Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

It’s a Burger … and So Much More

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

“Write about something other than him,” my inner voice said.

“Write about something other than him,” she pleaded.

“I’ll try,” I said. “I’ll really try.”


… So I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night when a photo grabbed my attention and made me stop and look at it more closely. It was a promotion for an eatery in my vicinity and the obvious attempt was to be as mouth-wateringly appetizing as possible. Good idea if you’re selling food.

For me, however, the effect was heart-stoppingly different. The photo was of a burger, but not just any burger. In today’s highly competitive world of restaurants, even a burger has got to be somehow special. Bigger. Untraditional. Jam-packed. For me, this one definitely qualified. In addition to the hefty bun and lots of char-broiled ground beef, it included a slice of cheddar cheese, two slices of bacon, tons of fried onions and — this is what got my attention — a fried egg to top it all off.

Be still my heart, is obviously the response the creators were hoping for. Heart-attack special, I thought. Do people actually eat those things? I wondered. Is the egg really necessary? I asked Google.

Apparently, yes, such burgers are not only eaten. but there is a competition to see who can pile as many calories and as much fat and cholesterol into cheeseburgers and market them as great sources of protein.

I get it. People love it. They eat it up.

Well, some people. People who are concerned that they are overweight, or have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or high cholesterol, or heart disease — which is millions of Americans by the way — are not necessarily enamored of the super burger. Nor are people who are simply interested in living a longer, healthier life. Certainly they don’t make these burgers a regular part of their diet.

Again, what struck me was the fact that this burger was apparently not so special in that lots of food establishments — fast and not-so-fast food — offer some variation of the heart-stopper. A lot of Americans do eat this way fairly regularly. Even as the fast-food giants scramble to put more healthful-sounding (if not actually healthful) items on their menus, the kitchen-sink burger reigns supreme and lean (as in meat) is mean. Fat’s still where it’s at.

Listen, what you eat is your business and nobody likes a know-it-all or scold, especially when it comes to food. I don’t expect to change anybody’s diet by pointing out that the federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping your body’s cholesterol levels low by eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. There are no limits, true, but the body makes its own cholesterol and doesn’t need help from such foods as red meat, egg yolks, dairy products, butter. Overdone, they tend to clog things (arteries) up. The guidelines also suggest you really want to limit your sodium intake, eat very little in the way of added sugars and saturated fats (regular ground beef, baked goods, cheese, pizza, French fries, ice cream) and no trans fats (baked goods, fried foods, packaged foods).

That’s pretty much your whole diet, right? It used to be mine. But, as I said, it’s your choice. I chose a few years ago — after a warning about being overweight and having high cholesterol and blood sugar counts — to pretty much eliminate red meat from my diet and to significantly reduce sugar (which figures in cholesterol and heart disease problems as well as diabetes), salt and unhealthy fats from my diet. I had help making that decision.

I cheat only rarely, have lost significant weight and — other than some bones broken in a recent auto accident — am in pretty good health for a 76-year-old. I do not deprive myself of foods I love that aren’t going to wreak havoc on my body. I also don’t drink alcohol or smoke.

So what’s the point of living, you ask, if you can’t have a few beers and polish off a half-pound of beef dripping with bacon grease and cheese, topped with salt and ketchup (sugar) and a fried egg?

For me, I guess living is the point. If I knew that all of that stuff would not do any noticeable harm to my health, I’d probably indulge more. But they will, so I don’t. As a result, I get to keep doing what I enjoy — writing —  hopefully without becoming a burden on others. I believe if the body stays healthy so does the mind. It’s a package deal.

The healthy mind part, to me, includes not dismissing out of hand any scientific information just because it doesn’t fit with my preferred view of the world. In addition to the epidemic of obesity in America, there is also a rising addiction, I believe, to willful ignorance: Science is wrong, the willfully ignorant say. Doctors are wrong. Historians are wrong. Nutritionists are wrong. Teachers are wrong. Journalists are wrong. Everyone who upsets my apple cart is wrong and I have a right to my opinion.

So, my opinion: The Earth is round, human behavior has caused significant warming of the planet’s temperature and indulging in an unhealthy diet out of some perverse notion that eating healthfully is some elitist plot is not just your personal opinion if it affects me. The cost of medical care and health insurance rise as our national health profile falls. As we neglect our bodies by rejecting science, so do we neglect our minds. As a nation, we become lazy, mentally as well as physically. 

That’s why it’s important to us as a nation to pass along sound, scientifically proven advice to our children on living a healthful — perhaps happy and productive — life. Even such a small example as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative for more healthful school lunches is helpful. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act took effect in 2010 and has been the source of controversy from the beginning. Among other things, it calls for more fruits and vegetables and less salt in school lunches.

It’s a simple way of teaching young people how to enjoy eating a more healthful diet. Since adults’ choices generally become their children’s choices, the national obesity issue does not involve just adults. So I was disappointed, on checking, to note that this year the rules for healthful school lunches have essentially been abandoned.

Still, I said to myself, there is always the exercise and fitness part of the equation. That’s important to pass on to kids and we have long had JFK’s-inspired President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to set a good example in that regard. The council has typically recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Keep those bodies moving, kids.

I visited that government site, which contains plenty of good information on living a healthy lifestyle. I was pleased to note that it encourages Americans to “follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan” and to support such patterns for everyone.

Great, I said. What else might the council have on its agenda? I wondered. And who’s on the council, anyway, I also wondered, remembering that Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mr. Universe, California governor and Terminator is a former chairman.

Here’s what I found under the “Meet The Council” heading on the web site: “The President’s Council engages, educates, and empowers all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. The President’s Council is made up of athletes, chefs, physicians, fitness professionals, and educators who are appointed by the President and serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Council Co-Chairs — To Be Announced …

“Council Members — To Be Announced …’’

There is no council.

Like I said, folks, it’s your choice. You’re on your own.

But at least I didn’t write about him.

The Kids Pay the Price

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

I came up with a great idea this week. I’m going to write a letter to certain members of the House of Representatives to ask that I be permitted to opt out of my obligation to pay income tax.

My reasoning is uncomplicated: Paying my tax has simply become a little too burdensome and I need a break.

Ridiculous you say? Well, if a House subcommittee can allow schools to get a waiver on their responsibility to serve more nutritious meals in their breakfast and lunch programs because healthier dishes and menus are too expensive, surely it can get me a waiver on my tax responsibility.

At issue here is the agriculture subcommittee’s vote to allow school districts to opt out of complying with the new nutrition rules the Obama Administration put into effect two years ago. In 2012, school cafeteria officials were told they had to ease up on salt, sugar and fats in the meals they prepare for the kids, and at the same time increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. The use of potatoes is limited. In pasta dishes, schools are required to use whole-grain pasta. Similarly only low-fat milk can be used. See anything wrong with this?

These Obama rules – the first revision in a generation – would provide up-close nutrition education for the kids and cut into the growing epidemic of obesity in young children. 

This doesn’t sound revolutionary. In fact, it sounds like what most responsible parents would serve their children.

But woe is us, some schools cried. In fact we can’t afford it. And they found a friend in Robert Aderholt, the chairman of the agriculture subcommittee, who suggested that making an apple available to a kid in first grade somehow is a complicated matter.

“Everyone supports healthy meals for children,” Aderholt told The Times. “But the bottom line is that schools are finding it’s too much, too quick.” Which is so much twaddle. I’d really like to see Aderholt address his shameless everyone-supports-healthy-meals line to a hungry student with a growling stomach and in poor health.

Can’t afford quality food for the children is about as legitimate an argument as a school district’s announcing that it can’t afford seat belts for its buses. I think the statement “Everyone supports seat belts on school buses but the bottom line is that schools are finding it’s too much, too quick” would be greeted with scorn.

But wait. Might Aderholt suggest that the federal government ought to pick up part of the cost of better food for breakfast and lunch?

He most certainly is not. Instead he says that the bill that goes to the full House of Representatives in a few weeks would contain measures to give up-against-it districts one year to get their cafeterias on track with the new rules.

Doubtless, Democrats will try and kill the changes, but they’re in the minority and however they choose to fight the new farm bill they’ll likely lose.

So the fights go on in Congress and once again, the constituency most at risk is the one with the softest voice. The children don’t win this fight.

I’ll let you when I get my income tax waiver.

Locally Grown School Lunches?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates with our current rate of obesity, a third of our children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. The statistic is up to a half for African American and Hispanic children. Asthma, allergies, anxiety disorders and learning disabilities can all be traced to diet. Something has gone terribly wrong with our children’s nutrition.

For the first time in fifteen years, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it will upgrade nutritional standards for the National School Lunch and Breakfast program. Under a new law signed by President Obama in mid-January, children will be offered something that comes closer to current nutritional standards. The act came after much effort by health-conscious parents and groups to limit the high fat, high sugar school lunches that currently contribute to childhood obesity, and juvenile diabetes.

Soon, our children can expect to find an increase in fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays. This means nearly four half-cup servings a week of real vegetables, not just French fries or ketchup which used to qualify under the old standards. New vegetables will include dark green veggies and legumes, and more whole grains. At least half the grains served must be whole grains, and milk will now be fat-free or low fat instead of whole. Sodium levels will also be reduced.

While these changed are laudable, many local foods advocates want to see the reforms go farther to include sourcing the fresh fruits and vegetables locally whenever possible. In a recent New York Times editorial Alice Waters, a famous chef and local foods advocate, and Katrina Heron point out our schools “pay good money for what are essentially leftovers from big American food producers.”  The duo admits it would cost “about $5 per child to feed 30 million schoolchildren” an organic, locally-grown meal, “but the long term benefits would be worth it.”

Benefits like improving children’s dietary habits, food safety would be easier to track, and attention spans would likely improve as well. Probably the greatest benefit would be the money diverted from big food processors would go instead to local farmers thus improving the economy of the school’s community.

Pablo Rosado is a chef manager for Flik Independent School which provides food service for private schools including Tuxedo Park. If your child is lucky enough to have Rosado’s lunch program; they would choose between a salad bar with a whole grain salad, leafy lettuce salad and 15 other vegetable choices, deli buffet featuring whole grain bread choices or flavored pitas, or a hot lunch with a vegan soup choice. Rosado follows guidelines from on-staff dieticians including  no trans fats,  no synthetic  hormones, also uses local produce  with a focus on organic  when he can find it. Rosado’s lunches cost around $2.50 per student, while most public school lunches cost around $1.50

Wouldn’t you pay the extra $1 for your child to eat a more nutritious lunch with local ingredients? We need to overhaul our food system, now, as part of our economic recovery. Shifting from a global food system to a local food system would solve many problems at once. Not only would more people have access to fresh, varied local produce, but communities would benefit from the economic stimulus generated by keeping food money in the local economy.

The USDA has created a portal that is open to public comments on this new law only for a few more days. Comments may be submitted Federal eRulemaking Portal at

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, and an award-winning newspaper columnist.