Food Day 2013

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Happy Food Day!

We are excited to participate in the third annual Food Day event. In case you missed it last year, Food Day is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies. The campaign builds all year long, supported by US lawmakers, corporations, nonprofit organizations, chefs, farmers, doctors, activists, nutritionists, authors, actors and concerned eaters and culminates on October 24. This year’s focus is on food education as a way to improve our diets, address obesity and other health issues, starting on schools and campuses.

Why is Food Day Important?

We all know that there are major problems with our current food system. The standard American diet contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, all of which amount to a lot of suffering, and on top of that, cost Americans billions, even trillions of dollars every year. Pretty depressing! Luckily, the alternative – eating real food that is grown locally and produced sustainably – is not only good for us, but it can be a lot of fun, too.

What Can You Do?

Help bring awareness to Food Day 2013 by sharing our graphics about these issues through your social media. Find them on our Facebook page and our Pinterest boards!

Our Food Day graphics address three important topics: the problems with marketing unhealthy food to kids, the importance of getting kids into the kitchen and how to reduce food waste. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite resources in these areas. Check them out:

Marketing to Kids

Food Mythbusters presents the real story about the food we eat. They believe that marketing targeted to children and teenagers is a major cause of our public health crisis. Watch their newest movie, “Is Junk Food What We Really Crave?” and see founder Anna Lappe’s excellent 2013 TEDx Manhattan talk.

DigitalAds.org, a project of the Berkeley Media Studies Group and DC-based Center for Digital Democracy, tracks the high-tech ad campaigns created by junk food and fast food companies to target kids using “advergames,” social networks, mobile marketing and more. Warning: will induce righteous indignation!

Kids Cooking

The Kids Cook Monday is a campaign to help motivate parents to cook with their children, offering family-friendly recipes and video demonstrations along with a free starter family dinner toolkit, making it easy for families to cook and eat together every Monday.

Food Network has a whole section devoted to helping you get your kids into the kitchen with kid-friendly tips and great recipes for cooking with kids.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is dedicated to saving lives by inspiring everyone – moms, dads, kids, teens and cafeteria workers – to get back to basics and start cooking good food from scratch. His website is full of resources and recipes to teach cooking skills, change school food and improve the health of our country. (The whole world, really.)

Food Waste

Food Shift: Pledge to reduce your food waste! Food Shift works collaboratively with communities, businesses and governments to develop long-term sustainable solutions to reduce food waste and build more resilient communities.

Our Food Waste section will help you get started making a change.

NRDC’s report, Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, examines the inefficiencies in the US food system from the farm to the fork to the landfill.

Join in other great Food Day celebrations

  • In celebration of Food Day, Wholesome Wave wants to know how you are helping to rebuild our food system. Whether you are an individual, a foundation, a corporation, a nonprofit or a government entity, your actions make a difference. Collectively, our actions are building a more equitable, sustainable food system. Download their template, write a message, snap a photo and share it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #wwrebuilds (or email it to communications@wholesomewave.org).
  • Get your college campus to sign The Real Food Campus Commitment on Food Day! By signing the Real Food Campus Commitment, colleges and universities pledge to buy at least 20 percent real food annually by 2020 and thereby use their tremendous purchasing power to support a healthy food system that strengthens local economies, respects human rights, ensures ecological sustainability and facilitates community involvement and education.
  • Attend a free Healthy Food Action webinar on Monday, 10/28 at 12:00 PM EDT/11:00 AM CDT. This webinar highlights health professionals who have found ways to change our conception of how hospitals, clinics and private practice ought to look to reflect the need for access to healthier, more sustainable food and farming.
  • Follow along on social media! Check out the Food Day 2013 Facebook and Twitter pages. Or search #FoodDay2013 on Twitter to see what others have to say.
  • Check out events all across the country through the Food Day map of events on their website. And don’t forget that everyday should be a Food Day – celebrate all year long!

Your Sustainable Kitchen – Planning and Stocking

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Imagine this scene… There is food in the refrigerator that needs to be cooked, but you are too busy. The one night that you can make time, you look in the refrigerator and the pieces don’t quite add up to a meal so you order take-out. When the weekend comes around and you actually have time to cook a big dinner, your lettuce is wilted, the sweet potatoes have gone soft, the greens aren’t green, the garlic sprouted… You have been thinking about starting a compost bin, but you haven’t yet, so it all goes into the garbage and you start again.

Does this sound familiar (or is it just me)? But then some weeks are the opposite:

On Sunday you make a grocery list and shop. When you get home from shopping you take some time to prep your vegetables so that they are ready to be quickly thrown together for lunch or dinner. You make a big pot of something that can be used throughout the week (chili, stew, beans and rice or a whole chicken) and put that away, even freezing some for those rushed evenings when something unexpected comes up. You cook Sunday supper. You’ve planned your dinners for the week and pack lunches at night, and everyone gets fed and nothing grows green fur in your crisper drawer.

How is all this planning ahead and stocking up making your kitchen (and you) more sustainable?

  1. You plan ahead and don’t waste any food.
  2. You buy items in bulk, saving money and packaging.
  3. You go to the farmers market and buy local, in-season vegetables that are cheaper (because the farmer has them in abundance), have little or no pesticides (because of the farmer’s growing practices) and you support your local economy.

Planning out your week feels really good – for your health, your pocketbook, your planet, your farmer – and it tastes amazing!

How can you make it happen every week? Easy!

Planning

  • Pick a weekly day/time to sit with a few cookbooks or your favorite recipe blogs (like our Real Food Right Now series)
  • Write out meals for every night of the week and note when you can use the leftovers or make a double batch (use a meal planning app or print a meal planner like this one from KrisCarr.com)
  • Make a list for your shopping trip (always check out what you already have on hand, and keep a list on the fridge to add to during the week –  find a cute one and print it out. Like this grocery list from Palmettos & Pigtails. It makes planning more fun!)

Stocking

  • Be sure to have staples on hand – rice, pasta, nuts, beans, spices (check your stock and add items to your shopping list periodically)
  • Shop at your favorite markets – farmers’ markets, a grocery store with good deals, your local coop

Action

  • Prepare/clean ingredients ahead of time
  • Cook/freeze dinners nightly
  • Pack up left overs for lunches
  • Keep the most perishable foods visible – consider moving older items to the top shelf

The Happiness Diet: A Book Review

We are all looking for happiness. Is it possible that it’s as close as the end of our forks? Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, MD, whose new book, The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, features with a juicy burger on the cover, say it is. And the good looking burger on the cover of their book – meat, cheese, bun, veggies and all – are part of the prescription.

Eating burgers for happiness, with side effects like weight loss, a healthy brain and reduced cravings, sounds like what America has been waiting for. In The Happiness Diet, Ramsey and Graham teach us why the current Modern American Diet (MAD) has increased depression along with waistlines. Our diet has changed drastically over the last 100 years, and along with it, our brains. The MAD diet, which is made up primarily of industrially produced foods, has been stripped of the mood boosting foods that our brains need – fats, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. To improve our mental and emotional health, stabilize moods and improve focus, all which are needed for a good attempt at happiness, we need to eat better. But it’s not just about eating more or less carbs, or fat or protein. The Happiness Diet is calling for better food, dare we say… sustainable food. You can imagine that we are pretty happy just thinking about it.

Not many diets focus on sustainable food, which makes this book quite refreshing. The Happiness Diet sees that where our food comes from is as important as which foods we decide to eat. The industrialization of food has stripped away many of the nutrients our bodies and minds need. So in addition to the “diet” that we follow, we need to look beyond the processed and fast foods that have become a staple of the American diet and reconnect with whole, seasonal foods. And as a side, in the “Epilogue,” right in line with the philosophies that we find important, the authors remind us that our healthy choices have a ripple effect. These sustainable choices we make impact the land we live on and the people who produce and harvest it too (which can only lead to… more happiness!).

So what exactly is the Happiness Diet?

The Happiness Diet is one made up of healthy and delicious foods that will help to create and maintain a good mood. It is broken down in the book so that it’s easy to understand. What nutritional elements are we missing and why do we need them? What foods can we find them in? They even break it out into Focus Foods, Energy Foods and Mood Foods – and let us know how they work.

The book is sprinkled with the “Top 100 Reasons to Avoid Processed Foods” – and there are some good ones.

Reason 21: Old El Paso Taco Dinner kits contain ethoxyquin, a chemical invented by Monsanto in the 1950s and originally registered as a pesticide. There is very limited human safety data, but in a test tube it damages the DNA of human immune cells.

Reason 59: The FDA allows 5% of any jar of maraschino cherries to contain maggots.

Reason 64: More than eighty thousand chemicals are approved for use in the United States. The vast majority of these have not been studied for their safety — many are found in processed food.

Vegetarians and vegans beware! This book is for meat eaters. But if you have an open mind there is solid information about what vitamins/minerals/fats/etc. are essential for a healthy mind. With some substitutes, you could follow what they have outlined.

Graham and Ramsey have not only introduced the principles behind The Happiness Diet, but they tell you how you can make it happen. They outline a meal plan and even talk you through shopping and stocking your kitchen. With delicious recipes such as Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Barley Tabbouleh, Slow Pork and Mexican Breakfast, I don’t know why you wouldn’t give happiness a chance.

Toxic Strawberry Pesticide Pulled From Sale The US

In a proactive business move, Arysta LifeScience Corporation, the manufacturer of methyl iodide also known as Midas, pulled the controversial pesticide from the shelves on March 20, 2012 due to “economic viability in the U.S. marketplace.” With the majority of the Midas market being in California (88 percent of the domestic strawberry market), the continued attack on the toxic product, and limited use due to strict regulations against application near homes, businesses and schools, the market for Midas was not looking good. The discontinuation of the product went into immediate effect and they were asking farmers to return unused portions.

The suspension of sale was applauded by environmental groups, farmers and individuals who have been actively working for years to ban the product. Originally approved by the EPA in 2007, and  believed to be a good replacement for methyl bromide which was banned in 2005, Midas had never been used heavily due to many concerns from the scientific community from the beginning. And due to California’s own Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) approval process, methyl iodide hadn’t been approved for use in that state until 2010. The pressure to find a replacement for methyl iodide grew as California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a former organic farmer and assistant director for the California Department of Conservation, Brian Leahy, as the new director of the California DPR. And a new research partnership between the DPR and the California Strawberry Commission was created to look for alternatives to using fumigants – even before methyl iodide was officially pulled from the market. The partnership will dedicate $500,000 over the next three years.

It is interesting that while so many people worked to ban the toxic fumigant – called one of the most toxic chemicals on earth, others worked hard to make it available for sale. From the Arysta’s press release, “Arysta LifeScience Suspends MIDAS in the United States” –

The company would like to express its gratitude to growers, researchers, business partners and supporters who helped MIDAS® achieve U.S. EPA registration and registration in 48 states. LifeScience will continue to support the use of iodomethane outside of the U.S. where it remains economically viable.

With no access to methyl iodide, and methyl bromide being phased out (but accessible under a critical use exemption (CUE) possibly through 2014), farmer’s are looking for a less toxic but effective alternative. From the VCReporter: “Existing alternatives, such as chloropicrin and metam-sodium, have not been as effective as methyl bromide, said Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission. In Ventura County, she said, many growers transitioning away from methyl bromide have found plant diseases they haven’t seen before, which is an obvious threat to the county’s No. 1 agricultural export.”

Transitioning to organic crops are an option, but obviously not a quick fix or something that many farmers feel is viable. Addressed in this article in NewsObserver.com, Dwindling choice of fumigants imperils strawberry profits, “Conventional growers say organic farmers can’t match their volume. Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, questioned whether there was enough farmland to make strawberry production viable using only organic methods. For one thing, she said, rotation requirements would put land off-limits in some years. Strawberries would no longer be the plentiful and affordable product consumers know now, AmRhein said.”

What’s in Season? Sweet Potatoes

Unless you’re in southern California, the farmers’ market is certainly sparse these days. Pea shoots and some other early spring favorites are surely right around the corner but for now, at least here in NYC,the pickin’s are slim: we’ve got meat, dairy, apples (lots of apples!), root vegetables and some good looking sweet potatoes.

What’s a Sweet Potato? It’s a perennial tuber root with leaves and flowers too! You can eat the leaves, but by the time we get them in the winter, the roots have been stored for months and the leaves are long gone. And just to clarify, a sweet potato is not related to a potato or a yam, but is its very own thing  – strangely enough, it is in the Morning Glory family!

Where do they come from? Domesticated  an estimated 5000+ years ago in Central or South America, sweet potatoes are now grow in the US mainly in warmer states like North Carolina, Mississippi, California and Tennessee. They are often grown in other countries too (China is one of the biggest exporters), so look for locally grown sweet potatoes at your farmers’ market, or regionally grown at your grocery store.

Varieties? Hundreds! The long and tapered root is sometimes small, fingerling potato size, but they can grow quite large. The skin is smooth and comes in many different colors – yellow, orange, red, brown, purple and beige. The most common flesh color is orange, but can also range from shades of white to a brilliant purple.

Season? Sweet potatoes don’t like frost. They are harvested from August to October and then stored for us to enjoy through the winter.

Dirty Dozen or Clean 15? Sweet potatoes rank #13 on the Clean 15 list from the Environmental Working Group’s shoppers guide to pesticides in produce.

Nutritional info? Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, they can also improve blood sugar regulation.

From the World’s Healthiest Foods website:
1 cup of baked Sweet Potato has 102.60 calories and many vitamins and minerals: vitamin A438.1%, vitamin C 37.2%, manganese 28.4%, vitamin B6 16.5%, tryptophan15.6%, potassium15.4%, fiber 15%, vitamin B5 10.1%, copper 9%, vitamin B 38.5%

How to cook them? Grilled, baked, mashed, roasted, steamed, boiled – they are extremely versatile. Soup, au gratin, chips, veggie burgers and more recipes than you will ever have time to try show up when you Google “Sweet Potato Recipes.”

Recipes: I tried out this sweet potato recipe from the wildly popular Healthy. Happy. Life. blog – this recipe alone was shared on Facebook 472 times! I just made the burgers (see the slideshow above), but check out her post to see how beautiful they look with the Cilantro Jicama Fiesta Slaw! The burgers were very easy to make and tasted delicious. They were a little bit denser the next day, and even more “patty” like. The jalapeno added a nice kick!

Black Bean Fiesta Burgers
vegan, makes 5 burgers

Burgers:
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained/canned (unsalted)
3 Tbsp fine bread crumbs
3/4 cup baked/mashed sweet potato
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro – including stems
1/3 cup diced white onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chopped garlic
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 jalapeno, diced/de-seeded
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast – or use more bread crumbs
a few dashes of chipotle powder or cayenne for extra heat

Directions:

1. First off prepare the Fiesta Slaw according to the directions. Chill in fridge until ready to add to burgers.

2. Whip up your “special spicy sauce” – set aside in fridge as well.

3. Next up, prepare the burgers. Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor. You can also mash well by hand – but a fp is a tad faster. Next, hand-form burger patties with the mixture and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. I like to roll my burgers in a touch of bread crumbs so that they have nice crisp edges.

4. Bake your burgers at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before assembling burgers. The last 5 minutes of cooking – add your burger buns to the oven to warm/toast them.

5. Assemble those burgers! Warm bun, spread of special sauce, tomato, onion, optional avocado, burger, fiesta slaw and finally another slather of the special spicy sauce on the top bun.

Serve! Enjoy the fiesta in your mouth!

Want more sweet potato? The Kitchn recently sent out this tasty round-up of sweet potato recipes.

So Long, McRib, Not a Minute Too Soon!

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Dear McRib,

Word on the street is that you have been discontinued, again. Is it true? I’ve been trying to avoid you, but you are on TV, blogs, websites, newspapers… everywhere. I am a healthy eater, so I’m not interested in you; in fact I’m very afraid of your processed pork-like, rib-shaped patty. People love you and I don’t understand why. You have an astronomical 70 ingredients, a far cry from Micheal Pollan’s rule – “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” You were created in 1981 and discontinued only a few years later due to bad sales, but now… people are rioting for your return! You are a hot topic on Twitter #McRib, not just a hashtag, but people (or marketers?) have dedicated handles to you: @McRibWatch and @McRibLocator (of the McRib Locator website)! And while your McRib farewell tours started back in 2005, Ask.com predicts your permanent return to the menu in 2012 (say it isn’t so!).

McRib, you are made from pork from Smithfield, which was awarded a “supplier sustainability award” in 2008 by McDonald’s themselves. But the Humane Society still strongly disagrees with the award, going so far as to file a legal complaint (PDF) with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission this year, accusing Smithfield of misleading consumers about its welfare practices. But your fans don’t seem to care. They also don’t seem to care about what your rib-less rib patty is actually made from. McDonald’s lists the ingredients of the actual patty as, “Pork, water, salt, dextrose, preservatives (BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid),” but there is speculation about what parts of the “pork” are included – mostly offal (internal organs and entrails, and I’ve read some worse accusations).  Even the bun and sauce are full of things that every human should avoid: high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oils, ammonium sulfate, soy flour, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide) – and the list goes on. All of these below par ingredients add up to 450 (some say 500) calories, 24 grams of fat, 890 mg of sodium, not the most healthy meal around.

Everyone is talking about you McRib (whether good or bad) – you have a lengthy wikipedia page and have been mentioned in USA Today, LA Times, Huffington Post, The Week, Fox News, NPR, Freakonomics and The Washington Post among many more. McRib, you were only supposed to be available this year until November 14th, but there are still spottings of you around the country. Your frozen patties must be running out, but not as fast as predicted (maybe this is all just McHype?). Please, please run out so that we can all just eat more kale.

Sincerely, Dawn

Thrive Foods – For the Planet and Your Health

While we have had our bad eating habits explained to us before, vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier brings a new perspective to the topic and breaks the elements down into measurable chunks in his new book, Thrive Foods, which lends real weight to his theory that a plant-based diet is better for the planet and our personal health. Thrive Foods starts off on a depressing note with a detailed description of the toll industrial food production takes on our planet and the toll our current eating habits are taking on our health, but finishes off with a delicious plant-based cookbook to help us counteract the first three chapters.

This isn’t Brazier’s first book about foods that help us to thrive. His interest in food to fuel his body for its maximum output started early on when he was training for his passion – running, swimming and biking in the form of triathlons. As he experimented with foods to help him recoup after workouts, he discovered that the more nutrient dense foods he ate, the better his body performed, advice  he shared in his first two books – Thrive Fitness and Thrive. But what came out of that research (and into this book) was more than a diet, but an appreciation and deep understanding of how much our food choices as individuals impact the world around us, mostly in a very negative way.

Since nutrition has been Brazier’s main topic for many years, it makes sense that he begins his new book, Thrive Foods, by explaining where our nutritional deficits are coming from: stress, lack of sleep and nutritionally deficient food. He takes an extra step in this book by incorporating nutritional information with environmental issues in what he calls the “nutrient-to-resource ratio.” A simple way to see where you can get the healthiest foods while taking into consideration the drain their production has on arable land, fresh water, fossil fuels and air quality.

While part of the book reads like those old train math questions – for any science or math geek or for anyone who wants serious proof that changing your diet can help to improve climate change, it does the job.

A Brazier math problem:

By weight, 232 times more kale than cattle can be produced on the same amount of land (38,400 pounds of kale per acre compared with 165 pounds of beef). And since beef has a nutrient density of 20 and kale registers at 1000, which is 50 times greater, for every calorie you get from kale, you’d have to eat 50 from beef to match the micronutrient level. Since beef has about four times the amount of calories per pound as kale, to gain the equivalent in micronutrients from beef as from kale would require 2900 times more arable land.

To help drive it all home, the last two chapters before the recipe section explain the key components of good nutrition and which foods are the most nutrient dense and why. Then the last ⅔ of the book is made up of 200 plant-based recipes for peak health. Brazier has tapped into North America’s best vegan/vegetarian chefs and restaurants to gather the tastiest recipes – from a very simple Mexican Salad Bowl to a more involved Raw Zucchini and Carrot Lasagna with Almond “Ricotta.” The recipes are simple enough that anyone could follow along, and interesting and tasty enough that they could also entertain the most seasoned cook.

Brendan has cast a wide net of appeal with this book. Interested in nutrition? He’s got it covered. Sustainable agriculture your thing? Check. Love to cook? Recipes galore. Want to geek out on facts? Done. Want to be inspired to make changes to your diet? Keep reading. Are you a meat eater and don’t think the book is for you? Try again; these principals can even be applied one meal a week. If you are undecided, I say pick it up and give it a try, you will learn something and maybe even change your eating habits (and help the planet!) in the process.