberries:
Blackberry Spinach Salad (All Recipes.)
Blackberry Mint Iced Tea (Driscoll’s)
Old Bachelor’s Jam and  Old Bachelor’s Jam and Blackberry Tart (Martha Stewart)

Your thoughts: Do you have a blackberry recipe to share with my readers? Thanks!

*Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference Guide by Kelby Ouchley

Fruit Pouches and Foie Gras

I knew they were Trouble with a capital T when I first saw them at a trade show. Have you seen the plastic pouches of squeezable fruit being marketed to kids? It is literally puréed fruit (well, a bit of vegetable, grain, or milk may walk through) in a plastic disposable pouch for preschoolers to eat on the run. This New York Times article, Putting the Squeeze on a Family Ritual, made me sick.
Puréed Fruit is Fabulous Food

Puréed fruit is delicious on yogurt and ice cream and it is perfect for shakes, cocktails, vinegars, shrubs, fruit soups, muffins and cakes and as a sauce for meat, fish, eggs and cheese. It is indispensable in French jellies pastes, mousse cakes and mascarpone creams, but to pour it down a toddler’s throat? Non, non and non!

Missed Opportunities

Realize this: Children NEED to chew. The formation of the jaw and the muscles of the face depends on chewing. And children NEED to sit-down to eat meals and snacks to learn what and how to eat and how to socialize at the family table. If an over-pouched child were to present for a behavioral feeding  assessment, the parents would lose points for (1) substituting easy “stand-in food” for structured meals and snacks; (2) making use of developmentally inappropriate food textures; and (3) adding too much simple sugar to the diet.  Sucking sugar also destroys the teeth.

Q: How is a toddler strapped in a stroller sucking on fruit pouch like a “foie gras” goose?”
A: Both are force fed simple carbohydrates while being denied exercise. 

“Foie gras” is French for “fat liver.” Geese and ducks are fed carbohydrates until their livers expand full of fat that tastes like yummy butter. A goose can be gorged with gavage feeding or left to gorge naturally on fruit. The Romans fed their geese dried figs to make foie gras. And so, if you see a fruit sucking preschooler develop fatty liver in a few years, remember you heard it from me first. But, please, don’t let it happen!

Your thoughts: Is this a New York thing or do kids everywhere have fruit pouches?

Watch Stephen Colbert blow the truthiness whistle on fruit pouches in “Thought for Food.”

How I Use Calories on the Menu

Yesterday, at a rest stop in New Jersey, standing in the combined line for Cinnabon, Popeyes and others, waiting to pay for the blueberry-granola-and (un)real yogurt that I always get, I spied a “MiniBon” roll and mentioned that, calorie-wise, it was better than the classic. (The Cinnabon Classic has 880 calories, while the Minibon has 350 calories per roll.)  My daughter and the woman standing ahead of me, both in their 20s and of slim/normal weight, admitted they had no idea of the number of calories they need. Neither one seemed the worse for the lack of information, but I gave them a tiny lesson on calories (and told them never to “diet.”)

Later that night, I read this on the Intuitive Eaters Professionals Group on Linked-In:
“The other day I went to a restaurant for lunch with friends and was surprised to see calorie counts next to each menu item. My friends, both fairly health conscious “normal” eaters, didn’t seem to mind, but did remark on the counts. I was bothered because I found that the counts drew me away from eating intuitively and back to my days, half a lifetime ago, of dieting. I had to force myself not to look at them and then was okay. My question is: Are menu item calorie counts helpful or not? Might they be useful for different populations, i.e., okay for “normal” eaters who want to eat more nutritiously but not so much for anyone who leans toward dis-regulated eating?”

Calories on the Menu

Expect to see calories on the menu in restaurants with 20 or more outlets as part of the Affordable Care Act upheld by the Supreme Court last week. Restaurants and movie theaters must post calorie information on menus, menu boards, and drive through displays, and provide written information about total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and protein upon request.

For people like my daughter and the woman in line, the information will be meaningless, but for others, it may be extremely informative or downright disconcerting. As a longtime registered dietitian, intuitive eating practitioner, and former dieter over thirty years ago, I think a “calorie information free menu” should be available to anyone upon request, no questions asked. (Heaven forbid the Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court for alleged “actual harm” coming from calories on the menu!) Anyway, I live in New York City where calories have been on the menu since 2008. Real-world studies show that, as a public health intervention, it has only a modest reduction or no effect in the calories purchased by customers. In time, the issue could be a moot point.

For what it’s worth, this is what I told my daughter and the woman in line about how I approach calories on the menu:

  • Women need about 2,000 calories a day and men need around 2,400.*
  • When the calorie count is high – say greater than 20% of the daily total or 400 calories – look askance
  • Decide if the extra calories are from too much wholesome food or from “empty calories” full of added sugar and/or animal fats but with negligible nutrients.
  • For wholesome food, I split the serving with my companion or carry away half, and for empty calories, I decide if I love it enough and have to have it right then. (Luckily, I’m not impulsive.) If yes, then I have it; if no, then I skip it. But if I were to feel guilty or otherwise, awful, I’d ask why and think of it as a growth opportunity.

Righteous indignation seems to fuels me. You can’t get me to eat most of the crap sold in American chain restaurants. I don’t value filling my body with junkie food. I am attracted to fresh food well prepared, mostly by me. Usually, I’m sated at don’t care about dessert. If I really want dessert, then I eat it only a little at the meal.

Your thoughts: What do you think about calories on the menu?

*To find your calorie requirements, use this chart from the government or use a calculator fromany one of the online diet websites.

Pushing Sugary Cereals on Kids

True story: I’m driving in the car with my 4 year old daughter, Liza, when “Happy Together” by The Turtles’ comes on the radio. I sing, “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you. For all my life…When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue. For all my life…” That’s when Liza faces me with puzzled look and says, “But where’s the part about the complete breakfast?” Punk’d! TV advertising to kids! She’s talking about the 1980’s Golden Grahams Cereal Commercial. Golden Grahams, those toasted squares of whole wheat and corn sweetened with honey and brown sugar, with 3.6 teaspoons of sugar in a mere ¼ cup.

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University recently issued a follow-up to their 2009 report, Cereal FACTS. They found the cereals most aggressive advertized to children rank at the bottom in in terms of nutrition and at the top in added sugars. In 2011, the average 6- to 11-year-old saw more than 700 TV ads for cereals, or almost 2 ads every day, and the preschoolers saw nearly as many. The majority of cereal ads seen by children are for products consisting of one-third or more sugar. A bowl o’ sugar, indeed!

The funny thing is that, in 2009, the big three cereal companies – General Mills, Kellogg and Post – pledged to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative – the food industry’s self-regulatory program – to improve the nutritional quality of cereals marketed directly to children and to advertise the healthier cereals. Three years later, the companies did improve nutrition somewhat in many kid’s cereals, but total media spending on child-targeted cereals increased by 34% and most ads were for the least nutritious products.

Honestly, people, the food industry is not going to police itself! Vote with your wallet to save you family. Feed kids spoon-size shredded wheat, Cheerios, Kashi Go Lean, oatmeal, and other cereals that are high in fiber but low in sugar, fat and sodium, and free of saturated- and trans-fat. Ideally, one serving of a good cereal will provide no more than 8 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fat, and 140 mg of sodium, but with about 5 grams of fiber and a whole grain listed as the first ingredient. Fortified cereals provide significant nutrients, but fortification does not supply all of the nutrients in whole grains. And remember, cereal is made healthier by adding milk and fruit.

Read a summary of the Yale Rudd Center report, Cereal FACTS 2012: A Spoonful of Progress in a Bowl Full of Unhealthy Marketing to Kids.

Your thoughts: What have you noticed about cereal and kids?

Jon Stewart: Milk – It Does A Body Bad?

Milk is being vilified for no good reason. I think it started in 1985 when Neal D. Barnard, M.D. founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a vocal vegan advocacy group. PCRM does many good things, but I don’t agree with the way they bully milk.  Look at their anti-cheese billboards in Albany, New York. Vulgar and silly. People the world over enjoy cheese, a natural fermented food, in moderation.

I can see wanting cows to eat grass instead of corn. And humane treatment of animals goes without saying  And I would feed organic milk to toddlers. But Barnard called cheese “dairy crack.” Come on! How could milk be such a problem when it is the mainstay of so many primitive diets? The Maasai tribe in Kenya, the Todas of Southern India, the Kazaks of Central Asia? No milk, they die.

And so, that had been my long-held belief, and then I saw this precious video on the website of dietitian, Katherine Tallmadge.  She appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” as a “lactose sympathizer” and I’d say that Jon Stewart is a sympathizer too. Watch “Milk: It Does A Body Bad.”  Enjoy!

The Sleazy World of Diet Products

From time-to-time, I am asked by a manufacturer, public relations firm, or editor of a nutrition website to review a new diet product.  I usually follow Mom’s advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, I let the reader know if the product is harmful or unproven to work but, otherwise, I focus on the positive and keep it lite. To see what I mean, check out my article, Vaportrim Claims Smell can Trick Your Brain Into Being Full, for Diets in Review.

But I just have to share what I found out in doing a little background check on Vaportrim.  As it turns out, in my humble opinion, the product is a small part of an immoral force. The patent for Vaportrim is held by a man who owns the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, a pay-per-minute porno site that services about 2,000 people a day at $11.95 a pop. He also owns the Real Touch virtual sex device to go along for the ride.

Internet porn is a serious new problem. It is highly addictive and it creates an inability for users to be turned on by real partners. Read about how Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem in Psychology Today.

And so, the next time you see an ad for a silly diet product, consider that it may be tied to a nefarious operation.

Your thoughts: Are you surprised by what I’ve said?