What is wrong with Americans.

Not a question. A statement. I’m doing some research for another post and I come across this little tidbit in a USDA report, U.S. Per Capita Food Supply Trends: More Calories, Refined Carbohydrates, and Fats:


Iceberg Lettuce, Frozen Potatoes (Mainly French Fries), and Potato Chips Constituted a Third of Total Daily Vegetable Servings in 2000

And that is a third of the 3.83 servings Americans currently consume, less than the recommended 4 servings of vegetables a day (for a 2200 calorie diet).


Listen people, for the sake of your waistline and hearts and livers, POTATOES ARE NOT A VEGETABLE!

I know, technically they are vegetables but when I total up my servings for a day, I have not counted potatoes under vegetable in a really long time. They get lumped in with other true starches like pasta, bread, etc.

Proper Portion Sizes

Perfect Portions
Perfect Portions

Nothing really spectacular about this dish except it is a good example of suggested portion sizes.

  • One-half the plate should be taken up with fruits & veggies
  • One-quarter to a whole grain
  • One-quarter lean protein

The rice in the picture is GoGo Rice, this pretty tasty stuff that comes in a bowl (two servings) which you microwave for 90 seconds. They have plain brown or white and a few flavors, this one being harvest (with lentils and spices). Looking at the website, they now have sushi rice – I’ll have to look for that one. Mine came from Amazon.

This was Chris’s dinner from last night. I had the salad and rice with the onions/tomatoes on top.

Filed under: DUH!

Or, as my mom used to say: No shit, Sherlock!

Fast food for children high in calories, study says

An excerpt from the Detroit Free Press article on the website this morning:

The report looked into the nutritional quality of kids’ meals at 13 major restaurant chains. The center found 93% of 1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains exceed 430 calories — an amount that is one-third of what the National Institute of Medicine recommends that children ages 4 through 8 should consume in a day.

The report notes that eating out now accounts for a third of children’s daily caloric intake, twice the amount consumed away from home 30 years ago.

The report also found that 45% of children’s meals exceed recommendations for saturated and trans fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease, and 86% of children’s meals are high in sodium.

The report recommends restaurants:

• Reformulate their menu items to reduce calories, saturated and trans fat, and salt, and add more healthy items such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

• Make fruit or vegetables and low-fat milk or water the default sides instead of French fries and soda for children’s meals.

• Provide nutrition on menus and menu boards. New York and San Francisco are among the cities and localities that have adopted menu labeling policies.

Excellent recommendations. Let me know how that turns out.

Three years ago, a different study was done about access to fast food by kids in school. That study, reported on HERE analyzed the proximity of Chicago schools to fast food chains. They found:

  • 78% of the schools have at least one fast-food place within less than a half mile or about a 10-minute walk.
  • Half the area’s schools have a fast-food restaurant a third of a mile or closer, about a five-minute walk. In some cases, the restaurant is right next door or across the street.
  • There are three to four times as many fast-food restaurants within less than a mile of schools than would be expected if the restaurants were evenly distributed around the city.

I guess we should be happy they will get 10-20 minutes of walking in everyday. Oh, wait, I suppose they might have cars.

Way back in 1992, a school in California was leading the way to a Fast Food Nation. This article, by Dan Froomkin originally appeared in the Orange Country register.

Seems that fall, Capistrano Valley High School (California) started serving lunch as provided by Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC). SOme schools had already started serving items from fast food restaurants under a resale agreement but Capo took it one step further: they allowed the chains to come in and remodel the school’s cafeteria. Now the school could make and sell the tacos, pepperoni pizza and nuggets right on site.

For instance, $1.85 or a card showing they qualify for a free lunch gets them a small pizza, fruit and milk. A 16-ounce soda with unlimited refills
costs another buck.

Fruit and milk. Very good. I wonder how much cola a 16 year old boy can guzzle down in his 35 minute lunch period?

The chains gain access to campuses and make some money. And school officials get more business and feel confident that more students will eat lunch, which [Bill] Caldwell [food service director for the Capistrano Unified School District] said they often skip otherwise.
Caldwell said the district culled through offerings from the chains, selecting the most popular meals and rejecting those that
didn’t meet district nutrition standards. For instance, Caldwell said, the Taco Bell Taco Salad was rejected because it is too high
in fat.

I’m not saying the TB salad is all that good but is there any salad available?

Get ready, we are coming to my favorite part of the article….

Pizza Hut and Taco Bell sent several men in suits from their corporate offices in Irvine to oversee the first day. …

“It will work,” said Mike Johnson, director of Pacific Coast operations for Pizza Hut. “We haven’t wrestled it down yet, but it
works. I think it’s got a lot of potential.” Johnson said the profit margin in schools is small, but the pennies add up with the potential of so many new “points of distribution.”

And, he said, there’s a long-term benefit in developing brand-name loyalty among the schoolchildren.

Ah yes, Pizza Hut, savior of my childhood, provider of greasy pizza and soda pop every day at lunch. Heaven knows I would have starved without them. Better make sure I eat there once a week.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has quite a reputation as the “food police” after they released reports telling us how Chinese food, popcorn and pretty much every other consumable is bad for us. Part of their mission is to pass legislation that will regulate food and producers from farmer to processor to seller to retailer, grocery or restaurant. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am more of the “make up your mind and be responsible for your own choices” kind of person. So, I don’t exactly agree with everything CSPI does or promotes or even reports. Some of their analysis is obviously biased. However, I do appreciate having this information so I can make my own decisions. And reading the report about Kid Meals, I can see how parents get confused- apples are healthy, get those as a side. Except not these apples, swimming in some kind of sugar-cinnamon syrup glaze. I don’t think this group should be demanding that laws be enacted to require restaurants to post their nutrition data. I think the public should be demanding the stores do it, if they want the business. And parents should really think hard about their own choices before they order for little Johnny and Jane. Get the kids a healthy grilled chicken with broccoli and fruit sides then sit there and eat a double-cheeseburger with bacon, fries and a giant coke. Excellent role modelling!

To read CSPI’s full report on Fast Food, here is the PDF from their website

Things I don’t understand

I don’t understand why we (this country) criminalize marijuana and why we demonize people who are addicted to drugs but we continue to put High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything.

Marijuana is allegedly a gateway drug.  And of course, people who abuse drugs are sometimes desperate souls who will do anything, even commit murder, to get their next high.  So smoking pot, even recreationally** is treated as a serious crime requiring probation, incarceration and intensive treatment.

Actually I do understand why and its pretty messed up.  Thanks to the food industry and pressure on the government from mega corporations like Archer Daniels Midland and Coca-Cola, foreign sugar has high tariffs slapped on it when its imported for straight sale on the grocery shelf or added to all the processed food/junk we eat here.

Americans pay over twice as much for sugar as other countries because of these tariffs.  HFCS has also come to be loved by corporations because its easier to move around.

Here is the part I really don’t get: why is High Fructose Corn Syrup in some products at all. For instance, the chicken from the other night- I used bread crumbs from a cannister.  Didn’t even occur to me to check for HFCS. But there it was, along with corn syrup and sugar.  Come on! Its bread crumbs for pete’s sake!  Today, I dumped them out and bought some Panko crumbs.  They do still have “less than 2% of the the following: sugar, ….” but no HFCS.  Next time I need regular bread crumbs, I’ll just make them- lightly toast (or let it dry out for a few hours) a couple slices of bread, tear in to pieces and whirl around in the blender or food processer to desired consistency.  And yes, I do make sure my bread is free of HFCS.

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked, by numerous studies, to the increase in obesity in this country.  And this country is getting fatter and more unhealthy all the time.  Of course we should exercise more and probably eat less in general.  But what to do about this insidious addiction?  Because studies are showing that even the use of artificial sugar substitutes does nothing to stop your body’s craving for sweeter and sweetest.  In fact it can make things worse!  And if you are now putting HFCS in everything, even not sweet foods what does that do to our inherent sweet tooth?  You needed that sweet-loving sensitivity back in caveman days when sweet tasting plants were probably safer to eat than bitter or hot ones. But now?

Vernors was originally sweetened with stevia from 1866 to 1991. Then the FDA banned stevia in 1991 and the company replaced stevia in their drinks with HFCS.  I’m not a huge Vernors fan unless I have a stomach ache but this really saddens me. Vernors is the oldest soft drink in America and it was invented right here in Michigan!  If you aren’t familiar: Vernors is ginger ale.

I didn’t know stevia had been banned, since I recently bought some.  Apparently it must be marketed as a dietary supplement. Odd that I found it in the baking aisle, hmm.  It seems there was an anonymous complaint made to the FDA in 1991 and they tagged the product as an “unsafe food additive.”  Despite numerous requests the FDA has never divulged the source of the complaint.
Especially interesting is the fact that Coca-Cola and Cargill have worked together on a stevia-derived sugar substitute and are in the process of getting FDA approval for that (as of 2007).   This patented chemically-derived substitute could be seen in your supermarket soon, filling your sodas and your twinkies and your breadcrumbs (probably).

But Stevia, the all-natural, naturally occuring (i.e. no patent necessary), grown and used for centuries in South America without ill effect, found to be not harmful by a massive World Health Organization comparative study, might actually improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of diabetes stevia?   Oh that is still banned in food.

I should probably point out that I’m on page 3 (yes, page three) of Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I’m already pissed off.  Its going to be a fun week reading this one, while also reading about defamation to help my law-school boy.  When I’m done, I should pretty much know exactly what I can and can’t say on this blog!

**um, something I don’t actually do- smoking in general just brings back some bad childhood memories no matter what leafy substance we are talking about.

Hoomans iz stoopid

Since I was out of town last week, I didn’t get around to reading the June 25th edition of City Pulse until today.

I came right home and wrote this post after reading this article about the street food vendors in Downtown Lansing. The Council has instructed Clinton Tarver, who sells hot dogs in front of city hall, that he must get a peddler’s license at a cost of $90. This is in addition to the other 2 permits he has (that cost $180) and the $200 monthly fee paid to the City’s Principal Shopping District (a government entity, FYI).

Sandy Allen, 2nd Ward City Councilwoman has decided to have her committee, Public Safety, look in to whether all the street vendors are properly licensed. Because, she is quoted as saying “right now we really don’t have much in the way of protecting people healthwise, and we really need to look at what is available and what needs to be done.”

And a piece of paper is going to stop me from getting E. coli or salmonella or listeria or any other nasty bug that sometimes lurks in food? Hot-diggity, where can I get one of those papers? I’ll just carry it around all the time and I’ll be a-okay.

The article goes on to quote Andy Bunnell of the Ingham County Health Department. According to him, all food vendors are required to take classes about food safety and they must be inspected prior to licensing.

Now that, I believe, makes sense. At least the food safety class- again, slapping a sticker on my food cart does not mean I’m the most cautious, cleanest vendor out there. But as a seller, I can only be helped by understanding that foods should be kept at certain temperatures to slow or stop bacterial growth.

The article mentions that Clinton has been selling his dogs and accompaniments for 10 years in the same spot. I venture to guess that if Clinton was selling bad dogs, he’d have gone under a long time ago, license or no license. Think back to the last time you felt a little stomach upset after dining out. I can clearly remember several incidents of food poisioning in my own history.

  1. Served bad milk in first grade. Result: stopped drinking school milk. I wouldn’t even call this food poisoning, it wasn’t contaminated just soured. Either way, I learned that lesson real quick.
  2. Entire family fell ill after dining in a Flint coney island. Result: thanked our lucky stars as being sick sent us home instead of to the movies, where a tornado struck that night. Also, didn’t go back to the restaurant for probably 10 years.
  3. Several family members got sick after eating in a Greektown restaurant in Detroit. Never went back (its since gone under).
  4. Failed to properly refrigerate dill dip from an East Lansing cafe. This was a bad experience but I correctly blamed myself for eating a dairy-based dip that had been left out on the counter. The restaurant (now gone) was hardly one to inspire confidence when you glimpsed the kitchen but in all the years we ate there, never once did I get sick from their food, directly.
  5. Ate corn on the cob that had been reheated in its original cooking water, not hot enough. Again, my fault and I paid dearly for this one.

I mention items 4 and 5 to prove a point. Most of the time, if you get food poisoning, its your own fault. Either you didn’t properly clean the cutting board when going from raw meat to fresh veggies or something wasn’t properly stored or reheated. Bet you wish you had the piece of paper promising you won’t get sick now, don’t ya?

My questions then are this:

  1. If Clinton Tarver and other street food vendors are already meeting the Health Department requirements, why do they need someone else looking over their shoulders?
  2. Am I and all the other lunchers in downtown too stupid to make up our own minds about what is safe to eat?
  3. Since when is it the city’s responsibility to take care of me? And if they really want to take care of me, how about doing it in a way that doesn’t punish small business owners but instead provides needed and wanted services to the community as a whole (i.e. shovel/plow the streets and sidewalks quickly in the winter).
  4. When did Americans become so willing to hand over their freedom of choice to the government? Do you not recognize that by asking the councils and boards and legislatures and congress and president to make laws to protect us, you are simply limiting your choice. How is that Councilperson Sandy Allen is more suited to deciding what is best for me, than me?

Unfortunately, I recently moved outside the city limits of Lansing so my powers of influence as taxpayer are reduced. Not completely gone since I still work in the city and in fact walk by Clinton’s Hot Dog cart on a regular basis. I would note that I didn’t choose Ms. Allen nor did I vote for her opposition, as I never lived in that ward even when I did reside in the city.

I, like Mr. Tarver, am no fool. This peddler’s license is not about protecting the people. Its about money, plain and simple. The city wants to get as much as it can, wherever it can. In the meantime, no one looks beyond today’s check for $90.

The price of food is going up, Clinton may have to raise his prices especially now that his taxes have gone up too (a permit fee is tax with a different name, you know it and I know it). That may put off one or two customers now but in another 3 months, he may lose 10% as less people eat downtown as budget constraints lead downtown businesses (and the government) to lay people off. Pretty soon the restaurants are down 30% and people have to start making decisions about whether or not to continue running their businesses. Next summer, Clinton realizes that after expenses for food and permits, he will not make enough to continue selling his dogs. One more small business owner out, one less person paying income taxes, one more home lost to foreclosure.

Is it going to happen this way? I don’t know. But I do know we are kidding ourselves if we think a permit will protect us from getting sick. And taxing everything to death serves no one.

One last item, the official description of the Public Safety Committee: Reviews service levels and issues related to public safety, including police, fire, ambulance, emergency services, traffic environment and the building inspection program.

Where does it say food police?!?!?