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fast food

Nutrition & Health News, week of Feb. 17

  • A video presented at TEDxManhattan 2011 shows the difference in your body’s digestion of processed foods versus whole foods. If you haven’t already watched it, prepare to be grossed out. [Fooducate]
  • A preschool student in North Carolina was told by a government official that the lunch she brought from home was unhealthy, and she was forced to eat the school’s meal of chicken nuggets instead. Her lunch, packed by her mother, consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, chips, and apple juice – while it could be healthier (without chips, plus a vegetable), it was certainly more nutritious than chicken nuggets. All meals served in pre-K classrooms, even lunches brought from home, are required to meet USDA guidelines for meals; if they do not meet the guidelines, the provider is supposed to supplement (NOT replace) the missing components. [Carolina Journal]
  • A new commercial from fast food outlet Chipotle promotes the chain’s practice of sourcing organic, local foods through a video bashing Big Food and factory farming operations. The cute animation shows a farmer practicing sustainable farming methods (happy cows, munching on grass in a green field) and later loading his meat onto a Chipotle-branded truck. Chipotle’s emphasis on sustainable and organic foods is a rarity among chain restaurants, particularly in fast food. [Serious Eats]
  • Research out of Dartmouth found high levels of arsenic in organic brown rice syrup, which is used in many foods (mostly organic “processed” foods, like granola bars, etc.) as a sweetener. Arsenic was found in amounts six times the EPA’s threshold of 10 parts per billion for drinking water in a tested infant formula. There are currently no federal regulations regarding arsenic content in juices or foods, prompting the research team to strongly encourage the FDA to do something about it. Fox News reported the same story by grossly exaggerating the results, claiming basically that all organic food has arsenic in it. [Bloomberg]

Nutrition & Health News, week of January 27

  • Michelle Obama revealed the USDA’s new and improved standards for the federal school lunch program. You may recall controversy over the proposed rule’s limitati0ns on potato servings and the “pizza is a vegetable” issue – the USDA made some compromises to these areas, but the final rule is largely the same. The changes, which largely adhere to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, include adding significantly more fruit and vegetable servings, reducing saturated fat and sodium, switching to whole grains over time, allowing only low-fat milks, and decreasing the overall calories per meal. Although the new standards don’t go far enough on some issues (e.g. flavored milk is still allowed as long as it’s non-fat, despite its high sugar content), these are the first major changes in over 15 years by the USDA and, according to Marion Nestle, “worth celebrating.” [Obama Foodorama]
  • Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wants to tax candy and soda to raise revenue under an expansion of the state’s bottle bill. He believes the public would support such a tax, based on recent poll results. Although this may encourage residents to buy less of these unhealthy products, the tax revenue would be a very small percentage of the state’s budget if passed. [Boston Herald]

And in weird news…

  • A teen in the United Kingdom has been living off of McDonald’s chicken nuggets for 15 years. She was rushed to the hospital after experiencing strange health problems like troubled breathing and , causing her to “realize this is really bad for me.” Um, ya think? This is even more disgusting than Morgan Spurlock’s experiment. [Huffington Post]
  • Sticking raw bacon up your nose can help stop chronic nosebleeds, according to a recently published study. Apparently, creating such a “nasal tampon” from cured, salted pork is an old remedy, but was stopped due to potential for bacterial infection. I wish I had never heard the phrase “nasal tampon.” [The Guardian]

Nutrition & Health News, week of July 30

  • McDonald’s announced this week that it will be offering “healthier” options in the Happy Meal – automatically including a serving of produce (apple slices) and reducing overall calories, fat, and sodium. The serving of fries will be reduced by 1oz, but is still automatically included, and a meal still has 19g of fat (4.5 of it saturated!). Marion Nestle calls these changes “tiny baby steps” in the right direction and I’m inclined to agree. [New York Times]
  • As the leader in anti-obesity initiatives through Let’s Move!, Michelle Obama got a lot of flack for ordering a 1,700 calorie meal at Shake Shack in Washington, D.C. this week. President Obama responded by saying, basically, she believes healthy eating is important, but so is moderation – everyone deserves a treat once in awhile and the First Lady is not about to deny herself fries and a milkshake. [Obama Foodorama]
  • The USDA is in the process of (finally) redesigning the nutrition label to be more clear and user-friendly for consumers. Hopefully the USDA will consider designs submitted to a project at UC Berkeley School of Journalism that asked people to redesign food labels,  judged by Michael Pollan (who is a professor at Berkeley) and other experts. The winning designs are certainly creative (and graphically interesting), but I’m not convinced that any of them completely solve the current label’s problems. You can vote for your favorite on their website. [GOOD]
  • Boston Medical Center reports that they have seen an increase in the number of underweight children visiting the emergency room. A 2010 survey in the BMC ED revealed that 28% of families with children reported not having enough food to eat in the last month. They attribute the increase to rising food prices and the poor economy, with more and more MA residents enrolling in food stamp benefits (SNAP). Not only does underweight cause health problems, but it may be linked to obesity later in life due to body adaptation in starvation conditions. [Boston Globe]

Happy weekend!

Nutrition & Health News, week of July 22

  • Michelle Obama announced yesterday that large retailers like WalMart and others would be working together to eliminate or reduce food deserts by opening or expanding 1,500 stores in such communities. A food desert is an area where residents lack access to affordable, nutritious food in low-income areas. As much as I dislike Wal-Mart (for their labor practices, mostly) and other similar retailers, this seems like an important initiative – whether it will actually increase access to (and consumption of) healthy foods remains to be seen. [New York Times USDA Fact Sheet Obama Foodorama]
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which publishes the Nutrition Action Newsletter and advocates for nutrition issues, released it’s list of “Xtreme Eating Awards.” The “awards” are given to restaurant meals that are excessively high in calorie, fat, and sodium content – some of them topping an entire day’s worth of calories. The executive director said, “[the] winners certainly contribute to obesity, and to heart disease, high blood pressure and other illnesses…And just as bad, these huge meals shape our way of thinking what’s a normal size meal.” [CSPI]
  • According to a new Bundle study on spending, Bostonians spend 92% less than the national average on fast food. Plano, Texas tops the list, spending 2.3 times more than the national average. [Bundle]
  • A study by Tufts University of the calorie content of chain restaurant meals found that many restaurants’ give an inaccurate count of the calories. Almost 1 in 5 restaurants underestimated counts by 100 calories compared to what was advertised on their menu or website. This was particularly true for soups and salads, which people often believe to be healthier options when dining out.  Beware! [Boston Globe]
  • Boston hospitals ranked among the U.S. News top hospitals in the nation – Massachusetts General Hospital came in 2nd this year (behind perpetual winner Johns Hopkins), moving up from 3rd, and Brigham & Women’s slid in at number 8. [Bostonist]

Stay cool this weekend!

Shocking News: Kids like Fast Food!

A study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Columbia indicates that student obesity may be linked with the proximity of fast food restaurants to schools. After tracking body-fat data from 9th graders over a period of 8 years, results show that “teens who attend classes within one-tenth of a mile of a fast-food outlet are more likely to be obese than peers whose campuses are located farther” from fast food options.

For teenagers, fast-food is often more attractive than cafeteria food and the cheapest option for lunch or an after-school snack. When it’s easy to get to during lunch period, the temptation is even greater, even if students are aware that’s it’s not good for them.

California, like many other states, has prohibited the sale of sugary sodas and junk food in schools and required fast-food joints to list calories on their menus. But, as this study indicates, “obesity is as much a factor of environment as it is a matter of choice” and the state is now considering zoning regulations that would prohibit fast-food joints being built near schools.

“Student obesity linked to proximity to fast-food outlets” [LA Times]

Now THIS is worthy of a post…


You can imagine my excitement while reading the Brown Daily Herald this morning in class…My stomach started growling right then. Chipotle is planning to build two new locations – one in Warwick, and one in Providence (hopefully on Thayer St?!). Now, if you’ve never had Chipotle before, you’re in for a treat…humongous, 5 pound, 1,000+ calorie burritos – heaven in a tortilla.

See the BDH article and check out the Chipotle website:
OR the Chipotlefan website.

The Food Square? I think not!

It’s official, Taco Bell’s advertising is decidedly anti-health. It’s sad, but I actually would rather see that annoying chihuahua saying “Yo Quiero Taco Bell!”

Their newest one starts off with:
“Heard of the triangle?” (aka the Food Pyramid)
…”Well, how about the square? Perfect for your late-night FourthMeal.”
The square has melty, crunchy, spicy, and grilled.

Seriously? Even McDonald’s is more concerned about the health of their customers at this point! Promoting a “meal between dinner and breakfast” is just wrong.

Check out Taco Bell’s Nutrition Guide here.

Only in Worcester…

“Is a burrito a sandwich? Judge says no”

Panera Bread Company, in Worcester, MA, sought legal action to prevent a Qdoba Mexican Grill from moving into the same strip mall. Their lease prevents the building of a sandwich shop in the same plaza, and Panera is arguing that burritos do, in fact, qualify as a type of sandwich…

My professional opinion on the matter?
1) No, a burrito is not a sandwich.
2) Qdoba is pretty good for cheap/fast Mexican food but they’ll be competing with Moe’s Southwestern Grille across the street. Qdoba’s food is better, but Moe’s greets you at the door with a friendly, slightly ridiculous “Welcome to MOOOOOE’s.”

What’s funnier about this article is that I used to work at that Panera.

For the many Americans who read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser a few years ago, it changed the way they think about fast food in the United States. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you don’t have the time, have no fear- the movie is here! Well, on November 17th it will be. Starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Greg Kinnear, it was shown at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Check out the official movie website– it’s pretty sweet. Besides the requisite trailers, cast list, etc, it has links to the McDonald’s Corporate Responsibility Blog,, and to relevant news, blogs, and videos.

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