WIC Vouchers at the Farmers Market

As a part of my WIC responsibilities for ISPP dietetic rotations, another intern and I went to assist at the Morgantown Farmers market to distribute WIC vouchers to participants. The farmers’ market vouchers were mentioned to clients at WIC when I observed this past week. So, now I that I could actually see how participants come and use the vouchers, it seems much clearer to me as to how the whole process works.

Each WIC participant in each family gets a total of $20 worth of WIC vouchers to spend at vendors at the farmers’ market that accept WIC vouchers. So, for example if you’re a pregnant mother at WIC with 2 children under 5 years of age, then you would receive $60 worth of vouchers to spend. The vouchers have an expiration date of October 31st, 2013 so; this gives parents and families time to spend the vouchers as well. Each voucher packet has two $5 vouchers inside. So, each participant receives two packets.

The vendors that accept the WIC vouchers have orange posted signs that families can look for when shopping at any of the farmers’ markets. The WIC vouchers themselves are only distributed at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market on Spruce Street, the downtown location.

WIC was given $2,500 worth of vouchers this year. The amount of vouchers that they are given each year depends on their redemption rate from the previous year. So, in 2011 the Monongalia County WIC farmers’ market redemption rate was 60%. In 2012, their redemption rate was 70% when the state redemption rate was 65%. So, from the numbers I observed it seems that if a county has a redemption rate higher than the state average, they receive more vouchers than the previous year and vice versa.

When the WIC participants pick-up their vouchers at the downtown farmers’ market, they can use these vouchers at any of the farmers’ market locations in the area. Yes, the vouchers are only distributed at the Spruce Street location. But, the vouchers can be spent at any farmers’ market listed below. The participants are only given the vouchers once per summer.

The vouchers seem to be a hot commodity as well. Last week was the first week that WIC was at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market to distribute the vouchers. Out of the $2,500 that WIC started with, they issued $1,900 last week. So, today we started with $600 worth of vouchers. They weren’t all given out today but, I can definitely see how WIC participants love using these. Not only does it serve as a convenience but, it also supports the local economy. The program, in a whole, is such a great motivator for WIC participants to increase fresh fruits and vegetables into their family’s diet. The only restriction on what the participants can purchase is that the vouchers will only be accepted for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. So, families can’t purchase things like eggs, proteins, or baked goods. But again, this is great because it encourages families to eat more fruits and vegetables and maybe even try a new fruit or vegetable!

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The West Virginia Road Map for the Food Economy

The “buying local” trend has emerged within the last few years. In the United States, especially in West Virginia, food agriculture businesses are finding themselves at critical and electrifying times of opportunity. From 2006 to 2008, West Virginia small restaurants and hotels showed a 360% increase in purchases of local products. In the 2012-2013 school year, the WV Department of Education committed $250,000 in school food funds for local purchases. More than a dozen of county school systems reported buying directly from West Virginia farms in 2012, while four of these began buying locally since September 2011. Even the Martinsburg VAMC sees fresh, healthy meals as an ingredient of recovery for their patients and has spent over $23,000 on local food.

From 2002 to 2007, 39% more local West Virginia farmers began selling directly to consumers. And the dollar amount of direct-to-consumer sales increased by 55%. This means that farmers are capturing a greater portion of the consumer food dollar by marketing products as directly as possible from farm to table as demand grows, new business models are also emerging to provide the kinds of processing, aggregation and distribution required to meet the needs of sophisticated buyers.

This growth creates jobs for farmers and also for other parts of the state’s economy. A recent study by Downstream Strategies, LLC and WVU showed that if West Virginia farmers grew enough produce to meet the in-season fresh produce needs of all state residents, the shift would generate 1,723 new jobs and would result in about $190 million being retained in the state instead of flowing beyond its borders. Increased local sales of West Virginia products also creates the need for businesses that collect, process and distribute local food, which creates more local jobs. For example, one Iowa study found that every 1,000 cattle sent to small meat processing facilities supported 7.4 processing jobs.

So a common question that you might find asking yourself is… What exactly does “buying local” mean? There is no universally agreed-upon definition for the geographic component of what “local” or “regional” means, consumers are left to decide what local and regional food means to them. A 2008 survey found that half of consumers surveyed described “local” as “made or produced within a hundred miles” (of their homes), while another 37% described “local” as “made or produced in my state.”  The ability to eat “locally” also varies depending on the production capacity of the region in question: people living in areas that are agriculturally productive year-round may have an easier time sourcing food that is grown or raised 100 miles (or even 50 miles) from their homes than those in arid or colder regions, whose residents may define “local food” in a more regional context.

The Morgantown Farmers’ Market, for example, sells products that are grown or made within 50 miles of Morgantown city limits. So all of their products are supporting small family farms.

So, West Virginia has developed a “food charter” that’s designed to help us all focus, measure and celebrate our collective progress towards stronger local food systems. This Road Map for the Food Economy offers a vision for WV’s local food economy and provides ways of measuring how statewide and local policies, programs, and community efforts are contributing to the strength of this food economy. The Road Map is broken down into 2 parts: an action plan for building a food and farm economy over the next 5 years; and a “Food Economy Score Card” which allows us to measure the cooperative progress towards the goals of the action plan. The Food Economy Score Card will be updated annually and then the positive changes and progression will be distinguished in an annual report.

This Road Map is for everyone!It’s offered more as a tool to help people (and consumers) in West Virginia understand the key opportunities of the food policies and economy. Local government, citizens groups, policy makers, farmer groups, foundations, agencies, economic developers and other concerned groups are invited to adopt or adapt the Road Map as a guide to form an action plan for their own efforts.

So, how can you get involved?

          Adopt the Road Map for the Food Economy charter: encourage your local government, citizens group, legislators, farmer organization, community foundation, economic developers or other concerned agencies to sign on at

          Stay connected to statewide organizing efforts through the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition by signing up for our newsletter, and by attending statewide events hosted by other groups — such as the West Virginia Small Farm Conference, hosted by WVU Extension Service and its West Virginia Small Farm Center.

          Buy Local: set a goal for how much your family, business or agency will spend on local food. At home, consider buying at least $10 worth of locally produced food per week. At work, consider sourcing at least $500 worth of local food for events and meetings each year.

          Find simple ways to work on the Road Map’s action items within your own community. Tell your school superintendent about the importance of Agriculture Education; let a farmer know about farm to school opportunities, or help start a nutrition education class at your local farmers market. If you are part of a civic organization, help that organization choose an action item to work on this year.

Why should the Road Map matter to you?

The problem that I’m really trying to shine light on is the fact that food access has a HUGE effect on food insecurity in the U.S. right now. The State Indicator on Fruits and Vegetables 2013 reports that the percentage of census tracts with at least one healthier food retailer within a ½ mile of tract boundary in West Virginia is at 59.3%. Currently, West Virginia does not have a healthier food retail policy. West Virginia also does not currently have a state-level farm-to-school/preschool policy. The entire state only has 1 food hub. Yes, only one! And West Virginia has no local food policy councils. That’s right… zero!

As a community why can’t get try to enclose this gap in food access with the products that are right in front of us? Well, only time will tell how this community attempts to resolve this problem.

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Fertility and a Woman’s Diet…

According to a new observational research study, the Mediterranean diet may improve a woman’s fertility. The study, completed in Spain, drew a conclusion to the connection between the Mediterranean diet and fertility based on insulin response. The American or Western diet is packed with sugars and processed foods. So, in order for the body to digest and use these foods correctly, an increased amount of insulin is needed. When the body has too much insulin, the other hormones in the body, like reproductive hormones, are not released accurately.

The Mediterranean diet, which is loaded with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils, and whole grains, helps to control blood glucose. By helping to control the body’s blood glucose, or insulin response, this can assist fertility and reproductive hormones maintain a healthy balance.

Researchers studied more than 500 women who reported having trouble getting pregnant. Another 1,600 women with at least one successful pregnancy ending in live birth were also included in the study as a control group. The research split the group into Western diet and Mediterranean diet categories. The women in the Western diet category showed no difference in fertility whether they followed a Western diet strictly or loosely. The Mediterranean diet group, however, showed a significant difference in fertility based on how closely women followed the diet.

In contrast, approximately 17% of women who followed the Mediterranean diet firmly reported problems becoming pregnant. When women followed the diet loosely, that number jumped to 26%.

So, you can see that nothing is absolutely proven with the diet and fertility… yet.  Not all doctors are convinced about the connection. There isn’t enough information to show that this diet pattern can assist a woman at becoming pregnant.

Also found in a new research study, diets containing foods rich in monounsaturated fat, like green fruit, olive oil, peanuts, almonds, and cashews, could triple chances of women becoming pregnant via fertility treatment. Health professionals believe a diet similar to this could assist most women wanting to become pregnant naturally as well. In this study, it was clear that consuming a diet high in saturated fat, found in dairy and red meat, appeared to impair women’s fertility. Diets high in saturated fat have also been linked to lower sperm counts in men. The School of Public Health at Harvard looked at how the intakes of different types of fats affect success rates of IVF treatment in women mostly in their 30s. The study found the women who ate the most monounsaturated fat had up to 3x the chance of giving birth via IVF, compared to those who ate the least.

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Eating After a Lap-Band Surgery

In the recent news of New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie’s efforts to lose weight, it’s important for people everywhere to really understand the extent of a lap-band surgery.  So far the New Jersey native has lost 40 pounds. But, it’s important to keep in mind, after having major surgery like this, that maintaining weight loss will be attributable to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here are some diet tips to follow after lap-band surgery:

        Eat small portions

o   Limiting portion sizes is essential to patients after having surgery. A lap-band surgery decreases the size of your stomach and could even make it painful to consume large quantities of food. It is recommended that patient also eat slowly and chew their food thoroughly to avoid discomfort.

        Focus on high protein foods

o   Proteins provide a sense of satiety and fullness. But, focusing on soft proteins is important after surgery. Some examples of soft proteins are Greek yogurt, low-sodium soups, or cottage cheese.

        Avoid drinking and eating at the same time

o   Avoiding the consumption of drinking and eating at the same time is one of the most important rules to follow post-surgery. Staying hydrated is very important as well. So patients should stop drinking at least 10 minutes before eating and then avoid drinking at least 45 minutes after finishing a meal. The main concern here is to prevent vomiting from occurring.

        Limit pasta, rice, and bread

o    Since eating fiber is healthy for people without surgery, it is not suggested that it should be avoided completely. Most patients simply do not tolerate pastas and bread products because they absorb fluids and expand. These types of foods can make patients feel uncomfortable and too full.

        Consume soft fruits and vegetables

o   In the first few weeks post-surgery, patients will need to puree fruits and vegetables. Later these patients can introduce whole fruits and vegetables. The skins of fruits and vegetables (like apple skins or cucumber skins).

The main message that people should know is that lap-band surgery is a tool to maintain weight in patients. The surgery is not a quick-fix or a solution. It is only efficient if the patient is aware of what they’re putting in their stomach and how much of it as well.

What to eat after lap-band surgery

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Happy Mediterranean Diet Month!

Did you know that May is Mediterranean Diet Month? The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating reflective of traditions in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, in countries like Spain, France, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Malta, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Albania, Greece, Israel, Croatia, Libya, and Lebanon.. But, what most people don’t know is that you don’t need to travel around the world to get these heart healthy benefits. It’s remarkably easy to incorporate these types of foods into you and your family’s every day diet!

Embracing the Med Diet is all about making simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. Here are 8 simple steps for good health:

1.       Eat lots of vegetables

2.       Change the way you think about meat

3.       Always eat breakfast

4.       Eat seafood twice a week

5.       Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week

6.       Use good fats

7.       Enjoy some dairy products

8.       For dessert, eat fresh fruit

The Mediterranean Diet also been shown to help:

          Achieve weight loss and weight management goals

          Lower your risk of heart disease and hypertension

          Fight cancers and chronic diseases

          Reduce asthma

          Avoid diabetes

          Resist depression

          Nurture healthier babies

Did you know that the Med Diet has its own food guide pyramid? Here are some tips at following the guide from the bottom (proven to be the most important) all the way up to the top….

          Look for ways to be more active

          Cooking and enjoying time with family and friends contribute to good health

          Every day, eat mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and peanuts, and healthy fats such as those found in olive oil

          At least twice a week, eat fish and seafood, the best sources of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s

          Yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs are central to the Mediterranean Diet, in rational portion sizes

          Red meat and sweets, at the top of the pyramid, are “sometimes” foods to eat less often.

The Med Diet has specific nutrition “powerhouses” that play a significant role in the health benefits it provides to people all over the world…

          Avocados– high in fiber and packed with monounsaturated fat and vitamin E

          Fish– great sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and mackerel

          Tomatoes– vitamin C and lycopene, which is a great antioxidant

          Yogurt– a protein powerhouse containing calcium to strengthen your bones

          Beans– a great sources of protein and fiber

          Nuts, peanuts, and seeds– protein, fiber, AND heart-healthy fats

          Wine– contains powerful antioxidants from the grape skins and the seeds have been shown to reduce the risk of most diseases of aging

          Whole grains– these “good” carbs are packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein

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Is SNAP-Ed Under Attack?

Is the Farm Bill’s Nutrition Education Program under Attack?

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Since the Farm Bill is up for re-authorization, Congress is currently threatening to cut one of its components. This component is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs’ nutrition education (SNAP-Ed).

SNAP-Ed empowers recipients to purchase healthy foods within a very tight food budget. The program employs hundreds of RDs in all 50 states. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) Farm Bill Work Group is making slight revisions to the 2012 Farm Bill Recommendation document to highlight the SNAP-Ed program among other aspects of the bill.

The recommendations include talking points related to:

          Empowering consumers

o   Maintain current funding for SNAP Nutrition Education (SNAP Ed), an effective program that empowers participants to change behaviors for healthy eating using knowledge tailored to their lifestyle.

          Provide access to healthy and safe foods

o   Protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), key programs in our nation’s nutrition safety net.

          Assure a healthy and safe food system

o   Ensure funding for a variety of community-based and regional agriculture initiatives that expand the availability of regionally-grown food, create jobs, and promote economic development.

o   Support farm practices and policies that conserve soil, water, air, habitat and biodiversity, as these are essential to our survival, and help to assure that a next generation of farmers has access to land and the skills and incentives to grow healthy foods.

          Assure sound science for future evidenced-based decision making

o   Maintain funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service that includes Human Nutrition Research Centers for vital research to drive better nutrition, eliminate hunger, increase food security and healthy food systems and eliminate diet-related health disparities, including obesity and assure the availability of nutrition monitoring, food composition and related data.

o   Maintain funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grants in order to support food safety and nutrition research and a diversity of fruits, vegetables and nuts available to help people achieve the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Farm Bill overview:

The Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation that determines not only what farmers grow, but what is available in the United States food supply. Farm policies have existed in the U.S. since the establishment of our country. The 1920’s brought about the first big shift in agriculture policies, focusing on direct government intervention to provide income support by increasing crop prices and controlling supplies. Legislation continued to support farmers through direct income payments and crop supply management until 1996. At that time fixed income support payments were removed, making a shift to the modern commodity payments currently in place, and focused on issues surrounding food safety, food assistance and the environment.

The most recent Farm Bill, 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Act, included several key provisions that impacted nutrition.

          – Renamed the “food stamp program” to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to reflect a modern program, putting healthy foods within reach for people.

          – Authorized a small pilot program, the Healthy Incentives Pilot, to research the effect of incentives in encouraging SNAP participants to purchase healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

        –   Created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to coordinate agricultural research and Extension programs.

          – Established funding for new programs to support producers transitioning to organic agriculture and to increase research in organic agriculture.

So, now the real question is- what will happen next? Only time will tell….

AND Farm Bill

2012 Farm Bill recommendations

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How to Fight Heartburn and Reflux

How to Fight Heartburn and Reflux

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A substantial amount of Americans suffer from “acid indigestion” or “heartburn.” Others may be diagnosed with GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. These conditions may be triggered by the “typical” American diet and lifestyle habits. The occurrence of these symptoms has increased with the growing epidemic of obesity.  

Well, let’s break the issues down… What are these conditions? How can we address their symptoms?

In heartburn and reflux, acid from the stomach flows upward into the lower end of the esophagus. This can be caused by pressure pushing upward, or relaxation of the otherwise tight muscle that normally keeps acid in the stomach. Pressure can be caused by overeating at a meal, pregnancy, some types of exercise, or being overweight. In the case of the muscle, it can be affected by actual changes in the muscle or substances that relax the muscle. The symptoms, in turn, can be a burning sensation and/or pain.

Foods, beverages, and even certain medications can cause the muscle to relax. Stress, lack of sleep and smoking can also contribute to indigestion. Eating, especially large amounts before bedtime is another element.

Despite the name, heartburn is not a condition of the heart, but the symptoms can mimic heart conditions. Regrettably, some people dismiss symptoms of heart complications, by blaming them on indigestion. Random indigestion or heartburn is not a problem. When it occurs on a regular basis, as in GERD, it can cause ulceration in the esophagus, bleeding ulcers, and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

GERD is diagnosed when the reflux becomes more chronic and problematic. This occurs more than twice a week, becomes worse even with increasing doses of OTC antacids, causes problems with sleep, interferes with normal activities, causes hoarseness or worsening of asthma, invokes a chronic cough, causes chest pain, causes trouble swallowing, or causes a loss of appetite due to symptoms.

As the article stated before, there are some foods that contribute to the cause of reflux, while other foods are more likely to irritate already inflamed tissues. Examples of trigger foods that can cause relaxation of the muscle would be fatty foods, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tomato, onion, garlic, mint, caffeine and carbonated beverages.

Foods that cause physical irritation might be abrasive grain foods (like some crackers or dry cereals), nuts, or some raw vegetables. Others might be acidic foods (citrus fruit/juices, tomato products) or spicy foods (pepper, chili powder, curry). Try using softer foods and beverages to provide nutrient needs when the esophagus is irritated.

When it comes to fiber, try including more soluble fiber foods found in oats, cooked vegetables and skinned fruit. Cooking raw vegetables like steaming or roasting can reduce the abrasion. It can be helpful to keep a food and beverage record, as well as a symptom record to identify any triggers.

Other habits that can be helpful might be eating smaller, frequent meals (rather than a few large meals), eating slowly, and chewing food thoroughly. You should also try stopping eating about two to three hours before bedtime and sleeping with your upper body elevated. Keep up with fluid intake, which is at least 64oz. spread throughout the entire day.

If being overweight is contributing to the reflux, weight loss would be an option. Healthy weight loss should be achieved by eating smaller portions of healthy foods spread over at a minimum of 3 meals. This pattern can help reduce total calorie intake while sustaining energy levels and putting you in better control over food choices. The smaller portions and more consistent food intake can directly improve the reflux as well. You should also make sure that your diet is nutritionally adequate, since some foods may be limited owing to reduced food intake and because you are avoiding reflux triggers.

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Heartburn/Reflux article

The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen

There has, and probably always will be, a debate as to whether consumers should purchase organic versus traditionally grown food sources. And I really didn’t think too much about the topic until I took an Agricultural Values and Ethics class my last year as an undergraduate, as a capstone requirement. Ever since then, I really have become aware of how information can really change how a consumer shops for groceries for their family.

This being said… I came across a term, “The Dirty Dozen”, in several articles about organic food versus traditionally grown food.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases a Shopper’s Guide. The guide has information on 45 different conventional fruits and vegetables and their pesticide loads. At the top of the list- the produce found to contain the highest amount of pesticides: is the Dirty Dozen. These are the 12 foods that they recommend consumers always purchase in their organic form. This Shopper’s Guide is based on the EWG’s analysis of pesticide residue testing data from the USDA and the FDA.

Then, on the bottom of the list, are the Clean Fifteen. These are 15 foods that have the lowest pesticide residue. If you’re on a limited budget and have to pick and choose your organic produce, the EWG encourages that you spend the extra money for the Dirty Dozen in their organic form and buy the Clean Fifteen in their conventional form.

Now that I’ve provided the education and substantial background on these organic-friendly foods, don’t get confused as to why I chose not to mention anything based on my opinion in this post. I personally, have different views about organic versus tradition foods. And again, I personally, will go out of my way to avoid purchasing organic foods. But, I’m not here to convince anyone to agree or disagree with my opinions. I’m here to provide nutritionally beneficial education to the public. And I hope I’m achieving this goal more and more as my ISPP Dietetic Internship, and future career as a Registered Dietitian, continue.

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Chain Restaurants Impact on Kids’ Meals and their Health

Kids Meals Get an “F” in Nutrition at Chain Restaurants

Nearly all of the meal possibilities offered to kids at America’s top chain restaurants are of poor nutritional quality. A report released today found that fried chicken fingers, burgers, French fries, and sugar drinks continue to dominate kids’ meal setting, with 97% of the nearly 3,500 meal possibilities not meeting CSPI‘s nutrition criteria for 4- to 8-year-olds.

And if you don’t believe CSPI, ask the National Restaurant Association (NRA): 91% of kids’ meals at America’s major chains do not even meet the nutritional standards of the industry lobbying group’s Kids LiveWell program.

One out of every three American children is overweight or obese, but it’s as if the chain restaurant industries didn’t get the message. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention” and addressed these health concerns for further research and studies to use in the fight against childhood obesity.

Two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, representing young and old, urban and rural, and majority and minority populations. This epidemic of excess weight is associated with major causes of chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesity-related illness is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.

Most chains seem stuck in this time warp, serving the same dated meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda. I know that they can come up with healthier, cost-effective, nutritionally beneficial meals that are more current than these.

One chain that has gotten the message is Subway. All eight of Subway restaurants’ Fresh Fit for Kids meal combinations met CSPI’s nutrition criteria. Subway is the only restaurant chain that does not offer sugar drinks as an option with its kids’ meals, instead including low-fat milk or bottled water along with apple slices with all of its kid-sized subs.

“Our goal has always been to provide the most nutritious, balanced kids meals in the industry and we are proud to be recognized by CSPI for achieving that goal,” said Lanette Kovachi, corporate dietitian for the Subway brand.

To meet the CSPI’s nutrition criteria, kids’ meals must be at or below 430 calories, no more than 35% of calories from fat, or no more than 10% of calories from saturated plus trans-fat. Meals that meet CSPI’s criteria cannot have more than 35% added sugars by weight or more than 770mg. of sodium. The criteria require meals to make a proactive nutritional impact either by providing at least half a serving of fruit or vegetable, including an item that is 51% or more whole grain, or including specified levels of vitamins or fiber. CSPI’s criteria exclude sugar drinks in favor of water, juice, or low-fat milk. The NRA’s standards are quite similar, though they allow more calories.

Here are some of the least healthy kids’ meals available at chain restaurants:

–        Applebee’s Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Fries and 2% Chocolate Milk has 1,210 calories with 62g of total fat (46% of kcal), 21g of saturated fat (16%), and 2,340mg. of sodium. That meal has nearly three times as many calories, and three times as much sodium, as CSPI’s criteria for four-to eight-year-olds allow.

–        Chili’s Pepperoni Pizza with Homestyle Fries and Soda has 1,010 calories, 45g of total fat (40% of kcal), 18g of saturated fat (16% of kcal, and about as much saturated fat as an adult should consume in an entire day), and 2,020mg. of sodium.

–        Denny’s Jr. Cheeseburger and French Fries has 980 calories, 55g of total fat (50% of kcal), 20g of saturated fat (18%) and 1,110mg. of sodium. Denny’s does not include beverages with kids’ meals.

–        Ruby Tuesday’s Mac ‘n Cheese, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Fruit Punch has 860 calories, 46g of total fat (48% of kcal) and 1,730mg. of sodium. Ruby Tuesday’s does not disclose saturated or trans-fat content on its menus or website.

–        Dairy Queen’s Chicken Strips, Kids’ Fries, Sauce, Arctic Rush (a Slushee-type frozen drink) and Dilly Bar has 1,030 calories, 45g of total fat (39% of kcal), 15g of saturated fat (13% of calories), and 1,730mg of sodium.

At 19 chain restaurants reported on, not a single possible combination of the items offered for children met the CSPI’s nutrition standards. Out of these restaurants, 9 (that included McDonald’s Popeye’s, Chipotle, and Hardee’s) not a single kids’ meal met the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell standards. At Wendy’s, only 5% of 40 possible kids’ meals met the CSPI’s standards. Most of these items were either too high in sodium or saturated fat. At Burger King, just 20% of the 15 possible kids’ meals met CSPI’s criteria.

The last time the CSPI reviewed the nutritional quality of kids’ meals at chain restaurants, in 2008, it is reported that these restaurants have made little progress. In 2008, just 1% of kids’ meals met the CSPI nutrition standards, compared to only 3% in 2012. Only one-third of the chains had at least 1 meal that met the nutritional standards in 2008. This number scaled to 44% in 2012- good, but not great improvement.

While the CSPI report recommends that companies consider several changes, it also encourages the chains to participate in the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program. For these restaurants to do so, they would need to restructure their kids’ meals to meet these standards. The bottom line is that these restaurants should offer more fruits and veggies, and to offer these fresh options as an alternative side to French fries. Whole grains should be offered more, as well as removing soda or other sugar sweetened beverages from the kids’ menus. And just because Subway was the only chain restaurant to meet CSPI’s criteria for all kids’ meals, it should increase the whole grain content of its breads and continue to lower sodium.

The long-term problem I see in this article is that the chain restaurant industry is conditioning children to accept a really narrow range of food options. More chains are adding fruits and veggies at this point, but realistically- a lot more could offer these options. And given the childhood obesity epidemic that America is currently attempting at combating- you would think that more restaurants would want to take action in the health of their future consumers.

CBS News Clip

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This is a standard Subway Kids’ Meal option

Purple Corn is the New Rage?

Purple Corn is the New Rage?

Recently Dr. Oz, yes THE Dr. Oz, has stated that the color purple is currently “hot”.  And from my experience with anything that Dr. Oz says, nutritionally, everyone listens.

Purple corn has recently been crowned the king of the crop, according to Minnesota-based Suntava. From purple carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower to blackberries, grapes, blueberries, and cabbage, a deep purple shade is usually a good sign that fruits or vegetables contain a healthy dose of valuable phytonutrients.

Suntava purple corn has an ORAC value (per 100 grams) of 10,800, where blueberries have 4,669. ORAC scores should not be viewed in seclusion because they are a good indicator of the free-radical busting potential of foods.

The average consumer probably has never heard of purple corn before, like myself. But, shoppers are increasingly becoming more aware of the powerhouse grain source.

Suntava, which initially focused on bringing natural colors from purple corn to market as a replacement for synthetic dye Red 40, has since expanded into purple corn meal, which is used in everything from tortilla chips to snack bars, sourdough, cereals, and cakes.

The important fact that really jumped out to me when I first read about the purple-colored food source, is that its non-GMO. While certain food companies are more interested in the novelty factor of purple snacks, others have really zoned in on the antioxidant message that this food brings to the table.

Suntava Launches Purple Corn to Super Foods Status

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