As the Winter Olympics open we find ourselves reflecting on the spirit of coming together as a nation and as a planet around a cause that we believe in. Sound familiar? As Wellness Warriors we’re excited about building a community that takes back the health of our nation. Let’s use the dedication and passion of the incredible athletes that we’ll watch over the next two weeks to inspire us to work together to make our dreams a reality. In the mean time, we’ve got some news about the Farm Bill, GMOs, the inclusivity of the mindfulness movement, food education (the right way to do it, and the wrong way), teens and exercise, and a scary additive to commercial baked goods. Stay intrigued and motivated, and keep those ski tips pointed downhill.
Words to Live By
“Success is running from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
—Chef José Andrés
Finally! A Farm Bill!
Mindfullness for All
We know the incredible power of the mind/body/spirit connection, and we believe that wellness and the pursuit thereof is an inalienable right for everyone. Last month’s cover of Time magazine received criticism for portraying the “year of mindfulness” with a skinny, white, young model: As if we are to believe that mindfulness is a privilege only capable of being attained by models in white robes in naturally lit, pine-finished yoga studios. This Huffington Post article astutely points out that the mindfulness movement is about inclusivity of all types of folks and offers some great images to support that fact. A special thanks to Arianna Huffington whose Tweet led us to this article.
GMO's on the Go?
Despite Scotts Miracle-Gro’s foray into GMO grass
, anti-GMO rhetoric is getting louder and food companies are hearing it
, including Monsanto! According to Tom Philpott, the GMO giant, with a few exceptions, is not projecting any big GMO projects in its near future. Now it will focus on good ol’ fashion crossbreeding. There’s a number of reasons, including the company’s realization that genetic modifications don’t improve taste. Now, we’re not anywhere close to handing Monsanto a saint hat (very far from it, in fact) but it is a nice development at which we can smile for the moment.
While you’re at it, if you are wondering about the non-GMO economy, check out this fabulous NPR piece
on folks who are making a living selling non-GMO commodity crops in the US and abroad.
Food Education with a Message (but not the right one)
Would you believe that companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Nestle are in the business of public school education about nutrition? Well, we’re afraid that it’s true. According to our friends at Civil Eats, over half of elementary schools are using a curriculum created by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a food industry group. The curriculum includes games and activities that are designed to teach kids to “exercise a little more” as opposed to watching the amount of calories they eat or the nutrition of the meals that they consume. As a business plan for these food companies, it makes a lot of sense, but morally, and for the health of our nation’s future, it’s a business that needs to be stopped.
A Yoga Mat Sandwich: Azodicarbonamide in Bread
We know that the food industry often opts for cheaper ingredients to boost profits with little regard for human health, but it is always unsettling to learn about something new. Vani Hari, founder of FoodBabe.com
, brought to our attention, azodicarbonamide, a chemical used in commercial baking that can be harmful to human health. Our friends at the the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have publicly urged the FDA to ban the substance for use in food products, just as it has been banned in Europe and other countries. Learn more at the CSPI link, and make your voice heard at the Food Babe.com petition below.
The Fast Food Frontline
The 22nd Winter Olympic (Marketing) Games
Sugary drinks and fitness simply do not mix, but big soda companies would have you think otherwise. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, points out the hypocrisy of using sports figures to promote sugary drinks. Michelle Kwan, figure skater and two-time Olympic medalist and five-time World Champion, simultaneously sits on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) and will be one Coca-Cola’s main Olympic celebrity spokespeople this year. While Coke promotes the consumption of over-sugared drinks that are big contributors to obesity
, the PCFSN promotes people adopting “a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.”
Are these messages at odds with each other? Yes! While we are utterly in awe of Kwan’s accomplishments, we find the soda industry’s tactics appalling.
A Burger with a Side of a 0.03 Increase in BMI
A recent study compared the amount of fast food consumed in 25 countries and found that for every meal consumed, a nation’s average body mass index (BMI) went up 0.03 points. It also found that while obesity levels have greatly increased over the last 10 years, consumption of total calories and animal fats only increased slightly. That is to say people are eating roughly the same amount, but still are getting larger. Combined, these two facts make a pretty strong argument for the plight of fast-food if we’ve ever heard one. The NBC News piece gives a nice overview of the study while the Science Daily write-up goes a more depth.
For a little more food for thought, check out this Take Part piece that points out that taxing fast-food, and junk food, puts an unfair financial burden
on those who are less fortunate. The solutions to solving the problems in our food and health systems are far from simple.
Down with “Down with Organic”
If you happened to come across the Slate article last week that downplayed the importance of organic food
, then you may have been shocked, annoyed (do we really need another person telling us that the status quo of our food system is totally fine?) and then a little bit intrigued. The argument, though essentially spouting the rhetoric of Big Ag and falling back on a blatant trust in the EPA and FDA, was sound enough and essentially asked the question: “Does feeding my children organic food really make a difference?” Well, luckily, the folks at Civil Eats are in our corner and have written an stellar response that highlights all of the reasons that eating organic is healthier not only for your children, but also other people’s children and our planet.
What We're Watching
Food Education with a Message (this time it’s the right one)
Michael Pollan and writer, academic, activist Raj Patel
recently began teaching the Edible Schoolyard Foundation’s third-annual course entitled Edible Education 101
. It looks awesome! Though the Edible Schoolyard Project has done amazing work in education the world about food (check out this incredible and inspiring ESP project at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn!
), there are plenty of other people out there working to open minds, hearts, and bellies to the future of a healthy and sustainable food system. Chef José Andres is one of those people. Check out this video of the first class of his 2013 course, “The World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization," at George Washington University.
Getting a Teen-y Amount of Exercise
We focus a lot on the health of young children, but we don’t always hear about the health of teenagers. A study conducted at the Center for Disease Control showed that only 1 in 4 people between the age of 12 to 15 get enough exercise. The health benefits of 1 hour of exercise extend well beyond the physical, helping to develop important social skills and regulate mental health. And teens have got a lot of stuff working against them including social pressures, parents’ fear of urban environments and cuts to school PE programs. It’s unsettling news for sure, but as always, there’s hope! This NPR piece gives some great suggestions for getting families active and moving. Once again we’re reminded that we have the power to make decision to change the health and wellness of our families, neighbors and ourselves.
Part Salad, Part Work of Art
We know that food is about taste, but it is all to the better if it can please the eyes as well. This recipe celebrates the aesthetic allure of the blood orange, and is a perfect side salad to liven up any meal. The mint, hazelnuts and shallots give it depth enough to stand on its own.
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts or walnuts
- 1 medium-large fennel bulb, leaves and stems trimmed off
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 large blood oranges
- 1 small shallot, peeled and cut into paper-thin slices
- 10 mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
Place nuts in dry skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, to toast. Let cool. If using hazelnuts, roll them around in a dishcloth (or, if cool enough, in your hands), discarding any loose skins. Coarsely chop nuts; set aside.
Slice about 1/2 inch from bottom of fennel and discard. Slice fennel very thinly on a mandonline, benriner or with a knife, starting with flat bottom side. Toss in serving bowl with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Trim all peel and pith from oranges. Holding peeled fruit over bowl containing fennel, use sharp knife to cut sections from membrane and let them drop into bowl. Squeeze remaining membrane over bowl to sprinkle salad with remaining juice, and discard membrane.Add shallots, mint leaves, olive oil and reserved nuts and toss gently. Sprinkle with lime zest.
Do ahead: While the mint leaves will look and taste best on the first day, I really enjoyed the leftovers from this salad for lunch the next day.