Hello? Is this thing on?

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I've been scarce around here lately. Life got very busy - though not in a bad way - and something had to give for a bit. We're taking a little trip to get a much needed Spring fix, and then I'll be back in the saddle. I've gotten several e-mails with wonderful questions, and I plan to answer all of them when I return!

I have lots of ideas brewing and lots of questions to answer. Check back in a couple of weeks for more!


Looking for a HFCS-free food? Check out the lists!

>> Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A little while back I wrote a guest post for Food with Kid Appeal that contained a list of all of the surprising HFCS foods and HFCS-free food review posts that I've written. I'm republishing this list here and plan to keep the list current. Look for a link to this post in the sidebar in a day or two and refer back to the list when you need to! And, as always, if you have a food that you're having trouble finding HFCS free, let me know! I love a good challenge!

Here's a list of our surprising HFCS foods so far:

Tonic water
Worcestershire sauce
Gatorade and sports drinks
Sweet pickles
Planters Nut-rician
Canned soup
Stuffing and Cranberry sauce
Cough syrup
Baked beans
Children's Tylenol

And here are some reviews of HFCS-free foods that we now enjoy.

Salad dressing

Maple syrup
Chocolate syrup
Bread and buns
True North Nut Crisps
Smashies applesauce
Indian simmer sauces
BBQ sauce
Fruit roll-ups

Bullseye BBQ sauce
Oroweat bread
Wild Harvest Organics
Crispy rice
POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
Wheat Thins Garden Vegetable Fiber Selects


A wonderful dairy-free dessert

>> Sunday, March 15, 2009

Each of my kids had major food intolerances when they were babies, and my husband and I adopted strict dairy, wheat, and egg-free diets (with a few other things thrown in here and there) to accommodate them. It was tough at first and eating out was difficult (though not impossible!), but after a while we found that we could still eat very well even with such a limited diet.

One of our favorite tricks was to substitute light coconut milk for regular milk in desserts. It doesn't work in every recipe, but in puddings and other creamy desserts the coconut milk gives a nice, subtle coconut undertone. You don't have to be dairy free to try this trick!

Last night I made one of our favorite recipes from our days of food intolerances (all outgrown, I'm happy to say), and I thought I would pass it along to you - Indian Rice Pudding. It's incredibly easy and very tasty. The original recipe called for 5 cups of 2% milk, but I still like to make it with coconut milk (and a little more than 5 cups for extra creaminess).

Indian Rice Pudding

2/3 cup uncooked, white basmati rice
3 cans lite coconut milk (a little less than 6 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 TBSP raisins (optional)

Rinse rice and drain well. Combine rice and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 30 min or until rice is tender and creamy, stirring frequently. Stir in sugar, cardamom and raisins.

Some notes about the recipe...

  • It will seem like a lot of rice for the amount of liquid, but basmati rice expands a lot while cooking, and you want the end product to be creamy and liquidy.
  • Be sure to use white basmati rice for this recipe! Brown basmati rice won't release enough starch - though I've read that you can beat the rice up in a blender before cooking to help it release more starch.
  • The rice will continue to soak up the liquid after cooking is complete, so the pudding will be much thicker the next day (and even an hour later), but still good!
  • The original recipe calls for sprinkling raisins on just before serving, but I like to add all of the raisins in while the pudding is still hot. The raisins soak up some of the liquid and are just fabulous that way.
  • Last, this is great served with fresh fruit. We also like to serve it with sauteed apples or bananas.


New and improved Propel? I think not...

>> Thursday, March 12, 2009

I have an admission to make - my family likes Propel Fitness Water. A lot. It's my drink of choice when I work out, and my kids even get to enjoy a bottle together more frequently than they probably should. For those of you that don't know about Propel, it's a sports drink. It has sugar in it, but in significantly lower quantities than Gatorade and most of the other sports drinks. The remaining sweetness is provided by sucralose, which doesn't give me any warm fuzzies, but what can I say? Propel is a vice of mine that I am loathe to give up.

Old Propel - HFCS free

A savvy reader (thanks, Michael Grier) alerted me to the fact that Propel Fitness Water has reformulated their drink to include HFCS. WHAT?!? This move baffles me. Why would they switch to a formulation that includes HFCS at a time when more and more companies are proudly proclaiming that they are HFCS free? Yes, HFCS is cheap, and I suspect that is what drives their formulation, but they are missing what seems to be an effective marketing device by adding HFCS instead of touting a HFCS-free product. Whatever their reasoning for the switch, I think it stinks!

Reformulated Propel has HFCS! Boo!

The "new and improved" (sarcasm dripping) ingredient list:


The official Propel website indicates that the change is coming March 31. In the meantime, you can let Propel know what you think about their inclusion of HFCS in the reformulation. And I'll certainly be letting Propel know about their switch with my pocketbook!


Blogging with a purpose

>> Monday, March 9, 2009

I started this blog last June to motivate my family as we gave up HFCS. It's turned into more since then. This blog is still motivational to me, but it's also become educational as well. I've learned so much about the food we eat since starting this blog thanks to questions from all of you as well as my own exploration of food issues that I'm curious about. It's also been rewarding interacting with all of you that read this blog. Your comments and e-mails are encouraging, enlightening, educational, and keep me from being complacent.

Lori at Fake Food Free recently bestowed upon me the Blogging with a Purpose award. Thanks, Lori! I'm honored! And if you're not reading Fake Food Free, you really should check it out. From stevia to cashew fruit - and everything in between - Lori is a knowledgeable and easily understandable source.

Now I get the pleasure of passing along this award to a couple of deserving blogs.

Living Healthy in the Real World - Sagan discusses all kinds of health issues in her quest to live as healthy a life as possible.

James Hubbard's My Family Doctor - Dr. Hubbard's blog demystifies the various medical studies that we're bombarded with daily. Turn here for a common sense discussion of the latest medical study or scare.
Last, A Life Less Sweet has made it into another list - Top 100 Healthy Mom Blogs! I'm enjoying discovering more blogs - like Health Begins with Mom. Check it out!


Helping kids find a healthy balance without stress

>> Friday, March 6, 2009

I read an interesting article today in the New York Times - What's Eating Our Kids? Fears about 'Bad' Foods. The article talks about how parents' "righteous eating" habits can have a negative impact on their kids' psyche. Take a minute and go read the article...

Did you read it? If you didn't, here's a paragraph from the article that kind of gives the gist of it:

Lisa Dorfman, a registered dietitian and the director of sports nutrition and performance at the University of Miami, says that she often sees children who are terrified of foods that are deemed “bad” by parents. “It’s almost a fear of dying, a fear of illness, like a delusional view of foods in general,” she said. “I see kids whose parents have hypnotized them. I have 5-year-olds that speak like 40-year-olds. They can’t eat an Oreo cookie without being concerned about trans fats.”

So what do you do if you're a parent - like me - who has drawn a hard line on certain ingredients and is trying to eat healthier in general? I certainly won't belittle any parent's approach on this subject - especially since we're just making this up as we go along - but I'll tell you how we're approaching this.

We've given up HFCS and are phasing out partially-hydrogenated oils (more on this in a later post), but despite our extreme (by today's standards) diet, it hasn't been such a hard transition for our kids. They eat more fruit and vegetables now (not always by choice), but I've made an effort to find HFCS and trans-fat free substitutes for most of their previous HFCS-laden favorites. Sometimes that comes in form of something ready-made from the store and sometimes the substitute is homemade. I think that it's important for my kids to not feel deprived even as we're trying to eat healthier foods.

I'm also not preachy about our diet - well, outside of this blog. We eat healthier at home, and my son knows that I don't buy some things because of their ingredients, but he also gets his fair share of treats and, yes, occasionally HFCS-free "junk" at home. He also knows that as long as he packs his diet full of mostly good stuff, an occasional (um, or nightly) dessert or treat is a fine thing to be savored. We even go all out with homemade, sugar-filled birthday cakes. And, of course, if we go to a friend's house and they serve a snack or meal that we normally wouldn't eat at home, no worries.

Most of the time, we don't talk about our diet oddities at all. To me, this is not about teaching my kids to avoid HFCS or trans fat (or whatever else makes me uncomfortable) - these changes are about teaching my kids to like really good food that happens to be good for you. I really don't want my kids feeling superior about the foods they eat because I know that their friends' parents are doing what they feel is best just like I am. (And I'm also fully aware that it's more likely that their friends will feel superior to my kids as they eat the latest HFCS-laden packaged food du jour.)

Clearly this article strikes a chord with me. My son already knows about high fructose corn syrup, and he's only five. He knows that we avoid it. I'm ok with that, but I also don't want him becoming paranoid about the ingredients in the foods he eats. (Fortunately, he shows absolutely NO signs of being food ingredient paranoid outside of normal five year old fussiness.) Since giving up HFCS has become old hat around here now, it's less of an active discussion. It still comes up, but we're able to focus on eating good, healthy food and minimizing the junk (although a certain amount of junk remains and will remain).

I do think that it's important for us to continue to strive to eat healthier. I think (and hope) that the choices we make at home now will spill over into the rest of our kids' lives later when I'm not deciding everything that they eat. But an article like this hopefully reminds us that sometimes we need to just chill out a bit - or at least not make our kids paranoid about the food that they eat.


More Gatorade talk

>> Thursday, March 5, 2009

I love comments, and yesterday's post on the response from Gatorade generated some interesting ones. I wanted to pull out one that I particularly liked from yesterday in case you didn't get to read it. Let me set the stage for you first...

I wrote the Gatorade post in large part because Lori at Fake Food Free wrote a post recently about the book First in Thirst - How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon. It jogged my memory about my interaction with Gatorade, and I decided it was time to write about it. Lori is a "realistic nutritionist with degrees in nutritional and exercise science." (She's also an ex-pat currently living in Brazil. You can read about her experiences in Brazil in her blog Blondie in Brazil.)

Here's her comment:

Where to start? Where to start? This might be long. :)

Okay, first let me be positive. I'm glad to hear they took the time to contact you. I'm glad to hear about their new web-site design.

Now some questions/comments in regards to a very beat-around-the-bush response you received. (Not that I'm surprise.)

When it comes to HFCS I don't think most of us are concerned about "total calorie intake and satiety". I’m sure much of the research being done is funded by some part of a corn growers association or a corporate co that uses HFCS anyway. I care about the fact that it is a highly processed food and about as far from natural as you can get.

When did you ever say your mission to eliminate HFCS had the purpose of reducing obesity? I'm going to come right out and say her comment "I wish it were as simple as..." incredibly condescending. Every health professional and advocate knows it is due to more than one factor and one of those factors is HFCS. Eliminating that is darn good place to start!

I'm glad they acknowledge the price thing on the web-site. They need to admit that using HFCS was basically a sellout move to save them money, not to help any exerciser out there. Not to mention their contribution to the corn surplus problem. Boo, boo, boo!

Man, the book I read actually made me start to like Gatorade as a company, but the HFCS move showed me that they aren't staying true to their original intent. Andrea at Off Her Cork said that the generic Meijer Brand of sport drink liquid doesn't have HFCS in it. I'm going to check that out when we get back to the States. We'll drink some of the powdered in moderation, but I'm still not as fond of them as I once was. Thanks for posting this!

Thanks for your comment, Lori. You make lots of great points!


Gatorade revisited

>> Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A while back I wrote a post about how liquid Gatorade contains HFCS while the powdered form does not. To recap, I didn't like that Gatorade skirted around the issue of their drink containing HFCS in their website's FAQ by saying it didn't contain fruit juice and also that I couldn't find their products' ingredients anywhere on their website. I e-mailed the company asking them about these things but hadn't heard anything from them by the time the original Gatorade post published. That changed not long after my post came out.

A representative at Gatorade read my blog post and e-mailed me, and she was happy to discuss any and all questions I had for her. I was referred to one of their nutritionists who gave me this response:

You said you have your PhD in chemical engineering, and you have obviously been doing quite a bit of research on HFCS. The reason Gatorade favors a blend of three carbohydrates (glucose, sucrose and fructose) as opposed to using fruit juice (which is primarily fructose) is because fructose does slow gastric emptying and very often causes intestinal upset when taken by athletes prior to and during practice and competition. The statement you mentioned about Gatorade “not containing fruit juice” was not meant to imply it does not contain HFCS, but rather to simply and plainly assure athletes Gatorade does not contain fructose at levels that can cause gastrointestinal upset. In my practice in New York City, I have counseled many athletes who have tried using diluted juice in an effort to “be healthy and all natural,” only to find their good efforts wasted when their intestinal system betrays them during their event. I know first hand as well, as I too have had this unfortunate situation occur. I did not have access to a sports drink during a recent 16 mile run and wound up having severe gastrointestinal distress after drinking diluted fruit juice mixed with salt in an attempt to create my own sports drink.

The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) has scientifically studied the effects of adding different combinations and types of sugars as well as electrolytes to plain water in order to design a drink that best meets the hydration needs of athletes. Athletes need to replace fluids, salt and carbohydrates when engaging in endurance activities. That is where Gatorade comes in. Gatorade’s combination of three carbohydrates (glucose, sucrose and fructose) is rapidly absorbed and used for energy. It also helps increase an athlete’s drive to drink, thereby helping athletes maintain a better hydration status while exercising.

Another question I understand you posed relates to the difference in sweetener sources used between the ready-to-drink Gatorade product and the powdered version. HFCS exists only in syrup/liquid form so that is why dextrose is used in powdered Gatorade instead. When you break down all the sugars used to create the appropriate blend of carbohydrate in both the ready-to-drink and liquid products, each have the same amounts of glucose and fructose.

If your goal is to eat as healthfully as you can, then I highly encourage you to eat locally grown organic foods and to choose foods with minimal processing. If you (or anyone) is concerned with HFCS, then the powdered Gatorade is certainly your best option. However, I firmly believe, and the science continues to confirm, that HFCS is not different from other sweeteners in terms of its effects on total calorie intake and satiety, and may safely be used by athletes to help maintain adequate hydration (prevent either over or under hydration) with exercise.

I commend your efforts to improve the quality of your diet and health, and I almost wish it were as simple as eliminating one ingredient from our diets. No single food or ingredient has lead to our country’s obesity or health problems. Instead, it is a complex relationship between over consumption of total calories (from fat, carbohydrate, sugar and protein) and lack of exercise that has and continues to plague far too many individuals and families.

I'll let you come to your conclusions about her letter. We clearly have different views on HFCS, but that is to be expected. One thing that I clearly take exception to in the nutritionist's response is the sugar composition of the liquid and powdered versions of Gatorade. She states that they both have the same amount of glucose and fructose, but unless my sleep-deprived brain is missing something, I don't think this is right. The liquid Gatorade contains sucrose and HFCS - both roughly 50% fructose and 50% glucose (the two are bound together in sucrose and in free forms in HFCS). The powdered version contains sucrose and dextrose (aka glucose) with no free fructose. The powdered version appears to contain less fructose than the liquid version. It might be a fine point, but the two clearly are not quite the same compositionally.

While I don't agree with Gatorade's ingredient choices, I do commend them for taking the time to answer my questions. I didn't continue the conversation with their nutritionist, but I'm certain that she would have taken the time to answer any questions I might have thrown at her - or to debate further HFCS as an ingredient.

I've put off writing this post for a long while, and I'm glad that I did. As I sat down to write tonight, I took a look at Gatorade's redesigned website and noticed some changes. First, they specifically address their inclusion of HFCS in their product in their FAQ. Here's what they say:

Does Gatorade include High Fructose Corn Syrup? Why or Why not?

The High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is in Gatorade as a source of two of the three carbohydrates. HFCS contributes glucose and fructose. Sucrose is the third sugar. All are present in specific amounts that research has shown assures rapid fluid absorption, optimal energy delivery and great taste. High Fructose Corn Syrup and sucrose provide the ideal level of sweetness, fast absorption, and carbohydrate for energy burning that Gatorade has always delivered.

This formula provides the most efficacious product for the cost to the consumer. We could use other sources of the same sugars – glucose and fructose – but it would cost dramatically more and have no additional benefit. Scientific experts believe there is no scientific proof to show that there is any difference between the effects on the body of HFCS and sucrose. Research shows that your body digests and uses carbohydrates from high fructose corn syrup the same way it digests other sweeteners like table sugar.1
1 American Medical Association. Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health, 2008.

I like that they acknowledge that they use HFCS in large part because it's cheaper. We might disagree on the research being conclusive at this point (though I fully acknowledge that our refusal of HFCS is about much more than just the research du jour and that HFCS may indeed be processed just like sucrose, but I think that it's still premature to call them the same), but we agree on it being a cheap ingredient.

Another positive change on their website is that you can actually see the ingredients in their products. It's fairly easy and intuitive to see the ingredients of each of their products right on the front page. It bothers me when companies tout nutritional claims about their product and then don't list their ingredients - it seems as if they are trying to perhaps hide something - so I applaud Gatorade for being up front about what is in their products.

We'll keep drinking powdered Gatorade - though sparingly. (Gatorade made it abundantly clear that their product is a sugar filled drink.) I like that it has less fructose in it, and we're (of course) sticking to our no-HFCS guns.

Gatorade, if you're reading this, love your new website redesign! Now how about ditching the HFCS?


Another POM winner! And a surprising HFCS food and HFCS-free food reviews list

>> Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sahar at Fat Fighter TV (a favorite blog of mine!) has gracefully declined the POM coupon that she won in the giveaway. So...that means another lucky reader gets to be the recipient!

LadyAmanda, please e-mail me at less.sweet@gmail.com with your mailing address to claim your coupon! You have a week to claim it.

And check out my guest post on Food with Kid Appeal! You'll find links to all of my surprising HFCS foods as well as links to all of the HFCS-free foods that I've reviewed. A great resource if you're working to cut out HFCS from your diet!


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