Simple Kitchen Gadgets Key to Healthier Cooking

EQUIP YOUR KITCHEN WITH THESE INEXPENSIVE COOKING GADGETS TO MAKE HEALTHIER MEALS A BREEZE

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

There are a few cooking gadgets in my kitchen I cannot live without. They make healthier cooking easier, faster, and in some cases, safer. And best of all, they are low in cost. Stocking your kitchen with these handy gadgets and small appliances – and learning how to use them – is a great way to improve the quality of your diet without having to go to cooking school!

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Cooking Gadgets – Meat Thermometer: Animal protein is the most costly thing on your shopping list, so don’t take any chances ruining your steaks, chops, burgers, and roasts by over or under cooking. Plus these meats carry the risk of food poisoning if not cooked to the proper temperature, so take the time to check the temperature to get it right every time.

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Cooking Gadgets – Condiment Squeeze Bottles: You can find these during barbecue season or clean and refill the plastic squeeze bottles many condiments come in. They make portion control easier, save time since you don’t have to dirty a knife to use them and are more sanitary since utensils aren’t being dipped into them. I use mine to hold my “flavored” mayonnaise collection, including horseradish and wasabi mayonnaise, and have one for sour cream.

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Cooking Gadgets – Rotary Cheese Grater: Nothing can replace of the taste and aroma of freshly grated aged cheese, and fortunately, a little bit goes a long way. By cutting the cheese into one ounce chunks you can grate it as needed and keep the quantity you use under control.

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Cooking Gadgets – Food Processor: I consider this appliance my personal “prep cook.” It makes crumbs out of stale bread, shreds cabbage, chops nuts, dices mushrooms, blends pastry dough and so much more. Best of all, the time I save chopping far exceeds the time it takes to clean it.

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Cooking Gadgets – Olive Oil Sprayer: Even though olive oil counts as one of the “healthy fats,” we still have to control the amount we use. By spraying it on food or pans you can get the benefits without having to worry about over pouring.

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Cooking Gadgets – Pepper Mills: The key to using less salt in your food is to punch up the flavor with fresh ingredients and pungent seasoning. Nothing does that better than a pepper mill. But don’t stop with just one. Keep one for black pepper, one for green and one for assorted peppers.

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Cooking Gadgets – Pressure Cooker: Healthy foods don’t necessarily cost more, but they do take more time to cook. You can reduce your time in the kitchen and still have great food by overcoming your fear of pressure cooking. This appliance produces fast and predictable results when making dried beans, barley, brown rice, whole chicken, soups, stews and many other dishes that typically take several hours.

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Cooking Gadgets – Citrus Juicer: When a recipe calls for the juice of a lemon or lime, nothing beats the flavor of fresh. If you don’t always have fresh citrus on hand, buy it when it’s on sale, cut in half and freeze, then just remove and “twist” out the juice when needed.

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Cooking Gadgets – Immersion Blender: This easy to clean and store gadget can go from making a smoothie to pureeing soup to mashing potatoes. I love the fact it goes into the pot or bowl rather than having to transfer food into a blender. Best suited for those small quantities you want to whip uop fast.

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Cooking Gadgets – Electric Kettle: As a tea drinker, this kettle is in demand in my kitchen all day. But it’s not just for tea. You can boil a quart of water faster here than in a pot on the stove top or in the microwave. I use any leftover water in the kettle to sterilize the kitchen sponge and sink drains.

Learn new ways to prepare favorite foods without gluten and sugar

Gluten Free and Lower Sugar Baking Tips

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Would it still be a Caesar salad without the garlic croutons, or still be a strawberry shortcake without the buttermilk biscuit? If you have been diagnosed as being sensitive to gluten, you are likely to face many recipe challenges. And the task is even harder if you want to lower your added sugar intake, too. But just like learning to make new recipes using ingredients and preparation methods that you haven’t tried before takes practice, you can master the art of gluten free and lower-added sugar cooking and baking to keep your meals real.

Wheat Functions & Features

The main value of the gluten in wheat flour, besides being a source of protein, is that it stretches when heated so dough and batters can rise to make light, airy breads, cakes and pastry. Higher protein wheat flour is typically used in yeast breads to give them structure, while lower protein flour, such as cake flour, provides a more tender crumb and texture for cakes and pastry. Without gluten, you’ll need other ways to get volume in your baked goods and create the desired texture.

Flavor is also provided by the type of flour used in a recipe, so when making substitutions for wheat flour you must consider how this will affect the taste of the finished product.

For best results when doing your gluten free cooking and baking, keep these Wheat Substitution Tips in mind.

Wheat Substitution Tips

  1. Follow measuring instructions carefully, such as to sift before measuring
  2. Use a combination of flour substitutes or a ready-made mix to get the benefits of several different ingredients
  3. Trust the recipe; it will have different ratios of liquid and dry ingredients than wheat-based recipes, and more leavening
  4. Don’t measure other ingredients over your mixing bowl, especially leavening, since spillage can affect results
  5. Mix for the time suggested and at the right speed; under or over mixing can affect results
  6. Avoid over filling the pan so batter can rise evenly and won’t collapse before fully baked
  7. Bake in the right type of pan (metal or glass) of the recommended size and at the right temperature
  8. Use a digital or “instant read” thermometer to check the internal temperature of breads to avoid over-baking
  9. Stock your pantry with gluten-free baking products, such as xanthan gum and guar gum, to get volume, and dough enhancers to help prevent items from going stale quickly
  10. You’ll be happy to know that SPLENDA® Sweetener Products have no gluten-containing ingredients.

Sugar Functions & Features

Granulated white sugar, powdered confectioner’s sugar and brown sugar are the sweeteners of choice in most recipes for desserts, candies, jellies and preserves, but they do much more than just sweeten the recipe.

Sugar also provides color, flavor, volume, texture, consistency and/or structure, depending on the recipe you’re making, so when it’s not used other steps must be taken to produce the desired results. You can get some tips on what to do in my blog “Cooking & Baking With Low Calorie Sweeteners” or one from Sue Taylor on “Baking with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products.”

Another great way to sweeten a dish is to substitute a fruit puree (such as unsweetened apple sauce) for some of the oil or other liquids called for. This may require making adjustments in the dry ingredients, too, but the benefits are worth it. You can also add dried fruit bits to enhance the sweetness or a little more of the spice(s) called for, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, or a dash more vanilla or other flavored extract.

Bonus Tip: If you have some failures in your early attempts at making gluten-free and/or lower-sugar recipes, put them in the food processor and turn them into sweet and savory “crumbs” to use as coatings, toppings and extenders for other dishes.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

replacing sugar with low calorie sweeteners, like Splenda, can help control weight

How Small Swaps, Choosing Foods with Less Added Sugar, Can Have Lifelong Benefits

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living and published on April 1, 2014. You can read the original blog here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA®Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

The history of weight loss is filled with outlandish diets and bizarre gimmicks that promise to “melt fat away” while you sleep. If only that were possible! But as I like to remind my clients, if any one of those crazy schemes really worked, there would be no need for the next one. Yet quicker than you can say chocolate cream pie, another miracle diet comes along filling people with hope that it might be the one to do the trick for them.

While there is no magic bullet that can produce instant weight loss, there is a way to reach your goal weight without one. Just live each day as if you’re already there. This approach really makes sense since even if you could miraculously wake up at your goal weight, you’d still need a plan to help you maintain it.

By doing the things now that you would do if you had already reached your goal, you can make steady progress towards a lower weight while reinforcing the behaviors that will help you stay there once you get there.

Trading in Old Habits for New

A healthy lifestyle is created by reinforcing a series of good habits to govern our food choices, activity level, sleep routine and other personal care. Once we have the right habits in place we no longer have to think about making the right choices, they just happen automatically.

By taking a closer look at our food habits we can find ways to reduce our caloric intake without resorting to extreme diets. For example, most of us don’t have to think about how we like our coffee or what dressing we want on our salad. Those “decisions” have become automatic over time.

If we substitute a packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in our coffee to replace two teaspoons of sugar we can eliminate 28 calories per cup. For someone who drinks 3 cups of coffee a day that will add up to a potential savings of 84 calories! And just by using two tablespoons of fat-free ranch dressing in our salad instead of regular creamy ranch we can remove another 100 calories easily.

Here are 7 Simple Swaps with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener or sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweetener Products) that can save you even more calories without giving up the good taste of the foods and drinks you love. The trick is to make it a habit to choose the lower calorie or sugar-free option as part your healthy lifestyle.

 

7 Simple Calorie-Saving (and Sugar Reducing) Swaps


Note: Calorie savings are approximate, based on standard serving sizes and an average of similar products. In some cases they are not only the result of the sucralose substitution for sugar (sucralose is the sweetening ingredient found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products); other ingredients may provide calorie savings as well.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

When low calorie sweeteners are used in cooking and baking other adjustments may be needed in recipes.

Cooking & Baking with Low Calorie Sweeteners

This blog was written as a guest post for SPLENDA LIVING™ site. You can access the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

If, like me, you enjoy cooking and baking, then you know there are many ways to sweeten a recipe. Some popular caloric sweeteners I always have on hand include granulated sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup. Even if you don’t spend much time in front of the mixing bowls, you’re probably familiar with these ingredients. They don’t all look the same, come from the same source or produce the same results when incorporated into a recipe, but they all taste sweet.

The same can be said for low calorie sweeteners. Each one is a different product from a different source with different applications, but they all taste sweet.

Understanding the unique features of low calorie sweeteners is the best way to let them fill the sweet spot in your diet.

Matching Sweetness to Sugar

An important difference between caloric and low cal sweeteners is how much is needed to reach a desired level of sweetness. Due to the intense sweetening power of no cal sweeteners over that of sugar, only a very small amount of them is needed to match the sweetness of sugar. For example, the sucralose in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products is 600 times sweeter than sucrose.

What some people may not realize when using tabletop low calorie sweeteners is that many, on a per packet basis, have the equivalent sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar, as SPLENDA® Sweetener does. In comparison a packet of sugar contains slightly less than a teaspoon. And since low cal sweeteners dissolve so quickly, your drink may seem sweeter than expected compared to using sugar.

Low Calorie Sweeteners in the Kitchen

Your recipes may require some adjustments. Low cal sweeteners do not provide all of the functionality of sugar in cooking and baking. Since sugar can do more than just sweeten, other adjustments may be needed to replace the other functions sugar performs, such as browning and adding volume and moistness.

My personal preference is to save the trial and error that occurs when I do the experimenting myself, and use the recipes that have been developed in the test kitchens for my favorite sweetener. I have had great success with those from SPLENDA® Sweetener, whether cooking for holidays or everyday meals.

Packets versus Bulk Form

If you want to use packets to replace the sugar in a recipe, you must calculate how many to use by counting each packet as 2 teaspoons of sugar sweetness. Some people may prefer to use products developed for cooking and baking, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated, which can replace the sugar called for in your recipes cup-for-cup. Other options are SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, both great for baking since they contain some sugar and can provide the volume, texture, moistness and browning with only half the calories.

All SPLENDA® Sweetener Recipes from the SPLENDA® Sweetener kitchen have been developed and tested to make sure each one is a sweet success, when prepared as directed. If you don’t find a recipe you’re looking for in their library, read and follow the easy guidelines listed below (under “More Info”) before you begin adapting your own recipes. And please share your sweet successes here at SplendaLiving.com or on the SPLENDA® Facebook page!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating again.

 

Older man in a kitchen wearing an apron and cooking at stove

Father’s Day Gift Idea: Help Him Learn to Cook

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

ANYONE CAN LEARN TO COOK WITH SOME BASIC COOKING LESSONS AND SIMPLE COOKING TIPS

I grew up in a household with very a clear division of labor when it came to the household chores done by my parents. My mother did everything inside of the house and my father did everything outside.

The kitchen and all of the food that passed through it was my mother’s domain.

If my dad was home when my mom returned from the grocery store he would help carry the bags from the trunk of the car into the kitchen, but that’s as close as he ever came to putting a meal on the table.

I never saw him cook anything. On a few occasions I believe he made himself a sandwich.

Then after 52 years of marriage and eating the three meals a day my mother prepared for him, she died suddenly. How was my dad ever going to able to fend for himself in the kitchen?

If this sounds familiar, or possible, in your world, I’ve got a great Father’s Day gift idea for you. Teach your dad (husband, boyfriend, son) to cook. In fact, everyone you care about should learn to cook.

Here’s how I taught my dad to cook.

Cooking Tips For All First-Time Cooks

My dad’s cooking lessons did not begin with a cutting board and knife. They began with a pad and pencil.

Cooking requires planning.

Even though there was plenty of food in the house when my mother died, my father had no idea what was on hand or what to do with all those random ingredients in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. To figure it out and provide a template for his future food shopping trips, I divided a piece of paper into six sections and headed them according to the basic food groups:

  • Meats/Poultry/Fish
  • Milk/Dairy
  • Fruits/Vegetables
  • Breads/Cereals/Pasta/Rice
  • Oils/Spreads
  • Seasoning/Sauces/Condiments

Once we completed the inventory, we were able to plan a menu for the coming week using simple recipes I found online. (My mother’s cookbooks and recipe card index were no help.) As we reviewed each recipe I showed him what pot or pan they called for and any small appliances mentioned. We then made a shopping list of what was needed to execute the week’s menu.

Navigating the grocery store was the next lesson in my dad’s training program. Unlike the chefs in those well-stocked kitchens on the cooking shows he loved to watch, if he wanted to learn to cook he had to buy the food. It definitely helped to have the shopping list arranged according to the store layout and cross off things as they went into the cart.

Learning how to properly store all the groceries when we got them home was an equally important lesson. All this happened before he actually prepared anything he could eat.

Cooking 101: Skills for a Lifetime

One of the skills my dad had going for him when his cooking lessons began was that he could carve a roasted turkey. I decided to build on his knife skills and teach him to cut, chop, slice and dice a variety of vegetables. Once he could do that, it was a natural progression for him to learn how to sauté those vegetables.

Sautéing vegetables led to sautéing meats, which led to making finishing sauces in the pan. He could now make pork chops smothered in onions, skillet chili and a chicken and broccoli stir-fry.

The skills we focused on after that were ones that allowed him to make the foods he liked best. Since he enjoyed stews, he learned to use the slow-cooker. He also liked pancakes, so learned to measure and mix the batter (but not over mix) and use the electric griddle. And since he didn’t like pasta, he didn’t need instructions for the colander.

The American diet has not improved with access to more food and nutrition information than ever before

Why is the American Diet So Bad?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.

THE AMERICAN DIET HAS NOT IMPROVED EVEN WITH ACCESS TO MORE FOOD AND NUTRITION INFORMATION THAN EVER BEFORE

The American diet is not good, and I think I know why. It’s not because we don’t know what’s good for us, can’t afford the good stuff, or can’t get enough of it.

We have access to the most abundant and consistent food supply in the world. There is more information available to us about the composition of our food and how and where it’s grown than ever before. And we have more knowledge about our nutritional needs throughout the lifecycle and how different foods impact our health than at any other time in history.

Still, we struggle to eat right. I believe it boils down to three very fundamental things that determine virtually all of our food choices, regardless of what we know, read or hear about food and nutrition. They are Taste, Time, and Talent. Until we can conquer their influence over our eating habits there is little reason to believe we’ll eat any better in the next 35 years than we did in the last.

Taste Rules

Taste is the number one factor influencing food choice. Year after year consumer surveys tell us this.

Food manufacturers know it, so they market products that taste good to us. That’s why national brands and franchises do so well. They deliver what we want the way we like it every time.

This makes perfect sense when you consider how much food and money is wasted when you buy products that have the best nutrition score or lowest price or fewest ingredients on the label, but no one in your family likes them. People eat what they like. Always have, always will.

Time Crunch

The next factor I believe is controlling our diets is the amount of time we are willing to spend on getting food and eating it. Most people can’t find 30 minutes a day. I spend around 12 hours a week. That’s 2 hours for shopping and storing food and about 1.5 hours a day preparing it, eating, and cleaning up.

If you can’t shop for your own food, prepare it, and portion it out for yourself you are left with short cuts that can easily undermine your good intentions. Eating out, buying take-out, and using prepared and convenience foods do save time, but often lead to compromises on the quality, cost, and quantity that you eat. Yet no matter how little time you have, you won’t be disappointed with the taste, because we only buy what we like.

Limited Talent

The final factor that keeps us from eating well is limited talent in the kitchen. Ironically, the rise in food and nutrition information over the past three decades has been matched by a decline in basic cooking skills. Yes, there are plenty of cooking shows and celebrity chefs to show us how, but most Americans do not have the confidence to properly select and prepare food for themselves and their family.

When you don’t know how to cook (or don’t like to cook or have time to cook), you cannot take advantage of all the best nutritional values in the grocery store, healthy meal planning advice, or cost-saving tips available. Just like folks who are short on time, you will rely on restaurants, take-out, prepared and convenience foods to get most of your meals. And all that good dietary information will take a back seat.

This doesn’t mean there is no hope for improving the way Americans eat. But I do think we have to start looking for different solutions. Maybe a pill that alters taste preferences, a shorter work week, and mandatory home economics classes for all students?

Who taught you to cook, and who have you taught?

Other posts on this topic:

  • Being Busy Interferes with Eating Regular Meals
  • Fast Food May Hurt Us in More Ways Than One
Good nutritional values can be found in the interior of your grocery store.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

YOU CAN STILL MAKE HEALTHY FOOD PURCHASES WHILE CONTROLLING YOUR FOOD BUDGET

Finding healthy foods to eat while sticking to a tight budget is not a difficult as you may think. Grocery stores circulars feature deeply discounted items each week to attract customers and good values can be found in every aisle all year round if you know what to look for.

The hard part is changing your shopping list to match what’s on sale or a good bargain. But if you’re trying to save money and eat well, it can be done. Let me show you how.

The biggest myth handicapping people who want to shop smart on a budget is the notion that all of the best foods are found on the perimeter of the store. That’s simply not true! Perishable foods that have high turnover and need to be closer to receiving docks or refrigerated storage areas are around the perimeter.

For example, fresh produce is found on the perimeter. Good deals can often be found on seasonal produce, but fresh is not always best. It is, however, more expensive, other than staples like potatoes, onions and carrots whose prices don’t vary much. Fresh produce becomes even more expensive it spoils before you eat it.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit, dried fruit, and canned or bottled 100% fruit and vegetable juices offer good nutrition at a good price every week of the year. Why not replace a green salad with a bean salad using canned lima, kidney and string beans or combine fresh carrots with canned pineapple for another low cost salad option?

Fresh meats, poultry, eggs and milk products are also found on the perimeter walls of the store. It is worth taking advantage of sale items in the meat case if you have the freezer space to store them when you get home. Fresh eggs remain one of the best nutritional values in the store at 20 cents apiece, while individual containers of flavored yogurt are among the worst. It’s far more economical to buy a quart of plain low fat or fat free yogurt and add a spoonful of jam.

You can build everyday menus around the good values found in the interior of the store if you by-pass the more costly versions packaged for convenience, and stick to the basics. These include:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Bagged dry beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines
  • Evaporated milk
  • Nonfat powdered milk
  • Canola oil
  • Whole wheat flour

Of course, you must be willing to learn some new cooking skills and a few new recipes so you can prepare things from scratch, but that provides further nutritional benefits. It’s worth it if you want to make an investment in your health and your wallet at the same time!

How are you saving money at the grocery store?

Processed food shouldn’t be blamed for unhealthy diets.

Can Processed Foods be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Food processing has many benefits that make choosing a healthy diet possible.

Do you think your diet is healthier as a result of using processed foods? If you answered yes then you have a good understanding of all that food processing involves. If you said no, you might be surprised to find out just how difficult it would be to have a healthy diet without processed foods.

The most basic definition of food processing includes any method that transforms raw foods and ingredients into another form before consumption. A more detailed definition includes washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging or other procedures that alter a food from its original state.

From the moment a crop is harvested or animal is slaughtered, food processing begins. It is done to preserve the food, make it easier to store and transport, improve its digestibility and taste, enhance nutritional value, increase the variety, shorten preparation and cooking time and lower the cost.

While food processing has gotten a bad rap of late, it has been used since prehistoric times when it was discovered that the sun and salt could keep foods from spoiling. Applying heat from a fire soon followed, and cooking is now one of the most commonly employed forms of food processing used around the world today.

All of the advances made in food processing since the days of drying berries on a rock in the sun have helped to make our lives and our diets better. Yet many people object to the modern treatment our food undergoes. They view food processing with suspicion while welcoming technological improvements in every other area of their lives.

The irony is I’ve never met anyone who wants to eat raw whole grains as opposed to being able to eat bread, let alone anyone who wants to bake all their own bread from scratch! So like it or not, food processing does make our lives easier, more palatable and more nutritious if we choose our food wisely.

And that brings us back to the real heart of the issue. How well do we make our food choices amidst so many choices? There are some foods that have way too much salt and fat in them, but it is also possible to pluck fresh spinach from your garden and put too much salt and butter on it right in your own kitchen.

The key is to balance your food choices so they add up to a healthy diet at the end of the day. Processed food can help us do that, but we have you do our part, too.

For more on making the right food choices, read:

Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

Are Superfoods the Key to a Healthy Diet?

Eating and weight loss contests and cooking shows fill the airwaves while Americans grow fatter.

Competitive Eating, Cooking Shows and Weight Loss Contests – What’s Wrong with This Picture?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013 so the blog has been reproduced here.

TV SHOWS FOCUSED ON EATING, COOKING AND DIETING HAVE INCREASED ALONG WITH OBESITY

There are three things going on in this country that I believe have contributed to the obesity epidemic by redirecting our attention away from eating as a way to nourish and sustain us and turning it into a form of entertainment, a spectator sport, a chance for chef’s, coaches and trainers to become celebrities. They are Competitive Eating, Cooking Shows and Weight Loss Contests. Let me explain.

Competitive Eating

The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) is the governing body for Major League Eating (MLE), an organization that oversees all professional eating contests. The MLE hosts more than 80 competitive eating events worldwide every year and provides “dramatic audience entertainment” for their sport and an “unparalleled platform for media exposure.”

According to their website, MLE promotions generate more than one billion consumer impressions worldwide annually. They say the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest alone generates more than 300 million consumer impressions on domestic television in just a few weeks.

Some other MLE sanctioned contest results that caught my eye were:

  • 7 quarter-pounds sticks of Salted Butter in 5 minutes
  • 17.7 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes
  • 49 Glazed Doughnuts in 8 minutes
  • 36 Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches in 10 minutes
  • 6 pounds of SPAM from the can in 12 minutes

Cooking Shows

Thousands of cooking shows have been aired on American television since James Beard hosted the first postwar TV cooking show called I Love to Eat in 1946. Julia Child’s The French Chef was one of the longest running cooking shows, broadcast from February 11 1963 to 1973. Reruns continue to air on the Cooking Channel. Then in 1993 the Food Network made its debut and since then has created over 300 different food, restaurant and cooking shows.

The Food Network programming is now seen in more than ninety million households and includes number-crunching shows like $40 a Day, 30 Minute Meals, 5 Ingredient Fix and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. In 2005 the reality contest The Next Food Network Star made its appearance, pitting viewers against one another for the chance to have their own cooking show.

Weight Loss Contests

The Biggest Loser premiered on October 19, 2004 with 12 contestants vying for a $250,000 Grand Prize. On September 20, 2011 the show kicked off Season 12 with 15 contestants competing in a “Battle of the Ages” that groups them by age for the first time. Hundreds of contestants have lost weight and won a few moments of notoriety in between.

The series is now an international hit, produced in 25 countries and aired in 90. The Biggest Loser has also become a “lifestyle brand” made up of merchandise and services inspired by the show and promoted through its subscription-based online diet and exercise extension at www.biggestloser.com. Spending on these consumer products has generated over $300 million through 25,000 major retailers.

A newer entry in the television weight loss genre is Heavy, a docudrama that follows 22 heavy individuals facing “extreme life-threatening health consequences” as a result of their obesity. The producers say this is not a competition or stunt, but an in-depth look at the weight loss journeys of each participant over a six month period of time.

The Problem

All this attention on eating, cooking and losing weight follows a parallel trajectory with our rising rates of obesity. Is there a connection? I think there is, and if you agree, it may be time to turn off the TV and take a walk.

How has watching any of these shows changed your life?