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Friday
Sep142012

Beverage & Restaurant Association Won't Go Down Without a Fight in NYC Sugary Drink Saga

In a much anticipated vote, the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on supersized sugary drinks, specifically sodas. The ban is set to take effect in March 2013, 6 months after first being passed.

Specifically, the law will ban the sale of sodas and other sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, movie theaters, street vendors and stadium concession stands. The law is not as all encompassing as it may sound. Stores categorized as "grocery" stores are left out. This means that 32-ounce Big Gulp from 7-Eleven will still be sold, because for purposes of this law, 7-Eleven is regulated as a grocery store. In addition, the ban does not apply to water, diet sodas, coffee drinks, milk or milkshakes, fruit and vegetable juices or alcoholic beverages.

 

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said of the benefits of the law, "[if the law] results in shrinking only one sugary drink per person every two weeks from 20 ounces to 16 ounces, New Yorkers could collectively prevent 2.3 million pounds gained per year. This would slow the obesity epidemic and prevent much needless illness."

According to the Board of Public Health, of the 39,000 comments received on the law, approximately 32,000 favored the restriction. However, a poll in the New York Times last month found that 6 in 10 city residents said the ban was a bad idea.

The beverage industry is not going down without a fight. They argue that the ban takes freedom and personal choice away from New York City shoppers and will hurt businesses. According to Eliot Hoff, a spokesperson for grassroots organization New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, "This is not the end, we are exploring legal options, and all other avenues available to us. We will continue to voice our opposition to this ban and fight for the right of New Yorkers to make their own choices."

While groups, including the National Restaurant Assocation and American Beverage Association, will undoubtedly work towards filing lawsuits, their odds of succeeding are slim (though their ability to stall the March 2013 enactment are great). For these groups, the most likely legal argument is one in which groups claim a violation of the Constitution. The argument, under a rational basis test, would go something like this:

-The plaintiff (i.e. the beverage industry, businesses, etc.) must show that the legislation is not "rationally related to a legitimate government interest."

-The city would argue they have an interest in protecting the public health of their residents. NYC would need to present evidence that the ban does in fact protect public health - that it lowers consumption of sugary drinks thereby reducing obesity among residents, resulting in improved public health.

Harvard University professor of law and public health Michelle Mello told Reuters, "There are so many examples where states impose standards on consumer products sold within their borders. It seems hard to believe that this would be singled out as unreasonable by a court."

Alternatively, groups opposing the ban could go after the ban as a violation of the Commerce Clause. However, this argument is much weaker, given the power the Constitution grants states to regulate public health and safety.

And for my two cents on the ban itself:

Telling people they can't have something only spurs a greater desire to have it. Additionally, the law doesn't target all those businesses (i.e. grocery stores) and drinks that are necessary. Take the 32oz big gulp for example - people can still go and buy that or a venti frap (because it is made up of more than half milk). Refills aren't banned so you can still go and purchase a 12oz beverage from McDonalds and refill it 2-3 times. Those things are high in calories and sugar and are not being included in the ban. It begs the question - is a law that only bans a selection of high-calorie/high-sugar beverages a beneficial thing? Will it actually reduce obesity? Maybe to some extent but if the public want those things bad enough, they can get them.

On the other hand, 1/3 of Americans are obese. The obesity epidemic among our population is rapidly increasing and health care costs are skyrocketing as a result. We have to do something to reverse these trends. Will banning a select group of sugary drinks from certain locations reverse the trend alone? No, it most certainly wont. But is it a step in the right direction? Potentially. If you can get past the government telling you what you can and cannot consume (which they do in thousands of other ways, so why is this one being acknowledged as any different?), and instead focus on the fact that this ban is a public recognition of a problem that exists and we, as a society, need to take steps to correct and reverse this deadly and costly epidemic, then I think the ban is positive movement forward. If NYC and other governments wanted to get really serious about lowering obesity and concerning themselves with issues of public health, they would need to do much much more by way of banning many high calorie, high sugar items. Soda bans alone won't do the trick. 

For NYC and Mayor Bloomberg, the ban acknowledges a problem and takes baby steps towards improving it. Don't hold your breath for a March 2013 implementation date. This ban most certainly has not seen the end of the road.

Wednesday
May162012

The Struggle Towards Lowering the "Weight of the Nation"

The past two weeks have been filled with talk of "the obesity epidemic" and the "Weight of the Nation." Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a "Weight of the Nation" conference in D.C. and this week, HBO premiered its four-part mini-series, Weight of the Nation. Stepping to the same rhythm, the Institute of Medicine released a new report this week, “Accelerat­ing Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.”

The continuous stream of Weight of the Nation events and reports focus on one main point: Americans are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are categorized as either overweight or obese. How in the world did we, as a nation, get to a point where the majority of our population falls into one of these two unhealthy categories? Obesity-related illness treatments cost an estimated $150 billion annually and obesity is the second leading causes of preventable death in the country. It's no small matter. Researchers estimate that costs will rise to over $500 billion by 2030.

HBO's Weight of the Nation mini-series,  available online for free, profiles overweight and obese individuals and their families, talks to farmers, looks at nutrition in schools, and so much more. Following the slogan, "to win, we have to lose," the films discuss what can be done in the long run to quell the epidemic. If you want solutions, this film isn't necessarily the place to go. However, it does a great job at profiling the problem and reminding us of all the forces that have come together to create this epidemic.

In addition to HBO's mini-series, The Institute of Medicine's report provides a detailed look at the epidemic. According to the Institute, the problem is not just an individual one, but also a societal one. Each person plays a role in the epidemic. "We can't sit back and let the schools do it, or let a mayor do it or think somehow the federal government's going to solve it," says report co-author William Purcell III. The IOMs recommendations require a "concerted effort among all." With a focus on cohesive strategies for change, the report offers a multitude of solutions to a grandiose problem.

Here  are a few great articles that summarize the past two weeks happenings and break down the obesity epidemic, all in their own unique manner.

Weight Loss and the Solution to the Epidemic, Huffington Post

This is Why You're Fat: The 2012 Farm Bill and the Real Obesity Lobby, Huffington Post

Obesity Fight Must Shift from Personal Blame, Reuters

The Obesity Epidemic - Two Policy Experts Speak Out, Forbes

A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity, New York Times

No End to Obesity Epidemic, Twenty Year Forecast Shows, ABC News

There is an obesity epidemic. It is clear as we look around each and every day. Fast food is abundant. Sedentary lifestyles are the norm. School lunches consist of processed, sugary foods. Healthcare costs are climbing. Rates of diabetes are staggering. Food policy in this country - i.e. The Farm Bill - places emphasis on all the wrong things. The food and beverage industry is so large, the fight isn't even fair. Figuring out how to move forwards, to work towards a solution, to reverse this epidemic should be the focus for every person, every organization, and most certainly for our government. While you work to make sense of your role in lowering the "Weight of the Nation," take a look at this outstanding infographic put out by the Institute of Medicine. Learn the facts, understand the solutions, and take a step towards playing an active role in the fight against this deadly epidemic.

 

 

Tuesday
May152012

10 companies produce all the products we consume

Check out this graphic that depicts 10 companies and the astounding number of products they produce and we consume on a daily basis.

Click here to pin this

Original image source: http://www.convergencealimentaire.info/map.jpg 

Monday
Apr302012

Week 1, SFHL Meal Planning

I realize it's been a 3 weeks since I last posted and I apologize. It isn't because I haven't been cooking. It's because I got a job. A job with an awesome, food oriented organization to boot. While it's been an adjustment, and blogging has most certainly fallen by the way side, my cooking has not. I feel like now I bring a bit more credibility to the concept of cooking after a long day of work. My solution the past few weeks has been to plan, and plan like its nobody's business.I sit dwn on grocery shopping day (normally Sunday) and plan out five to six meals. These meals serve as both dinner and lunch for me during the week. We have one leftover night and one salad night. In the past, my meal inspiration has been thought up/self-created. I don't feel like I have the luxury to do that as much right now and so I haven't. I tweak recipes to fit our household likes and dislikes but I use recipes from other sources. I shop for the food and then leave the what-to-cook decisions for each night. That allows for some flexibility in what we want to eat each night while also having a plan. For the next few weeks, I may only be posting once or twice a week but I will be giving you a week full of meals. The majority of the meals are vegetarian, though you can certainly add a side of meat or mix in meat to the majority of them.

Week 1 Meal Plan (Meal Plan, Grocery List and Recipes in Downloadable PDF)


  1. Lentils with Carmelized Onions, original recipe from Whole Foods

  2. Chickpea and Asparagus Salad, original recipe from Fitness Magazine

  3. Leek Naan Pizza, original recipe from Fitness Magazine

  4. Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Salad and Pita, original recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

  5. Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, and Avocado, original recipe from Once Upon a Chef


WEEK 1 GROCERY LIST

Lentils with Carmelized Onions


  • 3 medium yellow onions

  • 1 cup brown lentils

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley


Chickpea and Asparagus Salad

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/2 pound asparagus

  • 1.25 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan

  • 2 tbsp parsley

  • 1 lemon

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1-15oz can chickpeas

  • 1 cup radishes

  • 1 small red onion

  • 8 Bibb lettuce leaves or 1-2 heads of romaine lettuce


Leek Naan Pizza

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 leeks

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 2 ounces prosciutto

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

  • 2 tbsp basil

  • 4-oz goat cheese

  • 4 pieces of roti or naan


Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Salad

  • 1-15 oz can chickpeas

  • 2 avocadoes

  • 1/4 cup cilantro

  • 1 small bunch green onion

  • 1 lime

  • 1 package of whole-wheat pita


Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, and Avocado

  • 2-15oz cans black beans

  • 3 ears corn

  • 2 red peppers

  • 2 avocadoes

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 2 shallots

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2-3 limes

  • 1/2 cup cilantro


WEEK 1 RECIPES

Lentils with Carmelized Onions


  1. In a medium pot, bring lentils and 5 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer until lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain again.

  2. While lentils cook, bring 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

  3. Add 1/4 cup water, cumin, cinnamon and salt and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook about 15 minutes or until onions are soft and browned, stirring frequently and adding 1/4 cup water halfway through cooking or if onions begin to stick to skillet.

  4. Stir lentils, rice and pepper into skillet with remaining onions. Cook for 5 minutes.

  5. Top with chopped parsley.


Chickpea and Asparagus Salad

  1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place eggs in a large bowl of cold water. Gently crack eggs and leave in cold water 1 minute, then peel.

  2. Return water to a boil over high heat.

  3. Chop asparagus into 2 inch pieces. Add asparagus and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain.

  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, pepper and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.

  5. Chop eggs and add to dressing. Stir in chickpeas, chopped radishes, diced onion and cooked asparagus. Divide salad among four plates lined with Bibb lettuce.


Leek Naan Pizza

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

  2. Chop leeks, tomatoes and basil.

  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and saute until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, prosciutto, salt and pepper and saute 30 seconds.

  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil.

  5. Place naan on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with 1 tbsp olive oil and top each with an equal amount of vegetable mixture and goat cheese.

  6. Bake naan pizza for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.


Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Salad

  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Place in a medium bowl.

  2. Using a fork or potato masher, smash the chickpeas.

  3. Scoop avocado out of skin and add to the chickpeas.

  4. Continue mashing the avocado and chickpeas together.

  5. Add in cilantro, diced green onion, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  6. Lightly toast pita and serve on the side.


Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, and Avocado

  1. Rinse and drain black beans. Set aside in large bowl.

  2. Dice peppers, garlic, shallots and avocadoes. Add to the bowl with the beans.

  3. Grill the corn until lightly browned. Cut the kernels off the cob. Add corn tot he bowl.

  4. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir.

  5. Serve as a light main dish or alongside a grain or chicken.


Wednesday
Apr042012

Green Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Want a great way to trick people into eating vegetables? Kids, husbands, "I only eat meat" folks. Well this sauce may just be the perfect solution. In case you haven't been following, we purchased a Vitamix about a month ago. Vitamix was having a special for a refurbished model and we took the plunge (you still get the 5 year warranty even with the refurbished deal). Let me digress from the recipe for 2 seconds to explain to you why a Vitamix rocked my world: It is basically a blender on steroids. It has a 2 horsepower motor, which according to my husband could power a small boat, and a container that can hold 8-cups of liquid. I was skeptical at first. Why would anyone want to spend so much money when you can buy a cheap blender and a cheap food processor and be set. Oh boy was I wrong. We have used it every single day since purchasing it. You can literally put whole vegetables and fruits into it and it will pulverize them within minutes. This means that smoothies in the morning can consist of an entire apple (skin and all), banana, kiwi, pineapple, etc. and you end up with a liquid smoothie. You can put kale into it and it comes out so finely chopped you don't have to think about the fact that you are drinking kale. You can put entire tomatoes in for salsa or marinara sauce. Oh and don't let me forget that we made our own peanut butter in it - just put roasted peanuts in and no more than a minute or two later you have freshly made peanut butter in whatever consistency you prefer. So now that you know there is no shortage of reasons why this thing rocks, how about that recipe.


I through in kale, mushrooms, zucchini, sauteed onions and garlic, a bit of olive oil and water, some salt and pepper and again, within minutes had an entirely fresh and healthy pasta sauce. I added the sauce to some hot linguini and tossed it together. I added fresh cherry tomatoes (though had I roasted them, that would have been delicious too) and grated parmesan cheese to the mix and quickly had a dinner that could have had the brightest of them saying, "veggies? what?"





Green Vegetable Pasta Sauce



  • 2 cups kale, rinsed and dried

  • 1/2 yellow onion

  • 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed

  • 1 cup zucchini, fresh or frozen

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • water



  1. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and sautee for 5 minutes.

  2. Place sauteed onions, garlic, vegetables, salt, pepper, and the remaining olive oil in your Vitamix.

  3. Set speed to Variable, #3 and turn on. Increase speed to #10 and using the tamper, push all of the vegetables down into the blade. Do so until the vegetables are thoroughly blended, roughly 30 seconds.

  4. Turn the machine off. If sauce is not at your desired consistency, add water, 1 tbsp at a time, and blend on the lowest setting to incorporate water. Remember, when you add the sauce to the pasta, it will thin out a bit too so don't add more than 4-5 tbsp of water.

  5. Toss sauce with pasta over low heat. Let cook for 5 minutes, warming the sauce. Add fresh tomatoes and grated cheese and serve hot.