LA City Council Endorses Meatless Mondays

The Meatless Monday campaign has gained and lost popularity over the last few decades, originating as a way to support the troops during World War II, and reemerging in 2003 in a promotion by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Now the City Council of Los Angeles is working to integrate this meatless trend into the homes of more people.

The Los Angeles City Council has already come a long way in banning trans-fats and opposing fast-food restaurants. Now they are aiming to make city residents feel guilty about what they eat with a Meatless Monday resolution On Friday the resolution passed in a 14-0 vote officially urging residents to adopt a personal pledge to avoid meat on Monday’s. This resolution is a far cry away from New York City’s mandatory soda ban, and the police will not be legally enforcing this resolution, checking packed lunches and banning the purchase of meat. Ultimately the resolution should start a trend in the city to make residents healthier and reduce environmental waste.

Councilwoman Jan Perry was instrumental in passing this resolution, and also called a ban on new fast-food restaurant in South Los Angeles as a method to curb obesity. Perry said “we can reduce saturated fats and reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent. While this is a symbolic gesture, it is asking people to think about the food choices they make. Eating less meat can reverse some of our nation’s most common illnesses.”

Other councilmen have joined with Perry in supporting Meatless Mondays, including a councilman whose son was recently diagnosed with diabetes. The Food Policy Council initially developed this proposal, part of a larger agenda to encourage healthy foods in Los Angeles.

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Research Shows Sugary Drinks Directly Contribute to Obesity

The relationship between sugary beverages and obesity has been hotly contested over the past few months as new policies have been put into effect to decrease the consumption of these beverages. Now a decades-long study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, involving over 33,000 Americans has finally been released, asserting that soda and other sugary beverages actually have a profound effect on obesity.

The results of this study show that drinking sugary beverages does in fact interact with the genes that affect weight, and increase the likelihood of obesity from heredity alone. For people with genes with a high risk factor for obesity (most people have at least a few of these genes), sugary beverages can be especially harmful. The study also strongly suggested that sugary drinks cause people to gain weight independently of other unhealthy behaviors like overeating and lack of exercise.

Previously experiments have been inconclusive in determining the effects of sugary beverages. In one of the new studies research randomly assigned over 200 obese or overweight high schoolers in Boston to receive shipments every two weeks of either sugary drinks or their sugar-free alternatives. The kids were aware of the beverages they were drinking, and made no efforts to curb their eating or exercise schedules. The results showed that after one year the sugar-free group weighed four pounds less on average than the group which continued drinking sugary beverages.

This directly demonstrated that sugar-free drinks do lead to less weight gain, and people can satisfy their cravings for sugary beverages with these substitutes. A second study in the Netherlands involved 641 normal-weight children between the ages of 4 and 12, who regularly drank sugary beverages. The children were randomly assigned sugary or sugar-free beverages at school, and were not told what kind of beverage they were drinking. After eighteen months the sugary-drink group weighed two pounds more on average than the other group.

The American Beverage Association was not so easily convinced by the findings of these studies. “Obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage,” it commented in a statement. “Studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.”

Since the 1970’s consumption of sugary beverages in the U.S. have more than doubled, same as the U.S. obesity rates. Sugary drinks are currently the biggest source of calories in the American diet, and they may be accountable for the obesity epidemic that affects a third of U.S. children and over two-thirds of adults.

“I know of no other single food product whose elimination can produce this degree of weight change,” said the study’s leader, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In the wake of Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban in New York City, evidence like this will undoubtedly affect how other cities choose to address this obesity problem.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

McDonald’s Posts Calorie Content

Many New Yorker’s are already accustomed to the mandatory calorie information they see posted at McDonald’s restaurants throughout the city, now the chain is posting this information at all of its locations nationwide. Starting Monday the chain will post calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus, working to voluntarily post this information before a regulation is passed that would mandate restaurants to post this information nationwide.

McDonald’s already posts calories information in New York, Philadelphia, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. They hope to soon post this information in South America as well. “We want to voluntarily do this,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA. “We believe it will help educate customers. When it’s all said and done, the menu mix doesn’t change. But I do think people feel better knowing this information.”

This move comes as a preemptive response to the Supreme Court’s decision to approve President Obama’s healthcare changes. In these changes one regulation requires that restaurant chains with over 20 locations must post the calorie content of their food. While restaurants still have time to sort out their menus before the law comes into play, few other chains have responded so readily. Wendy’s has yet to make a response, Burger King and Yum Brands (the owner of KFC and Taco Bell) said that they are waiting for more information before they proceed.

The ultimate goal of posting calorie information at these restaurants is to raise awareness about what we eat. “Obesity isn’t the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you’re fat. We gradually and slowly gain weight over time,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Wootan believes that this move could have a large effect over time, and could help sway some people to make better choices with what they eat.

Regulators are also hoping that restaurant chains will make an extra effort to provide healthier food after seeing the calorie content publicly posted. “It can be embarrassing, or shocking, so they end up changing the way the product is made,” Wootan said.

McDonald’s is already testing some healthier options, like the Egg White Delight, an Egg McMuffin with egg white, Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese on a whole grain muffin, clocking in at 260 calories. New McWraps are being tested as well, ranging from 350 to 580 calories. This is a stark contrast to a Big Mac meal, which would amount to about 1,140 calories. McDonald’s faces strong competition from chains like Subway that market themselves as healthy alternatives to fast food.

McDonald’s efforts to get ahead of the game by posting calorie content voluntarily may simply be a savvy public relations move however. Corporate Accountability International is a group that has previously urged McDonald’s to stop marketing food to children. They say that McDonald’s has attempted to stop similar regulations in the past, and their latest move was certainly not voluntary. While the chain instituted a rule earlier this year that automatically includes apple slices in Happy Meals, Sara Deon from Corporate Accountability International said that it was nothing but a “PR scheme designed to drive traffic to stores to sell burgers and fries.”

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

State Department Launches American Chef Corps to Promote Diplomacy

The newest tactic the American State Department will use in diplomacy with foreign politicians and dignitaries involves appealing to their sense of taste. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has begun working with some of the nation’s best chefs to offer their services to foreign ambassadors and use their culture and cuisine to bring them together.

On Friday, the State Department will induct over 80 chefs into the first ever American Chef Corps, a group of food experts that will represent America in foreign countries, prepare meals for visiting dignitaries and host international culinary experts in their kitchens. Forging educational programs will also be a goal of this elite group of chefs, as culinary experts from 25 countries prepare to visit Washington, New York, San Francisco, the Midwest and New Orleans to gain insight into American food culture in a special State Department program.

Secretary Clinton has long believed in the power of food in addressing diplomats from foreign countries. This new initiative is part of her new “smart power” philosophy of using “every diplomatic tool at our disposal,” said U.S. Chief of Protocol Caprica Penavic Marshall. Marshall was White House Secretary when Clinton was still first lady, and it was there they began to focus on the importance of food in person-to-person diplomacy.

Previously the United States focused heavily on French food and expensive catering menus for its overseas guests. Now each guest is getting a degree of individual attention from the State Department. In February a Chinese-American chef named Ming Tsai was recruited to prepare a special luncheon for Chinese Vice Presidents Xi Jinping. The chef created a new Chinese and American “fusion” menu including an “eight treasured rice packet” with many flavors and gingered Swiss chard. Similarly, to serve British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chef April Bloomfield was recruited, owner of New York restaurant Spotted Pig and born in England.

“By showcasing the best of American cuisine and creativity, we can show our guests a bit about ourselves,” Marshall said. “Likewise, by incorporating elements of our visitor’s culture, we can demonstrate respect and a desire to connect and engage.” Appealing to a foreign ambassador’s specific country of origin shows that the United States actively cares about other cultures.

The chefs that have already prepared special meals or served in a diplomatic program are being given the title of State Chefs, as well as a navy jacket with the American flag and their names embroidered in gold. Chef Jose Andres earned his by cooking for the 50th anniversary of the department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Andres stood out by serving Louisiana Gulf Shrimp as a sign of support to the fishermen still struggling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Several other chefs including two former Top Chef Contestants will be honored.

Chef Mike Isabella was featured on Top Chef, originates from Washington and will be the first State Chef appointed to represent American food culture abroad. Originally travelling to Greece and Turkey to research flavors for an upcoming restaurant, he will now visit embassies and restaurants as a culinary ambassador as well.

“I just think food is the best way to bring people together,” he said. “Even if we don’t understand what we’re saying across the table from each other, we understand how happy we are when we’re sitting down together.”

Raising food concerns as a foremost topic can help to change the current dialogue about hunger and food consumption. Hunger levels are high internationally and within this country, as well as obesity and food sourcing concerns. Chef’s can now take a stand and contribute to these discussions in a positive manner.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Put Into Perspective

Mayor Bloomberg recently announced his latest crusade in the war against fat by proposing to ban all large servings of soft drinks. This proposal has been met with a variety of backlash from newspapers, politicians, comedians and many more critics. The ultimate question however remains, what will be the ultimate effect of this proposal and will it actually increase healthy consumption habits?

One of the first things noticed about this proposal are all the loopholes people can use to still consume as much sugar as they wish. Consumers can still get refills at fast food restaurants, and they can still consume many other sugary beverages like milkshakes, sweetened juices and alcoholic beverages. Mayor Bloomberg has tried similar initiatives in the past, such as the required calorie counts on restaurant menus. However it seems like the mayor has learned little from his past mistakes.

Chain restaurants like McDonald’s are mandated to tell consumers how many calories are on each item in their menus, but local delis and restaurants have no obligation to do this, once again creating a loophole in Bloomberg’s plan. With so many ways to get around Bloomberg’s policies, a careful analysis of what the actual goals are of Bloomberg’s war on fat is needed. Health costs have gotten much higher in recent years due to rising obesity; however it is unprecedented for the government to limit what Americans can and cannot eat. Some of the strongest backlash to Mayor Bloomberg’s policies has criticized the mayor for abusing his power; if food regulations start with soda, where will they end? Will we soon be regulated into eating certain size portions of ‘healthy food’ for the rest of our lives?

Large soft drinks can still be purchased at grocery stores and drug stores, simply making it less convenient for customers to consume large quantities of soda. Since the mayor cannot hope to actually regulate how much soda people consume, the major goal of this initiative is to raise awareness and create a buzz about the health risks associated with these sugary beverages. Raising awareness and enacting a law are two very different things, and the mayor needs to realize that he cannot force people to change their eating habits.

In dealing with America’s obesity epidemic government policy needs to examine the big picture. Making our decisions for us will not yield greater long term results, but most likely frustration at the government. Has Mayor Bloomberg heard of the Prohibition in the early 20th century? Changes need to be made that will affect people’s behavior and views towards nutrition. Access to healthy and fresh foods might expose consumers to more culinary options and an emphasis on physical education in schools might encourage healthier habits. Rising costs in agriculture make unhealthy food more affordable, and current health insurance policies help the ill but do little to prevent illness. While Mayor Bloomberg alone cannot curb unhealthy eating, a look at all the factors at play might make his next set of policies more effective.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

New Study Pays $3500 to Eat Fast Food for 3 Months

Washington University in St. Louis is conducting a study on obesity, asking participants to take part in it with a hefty bribe to destroy their bodies for a mere three months.

The school is offering participants the opportunity to eat all the fast food they want for three months, and in return receive $3,500 for their trouble. During the course of the study participants have to gain five percent of their body weight during the duration of the study.

Dr Sam Klein has organized the study, and sees fast food as a necessary means to measure weight gain. “By choosing fast foods, we can regulate that food intake much better than trying to tell people to try and decide on their own eating food at home, which require judgment and education on what you’re eating. By going to eat fast food, we know exactly what they’re eating.”

The study aims to differentiate why some overweight people develop diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors, while others do not.

In order to take part in the study, participants must be between 18 and 65 years old, non-smokers, non-diabetic and already be at least thirty pounds overweight. After the study culminates in three months, participants will be entered into a weight loss program to lose it.

The study allows participants to eat from the following list of fast food restaurants. To sign up for the study click here.

– McDonald’s
– Taco Bell
– KFC
– Burger King
– Pizza Hut

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Pizza is a Vegetable, and School Lunch is Doomed

Last week the United States Congress voted to make frozen pizza an official vegetable, determining that USDA efforts to increase fruit and vegetable servings in school lunches would be denied. The tomato paste in frozen pizza supposedly qualifies as an acceptable vegetable, thanks to large food companies like ConAgra and Shwan pressuring Congress to align their guidelines with the companies’ financial interests.

The government has come under pressure from conservatives recently about dictating the food that people eat, notably from Sarah Palin calling first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign an example of the new “nanny state”. However this move shows that the government does not seem to care too much about what we eat either way, as company interests have clearly superseded health concerns for school lunch. After examining the ingredients in ConAgra’s traditional 4” x 6” pizza, it hardly has any vegetables in it and barely qualifies as a pizza at all.

According to the New York Times, food companies have already spent an estimated $5.6 million lobbying against these new food regulations. A lot of the damage done to school lunches has already been instilled in children by years of eating industrialized food. Studies have shown that children’s taste palettes seem to reject the healthier food in place of the industrialized options, going to great pains to remove vegetables from their plates, even pulling all the spinach out of lasagna. Parents and lunch officials alike believe that kids simply won’t eat the healthier options, but skeptics say that industrialized food has only been around for about 60 years and prior to this, children must have eaten healthier food. The fact is, extended exposure to salty, fatty and sugary foods alters the taste palette and can make healthier foods seem bland and unappealing. By marketing exclusively to children, these food companies are targeting children at a young age and drastically altering their eating habits.

Nearly thirty years ago President Reagan proposed to save money on school lunches by suggesting ketchup could be served as a vegetable rather than as a condiment. Though the idea by mocked then and never taken seriously, we have come dangerously close to this level of negligence in caring for what food is served in school cafeterias. Currently one in every four 4-year olds is obese, and with Congress remaining unwilling to stand up to the food industry, we can expect these numbers to further increase.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

What are Meatless Mondays All About Anyway?

The idea behind Meatless Monday is something that may seem fairly recent, however is rooted back in American history from the World War II era when the federal government promoted it to aid US and allied efforts. The idea officially re-launched when the founder of Monday Campaigns sought to find new ways to devote Mondays to healthy behavior. The initiative began in 2003, aided by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, offering guides and alternatives for consumers to turn away from meat. Since then, the movement has gained significant support, with entire communities developing to share tips and recipes.
Hospitals, schools and restaurants have begun to promote meat-free alternatives as well, citing the health and environmental benefits of Meatless Mondays. Health has been found to be the primary reason people are interested in cutting back on meat, mostly to avoid the high levels of saturated fat. Saturated fat has been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Experts say meat consumption should be lowered by 15%, and rather than cutting down meat intake every day people can simply cut one day out of the week, and effectively improve their health.

Meatless Mondays also play a crucial part in addressing global hunger and obesity trends. Many countries in the developing world have recently become exposed to the Western diet with plenty of meat and fast food. In other parts of the world where hunger is a more serious issue, Meatless Mondays raise awareness about mass quantities of grain that feed livestock but could more efficiently be used to feed people.
Another huge aspect of Meatless Mondays lies in the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption. Industrial meat production uses a massive quantity of resources, including grain, water and fossil fuels. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the source of their meat, and finding that the way farmers and ranchers raise livestock is often unsustainable and unhealthy.
The results from Meatless Monday have encouraged the campaigns’ founders to continue efforts and focus on more global growth. The campaign has reached about 50% awareness in the US, with 27% saying that Meatless Monday has caused them to cut back on their meat intake. With restaurants and big name chefs like Mario Batali joining the movement as well, it could only be a matter of time before many people start to see how easy it is to give up one day of meat.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com