Tag Archives: nutrition

Crouching Carrots, Hidden Spinach

Brace yourself—you’re in for a shock. The “Food Pyramid” of our childhood is no more. “What?!?,” you wonder aloud. “That ambiguous, theoretical nutritive guideline is defunct? To which geometric graphic will I turn for my daily nutritional suggestions now?”

myplate_greenWell, never fear my diet dilettante, the nourishment experts at the USDA have replaced the familiar triangular doctrine of food intake with a straight-forward graphic of a dinner plate. “My Plate” depicts a plate setting divided into 5 food groups: Vegetables, Grains, Proteins, Fruits and Dairy. The message is pretty clear – this is what your plate should look like at every meal if you want to optimize your health. Oh, and, no, you’re not imagining things – half of the plate IS vegetables and fruit. Basically, the USDA is sending a not-so-subtle message that it’s time to buff up on “Meatless Monday” recipes.

As a new mom, this message hits pretty close to home. My daughter is almost a year old, and increasing her intake of solid foods every day. Right now, her palate is pretty malleable. There’s no need for the hard-sell where vegetables are concerned. I mean, she’s just discovered opposable thumbs. Plying various veggies on my (literally) captive audience of one isn’t the most difficult part of my day. However, even at 11 months, I am starting to see food preferences emerge – cheese, yogurt and bread strong among them. It doesn’t take a giant leap of thought to imagine that these food propensities will only grow to be more pronounced and may soon edge out the vegetable category altogether. So, what’s a responsible, health-conscious mother to do?

I am clearly not alone in this dilemma. American’s overall consumption of fruits and vegetables has been stuck at less than half of the recommended amount for quite some time. The statistics are worse among children under the age of 18. Only about 16% of kids are meeting the government’s vegetable and fruit guidelines, with fried potatoes accounting for approximately a third of vegetable consumption and juice making up more than a third of fruit consumption.

It appears that the tide may be turning however, if food processors have anything to say about it. Two main pro-vegetable strategies are emerging among food manufacturers. The first is to make vegetables more attractive and user-friendly. Examples include pre-prepped fresh vegetables, such as fancy-cut baby carrots or shaved brussels sprouts. The other approach is to actually make veggies “stealth” by slipping them into other more widely-accepted foods, such as casseroles and baked goods.  Along those lines, Green Giant recently introduced “Veggie Blend-Ins” – prepackaged pureed vegetables that can be added to less-healthful foods. Similarly, Kraft added pureed, freeze-dried cauliflower to a variety of its Macaroni & Cheese Dinner and Chef Boyardee has increased the amount of tomato in some of its canned pasta.

Each of these strategies is decidedly different – one is rooted in good-intentioned deception, and the other speaks to our busy lifestyles while appealing to our fondness for the aesthetically-pleasing. I am happy that the food industry is actively tackling the kid vs. veggie challenge, and am sure that I will be practicing both approaches with my daughter. Because something tells me that there will be no shortage of grilled cheese sandwiches in my future – grilled cheese with veggies, that is.

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Product Focus: UDY Protein Analyzer

calfOn the blog, we have dealt with the topic of protein numerous times. Why? Well, protein is on our customers’ minds. This nutritional focal point is not only about our diets; it is also about the food production processes that bring these products to our plates.

For example, farmers want to make sure that their livestock is getting the best nutrition available. The proper nutrition of animals not only assists in their well-being, but also helps to create quality food end-products. Protein, as it is for humans, is an essential in animal diets and in the growth and maintenance of livestock, including in the feeding/raising of calves.

That is one of the reasons that our Lab area features the UDY Protein Analyzer, a tool used by many feed operations and farms. The UDY measures protein using Acid Orange Dye.   It also differentiates between non-protein nitrogen, vestigial pieces of intact protein molecules, and functional proteins. Instead of measuring via digestion methods based on nitrogen, the technology is based on functional binding sites of amino acids lysine, histidine, and arginine, considered essential amino acids in the diet of the non-ruminant calf.

An exclusive to Nelson-Jameson, the UDY is aimed at farmers and small businesses where on-site testing is ideal. Are you interested in getting your hands on this “hands-on approach”? You can check out the UDY Protein Analyzer on our website.  For further information, contact our Laboratory Products Department at 800-826-8302.

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That’s That For Trans Fat

Source: US Food and Drug Administration

Source: US Food and Drug Administration

If you haven’t noticed, trans fats have become a prominent public health enemy, with “No Trans Fat!” and other related sayings gracing the cover of many food products out there. The reason? A trendy health fad? Not quite.

The AP reports: “Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods.”

The growing concern about trans-fats has recently been addressed by the FDA. According to the BBC, “The FDA is opening a 60-day consultation period on the plan, which would gradually phase out trans fats” qualifying that: “The ruling does not affect foods with naturally occurring trans fats, which are present in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products.”

The change is a potential final nail in the coffin of artificial trans fats: one that has been pursued vigorously by the medical community, nutrition groups, and others. What does this mean to consumers and producers? The FDA hopes to create a transition that hopefully does not negatively and overtly impact the market. The 60-day consultation period is aimed at collecting “additional data and to gain input on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat should this determination be finalized.” In fact, many companies have phased out these partially hydrogenated oils in the last several years. Still, trans fats do show up in numerous food products on the market, including margarine and microwave popcorn, amongst others.

So what does the forecast look like to you? Will the industry be able to adapt quickly? Food processors, how will it affect your production? To make your voice heard check out this link where you can submit comments during the 60-day consultation period. This consultation period concludes on January 7, 2014.

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Proteins!: Listen, Amino Offense…

CB068343In the food industry, we have heard many voices demanding, “Protein!” Protein definitely is an important topic when it comes to nutrition. Proteins are a necessary and important part in the functioning and repair of the body. In addition, protein has received a lot of attention in the diet world. Protein-rich diets are popular with consumers that may be looking to lose or maintain their weights, as protein can make you feel full longer throughout the day.

With such benefits, it can be easy to see why consumers are enamored with this powerful, potent “P.”  Still, there are some important qualifiers that need to be taken into account when focusing on protein in the diet.

First, generally, protein intake is far from being in want by most Americans.  As the CDC states, “most of us eat more protein than we need.” The quality of proteins consumed can make a big difference though when it comes to making the most out of our diets.

This is because all proteins are not made alike.  Consider the following: “Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks.”  We can obtain amino acids in several kinds of food in our diets.

“Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied by food. They do not need to be eaten at one meal. The balance over the whole day is more important.” Essential amino acids can be found in “complete” protein sources like cheese, milk, milk, fish, poultry, etc When searching for these complete protein sources, the American Heart Association recommends that consumers look for low-fat options, like low-fat dairy products.

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Let’s Be Natural

VegetablesStrolling through a farmers’ market on a warm summer day brings a whole host of sights and smells. On the other hand, walking through a grocery store does not always provided the same sense of rustic romanticism.

This could be a problem, as a recent piece from the Associated Press explains that consumers are increasingly looking for more “natural” foods on the market:  “Americans still love their fast food and packaged snacks, but they’re increasingly turning their noses up at foods that look overly processed.” Food manufacturers are trying to change this aesthetic to meet consumer demand within retail spaces like grocery stores and convenience marts.

Numerous industry producers are trying to create more “natural” looking products for consumption: “The result is that companies are tossing out the identical shapes and drab colors that scream of factory conveyor belts.” For instance, Kraft has recently focused on making turkey slices look more like “leftovers from a homemade meal rather than the cookie-cutter ovals typical of most lunchmeat.”

Concern has been raised that consumers might be fooled, in that changes may simply just be aesthetic. The natural debate that is to come from defining “natural” is still taking shape in the market and in the press. In the meantime, the shape of food presentation is changing, bringing some new aesthetics of the farmers’ market a bit more indoors. Perhaps the coming months will show how consumers react to this movement in retail. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.

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