Concealed Ingredients in Your Glass of Milk?

Recently, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) petitioned  the FDA in an attempt to redefine milk, as well as 17 other dairy products.  The dairy industry wants to change the definition so that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners may be added to milk WITHOUT having to list them on the ingredient label.  These artificial sweeteners are already included in flavored milk drinks, but they must be clearly stated on the label.   Why does the dairy industry want this change?  According to the website, dairy groups want this change for the following reasons:

  • The dairy industry proclaims that school-aged children are more likely to consume flavored milk than regular milk.
  • The dairy industry says that the currently required flavored milk labels that bear nutrient claims such as “reduced calorie” are not attractive to children.
  • The dairy industry is trying to convince people  who buy flavored milk that the proposed amendments would promote improved eating practices and reduce childhood obesity.
  • The dairy industry further states that updating the definition of  milk would promote honesty by creating consistency in the names of flavored milk products.

Those against the dairy industry’s petition cite numerous studies about the effects of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners on children.  In fact, a Washington Times article states that “children’s brains are four times more susceptible to damage from excitotoxins like aspartame than those of adults and react with ADD/ADHD type symptoms, impaired learning, depression, and nausea.”  The article goes on to state that “people who are sensitive to aspartame can have life-threatening reactions to it.”

If you’re against aspartame and other chemical sweeteners being in your dairy products but not listed on the ingredient label, you should definitely let the FDA know.  The agency is reviewing consumer comments until May 21, 2013.  Here is the link to submit a formal comment:

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

P.S. Thank you to one of my blog subscribers for sharing a link with me about this issue!


A Moment of Reflection…

My earliest memory of the city of Boston was my first visit to Fenway Park some seven years ago.  It was an absolutely glorious day and still stands as one of my most magical memories.  Ever since that afternoon at Fenway, I’ve been enamored with the city.  It’s a place that’s filled with adventures and each time I visit, my captivation with its character and charm grows deeper and deeper.

I was shocked when I first heard the news on Monday about the tragedy that was unfolding in my favorite city.  It was one of those moments when time literally stopped and my stomach flipped…once again, life had been irrevocably altered.  To know Boston, though, is to know that it is a city comprised of people with an indomitable spirit.  Indeed, in the face of unspeakable tragedy, Boston demonstrated to the rest of the world that courage and bravery knows no bounds.  The images of people running toward danger in order to help or running to the hospital to donate blood are forever emblazoned in my memory.

As I try to make sense of the senseless, I am comforted by the fact that Boston and its people are resilient like no other and will rise again.  My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Monday’s horrific events.

For the Love of Chocolate!!

On Monday evening, I taught the last class in the 2012-2013 Project Lunchbox series.  The title?  Ice Cream and Chocolate.  This blog post will focus on the latter topic, chocolate!

Good nutrition doesn’t mean excluding things you love from your diet, but it does mean that you have to read the product’s ingredient label.  In doing so, you’ll be able to tell if the ingredients have been sourced from the Earth or if they were engineered in scientific laboratories.   When you’re looking at the ingredient label on your chocolate, you want to be sure that it contains cocoa butter, because this means that it contains actual chocolate from the cacao tree.  Other ingredients you may find are milk and sugar.  Keep in mind that as the amount of sugar in the chocolate decreases, the percentage of cacao will increase, thereby creating a more intense chocolate flavor.

Speaking of the cacao tree, next I want to discuss the origins of chocolate.  The fruit of the cacao tree are cacao pods, which contain beans that are then processed into the chocolate we know and love.  The cacao tree thrives and prospers only in warm, rainy, and tropical areas, predominantly in West Africa, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.  The tree itself produces football shaped pods that when harvested and broken open, reveal a sweet white pulp surrounding approximately 50 to 60 beans.  After these beans have been harvested, they are dried out for about a week and then roasted.  Next the outer shell is removed, leaving the nib, which is then ground into chocolate liquor.  The liquor (which does not contain alcohol) is pressed to separate it from the cocoa butter and is then used to make different kinds of chocolate.

When you hear the word chocolate, what do you picture in your head?  Right, when most of us hear the word chocolate, we picture a bar, a truffle, or even a bunny.  Also, the verb that comes to mind is probably “eat,” not “drink.”  However for about 90 percent of chocolate’s long history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. In fact, chocolate may be the best-known food that people don’t know a lot about!

Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for at least 2000 years and although it’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was born, it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency and both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical and even divine properties.  Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. Legend has it that the Aztec King Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate. Chocolate didn’t agree with foreigners’ taste buds at first –one even described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with cane sugar or honey, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.  By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious and medicinal properties.  However, it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700s.  Joseph Fry is credited with the creation of the first modern chocolate bar in 1847.  By 1868, the Cadbury Company was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England.  Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that may ring a bell – Nestle.

Did you know that dark chocolate contains inflammation fighting properties, is rich in fiber, and can improve cognitive function?  What kind of chocolate do you enjoy?  Have you ever attended a formal chocolate tasting session or taken a chocolate tour?  Let me know!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂


MarksDailyApple.  N.P. 2 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 April 2013.

Got Antioxidants?

There are 8,000 different varieties of antioxidants that your body thrives on.  The best thing to do to ensure that you have sufficient levels of antioxidants in your body is to eat a variety of different colored produce and other plant-based foods.  However, as discussed in last week’s post, there are plenty of options beyond the ordinary fruits and vegetables that contain these vital nutrients.  Here is a list of some antioxidant-rich food choices:

1.  Green Tea

Scottish researchers have discovered that compounds known as flavanoids inside green tea actually compressed and contracted tumors in lab tests.  Along with green tea’s cancer preventing properties, it is also known to decrease your risk of coronary heart disease.  In addition, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that drinking green tea aided adults over the age of 65 in staying more independent and fully functioning.  Finally, there is conclusive evidence that states green tea helps people to lose weight…so pinky’s up everybody!

2.  Dark Chocolate

Can you imagine that?  Dark chocolate is delicious AND nutritious!  As you may know, chocolate is made out of cocoa beans.  These cocoa beans  are picked off of cacao trees and are rich in plant nutrients.  Hence, dark chocolate contains  many antioxidants because this type of chocolate contains the highest amount of cocoa solids.  Like green tea, dark chocolate is also heart healthy.  In fact, research indicates that the cocoa in dark chocolate can decrease your risk of heart disease.  This claim is fully supported by the results of an experiment Dutch researchers conducted that was published in 2006.  In their study, the researchers split a group of 470 elderly males in half based on their cocoa intake and tracked their consumption of cocoa for 15 years.  In the end, it was discovered that the men who had eaten the most cocoa cut their chances of dying from heart disease in half!  I think that that is reason enough to eat chocolate!

3.  Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef comes from animals that haven’t been fed grains and byproducts their entire lives.  Instead, they are allowed to roam the fields and consume a vast variety of different grasses and plants.  The benefits to consuming grass fed beef are immense: these types of products contain both Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and a balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids.  CLA levels are much higher in grass fed beef and this acid has been proven to prevent cancer, diabetes, and clogged arteries.  A healthy and balanced lifestyle should consist of an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio no greater than 4:1.  Ratios greater than this can lead to cancer, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.  While grass fed beef has a 3:1 ratio of Omegas, industrial beef has a ratio of 21:1…hard to believe!

4.  Legumes

Legumes are wonderful options because they contain lots of calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, protein, and zinc.  You may be surprised to know that gram-per-gram, red beans actually offer more antioxidants than blueberries!  If you’re trying to incorporate more legumes into your diet, one of the best things to do to ease yourself into it is to substitute them in your favorite recipes.  For example, instead of adding all of the meat a recipe calls for, split the amount evenly between the legumes and the meat.  Another way to expand your antioxidant horizons is to add legumes to your favorite soups and stews.  The more crunchy texture of legumes can pair nicely with the smooth consistency of soup.

Fun Fact: Peanuts aren’t nuts, in fact, they’re a type of legume!

5.  Tomatoes

Tomatoes are excellent sources of the antioxidant lycopene, which is more potent in cooked tomatoes than in raw.  Have you ever tried heirloom tomatoes?  These become more abundantly available as we approach springtime.  My personal favorites are Green Zebra and Sun Gold.  Try heirloom tomatoes in your garden this year!

6.  Whole Grains

Whole grains include Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that improves the immune system as well as a host of health conditions.  Pick up your daily dose of Vitamin E through whole grain breads, crackers, or rices.

Try to incorporate these and other antioxidant rich foods into your diet.  Let me know if you find any new favorites!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂


M Kristen. FoodRegenade. Food Regenade. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

Masters, Maria. NBCNews. N.P. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.