A blog of helpful tips and techniques for surviving as a Clean Eater in a non Clean Eating world. I'm working towards a clean diet, and want to share what I've learned along the way. I also occasionally write about gun and 2nd Amendment issues, so indulge me. Welcome to my blog!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Clear Honey ≠ Clean Eating Honey
If you love using honey as a natural sweetener, this news may come as a buzzkill: More than 75 percent of the honey sold in the U.S. isn’t the unadulterated form that most consumers expect, according to testing performed recently by Food Safety News. In fact, most honey sold in the United States is processed through major filtration that removes virtually all of the pollen naturally occurring in the product. This practice would flunk quality standards in many of the world’s food safety agencies; in other words, it’s not technically honey anymore.
The problem with removing these microscopic pollen particles is this: without the pollen, there’s really no way to trace where the honey originated, or if the source is safe and uncontaminated. (Previous reports have found honey laced with antibiotics and heavy metals.) And for this filtration to work, the honey is often heated, which can damage some of the natural products’ disease-fighting properties.
To analyze the state of honey sold in America, Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs, and plastic bears of honey in supermarkets, discount warehouses, big box stores, pharmacies, and honey packets served in mini-markets and fast-food joints in 10 states and the District of Columbia. An expert in pollen in honey from Texas A&M University studied the samples and found most had the pollen removed, making traceability impossible. However, honey sold at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and natural stores contained normal amounts of pollen.
This does not mean you should throw away that honey bear in your cupboard! Just be aware that like most things - when companies get their hands on products, the filtration and "purification" of the product for stability ( read: long shelf life ) purposes negates the inherent nutrition in the product.
The Workaround: If you want real honey, look for local sources and buy directly from the beekeeper. Go to a local farmer's market and buy directly from the person who harvested the honey. By knowing where your food comes from, you can ask about how the bees are treated and how the honey is processed. Sure, raw honey might not be crystal clear like the little honey bear bottles you see in the store, but it’s swimming in health-promoting antioxidants and left in its natural form, which is definitely a good thing when it comes to honey.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Six Meaningless Food Advertising Labels
The more involved you become with Clean Eating, the more sensitive you become to advertising tricks and techniques the big companies use to entice shoppers. Reading labels is crucial to Clean Eating; there is a certain level of "produced elsewhere" food that is almost necessary by default for people in America today; few of us can raise our own chickens, have an expansive garden to grow vegetables, and have an orchard at our disposal. Reading and understanding labels is an integral part of Clean Eating.
The following 6 psuedo-healthy food labels are actually meaningless, and when you see them liberally splashed across a package of food - you should question what you are eating.
Lightly-sweetened: Cereal packages often contain the phrase “lightly sweetened” to suggest less sugar. The Food and Drug Administration has regulations concerning the use of “sugar free” and “no added sugars” but nothing governing the claims “low sugar” or “lightly sweetened.” “Whether Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size is lightly sweetened should be determined by federal rules, not the marketing executives of a manufacturer,” says the C.S.P.I. report.
A good source of fiber: A number of food marketers now claim their products are a good source of fiber, but often the fiber doesn’t come from traditional sources — whole grains, bean, vegetables or fruit — known to have health benefits. Instead, food makers are adding something called “isolated fibers” made from chicory root or purified powders of polydextrose and other substances that haven’t been shown to lower blood sugar or cholesterol.
Strengthens your immune system: Through “clever wordsmithing,” food companies can skirt F.D.A. rules about health claims and give consumers the impression that a product will ward off disease. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice claims to “strengthen your immune system with a daily dose of vitamin C.” Green Giant offers an “immunity blend” of frozen vegetables. Nestle’s Carnation Instant Breakfast says it contains “Antioxidants to help support the immune system.”
Made with real fruit: Often the “real fruit” is found in small quantities and isn’t even the same kind of fruit pictured on the package. Tropical fruit flavored Gerber Graduates Fruit Juice Treats show pictures of fresh oranges and pineapple. But the main ingredients are corn syrup, sugar and white grape juice concentrate. Betty Crocker’s Strawberry Splash Fruit Gushers don’t contain strawberries — just pear concentrate.
Made with whole grains: Many products make a whole grain claim even though they often contain refined flour as the first ingredient and the amount of whole grains are minimal. Packages of Keebler’s Townhouse Bistro Multigrain Crackers boast they are made with “toasted whole wheat,” but the ingredient label shows the crackers contain more sugar than whole wheat.
All natural. Although the F.D.A. has issued several warning letters to firms making misleading “all natural” claims, the agency has never issued formal rules about the term, As a result, some products containing high fructose corn syrup claim to be “all natural.” One example is Minute Maid Premium All Natural Flavors Berry Punch. “Though glucose and fructose certainly occur in nature, the chemical conversions of cornstarch should not be considered natural,”
Thank you, New York Times
Monday, November 28, 2011
What is "Natural Flavor?"
so I went hunting for the answer.
Under the Code of Federal Regulation, natural flavor is defined as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, enzymolysis (biochemical decomposition of a substance), which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs , dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
Natural flavoring substances are obtained from plant or animal raw materials, containing no other artificial or added ingredients. Spices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as black pepper and basil do not have to be listed under its specific name. Additives can also be listed under natural flavoring because they might meet FDA definition standards, the extraction process consider flavorings man-made. In addition, spice extracts, essential oils, oleoresins, onion powder/juice, and garlic powder/juice are allowed to be labeled under “flavor” or “natural flavor.”
So - when you see the words "natural flavor" in an ingredient list - it isn't manufacturer doublespeak for something born in a lab. It is the essential essence of a Clean food item.
I actually feel a little bit better about that!
Source: Common Food Safety Questions - USDA website
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Grape Nuts Breakfast Bars: An Update
Last week, I posted a recipe for Grape Nuts Breakfast Bars, and I was really excited to make a tasty, hearty something I can eat while commuting to work each morning.
Well, I made them this weekend and I have some tweaks and tricks for you.
1. Line your baking dish with non-stick aluminum foil.
I just happened to line my dish with non-stick foil, and I'm super pleased that I did. Without the foil, I suspect the bars might have been a tad difficult to remove from the pan. Also - carefully score or cut the bars while they are cooling in the pan. They were much easier to cut into nice portions this way.
2. Moar Flavor!
As it happens, I added a lot of cinnamon to my applesauce before I mixed it, and I misread my ingredients and added 3 teaspoons of vanilla instead of 2. I'm certainly glad I did; without these 2 tweaks, I think they might have been a bit bland / overwhelmingly "Grape Nutty".
3. Raisins, Craisins, Almonds, and Walnuts
Pick and choose, one, two, or all 4. The bar recipe as it stands is good. A definitely welcome tweak would be the addition of a nut ( like chopped almonds or walnuts ) - for a textural contrast, a contrasting flavor to the heavy Grape Nuts and Raisins, and the added nutrition they bring to the bar.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Let's Play - "Guess What is In The Picture! "
What is shown in the picture above?
A) Strawberry ice cream
C) Plastic foam
D) None of the above
Folks, this is mechanically separated chicken, an invention of the late 20th century. Someone figured out in the 1960′s that meat processors can eek eke out a few more percent of profit from chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows by scraping the bones 100% clean of meat. This is done by machines, not humans, by passing bones leftover after the initial cutting through a high pressure sieve.
The paste you see in the picture above is the result.
This paste goes on to become the main ingredient in many a hot dog, bologna, chicken nuggets, pepperoni, salami, jerky etc…The industry calls this method AMR – Advanced Meat Recovery.
In 2004, as a result of mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ruled that beef could no longer be processed this way, because testing showed that parts of the bovine central nervous system ended up in the meat.
As for products using mechanically separated chicken and pork, FSIS ruled that they are safe to eat, but required them to be labeled as such.
Despite them being safe, FSIS states that no more than 20% of the meat in a hot dog come from mechanically separated pork.
What to do at the supermarket:
It’s always a better to choice to see a real cut of meat at the butcher counter in the supermarket and then decide what you want done with it. Buying something prepared in a factory, such as chicken nuggets, or hot dogs, you’ll always get the worst meat, and it will always be combined with additives and other sources of fat.
Thank you, Fooducate!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Reflecting on the good in your life is an important aspect of self awareness. Being mindful of the who, the what, the where of your life brings meaning to your existence and brings into focus what is important. Who is important. Expressing what is often called the "Attitude of Gratitude" is the mark of a conscious, fully formed person.
I'm constantly reminding my son to be gracious - to be grateful. To express his appreciation. He can be socially awkward, and occasionally brusque in his responses to people. I remind him to show his appreciation - to express genuine thankfulness for those people in his life who enhance him, who add to him. I encourage him to reach out and with an open heart, let the people he cares about know they matter, and he is grateful for their presence in his life.
We thank someone who holds open a door for us. We thank someone who lets us get in line ahead of them at the grocery store when we have 1 item, and they have 30. We thank a neighbor who helps rake leaves...
When do you stop to thank the people who help you be you? When do you stop to be genuinely appreciative of the fantastic people in your life? Those relationships that without, you know you'd be adrift?
As my dearest friend noted - Be thankful this Thanksgiving for people who will bear your burdens.
Changing your diet is easy. Its like committing to only putting 93 octane in your car's gas tank. "From now on - I'm only going to buy the good stuff!" Changing your attitude is the hard part. Changing your world view, your self view - that is the hard part.
One of my jobs at work is to distribute excess work around the office for the other engineers so they can lighten my work load. One of them has a habit of asking me "When is that ( the job I am bringing to him ) due?" When I tell him the due date, he invariably and predictably scoffs "Oh, I could be hit by a bus by then!" - implying he will get out of doing the job that way.
You could be hit by a bus tomorrow. I've known people who were here one day, and gone the next. It isn't a regular occurrence - but it does happen.
Be thankful today for the people in your life who allow you to be who you are - who have helped shape you and support you. Be thankful for the many blessings you have in your life. Health. Family. Money. Even if your health is so-so, your family is distant, and money elusive.
Because tomorrow, the Clean Eating you are doing will improve your health, you will realize that your family are the people you hold close to your heart and aren't blood relatives anyway, and money is simply green pieces of paper.
Thank you all so very much.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Cane Vinegar Chicken Thighs With Pearl Onions and Oranges
I'm a big fan of chef Hugh Acheson, and in his new cookbook A New Turn in the South he explores his combination of classic French techniques with all things Southern. Cane vinegar, which is made from sugar cane, is one of his favorite pantry ingredients for adding a malty, sweet-and-sour tang. If you can’t find cane vinegar, you can substitute malt or cider vinegar - but try to locate to locate cane vinegar. It is easier to find in Asian grocery stores, as it is a staple in Philippino cooking.
Cane Vinegar Chicken Thighs with Pearl Onions, Orange, and Spinach
- 4 chicken thighs, each weighing about 5 to 6 ounces (total of 2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorn
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 16 pearl onions, peeled
- 1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 cup cane vinegar
- 1 cup organic low sodium chicken stock
- 2 large navel oranges, separated into slices with membrane removed
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
- 2 cups cleaned spinach (stems removed)
Season the thighs with the salt and pepper.
In a wide and heavy bottomed pot that has a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the thighs, skin side down and let them sit in that pan WITHOUT moving them around for 7 minutes. You are encouraging good caramelization of that skin and developing a ton of flavor in the process. After 7 minutes turn the thighs over and add the onions, paprika, and garlic to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes and then add the vinegar, careful not to let it flame up.
This is a good time to get a spatula and loosen up all of those pan drippings. The vinegar needs to cook down by half, and when it does, add the stock. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes over low heat and then remove lid, adding oranges, mint, and spinach. Stir lightly and serve immediately.
If you'd like to see a video of his appearance on the Today Show, click here.
I can't get the video to embed in this post.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Fooducate: The Clean Eating App
What does it do? So glad you asked.
Take your phone to the store with you and using the App, scan the barcode you find on the package of food. Instantly you'll see information on that product - nutritional pluses and minuses, and some things to be wary of in the food you are holding. It's a perfect accompaniment for your grocery trips and will be helpful to anyone who might not be too label / ingredient savvy - or anyone ( like me! ) who wants that added confirmation you are buying a Clean product.
The actual scan for Post Cranberry Almond Crunch cereal is below:
Nifty! With this app, you'll be able to quickly and easily separate questionable foods in the grocery store from those that are Clean. Got a question? Scan that bar code.
Here's a quick video on how it works-
Ocean Spray Sparkling Beverages
Juices are a "hit or miss" Clean items. You have to be careful; so many these days have added High Fructose Corn Syrup ( HFCS ) or have such a low amount of actual juice in them, you are not getting the nutritive value for the amount of natural sugar you are consuming.
I was pleased to find Ocean Spray has recently come out with a line of sparkling flavored waters - flavored with real fruit juice. No added sugar, chemicals, or preservatives. It's the little bubbly drink I think I've been missing since soda and I broke up.
From Ocean Spray:
Ingredients: Grape and Cranberry juice from concentrate, sparkling water, fumaric and ascorbic acids, and "Natural flavor"
Note: fumaric acid is a naturally occurring ingredient that keeps the "fizziness" in sparkling water. Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C.
Another note: Stayed tuned about "natural flavor" - I did some research on the topic, and will post about it later in the week.
For the regular, non diet version of Ocean Spray Sparkling drinks, they have about 22 grams of sugar ( fructose ) per can. While these are naturally occurring sugars - you will want to keep this in mind, and perhaps only consume a can or 2 a week at the most.
I like finding products that will help me reach my Clean Eating goal. In the case of Ocean Spray Sparkling waters, it will be an occasional treat to indulge my Inner Soda Monster
Sunday, November 20, 2011
3 Clean Sauces to Serve with Chicken
Greek Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce
1/2 c Greek yogurt ( 0% fat , plain )
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 c cucumber without the peel, diced fine
1 tablespoon dill
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of salt
Mix together gently, and refrigerate for about 30+ minutes before serving over chicken
Creamy Dijon Sauce
After cooking chicken breasts in a frying pan with olive oil, add the following to the pan and boil for 2 minutes:
1 small diced shallot or 4-5 diced green onions
1/2 cup low sodium organic chicken broth
1 spring rosemary
Stir in 3 tablespoons whipping cream. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently
Remove from heat, discard rosemary sprig.
Stir in 2+ teaspoons Dijon mustard. Spoon over chicken
Sprinkle with green onion tips, chopped or parsley ( optional )
Green Chile-Almond Cream Sauce
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c organic low sodium chicken broth
3/4 c New Mexican fresh green chiles - chopped finely and seeds removed
3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons + whipping cream
1 tablespoons sesame seeds
Brown chicken in a separate frying pan until about 3/4 cooked.
Combine almond milk, broth, green chiles, scallion whites, almonds, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the mixture until reduced by half, 20 to 30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or puree in a blender until smooth
Pour sauce over chicken, and cook chicken in sauce until done. Remove chicken and stir cream into remaining sauce. Pour completed sauce over chicken and serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Are You Ready For a Meatless Monday?
Are you ready to commit to eating a vegetarian meal one night a week? Plan on Meatless Monday. Purposefully prepare for yourself and your family a vegetarian meal - no chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. Focus on beans for protein, salads, and vegetable casseroles. Make your Meatless Monday a night of pasta with a plain tomato sauce. Introduce your family to tofu - experiment and explore.
From the Meatless Monday organization website:
- LIMIT CANCER RISK: Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer
- REDUCE HEART DISEASE: Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%
- FIGHT DIABETES: Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- CURB OBESITY: People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.
- LIVE LONGER: Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
- IMPROVE YOUR DIET. Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.
1. Try lentils as an alternative to meat for tacos or burritos
2. Black bean veggie burgers are an excellent alternative to a ground beef burger
3. Have you ever tried a cheesesteak made with portobello mushrooms instead of shaved beef?
4. When made with care, eggplant parmesan can be made Clean!
Yes, steak is awesome. No, I'm not saying for you to turn your back on your Paleo-centric ways. But one night a week - try leaving the chicken or beef off your plate. Focus on sources of protein from vegetables.
I know you can do it!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Clean Eating & Ezekiel 4:9 Products
Ezekiel 4:9., "Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it..."
Many of the commercial breads available simply aren't good for someone who follows Clean Eating. Look at the back of any loaf of bread at the store and more than likely you are going to see an ingredient list a mile long with all kinds of sugars, sodiums, and chemicals. Very few are made today without high fructose corn syrup, and high levels of sodium and preservatives to help extend shelf life.
If you wander away from the bread aisle and into the frozen food section, you are going to find a different type of bread product: Ezekiel 4:9.
Their breads are kept in the frozen section because they are made without the heavy handed preservatives commercial breads are made with today in order to maintain freshness for extended periods of time. Ezekiel 4:9 breads are best stored in the fridge at home to keep them fresh.
From their website:
Ezekiel 4:9® Organic Sprouted Whole Grain Products are:
- Complete Protein,
- and Sprouted Whole Grain
Their product line is mainly bread, but they also make tortillas, pocket ( pita ) bread, pasta, buns, and even breakdfast cereals - all wheat free and Clean.
Here are the ingredients in the English muffins - a little wordy, but you'll notice - all recognizable ingredients.
INGREDIENTS: Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water , Organic Malted Barley, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Organic Unhulled Sesame Seeds, Organic Unprocessed Wheat Bran, Organic Sprouted Whole Spelt, Organic Sprouted Whole Kernel Corn, Organic Sprouted Whole Soybeans, Sprouted Whole Chia Seeds, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Rye, Organic Sprouted Whole Brown Rice, Variety 5-Grain & Seed Blend: (Organic Sprouted Whole Flax Seed, Organic Sprouted Whole Sorghum, Organic Whole Quinoa, Organic Sprouted Whole Teff, Organic Sprouted Whole Amaranth), Organic Wheat Gluten, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt.
Now be forewarned - you need to remove the thought and mental image of Wonder Bread from your vocabulary when you first try Ezekiel 4:9 bread. It is actual bread. Heavy, dense. Bread - as it has been made for thousands of years. It is NOT the light fluffy thin stuff, and it is a paradigm shift getting used to it. However, I'm confident that after a few loaves of this stuff in the house, you will never think of buying those $1.00 loaves of generic store white bread again.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Grape Nuts Breakfast Bars
Grape Nuts Breakfast Bars
3 cups Grape Nuts cereal
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1 cup raisins or craisins or other dried fruit chopped to raisin size
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a nonstick 9-in square baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, or until firm. Cool and cut into 12 squares.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Newstand Alert: Clean Eating Magazine November/December 2011
The newest issue of Clean Eating Magazine is hitting mail boxes and newstands now.
In this month's issue:
- A nice selection of CE pasta sauces on page 15 ( however most of these seem to be "boutique" brands with limited distribution. They might be hard to find in your local store )
- If you aren't a fan of brussel sprouts, you will be after the lovely recipe for roasted sprouts on page 33
- A terrific roundup of CE sides to serve for a really healthy Thanksgiving that won't make you feel you're missing out on anything ( page 43 - and the Souffled Sweet Potatoes on page 51 WILL be made! )
- An interesting take on CE "approved" Christmas cookies. Make some healthy versions of classic cookies. I was thinking Christmas cookies are a thing of the past for me. Maybe not!
- Many great recipes ( like an easy peasy chicken puttanesca, page 95 )
Bad Food: The Fast Food Edition
I found this wonderful round up over at Fitbie.com It is well worth the repost and a nod. This type of thing is important to know, and will definitely give you pause the next time you are tempted to eat on the go.
"What's the harm in having a Chick Fil A sandwich?" Read and find out.
KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie
Number of Ingredients: 82!
Gelatin: Hard to believe, but the stuff that gives Jell-O its jiggle comes from the collagen found inside animals’ skin and bones. In this pastry run afoul, it’s used as a gelling agent to give the “sauce” more viscosity.
“Chicken pot pie flavor”: Food processors know that if the flavor isn’t correct, sales will suffer, and that presents a formidable challenge. See, after making room for emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, and preservatives, many of the natural flavors in this pie are muted. To keep from sticking a bland product on the menu, KFC turned to chemists who specialize in what food should taste like. That means that when you take a bite, you’re tasting the result of meetings and e-mails exchanged between the decision makers at KFC and the chemists trying to capture the essence of the dish they’re fabricating. Your taste buds register something like chicken and vegetables, but the driving force is actually an onslaught of chemicals derived from a trio of cheap commodity crops—corn, soy, and wheat—that have been laced with a proprietary “flavor,” steeped in common stock, and thickened with corn-derived sugars like dextrose and maltodextrin. It creates an unsettling picture of how unscrupulous processors approach food: When artificial additives create problems, the solution is to invent more artificial additives.
L-cysteine hydrochloride: Used as a dough conditioner in industrial food production, this nonessential amino acid is most commonly derived from one of three equally surprising sources: human hair, duck feathers, or a fermented mutation of E. coli. Yum.
Red 40 (natural red #40): Red 40 is a crimson pigment extracted from the dried eggs and bodies of the female Dactylopius cocus, a beetlelike insect that preys on cactus plants. It’s FDA-approved and widely used as a dye in various red foods, especially yogurts and juices.
Dunkin’ Donuts Boston Kreme Donut
Number of Ingredients: 64!
Xanthan gum: It’s not dangerous, but it is funky. Xanthan gum is a thickener and emulsifier derived from sugar through a reaction with Xanthomonas campestris, a slimy bacterial strain that often appears as black rot on broccoli and cabbage. Worldwide production of xanthan gum is about 20,000 tons a year, so there’s a decent chance you’ll find some in whatever you eat next today.
Artificial flavor: Denotes any of hundreds of allowable chemicals such as butyl alcohol, isobutyric acid, and phenylacetaldehyde dimethyl acetal. The exact chemicals in flavorings are the propriety information of food processors, and they use them to imitate specific fruits, spices, fats, and so on. Ostensibly every ingredient hiding under the blanket of “artificial flavor” must be approved by the FDA, but because you have no way of knowing what those ingredients are, there’s no way you can avoid something you’d rather not eat.
“Boston kreme filling”: Take notice of the “k” in “kreme.” That’s a not-so-subtle acknowledgment that there’s no actual dairy in this filling. Bavarian cream, the real stuff, is made with milk, eggs, cream, and whipped cream. But those are high-dollar ingredients that require special storage accommodations, so Dunkin’ Donuts stocks its doughnut case with a loose interpretation. Gone are the famous ingredients that make Bavarian cream a deeply satisfying and memorable indulgence, and in their place is a crude sludge made mostly from palm oil, modified food starch, and two types of syrup. If it weren’t for the “natural and artificial flavorings” injected alongside it, your tongue wouldn’t pick up much besides fat and sugar.
McDonald’s Big Mac
Number of Ingredients: 95!
“100% pure USDA inspected beef”: The fact that McDonald’s beef is “USDA inspected” isn’t surprising; it would be illegal to sell it otherwise. By dropping this trivial detail onto the official ingredient statement, McDonald’s seems to be trying to distance itself from the criticisms facing industrially processed beef. What are those criticisms? For starters, the cows killed for industrial beef are routinely treated with antibiotics, a practice that cuts costs for farmers but leads to resistant strains of bacteria that doctors can’t effectively treat. But what’s equally odious—and less acknowledged—is what happens to this antibiotic-fueled beef after slaughter. Before making its way onto the value menu, fast-food beef passes through the hands of a company called Beef Products, which specializes in cleaning slaughterhouse trimmings traditionally reserved for pet food and cooking oil. The fatty deposits in these trimmings are more likely to harbor E. coli and salmonella, so Beef Products cleans the meat with the same stuff the cleaning crew at Yankee Stadium might use to scrub the toilets—ammonia. Every week, Beef Products pumps some 7 million pounds of ground beef through pipes that expose it to ammonia gas that could potentially blind a human being. The tradeoff is that we don’t have to worry about pathogens, right? Wrong. According to documents uncovered by the New York Times, since 2005 Beef Products’ beef has tested positive for E. coli at least three times and salmonella at least 48 times. Yet, despite the obvious flaws in the process, the USDA doesn’t require chains to disclose whether their beef has been treated with ammonia. The inspection is a good start, but we want transparency, too.
Ammonium sulfate: Don’t confuse this with the ammonia gas used to clean meat. Ammonium sulfate is inorganic plant food, otherwise known as fertilizer. Plants require nitrogen to grow, and ammonium sulfate supplies the nitrogen. McDonald’s uses it for precisely that reason. In order for bread to rise, it relies on yeast, which is technically a fungus, and by adding ammonium sulfate, McDonald’s nourishes the yeast and speeds the baking time of its iconic Big Mac bun. Plus, it helps the bun develop a nice, golden hue, so it appears to be more wholesome than a white-bread burger.
Calcium disodium EDTA: This compound is complex, but here’s all you need to know: It’s really good at gathering metal ions in liquid. This gives it many functions, but in food, the trait allows it to prevent microscopic pieces of metals from discoloring or spoiling the liquid.
Big Mac sauce: Mickey D’s so-called “secret sauce” turns out to be more prosaic than years’ worth of myth and mystery suggest. Soybean oil combines with egg yolk to make mayonnaise, which is in turn spiked with mustard, high-fructose corn syrup, and pickle relish. Surprisingly enough, the pink hue appears to come from two relatively nutritious spices, paprika and turmeric, not ketchup as most people assume. While a few of the industrial additives (like propylene glycol alginate, a thickener derived from kelp, and hydrolyzed corn and soy vegetable proteins) creep us out, it’s a relatively innocuous concoction.
Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich
Number of Ingredients: 83!
Sodium/Salt: More than three-quarters of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed, packaged, and prepared foods, and here’s a perfect example of why. Salt is undoubtedly the predominant source of dietary sodium, but by no means does it act alone. Think back to high school chemistry: Sodium is the element represented by the symbol Na. By attaching itself to other elements, it forms compounds. In the case of salt, that compound is sodium chloride (NaCl). But that’s just one of the sodium sources in this sandwich. The chicken alone, before you add bun and pickles, delivers three other sources: monosodium glutamate (C5H8NNaO4), baking soda (aka “sodium bicarbonate,” CHNaO3), and sodium stearoyl lactylate (C24H43NaO6). Some sodium compounds are added for reasons other than flavor, but by and large, your taste buds are the target. That’s why fast-food chains regularly brine their patties, and in many instances they rely on mechanically operated syringes to drive sodium deep into the muscle tissue. Ideally, most people in America wouldn’t consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium in any given day, but with 10 sources of sodium in this sandwich, it packs in 1,410 milligrams on its own!
TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone): An organic preservative that also can be found in dog food, perfumes, varnishes, and resins. Due to potential links with cancer and DNA damage, the FDA limits the use to 0.02 percent of the oil or fat in any single food item. Studies on its long-term safety have been contradictory, but as with all dubious additives, it’s best to limit your exposure whenever possible.
Dimethylpolysiloxane: This is a silicone-based antifoaming agent commonly added to deep-fried foods to keep the oil from turning frothy. Outside the kitchen you’ll find it in a range of products, from shampoos to Silly Putty. While no adverse health affects have been identified, there’s something undeniably unsettling about the thought of Silly Putty in our chicken.
Blue #1 (brilliant blue): In an effort to make listless food look more appealing, processors regularly add artificial coloring to everything from breads and crackers to fruits and vegetables. The reason is simple: They know that we taste first with our eyes. The problem is that many artificial colors have been linked to health problems. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends caution in consuming brilliant blue and avoidance of its cousin indigotin (blue #2) because they’ve been loosely linked to cancer in animal studies. And two British studies implicated the dye along with yellow #5 (also in Chick-fil-A’s pickles) as possible causes of hyperactivity in children. But as long as it’s legal and it makes food look pretty, don’t expect fast-food companies to stop coloring anytime soon.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
10 Healthy "Pre Clean Eating" Habits
Many of the people who stumble upon my blog find it because they are researching Clean Eating and find me through Google. People in the research stage know they are looking for something, that magic something - but they aren't quite convinced or able to take the steps that lead one to Clean Eating. This is ok! If you are one of these people who perhaps visits my blog and wishes they could start to eat healthier, wishes they could lose weight - wishes they could change their life...I encourage you to look at the following list of 10 steps to take to put yourself on a Clean Eating path. Try to incorporate a few ( not all at once! ) of the tips and then once you get comfortable with those in your routine, look for another to add. Pretty soon, you will realize how easy it is to eat in a healthy manner and you are starting down the path towards a Clean diet.
1. Eat breakfast - Above all, this core tenant of Clean Eating is a must do for anyone who is trying to control their food intake and trying to eat healthier. Eating your calories early in the day give your body the energy it needs to get through the day. Remember: If you aren't hungry for breakfast, it means you ate too much the night before.
2. Drink water instead of soda - Easier said than done, I know - but overall will bring a world of benefits. Water is the lube your body's machine needs. When you are dehydrated, your body doesn't function properly. Soda and its chemical additives may quench your thirst temporarily - however, research has shown soda does increase your appetite, while water sates it.
3. Portion control: Learn to recognize actual portions judged by weights and measures - not by giving it an eyeball. Take less food at your meals. You can always have more - just give yourself a manageable portion to begin with, and then rest for a few minutes before reaching for more. Recognize that most processed and restaurant menu items are hugely inflated. If it seems large, ask the server to box up half of the meal. Start leaning what an actual portion looks like.
4. No Fast Food: This one is easy- no McDonald's, Burger King, Carl's Jr, Wendy's, Subway, Taco Bell, Popeye's, Pizza Hut. No "we'll grab something quick on our way to the X" Cook your meals at home. Eat your meals at home. You control the ingredients, the portion, the presentation. You are in control - not them.
5. Ditch the Non Dairy Creamer- If you use liquid non dairy coffee creamer or powdered stuff in your coffee each morning...stop, now. Liquid creamer ( Coffee-Mate, for example ) is just sweetened trans fats. You are better off using milk, half and half, or one of the new products like La Creme or Natural Bliss.
6. Switch to Butter: Another easy switch to make is losing the margarine in your fridge and switching to butter. You will lose less product, enjoy the flavor, and be using a much cleaner product.
7. Incorporate Fruit into 2 Meals a Day: - Most people just don't eat enough fruit. It is filling, and the natural fructose in it will satisfy your sweet tooth. The fiber is excellent for your digestive system, and most are very low calorie with no fat. Now after over a year of Clean Eating - I recognize the sweetness of apple, pears - even carrots! Eat a banana with breakfast, grapes or apple slices with lunch. Serve sliced melon with dinner. Bake pears or apples to enjoy as dessert. Consider eating a cup of berries with your lunch every day.
8. Switch to Whole Grains: If you eat bread, make sure the bread you eat is wholesome and nutritionally sound. White bread has little to no nutritional value; white rice has most of the nutrition stripped away. Swap that box of Minute Rice in your pantry for a bag of actual brown rice. Don't buy another loaf of cheap grocery store brand white bread. Look for one made with whole grains. "Whole wheat" is ok. "Whole grain" is better.
9. Have a Mid-morning snack- An integral part of Clean Eating is eating smaller meals more often in the day. This keeps your metabolism raised, and it is much easier to resist a temptation if you aren't hungry. Mid morning, reach for a bag of lightly salted or plain nuts. A hard boiled egg or two. A bowl of carrots with some hummus. Start getting used to having your body's metabolism raised higher.
10. Learn to recognize healthier choices: After years of eating poorly, your body is trained to seek out certain choices on a menu; clouding out potentially healthier choices like salads or seafood. Go into things looking off the beaten path. See different eating opportunities. Try new foods - foods that your recognize could be healthier choices for you.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Clean Food Spotting: Test #1
This is an actual menu I pulled from online - somewhere in America - you can sit down in a restaurant and look at this exact menu. Its a minefield of inappropriate choices...but there are some Clean items to be had. Can you make the right choices?
What would you order?
( My picks are in the comment section; so don't look there if you want to try your hand at it! )
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Clean Eating Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Pulled Pork is an easy "set it and forget it" recipe that is easily prepared in a crock pot. I enjoy recipes like this because the prep time is minimal, but the end results are delicious. An East Carolina BBQ sauce is a flavor unlike the bottled BBQ sauce you are probably familiar with; its more like a "mop" sauce as barbequers like to refer to it - a saucy dredge for using once the meat is cooked.
1 whole pork picnic shoulder ( bone in; approximately 8-10 lbs )
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
Spices ( onion powder, pepper, spice mix , etc )
East Carolina BBQ sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 c leftover liquid from the crock pot
3/4 cup organic ketchup
2-3 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper
Place pork shoulder skin/fat side up in the crock pot. Pour apple cider vinegar and water over pork shoulder, then sprinkle your assorted spices over the shoulder. This can really be most anything you want. For the example below, I used Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute mix, onion powder, chopped garlic, and worcestershire pepper. Use your creative cooking skills to put what moves you on the picnic shoulder.
Set the crock pot for 8-10 hours depending on your time constraints ( either will be just fine! ) and walk away. If you are around to do so, flip the shoulder so the fat side is at the bottom of the crock pot after about 3-4 hours, and then flip it back for the final hour or so of cooking. However, this isn't necessary. I just feel that flipping the meat gives an overall moistness to the final product - and it also speeds cooking a bit.
You know the shoulder is cooked when the meat flakes easily away from the bone, a fork inserted into the meat goes in easily. and the shoulder bone is exposed with little to no effort.
Remove the shoulder from the crockpot and place in a large bowl or platter to cool. Before completely cool, remove any visible skin and fat left on the shoulder.
Before the liquid left in the crockpot cools, carefully remove about 3/4 cup. When I say carefully - be careful not to include any fat floating in the liquid, and try to get as little liquid fat in the cup as possible. You're aiming for the vinegar/water mixture that is now flavored by the pork. This is commonly referred to as "pot liquor"
While the meat cools, prepare the vinegar mop sauce. Combine the vinegar, pot liquor, ketchup, honey, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Whisk until all ingredients are incorporated, and let it sit for at least 3 hours before pouring it onto the meat and serving. Using a fork held in each hand, shred the meat into long strips until the entire shoulder is shredded. Add the mop sauce and mix gently. You do not need to let the meat sit and marinate for a bit, but sitting for 1/2 hour before serving allows the meat to absorb a little mop sauce.
Have You Tried Persimmons?
Persimmons are widely available September through December, with a peak during November.As the national fruit of Japan, they would be shocked to learn that most Americans have never tasted a persimmon.
Choose persimmons with deep red undertones. Look for persimmons that are round, plump, and have glossy and smooth skin. Avoid fruits with blemishes, bruises or cracked skin and missing the green leaves at the top.
There are 2 main varieties available to Americans : the Hachiiya, and the Fuyu ( also called a "Japanese Persimmon" ) Ripe Fuyu persimmons, which look kind of like flattened tomatoes, will be crisp, while the acorn-shaped Hachiyas will be very soft and juicy. Be aware that hachiyas are shipped unripe, and MUST be ripened before eating.
Ripen persimmons at room temperature in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Store them in the refrigerator when ripe. Be sure to eat the fruit as soon as possible because overripe persimmons quickly turn to a mushy texture.
Unripe Hachiya persimmons taste very bitter and will suck all the moisture from your mouth — not very pleasant. The tartness will go away as the fruit ripens. A ripe Hachiya is delicious - glossy, jelly-like flesh that tastes like a cross between sweet mangoes and apricots. How can you tell when a Hachiya persimmon is ripe? Hold it in your hand. It should feel like it's filled with water and will be extremely soft and squishy.
The Fuyu Persimmon
Fuyu persimmons ( above ) in contrast are squat and rather heavy for their size. Their skin ranges from pale yellow-orange to brilliant reddish-orange; generally, the darker the color, the sweeter the taste. Fuyu persimmons are non-astringent, which means you can eat them either firm or soft. Firm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple, skin and all. And when you slice off the top, a beautiful star will appear in the flesh. Crunchy cinnamon flavored Fuyus are also great in salads and salsas.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Greek Yogurt Review Part VII - The Greek Gods
This week, I was able to secure a cup of another brand of Greek yogurt that I haven't previously tried ( thank you, John! ) - The Greek Gods brand reduced fat Greek yogurt. I tried the vanilla cinnamon & orange flavor, shown above.
This stuff was flat out delicious. From the first moment I opened the container, I was instantly aware of the heady cinnamon vanilla smell this yogurt has. It isn't particularly tangy ( 2 out of 5 on the tangy scale ) but was a much creamier product than I anticipated. It has a smooth mouth feel, and a pleasant but not overwhelming orange flavor to it that is delicate and makes for a really unique flavor combination.
While eating it, I thought that this brand and flavor in particular would make for a delicious dessert parfait - layered with granola and fruit - it would be a delicious treat. As it was, with my morning banana cut into it, the yogurt was delicious as well.
I was very pleased with the ingredient list: milk, cane juice, vanilla, cinnamon, pectin, and yogurt cultures. No chemicals, nothing odd - and the milk is from cows not treated with hormones. While it technically isn't organic, it is a pretty clean product.
The Greek Gods brand doesn't appear to make a 0% fat Greek yogurt. The "high test" yogurts have 17-19 grams of fat. That is a lot! The vanilla cinnamon orange flavor I ate is a reduced fat kind, and has 6 grams. Hopefully, they will come out with a zero percent variety. I know I'd buy it regularly if they did.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Are Foods Produced Overseas Safe to Eat?
Interestingly, produce that is grown overseas is subject to much closer scrutiny than things like cookies, powdered drinks, and frozen foods. The FDA requires random sampling of all produce that comes into the US for certain chemical signatures. If found, the entire shipment is refused. No such mechanism is in place for "non produce" items. Those Oreo looking cookies made in India? Sure! Come on in!
What about seafood?
There is a lot of seafood produced overseas - especially in Asiatic countries: China, Vietnam, and Thailand specifically. There currently are no standards for "organic" seafood, and the FDA does not regulate seafood farms overseas. There is currently no way to ensure that the fish you are eating were raised in a wholesome manner, were fed a healthy diet, or were handled appropriately. In my non-scientific opinion, it is in your best interests not to buy seafood raised overseas.
Examine packages of frozen fish at the store - and across the board, you are going to see "Product of China" in very small print on the back of these packages. Recently, several large scale fish farms outside of Bejing were caught feeding excessive antibiotics and human contraceptive medicines to fish under their care. Why? The Chinese discovered that fish fed birth control pills matured at a much faster rate than untainted fish - they could be harvested several months earlier: more profit.Luckily for us, these farms were NOT exporting their fish.
What can you do?
In the US, seafood needs to be labeled with its country of origin. Start looking for seafood that is raised and distributed in the US. You can be more certain that it was raised in a wholesome manner and doesn't contain heavy metals, toxins, or chemical traces.
Are foods produced overseas safe to eat? I would say - as a generalization - that foods produced in developed countries and imported to the US and other countries are safe to eat.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Homemade Banana Chips
This method produces a much crispier chip than putting them on the dehydrator - I've tried!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
2 bananas, peeled
Lemon juice, squeezed into a shallow bowl
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Cut bananas into 1/4” slices. Dip them in lemon juice, then place on a prepared baking sheet.
- Bake, turning over once, until golden brown and crispy, about 3 hours.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Questions and Answers: Is Grass Fed Beef Really Necessary?
Q: One of the principles I keep reading about meat where Clean Eating is concerned is the emphasis on "grass fed" beef as being better. What is so much better about it? It is expensive - and really hard to find.
A: Believe me, I know how expensive it is! The meat from grass fed cattle is much healthier for you than "regular" commercially raised grain fed cows. Lower "bad" fat, higher "good" fat, and proven higher levels of cancer fighting CLAs!
First, The beef is much lower in overall fat than grain fed beef - and therefore healthier for you.
A 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer has almost 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grainfed steer.
If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to grassfed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains constant, you'll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to grassfed meat, our national epidemic of obesity would begin to diminish.
Although grassfed meat is low in "bad" fat (including saturated fat), it gives you from two to six times more of a type of "good" fat called "omega-3 fatty acids."
Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. For example, of all the fats, they are the most "heart friendly." People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to have a serious heart attack
The CLA Bonus The meat and milk from grassfed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called "conjugated linoleic acid" or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their milk and meat contain as much as five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets.12
CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer.
In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA --- a mere 0.1 percent of total calories ---greatly reduced tumor growth. Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following grassfed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grainfed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.
There is new evidence suggesting that CLA does reduce cancer risk in humans.
In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet, had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels of CLA.
Source: American Grass Fed Beef Council
Grass fed beef IS more expensive, but overall - a healthier beef for your body. Look for it clearly labeled packages of grass fed beef at your local natural or organic grocery store. It's much harder to find grass fed beef at your normal "every day" grocery store. Try to incorporate grass fed beef into your diet at least once a week - more if your budget allows.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The McRib is McWrong
Eve reader, occasional contributor, and all around terrific human being North sent me this intriguing and downright horrific story on the truth behind the recently returned to McDonald's menus near you -the McRib Sandwich.
What's the McRib Made of, Anyway?
Because this article says it best, I've republished 2 of the main paragraphs from the story over at theweek.com
How many ingredients are there?
At face value, the sandwich contains just pork, onions, and pickle slices slathered in barbecue sauce and laid out on a bun. But the truth is, there are roughly 70 ingredients. The bun alone contains 34, says TIME's Melnick. In addition to chemicals like ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80, the most egregious may be azodicarbonamide — "a flour-bleaching agent most commonly used in the manufactur[ing] of foamed plastics like gym mats the and soles of shoes." According to McDonald's own ingredient list, the bun also includes calcium sulfate and ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, among other chemicals.
Ooof. What's the meat made of?
Pig innards and plenty of salt. Typically, "restructured meat product" includes pig bits like tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, says Whet Moser at Chicago Magazine, citing a 1995 article by Robert Mandigo, a professor at the University of Nebraska. These parts are cooked and blended with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins, which act as a "glue" that helps bind the reshaped meat together.
Ugh! Seriously? How can someone read the above and then eat that in good conscience? They say it has a "cult like following" - really?
*insert yucky horking noise here*