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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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Take Dinner to a New Level!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of cooking with my teenage daughter, Lexi.  She just came home from 2-months in Hawaii where she worked and lived on an organic farm.  Lexi had so much information to share and couldn’t wait to cook dinner for our family.  She cooked with some unique ingredients that I had not used before and made a delicious and healthy meal.  If you are like many cooks and feel like you could use some new recipes and tips – read on…

Our meal was stir-fry vegetables with sticky rice and tofu.  Yes, tofu!  Don’t let it scare you.  It was truly delicious.  Even my two young boys loved it (until I told them what it was)!  Of course, if you choose, you can skip the tofu or use chicken instead.  I have made stir-fry many times and it is often just ‘ho-hum’, but with some new healthy ingredients, we had a super tasty dish that was loaded with vitamins and minerals.

We started with coconut oil to sauté our vegetables.  I knew that this oil had a bad rap because of it high content of saturated fats, but I learned that the fats in coconut oil are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are healthy fats.  Because of the way these fatty acids are metabolized in the body, they provide unique benefits such as increased energy expenditure, which has shown to increase weight loss.  In addition, it has been shown to improve cholesterol ratios, fight off yeast and fungus in our bodies and improve thyroid function.

We added the basics – carrots, broccoli, kale, mushrooms and red onions – but you could use any vegetables that you like.  These five ingredients together are full of vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, D and K, as well as calcium, copper, potassium and fiber and many others.

We flavored the dish with brown rice miso.  Many of us know miso from the soup that is served in Thai restaurants of which I have never been a fan.  But the small amount that we used added an amazing complex flavor to the dish, as well as more nutrition.  Brown rice miso is made from soybeans and brown rice.  It is high in fiber and complex proteins.  It also has a dense concentration of nutrients and antioxident properties. And, it is high in polyunsaturated fats, which are known to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Coconut milk. This ingredient is filled with benefits.  To name just a few:  High levels of manganese which helps to metabolize glucose, which in turn helps the body’s metabolism work at a better level. It also contains lauric acid, which has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C, E & B, as well as phosphorus which can help strengthen bones.

We added raw sunflower seeds, which I originally thought were just for a little crunch, but I discovered that these little seeds pack an amazing punch of nutrition.  One-quarter cup of these little seeds contains over half the daily recommended value of Vitamin E, as well as high amounts of Vitamin B1, manganese, copper, tryptophan, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin B6, phosphorus and folate.

Then we added lemongrass – it is a perennial plant grown is Hawaii and much of Asia. It is know to have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties.  The list of its health benefits really makes me wonder why we don’t all eat it every morning. It has been shown to provide relief from all types of pain, aid in digestion, as well as have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic abilities.  It adds a delicious lemon flavor to foods.  If you can’t find it fresh, you can get a jarred or dried version.

We also flavored the dish with fresh cilantro, which is rich in Vitamins A, C & K. It is a good source of folates and many minerals, such as potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

Lastly, tofu!  Its benefits are numerous and too long to list, but include: high in protein, lower risk of cancer, help lower bad cholesterol, alleviate symptoms of menopause and great source of calcium and Vitamin E.

The amounts below are approximates.  Taste as you go!

Vegetable Stir Fry

stir fry photo


Coconut oil (1 – 2 tablespoons)

½ Red Onion finely chopped

1 large head of Broccoli chopped

3 – 4 large Carrots chopped

8oz package of Mushrooms (any kind)

½ bunch of Kale chopped

1 – 2 cups Coconut Milk (you can also use Lite Coconut milk )

1 Tbsp Brown Rice Miso

½ cup Sunflower Seeds

1 tsp jarred Lemongrass

1 Tblp fresh Cilantro diced

½ Tbsp Curry


To prepare:

Heat coconut oil in bottom of pan

Start adding vegetables – Onions first, then broccoli and carrots, then mushrooms, then kale.  Cook until veggies just begin to soften.

Combine Miso and coconut milk and then add to pan.

Add curry, sunflower seeds, lemongrass, cilantro and salt.

Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Sticky Rice:


1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of honey

Sprinkle of curry powder

3 cups water

1 tsp Lemongrass

2 cups of sushi rice rinsed till water runs clear

To Prepare:

Add all ingredients except honey and bring to boil, then cover and simmer till water absorbs. Add honey, mix and serve.


1 package firm Tofu drained

So that tofu absorbs flavors better, do the following to force out the water:

Lay down dishtowel with paper towels on top of it, then place single layer of tofu

Cover tofu with more paper towels on top

Lay something heavy on top to aid in release of water. (cookbooks work well)

Let sit for 30 minutes at least

To Prepare: 

Combine and warm up in sauté pan:

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

1 Tbsp Honey

½ Tbsp Miso

Sprinkle Curry

Sprinkle Lemongrass

Once heated, gently add tofu and stir until coated. Let tofu cook till brown on one side and then gently turn over.  Keep the heat on stovetop high so it browns nicely.  Remember you are not making scrambled eggs!! Be delicate.

Dig in and Enjoy!

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15 Tips For Acing a Holiday Party

Welcome subscribers! Quick reminder…Your VIP shopping pass gives you discounts to Batavia, Skin Deep Salon and Spa, Summit Running Co., Summit Health Shoppe, Bella Ro and K2 Fitness.

You can take advantage of the savings every time you shop!

15 Tips For Acing a Holiday Party:

1. Get in a high intensity AM workout – a one-hour workout is only 4% of your day.

2. Cheat before you go…eat a healthy snack  (oatmeal, apple w/peanut butter, hummus & carrots) before a party or dinner so you don’t over-indulge once you arrive.

3. Put your heels on…the higher, the better the workout for your calves.


4. When the festivities begin, relax and enjoy the moment.

5. Bring it. Ask your hostess if you can bring a dish to the party. This guarantees one healthy option.

7. It’s ok to wine. Why we love it – it has less calories than most cocktails and red wine is loaded with antioxidants and resveratrol (good for your heart and brain).

6. Choose your signature drink wisely. If having a mixed drink, choose seltzer vs. tonic water/ juice and add a lemon or lime. You will cut your liquid calories in half (for a hint of sweetness, add a splash of cranberry juice).

8. Drink 10 oz. of water after every cocktail. Water will fill you up (and cut down on the hang-over).

9. When perusing the hors d’oeuvre table, choose protein over carbs. Be mindful, most dips are hidden calories traps (yes, we are talking about the artichoke dip!).

10. If sitting down for dinner, load the plate with veggies and eat them first (maybe skip the marshmallow coated sweet potatoes 😉 )

11. If you overeat at one meal go light on the next. It takes 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week) above your normal consumption to gain one pound. It is impossible to gain weight from one piece of pie!

12. Eat your favorite foods…don’t deprive yourself of the things you love…just keep it in moderation (and save some for others).

13.  Be realistic. Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays, instead try to maintain your current weight.

14. Find that balance. Stay on track the days before and after a party.

15. Wake up the next day, put on your laces and sweat.


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