The Health Check program, for the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Saturday, March 27, 2010

*Warning- rant ahead!*

I continue to be amazed and awe-inspired by the ridiculousness involved when Joe Q. Public tries to make healthy food choices. Case in point: The Health Check program run by an offshoot of the Heart and Stoke Foundation.

Take, for example, this can of Homestyle Chicken Noodle soup by Campbell's (in French it's called "Poulet et nouilles grand-mère" warm and fuzzy is that?):

Doesn't this just say "Sunday afternoons, after a long hard play outside in the snow, sitting at mom's table"? Makes you think back to sitting at the table next to your siblings, slurping those noodles up so fast that they hit you in the nose and splashed broth on your face? Then you pass the aisle, see the can and think "Hey, the Heart and Stoke foundation calls this a healthy choice- I can't wait to share this with my own kids". Sigh.

Let's check the ingredient list, shall we?

Chicken broth (water, chicken stock), egg noodles (enriched wheat flour, whole egg), seasoned chicken (contains soy), carrots, chicken fat, salt, yeast extract and hydrolyzed wheat gluten, celery, monosodium glutamate, potato starch, dehydrated onions, chicken flavour, sea salt, dehydrated garlic, beta carotene and parsley.

Um, is it just me, or are there like...1, 2, 3, 4, 5 mentions of chicken in this recipe. It's like they're trying to reconstruct what should have been a really simple ingredient: CHICKEN. It's like putting a leg, a wing a breast and some feet together with some duct tape, hoping to create a whole chicken. Then we see my favourite nutritionless noodles, made with enriched wheat flour. Remember that one? It's the one where they take the grain, strip out everything nutritious to make it light and fluffy, then put a tiny bit back in, just for good measure.

A little further down, we find "yeast extract and hydrolyzed wheat gluten". I couldn't find a lot specifically on those two in combination, but it is my belief that they combine to form MSG. Plus then there's good old fashioned MSG. Feel the goodness...There's also a big banner across the can that says this has 25% less sodium than its predecessor, yet HALF of this can still has 27% of your allowance for the day.

So, you see the Health Check symbol, which the commercials tell us to look for ("It's like shopping with the Heart and Stroke foundation's dieticians!"), in order to find good-for-us food. Awesome. So you find it on this soup (I use that term loosely) and on the side of the label, you find the following explanation. "This soup is low in fat. Choosing foods prepared with little or no fat is part of healthy eating. Campbell company of Canada financially supports the Health Check education program. This is not an endorsement. See"

Could this possibly be a more blatant example of a simple financial arrangement between organizations? This is big business, baby, nothing more, nothing less, and really is in no way surprising when your food comes from a factory and not a farm.

I just had a peek through the criteria for being able to list your product with the Health Check symbol. There is no mention whatsoever of preservatives (like sodium benzoate), chemicals (like MSG, or things that are known to combine and form MSG), simple v. complex carbohydrates and almost no mention of sugar levels.  Forget actually scoring something like the presence of actual VITAMINS or MINERALS.. Things like yogurt and yogurt drinks which are notorious for being LOADED with sugar, have no sugar-based criteria to adhere to. Who do you think writes these guidelines? I'm quite certain they are written in conjunction with, and to please, the companies like Campbell's, Dempster's, Maple Leaf, etc. who financially support the organization.

This arms-length faction of the Heart and Stroke foundation is actually operated as a not-for-profit organization, which to the average person, looks like a government-run program to help people make healthy choices. In a nation with "free" healthcare, it would seem beneficial to help people eat well, no? Well what this is, is a program whereby companies can purchase the right (so long as they meet these "criteria") to use the Health Check logo, and this results in the Heart and Stroke charity being front of mind when Canadians go to spend those precious dollars and make their charitable contributions. "Oh yes, the Heart and Stroke foundation, they're those nice people who help me buy my daily serving of monosodium glutamate. Such nice folks. I'll donate to them."

You know, this has been bugging me for a while. So I thought I would just get on here and rant. But a quick Google search and I discovered a "CBC Marketplace" episode that ran in January of 2008 where they questioned whether or not this program really does what it claims to do. They studied the various products "certified" by the Health Check and of course, the majority fell far short of actually being healthy choices—you know, the ones with vitamins, minerals, whole grains...that old shpeel again. The episode is maybe 25 minutes or so, but let's just say it's got me SO ANGRY I'm not sure I'm even going to sleep tonight. I've gone from thinking that this program is a complete joke, to seeing how destructive it can truly be for folks who are more or less uneducated about nutrition and rely on stuff like that check mark to guide them in the right direction.

One particular expert, a doctor specializing in obesity by the name of Yoni Freedhoff, has been talking about this for years. Check out his Web site, and on the bottom left, you can listen to a call-in show where he talks about how on one hand, the Heart and Stroke foundation has come out to say that Ontario children will live shorter lives than their parents because of metabolic syndrome diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc. However, on the other hand, their own organization is encouraging folks to eat things like this that are void of nutrition and seek to satisfy big food business- not the health of our nation.

I'm going to go cool off. For now I'll just say keep your eyes open. Keep reading those labels.

Oh, and check your cupboards... We do not have much here in the way of processed food, so this was the only thing I found. What ludicrous things did you discover in looking at your "Health Check" food?

Amazing Dad's BBQ Sauce- a product review :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

I've said it before, but I will reiterate: I do not work for any food companies. I am not paid to review any products...but sometimes I just can't help myself!!

 This is "Amazing Dad's BBQ Sauce" by Honey Bunny ( This stuff is good...really, REALLY good. And the best part is, there is nary a "glucose-fructose" or a "cooking molasses" to be found! Let me review the list of ingredients...ahem... 
  • Organic honey
  • water
  • organic tomato paste
  • organic vinegar
  • salt
  • organic cornstarch
  • liquid smoke
  • organic garlic powder
  • organic onion powder
  • natural colour
  • organic spice
  • xanthan
 Ta daaaaa!!! Kids like something sweet to dip in, and this is a great choice. It's still high in naturally occurring sugars, but if putting a TB on their plates means they'll eat a big healthy meal, I say RAVE ON. Plus I just feel good about this stuff. Best part? Made in Canada. :)

 My local grocery store carries both the BBQ sauce and the straight-up honey, but Honey Bunny also makes ketchup and other wonderful products. I am going to hunt some down because I'd much rather the kids eat ketchup made with honey than made with glucose-fructose syrup and other processed nastiness. In addition, Honey Bunny clearly states that their sauces are all gluten free!

So enjoy a little healthy dose of sweet goodness in your life. Marinate a nice organic chicken breast in this while you're at work then slap it on the BBQ for a little sweet. If you're into the sweet/heat combo, you might also sprinkle some cayenne pepper on top before grilling. MMMMmmmmm

Happy eating!


Arugula salad

Monday, March 22, 2010

Um, I heart arugula. Did I mention that? At least a dozen times I'm sure. Here's a little pic of tonight's dinner:
Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about!!! here's how I made it:
  1. Take a plate (yes, I'm getting pretty graphic here)
  2. Scoop out some pre-washed organic arugula onto a plate
  3. Add sliced cucumber and tomatoes
  4. tear up some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle all over
  5. Cut up 1/2 an avocado and let it tumble all over your you salivate
  6. Sprinkle the whole shmozzle with hemp seeds and shredded flax seeds
  7. drizzle with your favourite dressing (I used 1:3 ratio of balsamic to olive oil, with a generous SPLOOSH of dijon mustard)
Now close your eyes and enjoy a private slice of paradise....mmmmmm

I'd also like to add that I had some steamed broccoli and a handful of oven fries that my kids were eating...cuz you know- you can't eat ALL good...  ;)
I topped it off with a few bites of 85% dark chocolate. Heaven.

Gluten-free beer review—La Messagère, and New Grist

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In my heart, I am a tried and true "beer girl". I was never a "fruity drink" girl, though I did sample some on occasion, I always preferred beer. Good, old-fashioned, cold bubbly beer - just the smell of it now brings me back to patio season in the sun, paired with nachos and hamburgers. Oh, good times. :)

Unfortunately, when gluten is no longer a part of your diet, the glorious beer you once guzzled also falls away. Oh the horror... Ever since then, I've been searching for a replacement.  Last summer was actually the first time I ever learned to love red wine, so that has been supplementing, but really, nothing does it like beer.

A month or two after I dropped gluten, a friend recommended La Messagère which is produced by a small brewery in Québec called Les bières de la Nouvelle-France (the beers of new france). I was totally stoked to try it. Brought some up to the cottage (perfect beer-drinking environment) and cracked a cold one, only to discover it had a great first taste, but it rapidly deteriorated into a terrible all-around-the-mouth, syrupy sweet slimey feeling. Sigh. I tried...really I did; I even opened a few at different times hoping I would suddenly like it. No dice.

A friend recently told me that there was another kind- available at a liquor store I don't usually frequent- called New Grist. I was renewed! I had hope! Perhaps I would finally be able to enjoy beer again. I drove to that little-known liquor store, and I felt the clouds part and the heavens shine down on me as the store clerk showed me where I could find it. I even explained to the cashier that I was thrilled to finally have been in over a year. Um, she didn't care. I digress.

I brought it home and lovingly placed it in the freezer to chill- rapid-fire. Once the children were nestled all snug in their beds, I thought perhaps it wasn't cold enough yet, but I cracked it anyway because I just couldn't wait. You see, New Grist (unlike La Messagère) had only grains (buckwheat, hops and rice). No glucose syrop or whatever else gave me pause when I bought La Messagère...Oh, right- back to the big finale: let's just say there were no fireworks. The taste was flat. There wasn't even a hint of beer taste- sorry. And once I had sipped, I felt the beer in my mouth. Like the inside of my mouth had been spray-coated with something. Sigh. So overall, very disappointing. Despite really REALLY trying to like it, I couldn't even finish one. I actually felt nauseated afterwards. What a crushing victory for the wheat gods.

I suppose I'm destined to keep refining my palate for red wines and to crack a nice Strongbow cider if I'm looking for a cold beer-substitute. Could be worse- I could be ridiculously ill. Counting my blessings. :)

Anyone have any other gluten-free beers they might recommend?

I love arugula!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010 —when you get there, change the serving size to one ounce (28 grams) in the pull down menu at the top of the page.

Check out a little information on my favourite green- arugula. In 28oz, which is about 1.5 cups, (about enough to fill a plate as a base for a salad), you get the following:
"This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese."

Brilliant. And guess how many calories you have to give up to get all that? SEVEN. That's right- seven. It tastes brilliantly: peppery and nutty—gorgeous—with a slight bitter aftertaste. It totally KICKS iceberg lettuce's butt in the nutrient department, and as long as you're careful what goes on it, you can eat it to your heart's content.
This is yet another way you can eat lower-calorie, highly-nutrient-dense foods. I had a salad for snack this afternoon with a plate of mixed organic greens (including arugula of course), 1/2 an avocado, and a drizzle of a quick dressing I made (1:3 ratio of balsamic to olive oil, with a heaping spoonfull of dijon mustard- MMMMMM).
Divine. What's your favourite green?

Fajita night at our house!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Recognize this??? this is what I used to use for fajita seasoning. I had actually assumed it had gluten in it, which is why I had stopped buying it. NOW, I realise that in fact, it does not appear to have gluten, but do you see the nastiness?
Yet another example of not really looking at the label. Here's how I made gorgeous, beautiful fajitas the other night:

One pan for the veggies (green, yellow and red peppers, and onion), one bowl for the chicken.

In each, zest first, then juice one lime. Then add ground cumin and coriander seed, chili pepper, salt and pepper. I wish I had amounts for you, but I really just sprinkle it all over. Let the chicken and veggies marinate while you put the children to BED and look forward to a spicy fajita night with your husband. :)

I put a bit of coconut oil in the bottom of the pan (best oil for high-heat cooking) and set both the chicken and the veggies on medium. If you don't watch it, the pans will blacken (I think that's the sugar caramelizing from the lime juice) but the black part actually tastes kind of good. So once the veg are cooked to the right firmness and the chicken is cooked through, try cranking the heat (while DILIGENTLY watching) and letting them blacken a bit. YUUUUMMMMM....

I threw a bunch of it onto a brown rice tortilla with some fresh salsa made in the grocery store that has - wait for it- tomatoes, onions, herbs, etc. No sugar, and 100% awesome. :) I did miss the shredded cheese and sour cream, but I made up for it by slathering it in avocado slices. Pure heaven.

I hope you enjoy your own fajita night. MMMMMmmm mmmm good. :)


Travelling and food allergies

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When I am at home, or in a range of restaurants that are known to me, my various food restrictions don't cause me too much of a problem. I can't say Mr. Pick-it-up is happy about our small circle of available options for dinners we can both eat, but mostly he is the most patient and loving man in the universe and puts up with me and my "business". Case in point: said most-patient-and-loving man surprised me this weekend with a trip away. He told me on Thursday we were leaving Friday, but he kept the location a surprise. He'd already taken care of the kids, and got us all organized for a little mom-and-dad-only getaway. WOO!

So, my first thought: I can't believe you were able to keep a secret from me, because you never can. Second thought was: this is probably going to be a great weekend. Third thought: what am I going to do about food and will they have a Starbucks nearby?

This is the thing about food allergies/intolerances: when you can control everything, you're fine, but when you have to depend on others to provide food for you in a small range of options, it is nothing short of terrifying. So, remember that this is what I'm dealing with right now:
1) chicken and fish only (haven't eaten red meat since I was 15 or so)
2) absolutely no gluten-containing foods, or potential for cross-contamination; and
3) easy on the eggs, dairy and soy.

So, yeah. It sucks. Obviously when I am buying food in the best of circumstances, I have a greater desire for healthy options with no strange chemicals, organic if possible, etc., but when eating out, I am realistic and drop those for something...ANYTHING I can actually eat that won't make me sick.

The region we went to was about 2hrs away from home, and it is a more mountainous area that is heavily into wild game, and lots of red meat. As we strolled along the main drag while my husband waited for me to find a place for dinner that I could eat at (he litterally said "you know me, I don't care where we eat as long as you are happy"- yes, those words exactly to his wife who loves him to pieces) every menu had a myriad of dishes created from the following: veal, lamb, elk, seafood. You wouldn't believe me I'm sure, but I swear hardly anyone had a simple chicken dish! But of course, what I used to be able to do, which was to rely on a veggie pasta dish or pizza or chicken sandwich, I can no longer do. Sigh. Wheat is my kryptonite and it is blessed EVERYWHERE. So what does Miss Dropsie eat in that scenario? I'll give you a run-down.

Friday dinner: Table d'hôte included four courses- soup, then starter, then entrée then dessert. Okay, so soup? No, can't eat that. Menu included a smoked salmon salad for starter, and salmon for a meal. I had one choice either way that might work. I spoke to the waiter, (keep in mind this was a pretty expensive restaurant) who fixed me up a salad first instead of the soup, then got me the smoked salmon dish, then had the chef cook up a chicken breast for me (despite not being on the menu, they had some for a private function) that he served with basically steamed veggies and a few boiled potatoes. It was very bland, but okay. The waiter got the chef to make me a fruit cup for dessert (which as I mentioned previously, is a big no-no which causes very poor digestion, but he was so chuffed I couldn't say no).  3.5/5

Saturday breakfast: buffet breakfast at the hotel. Big buffet of fruit- ate lots. Big buffet of pastries, breads, meats, pancakes, etc. - had one small scoop of scrambled eggs (despite trying to avoid them, I was kind of desperate) and a few pieces of cheese. 3/5

Saturday lunch: went to a chain restaurant because I knew there were a few dishes I could eat. Tragically sad, in this beautiful region to eat at a chain restaurant, I know. Had? You guessed it: omlette with cheese and fruit. Eggs are the order of the day. 4/5

Saturday dinner: GORGEOUS 5* restaurant. Avocado and asparagus salad as a starter, then a BEAUTIFUL cedar-planked salmon (plank still kinda steaming- like having a campfire in my plate) with a side of phenomenal cooked spinach, and more asparagus. Didn't care about the duplication. RIDICULOUSLY good. 10/5 (seriously)

Sunday breakfast: I hate breakfasts out. Faced with once again, a veggie/cheese omlette. No potatoes, because it's a shared deep fryer with other bready things. Tomato slices. Filled the hole, but had virtually no taste. 3.5/5

Number of good coffees? 3. Where were they obtained? From the espresso-pod gadget in our room. With some coconut sugar and no cream even, they were amazing. Every other coffee I drank was terrible...weak. Region does not know a good strong cup of coffee. Even went to a place where coffee was roasted, and bought a coffee and a bar of in-house-made chocolate. Both were average at best.

Overall feeling after being out of my element? Feeling pretty bloated, some pain, but not much. Hopefully it passes quickly once I get back into my routine.

Despite walking ALL DAY on Saturday, going through the tiny shops that lined the main road, my only purchase was two loaves of gluten free bread I have never seen here. Will update on how I like 'em. :)

Highlight of my ENTIRE weekend away? Hmm...perhaps the ginormous bath that could have been a swimming pool ranks high, but the best part was going into the hotel bar Saturday night, to find two "wedding singers" playing and taking themselves very seriously, amidst a sea of drunken travellers. It made for some insanely funny visuals (including a young guy from what looked like a bachelor's party inviting a blue-hair up for a dance...and getting turned down).


Oprah and organics

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oprah does it again!

I've said it before, and I’ll say it again: Oprah has the power of the magic springboard- to wax poetic about whatever she (or her team of highly-qualified minions) feels is important, and spread the message to the masses. For the sake of this blog post, I’m saying “she” though I’m quite conscious of the fact that it’s indeed that qualified team of experts that is providing the information. This week, her focus is on the documentary Food Inc., and on how to eat responsibly, organically, locally, and healthily.

In one particular article on her website entitled “Should you buy organic food”, she mentions a recent study that claims no nutrient benefit held by organic over non-organic produce. There is some debate as to the validity of that argument. For instance,

"…[o]rganics advocates called the UK review flawed and incomplete, and its authors biased. They contended that the study didn't include recent data showing that organic food delivers many advantages (less exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, for example), and that the concluding statement buried any pro-organic news the researchers did find (like the fact that organic produce contains more of certain beneficial minerals). They claimed that some of the studies included in the review were poorly designed, others seriously outdated. "These findings are wrong," Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic organization, says flatly. "Organic food is better for the planet, and it's better for you."

More arguments can be found here.

Regardless, the article goes on to point out that for most organic produce buyers, it’s not about what’s IN organic produce that makes them commit those extra dollars to the cause, but rather what is NOT in it. Libba Letton, the spokesperson for Whole Foods Market, goes on to say the following:

"What's not in organic food, … are the synthetic pesticides and herbicides used in the process of growing conventional produce. Organic farming relies on crop rotation, green-friendly manure and biological pest control. Rosenthal says the Food Standards Agency study that claims there's no nutritional benefit says nothing about how many potential toxic chemicals are in nonorganic food.

Letton points out that Whole Foods customers are not only buying organics to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals, but are also touting the benefits to the environment that come from supporting organic farming. "With organic food production, there isn't anything that goes into the soil or contaminates water supply during the growing process," she says. "Organic farming also is better for the workers by not exposing them to chemicals in the fields."

Another article entitled “Is Organic Worth the Price”, talks about the actual standards of organic foods. What does it mean to be deemed “organic” by the USDA? Let’s see…

"Crops bearing the USDA organic seal of approval are raised without synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge (semisolid leftovers from wastewater plants used as fertilizer). Organic animals consume organic feed and must have access to the outdoors. They are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. The organic label also means your food was not genetically engineered or treated with radiation to prolong shelf life."

MMMMmmmm sewage sludge. I’d like a big helping of THAT please!!!

So what about the cost? How can you stomach the extra money you’ll need to make the switch?

When it comes to produce, some foods more readily absorb toxic chemicals than others. Here is a handy chart that compares the toxicity, and may help you decide where to spend your precious dollars. Certain foods like peaches- right at the top of the list- are the most pesticide-ridden and would be the ideal item to spend the few extra dollars on. In contrast, you may choose to skip organic onions, as they are much less likely to be contaminated by common farming practices.

Something else to keep in mind is that all produce (organic or non-organic) is much less expensive when it is in season. There will be a lot of local farmers growing organic produce that you can buy for much less money than if you try and buy imported organic food that is not in season. Have you SEEN the price of gas lately? Shipping 'aint cheap. So try new foods that are in season - even if you're not sure what to do with them. When we order a basket from our local organic delivery service, it often comes with weird things I'd never buy at the store. So I do what I always do- I go to and figure out what the heck to do with it!

I would like to reiterate, that small concessions add up to a big change in your health. Can’t afford (or stomach!) going organic all at once? That’s totally fine, and totally normal. Pick the things that are the most contaminated like peaches, apples and strawberries. Once you have a weee peek at Food Inc., you’ll likely choose to spend a few extra bucks on your meat too. Personally, if I know a chicken has been raised with access to outside (free run), on a FARM (a real one…I know, what a concept) and without the use of antibiotics, I’m a happy lady. The organic label is a bonus.

So there you have it. I hope you’ve found some of this helpful, and thanks again Oprah for being the big voice for us modest folks. What do YOU think? Do you have anything to add?

Quinoa Burgers

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 I wish I'd taken a pic of dinner last night. Here's the run-down on quinoa burgers:

1/2 c quinoa
3/4 c broth or water
Soak quinoa in wire strainer dipped in water to remove bitter outer layer while heating broth/water to a boil. Add quinoa to the pot and simmer on low, covered, for approx. 12 minutes till liquid is absorbed.

Toast 1 slice gluten-free (or your choice) bread
Grind in "chopper"/food processor till crumby, set aside.

In the emptied chopper, grind the following till the texture of oatmeal:
large carrot & a small chunk of onion (green onions would have been awesome, but all I had were cooking onions) - you'll have to scrape down the sides a few times to get that fully ground up into tiny pieces
Then add:
14oz of beans (I used most of a can of fava beans- rinsed)
1 tsp cumin
1 egg (I used 1 TB of ground chia seeds soaked in 3 TB water...but it didn't "bind" well. I may try flax the next time)
zest from 1 lime

In a bowl, combine chopper contents, breadcrumbs from earlier, and cooked quinoa. At this point I put it in the freezer for a few minutes while I heated a pan with a little oil. I then blobbed out five "burgers" (wet hands helps it not to stick to you), and cooked about 10 min per side on medium. I also added some Montreal Steak spice at this point. Not the healthiest option (and potential gluten contamination in the factory) but HELLO- yummy.

I then warmed up a brown-rice-flour tortilla, plopped in one of the burgers, smothered it in grainy mustard, and then added some tomato and avocado slices. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? It was brilliant.

Give 'er a whirl. YUM.

When I eat junk...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Okay. I have said this before, I'll say it again: sometimes, I eat junk food. Sometimes (particularly when avoiding an unpleasant task) I eat LOTS. Here are some of my favourites:

CHOCOLATE. Num. Thing is, in addition to becoming a ridiculous coffee snob (MASSIVELY dark roast only, 18% cream - my only source of dairy- and honey- three swirls around the cup) I am a total chocolate snob. I no longer have any love for the vending machine fare. I must have DARK, between 70-85% cocoa, and my favourite is called Zing by Zazubean. Oh...MY...WORD. It is so good, it's sinful. It's also over 4$ a bar, but unlike the vending machine chocolate, this is one I savour in 3-4 servings. I have never eaten this kind of bar all in one sitting. Mainly because you don't need to- it's SO dark and rich, you just need a piece..mmmmmm. So Zing has espresso chunks, and 70% dark chocolate. The "zing" part comes from the espresso of course, but also from astragalus, ginseng and maca. That is my ultimate weakness. I also like Green & Black's bars too. YUM.

So, when I have a SALT craving, here it is: plain Ruffles chips and jalapeno hummus. To...die...for. Okay, chips—totally not a good choice, but they do only have a handful of ingredients, all of which I recognize and can buy myself in any store, and at least the hummus has protein, fibre, and even iron. Is it the best source? Nope. Does it taste totally freakin' good on occasion? Yup.

Just wanted to share my weaknesses as I know we all have them. I never pretend that I don't sometimes indulge in food that is NOT the best choice. But you know, it's all about balance. Take the bad and drown it in the good. I had chocolate today, and sweet potato chips (yum) but I also had two salads, a bowl of fruit, a bowl of veggies and a quinoa burger on a rice tortilla. All in all, a successful day.

Celebrate your successes today. If you figure you missed the boat, don't be too hard on yourself. Tomorrow, drown the junk in good stuff—you'll be glad you did. :)

More on hydrolyzed protein, and on the need to read—and understand—labels

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More from our friends at

"Hydrolyzed protein

Hydrolyzed Protein is protein that has been hydrolyzed or broken down into its component amino acids. While there are many means of achieving this, two of the most common are prolonged boiling in a strong acid (acid-HVP) or strong base or using an enzyme such as the pancreatic protease enzyme to stimulate the naturally-occurring hydrolytic process.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hydrolyzed protein is used to enhance flavor. The chemical breakdown of proteins may result in the formation of free glutamate that joins with free sodium to form monosodium glutamate (MSG). When added this way, the labels are not required to list MSG as an ingredient.[1] ."

Brilliant!! It's a way to sneak ingredients into your food, without the need to actually LIST them as something harmful. Wow, that is awe-inspiring. I mostly think there's nothing in the world of "industrialized" food that can shock me these days, but I'm almost speechless...almost. :)

I wanted to show you a few pictures of a soy sauce marketed in commercials with lovely families and whatnot. You recognize this? VH soy sauce...come on, we've all seen it, heck, I bought it (and have since drained and recycled it).

So yes, you've seen it, likely bought it, etc. It's been in my fridge a while, but this is a clear case of taking your new "investigative" eyes, and looking at labels of things you consistently buy and trust. Allow me...

Yum. Don't you just want to tuck into that? Water, salt, caramel (which is made by "heating a variety of sugars"), then hydrolyzed soy protein—that lovely chemical that then BINDS with the salt to produce MSG (GENIOUS!!!! SO SNEAKY!!!) then corn syrup and glucose-fructose (two more sugars!!!) and my personal favourite, sodium benzoate. Awesomeness.

Now, for just a minute, I want to go back to why I buy organic. There are SO many reasons, but one more to add to the list, is that producers of organic food are in a niche market. They are appealing to people who care about the ingredients in their food. People who have a little more money to spend (or simply choose to devote more of their resources to good nutrition), granted, but those that have decided that they don't want to pass over the ingredient list, ignoring the things they don't understand, so that they can obtain a cheap and yummy product.

Now let's move to the organic, gluten free version I started buying a while ago.

Now taste-wise, this is okay. It doesn't have that syropy sweetness we're all used to, but it's good. Please have a look at the ingredient list...

Four things. Water, organic soybeans, salt, organic alcohol (for the fermentation process I guess). I'm sure you also notice the warning about wheat among other things. They are required to label a product that is made in the same factory as allergens, even if they're not made on the same line. This product is certified gluten free.

This is a huge lesson to me to stop ignoring the items on the label, and to look back at the items I've bought and trusted all this time. Join might just be as surprised as I am! Email me if you find anything shocking. I'd love to hear from you! missdropsie at hotmail dot com.


Food recalls

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I truly believe that as we industrialize the production of food, you will see an increasing number of food recalls. A massive recall of "snack foods" is expected because an ingredient produced by a Las Vegas company may contain salmonella. That ingredient is called hydrolized vegetable protein or HVP.  Let's take a moment to examine what the heck that is (for those who care, it definitely falls into the category of "if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, you may choose not to eat it").

Let's have a week peek at what Wikipedia says about HVP:

"Acid-hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP,[1] is produced by boiling cereals or legumes, such as soy, corn, or wheat, in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The acid hydrolyzes, or breaks down, the protein in vegetables into their component amino acids. The resulting dark coloured liquid contains, among other amino acids, glutamic acid, which consumers are more familiar with in the form of its sodium salt, monosodium glutamate, or MSG. It is used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods."

Huh. This would really be a case of not knowing what is in our foods, huh? I had no idea that MSG could sneak into my foods in the form of hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Sound innocuous enough, no? If I were scanning over a list of ingredients and saw that, I'd think "well, vegetable, protein, must be okay".

Wiki also says:
"Because of the high levels of MSG in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, people sensitive to MSG should avoid hydrolyzed vegetable protein.[2]

In the case of soy sauce, a residual of the soy protein hydrolyzation process creates the carcinogen 3-MCPD."

Nice. REEEEALLY great. MMMMmmmmm carcinogen (à la Homer Simpson). This is what happens when we are so removed from the source of our food, that we turn a blind eye to how it was created, what went into it, and what we are doing to ourselves by eating it.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: read the ingredients. If there's something on there that you don't recognize, or that a grade-three student couldn't pronounce, don't eat it. It's not worth it.

Allergy test results

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Okay folks! So, the verdict is in- here is the summary from my allergy tests...

The biggest thing i'm reacting to is soy. :)  No surprise there, because I substitute soy for a lot of things. However, my dairy reactions are all low. There are two reasons for this: 1) I hardly ever eat dairy, so I'm not producing antibodies to it, and/or 2) my reaction to dairy is not allergic, but rather a lactose intolerance. So all in all, I am going to work dairy back in- just in cheese though. Obviously having soy cheese is not a good idea right now. I basically have to "give it a rest" on the soy.

The second-biggest thing I'm reacting to is egg. Yup. Egg white AND egg yolk. That's weird. I don't eat a ton of eggs, but the reaction is quite high.

Third-biggest thing I'm reacting to: Gluten. Yup. Now, keep in mind that I have not knowingly eaten gluten for the better part of a year. The test actually states that if you haven't eaten something for "several weeks" you may have no reaction to it. Well, the better part of a year later, with cross-contamination as the only possible source for gluten, and I am STILL reacting to gluten, rye and wheat. Wow! This is crazy.

Next on the list is oysters, which to the best of my knowledge, I've never eaten, so whoop dee do. Don't care.

There are a few other things I have a low reaction to, like almonds, peanuts, kidney beans. This would be the type of situation where I wouldn't eat all those things in the same day. Know what I mean?

I am going to follow up with the naturopath, and I'm going to take these results with me when I go see the gastroenterologist at the end of the month. Really nice to have one piece of the puzzle.

Haven't got "the boy's" yet...but his will be way more interesting because he hasn't avoided any food except straight milk. Funny though, since we've been back from my sister's, I haven't let him have any dairy and he has stopped complaining of stomach pains...except for the one day when he accidentally got a grilled cheese at school...

To be continued.

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