health + diet

Can Your Boss Make You Be a Vegetarian?

Is a meat-free office policy going too far?

A former employee of an eco-friendly accessories manufacturer claims that her rights as a meat-eater were violated by company policy.
The company’s 18 employees are barred from bringing animal products in their lunches, and they are required to order vegetarian items when they dine in a restaurant with a client. The complainant says she was reduced to smuggling food into the office in her purse, or sneaking out to her car for a bite of a contraband tuna sandwich. […]

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Everything But the Squeal

[image via Snorg Tees]

.My friend, I don’t know how to break it to you, but you’ve been eating pig.

That’s right, pig. Not what you would properly call pork, but pig parts—the bits and pieces and byproducts left in the slaughterhouse after the chops and ham and bacon are gone. Gelatin from pig skin puts the chew in gum and licorice and the creaminess in cheesecake and tiramisu. Pig hair protein makes sandwich wraps pliable and keeps bread squeezably fresh. Even the plate you eat from could contain ash from pig bones, and your napkin was probably made with bone gelatin.

Most of these products are not labeled to tell you this.
Often, processors will deliberately remove the word ‘animal’ from their ingredient list. For example, hydrolyzed animal protein becomes hydrolyzed collagen, and animal protein is labeled L-cysteine. There are thousands more technical and patented names for ingredient variations that can appear on product labels. Adding to the confusion are the pig parts that don’t wind up in the final product but are used in the manufacturing process: bone char to whiten sugar; gelatin to clarify beer and remove tannins from wine. These don’t even have to be mentioned by the manufacturer.

Pig-derived food additives are hiding in plain sight:

stearic acid made from fat is found in vanilla flavoring and pill coatings
pepsin, a pig stomach enzyme, can be used in cheese-making
calcium stearate from fat is commonly found in garlic salt and spice blends
energy bars often rely on collagen as a protein source
pig skin-derived gelatin is used to absorb cloudy elements in juice drinks, add texture to low-fat dips and spreads, and cut down on the formation of sugar crystals in ice cream; it’s also added to marshmallows, yogurt, and frosted breakfast cereals

Some of the other names for pig-based additives that are familiar to anyone who reads product packaging are capric acid (decanoic acid), glucose (dextrose), glycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and oleic acid (oleinic acid).

If this is stunning news to you, think of vegetarians and vegans, and people who keep kosher or observe halal.

Truly going whole hog
The staggering array of food and non-food uses of pig parts is portrayed in the book Pig 05049. The parts of a single animal, known by its ear tag as number 05049, were followed and photographed as they moved from the slaughterhouse into a complex and globalized food chain. The result is a visual essay of a mind-blowing 185 products derived from just one pig.

Learn what’s really in your pantry. The PETA website maintains a list of common animal-derived ingredients.

The iPhone app  iVegan is a reference guide for many common and hidden animal ingredients.


Posted in food knowledge, vegetarian/vegan | Tagged | 7 Comments

Got Milk? How About the Not Milks?

Calvin and Hobbes comic via United Feature Syndicate


Got milk?
Gotten milk recently?
It’s no easy feat. The dairy case seems awfully crowded these days.
Soy milk, the dairy alternative, has been joined by a slew of soy alternatives. Now you’ll find milk made from nut varieties, grains, and even law-skirting hemp seeds. […]

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Ugly, Unloved, Unappreciated

Oh, grow up!
Do you have an allergy? Do you object on political grounds?
No? Then shut up and eat your vegetables!

It’s time to stray outside of your comfort zone of carrots, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and spinach. You will encounter unfamiliar tastes, odd textures, and the occasional aroma of feet. But there will be no pouting, food phobias, or knee-jerk reactions. These are vegetables for grown-ups, so act your age.



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Dining and Decibels

 image via Synergy Consultants


A widely circulated study reported in this month’s journal Food Quality and Preference concluded that background noise affects the taste of food. We didn’t need a study to tell us.

Drink a glass of wine in a crowded, noisy bar.
Now sit down in a quiet dining room and have another glass. They are two entirely different experiences. […]

Posted in health + diet, restaurants | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Big Plate Big Meal (Big Butt)


image via Beard Crumbs

We’ve all heard the statistics about how often we think of sex, but what about food?
Studies have shown that we face an average of 226 food-related choices in a day, but we are only conscious of our decision making in about 15 of them. That’s more than 200 mindless decisions of the what-when-where-how much-who with of food occurring each day. It’s helping yourself to seconds because the bowl is right there; taking a gulp of orange juice because you saw the carton when you opened the refrigerator; or a doughnut because someone brought a box into the office. Scientists refer to these as environmental cues, and when we aren’t mindful, they rule our food choices. […]

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Food Traceability: Fed Ex for the food chain


I just ate a banana.
It was grown by the Molina family on their farm in Ecuador’s El Oro province on the southwest coast.
I saw its organic certification from the USDA, and when it was loaded onto a ship in Guayaquil Bay, I could see that it was joined by bananas from two other organic farms.

I know all of this because Dole practices traceability, a concept that is being embraced by more and more growers and manufacturers. Traceability lets consumers trace the origins of their food—not just to a country, but to a specific farm or processor. […]

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Filth in Food: We might as well drink out of the toilet.


Let me state at the outset:

I am not a germaphobe.
I don’t have food rituals, issues, or obsessions. I use the silverware set out for me, I let different foods touch on my plate, and I am well-acquainted with the 5-second rule.
What I do have is a healthy respect for bacteria and a reasonable gross-out threshold.

Every once in a while a bit of news is reported that makes me want to take a bath in hand sanitizer.
You know the kind of news I’m talking about. Reports like when the the FDA increased allowable levels of filth in food (currently it’s 30 insect fragments plus 1 rodent hair per 100 grams, or about 4 spoons’ full of peanut butter), or when a middle school student’s science project proved that the ice in fast food restaurant soda machines is dirtier that toilet water.

Take a deep breath, maybe gargle some mouthwash, and let’s look at some tales from the annals of yucky, germy, disgusting things you probably put in your mouth. […]

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How Did Rich and Fat Become Rich and Thin?

image via Mannequin Madness


Richer, thinner, younger, smarter; what if you could change one thing about yourself? Which would you choose?

A recent Harris Poll asked this question.

Not surprisingly, given the current economic climate, richer was the top choice. But thinner came in a strong second picked by one in five respondents overall, and one in four women.

We tend to forget that this has not always been so. […]

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Take the Quiz: Healthy Diet or Eating Disorder?


Do You Have Orthorexia?

Here’s a quiz (isn’t there’s always a quiz?)

Give yourself a point for each yes answer.

A score of four or more means that you are at risk for orthorexia nervosa. If all 10 of these statements apply to you, you don’t have a life – you have a regimen.

  • Are you spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food?
  • Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today?
  • Is the virtue you feel about what you eat more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
  • Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet increased?
  • Have you become stricter with yourself?
  • Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy?
  • Do you look down on others who don’t eat this way? Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the ‘right’ foods?
  • Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from friends and family?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control? […]
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Egg Safety: How to Boil an Egg

image courtesy of Bella Irae


Soft-boiled, sunny-side up, over-easy, gently poached.
Uh uh. Not these days. Runny yolks are out. Hard-boiled is the safest way to go.
And you think you know how to boil an egg, but I’m here to tell you that you can do better. […]
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The Egg Recall: Rethinking the 5-Second Rule


The freshly buttered piece of toast slips off your plate and falls to the floor.

The floor looks clean.
It landed buttered-side up.
The dog didn’t lick it.
Looks fine to me!

It seems like a perfect time to invoke the 5-second rule. […]

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Calling All Picky Eaters!

image via Kakitee

It’s the dinner guest from hell.

You know the one. He’s not a vegetarian. His diet is not restricted by religion. He doesn’t have food allergies or a medical condition. He’s  just plain fussy.

We think of picky eating as a childhood phenomenon, but there are adults among us– otherwise sensible, well-adjusted men and women– who somehow never outgrew their fussiness. They are perversely choosy, banishing from their diets specific foods and entire food groups. Adult picky eaters might have given up the high chair histrionics of the toddler years, but otherwise haven’t ‘grown out of it,’ as everyone predicted. […]

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Chew the Right Thing

image via Kosher Ham

Funny, you don’t look Jewish…

There are roughly 6.5 million Jews in the U.S., just about 2% of the population, according to the Census Bureau. Maybe a million of them keep kosher. So why is it that nearly half of all the food in American supermarkets is kosher-certified?

Pivotal kosher moments in US history:

  • Coca Cola (certified kosher, 1935)
  • Tropicana orange juice (1990)
  • Oreos (1997)
  • Kosher Pork (2011)
    It’s like the Jewish version of the Holy Grail. It’s actually a Spanish variety of goose with a decided porkiness to its flesh.

Every one of them was a watershed. But nothing changed the way Americans look at kosher food like the 1972 Hebrew National hot dog commercial. As Uncle Sam munches on a hot dog, a disembodied, heavenly voice assures him that as a Hebrew National beef hot dog, it is free of the additives and by-products typically found in lesser processed meats.  As the camera pans heavenward, the voice proclaims, “We answer to a higher authority.”


Kosher has become synonymous with purity and quality. It requires scrutiny and monitoring that exceed national standards, playing nicely in the current environment of heightened concerns about food safety. Labeling of kosher food is considered to be more trustworthy than mainstream labeling. Strict product labeling tells vegans and vegetarians when meat or dairy is present;  Muslims can trust that kosher meat products contain no pork; and consumers with food allergies can safely monitor their diets.

The kosher label is so desirable that it now dominates new product launches. It is the number one label claim for new food and beverages, topping even organic, natural, and low fat. Mainstream retailers like WalMart and Whole Foods are hustling for certification to sell kosher chickens.

A higher authority than the USDA.

Of course the ancient, Jewish dietary laws stand for more than just food safety. Adherence is intended to connect daily living to a higher spiritual plane. For the typical kosher consumer, 85% of whom are not Jewish, faith is not a factor— just a lack of faith in the agencies that monitor our food system.

Kosher Quest has a guide to kosher package symbols and their certifying agencies.

Buck the trend and dine at Traif. Named for the Hebrew word for non-kosher, the Brooklyn restaurant is a celebration of pork and shellfish.

If you missed it the first time around, now’s your chance to view the seminal 1975 Hebrew National hot dog commercial.


Posted in food safety, vegetarian/vegan | Tagged , | 1 Comment

To Eat or Not To Eat

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Oh, if only it were that easy.

Even Michael Pollan, author of those oft-repeated seven words, felt the need to refine the edict with an entire book of rules.

After he exposed us to the ills of the American diet and the inherent dangers in our uber-capitalistic food industry, Michael Pollan left millions of readers wondering what to eat. He began to compile a list of rules to eat by. A mention of the project on his blog resulted in a flood of reader-submitted suggestions— more than 2,500 of them. […]

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Ooh, My Aging Brain

      image via R2 Thoughts 4 You

We’re having a national senior moment.

Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are a demographic time bomb. Making up nearly one-third of the population, they’ve reached the age of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and synaptic glitches. That’s 75 million boomers that can’t remember what they went upstairs for.

Brain foods really work.

In the same way that a low cholesterol diet can keep plaque from forming in arteries, there are foods that can keep plaque from forming in your brain. You can unclog your cognitive functions just like you can unclog your arteries. […]

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Something Really Scary at the Movies: The Popcorn!


There’s nothing quite like movie theater popcorn. The heady smell fills your nostrils tempting you before you even reach the ticket window. According to industry group the Popcorn Board, “popcorn is among the healthiest — and tastiest — snacks around.  It’s a whole grain food that’s low in calories and fat and it’s a complex carbohydrate.” Don’t you feel virtuous for passing on the Junior Mints!

Actually, there is something like movie theater popcorn. How about a half rack of Ruby Tuesday’s barbecued spareribs and a scoop of Häagen-Dazs? That’s the nutritional equivalent of a medium popcorn at Regal Theaters, the nation’s largest chain. […]

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Chubby Hubby: It’s Not a Myth


What was once an anecdote is supported by mounting evidence: we really do ‘let ourselves go’ when we’re in a relationship.

Cozying up on the couch with Netflix and a pizza. Intimate dinners complete with wine and dessert. Lazy Sunday mornings with bagels and the newspaper.

Of course you’re getting fat. […]

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Food Can Make You Pretty

If only there were a magic potion.

One gulp and blemishes are gone, wrinkles are smoothed, and a youthful glow radiates from every pore. If only. Until that scientific break-through or rainforest miracle plant discovery, there are foods you can eat that will improve the health and appearance your complexion.

Eat your wrinkles away […]

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Beware: The Frozen Drinks of Summer

Nothing says summer like a slushy drink.

A blender, some ice, and the promise of super-cooled refreshment; what was once a poolside specialty can now be found at every coffee shop, convenience store, and fast food outlet.

We used to know where we stood with our frozen drinks. Milkshakes were a dessert stand-in when you didn’t feel like a cone. Slushies, were glo-light-colored slurries of icy, sugar that were strictly for the playground set. Smoothies were a nutritious meal replacement for the health and fitness crowd.

Now it’s not so clear. […]

Posted in fast food, health + diet | Tagged , | 2 Comments
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