‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pumpkin Spiced Pizza

In America, the season of fall is greeted with a slew of fall flavoured favourites, most notably: Pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Pumpkin in and of itself is a vegetable, and a healthy one. So what did we do to it? In true American (ok, fine... Western) fashion, we took something healthy and found a bazillion ways to made it unhealthy.

Pumpkin is a type of squash, originally found in Mexico. Currently, 1.5 billion tons are produced in America, mostly in Illinois.

Pumpkin is highly nutritious... Well duh, it is a vegetable. One cup of boiled, mashed pumpkin (245g) contains about:
  • 50 calories
  • 0g fat, 0mg cholesterol, almost nil sodium
  • 3g fiber
  • 2g sugar (remember this when reading the Starbucks section below)
  • 2g protein
  • 6% of your folate (a B vitamin necessary for cell growth and metabolism)
  • 8% of your iron (a mineral needed to transport oxygen around the body)
  • 16% of your potassium (a mineral used for nerve signaling and muscle contractions)
  • 19% of your vitamin C (a water soluble vitamin involved in skin and tissue formation, wound healing, repair, and maintenance of bones, cartilage and teeth)
  • 245% of your vitamin A (a fat soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant needed for vision, bone growth, immune function, and reproduction)
Btw, here's a new article adding to the body of evidence, just how awesome vegetables are at keeping your body weight manageable.

Even Google loves pumpkins
Now, to some of the things we're calling "pumpkin" or "pumpkin spice". Here's how some Starbucks favourites measure up nutritionally...

* Note: the following numbers represent Grande size, with 2% milk, and no whipped cream! If you add cream, add about 100cal):
Or, you can be "healthy" and get the "lite" version:
Pumpkin Spice Light Frappuccino = 180cal, still 40g sugar (Grande, no whip)

Or if you'd like to get some of your calories from something solid (still at Starbucks), you can try:
  • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin  = 350cal, 34g sugar, 14g fat, and 430mg sodium (that's 18% of your recommendation for the day)
  • Pumpkin bread = 410cal, 39g sugar, 15g fat, 500mg sodium... And a piddly 2g of fiber (adults need 25-35g of fiber daily)
What about some other pumpkin-pushing products? Do they actually contain any pumpkin? The results were surprising:
  • Pumpkin spiced Oreos - No pumpkin detected. But plenty of sugar, palm oil, high fructose corn syrup, and colors
  • Pumpkin pie spice M&Ms - Ingredients list is vague, only noting artificial colors and flavors (including on the front of package), needless to say... No pumpkin there
  • Ben and Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream - Contains pumpkin purée! (6th ingredient)
  • Cedar's pumpkin hummus - Contains pumpkin (2nd ingredient)
  • Keebler fudge stripes pumpkin spice - No pumpkin, but does have an impressive list of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, several hydrogenated oils (AKA trans fat), colors, and flavors
  • Chobani Greek yogurt pumpkin spice - Does contain pumpkin purée, but low-ish on the ingredients list... Not enough to provide any fiber in the serve, and evaporated cane juice (AKA sugar) features 2 ingredients ahead of the pumpkin
  • Pillsbury pumpkin spice rolls - No pumpkin. Kind of a surprise actually. But again, plenty of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, colors and trans fat
  • Noosa Australian yogurt pumpkin flavor - The 2nd ingredient is "fruit purée" which does include pumpkin purée... But also water, sugar, and cream cheese. Followed by flavors and other forms of sugar. PS: Australians don't have a pumpkin fetish, so from an Australian's point of view, it's a little wrong to sell "Australian" pumpkin yoghurt... just sayin'
  • Alaskan Beer Pumpkin Ale - Does actually have pumpkin purée (well knock me over with a feather!) 5.5lbs are added to each barrel for mouth feel (I have no idea how much that comes out to per bottle, but so far, beer is beating Oreos and Pillsbury)
  • Jif whipped peanut butter and pumpkin pie spice flavored spread - That's a mouthful... And it's a mouthful of peanuts, trans fat, sugar, flavors, but no actual pumpkin. PS: peanut butter should contain: peanuts... Not sugar and oil as well
  • Pop-Tarts pumpkin pie - About 1/3 down the long list of ingredients you do see "pumpkin"... right after "salt". I'd say, if there's more salt than pumpkin in a "pumpkin pie pop-tart"... Keep walking
Walk away from non-pumpkin pumpkin "foods"
I don't mean to spoil anyone's fun... Well, maybe I do. But being aware of food crazes is probably useful. Some take home points:
  • Doesn't matter how popular it is... Pick up the product, flip it over and read the ingredients, if it's full of crap, put it down and walk away
  • A pumpkin Oreo (even if it actually contained pumpkin) doesn't count as a vegetable, and you know it
  • Find a recipe to make your own pumpkin thing (bread, muffins, etc) that actually contains pumpkin puree or shredded pumpkin

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Soda & Skittles Protest Taxation without Representation

Eat less junk, buy more healthy food (hey, we just had an article about that)... The question is, should we tax "junk" foods? Maybe we should subsidise "healthy" foods? It just so happens there's some research about this. Before the food prudes ban pizza and Robin Hood's health nuts give away grapes, garlic, and... Nuts, let's see about that science.

The thought with taxes: People are deterred from buying crummy food if it's more expensive, and, in theory, the collected money goes toward paying medical bills associated with chronic fatness... Sorry if that's a little politically incorrect... But seriously, being fat brings with it a bunch of expensive diseases.

Non-communicable diseases account for 60% of deaths annually, and 40% of those are caused by dietary factors like scoffing salt-plastered, fatty, and sweat foods, and not eating your fruit and veggies. This costs billions and takes its toll on the environment, economies, and healthcare systems alike.

On the flip side, if healthy food fodder is cheaper, people are incentivised to buy and eat those, which helps people maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Here's what the researchers found from 78 studies:
  • Consistent evidence that taxes and subsidies did, in fact, influence dietary behaviours
  • Evidence suggested a minimum of 10-15% tax/subsidy was the most effective
  • Using subsidies and taxes in tandem (together, rather than singly) was more effective
  • Ongoing evaluation is important to track both intentional and unintentional effects
Such policies are best used as part of a greater framework to promote health and nutrition education and also focus on reducing poverty. Lower-income folks and those in rural areas are special populations. Further research will determine if such legislation yields benefits. 

As for the rest of us, taxation and subsidisation with representation may be necessary to save us from our greedy selves.

A "PS" of sorts: An even newer study found that some items were more sensitive than others, and a minimum 20% tax on soft drinks, sugar, and snacks is needed to influence consumption.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

10+ Ways to Eat Healthy for Cheap

This debate of healthy food costing more than junk food has reached a point in my mind where I may explode if I see another headline feeding the frenzy of foolish folks who falsely have faith in this fallacy.

First, I must confess it took all my self control to not throw an F-bomb into the alliteration mix. Fierce passion flows through my veins for this issue.

The Sorry Stats
Only a pathetic 13% of Americans eat the recommended servings of fruit per day (1.5-2 cups). And an even more measly (less than) 9% of Americans meet the veg recommendations (2-3 cups).

So here are 10+ things you can do to eat healthy for cheap:
  1. Look for sales!
    • Pay attention to your mail ads and coupons (or use the internet)
  2. Be supermarket-ly promiscuous
    • Try different supermarkets according to their sales
    • Ethnic markets tend to have cheaper fresh produce - remember, beautiful is bland and ugly is tasty (don't buy based on appearance)
  3. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables
    • Buying strawberries in winter? You're wasting money
    • Squash and pumpkins are cheap most of the year, especially in winter, they last for months, and are delicious roasted
  4. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables
    • Sometimes cheaper
    • Just as good as fresh, sometimes better (1, 2)
    • Less waste
    • Always in your freezer
    • Add to soups
    • Add to stir fries
    • Add frozen fruit to smoothies
  5.  Think canned and jarred! Oh yes, you can can
    • Sometimes cheaper
    • Just as good as fresh, sometimes better (1, 2)
    • Rinse canned veg to remove the salt
    • Add to soups
    • Add to stir fries
    • Add to salad
    • Make your own spaghetti sauce with canned tomatoes (cheaper, healthier, delicious)
  6. Try new fruit and vegetables corresponding to sales
    • Google a recipe for a new type of food and see how you like it
  7. Buy beans (dried and true...)
    • A cheap alternative to meat
    • Good source of lean protein and complex carbs
    • Counts as vegetables
    • Buy dry or canned (rinse canned to expel salt) - they last a long time and can be used in many ways (refried beans, hummus, bean dip, add to soups, add to curries, add to salads... The possibilities are endless - especially with the internet)
  8. Give organic the boot
    • No question, organic is better for the environment (or is it?), but while the organic market is taking advantage of the consumer and charging twice the price... Buy conventional (they both need to be washed anyway)
  9. Rethink your cereal
    • Boxed cereal is robbing you blind
    • "Healthy" boxed cereal is also robbing you blind
    • Buy a bulk bag of rolled oats and add your own cinnamon, or fruit, or vanilla rather than spending 50% more buying it with that stuff already added 
  10. Buy whole food
    • No, I'm not talking about going to Wholefoods or buying "clean" foods (whatever that means anyway)
    • An example: buy a whole chicken, or two (when they're on sale, of course)
      • Go on youtube and spend 10 minutes learning how to carve it up (here, did it for you!)
      • Freeze the cuts to cook later (with lots of veggies)
      • Boil the bones, giblets, and wing tips... Make a stock, freeze it, use it later
      • Use the stock to make a vegetable soup
      • ... Voila, you've just spent ~$6 on an on-sale chicken and got upwards of 10 meals
  11. There is no healthy ice cream
    • Marketers are happy to sell you a watered down, chemical concoction for big bucks
    • Better off buying the real thing for less and spending your extra cash on some fresh stuff
What else can you do?
  • Make your food at home
    • Seriously, spend 10 minutes prepping your lunch at home, it will save you $$ and calories
  • Forgo your daily $5 latte
    • That's $25+ per week that can go to your groceries rather than your urine (think frugally)
  • Trade recipes with coworkers or friends
    • If you want to try something new, ask a friend or work buddy for their favourite recipe

What the heck is a serve anyway?
Any idiot can consult Dr. Google with a phrase such as "what does a serve of vegetables look like". Guess what pops up on the first page?
  • This website includes pictures of what a serve looks like and ways to cook veggies
  • This website shows mock-ups and gives examples of what a serve is for all the food groups
  • This website gives quantities of what a serve is and several healthy tips
  • This website gives you examples, tips and recipes
Wake up people all over the world! Eating and buying healthy is easy.

It takes some planning, don't let that scare you. No one got anywhere without working for it. Consider it a challenge. Add up your grocery bills for the last month and add in all the times your ate/drank away from home. That number is your challenge, and you can beat it!

Let's call it #EatHealthyForCheap

These were the offending articles stating healthier food is more expensive. I'd like to point out, if you're not a savvy, smart shopper... Everything is more expensive.