Who Else is Sick of (or getting sick from) Caramel Color?

October 17th, 2012

My husband likes to drink soda when he has a sore throat. He claims the carbonation helps. I say hot tea is the way to go, but we agree to disagree.

Anyhow, he’s on a Coke Zero kick, which wouldn’t bother me except for its nasty ingredient: caramel color. (Well, it also bothers me that it comes in plastic bottles. And has some hard to pronounce ingredients that can’t be natural.)

Soft drink companies have found ways to make products with zero calories that supposedly taste as good as the other stuff, but why are they still using caramel color? Furthermore, why did anyone start using caramel color in the first place?

If you’re like me, you’re tired of reading “caramel color” on the packages of so many foods that fill the aisles at grocery stores. (If you’re not reading ingredient lists, start now.)

I’m not against caramel color just because it’s artificial. I’m against it because it’s a likely culprit in up to 15,000 cancer cases in the U.S. each year. And carmel color is made by treating sugar with ammonia, a habit that produces 4-methylimidazole or 4-MI, which has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. (Read more at Eight Ingredients You Never Want to See on Nutrition Labels at msnbc and Cancer in Colas’ Caramel Coloring? at WebMD.)

If you could do without all that caramel color in soft drinks, ice cream and many, many other products, speak out to the companies that use it.

Earlier this year, Coke decided to switch to a less evil form of caramel color to avoid having to include a cancer warning label on their products. (Read more at Coca-Cola Modifies Caramel Color To Avoid Cancer Warning Label at NPR.) Obviously, Coke is concerned about caramel color, so let them know you want an alternative, or hey, clear Coke!

Does the use of caramel color in food and drinks bother you?

Win The Vitamin D Cure, Revised

August 17th, 2012

I don’t know how you feel about this, but I think it’s refreshing to see a doctor talking about food (not just drugs and medical tests). And this doc even gives you recipes as part of his cure!

The new revised edition of The Vitamin D Cure by James E. Dowd, M.D. and Diane Stafford provides you with steps on figuring out how much vitamin D you need, adding supplements and sun, changing your diet (with some recipes) and adding exercise to get the proper amounts of vitamin D.

These steps make up the vitamin D cure, of course.

The authors explain that the cure helps with diseases driven by changes in metabolism, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. The authors also discuss the importance of vitamin D in relation to the immune system, mood and memory, prevention and treatment of cancer, and maintaining healthy bones, joints and teeth.

You’ll also want to discuss all this with your own doctor, as usual.

If you’re curious and want to check out some of the recipes (like the one for homemade nut butter), enter to win a copy of The Vitamin D Cure, Revised. Continue reading »

Spotlight on Vegan Indian Cooking

August 3rd, 2012

I’m not a vegan, though I do sometime have meatless meals. I do, however, love Indian food. In the past, I’ve been brave enough to try a few Indian recipes at home from my Jamie Oliver cookbook, but Jamie Oliver is British, of course.

Anupy Singla – author of the new Vegan Indian Cooking– grew up eating vegetarian Indian dishes. And she dispels some common myths about Indian food, like that it’s “heavy.” Turns out only westernized Indian food has all that extra cream and oil.

In her cookbook, which features 140 vegan recipes, Singla educates readers on the spices and other ingredients used in Indian cooking.

She also presents ideas for simple, yet healthy meals. (Disclosure: I received a cookbook at no charge for review.)

Loaded with plenty of photos, Singla’s cookbook takes you through recipes for breakfast, soups, small plates, salads, sides, slow-cooked foods like beans and lentils, vegetables, rice dishes and one-pot meals, chutneys, drinks and more.

Mother of two and former television reporter in Chicago, Singla decided to dedicate herself to learning how to create all of the Indian dishes she grew up eating. She blogs at Indian As Apple Pie. Check it out.

As for me, I’m looking forward to trying some new Indian food recipes!

Volunteer to Create More Time in Your Mind

July 16th, 2012

Do you want to volunteer, but feel you never have the time?

Well, volunteering, or giving away your time, can actually make you feel like you have more time!

Researchers publishing in the APS journal Psychological Science found that people who volunteered felt like they had more time. The term for this is “time affluence.”

So, you can be rich in time by giving away time?

The key is you can feel like you have more time.

Researchers say that this feeling comes from volunteering creating a sense of personal competence and efficiency.

Tip: If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, try searching at idealist.

Do you think you actually have time to volunteer? Can you tell if volunteering boosts your sense of having more time?

(image via flickr user Sean MacEntee)

Can Reducing Screen Time Save Kids and the Planet?

June 21st, 2012

Parents may use the excuse that their kids are glued to the newest fun gadget, so they can’t reduce their screen time, but researchers from Oregon State University have a different idea.

The research involving 200 families was published online today in Early Childhood Development and Care as part of their series on parental influences of childhood obesity.

According to the new findings, parents with a “neglectful” style of parenting are contributing to excessive screen time. Parents who reported not spending as much time at home with their kids had children who spent an additional 30 minutes each week day looking at a screen. (This is on top of the four to five hours of waking time all kids spent sitting each day.)

While 30 minutes may not sound too bad, researchers point out that it can have a big impact over a week, month and year. “One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their life,” says lead author David Schary.

Disturbingly, researchers found that on average, all kids in the study ages 2 to 4 spent more than several hours sitting each day. Researchers say that parents who actively played with their children had the biggest impact on reducing sedentary behavior, but that any level of encouragement is helpful, even just watching kids play or driving them to activities.

Naturally, getting kids to be more active will have a positive impact on their health, but turning off the TV or other electronic devices also has a side benefit of reducing your energy consumption, making the earth a bit healthier as well.

For more on reducing screen time, and saving money and energy doing it, skip over to Growing a Green Family, where Jennifer is trying to reduce her family’s screen time.

How do you encourage your children to be more active?

image via flickr/stars alive

Count Up to Earth Day: Tip 19 Cool Down Your Water

April 22nd, 2012

This post is part of a series counting up to Earth Day on April 22.

You may think filling your own bottle with water is too much trouble, but have you thought about how much cooler your water can be?

When it’s hot out and you’re sitting by the pool, wouldn’t it be oh, so nice to have a bottle of water than stays cool?

Forget the disposable plastic water bottles that can leach BPA. Go with something cool like an insulated BPA-free water bottle.

My favorite water bottle for keeping things cool is the thinksport.

I’ve been using my thinksport water bottle since 2009 and it has never failed me when I wanted a cool drink, even when it’s 100 degrees out!

(ok, even though it’s been a long time ago, i feel you should know that I got this water bottle for free to review. however, i’d really not still be talking about it years later if I didn’t clearly love it!)

The Hunger Shame – Pink Slime

March 31st, 2012

Before you eat that nicely grilled Saturday afternoon burger, watch this wildly amusing Jon Stewart video, “The Hunger Shame.” Are you going the way of Jon?

And, if you missed my last post on this, please do catch up with the Decline of Pink Slime.

The Decline of Pink Slime

March 27th, 2012

Never doubt consumer power. You have only you to thank for taking a lot of nasty beef filler out of the mouths of people!

Soon, you may have to worry a little less about the ground beef you buy. Pink slime is in an amazing 70 percent of grocery store beef, but it looks like that percentage will be decreasing. If you haven’t been following the news lately on the beef filler dubbed “pink slime,” then here are the highlights:

  • Beef Products, Inc. has announced that they’re suspending operations at three of their four plants that produce the filler.
  • The USDA has given schools the power to stop buying beef containing pink slime.
  • McDonald’s, the largest restaurant chain in the country, stopped using beef containing pink slime.

Here’s why there’s so must grossness: Lean, finely textured beef  (the technical name for pink slime) is so bacteria-ridden that it must be treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. Yuck. Yuck. And. Yuck. (In case you’re wondering, those lean trimmings come from bits of meat taken from muscle and connective tissue.)

By the way, you won’t find lean, finely textured beef on the ingredients list of any packaged beef. Companies aren’t required to tell you about it.

Even if you don’t believe in the necessity of buying organic foods, you can surely see how this cheap beef filler is nasty. Most people probably don’t think much about their ground beef containing a filler, and that’s exactly why I believe there’s been so much outcry over pink slime.

We feel duped. And we won’t take it anymore. Keep complaining to your local grocer, and let’s stop all production of pink slime, forever. I want you to be able to buy any brand of beef anywhere and not worry about whether it contains a disgusting filler.

Do you think about pink slime when buying grocery store beef?

No More Toy Story BPA Soup?

March 6th, 2012

There may be some hope for Campbell’s Soup Company. It seems they’ve given in to pressure from parents and advocacy groups and made themselves a pledge without a timeline.

The famed soup company has said they’ll phase out the use of BPA in their can linings. They say that efforts have already started and it shouldn’t cost them much to make the change.

If Campbell’s follows through with their promise, many folks will have a bit less BPA flowing through their veins. And that’s a good thing.

The scoop on BPA

The chemical bisphenol A, unlovingly called BPA for short, is an endocrine disruptor that can mess with the body’s hormones. It mimics the human hormone estrogen.

Girls who were exposed to BPA in the womb are more likely to have behavioral problems in their toddler years, say researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. (Read more about the BPA study.) And that’s just one of several studies that cast doubt on the innocence of this chemical.

A report by the Breast Cancer Fund found that Campbell’s products contain some of the highest levels of BPA among canned foods they tested. And it seems that products targeted toward children, like Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups, had the highest amounts of BPA. Another BPA study found that after eating only fresh foods for three days, BPA levels in families plummeted by an average of 60 percent.

The FDA keeps saying that some exposure to BPA doesn’t pose a health threat. They claim that the low levels in food packaging shouldn’t alarm us, but most people understand that they aren’t fully considering the cumulative effects of this chemical in so many different foods. Like many people, I try to avoid canned food, but don’t always succeed. (Used some canned coconut milk in my Chicken Korma tonight!)

If you’re happy that Campbell’s has made this promise to hold the BPA, please tell them so. Even better, stay after them to follow through with this promise. The Breast Cancer Fund has made it easy for you to send an online letter to Campbell’s Soup Company, General Mills and Del Monte. They even give you some facts to state in your letter.

(image credits: flickr; flickr)

Blog Action Day 2011: Food Is a Right

October 16th, 2011

Food is a right. Everyone deserves food, especially young children who can’t always fight for what they need.

Sometimes food gets caught up with war. And the right to food can get trampled. Drought can make famine worse, but it’s not the complete cause.

In the Horn of Africa, people are being denied the right to food. Millions are facing death, many of them young children.

The famine in the Horn of Africa is the worst in 60 years. It’s not some passing thing any of us should forget until a solution is found.

Today is World Food Day and Blog Action Day. Bloggers from 100 countries are talking about food today. (Use hashtag #BAD11 on Twitter.)

What can you do?

Read about the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Pass on the facts. One.org is a great place to start.

Money isn’t everything. Groups like One.org are more interested in hearing you speak out about this crisis.

If you want to give, USAID from the American People, www.usaid.gov/fwd/, makes it easy.