Archive for the ‘food for thought’ Category

Savoring September

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a sense of dread and anxiety when the “back to school” displays appear in stores each summer. With a mid-August birthday, my birthday gift was often a new back-to-school wardrobe. While shopping for fall clothes is still a favorite activity, I still can’t help but panic at the thought of summer winding down as Labor Day approaches.

But then I take a deep breath and remember that fall is my favorite season. Sure, I’ll always wish we had eaten outside more and spent more time at the beach, but in reality, July and August are just too muggy and buggy to spend much time outside around here. Warm temperatures linger into September or October, the humidity fades, and there’s no reason we can’t still picnic and grill well into autumn. In fact, while the Foodie Tot began Pre-K this past week (after turning four last weekend, as pictured above), this is the last year we won’t be dealing with the back-to-school scramble for, well, many years. So why not take advantage of it? Sure, we didn’t make it to the Pacific Northwest this summer, but we are headed to Florida later this month to celebrate my niece’s fifth birthday — and there will be much beach time then.

So rather than lament the time that’s passed, we’re savoring the overlap of seasons. At the farmers market Friday morning, I spotted peaches intermingled with fall’s first Honeycrisp apples and pears. Watermelon and acorn squash side by side. There’s no reason to give up summer just because fall is creeping in.

Here’s my “extended summer” to-do list. What’s on yours?

  • make homemade lemonade
  • eat outside — on a weeknight
  • eat carnitas on homemade tortillas
  • picnic by the riverthis is something the boy and I used to do when my husband had softball games after work. with the baby, we never got to it this summer.
  • watch the sunset at the beachfortunately my sister lives on the west coast of Florida
  • crab picking one last time at Quarterdeck — did you know Chesapeake crabs are in season until Columbus Day? and that fall crabs are meatier?

the Foodie Tot with Nama, Uncle J, and a crab

Shopping Smarter at the Supermarket

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

For those who frequently shop with young children, the goal tends to be to get in, get what you need and get out before a meltdown. Reading nutrition labels and trying to make sense of manufacturer’s nutrition claims is increasingly time-consuming. While the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to regulate misleading claims — like Kellogg’s claiming their sugar-laden cereals increased immunity — for the most part, manufacturers have free reign over how they try to sell you on their products.

nutritioniQShoppers — and its family of grocery stores, including Albertsons, Acme, Bigg’s, Bristol Farms, Cub, Farm Fresh, Jewel-Osco, and Shop ‘n Save — recently unveiled a new program to help customers make sense of the claims. The nutrition iQ program is a grading system that measures food products against seven nutrition benchmarks, and then awards qualifying products a shelf tag stating that it is a good source of whole grains, low in sodium, etc. The guidelines were developed by a health organization, the Joslin Diabetes Center — independent of food manufacturers.

At first glance, this seems like a great tool to help consumers and also to apply market pressure to manufacturers. Early testing showed that consumers did shift their purchases towards products with a nutrition iQ tag. If a manufacturer sees their market share start to slip at participating stores, one would presume they would be encouraged to change their formulas. In fact, some of Shoppers’ own store brand products don’t meet the criteria for their categories, and their in-store nutritionists are working with their manufacturers to make changes.

The labels also provide a little more credibility to claims manufacturers may make on their packaging. It’s almost comical to walk the cereal aisle and see how many of the boldly “NOW WITH WHOLE GRAINS” labeled cereals don’t, in fact, qualify for the nutrition iQ whole grains tag. It’s not that they don’t have whole grains — products also have to fall under a certain sugar threshold before they can even be considered — so they may be too high in sugar and/or have too little actual whole grains. Unfortunately, a number of cereals are still made with the same over-processed grains and then have a whole grain supplement added back. To qualify for the nutrition iQ tag, an actual whole grain must be the first ingredient.

no nutrition iQ tag here

There are no bonus points for organics, so organic soup with high salt content is not going to get a tag. Organic yogurt with a lot of sugar is also disqualified, though you may still prefer that over yogurt with high fructose corn syrup.

The program was rolled out for certain categories of foods to begin with, largely processed ones. While choosing a nutrition iQ-labeled cereal is probably a better choice than one without, I do wonder if it gives an overstated sense of healthfulness — the better choice, still, is probably to skip the cereal and eat oatmeal. But I do think third-party verification of nutrition claims is a step in the right direction.

What do you think, would a store labeling program help you choose better products? How else can we pressure manufacturers to make healthier products?

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade – go check out more recipes and ideas in this week’s round-up.

Disclosure: I received a free lunch and bag of groceries for attending the launch event at Shoppers, as well as a gift card which I donated to charity. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Win for Healthy Schools in DC (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, May 7th, 2010

jamie oliver food revolutionFirst, some good news: Earlier this week, the DC City Council unanimously approved the “Healthy Schools Act.” The measure creates strong nutrition and exercise standards in a city with one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the country. Among the highlights, the new legislation will:

  • Mandate lower-calorie, lower-fat nutrition guidelines be met;
  • Triple the amount of exercise school children get in physical ed;
  • Provide free breakfast in the classroom for high-poverty schools;
  • Establish a farm-to-school program and provide extra funds to encourage schools to source local and organic produce;
  • Establish a school garden program.

This is clearly a huge win for all involved (kudos to  Councilmember Mary Cheh, the sponsor, the DC Farm to School Network, and others!) and a good example for other school districts around the country. The only downside is that the legislation did not include an effort to curb sugar. Read more about the sugar-laden DC school meals at the Better DC School Food blog (caution: you may get sugar shock simply from viewing the breakfast pictures), and read Marion Nestle’s take on the issue here.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition supporting better school food for kids.

And now, some more links for your weekend reading:

  1. On the subject of Jamie Oliver, are you all following 30 Days to a Food Revolution over at the W.H.O.L.E. Gang? Lots of helpful information and tips for anyone looking to clean up their diets.
  2. It’s rhubarb season at the farmers market! Check out the drool-worthy assortment of recipes over at food52 for inspiration. On my list: Rhubarb Curd Bars, one of the finalists by local foodie Rivka of Not Derby Pie.
  3. Speaking of local foodies, check out the pictures from opening day at the Farmers Market by the White House by Adventures in Shaw. (And no, I didn’t make it over for some of Chef Jose Andres’ legendary giant paella — bummer!)
  4. If you needed more enticement to head out to the farmers market for fresh strawberries (here in DC anyway, apologies to those further north!), La Vida Locavore reports that California has given preliminary approval to a pesticide (methyl iodide) that is used to induce cancer in labs, and causes miscarriages. Please, please, buy organic strawberries!
  5. On a lighter note, if you’re making strawberry shortcake for a mother in your life this weekend, check out Rick Bayless’ Strawberry Tres Leches Shortcake for a new spin. Yum!

5 for Friday

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I have a bad habit of “starring” links in my Twitter feed to share later, and then never getting back to them. (Surely someone out there could create an app that reads those links and sends you back a cliff notes version, right??) So I thought I’d try sharing a few favorite things with you on Fridays, with the caveat that I may not get to it every Friday. But I hope you find it useful and will share anything interesting you’ve come across during the week, too, okay?

  • Health Note of the Week: A new study gives hope that some of the negative effects of exposure to BPA (you know, if you used plastic baby bottles pre-2009, or ever eat food or beverages from a can, or use toilet paper, or … ) may be offset by eating leafy greens and soy. Bring on the miso soup!
  • Food FAIL of the Week: New York City schools have decided that kids can buy pre-approved packaged snacks like Doritos and Pop Tarts at school bake sales, but not homemade treats with all those frightening real sugars and non-trans-fats. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t just so flat-out maddening.  Speaking of bake sales, remember to save the date for the National Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday, April 17 — coming to a city near you!
  • timeforlunchLunch Bite of the Week: Moms are getting fired up for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, and particularly for getting healthier food into school lunches. Here’s a great post from Ilina at Dirt and Noise.
    (Have you emailed your Congressman/woman yet?)
  • Recipe of the Week: The Jewish festival of Purim is this weekend, and I promised the husband homemade hamantaschen this year. Anyone got a favorite recipe to share?
  • Blog Find of the Week: One of my favorite parenting blogs, Simple Mom, has launched a new food site, Simple Bites. Even better, Simple Bites is edited by one of my favorite foodie mamas, Aimée of Under the High Chair. (Why do I love Aimée? Check out the adorable Pat-the-Bunny cake she made for her younger son’s first birthday.) And there’s the new Simple Organic, too. Love.

Kids vs. Tomatoes

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Tonight at dinner:

Me: “How’s your spaghetti?”
FoodieTot: “Not good. There’s something wrong with it.”
Me: “What’s wrong with it?”
FoodieTot: “It has tomatoes in it.”

He did consent to eat several bites, trying to avoid the visible tomato pieces. I used a different brand of crushed tomatoes tonight, which had a more visible chunk I guess. We’ve been waging battle over tomatoes his entire 3.5 years of life (well, once starting solid foods). He’ll occasionally try one, only to spit it out. We ran into his best friend at the market one summer day and she was buying herself a pint of cherry tomatoes. He declared he did like them then, so we bought a pint as well. Once again, there was a bite quickly followed by, “eww, yuck!”

So I was relieved to read this part of (ChowMama) Stacie’s interview with Feeding Baby Green author Dr. Alan Greene:

“… on average, most kids in the US don’t like whole tomatoes but, if you have them help to chop the tomatoes (carefully, of course), they’re about twice as likely to like them. If they go into a garden and pick a tomato or get a tomato from a farmer’s market before chopping it, they’re about twice as likely again to like it. And if they plant the tomato and watch it grow, most children will actually like tomatoes, just from watching them grow.”

Since the first two suggestions have failed thus far, you can bet we’ll be planting a tomato plant this spring!

For more funny things kids say about food, check out Jenna’s new weekly “Big Words, Little Foodies” round-up over at Food with Kid Appeal.

logo_letsmoveAnd in other feeding kids well news, I’m sure you all saw Michelle Obama’s launch today of “Let’s Move!” — a campaign to fight childhood obesity by increasing access to healthy foods (at home and at school) and encouraging physical activity. (Watch the GMA interview with the First Lady.)

You can get involved by becoming a fan of Let’s Move on Facebook, and visit Slow Food’s Time for Lunch campaign to send a message to your legislators urging increased funding for healthy school lunches.

As Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel explains, “One in three children will grow up to get type 2 diabetes, one in three is overweight or obese, and in the last thirty years, childhood obesity rates have tripled. Fortunately, this is not a mysterious disease. We don’t need to search for a cure. We know what the cure is. Eat healthy food, in reasonable quantities, and stay physically active.”

We’re fortunate to have ready access to fresh, locally grown tomatoes, even if the boy doesn’t yet appreciate them. We have a long way to go to make sure the same is true for every child in America. I’ll be following along and sharing more with you as the “Let’s Move” campaign progresses.