Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

quest nutrition.

questpageThere are lots of bones to be picked out there in the world of protein bars. SO MANY of them are full of CRAP and weird chemicals and dozens of ingredients. I currently have a bone to pick with Quest Nutrition. The timing is funny because the other day our sales director came into the office and asked my opinion on it… (my co-workers know by now about my eating habits) and all it took was a look at the ingredients list for me to lump it into the same category as all those other garbage protein bars.

THEN I go onto Facebook and see it there, too! Here’s a screen grab from a Quest advertisement from my Facebook page. questAccording to their marketing, if I eat Quest protein bars, they provide me with #nojunk and the ultimate ability to #cheatclean. ALONG WITH being gluten free, with no sugar added and having a whopping 20g of protein! WHAAAAA? That sounds AWESOME! I’d love to be able to down a cookies and cream bar every morning and know I’m eating a quality, clean option! Sign me up! In the words of Quest, “your food should love you back!” Damn right it should! Three cheers for Quest!

But if you actually LOOK at the ingredients list, here’s what you see: ARTIFICIAL SUGAR. MAN-MADE FIBER. PROCESSED PROTEIN. Here’s a glimpse at the ingredients list on the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bar:


They even had a lawsuit slapped on them for misrepresenting the amount of fiber in their bars last year. Whether it’s accurate or not is beside the point – what’s funny is that it turns out it’s difficult to test accurately using conventional testing methods because IMO’s (the fake fiber these bars have) are different than regular, natural fiber. Way too much science for me to follow, but there are papers on the topic written by people way smarter than me.

Regardless, there is a bottom line to all this. It’s not that hard. JUST EAT REAL FOOD.


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First off, I’m on my way to Dallas this weekend for my college girlfriend’s wedding. There’s supposed to be a huge storm front passing through but hoping it holds off until Sunday. Regardless, super excited to see her and a few other college friends – and who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice southern Texas man! KIDDING.

Today’s post is a bit random I admit. Two news-related items caught my eye this week that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. But here goes.

supermThe first one was from earlier this week. It’s about the former president of Trader Joe’s. Inspired by all the wasted food America trashes every single day (1/3 of the world’s food goes to waste every year!), he’s decided to open a store called The Daily Table. This store, located in Boston, will be a grocery/restaurant hybrid that will sell expired food and produce that typical grocery stores would throw away. The goals are to a) reduce food waste from large grocery stores and b) to provide fresh options for those with lower incomes that normally don’t pay for and/or can’t afford fresh foods.

A report done by the National Resources Defense Council last year showed that Americans throw away approximately 40% of food every year, which equates to over $2,000 annually per family of four. THIS IS SO SHAMEFUL. There are so many different and EASY ways to reduce your family’s waste: plan your meals, freeze extra food, buy fresh produce once a week (and not in bulk!), eat your leftovers… the list goes on. Also- studies have also shown that we throw away food long before it goes bad, and that many are confused by dates on items. Just because it has passed the date, doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad. And many don’t realize the differences between “sell-by” versus “use-by” versus “best by” and the government hasn’t established any standards to regulate what these mean.

But this is not just consumers. I think restaurants are also a big part of the fault. I realize that restaurants need to abide by very stringent rules related to food safety. I also realize, especially at nice restaurants, that chefs have a high quality standard that they set for each plate that goes out to the dining room. But a couple things aren’t happening at most restaurants. One, I think that back of house staff needs better training on food waste. Not only will that education help our planet and reduce waste, but it saves the restaurant money and helps its bottom line! Two, portion sizes are straight up out of control these days in restaurants. Sometimes my entrée is enough for my actual dinner, and two lunches during the week. But I seem to be in the minority; so many people don’t take the rest of their meals to-go or let them sit in the fridge to be inevitably tossed in the trash.

So because of this, I’m in favor of his new concept. Who knows if it will be successful but at least there’s someone trying to make strides to reduce waste and educate consumers on how to reuse those random items in your fridge!

AMAArticle two. I get to my computer this morning at work and there’s this in my inbox: “Heroin-Like Drug That Rots Flesh, Bone Makes Appearance In US”. What the whattttt? My colleague must have read it at the same time I did cause we were both like, HOW HAVE WE NEVER HEARD ABOUT THIS? Apparently, it’s some cheap concoction of codeine-based headache pills mixed with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. It gives a high like heroin but only lasts 90 minutes. Oh, and IT TURNS YOUR SKIN INTO A CROCODILE. So there’s that. It’s street name is Krokodil, which makes sense, and sounds super cool. Anyways, this just baffled me that people want this so much that they will literally let it eat their body away for a 90 minute high. Ugh. There’s some really gross pictures that I’m not posting here, but if you don’t have a weak stomach, check them out here. And besides its skin-eating effects, it can also compromise your immune system, impair motor skills, damage your brain, burst your heart arteries and other really cool things.

Just something nice to leave you with on a sunny Friday. Have a great day!

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All that talk about all the posts I was going to have coming and it’s taken me two weeks for another one. AND this one is going to be short. I am taking a much-needed mini vaca home to Pittsburgh for the fourth where I HOPE to bust out a few upcoming blog posts.

In the meantime, I ran across this article the other day about nutrition myths that people still believe. I could probably come up with about 50 more, but for the sake of brevity, here are the 4 myths Dr. Mark outlines:

1. It’s all about the calories.

Okay, so I think I stopped believing this one about ten years ago but you’d be shocked at the number of people still tracking their calories. Programs such as Livestrong, FitDay, LoseIt, and tons more now even have apps where you can track your daily calories and bump it up against your physical activity.

A CALORIE IS NOT A CALORIE IS NOT A CALORIE. Common sense should tell you 100 calories of Mountain Dew or 100 calories of McDonald’s french fries does not equal 100 calories of grilled chicken. I mean, seriously? As Dr. Mark so eloquently puts it, “Eating less garbage or choosing the lower-calorie garbage doesn’t make the garbage any better for you. It’s still garbage, and garbage doesn’t nourish your cells.” We need to focus on the nutritional profile of the foods we are consuming, not the number of calories we are eating.

But what if I’m trying to lose weight, Rachel? I get it- you want to be careful about what’s going into your mouth. But as long as you are eating your veggies and meats, not eating grains, watching your fruit (sugar) intake and not shoveling cups of macadamia nuts down your throat, calories will not be an issue for you.

2. Low fat diets are healthy.

This one takes a little more convincing for some people. I personally struggled with this a ton post-college: those low low-fat-diet-cartoon-265x300fat cookie packs or switching to skim milk or my personal favorite: fat free cheese. I mean, really? It’s CHEESE. It is supposed to have fat. Taking fat out of something with fat inherent in it can’t be good for you, right?

Studies are now showing those medical beliefs that were conjured up in the 80’s and 90’s about fat leading to weight gain and heart disease are just flat out wrong. As Dr. Mark points out, the largest clinical trial ever conducted on diet proved that low-fat diets do not result in weight loss or lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The important thing to learn is our bodies need fat; but we need to consume those healthy fats in conjunction with a diet low in processed foods and grains in order to stay trim, have more energy and maintain balanced insulin levels.

3. Sodium is bad and causes high blood pressure.

We all have heard the medical stories of sodium = high blood pressure and heart attacks. Thing is, there are a number of controlled trials that show no correlation between sodium restriction and a lower risk of heart attack.

A good point he makes: real food is naturally low in sodium. So just try to eat real food! Problem solved.

4. Cholesterol is bad and causes heart disease.

Ah. This is my absolute favorite one. If I had a dime for every time someone commented about using egg whites only, how their doctor told them to stay away from cholesterol, or how they want to stay healthy so they only eat cholesterol-free foods… I would be retired on a beach in Bora Bora.egg

Here’s the breakdown. 80% of cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver. Cholesterol is important for a number of things, including creating cell membranes, fixing damaged cells, and synthesizing a bunch of vitamins and hormones. Thing is, a typical American diet is full of processed carbohydrates, low in fiber and extremely nutrient deficient. What does that mean in relation to cholesterol? Your liver starts producing a bunch of cholesterol to make up for all the inflammation going on in your body due to eating this type of diet. Essentially, anywhere you find naturally-occurring cholesterol is a good thing to put in your body!

Bottom line of this article: Eat real food. Eat real food that has sodium. Eat real food that has cholesterol (that means EAT THE YOLKS OF YOUR EGGS FOR SOBBING OUT LOUD.) Eat real food that has fat. Eat these healthy fats without processed carbs. And when you start eating read food, you don’t have to count calories.

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I know, I know, it’s been a while. Another post will be on its way soon, and hopefully I will be able to keep up on a more regular basis. For now, this awesome paleo infographic, courtesy of Enjoy!

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Paleo

Get health and fitness tips at

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Wow – a month since my last post. I suck! I have been crazy busy the past month, went home to Pittsburgh for a week for Easter and have for reals been lazy on the posts. Not that this is going to be one to write home about, but I do have a fab recipe to share.

Saturday night in Chicago was freezing cold and rainy, so my friend Cherith and I decided to make it a night in with a few bottles of wine and made dinner and hung out. I was feeling the baking bug (I haven’t baked anything in forever- and I LOVE baking). I was about to whip up a batch of paleo cookies and realized Cherith is allergic to nuts. Awwwww, nuts. What’s a girl to do? Make regular cookies full of white flour and sugar? Please.

I found this awesome recipe from PaleOMG (of course!) for nut free, dairy free AND grain free cookies. And they were surprisingly really good. I know you’re thinking- okay, so what even goes into it? Read on, my friend.

Giant Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup sunflower seed butter
⅓ cup raw honey
1 egg, whisked
1 vanilla bean stem, slit lengthwise, little baby beans removed with the edge of your knife
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½-1 cup Enjoy Life Mega Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out a dollop of cookie mix and pour onto baking sheet.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes; be careful not to overcook these.
6. Let cool. Then eat up!

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a place at the table.

place at table

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, you need to. What a lot of Americans don’t know (and I didn’t know!) is how incredibly prevalent hunger is in our country. Also known as “food insecurity”, 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat. 1 of every 2 kids in America at some point will be on food assistance. And to round out these statistics, the US ranks WORST among the International Monetary Fund’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity. Fabulous, right?!

The documentary follows a number of families across the country, in very different areas, and illustrates how incredibly ineffective our government is at helping solve hunger in this country.

One family, in rural Colorado, receives donations every week from a food bank. Their shelves are filled with processed foods, breads, and pastas—they haven’t had vegetables in months.

A single mother with two children in Philadelphia grew up eating Oodles of Noodles and Chef Boyardee and now has to feed the same things to her children because the food stamp program in America is so horribly underfunded. How underfunded, you ask? Well first, your income must be under $24,000/year. If that’s the case, your allotment is $3/day for groceries. A bunch of C-suite’ers interviewed in the movie tried going shopping for a week on this, and struggled immensely. They realized they couldn’t afford any high quality foods, but filled their carts with pop, chips, cookies and junk like so many Americans that are food insecure.

Mississippi claims the highest rate of food insecurity AND the highest rate of obesity of American states. A second grader they interviewed, Tremonica, already has diabetes and is grossly overweight for her age. Her mother knows she should be feeding her more balanced meals, but simply can’t afford them. In Tremonica’s school, their teacher teaches them what honeydew melons look and taste like—even letting them pass a pre-sliced melon around the class, in an effort to help them recognize this in the grocery store if given the opportunity.

Problem is—Tremonica and her classmates live in a food desert, which basically means an area so far off the beaten path that food distribution companies [read: the trucks that deliver fresh foods to grocery stores] just can’t justify the delivery costs to deliver to these places. That leaves areas with a few grocery stores that are more similar to convenience stores or gas stations than they are to grocery stores. They will maybe have an occasional banana but nothing in the way of fresh or nutritious foods.


How did we get here? In the 1930’s, the government subsidized farming as an emergency program to get the economy out of the Great Depression. BUT… we never let the market take over after the economy settled. Essentially, agribusiness took over family farms, and started cranking out a ridiculous amount of soy, corn, cotton, wheat and rice. These are also called commodity crops, and according to the documentary, comprise 84% of government subsidies. Dairy and livestock receive about 15%, leaving fruits and vegetables with less than 1% of total government subsidies. One reason? Most fruit and vegetable producers are small, and don’t have the political clout of the big guys producing the commodity crops.

So what does that mean for us as consumers? Government subsidies = cheaper product. Cheaper product = more profit for the food industry. More profit = the ability to invest in huge infrastructures to process these commodity crops into the packaged goods [read: crap food in the middle aisles] that we consume today. To summarize, more subsidies = more crap = us eating more crap. (I’ve said it before, people!)

The real processed icing on the processed cake? Since 1995, the USDA has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250,000,000,000… lots of zeros.) on farm subsidies. And guess where that goes? Big Agra.

So what is the government doing about it? Every 5 years, Congress meets to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act.  A few years ago, schools spent an average of $0.90 – $1.00 per school lunch in America. THAT’S LESS THAN YOUR STARBUCKS COFFEE EACH MORNING. In 2010, in an effort to “help” fight child hunger, Congress passed “The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act”. Awesome, right? Ehhhh, not so much. Instead of accepting the proposed $10 billion in funding activists were asking for, they allotted a $4.5 billion increase over 10 years. That roughly equals a 6-freaking-cent increase per meal. What really was the knife in the back was that over half of the bill was paid for by cutting the food stamp program. In the words of one of those interviewed, it’s like pushing your mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the other and saying you were fed. Nice, Congress. You sure solved that problem.

In case $4.5 billion sounds like a lot to you (which it did for me), let’s put it into perspective. For the bank bailout, the government gave $700 billion. When Bush passed the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, they ponied up $1.3 trillion over 10 years.


he’s really “the dude”.

Jeff Bridges, a child hunger advocate since the 80’s, said it perfectly, “If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

The cost of hunger and food insecurity to the US economy is $167 billion each year, and is getting worse. One example—1 in 3 children born in American in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. ONE IN THREE.

What can we do? Food banks and charities are a start. But to most interviewed, they are a bandage on the bigger problem—the legislation surrounding nutrition and hunger in America. (And want to know a big proponent of legislative change? My boy Tom Colicchio.) If you are all about getting your voice heard, check out Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry website. You can also check out Feeding America to find charities and food banks near you and also find resources for advocating for change.

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So being a foodie AND paleo makes life hard sometimes- like, really hard. I LOVE food. I love trying new foods and dishes and restaurants—but most usually have some element of gluten, which even though tastes delicious going down, feels not so nice afterwards.

Chicago just finished up their restaurant week, and let me tell you—it was amazing (as usual). I tried 4 new restaurants and each did not disappoint. I was trying to plan an outing with my friend Annika during restaurant week (who has a gluten allergy) and I forget how un-fun a week like restaurant week is for those people that actually CAN’T eat gluten (unlike myself who just feels like crap the day after). You pay a bunch for food you can’t eat!

Heaven behold. Senza: a new restaurant that popped up recently in Lakeview that is entirely gluten free. Alcohol-food-dessert-everything gluten free. And with 4 courses (and an amuse!) for only $50 (which if you think about it—is basically just as much as restaurant week and you get more courses AND can pick what you want). WIN.

And let me tell you. This place is SO GOOD. The chef, Noah Sandoval, came from Schwa (which has one Michelin star and who’s chef [Michael Carlson] has been nominated for a James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes for the last 3 years). The food was delicious (oh- AND they bring you a whole loaf of gluten free bread, too!), the ambiance was awesome and service was great. And both of our cocktails were the bomb dot com.

Here’s my menu recommendation (from what we both got and liked!):

DUCK CONFIT || huckleberry | saffron | pea tendril

PARSNIP SOUP || pear | celery | lobster | caviar

SCALLOP || golden raisin | cauliflower | foie gras

SPIKED APPLE CIDER || sorbet | gingerbread

I recommend this to anyone—but especially to those with gluten allergies or someone like me, trying to have a foodie night out, without feeling like complete crap in the morning!

breadsenza 1entreesdessert

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