Chicken nuggets… (what ARE they anyhow?)

chix nugThe idea of chicken nuggets turns my stomach. I know they have (somehow) become a staple of American kids’ diets, but for my entire life, I have found them disgusting.

Recently there has been a bunch of hub-bub about what’s really in those chicken nuggets… and patties too (and I really wonder if they are worth of having “chicken” in the name at all!).

My kids, like me, consider them fairly gross.  Have you SEEN this photo? Yes, that pink stuff right there (that looks like strawberry soft-serve ice cream) IS the stuff those nuggets are made of.chix nuggs

Want to know what’s in them? It’s called “mechanically separated chicken”.  A machine actually removes all of the disgusting leftovers after the quality parts are removed… it removes the tendons, tissue, cartilage, organs, and other chicken extras, and grinds them into a fine poultry paste. An ammonia wash is used to kill the bacteria and, because it looks (and now tastes!) horrible, artificial colors and flavors need to be added to make them edible.  In reality, with all of the other additives, only about 50% is even some chicken “part”… and that doesn’t even get into the nutritional side of the story. The sodium and fat content is appalling.

I tried to show this to my kids and my daughter said, emphatically, “No… Mom! I can’t watch!” If you want your kids to break-the-habit, try to get them to take a look. (I actually have two videos… this one shows the kids rejecting the nuggets, but I will warn you… the embedded video below shows kids STILL willing to eat the grossness they saw… a testament to how we’ve allowed this “food item” to become acceptable!)

Just like any other food item, not all chicken nuggets and patties are created equal.  There are some semi-decent products out there but, buyer beware. If it says “mechanically separated chicken” on the package, throw the box and RUN! … because that icky pink stuff is what you’re buying.

Instead, pack up some healthy food (in reusable containers!) when you’re on the go… or serve up a rainbow of healthy foods in a muffin pan when you’re at home.  Just reconsider chicken nuggets.

Truly, there are so many better, healthier, nutritious options… chicken nuggets are not really chicken nuggets.

Do you get the “most” out of your fresh produce?

ProduceIt feels as if it’s been somewhere close to… oh, I don’t know… “forever”(?!) since I’ve been able to buy fresh, local produce.  I’ve paid ridiculous amounts of money for fruits and vegetables over the winter months because, in my opinion, it’s always worth it.

It will be a few months yet (for many of us) before it’s high time to enjoy our fabulous, local harvest.  But whether you’re shopping your local farmers market or buying the usual organics from your grocery store, you want to make sure you get the “most” out of everything you buy.

Sadly, the nutritional content of today’s conventionally-grown produce is believed to be dramatically decreased from 30 years ago. The vitamins, minerals and proteins are dwindling (due, in part, to the use of synthetic fertilizers that make them grow faster and inhibit the absorption of nutrients!) so this is another little testimonials for “going organic” too.

But whether your produce is conventionally-grown (afterall, the “Clean 15” is often considered) or you go 100% organic, there are a few helpful tips to get the “most” out of your produce:

  • “Fresher is better” – all produce begins to lose nutrients are soon as it’s harvested, so consume it as soon asfarmers produce possible after you buy it. The rule of thumb should be one week maximum (plus, you must consider where your produce “originated”), so plan for what you need and don’t overbuy, even if it will “keep”.
  • “Bigger isn’t better!” – choose smaller pieces of fruits and vegetables instead of the largest ones in the bunch.  Plants have limited amounts of nutrients to pass on, so if the produce is smaller the nutrients are more concentrated.
  • “Keep it together, people!” – while pre-washed, pre-cut, and pre-prepped fruits and veggies may sound appealing (and convenient!), skip them… this causes them to lose nutrients as well.  And don’t do a lot a prep, cleaning, chopping or cutting at home until you actually need to consumer them either… no need to set those nutrients loose!

My kids have always been great eaters when it comes to a variety of fruits and veggies but, whether for us or our kids, we all know every bit matters, so use these tips to make the “most” of every precious bite!

“Certified Organic” vs. “Organic Ingredients”: the difference

organic slProduct labels can be tricky… in fact, they can be a bit deceptive.

My recent post about knowing the difference between “Unscented and Fragrance-Free” got some surprised comments.  I hadn’t even known the difference until I uncovered that tidbit and got a little schooling of my own!

Another label that can often cause confusion is the organic label.  It’s easy to be misled about what’s contained in the product and tricky labeling doesn’t help.

Here is one thing you should know… the difference between Certified Organic and Organic Ingredients.  These are the facts:

  • “Certified Organic” – this means that all ingredients contained are 100% organic.  Simple as that. This is the label you WANT to see.org unsure
  • “Organic Ingredients” – this actually means that only 70% of the ingredients are actually organic.  The other 30% is not.  Even a label saying “100% Organic Ingredients” is misleading. While that 70% is 100% organic, you still have that 30% that is not organic at all.
  • (By the way, if it says “Contains Organic Ingredients” that means less than 70% is organic, and you have no idea what that organic percentage might be!)

Tricky, tricky labels.  But if you know what the labels mean, you’ll never be misled.

Palm oil: How (and why) to make responsible choices

palm oil burnAbout eight months ago I wrote a post about palm oil, the destruction of crucial rainforests to make way for these plantations and the devastating effect on wildlife (Palm oil is commonly being used as an ingredient in everyday products including margarine, shortening, baked foods, cookies, candies and even soaps, candles and personal care products. Its main purpose, aside from its “binding properties”, is to replace trans fat that we’re all trying to avoid.) Before that post, I truly didn’t know a lot about palm oil, but now my eyes are wide open.

If you’d like to read the original post, click here, but in a nutshell, this is the concern:

  • Rainforests are being cleared at alarming rates to make way for palm plantations and to keep up with the demand for the product.
  • Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83% of the production and 89% of the export of palm oil.  Within these countries the threat is enormous for endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses.orang mombaby
  • The threat is the greatest for the orangutans, as they live ONLY in these areas that are being cleared to make way for the palm oil plantations.  The occurrence of hunting and poaching these poor animals has dramatically increased as well, and it is estimated that 50 orangutan are being killed each week.  At this rate, their existence is limited.
  • When this deforestation occurs and the rainforests are burned, they release decades of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the tragedy of global warming.
  • All this considered, the demand for palm oil is expected to double in the next 10 years.

During a recent trip to our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo I noticed a sign on one of their food carts.  It read:  “We use only sustainable palm oil products.”  I respected the fact that they’re taking responsibility and using only palm oil from plantations established on land that was not recently deforested and has been well-managed with good environmental, social and economic standards.

plmI also found their online resource for understanding the use, and misuse, of palm oil.  And as we “label readers” find more and more products containing palm oil, they’ve also assembled a fabulous list of responsible companies (that have committed to using only sustainable palm oil in their products) to help us make wise choices.

Hopefully, if you haven’t noticed it before, you’ll notice it now and decide that unless you see “Made from Sustainable Palm Oil” on the label, you’ll set it back down and walk away.

Choose good, organic eggs… for the “health” of it!

eggzEggs have been getting a lot of bad press these days, and for good reason.  Two massive egg farms, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farm (that house 7.5 million(!) egg producing hens kept in cramped, filthy conditions), are to blame for over 1,500 people contracting salmonella poisoning.  I can’t say that I’m surprised.

Research has shown that hens in these farms are more likely to produce contaminated eggs than free-range and organic hens simply due to the horrendous conditions where they are forced to spend their days and the cheap, unnatural grains they are fed, that often include the bi-products of other animals.  Add to that the antibiotic use on these poor hens (that destroys the healthy microflora in their systems) and, you guessed it… even more susceptible to contamination.

We always eat organic, free-range eggs due in part to this exact reason, PLUS when you consider that organic eggs are said to have three times more omega-3 fatty acids, twice as much vitamin E and 40% more vitamin A than non-organic eggs, it seems like a no-brainer, regardless of a little extra expense.chikns

In a previous post I also reviewed all of the confusing terms that go along with egg selection and you can take a look by clicking here!  Eggs are truly an amazing source of protein and vitamin D, but when they’re organic you know that they are produced without antibiotics, steroid and growth hormones too!  Those are certainly some things and I would prefer to keep out of my family’s diet!

So be a “good egg”… buy good eggs, consume good eggs… and yes, I mean the organic kind!