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January 2010

Calorie Listings Required In Philadelphia

Listen up fellow Philadelphians!  The City Council of Philadelphia, a city ranked as one of America’s fattest, has finally passed a law requiring chain restaurants and retail food establishments to list calorie counts.

As of this coming Monday, February 1st, chain restaurants and retail food establishments with 15 or more locations nationwide will be required to list the calorie counts for foods on their menus.  Starting April 1st, they will also be required to provide information on the saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, and sodium content of the menu items.

There is much speculation as to whether this will actually induce people to eat less calories.  A study done in New York City, the first place to mandate calorie listings, showed that calorie listings had little effect on consumers.  So will the listings be enough to bail out Philadelphia from being one of the fattest cities in America?  In short, probably not.  Calorie listings won’t be required for mom and pop restaurants or individual restaurants, which often serve higher quality food than chain restaurants but that is often just as fatty and calorie-heavy.

However, hopefully it will be the first step in bringing awareness to just how unhealthy the typical fast food/chain restaurant meal is.  While I almost never go to a chain restaurant, I am happy to see that now if I do decide to venture to one, I’ll be able to use the listings to make wiser decisions.  As obesity continues to become a pressing and prevalent issue across America, hopefully citizens at least in the city Philadelphia will actually start to use the information placed right in front of their face to make healthy food choices.

Along with Philadelphia, New York City, California, Oregon, Maine, and Massachusetts have also passed menu labeling ordinances.

Would calorie listings keep you from ordering certain items off the menu? Do you use eating out as an excuse to splurge and allow yourself to eat whatever you want?

Take a look at some of these astounding nutritional facts from some of the nation’s top chain restaurants.

McDonald’s: Cheeseburger with medium fries = 680 calories, 31 grams of fat, 43% saturated fat, 41% sodium

Subway: Foot long chicken bacon ranch sub = 1080 calories, 50 grams of fat, 100% saturated fat, 60% cholesterol

KFC: Chicken breast with side of mashed potatoes and gravy = 1,160, 59 grams of fat, 75% saturated fat, 57% cholesterol, 140% sodium

Chili’s:  Boneless buffalo chicken salad with a side of their famous chili with cheese = 1,370 calories, 90 grams of fat, 130% saturated fat, 168% sodium

Pumpkin Oatmeal

I stumbled upon making this variation of oatmeal just this past fall when my local Trader Joe’s was having a sale on pureed pumpkin.  I took some of the canned pumpkin home and then contemplated the numerous ways I could use it.  While I love pumpkin pie, the holidays were coming up and I had already been stuffing myself with treats, so I decided on whipping up a healthier kind of treat:  Pumpkin Oatmeal.  The addition of pumpkin to the standard bowl of morning oats turns this breakfast into a hearty, extra creamy and nutritious delight.  Enjoy.

Pumpkin Oats

(Serves 1)

-1/3 cup of old fashioned oats
-1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
-2/3 cups of water or milk/soy milk/almond milk, or a combination
-Dash of cinnamon
-Brown sugar, to taste
-Salt, to taste

Add the first 4 ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook until oats reach desired consistency (about 8-10 minutes).  Remove from heat and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.

School Lunches

Obtained from http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com

I have talked about my hate of public school lunches before (see this article for more info.).  The typical school lunch consists of:  Main dish-  Some kind of greasy, low quality meat product; Beverage- Your choice of milk, plain or sugar-filled chocolate or strawberry milk (in my school, you had to buy water unless you were lactose intolerant, meaning as a person who tries to stay away from dairy as much as possible, I’d spend a lot of dollars on bottled water until I started thinking ahead and packing my own in a reusable bottle); Vegetable/Fruit- Almost always frozen or canned in some sugary syrup, or a taste-like-cardboard red delicious apple;  Dessert/Snack-  More fat, either in the form of potato chips or some version of Twinkies.  None of this speaks of health to me.

How are we supposed to teach our kids healthy eating habits in school when they are being fed CRAP in the very institution that teaches them against it?  How are parents to ensure that their kids eat healthy when schools often serve every health-conscious adult’s nightmare?

Until something changes, these questions are hard to answer.  School lunches are filled with processed, chemicalized, and purely unhealthy foods.  The best option is to pack your kids’ lunch or buy healthy food that tastes even better than the junk they’re fed at school to prompt the kid to want to pack their own lunch.  This is what I did all throughout high school, but I was one of few.  The rest of my friends didn’t prioritize a few minutes in the morning to gather a lunch together, so they’d suffer through the repulsive school lunches they were served day after day.  What makes school lunches even worse is the fact that even though they are fatty, greasy, salty, and sweet, the perfect combination to make foods taste good, they still often taste like crap.  This totally goes against my philosophy of if I’m going to eat something unhealthy, it better be darn good.  I’d regularly hear my friends complain about how fake the mashed potatoes tasted or how horrible the hamburgers were or how slimy the lunch meat was, but they’d shove those substandard, artery-clogging foods down their mouths anyway because they were hungry.  School food is at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to quality, meaning that even the fat and salt is often not enough to make it taste good.

What sparked this ranting post about how terrible school lunches are was an article I read about a teacher in the mid-west who plans on eating her school’s lunch everyday for the next year.  She will be blogging and photographing the lunch everyday.  Stop by her site and check it out.  I stopped by and immediately noticed a conglomeration of the type and quality of food I mentioned above:  Pizza, canned pineapple, a red delicious apple, horrid looking tater-tots, puke “green” green beans, Salisbury “steak” that look like it was sitting in a pile of some kind of grease (or maybe that was just a greasy sauce), pretzels, a lifeless burger, etc. etc.

I have to say I was surprised I didn’t see more bags of chips and imitation tasty-cake desserts, but there’s still numerous months left in the year.  I think the teacher is certainly a little daring in doing this.  For one, I don’t think I could ever go back to eating school lunches.  Also, she’s bound to gain a little weight, particularly if her former lunches were on the healthier-side.  Even if she doesn’t gain too many pounds, she’s definitely taking a toll on her health.  I love the idea though and think it makes a great topic for a public blog.

Hopefully her experience will help raise more awareness about the issue of school lunches and the terrible quality that they encompass.  Congress is expected to discuss and hopefully improve child nutrition programs this spring.  These public officials are long past grade school years, so I think it could do them some good to take a look at this teacher’s blog and remind them of how terrible school lunches are.  I’m sure they know that school lunches aren’t healthy, but take a look at these pictures, and anyone can see just how lifeless school lunches really are.  Especially if you have kids, take a look, and if you don’t already, you may just want to start packing your kids’ lunches.

The Pomelo

Pomelos are my new favorite treat.  I tend to generally eat a lot of citrus during the winter months, such as oranges, clementines, and grapefruit since my other favorite fruits aren’t in season.  My roommate eats a lot of fruit as well, and so a couple weeks ago she brought home what I surmised was a gigantic grapefruit.  I told her I had never seen a grapefruit that big!  That’s when she told me, “It’s not a grapefruit silly.  It’s a pomelo,” introducing a whole new and delicious citrus fruit to my winter diet.

Pomelos look and taste similar to grapefruits, with subtle differences.  For one, they’re much larger in size.  Pomelos are the largest citrus fruit, although I must admit that half of this size difference is due to pomelos’ thick skin.  The taste is similar to that of a grapefruit but is a tad sweeter and milder.  The texture slightly differs as well, as it is a bit coarser containing a bunch of little juicy beads that pop in your mouth.

A pomelo placed beside a regular apple...so big

While some might argue that pomelos aren’t worth buying because they’re a tad pricy (the price depends upon where you buy it, but definitely priced higher than regular grapefruit), I find their size and sweet grapefruit taste quite intriguing.  I’ve advocated this policy before but once again, I’d rather spend my money on a delicious and unique fruit than a shoddy dessert.  The size and mysteriousness of a pomelo makes me excited about munching on a fruit.

If you decide to splurge on a pomelo, choose one on the heavier side.  These tend to be jucier and sweeter.  And if you decide you want to get creative, try candying the rind.

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