Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Other Side of Nutrition

Please watch this fascinating video from Nicholas D. Kristof who is traveling around West Africa these days trying to tell the world what is going on there.

I can't believe we live in a country where the nutrition problem deals with obesity and too much food whereas in Africa people have nothing, too little to eat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soda Tax (Again): Calories Kill People.

So much talk about the potential soda tax in the news and blogs today, mostly due to the most recent (and astute, concise, brilliant) article [that you must read immediately] in the New York Times by David Leonhardt, the crux of his article being this:

Soda consumption has changed — a lot. The typical person now consumes 190 calories a day from sugary drinks, up from 70 a day in the late 1970s. That 120-calorie increase represents about one-half of the total daily caloric increase during that span, C.D.C. data shows.

Of all foods and beverages, says Mr. Brownell, the obesity researcher, “the science is most robust and most convincing on the link between soft drinks and negative health outcomes.”

Just as important for the purposes of a soda tax, economic research has found that soda drinkers are price sensitive. In the past, when the price of soda has risen by 10 percent, consumption has dropped by an average of roughly 8 percent. This means a soda tax may not be quite as regressive as it sounds, because poor people would end up buying less soda than they now do.

Turn to Marion Nestle's blog where she points out the amazing graph that Leonhardt included in his article which shows that the cost of fruits and vegetables has risen in the last few years while cost of sugary beverages has gone down. I assume that consumption of fruits and vegetables has gone down while consumption of sugary beverages has gone up.

The question becomes this for debate, then: is it ok to tax soda? As Marc Bittman states on his blog, soda is an easy tax not just because it is unhealthy, but because it is 'intrinsicly unhealthy', meaning that it offers nothing but negative effects to not only the consumer/imbiber, but also the environment, much like cigarettes. Cigarettes kill people and cause deadly short-term and deadly long-term chronic diseases. Sodas cause obesity which put a huge strain on our healthcare system when it causes chronic, long-term care diseases such as diabetes. The money from the soda tax would go directly to funding the new administration's healthcare initiative, thus offsetting some of the expensive consequences of the problem with the problem itself. Moreover, as stated in yesterday's blog about people rethinking calorie count when it is displayed clearly in front of you, they rethink it just as much (if not more) when spending more money. Okay, blah blah blah, this is all probably intuitive and self-evident.

So, is it ok? On the one hand, I feel (like many taxes) this targets the middle and lower classes--not meaning that they necessarily consume much more soda, but that they feel the strain of extra pennies and dimes here and there much more than their upper-class counterparts. Why can't we just have much higher income taxes for those in the upper echelons and call it a day? Well, we know that's all unlikely and probably also a bit unfair.

At very base, however, I am in complete agreement with using taxes and other governmental means to help combat a very real, life-threatening, quality-of-life-demeaning problem that over half of this country suffers from: obesity. I also believe whole-heartedly that intense advertising by companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi send mixed messages to people (especially children) that influence their decisions. Now, it seems time to influence their decisions in a better direction. To combat this life-draining epidemic, we need to act soon and now before things become even more grave. Imagine the cost of healthcare that is needed for those millions of overweight and obese Americans that will suffer from walking problems, heart disease, lung disease, cancers, diabetes, respiratory failure, etc etc all from eating and drinking too many calories--eating those millions of calories because that is what they are told, day in and day out, to do by vicious corporations who send EAT MORE messages to up their profitiability. Finally, if the government is going to begin to generously (but deservedly) offer health insurance as part of a national policy and social welfare system, it is allowed to help in preventative ways. Now, let's hope they go beyond taxes to education programs and a new task force on the issue that tackles it with the money and force as these advertising departments do for huge calorie-pushing corporations.

Finally, click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pour le Diner Ce Soir

Just went to Whole Paycheck and picked up some items for dinner. I'm going to attempt to make this (hence the leeks sitting on my desk right now):

Anna Wintour Poo Poos Hefty Minnesotans!

In a recent interview the Vogue editor says, "I'd just been on a trip to Minnesota, where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as little houses."
Read the full article here (thanks, Jezebel!).

60%, yo!

I heard on NPR this morning that 60% of New Yorkers are overweight or obese. WOW! That is a lot. That is bad bad news. The good news is this: currently, in New York City there is a law that requires chain restaurants (those with more than 15 outlets city-wide) to prominently display calorie information on their menus and just today Governor Patterson announced that he will attempt to make this a state-wide law. It works, it really does. Read the full information about the law here.
Now, I rarely make a jaunty to Starbucks these days (really, I almost never do, because there is an amazing little coffee shop near my work called Blue Spoon), but it was in a total act of desperation I found myself there during work one day. I was starving and was just going to get a coffee and a cookie, but lo and behold I saw clearly before my eyes that an M&M cookie contains 450 calories. Insane! I opted out. I love this. They have it at McDonald's and everything. It's genius and I think it will make a huge difference--part of the problem with 'nutrition confusion' is hidden labeling. I don't commend all of the governor's choices, but this is grand.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

these are absolutely delicious

180 calories (but the good kind, I suppose)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

R.I.P. Robert B. Choate, Jr. - Food Lobbyist

From his obituary in the New York Times:

In hearings before a Senate subcommittee on consumers in July 1970, Mr. Choate, a self-described “citizen lobbyist,” testified that 40 of the 60 leading breakfast cereals were so low in nutritional content that they constituted “empty calories.” He displayed a detailed chart of the nutritional components of the 60 cereals to argue that many cereals were no healthier than candy bars or gin.

By the Way

Tarragon is so hot right now. Tarragon is the new black! We just picked up some tarragon mustard yesterday and I made pretty much the most amazing vinaigrette ever. My sister swears by tarragon vinegar. And here's a latest recipe from Marc Bittman that calls for tarragon (Aspargus with Morels and Tarragon).

Famous Ppl on Twitter, Facebook

I spend a bit too much time on Facebook and now I'm sort of on Twitter (though I have given up MySpace for good and let's not even talk about LinkedIn or Friendster--ollldddd skoool), but sometimes it's kind of great. For example, being friends with famous chefs on these networking sites often let's me know new recipes, ideas and when their cookbooks are coming out, etc. The best part about Twitter is that I get feeds from the New York Times, NPR, Downing Street, etc as well as from Whole Foods, The Organic Consumers Association and others. It's cool, I swear!

But I like to give awards. And, by far, the best (absolute best) Facebooker is Nicholas D. Kristof who updates daily with succint, poignant and telling snippets that keep one informed of happenings around the world that you may not otherwise be privvy to and that drive you to delve deeper on your own. Here are his last few updates:

Nicholas D. Kristof Visited a village with widespread trachoma, along with aid workers from Helen Keller International, which fights it. Trachoma causes blindness and terrible pain (the eyelashes scratch the eyeball), but it's very easily prevented with cheap antibiotics and face washing. I'm sure anybody who actually came and saw these kids going blind from trachoma would fervently want to help -- so that's my job, to spread the word.

Nicholas D. Kristof In Makeni, Sierra Leone, we met the usual sad procession of blind beggars, led by small children. But these were different. They got together and formed the "Blind Beggars Association" to lobby for a school for their children (who now don't go to school). They meet weekly and pay dues to use in an emergency. It's a lovely grassroots empowerment effort, and it's one more reason I'm hopeful. Wow!

Nicholas D. Kristof One reason for malnutrition here in Africa has to do with something surprising: mothers not knowing how to breastfeed properly. You'd think that after a few hundred thousand years, we humans would figure that part out. But moms delay feeding after birth, then give babies water, which horrifies nutrition experts. Now there's a big push for exclusive breast feeding for the first six months, and it may save many lives.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The More Educated You Are, the Healthier You Are, New Study Finds

Just came across an article about this. Basically, a new study out of Washington University finds that the more educated you are, the healthier your food choices are. This also means, however, that you spend more (and have more to spend) on food. Also, the more years of education you have, the more nutritional value of the food you eat (generally speaking). From the article which can be found here:

"Nutritional epidemiology has historically been based on the premise that nutrient exposures are directly linked to health outcomes. However, nutritional status is also intimately linked to socioeconomic status, and the findings reported here raise the possibility that the higher monetary cost of nutritious diets may provide one explanation for these observations. Future studies, based on more representative samples, will be needed to elucidate the connections between diet quality and diet cost across socioeconomic strata," the authors of the study wrote.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

apartment story - the national

Be still for a second while I try and try to pin your flowers on
Can you carry my drink I have everything else
I can tie my tie all by myself
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Oh we’re so disarming darling, everything we did believe
is diving diving diving diving off the balcony
Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave

Hold ourselves together with our arms around the stereo for hours
While it sings to itself or whatever it does
when it sings to itself of its long lost loves
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave
but I’ll be with you behind the couch when they come
on a different day just like this one

We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days
We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz

so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume

stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz

so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume on

Monday, May 4, 2009


Finals this week, so probably no blogging. I'll leave you with this topical piece from my favorite e-card website:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bahn Mi Map

In the New York Times, in case you missed it, all the best bahn mi joints in the city. So freaking awesome. Click here.

from NYMag.com

Public’s Demand for Bacon Vodka Will Soon Be Satisfied

Used to be that to experience bacon vodka, you’d have to persevere endless rounds of punk rock at Double Down (we’ll never forget the night the bottle ran out and we got to suck on the bacon — way nastier than a mescal worm). But now you can sip the stuff in your own home, to the dulcet sounds of Ella Fitzgerald. A Seattle company, Black Rock Spirits, has finally concluded two years of recipe testing based on the concept of “meat and potatoes” (bacon and Idaho russets, that is), and they’ve officially launched Bakon Vodka: “Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.” As of now, the liquid pork is only available in Northwestern states, but rest assured, the makers are working on wider distribution, meaning New Yorkers will eventually be able to experience Primus’s concept of “pork soda” (bacon vodka and Coke?). Check out If It’s Hip It’s Here’s list of other recently launched brands, including something that’s truly gross: Ed Hardy vodka.