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Junk Food


Did You Know?

Below are facts on some common things we eat every day that you might not have known. Let’s classify them into the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Skim Latte– Packed with protein, and half your calcium need for the day; it’s a “liquid meal in a cup”. Caffeine or what I usually like to choose…half caf…helps give you sbaboost of energy and fires up your metabolism. If you do want to add a little flavor – ask for one pump (vs. the typical 4 pumps). You will save 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Be wary of the “skinny” latte– which is made with artificial sweeteners.

Organic Whole Grain Cereals – A cereal such as Uncle Sam’s has only 4 organic ingredients: Whole Wheat Kernels, Whole Flaxseed, Salt and Barley Malt. Weighing in at 190 calories, 5 grams of good fat, 38 carbohydrates (of which, 10 grams are fiber!), less than 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of protein. What a perfect meal!

Non-Fat Greek Yogurt – One cup of Fage Total 0% Fat Greek yogurt is only 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar (vs. most flavored yogurts with over 22 grams of sugar), 18 grams of protein!, and 20% of your daily calcium requirements.

Pure Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is chock-full of protein, with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Benefits of one serving of peanut butter:

  • 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E
  • 49 mg of bone-building magnesium
  • 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium
  •  0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6
  • Can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions

Choose one with no additives…peanuts only and maybe a little sea salt. Best to eliminate anything that ends in “y”…Skippy, Jiffy, Teddie, Freddy…and be cautious of the term “natural” on a label – it’s a marketing term and doesn’t mean anything. Organic is ideal. If you are allergic, try soy nut butter. Same great protein benefits.

Eggs – Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.  A large egg contains:

  • only 77 calories
  • only 5 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of protein
  • all 9 essential amino acids
  • rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others)
  • 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things. A study revealed that 90% of Americans may not get enough choline in their diet.

The yolks contain most of the nutrients! Omega-3 enriched or pastured (raised on a pasture and grass fed) eggs are much more nutritious than factory-raised chickens. 

Whey Protein – Whey protein is considered a complete protein, contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Additional benefits include:

  • weight loss
  • increased muscle mass (vs. fat)
  • increase in glutathione levels (your body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
  • decrease in triglycerides and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
  • increase in immune system function and power in sports and decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training

Quinoa – also known as the “SuperGrain”. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and it contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It contains:

  • iron
  • lysine (mainly essential for tissue growth and repair)
  • is rich in magnesium
  • high in Riboflavin (B2) (improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells)
  • has a high content of manganese (an antioxidant)

The Bad

Smoothies – depending on the ingredients, can have up to 1,500 calories, 60 grams of fat and 60 grams of sugar. Best to lean toward the natural ingredients – fresh fruit, milk, water, whey protein. 

Granola – has long been viewed since back-in-the-day as a “health food”. There are wonderful properties to granola and trail mix, however, they are often made with butter and oil and have up to 400 calories per cup. Shop for the lighter variations, or make it yourself.

Salad Dressing – Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing has 150 calories per 2 tbsps. , of which, 144 calories are from fat, and 420 mg of sodium (Ranch is 140 calories, 135 from fat). Even if you choose the “light version”, you start to sacrifice nutrition for artificial ingredients. Try a balsamic glaze with natural spices (garlic, salt, pepper, mint).

Fat-Free Foods – you are better off just eating the real thing, or reduced fat…most fat free foods have a ton of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup – added empty calories which cause you to eat more. Healthy fats are essential to our diet – it’s just important to eat them in moderation.

100 Calorie Packs – convenient packs do not change the nutritional content. Your snack may still be too high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates or sodium, even if you’re eating only 100 calories. And they generally leave you unsatistifed and craving more.

Bagels – most bagels are a dense, bleached, processed flour carbohydrate that usually contain about 500 calories, equivalent to 5 slices of bread. All of those carbs will give you a quick boost than a hard crash. They are typically made with white flour, are very difficult for your body to ingest and have several inflammatory properties. If you choose to eat a bagel, opt for whole wheat or oat bran.

Gatorade –

  • A single serving of Gatorade contains 14 grams of sugar – a mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups and glucose-fructose (most 20oz bottles are 2.5 servings or 34 grams of sugar)
  • Contains a ton of sodium – an unlikely candidate for any beneficial electrolyte restoration (when the body experiences short periods of exhaustion and fatigue, it does not need mass amounts of sodium)
  • It uses brominated vegetable oil (BVO) to increase fluidity and uniformity (like other sugary drinks). BVO is also used to create lead dissolving additives for gasoline, photographic paper films, fire-extinguishing materials, and agricultural fumigants. More than 100 countries have outlawed the substance altogether.
  • Because of the amount of carbohydrates in Gatorade, over consumption can cause obesity.
  • Ingredients include:  water, sugar, table salt, carbohydrates, electrolytes (110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, 93 mg chloride), high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, glucose and fructose.

Sugar Cereal- It is common for nutrition-minded shoppers to pick “healthy choices” such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Cascade Granola. Honey Nut Cheerios actually has the equivalent amount of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. And most other cereals have significantly more. In fact, many of these cereals surpass the half-way mark for how much sugar many experts believe we should consume in a day.

The Ugly

Donuts – Sorry to say, a donut is not food. Nutritional info for a Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut: 370 calories, 24 g of fat (11 grams of saturated fat), 390 grams of sodium, 35 carbs, 17 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. And this is a common breakfast. Ingredients include:

Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene)

Frappuccino – A Grande Java Chip Frappuccino have 460 calories, 18g of fat (12 grams of saturated fat), 50 mg of cholesterol (17% of daily value!), 72 grams of carbohydrates, 66 grams of sugar! (no, that is not a typo) and 6 grams of protein. Ingredients in a frappaccino (not including the chips) include:

  • Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150)

With the light Frappuccino, it may be fewer calories however; you are ingesting even more chemicals:

  • Light Coffee Frappuccino: Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)

Processed Deli Meats  – most are prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and bonded together with non-meat additives and meat emulsions cooked to coagulate and bind the chunks of meat into a “shaped form” of meat. Often include nitrates, up to 460 mg sodium per serving, carrageenan, meat by-products (read – bones), corn syrup, gelatin and emulsifiers. Your best bet is the real thing – roasted turkey. Make it and slice it for the week. Or visit Batavia. Best turkey sandwich in town.

Soda / Sugar Drinks – 1 can of Classic Coke contains 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar and includes high fructose corn sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, “natural flavors” and caffeine. Snapple is not any better, against popular belief: 1 bottle = 150 calories, 36 grams of sugar.

Chicken Nuggets – There are truly no “healthy” chicken nuggets unless made from scratch – if any, possibly Bell & Evans with simple ingredients of white breast chicken & whole wheat breading. Typical ingredient list for chicken nuggets includes:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Potassium Lactate, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Flavorings, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Diacetate, Carrageenan. Dextrose, Calcium Propionate (to Protect Freshness), Guar Gum, Potassium Sorbate (to Protect Freshness)

English Muffins – Perfect example of a processed food. Ingredients in Thomas’ include:

mono and diglycerides, datem, sodium stearolyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono-and diglycerides, dextrose, wheat sour, guar gum, lactic acid, molasses, fumaric acid, azodicarbonamide, , caramel color, acetic acid, sucralose, nonfat milk

Try a brand that is organic or whole wheat with 5 or less ingredients.

Fruit Snacks/Gummies: a recent fruit snack was given to my son in a party bag…it is produced by “Healthy Food Brands” and the ingredient list is as follows:

grape juice concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, apple puree, gelatin, citric acid, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, FD&C Red, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 3, carnauba wax.

One guess if I let him eat it?

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Your Second Brain

Our bodies contain a second nervous system, separate from our brains, made up of about 500 million neurons that contribute to your physical and mental well-being.stomach_tummy

Meet your stomach. With its vast network of neurons lining the stomach, it is often referred to as the “second brain” in our bodies. This enteric nervous system in our stomach goes far beyond simply  processing the food we eat and giving us “butterflies” when we are anxious. The “brain” in our stomachs, in connection with the brain in our skulls, contributes to our mental state and plays key roles with some diseases in our body.

The condition of our stomachs will directly correlate to brain function. Your gut produces more hormones than any other part of your body, including 95% of the body’s serotonin. When your gut isn’t functioning properly, you could experience emotional distress. Up to 90% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also suffer from mental-health issues. This relationship between the two brains may also cause other diseases, like osteoporosis, since the gut regulates bone mass.

So, what you put in your stomach can directly affect your mental and physical functionality.

When our stomach does not function properly, it indicates an imbalance. Cutting-edge research is investigating how the stomach controls the body’s immune response and function. At least 70% of our immune system is a function of the gut, which is responsible for expelling and killing foreign invaders. Trillions of microscopic bacteria fill our stomach (called the intestinal microbiome) and are essential to life as they help the body extract nutrients from food, regulate tissue development and kill off germs.

If we aren’t feeding our stomachs with the right nutrients, these vital bacteria are not able to do their job. It is believed that our modern diet of processed foods is disrupting the function of the microbiome in our stomachs, therefore our stomach function. In addition, excess amounts of stress, alcohol and antibiotic medications destroy these beneficial bacteria.

There are ways to recoup the healthy balance in your stomach. This includes swapping junk foods for natural, healthy foods, getting outside, exercising to relieve stress and adding probiotics to your diet to balance the healthy bacteria in your gut.

From a personal perspective, my son was getting sick every month, to the day. We thought he had an immunity problem. After a lot of blood work and many doctors’ appointments, nothing was found. I decided to put him on Florastor Kids probiotic to see if it was an issue with the balance of the bacteria in his stomach and it literally fixed him. He has not been sick since. I am a believer in probiotics.

Future research will continue to help us discover the connection between the two brains and the impact it has on our health. For now, it is important to feed your stomach (and hence, your mind) with healthy, natural foods as often as possible and keep a high activity level to maintain a natural balance in your body.

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Why We Can’t Put Those Chips Down.


There is a growing body of evidence that supports what many of us have always thought  – junk food is truly addictive.  The more we eat, the more we want.  Our brains crave junk food in much the same way as a drug addict craves drugs. And this is no accident.  Junk food has been designed and marketed with one goal in mind – to get us to eat more of it!

Early last year, Michael Moss wrote a cover story for New York Times Magazine about the science behind junk food addiction and taste.  He interviewed James Behnke, a top executive at Pillsbury, about his attempt during a 1999 meeting,  to get the CEO’s at America’s largest food companies to look seriously at America’s growing obesity problem.  Behnke discussed a pivotal moment of the meeting when Michael Mudd, a VP at Kraft, made an uncomfortable analogy.  He compared the large food companies to the tobacco companies in the way they advertised harmful products to children.  And he went on to claim “the toll taken on the public health by poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”

On this basis, Mudd presented a plan to address obesity and asked for the food industry to be part of the solution, but he was not successful.  Since that meeting in 1999, obesity rates have continued to surge.  Today, one in three adults and approximately one in six children are clinically obese.

Maybe it was naive to expect these tremendously successful food companies to make any changes that would alter their highly profitable brands.  At the time of the meeting, General Mills was reaping over $500 million in annual revenue just from their line of Yoplait yogurts.  These yogurts were marketed as a healthy food, but most flavors contained over 20 grams of sugar per 6 oz container (more than twice the sugar per serving as the marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms). And they had just launched Go-Gurt, the squeeze yogurt with 10 grams of sugar per tube (close to the 15 grams per sugar for the same serving size of most ice creams).

Sugar, Fat, Salt & Other Food Industry Tactics

Moss, a Pulitzer prize winning author, continued on to write “Salt, Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us”.  After more than four years of research and over 300 interviews, he found that there was a “conscience effort – taking place in the labs and marketing meetings and grocery store aisles – to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.”  The food industry uses sugar, salt and fat, to make processed foods addicting, as well as other scientific techniques to make sure that we keep eating.

Sugar:  Sugar alone has been shown to be more addictive than cocaine.  Food manufacturers use sophisticated taste science to determine the “bliss point” that makes us crave more.

Fat:  The industry strives to find the best ‘mouth feel.’ That’s the feeling we get when we bite into a warm, gooey taste of cheese, or crispy fried chicken.  The feeling rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does.

Salt:  Moss describes salt as “the miracle ingredient that solves all of the problems.”   Salt provides a burst of flavor, but also acts as a preservative so that the food can last on the shelf for months.  Salt also hides much of the off-notes in flavors that are common to processed foods.

Vanishing Calorie Density:  Big food companies also look for this attribute when designing junk food.  The term “vanishing calorie density” refers to the feeling we get when something melts quickly in our mouths.  When this happens, our brains think that there aren’t any calories in it, and, as such, we can keep eating it forever.  Cheetos are a perfect example of this type of food.

“Craveability”:  The food industry aims for this goal, so they can be assured that we keep eating.  Moss explains that foods with bold distinctive flavors can overwhelm our brains, which in turn, prevents us from over indulging on them.  To combat this, food industry scientists strive to create “craveabliity” in a food.  This is the exact balance between enticing our taste buds, but not overwhelming them, thereby overriding our brain’s natural tendency to say “stop”.

So – what are we to do?  The key is to eat less processed and packaged junk food.  Try to shop around the perimeters of the grocery store (think vegetables, fruits and meats) and stick to whole foods as much as possible.  Snacking occasionally, and in small amounts is OK, but be aware that these foods are purposefully designed to be addictive.  Understanding some of the science behind these packaged food may help us in resisting them.  Remember the food industry’s goal is to make money, not to keep us healthy.

  • lisa

    Love it!

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