The Natural Products Expo West is right around the corner and I am thrilled to be part of this event! From March 7-11, 2018, the world's top food pioneers, healthy food innovators and up-and-coming natural product brands shaping the future of food will come together under one roof.Read More
Ready to make 2018 your year to take charge of your health? If past year’s New Year’s resolutions haven’t turned into real solutions that work for your busy life, this year is going to be different. That's because this year, I teamed up with health and happiness expert, Gillian Mandrich to create a revolutionary program with you in mind — The GoClean45 Challenge.Read More
What are some of the major forces rapidly reshaping America’s food conversation?
That was one of several questions a group of leading food innovators wrestled with at this year's Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Foods Institute.
Here are 3 healthy food disruptor trends shaking up the food and nutrition world now:
1. Explosion of an “ecoystem mash up.” Will Rosenzweig, founding CEO of the Republic of Tea Executive Director of the new Food Business School at the Culinary Institute of America talked of the new “ecosystem mash up”. As food is such a powerful leverage point for addressing multiple challenges countries are facing (human health, sustainability, corporate responsibility, social justice, etc.) an unprecedented number of entities are entering the Forum of Food: social entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, food activists, Silicon Valley executives, urban farmers, NGOs, and passionate consumers- all are rapidly disrupting traditional frameworks of the food and nutrition ecosystem. While this is creating some growing pains as industries adapt, it’s also a catalyst for creating dynamic partnerships - such as chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s new venture serving up healthy, fast, inexpensive food in some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods.
2. Growth has moved from linear to exponential. A slew of new technologies and platforms have exponentially increased the amount of sharing, the level of transparency, and the reach of conversations people are having about food, which means that traditional linear models of business and influence no longer apply. Think of AirBnB upending Hilton Hotels, Instagram shuttering Kodak, or Chiptole taking a hefty bite out of the traditional fast food model . In the digital age, food innovations, conversations and resources that were once siloed have been unleashed-allowing for faster synergies and cross pollination. Incubators and new food crowdfunding sites are adding additional power behind the New Food Movement (such as Barnraiser), eroding the traditional pathways that took new companies decades to gain a foothold on supermarket shelves and in consumers hearts and minds: collectively these disruptors are rapidly changing the way consumers think about, purchase and consume food-reshaping supermarket shelves as startup brands go“from garage to grocery store” in fewer than 5 years. In fact, this week both Ad Age and Fortune served up stories on how major packaged companies are struggling to stay relevant in this new food ecosystem.
3. Food waste + ugly produce are joining the New Food Economy. While policy has done an admirable job of making food cheaper, one dark side of all of this abundant cheap food has been a dramatic increase in food waste: in the U.S. alone, the per capita food waste has increased 50% since 1974 to an average of 1,400 calories per person per day. Globally, 1/3 of food produced is lost or wasted.
With 1 in 6 to 7 Americans lacking access to fresh, healthy food, the waste/hunger paradox in America is ripe for disruption, and many social entrepreneurs are stepping up to the plate. Ben Simon, Founder and Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, says America could "cut hunger in America in half by recovering just 15% of the food America wastes". Simon sees higher education as the first sector where food waste recovery will soon be the norm rather than the exception (driven by millennials); his company works with over 110 colleges and has donated over 800,000 meals to hungry Americans. Many of America’s largest foodservice companies are also making food waste a top priority-some, like Bon Appetit even have first-ever positions as food waste specialists, recognizing it as supporting the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.
A host of new companies are also helping to give a massive makeover to mishapen fruits and vegetables. Not only is this helping put a dent in food waste is at the farm (roughly 30% of perfectly good produce never even makes it to the store because it's not up to snuff cosmetically) it is often helping make nutrient rich fruits and vegetables more affordable. Imperfect Produce will put a lovable spin on misshapen produce, delivering funny looking fruits and veggies straight to Californians' doors for 30-50% less than supermarket prices, with a special emphasis on penetrating urban food deserts where fresh produce options are often lacking. Other companies are creating dehydrated fruit snacks or pressed fruit and vegetable juices from produce that would otherwise be wasted.
While change in this area often requires rethinking well intentioned rules and policies governing leftovers, food waste, and even unpicked produce, successful models-and legal clearance-often exist for those willing to pursue it. The payoff is making nutrient-rich foods more accessible and more affordable to people who need them most.
Towards the end of the institute, third generation California organic farmer and author David Mas Matsumoto tweeted: “I’m not waiting for the food revolution anymore. There are a lot of good things happening now.”
I couldn’t agree more. (Disclosure: I was given a media pass to attend the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Foods Institute)
What types of grain products are you tossing in your shopping cart? For most of us, our carts are overly heavy with highly refined ready-to-eat cereals, crackers, breads, pasta, and maybe a cookie or two. The latest data tells us that vast majority of Americans fall well short of consuming enough whole grains for optimal health: while the USDA recommendation is to “make at least half your grains whole” (which for the Average American would mean about 3 whole grain servings a day), most of us get a scant <1 serving of whole grain daily. More rigorous plans, such as the Harvard School of Public Health's Healthy Eating Plate say the evidence is even stronger that we should choose “not just any grains”, but make whole grains an absolute eating must. I happen to agree.
The challenge is, the abundance of what I call “low quality” carbohydrates most of us are eating is proving to be one of the biggest drivers of chronic disease and sluggish energy: decades of research tells us that eating too many refined and highly processed grain products can spike blood glucose levels, promote inflammation, drive metabolic changes that lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and can cause wide swings in your hunger and energy levels, making it hard to lose weight. Making it more confusing for us all, many of these foods try to position themselves as healthy, proclaiming things like “Made with whole grain” or “good source of fiber” on the label. Unfortunately, this serves to confuse, rather than clarify, for the consumer.
But it can actually be made quite simple. To help you clean up your carbs and shift your metabolism in favor of lasting leanness and deep health, there’s a whole new crop of ancient grains that have gone mainstream, making it easier–and affordable–than ever to find them at your local grocery store. Boasting a superior nutrition package (read on to see how), I think they are a perfect fix for modern lives–and modern grocery carts.
I had a great time sharing some of my favorite “super whole grains” with Katie Couric on today’s show. Cultivated by humans for thousands of years, these 5 ancient grains provide some of the highest quality carbohydrates on the planet. They are cleaner and more sustainable to produce than all of those refined and ultra-processed grains that make up most of Americans carbohydrate consumption. And bite for bite they deliver more nutrients than conventional wheat – including more fiber, protein, B vitamins, minerals like iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium, and antioxidants. In short – they provide the highest quality information that your cells need to thrive. And because they are intact whole grains, they have a lower glycemic load – meaning they don’t raise your blood sugar nearly as quickly as many of the refined grain products (even some that contain whole grain) you see in your grocery store.
Best of all? They couldn't be simpler to prepare. With summer here, I simply make 1 large batch, then draw from it to make sweet or savory dishes as I want for the next several days.
(Tip: by soaking them the night before, you can cut the cooking time in about half, and may find that they are easier to digest).
1. Bulgur Mentioned as a food staple in the Bible, bulgur is a quick cooking form of whole wheat well known throughout the Mediterranean. Because it has already been parboiled, all you need to do is simply soak for one hour (use 2 parts water for 1 part bulgur) – and it’s ready to go. Try in savory salads like tabouleh, or go with a sweet breakfast option with nuts and fried fruit. In addition to being low in calories and high in fiber (a 1/2 cup serving cooked has 75 calories and 4 grams of fiber), whole grains like bulgur are a rich source of prebiotics – the food the friendly bacteria in your gut needs to thrive. Try this summer tossed in a tabouleh salad – with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas and fresh mint.
2. Teff Look for this ultra-nutritious – and tiny – grain to hit Superfood lists in 2015. At about 1/150th the size of a kernel of wheat, this Ethiopian supergrain looks like poppy seeds – but don’t be fooled by their small size: they are a rich source of protein, fiber, zinc, iron, manganese, calcium and even vitamin C. And it’s sweet, molasses like color and flavor make it ideal for baking. Try it as a delicious swap for your regular hot breakfast cereal or polenta – you can also swap teff for some of the regular flour called for in ginger snaps – using teff can pump up the nutrition considerably.
3. Farro This chewy, nutty whole wheat grain is what fueled the Roman legions – and was even used as a form of currency in ancient Rome. With its low glycemic index, farro helps keep your blood sugar more stable, reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its high fiber-protein punch help you stay satisfied and energized long after you leave the table. Check out my Fall Farro Salad.
4. Kamut™ Sometimes called “King Tut’s Wheat”, many people think Kamut™ hails from Egypt, but in reality it is likely from the Fertile Crescent. Containing 20-40% more protein than regular modern wheat, Kamut™ is also rich in fiber, zinc and magnesium, a study last year in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found swapping Kamut™ products for traditional “modern wheat” varieties helped improve metabolic health and cardiovascular risk factors, and even increased serum potassium and magnesium. Try this delicious looking recipe just in time for 4th of July: Grilled Corn Slaw with Kamut™ Wheat Berries.
5. Freekeh Have you heard of Freekeh? In Arabic Freekeh literally means “to rub” –and refers to how it is made: it is young, green cracked wheat that adds a hearty, chewy flavor to salads, soups and side dishes. Here is perhaps the biggest reason you should add it to your shopping list: it is chock full of fiber. One of the secrets to having a healthy waist-to-hip ratio and slimming down while still feeling satisfied is to pack your meals and snacks with fiber: one serving of Freekeh has more than twice the fiber (and double the protein) of brown rice. You can find Freekeh at many mainstream grocery stores – simply follow the directions on the package and swap in any meals where you currently use couscous or rice.
Which ancient grains have you tried lately? And how are you using them for summer? I'd love to hear from you!
In 10-20 years?That’s the question I spent the last 3 days grappling with at the 2014 Menus of Change Summit, a ground-breaking conference that sought to tackle the most critical issues sitting at the intersection of human health and environmental sustainability (disclosure: I was given a free Media pass to attend).
A joint venture between the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, Menus of Change is trying to lay out a new vision for what two-time James Beard Foundation award winning chef Michel Nischan called “our brittle food system”. Seeking to de-silo the worlds nutrition, foodservice, culinary and tech, the ultimate goal is threefold: to forge a new dynamic, viable roadmap for serving food that’s utterly craveable and compelling to customers, in a way that is attractive to investors and business, but that’s also sustainable and driven by health and nutrition. In other words, to really plumb the often preached...but less often practiced triple bottom line of “People, Planet, Profits.” And to attach hard, measurable metrics rather than soft, feel good language.
It’s a tall order, to be sure. And it was apparent that some of the companies present were more tied to the teat of the current status quo than others (for example externalizing costs associated with cheap livestock production that enables a $1 burger or soda). But to have the honest conversations, even if tense at times, was refreshing.
5 Must Have Items On A Sustainable Menu
To usher in the New Face of Food, to truly drive meaningful change and not just tinker at the margins, the group sought to identify targets that are focused, clearly defined and transparent. In the ultra distill version, conference organizers challenged the audience to adopt the following 5 specific metrics in their Report:
- Add 10% more produce every year (year over year) for the next 5 years. This will not only increase customers’ access to vegetables and fruits, it will likely reduce sodium levels.
- Reduce meat portions in half of your menu items. Introduce recipes and concepts where meat plays a supporting role-leverage strategies from seasonal/local flavors to regional cuisines.
- Always offer a 50 to 100% whole grain option with rice, pasta, potato, side dish and bread choices.
- Tell your beverage suppliers that you want more innovative, natural, and less sweet beverage options-or better yet, craft them yourself.
- Raise your standards for protein sourcing, including supporting producers who don’t administer antibiotics to healthy animals and doubling the different kinds of fish and seafood you offer, sourced from sustainably managed fisheries.
A Taste of What’s to Come: Higher Quality Protein. More Produce + Whole Grains. Less Sugar.
You can read the CIA-Harvard 2014 Menus Of Change Report here . A blend of East Coast effeteness and West Coast innovation, it highlights the hot button issues at the crossroads of health, sustainability, and the business of food-including top nutrition concerns including sugars, whole grains, and the protein problem, which I've blogged about here. For a quick snapshot, check out the Principles Infographic here.
Memo from Millenials: “Share Not Just My Palate, But My Values” Millenial preferences are disrupting the landscape of corporate concepts and legacy brand. The quest for shared values is one of the top drivers of the mighty Millenials purchasing decisions (they will soon overtake Boomers in their buying power). And millenials have moved the consumer from being reactive to proactive: with today’s instantaneous access to information and social connection, brands need to be especially cautious-these values can’t be green washed and simply slapped on a label, they must be authentic, verifiable, and true to the brand’s core. Or Millenials will sniff them out, and fast.
To meet growing consumer expectations on cleaner, greener, leaner food-check out this a specific list of step by step principles developed by Menus of Change.
At the closing comments, Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes said simply: "Unlike many industries facing today's new world of resource constraints, climate uncertainty and economic risks, our solutions don't require massive investments in new capital or political legislation. We have only to change our menu."
You can check out all the conference discussion on Twitter at #CIAMOC.
This week I was honored to help Katie Couric with her “Fed Up” Challenge: a national initiative to help America kick all added sugars from their diet for 10 days. The film, which I originally saw at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, has sparked a heated national conversation about the excess of sugars in our diets (according to the USDA, the average American consumes over 22 teaspoons per day).
You can watch the tv clip and read the piece I wrote for her website here.
In my opinion, asking people to spend 10 days really digging into where added sugars are coming from in their own diet is a productive and insightful experiment. Talking with audience members before the taping illuminated for me just how instructive The Challenge has been for them; many shared with me how they have discovered that they are consuming far more added sugars than they realized-often in foods that they had no idea would contain them.
I respect the many people working on these issues who have different opinions about America’s health and weight challenges and how to fix them. My own view is that yes, there are multiple areas that need attention. Yes, the entire story is more nuanced and complicated than just added sugars. But as a single issue to focus on to achieve the greatest change for the greatest number of Americans, and in the fastest way possible, I believe sugar is a reasonable place to start. In fact, a review commissioned by the WHO, and published in the British Medical Journal found that shaving off even small amounts of sugar can have a meaningful impact.
This film offers us an important moment to help Americans understand the crucial distinction between added sugars vs. naturally occurring sugars in the foods we buy-something truly difficult for the average person to decipher on our current Nutrition Facts Panel. And it has galvanized parents to take stock of exactly how much added sugar is going in their families diet, enabling them to make more conscious, thoughtful choices. As a dietitian and as a parent, I am honored to be part of that vital conversation.
In modest amounts sugar can certainly be included in a nutrient rich and healthy eating pattern. In full disclosure, I use a bit of organic or raw sugar myself. And yes, some of my partners have foods that contain added sugars. Learning how-and when-to include sugars in your diet is an important life skill for a healthy weight and a healthy relationship with food.
The foods we covered in the segment collectively add about 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugars in a person’s day- well over what is recommended by the American Heart Association for the average woman (6 teaspoons a day), and near the maximum of what’s recommended for the average man (9 teaspoons a day). Those who are physically active, are taller or have significantly more lean muscle tissue can enjoy a somewhat larger limit.
Still have questions? Here are some basic guidelines on how many “empty calories” -based on age and gender-you should aim for as part of a healthy eating pattern.
What’s your take on added sugars? The film? The Fed Up Challenge? I’d love to hear from you!
What's Next in Nutrition for 2014?
What’s next up in 2014 for food? Here were four of the big trends that seemed to be everywhere at the most recent annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that are poised to play out in the year ahead... Read More...
Ah, the ho-hum pantry shelf. Typically the last place we associate with healthy, vibrant foods that support health. But both Expo West and Fancy Food this year have made it clear that there’s a whole lotta shake up going on in the pantry, and both packaging and ingredients are getting a makeover for sustainability and health. Here’s my take on some of the green trends worth watching for 2014 that will clean up your shelf for the better.
Trend #1: Condiments Get Cleaned Up
Trendsetter: Sir Kensington Mayo and Ketchup The mega trend of eating cleaner food, and reaching for foods made with easy to read ingredients has finally come to the condiment aisle. The time has come for both mayo and ketchup-condiments notoriously filled with many hard to decipher ingredients-to bask in a major makeover. Sir Kensington’s version boasts 50% less sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, 45% less sodium, and whole tomatoes. And their mayo reads refreshingly clean and simple: Sunflower oil, eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, raw sugar, black pepper and mustard seed. That's it. These superlative sauces are also back in glass -the ultimate in recyclability.
Trend #2: Beans, Tomatoes and Soups Go BPA Free
Beans are one of my top lean and green superfoods-as they deliver folate, fiber and protein in a low calorie package. Still, no matter how healthy the contents of the can (be it beans, pumpkin puree, tuna or tomatoes), growing evidence about the potential negative health and environmental effects of BPA has long pitted convenience and speed against possible health drawbacks (Check out this list of all cans that are BPA free).
The new generation of tetra packs sidesteps all of this. BPA-free and recyclable, this packaging is popping up in larger numbers, giving you the same convenience but in a better-for-you package. And I have to be honest-despite the current pouch craze (one of the Top 5 Trends Spotted at Fancy Foods Sumer 2013), I personally prefer to see pouches used for baby food and the occasional camping trip, rather than taking over the shelf. Which they are doing with many, many products, in a trend I call "camping meets carpool".
It’s worth noting that the ultimate “greeness” of tetra packs is still hotly debated. While life cycle analysis shows tetra packs score green points for total carbon emissions and about a 33% greater efficiency in transportation that aluminum cans, currently there many US recycling centers which still don’t accept Tetra, and if they end up in the trash the supposed savings are a mute point. Bottom line: eat all the contents, rinse and recycle.
Trend #3: Microwave Popcorn Gets a Greenover
This trend is long overdue-as the health benefits of whole corn kernels are impressive: an antioxidant-rich whole grain that packs fiber and satisfies our craving for crunch. I blogged about Quinn Popcorn earlier this year, and basically crowned them “the king of pop” on my own shelf. However, I think Quinn highlights many convergent trends: parents on a mission to make better food for their kids, greener packaging to be better for body and planet (the bag is free of all the traditional toxic coatings, and is compostable to boot), high quality ingredients, and the growing interest in non-GMO transparency. It’s exciting to think about how these trends will continue to transform the shelf in the future.
High protein and plant based, I have half a dozen nut butters on my shelf at any time-because they are such a staple of healthy living for my family. Hailed as a Top Trend for 2013 by The Sterling-Rice Group, the new generation of nut butters crafts an appealing blend of healthy, satisfying indulgence, as these nutrient powerhouses pack heart healthy fats, protein and fiber. Featuring a variety of nuts and seeds such as cashew, almond, walnut, hemp and flax- as well as smaller regional brands featuring "raw" or "live" nut butters, they make it easy to eat well on the go. A spoonful swirled into breakfast, slathered on fruit slices, or savored as a snack, for instance. Be sure to choose those free of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. And two caveats-don’t be fooled by smidges of exotic sounding additions such as acai or seaweed, as I’ve blogged about before. And treat those uber indulgent ones-made with chocolate and a variety of added sugars-as dessert. But health from the shelf has never tasted so good!
Trend #1: Our (Natural) Sweet Tooth Reigns
This first trend I noticed within about 10 minutes of arriving: it seems that organic and natural folks have as big a sweet tooth as the rest of America. While I certainly like the fact that the sugar may be organic, or the product may contain stevia (an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener) instead of say, aspartame my first thought as I cruised the Fresh Pavillion on Day 1 was ... things sure tasted sweet. Agave, too, was everywhere. This sugared trend continued in the main expo hall: aisles teemed with sweetened foods from granola to energy bars, smoothies and energizing pouches, desserts to chocolate.
While I absolutely applaud the cleaner ingredients - and in many cases - noble sourcing, the caveat for health professionals and the public is clear: many “organic and natural” products still qualify as indulgences - comparable in sugars (and salt and saturated fats) as conventional - so be sure to read the label. Especially if you are watching your weight. As a good rule of thumb, the American Heart Association recommends no more the 10% of your total calories come from added sugars per day-which I easily sailed over as I sampled my way through the Expo.
Trend #2: Greek Yogurt 2.0
While I did sample some deliciously simple Greek yogurts, there’s a whole lotta newness in this space. Blessed by a health halo and a darling of dietitians for years (thanks to its high protein content, probiotics, and calcium and vitamin D), Greek-style yogurt was everywhere - but in its newer, more adulterated forms. Many products I saw seemed more akin to dessert than a nourishing staple; Greek yogurt coated pretzels, dessert bars, pouches & yogurt drinks filled the Expo. And Greek yogurt packaged with a side of sprinkle-in sweets was big too, like Chobani’s new line of Flips, with indulgent flavors like chocolate-coconut-granola and key lime graham cracker.
Great marketing props go to Powerful Yogurt: This brand new macho Greek yogurt for men boasts 25 grams per cup in original plain, dark manly packaging, and a hefty 8-oz. serving-a nice change from traditional yogurts, which seem to be whittling their sizes down on a regular basis. Other flavors have 20 grams of protein (compared with 10-14 grams for a standard 5-6 oz. cup of Greek yogurt), and are sweetened with a combo of sugar and stevia to keep the carbs and calories down.
Trend #3: Hot Ingredients & Packaging
In addition to agave, gluten-free, chia, and all things coconut were also on the hot list. Closely tied to the gluten-free trend was quinoa. This, to me, is a good thing, as it's rich in protein and iron, quick cooking, and a delicious gluten free alternative that's a lean and green addition to any diet. Chickpeas were another strong trend: in flours, snacks, and main courses (tied to another hot trend-vegan). And when it comes to new packaging, get ready for a sea of pouches for grownups, from fruit purees to energy boosts to breakfasts. This Mamma Chia Squeeze was a great example of how many of these trends came together.
My two top picks for lean and green super-snacks go to two chickpea products that I love for portability, sustainability, and kid friendly protein rich snacking. First round of kudos go to Hope Hummus , who debuted their brand new portable hummus tubes; as a mom and a frequent traveler, thank you! These held up stunningly during our family's Disneyland escapades the next day. The uber tasty Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas also should be a pantry staple: made from sustainably-sourced organic chickpeas, these are a great alternative if you’re craving a plant protein snack (with 6 grams of protein per serving). With no refrigeration needed, these are perfect for portioning out on-the-go in advance and stashing in your briefcase, desk or gym bag.
Trend #4: “Better for You” Popcorn and Chips
The quest to clean up chip’s reputation as junk food has been in the works a while, and the chips I crunched my way through continue to move that trend forward: with ingredients including lentil or garbanzo flour (boosting protein a bit), dehydrated vegetables (which may add a few more phytochemicals), seeds (like chia!), and root vegetables. My personal favorite was a new company from the UK called Snapz whose dehydrated fruits like tomatoes proved one of the best taste experiences of the Expo. And the ingredient list couldn't be simpler: tomatoes. Well done, chaps.
Then there was popcorn. By itself, simple (non-GMO) popcorn earns high marks for lean and green: at just 93 calories for a hefty 3 cup serving, it counts as a whole grain and is packed with antioxidants. Quinn Popcorn earns my “best in show” green star award for turning microwave popcorn on its head. Fueled by two parents on a mission to make microwave popcorn healthy (read about the problems with traditional microwave popcorn here), Quinn popcorn starts with non-GMO corn, no rbST added cheese, 100% natural ingredients that sound like they come from your kitchen. The real innovation is the clean bag technology: Made from a 100% all natural bag that’s compostable, wth zero of the potentially harmful chemicals found in traditional microwave popcorn bags. And the taste? Innovative and fresh. Suffice to say I raised a few eyebrows as a 'oohed' and 'ahhed' my way through every sample of their booth.
What other trends are you seeing in natural and organics? Or what's your takeaway from the Expo if you attended? I'd love to hear your take!
If one of your 2013 resolutions is to live healthier - whether that means watching what you eat or shopping locally - chances are there is a health app for that. In fact, chances are you’re reading this on your phone right now. We are tethered to our phones as never before: a whopping 88% of the time our phones are within arm’s reach, or at the very least, in the same room as us.1 Today, 1 in 5 smartphone owners have some type of health app on their mobile device.2 With new apps cropping up every day though, it’s easy to get bogged down with information overload, or choose one that doesn’t deliver the results you’re looking for. Here are some of my favorite current apps that can help you lose weight, sleep better, eat more sustainably, and live greener. What’s not to love?
Now, if only there was an app for willpower!
If Your Goal is: Weight Loss
Try This: My Fitness Pal
A food diary app that will not only help you watch what you eat, but it helps you to keep track of your exercise as well. This app boasts a large database and makes it easy to find out how many calories you burned after that run.
Try This: My Dietitian
I love this app! For many of us, gone are the “food diary” days of writing everything down (although research suggests it's one of the easiest, surest ways to slim down). Simply snap a photo with your smart phone before you eat or drink, upload it to the app - and voila! Your personal registered dietitian will provide feedback on your diet and educate you on nutrition topics aligned with goals that you specify (weight loss, heart health, etc.). You’ll get a report every night, and there are even “enhanced” packages allowing you to video chat with your RD.
Try This: Sleep Cycle
A growing body of research now links sleep body weight. A recent study from Brazil, for instance, found shorter sleep associated with higher BMI (body mass index), more weight around the middle, and cardiovascular risk factors.3 To try and get higher quality shuteye (at least 7 hours a night is considered ideal), download Sleep Cycle. With a promise of “waking up made easy,” the app monitors and analyzes sleep patterns, and (get this) wakes you during the lightest sleep phase so you wake up feeling refreshed.
If Your Goal Is: Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Eating
Try This: Fooducate
Trying to decipher food labels to figure out exactly what is in your food can be tricky if you’re not a chemist-and who has time to spend hours standing in the aisle reading the small print? Fooducate takes the stress out of building a better grocery cart: you just scan the barcode of the product you want to purchase, and you’ll instantly see a “grade” of A-F.
Try This: NRDC Label Lookup
Labels are everywhere and sometimes it can be hard to decipher exactly what that label means. Then you might wonder if what the label says it does like fair trade is actually what it claims to be. NRDC Label Lookup app does all the work for you and answers those questions. They have an easy to understand rating system that cuts out the guesswork.
Try This: Seafood Watch
No doubt about it, fish is one of the murkiest areas of your diet when it comes to lean and green eating. Luckily, the Monetary Bay Aquarium has an app for that. Listing the latest recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood and sushi based on where you live (I especially love their “Supergreen” list), they also have clearly market Red, Yellow and Green labels for easy understanding. One caveat: the guide is a bit behind, in my opinion, by lumping all farmed salmon together. As I blogged about here, I have worked with the Norwegian Seafood Council because I am deeply impressed with their ocean farmed salmon. Hopefully, this app will dive deeper into the nuance of farmed salmon in the future.
Try This: Locavore
Ever wonder where the closest farmer market is? This app will use your location and help you find the closet market. The app also tells you which foods are in season (which is a great strategy for nutrient dense, affordable eating at its tastiest) and boasts delicious looking recipes for inspiration. Love it.
If Your Goal Is: Greener Living
Try This: GoodGuide
This app is essential if your memory seems to be failing you with age (as mine does sometimes). Trying to navigate through a haze of “green claims” (and sleuth out greenwashing) is, to say the least, a challenge. GoodGuide makes it easy to find a wide variety of safe, green and ethical products instantly. Simply scan the barcode of the product with your smartphone, and it will give you a rating. You can also browse “best in class” from everything to food, pet food, paper products, cleaners, cars and more.
Try This: PaperKarma
If you have ever wished junk mail would magically go away to save the trees (as I do every day) then this is the app for you. Couldn't be simpler: take a quick pic of the mail and the app will contact the mailer to remove you from their list. Done, no more junk mail.
Try This: My Green Apps
While not technically an app, this is a uber useful website created by the EPA which contains filters that allow you to go through their extensive database of apps to find exactly what you want from air, to human health, to pollution prevention. Use your phone to add this site to your homescreen so you can customize your smart phone with what matters most to you when it comes to greener living.
Have any others that you think are missing from this list? I’d love to hear from you!
1) Dey, A., Wac, K., Ferreira, D., Tassini, K., Hong, & Rojas, J. (2011). Getting Closer: An Empirical Investigation of the Proximity of User to Their Smart Phones. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, UbiComp’11, pages 163-172. 2) Fox, S., Duggan, M. (2013). Tracking for Health. Pew Internet. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2013/PIP_TrackingforHealth_PDF.pdf 3) Moraes, W., Poyares, D., Zalcman, I., de Mello, M. Bitterncourt, L., Santos, S., Tufik, S. (2013). Association between body mass index and sleep duration assessed by objective methods in a representative sample of the adult population. Sleep Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2012.11.010.
With assistance from intern Amanda Sauceda
Pity the poor acai berry. At the recent Expo West in Anaheim, CA (which drew over 60,000 visitors), one thing was clear: this was the berry to beat when it came to claiming uber health benefits. I saw several older trends still going strong, such as the coconut craze, and chocolate-as-a-miracle-health-food (kinda forgetting it’s still an indulgence to be eaten in small portions). There were lots of newcomers as well- and like any Expo, I had to ask: “what’s hot and what’s hype?” Here’s my take on natural and organic trends from Expo West 2012 that may come to influence a supermarket near you. .
1. Get Ready for Nut Butters 2.0 As a flexitarian, I am slightly addicted to nut butters. Packed with protein, heart healthy fats, and a slew of vitamins and minerals, they are perfect for a power snack or to slather on toast or oatmeal (I often carry single serve nut butters in my purse and car for snacking emergencies). But might we have taken things too far? Goji butters, phytoplankton butters, acaii butters and more joined this increasingly cluttered field-some which were an algae-ish brown color and tasted, well, like something algae-ish brown would taste. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps we’ve taken things too far-we’re back to health food tasting more “healthy” than amazing. I also couldn’t help but question the actual health benefits one might receive from some of these combinations-is a smidgeon of goji berry in a nut butter better than, say, slathering a spoonful of your favorite local 100% blueberry preserves?
Bottom Line: If you love em’, there’s probably no harm in adding them to your cart. But unless you are excited to pay a premium for exotic add ins that may or may not confer an actual health benefit, ignore the hype and stick to flavors and blends where the ingredients have sound science behind them (like nuts and seeds).
2. Pity the Poor Acai Berry “New” berries and superfoods from the remote reaches of rainforest or steppes are still granted an instant health halo. If goji and acai are old news, Sea Buckhorn from Tibet, Murta and Calfate from Chile, and a gorgeous Aronia berry from the USA are all newer superfruits that may be coming to a market (or supplement shelf) near you-all touted ORAC scores higher and more potent than acaii. But are they worth it?
Bottom Line: Until we see the science of real benefits in health outcomes, I put these in a “nice to have” category of eating. While these superfruits may boast ORAC scores that would make a health nut swoon, it’s an expensive proposition, as most come in powder or extract form, that you then add to smoothies or consume daily in addition to food. Paying $25 of $30 or more for a powder that you sprinkle into smoothies is likely a stretch for most Americans, who are just struggling to put enough fruits and veggies in their grocery carts.
. 3. Fancy A Seaweed Snack? Would you nosh on seaweed as a snack? You will be, if the trends at Expo are any indication. A host of different seaweed snack companies were there-and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. Of course, seaweed and sea vegetables are nutrient rich foods that can be a healthy addition to your diet-they often contain trace minerals and vitamins. However, in a perky little snack pack (which can be plain or seasoned), there’s an awful lot of packaging to preserve the delicate nature of seaweed, which felt wasteful to me (there may have been other companies there that I didn’t see who had a different packaging alternative, if so my apologies, I’d love to hear about you). Also, since the seaweed is so light, airy, and the eating experience so quick, I can’t help but wonder...being low in calorie, and have scant amounts of protein and fiber, I’m also worried that the typical American might not feel as satisfied with it-and will end up snacking again later.
Bottom Line: If you like it, could be a healthy addition-but caution with all that packaging. 4. Can you plant your bar in the ground? You’d Better, If You’re Calling it LIVE FOOD. Call it a “full circle moment”. Standing at the “Go Raw” booth the man proceeded to show me how you could literally unwrap the bar (a living pumpkin seed bar), plant it in dirt-and voila-it will sprout! I must admit, I was impressed-it gave me a a deep, primitive satisfaction that this food really was still somehow fresh food (now in a convenient, portable bar). Raw foods are heated just enough to destroy any potentially dangerous pathogens, but to keep the vital living secrets inside the seeds thriving. With all the push I’ve noticed of large conventional food companies trying to remind you how “close to the farm” and “straight from nature” their products are, this was a refreshing, immensely appealing approach.
Bottom Line: This is a trend that’s got real health benefits in my opinion. Will be interesting to see if it catches on mainstream. Loved it!
. 5. You Can Track Your Food Back to the Source.
Want to know exactly on which farm (or even which acre of the farm) your product was grown? Want to track the entire journey from field to bread, from bean to bar? No problem-many companies are now touting QSR codes that can be scanned to your smart phone and the unique story of that bar or loaf comes to life.
Bottom Line: Most people I know already feel overwhelmed with information overload. So while I applaud and admire the concept of transparency in the chain, I have to ask: will consumers care?
. What were your favorite trends from Expo West? What do you think of QSR codes? I’d love to hear from you.
Posted with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
The American Dietetic Association just wrapped its annual meeting in San Diego last week, and while there was certainly some controversy about America’s food and nutrition experts being sponsored by Big Food it was also incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see many companies who are committed to producing sustainable, nourishing foods sharing their message with RDs. There were lots of great ones, but here are my 5 Green Stars of FNCE. For the record, I am not personally connected in any way to any of these products- I just love ‘em. 1. Cat Cora’s Olive Snack Packs
I LOVE these! While we can’t all be lucky enough to pull up a chair to legendary chef Cat Cora’s kitchen table, this is the next best thing. Finally, real food snacking on the go has been made super delicious, super easy. These resealable packs are ingenious-they don’t leak in your purse or your bag-I love the pitted lemon and oregano olives, as they’re brimming with real olive flavor, not just a salt bomb that so many olives are these days. Sun ripened, with no artificial anything, made with ingredients found in your kitchen: olives, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and salt. Cora partnered with sustainable food pioneer Gaea (with carbon footprinting on the package), making it a lean and green superfood on the go for moms, execs, athletes even kids.
Truth be told, they had me at hello. If you haven’t already heard of it, get ready for a new “ancient grain” to hit store shelves near you: einkorn pasta. I got a fascinating anthropology lesson - seriously. First discovered on a perfectly preserved man who lived during the Bronze Age, einkhorn was brought back to mainstream eating by Italian researchers-and is now cultivated on small organic farms in Italy-einkhorn is unique because it has never been hybridized, making it one of the most simple (chromosomally speaking) wheats out there. Rich in B vitamins, protein and trace minerals, with an ORAC score of 1200 (compared to durum wheat at 600), it’s a supergrain that has a wonderful nutty taste and is the perfect way to pump up your favorite pasta recipe. And they get a green star for sustainable packaging.
Sugar is a problem; we know Americans eat far too much of it, (an average of 22 tsp a day) and traditional cane sugar comes with a high environmental price tag as well. That’s why I’m so sweet on this new fantastic find. First introduced to me by my favorite qualitarian RD Ashley Koff, Sweet Tree is made from 100% organic crystallized coconut palm nectar, has a lower glycemic index (only 35) than table sugar (68), HCFS (62), or honey (55), and contains many trace nutrients like potassium. An easy, greener swap for your kitchen, it can be used ounce for ounce in your favorite recipes instead of cane sugar, and imparts a deliciously rich, almost caramel flavor to my coffee in the morning. Parent company Big Tree Farms has done outstanding work in sustainability: showing that “health, people and planet” can all coexist deliciously.
What I loved most at FNCE this year is how many companies are finally showing us that YES, snacking can be super clean, 1 ingredient foods like they’re found in nature-and still be fun, easy and delicious in the process. Crispy Greens is a shining example. I love the crispy Asian pear, mango and cantaloupe flavors-talk about a delicious wake up for your tastebuds! And a refreshing step beyond first generation “healthy snacks” like oily banana chips. Perfect for the purse, the high chair, the boardroom, the gym bag, and all of life in between. Green star, ladies.
5. Tera’s Whey
Simple ingredients, ethically sources to support small, Wisconsin farms. A green factory that touches the planet lightly. Traceability that goes al the way back to the cow or goat. Now tell me, what’s not to love? Given all the highly fortified, sweetened with high fructose corn syrup options I saw on the FNCE floor, Tera’s Whey was a breath of fresh air. For those who thrive on a morning whey shake or like that added boost of protein, Terra’s Whey is a lean, green, and clean option. Other bonuses: They offer organic cow and goat milk options, and offer versions that are unsweetened, or sweetened with low-glycemic stevia.
Did you see anything else at FNCE generating some lean and green buzz? I'd love to hear about it! Want more snacks to wean you from the vending machine? Shine has an amazing list of lean and green superfoods that I love.
Written with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD