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Lipstick on a Panda

17 Apr

Lipstick on a Panda

Panda Express announced that starting this week, all 1,500 locations will now serve their fried rice made with brown rice instead of white rice.

Big deal: fried rice is still fried, even if it’s brown.

With a nod to whole grains, the marketing folks behind the aging chain’s “Bright and Fresh” restaurant makeover hope to entice more health-conscious eaters.

Panda’s new fried brown rice has 470 calories, 19 grams fat, and 3 grams fiber per serving. Compare that to its steamed brown rice (a bigger portion) that clocks in at 420 calories, 0 g fat, and 4 grams fiber.

While the steamed brown rice is a better option than the fried, its 87 grams carbohydrate for 4 grams fiber doesn’t meet the new Harvard “10:1″ ratio for choosing whole grains: for every 10 grams of carbohydrate, aim for at least 1 gram of fiber.

Your best bet is to split the steamed brown rice, and load up on veggies.

If you’re counting calories and still eating at Panda Express, look for their WOK SMART entrees which are 250 calories or less per single serving.

The WOK SMART portion sizes are small, and they’re high in sodium, but at least they’re not full of fried whole grains!

The 10:1 Ratio for Choosing Whole Grains

5 Apr

The 10:1 Ratio for Choosing Whole Grains

Even whole grain gurus have a tough time deciphering front of package whole grain claims.

With 34,000 new whole grain products introduced in 2012 (compared to just 264 in 2001), it has become increasingly difficult to determine just how different “made with whole grain” really is from “100% whole grain”.

Now, from the Harvard School of Public Health comes an easier way to identify a good source of whole grain: the 10:1 ratio.

The 10:1 ratio maintains that for every 10 grams of carbohydrate you eat, aim for at least 1 gram of dietary fiber.

The recommendation comes as part of a recently published paper in the journal Public Health Nutrition. The ratio’s intention is not to select the MOST healthful whole grain, but rather to give a ballpark estimation of what is a relatively good whole grain choice.

You can, of course, find benchmark foods that surpass the 10:1 ratio.

Take 100% whole wheat bread for example: 1 slice (1 oz, 90-100 calories per slice) has 15 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams fiber, giving it a 5:1 ratio, an even better choice than 10:1.

Here is a quick example of the ratio approach applied to choosing between two General Mills cereals. Ironically, both of these cereals display the same General Mills “Made with Whole Grain” check mark logo on the front, although you can see through use of the ratio, that they are remarkably different products:

  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch: 25 grams carbohydrate and 2 grams dietary fiber (12.5:1 ratio – no good)
  • Cheerios (yellow box): 20 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams dietary fiber (6.7:1 ratio – good deal)

Make it your goal to meet or beat the 10:1 ratio next time you are selecting whole grain foods.

Fiber Strikes Down Stroke Risk

2 Apr

Fiber Strikes Down Stroke Risk

A new study indicates that fiber may play a significant role in cutting stroke risk.

The systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Stroke looked at data from 8 studies involving over 327,000 individuals. Those who had the greatest intakes of fiber were the least likely to have had a stroke when compared to those with lower fiber intakes.

While the study did not differentiate between insoluble and soluble fiber intake, a combined extra 7 grams of dietary fiber per day lowered risk of hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke by 7%.

Considering that most Americans eat only about half of the roughly 30 grams of fiber per day they need, 7 grams might not sound like a lot – but it certainly can do a lot when it comes to overall cardiovascular disease risk profile.

What’s the best way to get your fiber? Fill up on naturally occurring sources of fiber: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds.

The Doctor is In!

14 Feb

The Doctor is In!

Doctor Kracker is at it again.

Hot on the tails of their delicious high-fiber crispbreads (featured in a previous post here) comes a smaller, bite-sized snack, the Doctor Kracker Culinary Crisps.

I recently sampled the Asiago Cheese flavor – and if you like Asiago cheese, you’ll love these!

A 10-cracker serving gets you:

  • 130 calories
  • 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated)
  • 170 mg sodium
  • 23 g carbohydrate
  • 2 g dietary fiber
  • 4 g protein

The ingredient list is nice and clean too: water, organic whole wheat flour, durum flour, Asiago cheese, organic oats, tomato paste, organic flaxseeds, canola oil, sugar, sea salt, yeast, basil, rosemary.

The crisps are nice and thick, perfect for dipping, with a subtle and not-too-salty flavor profile.

In addition to their 2 g dietary fiber, these crunchy crackers also boast 17 g whole grain per serving. While they don’t bear the 100% Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council, they do provide just over one-third of the 48 g whole grains the council recommends you eat each day.

You don’t want to get all of your whole grains from packaged snack foods – but if you do have a craving for a crunchy cheesy snack, these Doctor Kracker crisps are a pretty good option.

Foodborne Burden

6 Feb

Foodborne Burden

A recent report from the CDC analyzed the sources of foodborne illness in the US from 1998-2008.

Cited as one of the most comprehensive analyses of attributing illness to food, the results of this report might surprise you – namely because of the role that fresh produce plays.

The researcher found that produce accounted for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses (the majority of which were caused by norovirus).

The report found that:

  • 48 million people in the US get sick each year – roughly 1 in 6 Americans
  • From 1998-2008 poultry has caused 277 deaths while vegetables have caused 236 deaths
  • Almost half (46%) of foodborne illnesses were linked to produce, including fruits and nuts
  • 19% of meat death (which accounts for 43% of all foodborne illness death) arose from poultry and most from listeria or salmonella

Despite the risk of eating getting sick from fresh produce (and contaminated meat, undercooked eggs, even nuts and seeds…) the CDC still recommends a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Here are some helpful tips for keeping yourself safe when it comes to food preparation:

  • Wash your produce carefully, especially leafy greens
  • Special produce washes are unnecessary, water & friction do just fine but all raw foods can present risk
  • Keep your hot food hot and your cold food cold – avoid the danger zone of 40-140 degrees F, where bacteria thrive
  • Separate your foods – don’t cross-contaminate, especially with raw protein foods

To learn more visit or the CDC’s Food Safety page.