November 7th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Trans fats have been making headlines over the last few weeks. As OrganicAuthority.com explained in January, food processors and manufacturers are now required to include accurate information on trans fat content on nutrition labels so consumers can make wise food choices. We also offered Fat Tips for Heart Health—advice on replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Trans fats are used in prepared foods because they increase shelf life and flavor stability. Unfortunately, they are major artery cloggers, and consumer watchdog groups have been pressuring restaurants and food manufacturers to switch to alternative fats in light of America’s obesity epidemic.
On Oct. 30, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) joined Wendy’s, Ruby Tuesday, Chili’s, Legal Sea Food and several other restaurant chains in making the switch to trans fat-free oils. KFC will soon use low-linolenic soybean oil that has zero trans fat—a move that led former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona to “encourage other companies to follow their lead.” (Note: KFC will fry its chicken in the new oil, but trans fats will still be found in the chain’s biscuits, pot pies and desserts. All menu makeovers are scheduled for April.)
So, why is a nonorganic fast-food establishment of interest to readers who buy natural and organic foods?
As readers revealed in one of our most controversial blog posts, A Mountain of Meat and Cheese, everyone “cheats” once in a while. More relevant for parents who embrace organic living is what their children and teens eat when faced with peer pressure and the allure of burgers stacked with cheese and bacon.
“The idea of a heart attack years from now has no meaning for a teenager,” says Jeff Novick, director of nutrition for the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa.
The good news? Educated parents can teach their children to eat a healthful diet.
“Teens and young adults can learn how to take care of themselves and can understand the value of health,” Novick tells OrganicAuthority.com. “I have taught these lessons to my own children, and I have taught these lessons to young people who take athletic performance seriously and understand the difference good nutrition can make. But it’s true: Many young people have a hard time understanding the consequences of their actions.”
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is pushing other fast-food restaurants with a high percentage of teenage customers to make public health a consideration.
“What are McDonald’s and Burger King waiting for now?” he asks. “If KFC, which deep-fries almost everything, can get the artificial trans fat out of its frying oil, anyone can. Colonel Sanders deserves a bucket full of praise.”
According to CSPI, safe, inexpensive and tasty trans-fat alternatives are available from major vegetable oil producers—all of which could prevent tens of thousands of fatal heart attacks annually. CSPI’s goal is to remove trans fat-containing partially hydrogenated oils from our food supply.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2: The New York City Board of Health is considering a citywide ban on the sale of restaurant food made with trans fats.
Photo courtesy of KFC Corp.
Read More:The War on Trans Fats (Part 1)
August 11th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
When I voiced my concerns about the marketing campaign for Burger King’s new BK Stacker (see A Mountain of Meat and Cheese), many OrganicAuthority.com readers took me to task. Because this website is dedicated to organic food and living, it seemed a bit perplexing.
My views, however, haven’t changed. As Dr. Rallie McAllister points out in Sobering Stats on Childhood Obesity, 90% of the products food manufacturers hawk to children meet the criteria for junk food.
Jeff Novick, director of nutrition for the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, doesn’t mince words about the BK Quad Stacker, whose commercials proudly advertise that it contains “no vegetables.” (When did this become a key selling point?)
“With four slices of cheese, four fatty patties and four slices of bacon, this burger might better be called the quadruple bypass special,” Novick says. “Maybe they call it the ‘stacker’ because it helps stack the odds against the long-term consumer collecting much from Social Security. Fast food like this is great if you’re in a hurry—to die.”
I sent Jeff some of the comments on A Mountain of Meat and Cheese and asked him how he’d respond to the folks who are proud of their fast-food habits.
“We live in a very permissible society,” he tells OrganicAuthority, “and unfortunately many of us indulge in self-destructive products and behavior. As a nutritionist, it is my job not only to give people the best education possible on how to live and eat healthfully, but to model the behavior that I teach to our clients, to my children and to anyone with whom I come into contact. But as the saying goes, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.’
“I help many, many people every day,” Jeff adds, “but there are some who need to reach rock bottom before they finally decide to make healthy changes in their life. As a society, we are faced with the same dilemma in trying to stop people from smoking. I could show smokers statistics about death rates for cancer, I can show them a lung ravaged by disease caused by smoking, and I can model a nonsmoking healthy lifestyle. But with some people, no amount of information will stop them from smoking until, unfortunately, they are finally diagnosed with cancer. For some people who eat poorly, just as those who smoke, they have to reach a point where their bad habits have impacted their lives so profoundly that they decide to make a change. Then—and only then—can I truly help this particular group.”
Read More:You Can Lead a Horse to Water…
July 6th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
If you’re wondering why Americans are overweight, check out the press release I received this morning from the folks at Burger King. The headline reads: “Guests Invited to Pile on Meat, Cheese & Bacon—Hold the Produce.”
The release promotes the new BK Stacker Sandwich (above): two, three or four hamburger patties “stacked high between a sesame seed bun with equal slices of melted American cheese and up to eight slices of crispy bacon, smothered in original creamy, savory BK Stacker Sauce for the ultimate sandwich helping. The bigger the burger ordered, the more layers of bacon and cheese.”
Customers can order the:
- Double Stacker (610 calories, 39 g fat, 1,100 mg sodium)
- Triple Stacker (800 calories, 54 g fat, 1,450 mg sodium)
- Quad Stacker (1,000 calories, 68 g fat, 1,800 mg sodium)
“The BK Stacker is simple and built with the very ingredients our restaurant guests love best—meat, cheese and bacon,” notes Denny Marie Post, Burger King’s senior vice president and chief concept officer, in the release. “We’re satisfying the serious meat lovers by leaving off the produce and letting them decide exactly how much meat and cheese they can handle.”
Of course, Burger King is enticing kids to order this “produce-free” behemoth through a series of TV ads featuring a crew of miniature construction workers that “diligently stacks meat, cheese, bacon and BK Stacker Sauce.”
If that’s not enough, “2.5″ collectible figurines of some of the most memorable characters from the BK Stackers television ads can be purchased online…Fans can purchase a set of three figurines, including Vin the Foreman, the Kid and the Cheese Welder.”
For parents who promote organic living and healthy eating, this is yet another example of how fast-food companies and advertising agencies pander to kids without any regard for their health. It’s irresponsible at a time when childhood obesity is epidemic.
Read More:A Mountain of Meat & Cheese
June 21st, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Richmond Heights, Missouri-based Panera Bread, with 900 bakery-cafes in 36 states, has introduced a roster of organic sandwich choices for its new Panera Kids menu.
In fact, if you visit your local Panera today, you can use a downloadable “Today I’m Taking Mom to Lunch at Panera Bread” coupon, which entitles you to a free kids’ meal with the purchase of any regularly priced menu item. Click here to find the location nearest you.
“We hope kids will take this opportunity to take mom to lunch and enjoy sharing a meal together,” says Chairman and CEO Ron Shaich.
The Panera Kids menu features sandwiches with natural and organic foods like whole-grain bread, peanut butter and American cheese, each of which is accompanied by organic yogurt and beverages. Choices include:
All-natural peanut butter with grape jelly sandwich
Turkey, ham or roast beef sandwich made with Horizon Organic American cheese
Grilled cheese sandwich made with Horizon Organic American cheese
Horizon Organic low-fat milk, reduced-fat chocolate milk or organic apple juice
Horizon Organic squeezable yogurt
Photo courtesy of Panera Bread
Read More:Panera Bread Launches Organic Kids’ Menu
December 13th, 2005 - Barbara Feiner
The Virtual Salad Bar
You decide to take a break from your holiday shopping or go out with the gang for a quick lunch. Your best bet: the salad bar at your favorite organic restaurant or natural foods market.
But making the right choices as you navigate your way through the lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses and dressings is critical if you’re watching your waistline. Pile on too much of a good thing, and you’ll be in for a high-calorie, high-fat or high-sodium surprise.
Registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University and author of “Eat Right The E.A.S.Y. Way,” has created an online Virtual Salad Bar that allows you to fill your plate with lettuce, red cabbage, tomatoes, green peppers, beets, garbanzo beans, olives, broccoli, tuna and three bean salads, hummus, feta and Parmesan cheeses, croutons and your choice of dressing.
As you drag each selection onto your plate, the program totals meal values: calories, total fat, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates and fiber. You also receive helpful tips as you click on each ingredient: Red cabbage, for example, is a “crunchy way to fight lung and prostate cancers,” while “creamy dressings don’t spread well, so you could end up using tons.”
My salad weighed in at a respectable 420 calories, with 8 grams of fiber (pretty good!), but I wasn’t pleased to see the 1,012 milligrams of sodium I would have consumed, courtesy of the beets, Parmesan cheese, ranch dressing and croutons. Food for thought—and a great visual way to teach both children and adults about the nutritional pitfalls of today’s salad bars.
Read More:Smart Choices at the Organic Salad Bar