How Americans Spend Their Food Dollars

How Americans Spend Their Food Dollars

By: Thryn Franz

               With the prevalence of obesity and the growing number of nutritionally related deaths in the nation, it is of use to take a look at what exactly it is that Americans are eating. This infographic gives us a concise breakdown of where we are spending our food dollars and can be point us in the right direction of how to start addressing our nutritionally depleted, energy overloaded comrades. Of the total dollars spend on all food in a years time the average American spends 40% of their budget eating out (a number that’s actually down since the previous year) and 60% purchasing foods for in the home. Of that 60%, a further categorical breakdown is provided for exactly what in the grocery store is catching our eye and dominating our wallet. How do you stack up?

US Food Spending Infographic

‘My Newtrition’ Knows What’s For Dinner

‘My Newtrition’ Knows What’s For Dinner

by: Thryn Franz

Today’s post is branching out to a topic that most of us have difficulty managing- meal planning. It’s an imperative step in our journeys to more healthful eating. Often times eating that way means cooking your meals more than outsourcing them which can be a bit of a task in today’s on-the-go culture. For this topic I turn it over to the experts at My Newtrition. The creator is an aspiring Registered Dietitian who provides her readers with a clear, definitive plan of action to effectively strategize your meal planning. She addresses barriers and how to overcome them and offers her own personal experiences that make the information so much more relatable- she understands the juggling act we call life! Additionally, she also offers delicious and nutritious meal ideas that are easy to customize to your own liking. So basically, if you’ve ever caught yourself mid-week staring into an empty fridge and ordering take-out for the umpteen time, you should definitely check out the happenings at My Newtrition!! Check out her marquee infographic ‘The Meal Planning Way’ pictured below and follow the link to learn more!!

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Link to My Newtrition: https://mynewtrition.wordpress.com/

An Apple A Day.

An Apple A Day.

By: Thryn Franz

As the adage goes, apples can certainly have some notable health benefits. They were colonized throughout the United States thanks to the real life Johnny Appleseed and were originally used to make cider as the earlier varieties were quite bitter to taste (crabapples). Currently Biotech companies are working on creating a variety that doesn’t brown when exposed to air, but that is a whole other post itself. Here’s what’s at the core of our apple consumption:

Production:

A wide variety of apples are grown commercially throughout the US in orchards. Apples are different in that each apple seed holds a unique set of DNA from its parent tree. In the early days, this made it hard to produce apples with consistent flavor and texture. However, our ancestors quickly discovered that propagating the parent tree (taking a branch cutting) and growing it would cause an identical apple to be produced. This is how we have been able to develop and replicate the many varieties that exist today. Apples are susceptible to bacterial, fungal, and pest problems leading commercial growers to implement a hefty regime of chemical sprays to ensure high yields. This practice has landed them at the top of the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) ‘Dirty Dozen’ list (see image below). This list represents the top foods that after cleaning & preparing, still had substantial residues of said chemicals. It is recommended that whenever possible to buy them organic to avoid this exposure. Unsurprisingly, in lue of this the organic apple market is seeing a steady increase in demand, making it more assessable to the typical consumer. And conventional growers are also responding to consumer demand and opting for ‘low-spray’ techniques. To this day most apples are still hand-picked, using a ladder and a little bit of elbow grease.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you’re fortunate enough to live near an orchard, simply ask the growers what type of practice they use and ALWAYS wash your produce! Buy during the fall when apples are in season.

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Processing:

According to Martin Lindberg, author of ‘Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy’, the average apple found in the grocery store is 14 months old! This is possible due to “controlled atmosphere storage”, a technology that facilitates low oxygen-high carbon dioxide environments at a cold temperature, essentially mimicking a winter hibernation state. Apples not intended for fresh market retail are picked before ripened, treated with 1-methylcyclopropene, waxed, boxed, and stored in controlled atmosphere storage for roughly 9-12 months. In some cases, apples are picked before ripe, shipped to their destination, and then gassed with ethylene or packaging with calcium carbide to force artificial ripening. This causes them to aesthetically look like a typical naturally ripened apple, however not all of the chemical changes that occur during natural ripening take place during this process and can lead to a more bland flavor with less aromatic appeal. It is not uncommon for apples to be sprayed again with a fungicide once harvested, as they become susceptible during the excessive storage. This doesn’t mean that apple growers are terrible companies or out to get you, it means that they are responding to society of consumers that expect to eat apples year round.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Buy local if possible and always organic. Buy in season (varies with region but typically the fall), to support fresh market retailing.

Nutrient Profile:

Apples are fat-, cholesterol-, and sodium-free. A medium apple (about the size of a tennis ball) contains 94 calories and 4.4grams of fiber. It has a high water content as well as marked amounts of potassium, calcium, and vitamin C. In addition to these nutrients, apples are high in antioxidant polyphenols. According to a study conducted by the Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, most of these antioxidants disappear after about three months (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-2007-0956.ch020 ).

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Buy local apples while they are in season to ensure that they are actually fresh. Many notable vitamins and minerals are found either in or just below the skin so be sure to consume the whole thing for the biggest nutritional punch.

Ingredients List:

1-methylcyclopropene- a synthetic plant growth regulator, structurally similar to ethylene, used to slow down the ripening process in climacteric (ripens through respiration) foods.

Ethylene- a colorless, flammable gas that is produced naturally by fruits and can be applied synthetically to fruits to induce ripening

Carnauba- brazil or palm wax used to coat apples to suppress respiration.

Shellac- a resin secreted by the lac bug and mixed with ethanol to make the liquid shellac that coats apples to suppress respiration

Calcium carbide- a chemical compound used to produce acetylene gas that promotes the ripening of fruits. Calcium carbide is known to contain trace amounts of arsenic and phosphorus hydride, which as carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Wash your produce with warm fresh/ salt water to remove the wax and pesticide residues. Avoid conventional apples and opt for organic whenever possible.

Achin’ For Some Bacon!

Achin’ For Some Baconbaconnn

By: Thryn Franz

               Bacon has developed a cult-like following dubbed “baconmania”, across the nation that has led to the creation of a National Bacon Day- which is December 30th for you fellow fanatics. It is one of the few foods to be commercialized across the board. You can find bacon scented candles (personally not a fan), t-shirts, hats, and even has multiple social media accounts to unify the love. With all the hype around this beloved product, let’s explore what it really is.

Production:

Pigs are naturally omnivorous and are typically fed diet high in grains and other protein sources (soybeans, meat or bone meal). Unless you buy local or organic, odds are your bacon came from a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation), a.k.a. factory farms. Some sources estimate that up to 97% of pork production comes from CAFOs (http://farmforward.com/2007/09/17/pork-making/ ) These intensive operations isolate pigs from being able to partake in their normal behavior as they are crammed into small pens, sometimes having as many as 20 pigs in a space the size of a bedroom. Sows are kept in gestation crates that make it impossible for them to even turn around and will be remain there for their estimated 2.5 years of life. Progress has been made on that with nearly 7 states banning the use of gestation crates. Despite popular belief, pigs are actually incredibly intelligent, social, and playful animals. If animal welfare is a concern of yours, try buying from sources that display the Certified Humane logo. CAFOs aren’t just a matter of animal rights though, they also have significant environmental impact. The high levels of nitrogen & ammonium generated from urine and fecal waste has led to the contamination of rural water sources. According to the Environmental Working Groups ‘Meat Eaters Guide’ eating 4 oz of pork is the equivalent of driving a car 3 miles (http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/eat-smart/).

Processing:

Bacon comes from the sides of a pig and more commonly in the US it is derived from the belly, which is a fattier cut. When taken from the back or loin of the pig it is referred to as Canadian Bacon, and will be omitted from this articles discussion. It can be prepared in a number of ways including boiled, smoked, grilled, fried, or baked. Often times is it preserved via curing processing that can include all or one of the salting, drying, smoking steps. It is this curing process that can leads to the addition of certain ingredients and flavorings (see Ingredients List below).

Nutritional Profile:

Depending on where the bacon is cut from will affect its nutritional profile. Back or loin cuts tend to be the leanest, while the belly cuts tend to be the fattiest (other nations call “American” style bacon ‘streaky’ because of the high fat content). Side cuts are the middle ground, having a moderate ratio of meat and fat. According to the USDA’s Nutrient Database, a slice of pre-sliced, cured, pan-fried bacon contains 54 calories, 3.9g protein, 4.04g total fat, 11mg Cholesterol, 194mg sodium, and 0.064mg of thiamine – a B vitamin. Despite seemingly like an incredibly small number (remember that’s per slice), bacon is actually an exceptional source for thiamine. Since it is an animal source, it is a complete protein (meaning it has all of the essential amino acids). While bacon can get a bad rap for its high fat content, it actually contains a higher amount of monounsaturated fat (1.8g) than it does saturated fat (1.4g), with the remaining 0.7g of fat being polyunsaturated. This is useful to know since in general we try to limit the amount of saturated fat we consume every day. The fat profile of bacon is also affected by the diet that the pigs are fed. When fed diets high in corn and soy, they tend to have a higher concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids, which Americans in general already consume too much of. You can avoid this by buying pasture raised pork.

This being said, it’s not really outstanding in any of the other vitamin and mineral departments. What it is outstanding in, is its sodium and cholesterol content. Four slices of bacon (because let’s be honest, who eats only one?) can tally up to almost 800mg of sodium. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for sodium is 1.5grams with a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 2.3 grams. So one side of bacon wipes out roughly a third of your max consumption in a day. Studies are showing that dietary cholesterol doesn’t really affect our biological cholesterol when consumed in modest amounts, but we should still be aware of its high content.

Ingredients List:

Most bacon on the market contains ingredients added during the curing process.

Sodium Nitrate- a food additive that is used as a preservative and color fixative. It has been linked to the production of nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic (cancer-causing), which can occur during the curing process, frying, and even in the stomach during digestion.

Sodium Ascorbate- a mineral salt of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is used similar to sodium nitrate, speeding up curing and fixating color. Can also reduce the potential of forming nitrosamines in nitrate containing varieties.

Erythrobate- a stereoisomer of ascorbic acid. It’s used as an antioxidant in foods.

Sodium Triphosphate- an inorganic compound that is used as a preservative. It’s classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) with the FDA but widespread use has caused some environmental eutrophication.

Celery Powder– is dried and ground fresh celery. Used as a preservative and has naturally occurring nitrates.

IN CONCLUSION

In summary, bacon can be an exceptional source of protein, monounsaturated fats, and thiamine. One should be mindful of the high sodium and cholesterol content. When able, purchase local and/ or organic products to avoid supporting the CAFO industry and ensure a better balance of Omega-6 fats. Look for products that don’t contain sodium nitrate or if they do, also contain vitamin C (or its derivatives). There is no reason one can indulge in the greatness of bacon, so long as we are smart about it.