Posts Tagged ‘sugar’

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.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The ‘Cost’ of Eating Healthy

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
The Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions                      IR Photography

By Bob Gaydos

Since I began eating more healthful food (and writing about it), I’ve been paying more attention to the things people say and the choices they make when it comes to taking care of themselves. I’ve noticed they don’t always coincide.

While many acknowledge that a regular diet of red meat, fried, processed, salt-laden, sugar-soaked foods is not healthy, “eating healthier” often doesn’t eliminate the problem. Instead, the choice may be to eat less of the foods we say we shouldn’t eat, rather than eating more foods (fruits and vegetables) that are actually be good for us. We tweak. We cut down on the potato chips. Switch to diet soda. Try “low-calorie” prepared dinners. Get a small order of french fries instead of large.

This may be better than doing nothing and may cut a couple of calories. It also may save a little money.

Ahh, money. Personal finances can certainly affect the choices we make. In many quarters, the notion persists that eating healthy, while it sounds great, is just too expensive. This belief is fed in large part by TV commercials for the corporations that control our food supply. We are inundated with commercials designed to make us feel good about the particular food product (cereal, soda, fast-food, lunch meat). These are often aimed at children, who can influence parents’ food choices.

The products are marketed as inexpensive and good for us. But the processed foods that make up the bulk of the diet of most Americans are loaded with salt, chemical preservatives to prolong their shelf life and a variety of natural and artificial sugars to make them more palatable — and addictive. Large food corporations get big tax breaks and huge factory farms, which expose animals to disease and abuse, get government subsidies, which helps them to keep their prices down. Spraying crops with chemical pesticides lets big growers sell produce cheaper than organic farmers who don’t use chemicals. It makes Monsanto richer, but can hardly be considered good for our health.

Because of this government/corporate partnership emphasizing mass production of what is described as “affordable” food, many people who sincerely want to choose more healthful foods may feel they can’t afford to eat “all that organic, natural, chemical-free, grass-fed, free-range, non-GMO stuff.”

In truth, Americans can’t afford not to eat what used to be called, just plain food. Think about it. Why should food with nothing added to it have to carry labels that, thanks to years of brainwashing, make people think “expensive”? Why not just “apples,” “melons,” “grapes,” “berries,” “steak,” “chicken”? Why not, instead, require foods with all that stuff added to carry labels that say: “Added sugars, natural and otherwise;” “Loaded with salt;” “Chemical additives;” “Genetically modified;’’ “Full of fat;” “Sprayed with toxic chemicals;” “Fed tainted grain;” “Natural flavors produced in laboratories;” “Raised in warehouses;” or “No nutritional value”?

In a recent column, I offered what I called “the new breakfast of champions.” Instead of Wheaties and a banana, it consisted of a bowl of coconut/vanilla Greek yogurt, two sliced bananas, a big bunch of halved, red globe grapes with seeds, a mound of whole ground flaxseed meal, a healthy serving of blended trail mix (almonds, cranberries, cherries, raisins and pistachios), and a generous topping of all-natural chocolate granola.

Among the responses I got was this one from Marshall Rubin: “I have no qualms about your ‘Breakfast of Champions,’ especially since it’s way more healthy than my morning bagel with cream cheese and a can of lightly-salted V-8 vegetable juice. But one thing wasn’t mentioned: the cost of your meal. I’m a retiree watching my quality of life decrease as I continue to get no COLA raises from Social Security and my NJ state pension. My bagel breakfast costs less than $2. What does your breakfast cost?”

Excellent question. First, let me note that I, too, get a Social Security check and a pension check each month. Now, let’s deal with the breakfast: The Greek yogurt cost $1 for the cup, so that’s already half your cost, Marshall. But all the other ingredients are bought in more than single-serving sizes — bananas at 59 cents a pound; grapes were on sale at $1.69 a pound; a one-pound bag of ground flaxseed meal (free of everything and delicious) cost $14. The trail mix and granola are pricey at $4.99 and $5.99 a bag, respectively. But, like the flax seed, they provide the healthful ingredients for many breakfasts. It all depends on how hungry you are.

Ordering this delicious breakfast (which can be changed for taste and variety reasons) — if you could find a restaurant offering it — would absolutely be expensive. We call it our $8.50 breakfast, but the cost is probably just a little more than the $2 bagel-and-V-8 breakfast. There is no comparison, however, in the health benefits. That’s what gets missed in the discussion about the cost of healthful foods.

Eating all that salt, sugar, chemicals, preservatives and other additives has made billions of dollars for those food/chemical corporations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and fast-food companies while producing millions of overweight, out-of-shape Americans. Recent surveys show that, as a people, we are fatter and less fit. Also, prone to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. But if we chose to spend money on more healthful foods to begin with, that would cut down on doctor visits, insurance costs and the need for so many drugs to keep from getting seriously ill, never mind staying healthy.

Again, it’s a choice. Tweaking an unhealthy diet is not enough. It seems to me that the only way to bring down the cost of eating healthy is for enough people to demand better choices from the major suppliers of food and more government support for providers of healthful food. (A calorie-counting campaign by the First Lady is not enough.) Some of this pressure, largely through social media sites, is already being felt by the food giants, but much more needs to be done.

Meanwhile, here’s a brief look at the health benefits of that breakfast of champions of mine:

  • Greek yogurt: Go for low-sugar and low-fat. Loaded with protein, calcium, and probiotic cultures. Also, potassium and Vitamins B6 and B12. Low in calories, lactose, carbohydrates and sodium. Also, it’s creamy and tastes great.
  • Bananas: Have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They do have potassium, Vitamin C, fiber and Vitamin B6. Thought to be good for, among other things, heart health and regularity. Also contain tryptophan, which helps boost memory.
  • Red globe grapes with seeds: No fat or cholesterol. Contains resveratrol and flavonoids and antioxidants. Helps with weight loss, improves blood flow (helping protect against heart attack and high blood pressure) and may help fight Alzheimer’s. Promotes skin and hair health, helps fight aging and kidney disorders.
  • Milled flaxseed: Loaded with lignans, which provide the antioxidant benefits of fighting cardiovascular disease. Also loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, which promote healthy nerve function and Vitamin B1, or thiamin, which boosts energy. Great source of fiber and may help reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
  • Trail mix: Almonds and pistachios promote heart health and good cholesterol levels. Source of protein, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, iron, fiber. Cranberries fight urinary tract infection and can help decrease blood pressure. Raisins help fight constipation, boost energy and promote mouth and bone health. Also are anti-inflammatory. Cherries help fight arthritis and inflammatory conditions and help lower blood sugar.
  • Chocolate granola: The oats help lower cholesterol and promote intestinal health. Plenty of fiber. Don’t overdo the chocolate chips and enjoy the taste.

That’s all for now. I’m getting hungry. Meanwhile, for the skeptics and those wondering about the cost, why not give it a try? Use your own combinations of ingredients and let me know what you think. It couldn’t hurt and you might be pleasantly surprised at your choice.

bob@zestoforange.com