Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

Spoons Across America

June 22, 2016

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Lately, I have been wondering what will happen to the wonderful work our current First Lady, Michelle Obama has been doing surrounding children’s nutrition when her husband leaves office. Sure, they can hire someone to oversee her beloved garden, and certain of her initiatives have become self sufficient enough to survive.

It is highly unlikely that the future First Person will take an interest in nutrition. Bill Clinton already has a foundation and will likely continue his work should his wife become President. Mrs. Trump has not shown interest in any philanthropic or charitable initiatives as yet, and childhood obesity isn’t likely to be an appealing subject for her.

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My concerns were quickly abated this week, when I was asked to volunteer with a wonderful organization called Spoons Across America, which offers programs dedicated to educating children, teachers and families about healthy nutrition through the culinary arts.

My first assignment was to work with a group of fifth graders in PS 1, a public elementary school on the east side of Chinatown in New York City.

After working in the classroom for several weeks discussing nutrition and where our food comes from, the program culminated in an event where the kids cooked and served dinner to their families, with the help of a team from Spoons Across America.

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Studies have shown that kids who have a hands-on experience preparing and sourcing new and nutritious foods, are more likely to develop healthy eating habits. There are also findings that show that sharing family meals have both psycological and developmental benefits for children. There are significant indications that teens who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or exhibit violent tendancies. These facts hold true for all income levels and for families with single or dual parents.

With these values in mind, we set out to assist the kids in The Dinner Party Project. Throughout the afternoon, small groups of students rotated through various stations, chopping, peeling, blending and mixing to create a healthy, delicous meal to be enjoyed later that evening.

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The menu consisted of chickpea hummus, served with raw vegetables and pita bread, followed by a cold pureed zucchini and cucumber soup, topped with yogurt and a sprig of watercress. The main course was a choice of chicken or tofu, roasted with garlic and fresh herbs,buttermilk biscuits, and a side of tomato and mozzarella salad, or greens with corn, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The grand finale was a parfait with fresh berries and yogurt, topped with a drizzle of honey and a mint leaf.  The food was attractively presented, and proudly served by the young chefs themselves.

The kids were eager workers, and despite the heat in the small, un-airconditioned kitchen with multiple commericial ovens going, they took to their tasks with enthusiasm and a thirst for learning.
My teams made the chicken, and we touched on concepts, such as how to peel garlic, strip the leaves off fresh herbs, and handle raw chicken safely without cross contamination.

The greatest joy was in seeing the kids so excited about sharing the food they prepared, and the smiles on their faces as they brought back empty platters to be refilled.

It was an exhausting, yet gratifying day, and I hope to be able to work with this wonderful organzation again on other projects. In the meantime, it’s good to know that people have taken up the cause and are doing great work in the world of children’s culinary and nutrition education.

Don’t worry Michelle, we got this!

To learn more about Spoons Across America, click here.

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Culinary Medicine

September 11, 2015

 

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The medical community is finally putting their money where their mouths are, by adding culinary medicine classes to the curriculum for doctors in training.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the most important factor in staving off premature death and disease is a proper diet, yet many healthcare professionals don’t understand nutrition well enough to properly dispense dietary advice. For some medical students at the University of  Chicago, that is about to change.

It is recommended that medical students receive 25 hours of nutritional training, yet only about one quarter of the medical schools in the United States offer this program. In Chicago, some students are moonlighting at a top culinary institute to get schooled on healthy eating, through a grant funded pilot program.

The classes begin with a lecture on diet related disease and how to treat it with food, followed by hands on cooking sessions where the budding doctors learn to prepare dishes that they can recommend to their patients. It is hopeful that when doctors fully understand the effect that healthy food has on disease and know how to make a variety of dishes that can prevent or treat various health problems, they will be more likely to share the information with their patients.

It is still in the early stages, but the organizers are looking forward to the day when it becomes part of the required curriculum.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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A Dose of Healthy Motivation

June 18, 2015

Fitness and nutrition is a big topic around here at Indigo Jones, and we believe that working out, staying strong and eating well are the keys to good health.

I was inspired by the folks at ETB Fit   to share a little bit about my workout regime, how I stay motivated and fueled.

Here a few of my personal tips to get you going:

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Prioritize your workout as you would anything else in your life. You wouldn’t just simply not show up for work, school or a doctor’s appointment just because you weren’t feeling it. Schedule time to exercise and respect the commitment you made to your body and yourself by adhering to it. Unless you are sick, injured or truly unable to make it, get your butt to the gym!

Find something you like to do, and you are more likely to do it. While I don’t love every aspect of my workout while I am doing it, once it is over I feel accomplished and eager to do it again. I like to work hard and sweat. I would opt for a tough, noisy spinning class over yoga any day. I hate overly choreographed, dance type classes, but love the adrenelin rush of bootcamp and circuit training. I also like putting on my headphones and hitting the weight room or running a few miles in solitude to center myself. Find something that you enjoy, and do it!

 

4270900130_compShake it up. While my repertoire of workouts is consistent, I don’t do the same thing two days in a row, and try to make each workout a little different from the last. I take indoor cycling classes 3-4 times per week, lift weights 2-3 times per week, run and take high intensity interval weight training class once a week. I work with two different cycling instructors who push me past my limits each time, and change up their classes frequently. I vary the exercises, the order,the weight and amount of reps when strength training. While running is not my favorite pastime, mixing it in makes a difference in my endurance level and burns more fat. I schedule one full rest day each week, and allow two if my schedule is crazy.

Listen to your body. Sometimes, I feel like I need more cardio, and other times I feel exhausted. Once you start to know your body really well, it will guide you to what you need. Pushing past a little workout soreness often makes me feel better. Pushing through true pain always ends in disaster. If I am feeling really run down, I will schedule a more gentle workout. On a day when my legs are maxed out, I will concentrate on upper body and abs to give them a rest. A stroll on the elliptical is a really low impact way to move without over exerting myself. The foam roller is a good friend, and using it helps massage away all the kinks and tightness. Keeping my appointment with myself is key, but being kind to myself is of equal importance.

 

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Get up and go! I find hitting the gym first thing in the morning is best for me. I get my workout in before the diversions and excuses of the day get a chance to take over. If you can’t bear working out in the morning, pack you gym bag in advance and make sure you go later.

You are the best form of transportation. I am lucky to live in a big city where I can walk everywhere. Just getting where I need to go each day can easily rack up the recommended 10,000 steps or close to 5 miles. Before you hail the cab, jump on the subway or bus, or get into the car to go a short distance, consider walking or biking it instead.

Nutrition is key. Whoever said that good abs are made in the kitchen and not in the weight room was absolutely right. All that exercise can easily be over powered by a bad diet. I joke that I am scrupulous about my nutrition except when I’m not. To me, that means eating an extremely healthy diet most of the time, and allowing a few splurges along the way. Life is too short not to have a little fun!

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I often ask myself which I would rather have, a cookie ( slice of pizza, bowl of pasta, etc.) or a 6-pack. Sometimes the cookie (or several of them) wins. When I get too far off track, I start to have digestive issues, and a spare tire. That is when I do a total reset and just rely on lean protien for a few days to get me back to healthy eating. A squirt of sriracha here and there helps lesson the boredom of it.

In the morning, before I go to the gym, I start with something light, but high in protien. That is either plain Greek yogurt, or a smoothie made with a few handfuls of fruit, water and some protein powder. While the tenents of good nutrition are what they are, I have learned to listen to my body about this as well. I do best with a diet high in protein, and very low in carbs and sugar. Although I don’t eat red meat, I do eat a lot of fish, seafood, eggs and a little chicken. I love pasta and bread but frankly, it doesn’t love me. It puffs up my belly and causes almost instant weight gain. I am not a nutritionist, or a doctor, but I do know that avoiding refined carbs makes me look and feel a whole lot better than when I eat them. Figure out what your body likes and doesn’t and feed it appropriately. Just remember, pizzatarian is not a “thing,” and french fries with ketchup are not really good vegetable choices.

When I am eating restrictively, I take a multivitamin each day to make sure I am getting the nutrients my body needs.

 

 

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I avoid eating things that come in packages. Low fat, low carb or low sugar packaged foods almost always use something unhealthy to replace the good stuff. I would rather splurge on the real deal, than eat chemical laden, high calorie versions. I prefer to make my own soups and sauces, and try to steer clear of processed foods. I prepare most meals at home, and take my lunch to the office. That way, I have food when I want it, that is pure and healthy.

I snack on nuts, yogurt or hummus and vegetables. With a high activity level, I need to refuel to keep my blood sugar and energy levels high. I have found it is better to have a snack in the afternoon, than to go home starving and shovel the first thing I can find into my mouth.

I drink water during my workouts to stay hydrated, but I know I don’t drink nearly enough. I sip on green tea throughout the day, starting with matcha, and tapering off to decaffeinated versions by mid afternoon. I never drink soda, or waste calories on fruit juices. I love a glass of wine, and try to limit it to the weekends, or nights out.

I record my activity and food intake in an online journal. That helps me keep track of how much I am eating, and holds me accountable for the good and the not so good choices. It is also is a way for me to make sure I am taking in enough calories when I am eating more restrictively.

Being healthy, fit and looking and feeling great are top priorities for me. You don’t need to spend all day in the gym or only eat lettuce to achieve them. If you find your passion for wellness and embrace it, the rest will follow!

Fitness photos: Glasshouse Images

Cookie photo: Spencer Jones /Glasshouse Images

Protein powder photo: courtesty of ETB Fit

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Turning a New Leaf

January 21, 2015

This year, kale has been touted as a superfood that is nutritionally superior to all others. It’s popularity has reached a fever pitch, to the point that it’s trendiness is starting to wear on us.

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For those of your kale obsessed foodies, we have some big news.

The Center for Disease Control just released a ranking of 47 fruits and vegetables based on their nutritional value. The CDC took into consideration the amount of fiber, protein, potassium and vitamins.

I’m sorry to tell you that kale ranked 15th on the list. I know you’re devastated. But, alas, there are even healthier greens to explore. It’s ok. You might find one you like better, and you can start a new trend of your own.

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Watercress took the #1 spot, with Chinese cabbage, chard, and beet greens coming in next. Spinach ranked #5 followed by chicory, leaf lettuce and parsley. Romaine lettuce is 9th and the #10 spot goes to collard greens. With leafy greens taking the top 16 spots, it seems you can’t go wrong if you go green.
Of the foods tested, 41 of the 47 were classified as “powerhouses”, which are strongly associated with reducing chronic disease.

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Those that did not make the list are garlic, onion, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and tangerines. While still healthy choices, they failed to meet the team’s criteria for classification as a powerhouse fruit or vegetable.

See the complete report here.

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Challenging Math and Science

September 29, 2014

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a doctor, or a nutritionist. I am not good in science and I absolutely suck at math. Therefore, please take this post with a grain of salt, or better yet, skip the extra salt completely and just keep reading.

Conventional wisdom states that 3500 calories make a pound. A pound is a pound, whether it is fat, muscle, butter or carrots. It is presumed, that if you reduce your calorie intake by 3500 calories over a period of time, you will lose 1 pound. If you over-consume by that much, you will gain. Makes sense,right? Well, not so fast…

What you eat, and how you burn it off is as important as the elimination of those 3500 calories. Case in point:

I am admittedly obsessive about food and fitness, hence the premise of this blog. I keep a food and activity journal, and try to be as accurate as possible. Based on my current size, if I only consume 1,110 calories per day, I will lost 1 pound per week. Before you all go crazy and think I starve myself, when I enter activity, it adds those calories burned back to my daily food quota. Because I am so active, I am able to eat more than that and still be on target to lose a pound per week.
I take hardcore cycling classes four times per week, I weight train, do weight circuits and toss in a Pilates class when I can for good measure. I also walk 1-1/2 hours per day on average, as transportation. In most people’s eyes, that should be a free pass for the all-you-can-eat fish fry, with extra dessert, right? WRONG!

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According to my Lose It app, I have saved 5369 calories over the last 4 weeks, over and above the 3500 per week deficit built in. That would mean I lost 5.5 pounds. According to the scale in my bathroom, I have gained almost that much. Say WHAT?

The big differential for me these last few weeks is not the amount of food I am eating, but the type of food I am eating.  Based on my personal experience, here are the cold, hard realities of healthy eating and exercise, according to me:

Just because it came from Whole Foods, or is organic, low fat, gluten free or whatever else the package says, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sorry, but real healthy food does not come in a package, and therefore does not state it’s virtures.

I do not have a gluten allergy or celiac disease, and gluten does not make me sick. Foods that contain it however (with the exception of french fries, that would be all the really delicous ones!) make me fat. And by fat, I mean bloated, and thick around the middle. Maybe it’s not the case for you, but for me, if I want a flat belly, I need to lay off the white stuff, most of the time. And while we’re at it, the whole grain goodness of whole wheat isn’t any better on my middle.

For many, many years, I avidly avoided sugar. Not even a bite of a cookie, or a lick of ice-cream. Now, if I have a little sweet something, it makes me want more. Like a junkie, that bite becomes the whole thing. And then I have a stomach ache. My body is trying to tell me something. Why don’t I listen to it? Do you listen to yours? You really should.

Protein is the building block of muscle or something like that. (See disclosure above.) I am clearly not eating enough of it lately. I don’t like meat, so getting to the fish market has to be a priority, otherwise I just eat fruit and vegetables, and later become ravenous and down half a bag of  trail mix or something else masquerading as “healthy” in a  package in my pantry. It’s important to fuel properly during the day to avoid the ravenous binge, especially post workout.

My exercise routine is intense, followed by long stretches of sitting on my butt in front of a computer or drawing table all day. I get out of my chair sometimes and can barely move I’m so stiff. Studies show that even a couple of  hours a day of physical activity cannot offset being sedentary for the rest of the day. I need to get up and move around every few hours, to rev my metabolism and stretch my sore limbs. Perhaps a stroll to the nearest fish market would solve multiple issues?

While we are on the subject of walking, I regret to inform you that walking does not burn very many calories. For those of you that think walking for 30 minutes per day a few times a week is exercising, you are wrong. It is better than not moving at all, but it doesn’t do much for increasing your heart rate or decreasing your fat rate. Lose It says that I burned 69 calories during a 30 minute walk, or the equivalent of  1-1/2 tablespoons of trail mix. And that’s not the kind with M&M’s in it. Bummer, right?

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

The media touts salt as an enemy. It’s not the salt that we sprinkle on our home cooked meals that is the problem. It’s the huge amounts lurking in those bags and tetra packs, and glass jars (no plastic please! ) that is the issue. That organic, gluten free, low fat, high fiber soup my be a BPA free sodium bomb. Making soup is so easy and tastes so much better. It’s time to get off my duff and make a few different kinds to put in the freezer in individual containers so that I can have homemade convenience foods at the ready. While salt doesn’t cause fat gain, that jump in the scale after consuming large quantities of it is due to good old bloat. Drinking a lot of water can help to eliminate the retained water in a day or two.

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The bottom line is that whole foods; the kind that are produced by nature, not factories, are the best for us. There is no debate there. Eating the freshest, highest quality foods, without added chemicals, additives and flavorings will produce the best results in terms of health, fuel and weight management.

Moving throughout the day is important for your health, but adding bouts of high intensity activity ( intervals for example,) will yield you better results.

It’s true what they say: You can’t out train a bad diet, and abs really are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

Fresh Fast Food Revolution

February 7, 2014

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Eating well on the fly isn’t easy. Fast food and vending machine choices tend be high in fat, sugar, and sodium, and low in quality and nutritional value. Luke Sanders agrees, and he set out to do something about it. His latest venture, Farmer’s Fridge, is a kiosk filled with fresh, organic and where possible, local food that is as good for you, and the environment, as it tastes.

The company fills the refrigerated kiosk daily, with fresh salads which are  high on both flavor and nutrition. Super foods, nuts and seeds are incorporated into the mix. Best of all, they are packaged in BPA and phthalate free, fully recyclable jars. The ingredients are layered  to keep them from getting soggy. At the end of the day, the product is discounted, and the remaining salads are donated to local food pantries.

The concept is sure to revolutionize the fast food market. While the only one is at the Garvey Food Court in the Chicago area, watch for future kiosks to emerge in other cities across the country.

The Breakfast Club

September 11, 2013

breakfast plate, bacon and eggs, sunny side upFor many years, we have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It set the stage for healthy eating, recharged our bodies after a 12 hour fast, and prevented us from over eating later in the day, right?

Well, maybe not.

A new report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims there is no study to support that eating breakfast helps us control our weight. Say what?!!!
Researchers reviewed material from many studies and found that eating breakfast had little relationship to weight loss.

A study from Vanderbilt University compared moderately obese adults who usually ate breakfast and skipped it, against a group who did not habitually eat breakfast and were served a regular morning meal. Both groups were given the same amount of calories per day, and both groups lost similar amounts of weight during a 12-week period of time. It is thought that both groups were given a healthier diet than they usually ate, amounting to more than average weight loss.

The bottom line is that if starting the day with a healthy meal feels good and fuels your body properly, go for it. If you wake up with no appetite, it’s ok not to eat until later in the day. As long as you have sufficient energy to power your morning and make good, healthful food choices throughout the day, it’s ok to eat, or not eat breakfast accordingly.

Confused? Yeah, we are too.

The take-away from all of this? Listen to your body, and do what is right for you.

photo: glasshouse images

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Don’t Pass the (Star)Buck

June 19, 2013

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Often, some of the controversial health bills passed in New York City become more widespread in time.  Such is the case with Starbucks, who today announced it would post calorie counts on all of their menu boards, nationwide.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking at having all restaurants with more than 20 locations post the nutritional information publically, allowing customers to make more informed decisions. Starbucks is one of the first to voluntarily post calories in their stores across the country.

In an effort to serve up healthier options the chain began offering sugar free syrups and switched to 2% milk, as it’s standard several years ago. Skim milk is also an option for customized drinks.

Would you pass on that double chocolate chip Frappuccino at 500 calories, and choose a 260 calorie iced Café Mocha, or a Skinny Flavored Latte at only 110 calories, if you were well informed? How about a 240-calorie croissant, instead of the healthier sounding banana walnut bread at a whopping 490 calories?

Informed decisions are generally better decisions, and Starbucks is taking a step in the right direction to make sure that their customers know what they are indulging in.

New York has successfully led the country in kicking the trans fat habit, banned smoking in public places and built awareness of the calories in their food.  Now how about those giant sodas Mayor Bloomberg is fighting to limit? Do you think that will eventually catch on as well?

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Nutrition Fiction

May 20, 2013

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While flipping through a popular health and wellness magazine today, I was a little surprised at some of their nutritional suggestions.

I am an armchair expert, admittedly with no formal training in nutrition and look to articles written by others to provide me with much of my information. Through this process, I have a heightened awareness of what is good for you, and what is not. Clearly, some of what I read falls into the latter category.

First up on the agenda: The 2013 Healthy Food Awards.

In this segment, 175 readers blind tested foods that the editors and contributing registered dieticians selected and deemed healthy.

The winners all came in a package, something that generally doesn’t spell “super food” to me.

With categories like “best potato chip”, “best nuked popcorn” and “best chewy granola bar” on the list, it’s hard to grasp the concept of these foods being healthy.

The next page featured celebrity chefs’ recipes using kale, which they dubbed “the holy grail of health.”

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Kale and Watercress Soup has white potatoes, whole milk and heavy cream. It is 252 calories per serving.

I don’t know about you, but the soups I usually enjoy are closer to 80-120 calories per serving. The potatoes, when pureed, should be enough to give the soup a creamy texture, making the heavy cream and milk unnecessary. Using broth instead of the dairy, would probably add more flavor to the soup, and a fraction of the calories and fat.

Instead of the suggested garnish of low fat sour cream, how about recommending a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt? It is lower in calories and fat than the sour cream, and is higher in protein and contains healthy probiotics.

As an avid and well-informed reader, I am concerned that a magazine of this type, would feature foods that are processed, high in saturated fat, and not the best, healthiest versions available. This is not a food magazine, where the flavor and ingredients take center stage, nutritional aspects be damned.

This is a magazine about healthy eating, fitness and wellness. They owe it to their readers to provide them with informed choices. High fat, high calorie soup is not healthy, just because it has a trendy super-food in it.

Processed foods laden with preservatives, huge amounts of sodium and a few unpronounceable ingredients, often in potentially toxic packages, are not healthy, just because they are organic, or lower in calories than their counterparts.

So how does the average consumer get real information about the seemingly healthy foods that are not in fact, as healthy as they seem?

Let me introduce you to a not so secret weapon called Fooducate.
Fooducate is a website and an app for smart phones that offers nutritional profiles culled from a huge database of supermarket foods.  The free app allows you to scan the food’s barcode, and it provides a breakdown of the item’s nutritional data from a list of ingredients to calories, fat and sodium contents, chemicals and preservatives, information about what makes it a good or bad choice, and sums it up with a letter grade. It is a valuable resource for those who want to make wise decisions in the food aisles. The app also offers daily tips, and can help zero in on gluten free or diabetic friendly foods as well.

Perhaps the experts featured in my magazine might benefit from swiping a few of the foods they list, before awarding them best healthy food status.

photo: Glasshouse Images

(Easter) Basket Case

March 29, 2013

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It’s Easter, and inevitably, there will be candy. Here are a few “fun” facts to help you decide if it’s really worth it to indulge:

The Chocolate Bunny:

Your average run of the mill drug store bunny is considered 3 servings. Eat the whole thing for a calorie total of almost 700. Add in 66 grams of fat, and almost 70 grams of sugar. It’s filled with high fructose corn syrup, and other additives. If you are going to go the chocolate route, go for rich dark chocolate. It’s heart healthy and so much more satisfying than a waxy tasting chocolate rabbit.

Jelly Beans:

These little nibbles are fat free, but contain 34 grams of sugar. Don’t even think about what created all those attractive colors. ( if you really want to know, click HERE) That lustrous sheen comes from the secretions of female lac bugs, and is very much the same product used to shellac wood. Yum!

Peeps:
Five of these little chicks will cost you about 140 calories. They are fat free, but contain 34 grams of sugar per serving. They have absolutely no nutritional value, and contain sugar, corn syrup, preservatives, yellow dye and carnauba wax, which is commonly used on cars.  The gelatin that gives them their spongy texture, is made of animal skin, bones, hoofs, cartilage and intestines. Many people prefer them when they are stale. Sorry, but that just doesn’t seem appealing to me.

Dove White Chocolate Mini Eggs:

Um, chocolate isn’t white. This confection is made from cocoa butter, powdered milk and sugar, if you’re lucky. The less expensive versions trade the cocoa butter for vegetable oil. There is absolutely no chocolate in white chocolate. These faux -chocolate tidbits pack about 24 grams of sugar and 24 grams of fat. If you love it, go ahead and enjoy it. Just don’t pretend it’s really chocolate.

Cadbury Cream Eggs:

Each one packs 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 20 grams of sugar, and Castoreum, which is excreted by beaver’s anal glands. And admit it, you aren’t only going to eat one, are you?

Indulgence is fine, as long as it is worth the splurge. In my opinion, these Easter treats are not it for me. I’d rather have something else.

For children, consider making a basket containing real eggs, dyed with natural food colorings, and baby carrots to share with a cute little stuffed bunny.

Happy Easter!

photo: Glasshouse Images


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