Summer Reading List + Interesting Links

Here are some interesting videos/links/articles that I have stumbled upon this week:
1. Chipotle ad, courtesy of Dr. Parke Wilde’s blog:

2. Minnesota State Fair ad, courtesy of Dr. David Kessler on twitter:

3. NPR article about SNAP (food stamps), courtesy of Bread for the World twitter.

4. Michele Simon’s post about one company’s lack of desire to limit advertising to kids.

5.  And from the CDC: 25% of US population gets 200 calories/day from soda. Courtesy of Marion Nestle’s twitter.

————-

This summer, I had lofty plans of reading about 10 books.  I haven’t even finished one (still looking at the Four Fish book cover…halfway done!).  Michele and I wanted to include occasional book reviews on here, but that means we need to read the book first!  Do you have any book recommendations for us?  What have you been reading this summer?  Would you be interested in writing a book review for this blog?

Let us know!  Leave a comment or email us at twofoodnerds(at)gmail.com

Soda Ban Denied

Have you read this article from the NY Times yet?  “US Rejects Mayor’s Plan to Ban Use of Food Stamps to Buy Soda” — http://nyti.ms/pG4X22

NYC Mayor Bloomberg had proposed not allowing soda/sugary drinks to be purchased with SNAP (food stamp) money due to obesity concerns for a two-year experiment.  The USDA, however, said that this would be too complex, and denied the proposal.

What do you think about this decision?  It’s definitely a very complex issue.  I think everyone can agree that the obesity epidemic is getting way out of hand — but now it’s a matter of how to best proceed.

I (Tina) have consistently sided with Joel Berg’s argument (in article) that “Instead of restricting the dietary choices of low-income residents, he said, city officials should reconsider how to increase the purchasing power of low-income residents so that they can buy food that is more nutritious.”  But how can this be done?  Is it realistic?  (Farm Bill 2012!)

At the same time, though, I don’t know how ethical it is on the part of the nation to use government dollars to support the purchase of soda/sugary drinks/other foods that contribute to obesity.  The USDA is really in a tough spot, because even if they did choose to limit the purchases of soda with SNAP dollars, the food industry would start fighting over the definition of “sugary drinks” (no 100% orange juice?).  Is this realistic?

“Healthier” Happy Meals

Many apologies for the lack of updates!  Both of our personal lives have been quite crazy lately, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t new food news!

Michele will be blogging about gluten-free labeling laws and the Salmonella tainted-ground turkey incidents in the near future, so please be looking out for those!

I was going to write about McDonald’s (and other fast food chains) decisions to make “healthier” happy meals.  In case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s recently declared that each happy meal will now come with 1/4 cup of apple slices, 1 ounce less fries, the option of low-fat milk (or soda) and the same hamburger/cheeseburger/mc nuggets entree.

At first glance, I was excited for this small change!  But then, after thinking about it some more, and reading articles by Bellatti, Nestle, and Simon, I have different thoughts:

1. 1/4 cup of apple slices is realistically probably just 2-3 small slices.  That’s really not much.  And, the default drink is still soda, not milk.

2. I think Michele Simon said it best: “McDonald’s ultimate goal is to make as little change as possible to get media attention (and praise from the likes of the first lady), while distracting policymakers from doing its job setting the boundaries of corporate behavior.”

3.  Bellatti also reminds us that it’s easy to get caught up in reduction of bad things — like less trans fat or salt, for example — but forget the importance of eating good things like fiber, potassium, etc.

What are your thoughts on McDonald’s new happy meal?  Should we support the small changes, in the hopes that will encourage larger changes in the future?

Menu Labeling

I recently read this article from the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-calorie-rules-20110706,0,3599853.story

Basically, the restaurant association is asking FDA for more flexibility and lenience when they (restaurants) post calorie counts.  (The healthcare overhaul added a requirement for all dining locations with at least 20 sites in a state to post calorie information for their menu).

What are your thoughts?  Things get pretty complicated when dealing with many different options.  What do you think is the clearest, easiest-to-understand method for posting calorie counts?  Are averages best?  Or ranges?

And what about serving sizes?  What do you think pizza places should post: calories for a whole pizza or a slice?

Finally, what do you think about the concept of menu labeling in general?  Is it a good move for public health?

Personally, the last time I was at Chipotle, I noticed that the veggie option had a range of at least 500+ calories posted.  I guess if one just orders veggies, the food is at 130 calories, but if one orders all of the additions (rice, beans, salsas, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tortilla), it can go over 600 calories (thought it was more, but that’s what the picture above depicts).  I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I was surprised by the huge range.  I didn’t think the posting was particularly helpful for the average consumer, especially one who isn’t familiar with how many calories are in different foods.

I’m also a bit nervous that places, particularly quick-service places, may post the very lowest calorie count — such as counting just the bun of a hamburger, for example — and then showing a huge range of calories, when in actuality, the usual hamburger (without substitutions) may be at the high end of the spectrum posted.

Anyway, enough from me.  What do you think?