Food Flags of the Nations

Some foodie was feeling patriotic!
Can you guess all the countries?  
 #4, #9, and #10 have me stumped...





My friend Sirulian sent me these pictures from Kuvaton Funny Pics.  Thanks!
Here's what I think.
1. Italy, 2. Australia, 3. Japan, 4. _____?
5. France, 6. Lebanon (I orignially guessed Canada), 7. Switzerland
8. Greece, 9.____? and 10. ___?

So who wants to make Old Glory?
Did you guess them all?
And which one did you like best? 
Happy Friday,
Rachel : )

A Caribbean Brunch: Codfish and Potatoes

This weekend I tested a Haitian recipe for my friend and classmate, Amy of Earthbound Kitchen.  She is writing a cookbook as part of her master's thesis for reVision Urban Farm, and when she hollered for recipe testers, I gave a shout!  This recipe turned out to be an excellent adventure, since I have never cooked cod before.  And I'm always looking for an excuse to break out the wine glasses and sip some Pinot Grigio.
The recipe is still under construction, so unfortunately I cannot share the whole story just yet.   However the codfish and potatoes served as a perfect weekend brunch.  The suggested avocado and boiled eggs were an unusual side dish, but very complimentary!  
Have you ever stopped to consider how beautiful red onions are?  Gorgeous.
Wining and dining on a Sunday morning?  
Yup, we got fancy!
Now that I've shared my weekend concoction, did you eat anything new this weekend?
Happy Monday!  

Salty News from the Institute of Medicine!

flickr photo from ladybugbkt
It's hot off the press.  And it's salty!
Back in 2008, Congress gave the Institute of Medicine (IOM) a new task: help people decrease their salt intake so that it matches the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The Dietary Guidelines recommends 2,300 mg of salt per day for anyone older than 2 years old.  Did you know this equals a mere 1 teaspoon of salt per day?  Unfortunately Americans are averaging 3,400 mg each day-way more than is necessary!

So the Institute got busy.  And after months of hard work, they released their official report today!  Check it out: "Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States."

In their report, IOM recognizes that current salt content in the American food system is "too high to be safe."  Excess salt increases risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to a variety of diseases.  In response, the IOM calls for a coordinated approach from foodservice industry and government to slowly lower the salt content in the food supply.

Here's the main points:

  • Americans have been eating more and more sodium since the 1970s.  We have become accustomed to high levels of salt in processed foods and restaurants, and need to re-program our palates!
  • Lowering salt can help everyone avoid high blood pressure and heart disease; salt cutbacks are not just for people who already have high blood pressure.  
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to set national salt standards for processed foods and menu items.  (A false article yesterday from the Washington Post got everyone excited, including me:  Report Urges FDA to Force Rollback.  However the FDA is not going into action just yet: FDA Press Release)
  • Government and non-government agencies need to make salt reduction a nation-wide campaign.  
  • Food scientists need to develop creative ways for scrumptious, low-salt foods.
  • Consumers need to do their part too!  Make healthy food choices and select lower salt foods.  Get ideas: Quick Tips to Be Sodium Savvy from the International Food Information Council Foundation, or Tips For Reducing Sodium in Your Diet from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  
Trends in Salt Intake from Food, 1970-2006.
Taken straight from the IOM report.  Trends in Mean Sodium Intake from Food.
The IOM concludes by saying, "Without major change, hypertension and cardiovascular disease rates will continue to rise, and consumers, who have little choice, will pay the price for inaction."

Okie-dokie.  Thank you IOM!

The 114th Boston Marathon

Today is Patriot's Day in Boston, a special holiday to celebrate Marathon Monday!  That's right, today marks the 114th Boston Marathon, and I'm reporting with some pictures and videos from the finish line!  What an exciting day!
Men's Wheelchair Finish!  Isn't this amazing?!
(I apologize for my low quality videos!)

Men's Finish.  I think this guy was second place.
They set up bleachers in front of the Boston Public Library, VIP access only.

Runners get wrapped in a foil blanket for insulation.
Ring that COWBELL!
Congrats to all who ran!  I especially want to give a shout-out to the runners of the Tufts University Presidents Marathon Challenge.  I didn't get to stay to see them finish, but they were in my thoughts and cheers!  Woot woot!

Interpreting Labels: Natural vs. Organic Part 1

Here's the message of today's post: Be cautious of labels!  The "natural" label has no USDA regulations, and sometimes food manufacturers use it as mere marketing leverage.  The "organic" label is more reliable, since is has USDA regulations.  But ultimately, the value of a food should be judged by its ingredients, nutrition, and taste- not by its label.

There, I've made my point.
Now if you need to skip along your merry way, then skip!  I'll catch up with you later.  However, if you would like to learn more, then join me as I share some research from a recent school paper.
The Natural Label
Phrases such as "100% natural" or "All natural" can be slapped on a variety of food or beverage packages because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no authoritative standards or regulation of the term.  "Natural" implies that a food has undergone minimal processing with no additional additives.  Some packages are more believable than others.  What do you think of these examples?

I found these examples on FoodBiz Daily.  It's a handy resource for tracking food industry market research, or finding new food and beverage products.  Check it out!
The Natural Label + Meat
The good news.  The USDA has set standards for naturally labeled meat.  The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services define "natural" meat or poultry as products without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or ingredients.  Also, these natural meat products must be in their original form.

"Naturally Raised." Yup, this term is legit too.
In January 2009 the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service authorized this label.  "Naturally raised" meat comes from animals that are free from growth-promotants, antibiotics, and have never been fed animal- or aquatic-derived food before slaughter.  Livestock producers must request USDA certification before using this label.
Even with meat regulations, the "natural" label can still be skewed.  Anyone ever heard of Perky Jerky?
To repeat my main message: Be cautious of labels!  The "natural" label may be accurate, but it may also be mere marketing.  Without regulation, who knows?  Remember that "natural" does not necessarily mean "more nutritious" or "healthy."
And hey, let's give a shout-out to the most natural foods of all: Fruits and Vegetables!

*all product photos are taken from FoodBiz Daily.  I am not being paid by any company to market the above products.
Coming next in Part 2...The Organic Label.
Happy Friday!

Nutrition and Sustainability. My Locavore Conversion?

Farmers Market at Point Reyes, California.  Summer 2009.
All right folks, it's been one week and my fingers are itching to blog.  Let me splurge a few minutes to divulge my recent thoughts.  But get ready as I unlease some captive enthusiasm; this is a 100% personal opinion post.  OH YES!  I'm seeping with idealism and earnestness, and add a dollap of naivety too.  But I'm young, so don't judge me. 
Farmers Market, Union Square in NYC.  Fall 2009.
A Confession...Please Indulge Me.
When I came to Boston for grad school in the summer of 2009, I had a two-fold mission.  First, do the dietetic internship for the Registered Dietitian's license, and second, complete a Masters degree in Nutrition Communications.  This summer I will find out if I still like the hospital setting, and my starstruck fantasies of becoming a nutrition journalist haven't completely dissolved (hey, I'm a long-term dreamer- it could still 20 years).  
However in the past seven months I have been slowly introduced to the world of agriculture and food policy.  The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy houses a wealth of treasures; there's some amazing research going on, and plenty of enthusiastic people.  I have met other graduate students who brew their own beer, grow their own spices, drink raw milk, shop exclusively local, and who are fluent in the complex language of environmental food issues.  I'm a newbie, and I don't even know the basic voacabulary.  But I'm ready to learn.

My background is rooted in clinical nutrition.  With my limited experience I love the physiology of metabolism, the diet counseling, the tube feed calculations (ok, not so much), figuring out a nutrition diagnosis, and patients contact!  However, I am realizing that food is connected not only to science and nutrients, but to policy, business, and society.  Can the future of dietetics go beyond medical nutrition therapy, and sprout new off-shoots into food policy, agriculture, and environmental concerns?  As this "locavore" movement becomes mainstream, I hope that dietitians can stay abreast and ahead.

My burning question:  How does a person balance nutritious food for a healthy body with sustainable food for a healthy Earth?  I want to start figuring this out for myself.  Or if you've already answered this, please enlighten me!  
  Astounding, right?  Tulip fields in North-Holland, Netherlands.  Flickr photo from Allard One
An Action Plan.  (I Love Lists!)
  1. Network and Learn.  Today I'm renewing my American Dietetic Association membership, and I've decided to join the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group.  
  2. Eat!  This week I signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share through New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.  Once a week from June-October I will be receiving fresh produce from a local farm in Lowell, MA.  This is completely new to me, but I'll be sure to blog about it.
  3. Read.  It's about time I explore the blogosphere of the gardening, canvas-bag-toting, do-it-yourself-canning people.  Yup, you locavores amaze me.  But not only blogs, I want books too! know nothing gets more me excited than a new book list for the BPL.  

Point Reyes Farmers Market, summer 2009.
New Discoveries!
Passing along some blog resources, and they are all people from Tufts!  
  • US Food Policy written by Park Wilde, PhD.  Associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University.  He teaches the US food policy classes, but ironically I'm taking Regression Analysis from him this semester.  Great blog!
  • Epicurean Ideal by Ashley Colpaart, RD.  Friedman student posting on all things food policy or nutrition.  Check out her "Foodie and Greenie Links."
  • Earthbound Kitchen by Amy Scheuerma, Masters student at Friedman studying Agriculture, Food, and the Environment.  I enjoyed reading her recent posts about free-range meat and grass-fed beef.

Readers, help me out!  
What's your thoughts? What are your favorite blogs, websites and books for local foods and sustainable living?

B is for Buttercream

I have a traffic jam of blog posts in my head, but no time to clear the debris!  It's four weeks until spring finals, and classes are going crazy.  So I will be scattering fewer coconut crumbs until the school madness subsides.  Advance apologies!
But for this week I'm taking the easy way out: quick picture post from the weekend!  
For the past few weeks I have had the mysterious urge to make frosting.  Yes, buttercream frosting.  Why this strange desire?  Perhaps it was the description of luscious desserts in my recent read of David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life of Paris.  (Highly recommended!) 
This Easter weekend I finally had the excuse to make cupcakes for our church dinner.  I felt a little childish carrying my box of treats on the subway (yup...ingeniously transported via super spiffy empty filing folder box!).  But the homemade buttercream frosting was so fun to make!  

B is for Buttercream...AND Bicep workout!
 I don't own an electric mixer or beater.  I realized this predicament about 2-mintues into my baking adventure.  However I decided to forge ahead with my roomate's trusty whisk and the strength of my own two...biceps.  Arms pumping, frosting flying-I was a frenzied mess by the time I finished.  But it worked! 
Tasty Info..Take Your Pick! 
Folks, perhaps I'm feeling a little guilty for not providing any health or nutrition information on this post. On the contrary, I'm promoting lots of yummy saturated fat! (Haha, although I did make them in bite-sized portions.)  So to make up, let me share six new reads and resources.
Cocktails for Carnivores: Drinks Infused with Meat. By Joel Stein from Time Magazine.  I almost missed my stop on the subway cause of this one...very intriguing.
New Studies Eat Into Diet Myth.  It may not be as simple as 3,500 kcal per pound.  By Carl Bailik from The Wall Street Journal.  
Peace, Love, and Food.  I just discovered this blog by dietetic intern Kara Lydon.  Though we've met in person briefly, we connected this week on the blogosphere!
Home Farming, new website discovery! Kraft Tiscuit has partnered with Urban Farming to offer this interactive resource for beginners and seasoned gardeners.  I hear Triscuit is also offering seeds in their cracker boxes?
First Camera, Then Fork.  Article about the growing number of online photographic food diaries, by Kate Murphy of The New York Times
Have you had any sugary cravings recently?
What's been baking in your oven?
Happy Spring!

A Bento Box for Better Health!

A nutritious bento from Susan Yuen.
 1 cup of veggie fried brown rice, 1 poached egg, ½ cup of fruit, ¼ cup vegetables, and 1 pint of calcium-rich milk!  

This semester I've been writing for The Friedman Sprout, the nutrition graduate student newsletter for The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University.  
I'm excited to share my article for the April edition titled, A New Twist on Lunch: A Bento Box for Better Health!
The Japanese-style lunch box is sweeping America, bringing fresh inspiration for healthful lunches.  Though originally targeted for school children, this cute revolution offers tips for any student in need of a lunch-box makeover!  Click here to continue reading...
My article takes a quick look at America's current school lunch slump, and how bento can help by promoting portion control, balanced food groups, and a healthful enjoyment for food.  I'm particularly thankful for the contributing quotes and perspectives of experienced bento moms Sheri Chen (Happy Little Bento) and Susan Yuen (Hawai`i's Bento Box Cookbook, Bentos and More for Kids).  Yuen also kindly offered to make some nutritionally guided bentos (like the one pictured above) which can be viewed in The Sprout and also on her blog!  I want to thank both of you ladies for your help! I am continually inspired by your beautiful bento creations!
*Note: the hyperlinks included in The Sprout article got switched around.  Hopefully they will be fixed soon!

Here's some other great pieces in The Sprout's new April edition:

A look at the recently approved Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010...

Learn how to cook dried beans to perfection...

Learn more about seafood, one of the most unsustainable sectors of the food industry...

Writing about bento for the newsletter inspired my own lunchbox creation.
Rice, umeboshi (pickled plum), steamed zucchini, tofu and soy sauce, steamed carrot.
Nothin' fancy.  Simply yummy.
Thank you for reading, and happy early Easter! 

Rach : )
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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